Tuesday 30 December 2008

Tribute to Gustav Metzger


Tribute to Gustav Metzger


Feat.: Anna McCarthy - Anton Kaun - Carl Oesterhelt - Catriona Shaw - Cobra Killer – Dennis Graef -
Dompteur Mooner - Eva Weinmayr - Frau Kraushaar & Nova Huta Lee Holden - Max Müller -
Melissa Logan - Michaela Melián - Mosh Mosh - POLLYester - Rhythm King and her friends -
Schwestern Brüll feat. Raumschiff Engelmayr - Stewart Home / Nigel Ayers -
Ted Gaier / Mense Reents - Wolfgang Müller - Yoko Ono

We wrote letters but received no replies. One of us pushed a note under the door of his flat in London. Then we were able to speak to him. But the tape recorder had to stay off.

He was born in Nürnberg. His parents, orthodox Jews, and nearly all his other relatives were murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War. When the Refugee Children Movement saved him in 1939 and brought him to England, he was twelve. Twenty years later he gave his first individual exhibition entitled Three Paintings by G. Metzger in a London café.
Half a century ago he published his first manifesto, in which he defined his notion of Auto-Destructive Art:
Auto-destructive art is primarily a form of public art for industrial societies.

At his South Bank Demonstration in London in 1961 he presented Auto-Destructive Art for the first time in a public space with acid action painting. A few years later he developed Auto-Creative Art. He was a founder member of the Committee of 100, which was dedicated to opposing nuclear war and weapons of mass destruction, he took part in demonstrations and was sent to prison in Staffordshire for a one month sentence. He performed his Liquid Crystal Projections in the 1960s at concerts of the bands The Cream and The Move in London. His lectures inspired Pete Townshend to smash his guitar on stage. In 1966 he initiated and organised the Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS) in London, in which numerous artists took part, including Bob Cobbing, Henri Chopin, Ivor Davies, Al Hansen, Juan Hidalgo, Kurt Kren, John Latham, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Otto Mühl, Ralph Ortiz, Yoko Ono, Robin Page, Wolf Vostell and Peter Weibel.

Years without Art: In the 1970s he called an Art Strike which was supposed to last for three years, but at that time no-one wanted to take part. In contrast, in response to our invitation to contribute to the project Tribute to Gustav Metzger the acceptance letters were soon flooding in. Demonstrations, manifestos, concepts, exhibitions – it is an unsettling, radical lifework which gives a subjective, appropriate response to the destructive mechanisms of the twentieth century and the present, and which invites people to contradict it, comment on it and refer to it. In Justin Hoffmann, who has long concerned himself with the subject of Destruction Art, we found the right man to act as curator of the Tribute project.

Katarina Agathos / Herbert Kapfer

Designing a Tribute to Gustav Metzger is a challenge in every respect. Not only because there is a fundamental difficulty in transferring the production and thought of a fine artist to radio and CD, i.e. onto an acoustic level, but also because Metzger's oeuvre itself is bulky enough to cause complications when handling it. I am therefore all the more grateful to all involved who were not afraid to take the risk.
An invitation to take part in this project was issued to fine artists who are currently friends of Metzger (Eva Weinmayr, Lee Holden) or who were previously in communication with him (Yoko Ono). Others are from the field of music, e.g. Cobra Killer, Ted Gaier / Mense Reents or Carl Oesterhelt. But most work in both domains and combine music and art in a wide variety of ways in their cultural practice. The compilation of the tribute tracks is as discriminating as it is varied. It cannot necessarily be characterised in terms of the relevant cultural origin. Some contributions are based more on the word and others produce sound collages without text. A not inconsiderable number have created songs. Some of the lyrics quote Metzger directly and others reflect on him. Various work groups and strategies of Gustav Metzger are appreciated on the CD – the references go in various directions. The majority of the tracks relate to his notion of Auto-Destructive Art, but some also to his notion of Auto-Creative Art with its components of accident and variance. Michaela Melián refers to Metzger's call in the 70s to rock the art system and transform it with a three-year art strike. On Melián's track one can also hear Gustav Metzger's voice, which is looped and thereby determines the rhythm.
All those involved, and not least Bayerischer Rundfunk, share the wish to appreciate with this work the unique oeuvre of Gustav Metzger. We hope he likes this present.

Justin Hoffmann, Wolfsburg, 1.9.2008

intermedium rec. 036
ISBN 978-3-939444-63-3

Saturday 27 December 2008


'Supertoys' at the Arnolfini is an exhibition - and related events - exploring toys, emotional machines and play. Artists, technologists, children and adults examine how toys operate as transitional objects in allowing feelings to be carried between the human subject and the external world.

There’s an enclosed area on the floor where little round robot vehicles, each with coloured lights attached, are whizzing around. In SWARM SYSTEMS (Bristol Robotics Lab) these little robots are running on an algorithm programmed by Jan Dyre Bjerknes that produces both collision avoidance and swarming behavior. Chaotic patterns emerge as the robots interact with each other and the confines of the real world pen, a complex behavior similar to a very primitive life-form.

Next to this is a rectangular pond, in which you are invited to pilot some radio-controlled decoy ducks. New York artist Natalie Jermijenko has been taking parties of schoolchildren out and about with her ROBOTIC GEESE AND DUCKS (picture below) to see how real ducks and geese interact with her radio-controlled ones. Jermijenko’s ROBOTIC FERAL DOGS are fixed to the wall and lie on a table in various states of repair. These are toy robot dogs which look like they’ve been modified and customized with additional circuitry. A video monitor shows New York kids playing with these robots in a patch of wasteland; captions inform us that they are using these to investigate new uses for chemically polluted waste ground. The artist is using the play element of the robot dogs and ducks to get children interested in science subjects like nature study.

In another pen next to this are a number of soft toy-like objects. Dunne and Raby's HUGGABLE ATOMIC MUSHROOMS (picture above). And this is where the show gets slightly confusing. The workshops here are clearly hands-on events for kids, but these pieces use the conventions of gallery art sculpture. They are objects that look like soft toys, but which take the shapes of an atomic mushroom clouds. In this context you would expect them to be something children could handle and play with, but it turns out they are huggable by name only. They are displayed as representational sculptures of cuddly fallout clouds that you're supposed to look at but not touch. It says in the catalogue: the design is intended to help control individual anxiety about such a threat through rationality, rather than common responses of paranoia or denial. So, while many artists elsewhere have produced art with anxiety-producing imagery to encourage agitation, education, and organization against the arms trade, it seems Dunne and Raby are suggesting a more infantile response of “Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”. Perhaps this cuddly toy approach may be an appropriate therapeutic response when dealing with children and adults traumatized by the realities of (state-) terrorism. But it poses a couple of questions: should fear or avoidance responses based on a fact of modern history be medicalised as symptoms of “paranoia” or “denial”? And if children and adults are programmed with false ideas which override their natural fears of death and mass extinction, is that a good idea?

A small sign at the entrance to the next room warns you of naked dolls. In a side room with subdued lighting are more soft toys - ones you are allowed to handle - by UNMASK GROUP (picture left). These are the size and shape of adult humans. They have detachable features such as genitalia, so you can change their gender if you want. There is also CODE MANIPULATOR'S TOOLBOX a load of plastic letters spread out on the carpet, a set of cut-out Ones and Zeroes, to play with on the carpet.

There's some overtly commercial art in here. A screen downstairs shows Chris Cunningham's four minute promotional video for Bjork's 'All is Full of Love' with CGI robots displaying human emotion (picture below right). But if you want to watch this video properly the wall of this exhibition isn’t really the place: the sound is turned off, the video is here to is attract attention to the upstairs galleries.

Up at the top of the building in a little gallery room to itself, showing on a hand-size DVD screen is 'The Writer' by Philippe Parreno (picture below). This is a loop showing a close up of a 1700s automaton hand writing out a quote from a Marx Brother's film. There are clanks, scrapes and whirrs on its soundtrack. But somehow I don't think it is really a programmed robot or an autonomous machine we are watching. It reminds me of The Mechanical Turk, a chess-playing machine constructed in the late 18th century by Wolfgang von Kempelen (picture below right). The Turk was a humanoid machine which appeared to be able to play a strong game of chess against a human opponent. Although this was publicly promoted as an automaton and given its common name based on this appearance, the Turk was in fact an illusion that allowed a human chess master hiding inside to operate the machine. On this video, I suspect that the Writer’s hand is likewise being worked like a puppet.

The best part of this show is the activity in a workshop room on the first floor. Children and adults are breaking apart and using glue guns to reassemble lots of old plastic toys, making them into MUTANT TOYS (picture bottom left). Each remixed toy is added to shelves full of the little monsters, each with labels with titles and funny little stories about the toys composed by their makers. Though these are all small scale pieces that take a few minutes to make, the sum total is often more bizarre and amusing than what some highly skilled adult artists manage to achieve with this kind of material. That’s the beauty of surrealist techniques like 3D cut-ups, they are such great levelers. I see they are running a workshop where kids are encouraged to “pitch” their own toy designs to a panel of young experts. Hmm - so much for utopian ideals of leveling - the kids are being encouraged to mimic the competitive behavior of the entrepreneurs you see on Dragon’s Den. In Mutant Toys the use of recycled, salvaged materials means the use-value of obsolete toys is extended. But then these are only toys. It's something for kids. It’s all very trivial stuff. The re-assembled toys will all go into the skip when it's finished, and then on to land-fill or dumped on some third-world doorstep.

Yes, it’s nearly Christmas and all around there’s talk of a world recession. Among its complex causes is the massive over-production of consumer items, including toys for children. The multi-million dollar toy industry is based around the manufacture of desire, implanting friendly looking characters, logos and must-have gadgets into children’s fantasy lives to make them ready for an adult world centered on the acquisition of emotionally-charged objects. These items become worthless once their novelty has expired, and so they pass into car boot sales, charity shops and end up dumped in toxic heaps for third world children to pick their way through. I wonder to what degree this programming can be questioned or disrupted in exhibitions such as Supertoys. Surely what constitutes a toy is an object designed to be played with, whereas the videos, mushroom clouds and swarm system are all art objects (ie consumer objects) which impose a passive response. I also wonder if there is a clear difference between toys acting as “transitional objects” for children and art objects acting as “transitional objects” for adults.

With all of this happening in the Arnolfini, it isn’t at all obvious what is supposed to be touched and what is not to be touched. You have to quickly learn very complex protocols to understand how to view, or use, or join in with, the art. One of the points of Fluxus (which features heavily in the parallel artists books exhibition at the Arnolfini) was a utopian attempt to demystify art and to make it something to be played with. It was against serious culture, emphasizing the value of non-competitive play in a light-hearted attack on the division of experts and non-experts, artists and non-artists within a class- based society. As a serious cultural institution, the Arnolfini has to put the concept of play secondary to the re-imprinting of codes of status within the dominant culture.

An Arnolfini steward says to his friend: "Of course it's not really art, it's a crowd pleaser. You have to do these. The next show's more like it - it's an Angus Fairhurst retrospective, the first one since he killed himself."

Nigel Ayers 22/12/08

Arnolfini, 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol, BS1 4QA


review for www.artcornwall.org

Sunday 21 December 2008

Unidentified Contents

Unidentified Contents
54 x 68 x 68 MM, 145 GRAM

Sunday 7 December 2008

Noise and Politics

Industrial music - no thanks! Noise and politics - yes please!
One of the things I always disliked about the Industrial music scene was its abject failure to engage in a progressive debate about noise and politics. It just didn't, because it was all about "art" and promoting individualist hero worship. So, because of structural faults and a lack of politicised critique within its copycat fans, in its current version it has allowed a tiny "apolitical" scene to develop in which the propaganda produced by some extreme right wing elements has become regarded as acceptable. I'm sick of it and that is why I've been turning down a few "myspace friends" requests lately.

On the other hand, I can recommend an interesting magazine which has emerged though the breakcore scene, which seems to at least attempt to engage in noise and politics from a vaguely leftist (and pro-technology) perspective.

"DATACIDE 10 is OUT NOW: with 56 pages the biggest datacide so far, it's full of features and reviews.
Secessionist Outernational: Self-Exile and Poetry, Howard Slater: Convergent Suggestion - on Surrealism and Organisation, JR: Denial Networks - On Crisis and Continuity in the 9/11 Truth Movement, Neil Transpontine: A Loop Da Loop Era - towards an (anti-)history of Rave, CF: Radical Intersections, Controlled Weirdness: You're Too Young to Remember the Eighties - Dancing in a different time, The Reverend: More than just a Night out - Rave as confrontation, Dan Hekate: All things fall and will be built again, Rafael Castellanos: Visible and invisible fragments of experiences (About Bogotrax festival), Hans-Christian Psaar: Commodities for the Jilted Generation, Alexis Wolton: Teknival and the emancipatory potential of technology, Riccardo Balli: Audio-Philosophical Dwellings.
Stewart Home on Peter Whitehead and the Sixties, Nemeton on Boris Mikhailov's Unfinished Dissertation, JR on "The Description of Bankruptcy", CF on François Genoud, Balli on "Situationism on Wheels", CF on "Battlenoise!" and the ideology of Martial Industrial, Plus record reviews, charts, Bloor Schleppy, End of Vinyl?, Pencilbreak and more.
available for EUR 3.00 from praxis.c8.com/catalog now
or from good stores and mail orders soon!"

Saturday 6 December 2008



It's Saturday, 29th November 2008. I'm in Bristol . I'm in the lower gallery space at the Arnolfini and suspended on steel wires are a number of plastic sleeves each containing a book. These books are all titles authored by artists, the earliest of which dates back to 1963. They range from small edition, hand made or home-computer-printed books produced for gallery exhibitions, to editions by celebrity artists such as the 2000 Simon and Schuster edition of Grapefruit by Yoko Ono and the Aperture Foundation 2007 edition of photographic cards Shuffle by Christian Marclay. To the side of this display is a plain formica- topped table on which stand two computer monitors and three table-top lecterns.

There are cards on the table with the following text:


1. Only one book per person may be requested at a time

2. To avoid the transfer of grease and dirt to collection items, please use the gloves provided. Hand wipes and paper towels are also available on request.

3. Handle all items as little as possible. Pages must be turned carefully. Avoid leaning on books or papers as this may damage the binding structure or tear the paper.

4. Where appropriate, please use the book beds and snake weights to hold pages open.

5. Books may only be viewed whilst seated at the desk. If you wish to make notes, use pencils only.

6. Absolutely no food or drink (including water) is allowed in the exhibition space.

I attempt to take a photograph of this arrangement of books, chairs, tables and computer monitors, but I am intercepted by a young woman I assume to be a member of gallery staff. She instructs me that it is alright to take photographs but first I must sign a form. The form has been printed by what looks like a photocopier process on two sides of a sheet of white 80 gsm paper cut to A5 size with two holes punched along one of the long sides. The printing is parallel to the long edge of the paper and contains the following text, set in Arial font:

Copyright - Agreement Form



wish to make a copy of the following artists' work

[Please specify artist and work]

* personal use: for private study or research.

* Educational Instruction: limited to the work being copied in the course of instruction or preparation for instruction.

I understand that any use of the copy taken for purposes other than ticked above may constitute an infringement of copyright for which the copyright owner could take action against me.

There are spaces where I sign and date this agreement. This is countersigned and dated by the young woman "(on behalf of Arnolfini)".

I turn over the piece of paper to read the obverse.


Recording, photography and copying of any artistic performance, work or film is not permitted under the terms of Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (and subsequent amendments).

Should you wish to make copies or such work and/or distribute, rent or loan, adapt, perform or broadcast you should always seek the permission of the copyright owner or obtain an appropriate licence.

Personal Use

Arnolfini has reached an agreement with the artist(s) for permission for visitors to take photographs of their work for personal use only. You are requested to complete a copyright agreement form fully for authorisation before you take any photographs.

Educational Use

Arnolfini has reached an agreement with the artist(s) for permission for educational organisations, groups and schools visiting Arnolfini to make photographic/drawing/film copies of their work for educational instruction purposes only. The group leader is requested on behalf of their organisation/school to complete a copyright agreement form fully for authorisation before your visit/workshop/tour begins.

Press and Publicity Use

Arnolfini will have reached agreement with all artists for permission to use copies/images of their work for press and publicity purposes. Requests for such material must be made to Arnolfini's Marketing Department, who will require you to complete a copyright agreement form for authorisation before any copies of artists work are taken or made.

Should you subsequently use any copy of work taken, for a purpose not authorised, or which constitutes an infringement of copyright, you could be liable to prosecution by the copyright owner.,

Unauthorised recording, photography and copying of any artistic performance, work or film within Arnolfini is not permitted.

I notice that throughout this document the Arnolfini gallery, is referred to as "Arnolfini" and not "the Arnolfini" as it was known formerly. And as I notice that, I hear the implant in my brain softly whisper: "In "Arnolfini" rather that "the Arnolfini" affectation the art gallery is reinvented. "The Arnofini" can be read as an association of human beings grouped around a physical space. Without the "the" this association becomes a projection of a human essences and physical space that have been alienated and abstracted. It is not Arnolfini and his wife, it is a form of artificial life: "Arnolfini" , the corporation!".

Returning to the table, I pick up another piece of paper, this time an A3 sheet of paper folded down to an A5 size, the Exhibition Guide. This informs me that "this exhibition explores a specific tendency in artists' bookworks to generate an energetic series of events and activity. Focusing on books that either offer sets of instructions to the reader, or are themselves derived from instructions,the books look to unsettle the usual distinctions between writers and readers, artists and audiences, and act as prompts to their readers to go beyond the conventions of reading.

Much of this work has roots in the practices of the 1960's Fluxus artists."

On one side of this sheet is a BIBLIOGRAPHY, a list of 72 publications which refers to the books in the plastic sleeves. I recognise another rock star on the list, Bill Drummond, others on the the list I associate with "happenings", pop art, performance art, and relational art. Allan Kaprow, Jan Dibbets, Clause Oldenberg, Lawrence Wierner, Wolf Vostell, Victor Burgin, Liam Gillick, Fiona Banner, all the usual suspects. Most of the authors are represented in this collection by one to four books, the exception in this list is Steven Paige, who is credited with twelve books. Steven Paige's name also attracts my attention as I am aware that he lives in west Cornwall.

Library by Steven Paige comprises a small bookshelf fixed to the gallery wall on which are displayed a few books in plain white, black lettered dust-jackets. There is a level of ambiguity in the display, are these real books or are they false books for display purposes only? I refer back to the Exhibition Guide: You may join The Library by filling in the form provided and handing it in to a steward, including details of books you would like to see in the library collection. Every week the artist will update the bibliographies, and new books will be added to The Library. if you decide to become a member, you are welcome to return to the exhibition to see your books displayed on the shelves.

It's a nice piece and as I fold the paper, the implant in my brain whispers "I think my local library has a better idea, there you can actually borrow the books, and if you want you can read them...."

But the softly spoken implant in my brain is interrupted by a burst of static, through which I can make out the ring-modulated words: "That's the 2000 edition of Yoko Ono's Grapefruit they are handling with white gloves there it is currently available at Amazon for £9.89, Christian Marclay's Shuffle retails for £19.95. While many of the other books on display are rare and reach high prices among collectors, surely the value of dematerialised art is the use-value of the actions rather than exchange-value of the books as objects? If the use- value as an energetic series of events and activity is important why not supply cheap digital reproductions of the original texts, which can be handled while you engage in an energetic series of events, without fear of damaging precious books?"

I think this must be a second implant in my brain speaking.

And now the first implant starts up with the seditious whisper "Central to 1960s Fluxus was the idea that its simple, inexpert, bizarre, events were presented as possibilities for an iconoclastic insight into the nature of reality itself. In the 1963 Fluxus New-Policy Letter No. 6 Fluxus-founder George Maciunas outlined his proposed actions against "serious culture" for Fluxus in New York, broken down into four main areas:

a) Pickets and demonstrations
b) Sabotage and destruction
c) Compositions
d) sale of Fluxus publications.

And now the second implant is barking out all Dalek-like: "The rigidly controlled way this exhibition has been presented highlights the current fashion for a depoliticised, corporate aesthetic. The audience is put through a series of pointless, bureaucratic events. The utopian current is contained by repressive rituals and pointless activity!! "

And now the first implant ,with a hypnotic phrasing like you might get on a mind-programming CD, says: "Or is the whole show an elaborate hoax set up to take the piss out of art-nerds? Never mind, today is 29th November! It is Buy Nothing Day! Buy Nothing Day is a simple idea, which challenges consumer culture by asking us to switch off from shopping for a day. Some suggestions for an energetic series of events and activity to do on Buy Nothing Day can be found on http://www.buynothingday.co.uk

The Cover of a Book is the Beginning of a Journey

22 November 2008 - 18 January 2009

Arnolfini, 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol, BS1 4QA


Thursday 4 December 2008

Crunch Art not Credit!

"I was asking people to send any money that they have found which has been changed in some way. I put it out there as an idea on my website and someone sent me some so I want to keep it going now."

Here's the latest. A decorated 10 Deutschmark.
Translated into English:
"Art = Capital"

It's a bit retro, I think the artist should have used Euros.

As we move into a more abstract information - based economy, the opportunities for individualising interactions, like handing over altered, worn, mucky cash are lost. It all becomes ones and zeroes. It's not as if money is abolished, it becomes this equivalent information code kind of thing, and the codes get more and more impersonal. So why not strike a blow against the information economy. Take part in this guerilla mail art project.

Write a message on, or decorate some paper money (any denomination). Or just send me your worthless Euros, Dollars and Yen. You don't need to decorate them if you don't want to. I need something to burn this winter.

Open entry - no returns.

Mr N Ayers
Earthly Delights
PO Box 2
PL22 0YY

Sunday 23 November 2008

Bodmin Moor Zodiac spotted in Atlanta, Georgia

There it is, the Bodmin Moor Zodiac, on the wall in the background. In the foreground is Brian Hitselberger, Constancy at
Crop Circles, Cosmograms, Psychogeographies at Eyedrum gallery
Nov 20th, 2008
Atlanta Georgia, USA. There are 20 artists involved and the catalogue is sponsored by the Andy Warhol Foundation. The photo is from

Saturday 15 November 2008

Heimo Zobernig at Tate St Ives

Another of my art cornwall reviews:

Heimo Zobernig and the Tate Collection

Tate St Ives 4/10/08 -11/1/09

From 4th October 2008 to 11th January 2009, the Austrian artist Heimo Zobernig has been given the entire exhibition space of Tate St Ives, to install his own work alongside other more familiar art works from the Tate’s collections. The exhibition uses many of the reductionist elements of style that were significant features in the modernist painting and sculpture of around thirty years ago. It makes use of the Tate’s collections of 20th century modernist art, including some locally-produced pieces, locating and embedding Zobernig’s work within an established canon. Zobernig has also made some changes to the interior design of the gallery which are described as “architectural interventions”.

The walls of downstairs antechamber with the Patrick Heron stained glass window are hung with Trevira Television TS chroma-key green material. This industrially-produced fabric is a signature theme in Zobernig’s work. It is of the type produced for special effects in film and television, where a neutral colour can be “keyed-out” and replaced with a backdrop of different footage. When used with live actors, the neutral colour has to be one that is absent from the skin tones, hair or clothing of the foreground subjects. When seen removed from a film or TV studio, the fabric appears extraordinarily artificial and unnatural. Against the normal white walls of this room, the Heron glass usually gives the reassuring air of abstract patterns of nature. Now it looks somehow alien and disturbing.

In Gallery One, which usually contains a collection of St Ives modernists, there is a display of sculptures by Zobernig (above right). They are all minimalist in form and use the everyday materials that are available at any DIY store. They are all of average human scale and appear to be made by someone of average DIY skills.

There is a column made from twenty-seven cardboard tubes from the insides of toilet rolls, about as tall as an average person can reach. On a plinth made from an art-packing case stands a complicated knot construction, also made from toilet-roll tubes. There’s a piece of plain foam rubber lying on the floor, painted black about the same size and shape as a single bed mattress. There’s a wall mirror that has been broken. There’s an ordinary piece of particle-board painted mostly white casually propped up against the wall. There's a rectangular plinth-like construction painted with back gloss paint and covered in white feathers.

These objects all refer to minimal art of the 1960s, where art was reduced to surface and form; base elements stripped of symbolism, narrative content or the presence of the artist's hand. Despite its secular pretensions, minimal art always seemed to have a mystical side to its ambient presence: a meditative and neo-platonic purity of form, and human proportion, influenced by Japanese Zen Buddhism. It is this hidden ideological framework, which implies some kind of natural order in art, that Zobernig seems to be trying to undermine. Zobernig's pieces refer to the process of art-making, introducing a theatrical narrative which shows traces of the artist's physical presence in these handmade, flimsy objects.

In the other other galleries Zobernig shows a large number of sculptures, paintings from the Tate's national collection. As well as many pieces of primarily visual art, it includes a couple of iconic conceptual art pieces. In one glass case there is a can of Piero Manzoni's Artist's Shit (1961) Like Duchamp's readymades, Artist's shit questions the meaning of art as both cultural and consumer objects by inviting the viewer to confront a system that venerates cans of shit as works of art. In another glass case is one of Marcel Duchamp's Fountains from 1964. This is not the original 1917 readymade urinal purchased from a New York plumbers' supply company, but one of a limited edition of replicas manufactured from glazed earthenware painted to resemble the original porcelain and sold to a small number of prestigious art galleries.

In the same space, Zobernig has erected a large red Chroma-key curtain (above right) which partially obscures the large window of the gallery with its panoramic view over Porthmeor Bay, emphasising the artificiality of the art gallery.

Round the corner in The Apse, a large plain white lozenge-shaped grid-painting is set into an alcove in the wall. It looks unfinished, the strips of masking tape used to define the hard-edged painted areas have been left in place. Then in Gallery 3, a room full of more grid painting, this time using multicoloured squares. The paintings are reminiscent of Mondrian, but use a 1960s style masking tape/ acrylic paint technique rather than oil paint. The room also features an empty pair of Ikea bookshelves, arranged sideways so that you can see their MDF backs.

Gallery 3 has all walls covered with paintings from the Tate’s collections from the past 300 years (above left). You are forced to stand on Carl Andre’s 144 Magnesium Square 1984 floor piece to view paintings displayed in the crowded manner of a Victorian salon. In the centre of the room is a TV monitor showing a video of the artist wearing a long blonde wig, swaggering across a meadow.

Into the last room, all the walls are covered in garish Green Chroma Key fabric (below right). This gallery features a number of large figurative paintings from the Tate’s collection, alongside another couple of abstract paintings by Zobernig. In the centre of it all stands a marble sculpture by Barbara Hepworth, Pierced Form 1963-4, a blob-shaped piece of marble with a hole in it. Stones with holes in them feature heavily in prehistoric archaeological remains throughout Cornwall, perhaps Hepworth was trying to create something evocative of these mysterious features of the local landscape. In another context, Pierced Form could be a Hole to See the Sky Through (coincidently Yoko Ono made a piece by that title in 1964) but after seeing the Duchamp urinal and Zobernig’s toilet rolls, this sculpture now suggests the cover of a latrine.

Zobernig's show presents a particular view of art history as a process of reduction, surrogacy and artifice. His work seems to be about revealing the staging of art. Particularly here in the Tate, art is carefully guarded and treated respectfully: you are not encouraged to touch, and forms of interaction such as taking photographs are prohibited.

His work is all to do with the peripherals of art, the interior design of art galleries and the theatrical staging of emptiness, and it looks flimsy in comparison to the work he has selected to contextualise it.

His pieces are almost always untitled, referring to little but their context as pieces of art in an art gallery. Through Heimo Zobernig’s curation, Tate St Ives is reduced from a pious modernist space to the negative space of an existential void.

Nigel Ayers
October 2008


Sunday 9 November 2008

Daniel Gumb's House

"Daniel Gumb was born in the Tamar Valley April 1703 and moved up onto the moor to be where his work was. He was a stone cutter and as well as cutting stone for building purposes he also cut gravestones (some of which can be found in local churchyards).
What we see now of his home is only a small part, it was origanally sited onb the south facing slope of Stowes Hill, what is now Cheesewring Quarry. The large slab roof was originaly 30ft by 10 ft and Daniel tunneled under it putting other slabs in to support the weight untill he had three rooms.
In this primitive house he brought up at least 9 children, it is thought that he had 13 but some died early. The date carved on the stone beside the house "D GUMB 1735 is said to be the date of his third marrige and was part of the door post for the house.
Sitting on the roof of his house Gumb studied the stars by night and solved mathematical problems by day. The carving of Euclids theorum on the roof can also be found on other slabs of granite east of the old railway line into the quarry.
When the Cheesewring quarry was started in the mid 1800s the home was broken up, Gumb had died in 1773 and many of his offspring had emigrated to the Americas. What remains now is only a small part, possibly placed in amongst the finger dumps of the quarry as a shelter to use during blasting.
It is best found by walking from the Hurlers towards the Cheesewring, when you come to the track that cuts across you look for a green path heading of into the piles of stone. The cave is at the head of the path.
Please treat it with care and do not climb onto the roof."


Sunday 2 November 2008

Gloppetta - Nocturnal Emissions

Live footage from performances in Italy and the Brixton Ritzy cinema, back in the '80s.

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Sponsor's Message

Using public domain footage is one way of using the medium of collage, but I think in this case back in 1982 we were trying to make a different point, where it was necessary to use footage expressly without the permission of its corporate owners (see video below).
Intellectual property law does not address the fact that advertisers are overstepping personal boundaries by colonising personal psychic space with their repetitive messages of eroticised consumerism. I think we really have to question in whose interests intellectual property laws are constructed.
Do we accept that the corporations who produce this material can claim to own it once it has become a part of our subconscious? Who exactly owns the contents of our minds?

Saturday 18 October 2008

Bodmin Moor Explorer: Mission to Pisces

Video screenshots of a multimedia CD Rom documenting explorations of the area of Bodmin Moor corresponding to the Pisces constellation.
Click here to download the full version http://www.artcornwall.org/webprojects/interface%2045%20enhanced5all2.swf
23 MB download takes about 10 minutes.
For further information see the book The Bodmin Moor Zodiac

Friday 17 October 2008

Crop Circle exhibition in Atlanta Georgia

Crop Circles, Cosmograms, Psychogeographies

If nothing else, perhaps it can be said that modernity is about diagrams, schematics, blueprints, Rorschalk cards, flow charts, maps, floorplans and all the other graphic devices designed to simplify and link the real, material world with the abstract world of thought and feeling. The same thing might be said of the visual arts in general.

The infamous crop circles started mysteriously appearing in the fields of England in the mid-Seventies. Over the past thirty plus years, they have become the source of much speculation, wonderment, hoaxing: were they made by artists? By aliens? By intelligent plasmas? Unknown terrestrial forces? Covert military operations? As with everything, your answers depended on your proclivities and stations in life. At the very least, they were beautiful and 'artistic' and SEEMED to be some form of cosmograms, in the same league with mandalas, Mayan city constructions, Egyptian mega-constructions, archaic native American pictographs and other nativistic schematics which seemed to link an astronomical world above with the terrestrial world below … and to imbue those diagrams with a purported spiritual power.

All these types of 'ground-based' diagrams also have in common implicit psychological connections with the land even to the point of creating those connections ex nihilio. The term 'psychogeography' was coined some years ago to account for the feeling that the 'beach under the pavement' somehow makes itself felt in ideas, feelings, and 'spirits'.

The visual arts show at eyedrum art and music gallery will explore these connections and forms: What are these forms? Do they have effects and affects or is 'aesthetic' sufficient? Can they be created anew? Does technology facilitate these 'cosmic figures' and give them new voice or does it kill them off in paving them over and leave us with a dead schematic ... which nevertheless still tries to speak?

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Sunday 5 October 2008

Dog Walks in Mozzanella

GPS traces of walks Lesley and I took with my brother Danny's dogs, Sasha and Basil, in Mozzanella, Italy last week.

Saturday 4 October 2008

This Living Legend is going to Salzburg

the band is active since 1980 - one of the earliest and most influencing bands in Experimental Electronic Music - A LIVING LEGEND! - from England
die Band existiert seit 1980 und ist eine der einflussreichsten Bands in experimenteller elektronischer Musik! - EINE LEBENDE LEGENDE! - aus England

another legend in "Ambient"-NoiseDrone music - active since 1987! - also from England
einer weitere Legende in "Ambient"-NoiseDrone Music - aktiv seit 1987! - auch aus England

the one and only Japanese Power-Electronic band - their first concert outside Japan!
die einzige Power-Electronic Band aus Japan! - ihr erstes Konzert ausserhalb ihrer Heimat!

the one and only Bavarian Noise-act!
die einzige Bayrische Krach-Band!

firday, 10th october 2008
at the CAVE-CLUB / Salzburg
with OVERDOSE after-party

start: 7pm / 19:00 Uhr
15 euro (including open-end-party!)

Wet Pussies

Tuesday 30 September 2008

Dirty money: Nigel wants to turn cash into art

Nigel Ayers with his new `money art' and one of his older summer solstice sculptures.
Picture. James Ram www,jamesramco.uk

A LOSTWITHIEL artist wants people to send him money in the post.
Nigel Ayers is a post-punk musician who has an interest in political artwork.
On discovering a website displaying altered banknotes he was inspired to embark on a similar project himself.
"I found the concept of altering bank notes with lyrics or art interesting.
"Writing on money was a tool used by the Soviet Union to spread subversive messages."
On his website he has displayed a photo of a five-pound note with one of his songs written on it, Never Give Up.
He wants to hear from anyone who has found money with doodles, drawings or messages on.
Nigel, 51, said: "As we move into a more abstract, information-based economy, the opportunities for individualising interactions, like handing over altered, worn, mucky cash are lost.
"It all becomes ones and zeroes. It's not as if money is abolished, it becomes this equivalent information code kind of thing, and the codes get more and more impersonal.
"So why not strike a blow against the information economy? Take part in this guerilla mail art project."
He has had money sent to him doctored by an activist with very strong anti-capitalist imagery on it using red ink which looks like blood.
Nigel said: "I was asking people to send any money that they have found which has been changed in some way.
"I put it out there as an idea on -my website and someone sent me some so I want to keep it going now."
Nigel's notoriety peaked in the 1980s when his industrial band established a firm fan base in Germany. The music produced by Nocturnal Emissions is inspired soundscapes often made by looping tapes. Nigel is due to release a vinyl box set
of music he made in the 1980s. He lives with his wife Linda and their two grey cats and now works for Cornwall Community Space Program.
He once designed a graphic for the Stop the War movement, which showed George Bush's face and read: "George Bush War Killer." He was delighted to see it appear on the front page of a national paper, when famous footballer Diego Maradona wore a T-shirt with the design on during a demonstration in South America.
The guerrilla money art project in a similar way focuses on using a certain type of media to deliver a message.
Write a message, or decorate some paper money (any denomination) and send it to: Mr N Ayers, Earthly Delights, PO Box 2, Lostwithiel, Cornwall, PL22 OYY.

Cornish Guardian Wednesday September 24, 2008

MA Shows at Falmouth review

A review I did for www.artcornwall.org
MA Fine Art: Contemporary Practice 2008
Nigel Ayers

The MA Fine Art course at Falmouth has something distinctive about it. It is uniquely geared towards contemporary artists based in Cornwall, and towards artists facing similar challenges who may choose to live elsewhere. The course is closely linked to the highly-regarded RANE project, which promotes research into art, nature and the environment. The work arising from course tends to reflect a process-based approach to art, it is often found to be using methodologies of academic research than from the self-promotional (and sensationalistic) approach more often associated with contemporary artists.
The end result, as far as members of the public get to see, are a number of show pieces, tending to conform to art installation or gallery-based relational art criteria. These are shown in individual rooms in Lamorva House, a building which looks more or less like one of Falmouth's seaside hotels.
University College Falmouth is going through some reorganisation at present. One welcome revision is that the course now bears the moniker MA Fine Art: Contemporary Practice instead of its former MA Contemporary Visual Arts, otherwise known as “CVA”. Using the words “Fine Art” implies a continuity of tradition running back to the 1960s when the concept of free expression was introduced into art school pedagogy. Dropping the word “visual” is consistent with the fact that a good proportion of what is produced on Fine Art courses is not primarily visual. And the word “Practice” focuses on the complex mental, physical and social processes contemporary artists tend to be involved in. It isn't just simplistic materialisation of art-as-commodity. And the “Fine” bit in Fine Art is what distinguishes it from being a primarily craft-based activity.
This year there were twelve artists' work on display.
Perhaps it's misleading to describe the MA works as “installation art”, that would imply objects installed in a gallery. Here each artist takes over a room in a large house, which means that within that space they can exercise a fairly high degree of control over the setting their work is displayed in. By default, the artists here are able to provide an experience, enclosed within four or more walls with a door that opens and closes, rather than the other exhibition spaces within the college studios (which tend to be manky-looking spaces divided by softboard walls). There is far easier control over lighting, for example, in these rooms that there is in many of the other buildings in the campus. Likewise, with the rooms being discrete, there is also the possibility of greater control over sound and senses such as smell being used as part of the experience.

Something strange is afoot in Sarah Bunker’s contribution. The door is propped open by a small concrete object that looks a bit like cat-eyes from out of the road or it could be some sort of primitive sculpture. In the half light it’s very difficult to make out what is going on as you enter a sort of an institutional bathroom with three bathtubs in a row. In the next room there is something odd in the watertank. It could be some sort of a miniature city, or an electronic device, or a special jewel that is kept in water tanks in attics. You expect a dead pigeon, but what the hell is this?
It's like scenes from Eraserhead: a dreamlike effect which somehow triggers off associations with childhood, entering strange rooms, happening upon private adult things and not quite understanding what is going on.
Richard Rooks has some huge wall drawings, executed in sharp black lines directly on the walls surface. They are portraits of Bernard Cribbens. The thought flashes into my mind that this may be something to do with the Wombles, as Cribbens most famous role is the narrator’s voice to the TV series. But no, in this portrait Bernard Cribbens is in his 2008 role in Doctor Who. I’m not sure what exactly is the link between these portraits and what looks like some sort of sociological research being carried out by a young man with a laptop. He is asking a visitor questions and entering the answers into his computer. There is a large table in the centre of the room full of card cubes, forming some sort of graph, each cube is a subtly different colour. They seem to relate to the colours of cars bought by a family group over a period of years. Rooks is up to something interesting and a bit quirky, to do with recently passed-away Britishness and folk memory.

Georgina Maxwell’s pieces directly confront the issue of toxic waste and its effect on sea creatures. One room holds a wall full of red printed postcards to which visitors can help themselves. Each carries a straightforward message about the undesirability of plastic waste in the sea, one wall of this room is taken up with a video projection of similar images. In her other room, hundreds of used cigarette filters are clustered together in a square Perspex gallery frame, a bit like St Ives minimalism, but more “green”. Also somehow the presentation has slightly different effect to displays on similar themes you might see somewhere like the Eden Project. It looks far more like art than an informative display done by graphic designers and it feels personal. Maxwell’s flyposting of a plastic industries conference is also personal it is not presented as a group campaign activity.
Maxwell presents an autonomous form of direct action to do with personal choices and self-empowerment through ethical choices. A set of shelves full of jam jars where items of plastic waste have been collected during a meditative walk. And you know what this display reminds me of? A cabinet full of fish in formaldehyde done by Damien Hirst. I can't help it - the figure of Damien looms over contemporary British art like some sort of big horrible multi-national-cocaine-fuelled-Thatcherite-from-out-of-The-Omen.
On other hand, Sarah Maxwell's cabinet piece is more sort of like an anti-Hirst. Instead of pickling majestic sea critters and flogging them off to men-in-suits to store in corporate vaults, she’s tidying up some of the crap that’s been killing the poor sea creatures off. Instead of presenting them in museum style vitrines, she's re-using old jam-jars.

Rod Maclachlan has a room painted entirely white . High up on a slowly revolving turntable is an empty can of Trago-brand household emulsion paint, probably what he's painted the walls with. There are a couple of spotlights trained on the paint can and as it revolves they cast grey shadows on the white walls...

Chris Bruce has some small impasto oils: The Famous Five go Mad in Iraq. Small boys in false beards and Osama shirts set off a remote control car bomb. A small boy does his rifle practice on the beach. Heavily pregnant Enid Blyton girls.
Bonnie Jenkins has a seductive video display projected into shallow water. Justyna Suesser has disturbing latex rubber body casts and effects-sodden surround sound softly bouncing around a darkened room. James Harthill has digitally modelled white seagulls flying in an endless video loop over Falmouth harbour.
Words escape and run all over the walls and floors and ceiling from out of Richard Ward's altered, modified and cut-up books . Irene Waters has a long row of party snapshots, frocks dangle on fishing line. Mark Walker has turf growing in rows of plastic boxes with some sort of formula written on a whiteboard.

Ruth Brown has a room done up like some scientist-philosopher’s study with quotes from Magritte on the blackboard.

And then into another pitch black room, bumping into small children who are already inside there.
There's a huge great moon kind-of thing filling up the entire wall. It looks like “2001” as seen on Imax, and as it revolves there’s this incredible image as rays of light radiate out of it, and it fills your entire field of vision so it looks like it's in 3D. And then the hairs stand up on the back of your neck as you realise it's that same can of emulsion paint you saw earlier... and what Rod Machlachlan's done is really clever, what looked like a crappy minimalist installation is in fact one half of a camera obscura, with which he has created this incredible absorbing image projection. The room is full of kids who are absolutely gobsmacked by it all .
Sometimes I wonder what exactly is the point of the general public being invited to see these show pieces when much of the context of the work, including the history of research that has gone into them is invisible.
As a visitor this cannot help but to impose a level of puzzlement at the work being shown. Mindset and “framing” are important as regards contemporary art. If you don’t know what’s going on, the effect, even for someone with lots of experience with contemporary art be just so baffling that you lose interest.
But then surely the point of fine art as opposed to live art is that it stands apart from the artist and has a life of its own. This point often gets missed by both students and staff. The background can be banal, but often it can be more complex and more engaging than what is offered as the show piece. It's not just the colleges' fault, it happens in all sorts of galleries. I often find myself staring at new-fangled electrical fittings convinced they must be some sort of minimal art pieces. Thank goodness the Tate has explainers there to tell you what is art and what is not.
Historically, art environments have had a very radical psycho-political agenda. Up until the ‘90s they tended to be more ideologically- than commercially- driven. The idea was to create some kind of small 'temporary autonomous zones' which would create altered states of consciousness, to help destroy the bourgeois mind-control which at the root of the world’s problems. This is sort of what I hoped to see happening here. Perhaps I did a bit.
MA Fine Art: Contemporary Practice 2008 Exhibition. Artists: Ruth Brown, Sarah Bunker, Chris Bruce, James Harthill, Bonnie Jenkins, Georgina Maxwell, Rod Mclachlan, Richard Rooks, Justyna Suesser, Mark Walker, Richard Ward, Irene Waters.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Lest We Forget - Nocturnal Emissions boxed set

VOD 56: Nocturnal Emissions LEST WE FORGET 4-Lp-Box w. 7" / booklet

Lest We Forget is a collection compiled from the earliest recordings by Nocturnal Emissions, a group founded by Nigel Ayers, his brother Daniel Ayers and Caroline K in 1980. It comprises of material previously only available on cassettes as well as tracks recorded under their earlier name, The Pump. The Nocturnal Emissions were active in what has been known as “cassette culture” and explored the medium of underground cassette exchange in parallel with their better known vinyl releases and live performances. They used the available technology of the day in a spirit which seems to have anticipated modern social networking through the Internet. This series of documents offers a rare glimpse at audio sketchbooks; raw, unfinished works-in-progress and live performances by the group. It covers a wide range of musical style by a group who were committed to radical experimentation in both form and content. The box set also contains some previously unreleased tracks from the early ‘80s which sound surprisingly contemporary and fresh.

The group has undergone several mutations since these early recordings and continued into 21st century as a solo project by Nigel Ayers. Caroline K left the group in 1984 and produced one solo album before adopting a more private life. She remained a good friend and lived in England, Sri Lanka, and finally in Italy. She married Danny Ayers in 2001. While the edit of this collection was being assembled, she took ill with leukaemia and died during hospital treatment a few days later. Caroline’s distinctively moody electronics, vocals and bass guitar feature strongly on these albums. We offer this box set as a tribute to her life and work.


Thursday 11 September 2008

Albion Dreaming review

Albion Dreaming by Andy Roberts

Albion Dreaming is a serious attempt to re-evaluate and document the use of LSD in popular British culture since its discovery 70 years ago, around the same time as the atomic bomb. Although well written, it is a book aimed for a popular, rather than a medical or academic readership. Whatever your views on LSD, its impact on culture in the UK has been phenomenal. From secret MI5 and psychiatric experiments, to beatnik magic experiments, the psychedelic 60s through free festivals, new age travellers and the rave scene.

In our culture LSD, as well as being a folk devil, has also been associated with very positive life-changing experiences and self- initiation. For many people acid has led to an increased awareness of ecological concerns, spirituality, communality and a better understanding of how the mind works. Roberts points out that its legal position has often been out of proportion to its documented dangers, and that illicit LSD manufacturers tend to be ideologically rather than commercially motivated. Proper medical research on what is certainly an unusual and is possibly a very valuable drug has never really happened. This has been thanks to tabloid hysteria and political timidity and public fears. Tabloid hysteria and moral panic has also led to disproportionate judicial repression of LSD manufacturers, suppliers and users, some of which is documented here.

Being concerned with mythology, magic, urban legend and new religions, it is ideal material for a seasoned Fortean researcher like Andy Roberts. The book is very well-researched, much of the material here has never been published before, rumours and hearsay have been followed up, and facts have been checked. Roberts also emphasises how mindset and environmental setting are vital to how LSD is experienced and how the effects of LSD, especially within in a society such as our own, are not always positive.

A big fat book which provides a fascinating read about what remains a very controversial subject.

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Marshall Cavendish (30 Sep 2008)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 1905736274
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905736270

Albion Dreaming

Tuesday 9 September 2008

BBC Radio 4 Today programme stigmatises mental health issues

This morning, BBC Radio 4's Today programme launched a tabloid-style attack on sufferers from mental illness in general and autism in particular

I lodged a formal complaint along these lines:

".... I was appalled by the fear-mongering way statistics were interpreted on your programme this morning, and the way John Humphreys expressed many of the common prejudices that stigmatise people who happen to be ill. They are members of the public, not criminals who should be feared.

Almost everyone suffers from some kind of mental ill health at some time in their life. Could the Today programme please help inform the public (and John Humphreys in particular) on mental health issues and how the Health Service functions, rather than reinforcing existing myths about mental illness. Thank you."

Maybe they'll take notice if enough people write in. Please forward your e-mail to

and to

Please pass this onto anyone who may be interested.

Thursday 4 September 2008

Submersive Figures review

Here's an art review I wrote the other day for:www.artcornwall.org
Submersive Figures

New Street Gallery, Penzance, August 2008

Submersive Figures, at the New Street Gallery, Penzance, is the second of series of exhibitions by a group of artists who were originally brought together as part of the second Spontaneous Combustion show in St Ives in 2007. As Jo Forsyth described at the time: 'between commercially driven work and the state funded activities (in Cornwall) there exists a vast cavern of overlooked outpourings of creative expression of which this exhibition is a small part'.

The implication was that these artists are neither making populist (commercially driven) nor elitist (state-funded) art. Instead they are doing something else, somewhere in-between.

The group’s work is varied in style, medium and technique. The media used include those of modern craft-based art practice, including studio ceramics, sculpture using recycled materials, painting on canvas, print-making and textile-based work. The emotional content is a strong element in the work art and in some, but not all, of the artists there is a strong sense of the postmodern in the re-use and recycling/ appropriation of familiar cultural iconography, scrap material and bricolage. This is consistent with the group’s common interest in the creative spontaneity found in outsider art. Another common ground is that all the pieces are hand-made by the artists themselves.

In Ian Dunlop’s vibrantly coloured monoprints , familiar archetypes of American corporate hegemony in apocalyptic mandalas are displayed like the magical iconography found on banknotes and other Masonic stationary. The black outline of the Colonel Sanders logo leers out of a pall of smoke at the centre of one picture . A cluster of cruise missiles rocket out across a turbulent seascape with a flotsam of pharmaceutical capsules and red flowers. At the four corners are a hand gun, an alarm clock showing five minutes to twelve, a dollar symbol, and a radiation hazard sign.

At the centre of another monoprint is the logo of the Playboy bunny, surrounded by handguns, sub-machine guns and nudie models. The rabbit is a pre-Christian fertility symbol appropriated by a major corporation to promote commercialised sex. Here the bunny occupies the picture surface like a Beast from Revelation. In Playboy magazine, nudie images are mechanically reproduced, highly glossified photoshopped airbrushwork. Here they’re a hand-drawn one-off, drawn on a perspex sheet in printing inks then rolled under an etching press onto high rag content art paper. In rhinestone-cowboy colours, their outlines sink into the thick paper, degraded from the hyper-real.

A softer version of Americana inspired English pop artists in the 1950s to imagine an escape from the gloom of the British establishment, embracing the new vibe of individualised consumer culture and rock’n’roll. As we enter the 21st century, these symbols no longer mean the glamour of “America” but instead imply a globalised totality of some sort of Armageddon.

Lisa Stewart’s pieces are around eight or ten inches high and look like they could be miniature figures made for a stop-frame animation based on a William Burroughs dystopia. Gnarled new age travellers and Mugwumps. Barnums' mermaids dredged from fishermen's nets. Genetically manipulated Morgawrs. Amphibian cryptids with screw-lock caribinier earrings. Thin grey camel foetuses, evacuated from the Drenched Lands. Banana Billy and the small time Vegetable People. Under dead crab eyes, limestone flesh creeps through. These boys have been rebuilt. The broken image of Man moves frame by frame and cell by cell. Species of carnivorous molluscs on the road to Damascus, the human virus in miniature Doc Martens.

A giant head covered in a multitude of plastic toys, rays guns, with a built in bubble machine that blows bubbles out of its mouth (above left). A big daft dog, wet fur represented by umpteen different shaped nylon brushes screwed down to its plywood skeleton, the whole thing standing on two purple washbowls. Robert Bradford’s assemblage sculptures conjure up riffs on Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s 16th century allegorical figures, but now the heads and figures are rendered in three dimensions with polychromatic plastic toys salvaged from the early - morning delirium of car boot sales. And, as it’s been a wet summer for boot sales, it looks like Robert has been raiding the pound shops and market stalls for raw material.

Octopus’s Garden is the title of one of Robert Bradford’s pieces here (as well as a painting by another artist in the show which has less obvious associations). Ringo Starr wrote the song Octopus’s Garden after a brief spell of leaving the Beatles. While on holiday with his family in Sardinia he was made aware of the fact that octopuses roam the depths of the ocean, picking up stones and shiny objects for their gardens. Bradford’s foraging seems a bit like that octopus behaviour. A Perspex cistern full of bubbling water, blue plastic octopus with googly eyes, blue aquarium gravel, strategically arranged observation toy telescopes offer kaleidoscope eyes' viewpoints of the frothing water. Flashbacks from pop and natural history in a lowbrow Cubist device. Oh, and there’s a little yellow submarine in there too.

A woman , squatting in a white wedding dress, gazes out of the canvas studying the viewer, surrounded by renaissance trappings and holding a pointed stick . The woman’s figure could be copied from a photograph, or from a studio model. It looks modern. The background figures are copied from Renaissance paintings, with characteristic anatomical distortions. Cupid fondles her right breast through her clothing, but she’s ignoring this, looking sidewards out at the viewer. Perhaps the woman in the painting is not totally taken in by the theatricality of all that fake classical shite. In another painting, three people stand two facing outwards with fake smiles clutching glasses of red wine, as if at a private view. The central figure with folded arms wears a mask of white paint which drips down the canvas.

There are historical paradoxes set up in these works by Morwenna Morrison. They're anachronistic. It’s impossible to see the image of Mona Lisa without a flash of associations. In postcards from Amsterdam Mona Lisa is smoking a spliff. In 1919 Duchamp gave her a moustache and a pun that implied she had a hot ass. Warhol printed her in crude multiple images, emphasising flaws in reproduction and the qualities of the image as a brand mark. Now Morrison paints a cropped version of La Gioconda, the hands are missing (Mona's hands are notoriously difficult to paint). She has surgically enhanced breasts and a face marked out for cosmetic surgery. Juxtaposed with Morrison's other remixes of renaissance conventions, the flippant humour of this piece parodies her own painterly craft, adding to the subversions of pictorial conventions used in the more serious-looking paintings.

Linda Styles' small, often understated, ceramic pieces vacillate between studio pottery and mantelpiece clutter. Her fruitbowl-size bathtub is placed on the floor, easy to miss or kick over, but features a nice scratchy line drawing: an anxious woman in a bathtub, smears of brown, underwater – drowned - hands clinging to the sides.

In the front window are some other small pieces this time in slipcast earthenware glazed in cobalt blue. A collage of retro bric-a-brac, blue angelfish, cherub supporting a chalice, blue curlicues of waves, snorkling putti, bathroom trinkets, fish-shaped ornaments, soapdishes, bubble baths and toothbrush holders, the sort of thing that would make Bernard Leach spin in his grave. The scale is sort of introverted; the uniform blue glaze drowns out the form, making it appealing to the type of person who collects cobalt blue pottery. Styles’ work suggest complicity rather than innocent craft-making, she points out that cobalt blue is “the colour of deep oceans, expensive because it is mined in war zones, historic because it has be used for centuries and traditionally signifies the top end of the ceramic market place”.
In Jo Forsyth’s Whirlygiggle Chess Set, primordial life forms replace feudal heraldries. The pieces are recognisable, but transformed into squiggly sea creatures, orange and yellow snails and worms with black heads. The board itself is tiled in coral colours of orange and yellow with wavy edges, as if it’s the bottom of a swimming pool. In Sue Dove’s piece gestural drawings are woven into rugs, facial features worn like doormats, mugshots in cross-stitch, clothing becomes boats, boats become bathtubs, ragdoll faces smeared in oil. Are they waving or drowning?

Penny MacBeth’s work seems to contain some sort of poetic narrative constructed by fragments of text: visual puns, associations of objects and painting, fabric print, textile collage, ceramic relief heads and acrylic resin bubbles. In 'Bloodline', an installation of fifteen small canvases are used like comic strip frames, with fragments of portraits, text clipped from newspapers, ransom note style, over acrylic renderings of fabric print and wallpaper patterns. Ancestral portraits traced from photos in old family albums, linked by scarlet fabric tendrils to a dressmaker’s dummy wearing a white dress with images and texts on textile. Canvas as something you wear. Ancestral bonds red roots bound in red fluffy wool. Muslin skirt lit from underneath with tiny red fairylights.

Navigating dry land
In a boat full of water
Where did you hope to go
On that particular journey
Drowning in your own tears

So it goes. The pieces that make up 'Submersive Figures' occupy a submerged area that is somehow not quite art and not quite craft. Often the power of expressionistic art lies within the edit. The process of these forms of art-making are complex and involves the acquisition and practice of very particular sets of technical skills, pre-planning and a degree of intellectual sophistication to co-ordinate all the disparate activities that go into them. This level of sophistication isn’t spontaneous, though it can be about spontaneity. Some of these pieces appear unfinished rather than “raw” in the sense of being primarily some sort of an emotional imprint.

The show is light on theory and has a tendency towards whimsy and stating the bleeding obvious, which somehow makes it enjoyable. My main criticism would be; it doesn’t go far enough, there's not enough of it, it needs to be more excessive. I get the feeling that there may be something more profound going on at a submerged level. I sense a disturbing undercurrent which is to do with the specific socio-economic circumstances and historical background of art made in Cornwall. Hopefully this will emerge in a more monstrous form in forthcoming shows by the group.

Nigel Ayers 20/8/08


Tuesday 26 August 2008


Watercolour on digital print

Viral Shedding

The hits keep on coming...

Klanggalerie have just re-issued Viral Shedding (from 1983) on CD this time remastered from vinyl.
I like it.

Saturday 23 August 2008

Molotov Boy

I'm sorting though my old files today...here's Molotov Boy, one of theThe War Against Terror series of detourned illustrations I did back in 2005.

Albion Dreaming

I'm currently reading an advance copy of Albion Dreaming that Andy Robrets sent me. It's all about the social impact of LSD and the moral panics surrounding its history in Britain, a fascinating read although is a spelling error concerning my name. I'll give it a review shortly.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Guerilla mail art project

I just got these yankee dollars in the mail today from DN of Portland, Oregon. I'm not sure the bank will accept them, so I'll pop them in a clip frame."we're building a new tomorrow" is a line from "bring power to its knees" another song that I wrote back in the day, and like I say..

As we move into a more abstract information - based economy, the opportunities for individualising interactions, like handing over altered, worn, mucky cash are lost. It all becomes ones and zeroes. It's not as if money is abolished, it becomes this equivalent information code kind of thing, and the codes get more and more impersonal. So why not strike a blow against the information economy ??? !!!. Take part in this guerilla mail art project :,

Open entry - no returns.

Write a message on, or decorate some paper money (any denomination) and send it to:
Mr N Ayers
Earthly Delights
PO Box 2
PL22 0YY

And I'll post the best ones on the blog.