As I mentioned in an earlier post, earlier in the month I opened a project called ‘DISCLOSURE’ in Nottingham. The show is made up of three components an exhibition, which incidentally features my first attempts at painting since art school, a panel discussion on ideas of independence in various fields of art and the public screening of a new video work on the facade of a cinema. A Chinese finger trap for the viewer and for the artist: A display of artistic honesty qualified by the suggestion that as individuals we are happy to trade one preconception for another whilst the overall archetypes remain the same. We believe what we choose to believe, we believe what is convenient at a given point.
Is this project really what it seems…? It’s one of a number of projects that I’ve been working on with students and young graduates. The drive for this is two-fold; firstly because I identify this period in my own life as incredibly significant in terms of reinforcing or creating certain structures that I’m only now beginning to move beyond and secondly the idea that there is some kind of purity in those that have not yet been (over) exposed to the horrors of the big bad, art world and its temptations. To an extent this might be true but perhaps that is what we overexposed types want to believe. I went to a very interesting lecture by Erik Davis, the weekend before last, about the history of the ‘Phantasm’. It was very clear from what he was saying that our desire for a Phantasms existence was the very thing that brought it into existence. That said the self-sufficiency of young graduates is an admirable and very real thing and important to acknowledge however it does not by extension necessarily suggest a new working model for what comes next.
The other important factor in the show is the idea of confession or disclosure. A public/private display of the vulnerability that is derived from honesty I wrote a text for the show which you can read here…
There are several ways of reading this: firstly the honest attempt of an individual to admit their mistakes, secondly a reflection on the personal, confessional vernacular as being somehow authentic (a la Sean Landers) reinforced by the setting for the project and thirdly something much darker which is in fact a spiral of non meaning which sets out to manipulate the viewer and circumvent criticism. You see what I mean about this work as a trap.
Anyway, within this text I make mention to ‘perception and memory’ as our anchors to history. Whilst I might have some problems with short term memory, I have quite a scary long term memory especially when it come to recalling completely useless facts. It seems to me that there is significant other category of memory. These are the places where are psyches are anchored, Meta-memory composed of the layering of memory upon memory saturated by archetype. Seemingly so dense it seems that our sensibilities and limitations are defined within. I have a handful of such memories. Here’s an example. I don’t think that I am going to try and analyse this too much, I’ll leave that to you (or not). I think it’s all pretty self evident, yet as anyone knows me will realise, unresolved. So here is a short story, that I know better as a memory.
It is the late seventies. I am watching a film, which in hindsight has obviously been made for TV. It is an American film and it is the story of a male vocal duo. It’s sunny in the film and I think that it is probably set in California, a setting I recognise from other TV shows. The two men in the group are very popular performers, girls particularly adore them. One of them who is really the crux of the film is played by Richard Hatch who played Captain Apollo in the original series of Battlestar Galactica.
They perform a very smooth vocal harmony pop, a little like the Osmonds ( I should add that I’m probably about 5 years old.) From somewhere I have developed a very clear idea of what is ‘Good music’. My favourite song is “Surfing USA” by The Beachboys which at this point in my life (age 5) I consider to be the perfect pop song. The guys in the film make definitely make ‘Good music’. (I am also very afraid of the Ayatollah Khomeini.) These guys play at packed arenas and people go crazy, there is a lot of screaming. They always wear white, it is there thing. Also their hair is awesome.
They are perfect, nothing can stop them, nothing can dim their glow of their special, radiant white, goodness. This is self-evident and true.
But life is cruel to the expectations of five years olds: disaster strikes. ‘Richard’ (let’s call him that) is involved in a terrible car crash after their greatest ever gig. He is rushed to Hospital by a careering ambulance, his pop partner races through the night to his bedside. Strangely ‘Richard’ is unscarred, in fact his hair is still awesome, but something in the impact has damaged his vocal chords. He can no longer speak. He opens his mouth to speak but no sound issues forth, his intense and passionate, effort is clear but nothing, he collapses. His bandmate tenderly touches him on the arm in sympathy. How could this happen. Fade out.
‘Richard’ leaves hospital and is taken to a special rehabilitation facility in the country side. He spends a lot of time walking in the beautiful soft focus surroundings considering his terrible fate. He attends speech therapy classes with a beautiful dark haired nurse who attempts to coax his vocal chords back to life. His band-mate and manager come to visit, they fear for the worst. Then suddenly one day when out walking with the nurse…. a miracle. A bird lands on a nearby tree, the most beautiful bird in the world. The nurse points to it says something along the lines of ‘what a beautiful bird’. The torment is evident in ‘Richard’s’ eyes, his throat flexes and twists and his chest heave and then painfully and slowly a sound passes his lips, barely audible, but like thunder, ‘Bird’. The nurse and Richard collapse into each others arms overcome with the emotion of the moment. Cut.
‘Richard’ is progressing well and working hard at his speech therapy but the accident has left him with a terrible stutter. His remarkable recovery has lit up the press and as a result, rather strangely given his affliction, the groups manager has booked there biggest ever show. His band-mate comes to visit and is visibly concerned with what is going to happen at the concert. It seems that the only result can be disaster. A light has gone out in the world.
The big night comes. The arena is packed , the excitement is tangible, the cameras roll, the pens of Newsmen hover, quivering above notepads, awaiting sure disaster. There is an incredible sensation of tension, the butterflies in my stomach tell me that this is an ‘all or nothing’ moment. Richard’s band-mate takes the stage alone, wearing white and sings the first few songs unaccompanied. Richard watches from the wings nervously. The time is coming. The spotlight focuses on the stage. The band mate holds the microphone to his lips, he says “I would like introduce a special friend”. Richard walks slightly coyly onto the stage, the crowd go wild but they also seem to eminate nervousness. The group launch into their most anthemic song. It is time for Richard’s part: There is a terrible pause. He opens his mouth, a moment that lasts for hours. Then he begins to sing tentatively and faltering. He stutters but continues , the crowd takes a deep breath. He looks over to his band-mate preparing for the soaring next line, and then turns back, once more, to his audience. He slowly raises his face slowly skyward and suddenly through an act of absolute will, his beautiful voice returns, the crowd goes wild. His partner puts an arm around him as their two voices merge together for the chorus. Harmony has returned.
The final shot:- The two men from behind, arms aloft, two linked Y shapes, their ultra white outfits shining like stars, flowers flung about their feet and before them the ecstatic audience. Fade to white.