After the White Room project, 1970, and fired up by the strong energy and collaborative strategies it unleashed, Graham Challifour, Rod Melvin and myself began working together on several projects, private and public. The images reflect the explored territory of several performances including ‘Nothing’ where a ventriloquist and dummy become an ‘entity’ of manipulation. The typed texts in images are from G. C. Since 2013 we have again set up structures for making new work together and have exchanged many emails.
2016 email extracts:
G.C. The White Room gave us permission to explore, to challenge, to question and to do so without pre-judging the eventual outcome. …to absorb and learn from a wider range of experiences and viewpoints beyond art historical confines.…. opening new doors, new possibilities seemingly without limitation.
The University became – rather than a withdrawn and elitist institution – something more akin to its name……..a universe of possibilities. Where we were encouraged to interact with other departments: mathematics, philosophy, psychology, history, geography, music and unrestrained effected cross-over projects. At that time a possibility not at all open to the traditional art colleges, we were able to utilise the full potential of universal education and once out of the bottle the Genie was not to be put back in.
An Alchemical Wedding that fused together many strands that forged the 20th Century crucible of Dada and the Pataphysicians; the anatomical work of the Slade able to reconstruct the physical and psychological disfigurements of the First Great War; the behavioural and psychological revolution of Jung and Freud that morphed into the materialism of 50’s/ 60’s mass marketing and advertising; the ferment that was Pop Art that embraced the conceptual revolution of Duchamp through Jim Dine, Cage, the Beat Poets; of Yves Klein seeing in Zoroaster a new road-map to mark-making; of Dieter Rot combining the toxicity of the rotting cyanide in custard with the eloquence of poetry………….and I could go on………
……And although I’ve conflated many parallel pathways without proper historical perspective, what I am trying to convey is that multiverse of influences that conspired to inform and inspired a stepping away from perceived convention; that permitted the cross pollination that enabled Beuys’ to conflate the healing properties of felt and fat with the toxic chemistry of batteries and ferrous oxide……where once the Sweet Water met Sour Water in Oriental Genesis had somehow become transmuted in the Oxidant to Heavy Water……..don’t forget we were all still living at that time in the shadow of the Cold War, of Kennedy and Khrushchev…….we are still now in search of a more egalitarian, Utopian Diaspora since the Neo-cons challenged the purpose to which Keynesianism aspired – where the market serves the purposes of the citizen rather than the System be served by its citizens.
A.B….there was a general feeling that it had been an impetus for the art dept to widen and broaden and deepen–empirically it is a ‘reflective utopia’ that simply by experiment and authentic, sincere engagement shifted pedagogy (if only locally and slightly– it all adds up and like in so many cases, it is often the unknown that add as much or more to movement/s as the names) We could still, at that time, be unselfconsciously romantic whilst recognising the absurd, the various endgames, the non viability of master narratives, in that cusp of modernism/post modernism. (Existentialism, for me, sits perfectly in this fulcrum.) The White Room articulated and made sense for me, of the dissatisfaction I experienced with the end result of my paintings whilst having had an exhilarating dialogue with myself during the painting of them– why did the painting not contain and capture that thrilling encounter– here was the beginnings of an answer– the encounter and the process became the art– IS the art.
With Beuys, it was particularly his conviction and capturing of our ‘shamanic’ insights having a central place in conceptualising and politicalising that gave the permissive space and spirit for enquiry. — –Cage, Beckett, Warhol, Rauschenberg, Ono, Burroughs, RILKO (research into lost knowledge organisation) were all present. Our investigation of the ‘Large Glass’ (The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even) I called ‘The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Eventually.’
R.M. For me Rita’s (Donagh) presence, teaching experience and expectations / belief in each person’s potentials as an artist acted as a huge (though quiet) influence during the White Room period. Not only was group action outside her normal procedure but also that of most of us (students). Rather than just discussing, we were experiencing other ways of creating.
Away from the drawing paper or canvas I utilised and exercised intuitive responses; my love of musical communication and performance including visual aspects (costume /use of body etc) began to be part of this Fine Art arena.