Giles Bailey & CIRCA Projects

Then the idea I was not finished #1

5 May 2017

Text produced by Giles Bailey & CIRCA Projects for the public launch of Studio is Sudden, 5 May 2017.

 

A REEL TO REEL OPERATOR RECORDS HIS BOSS’ BAND, LINDISFARNE, AND BURIES HATRED OF THEIR OPTIMISM

It’s 2017 and I am walking around the silent studio pointing a mic into the space. Any sound it picks up passes through a pedal that claims to simulate the effect of a classic analogue tape delay, a device used frequently since the 1950s by engineers recording popular music. Our device is called the Danelectro Reel Echo™. This is written in a typeface suggesting cartoon nostalgia and our efforts to playback the ambient sound of the room come to nothing. This (somewhat) self-consciously futile endeavour is an attempt to recreate the artist Stuart Marshall’s 1976 work Trailing, Tracing, Weaving; a piece first performed in Newcastle at the short-lived experimental arts space Ayton Basement. His collaborator and co-performer Nicolas Collins explains, “I’m hazy on the details, but I recall that we both carried portable Uher reel-to-reel tape recorders with a single reel of tape extending from the feed-reel on Stuart’s recorder to the take-up reel
on mine, creating a pedestrian tape delay.” We are trying to understand it, as best we can, from a contact sheet of photographs that document the work and for us it becomes a resonator of its own, layering
a vision of the city and its relationships with the world in the mid 1970s.

A HYPNOTISED CAST OF ACTORS A HYPNOTISED AUDIENCE WHO WILL REMEMBER THE WORK

Werner Herzog’s Heart of Glass (1976), a film during the shooting of which actors were famously hypnotised by the director, is playing at the the Apollo in Byker or the ABC Haymarket or the Jesmond Picture House or the Royalty or the Wallaw in Blyth or the Tatler Cinema Club (possibly)…

THE WEEKEND

I find am unconsciously editing an archive of images on the Newcastle Chronicle website that has been put together to celebrate 40 years of punk. In excising all the pictures of posturing bands and young men leering obnoxiously, I am left with a small, but compelling selection of photos of young friends: two young women with cropped heads in a back garden; awkward smiles from a queue to see the Ramones; a group still in their school uniform congregating in a hair salon. They describe a youthful social energy that is vital, transgressive, warm and alive with mutual kinship at a time of change.

YOUR FRIEND’S FRIEND, DRESSED AS A WARRIOR

Conrad Thomas Lant’s band, Album Graecum, are rehearsing after school. The band’s name refers to canine faeces that has whitened due to exposure to air. The substance is used to dress leather and, long ago, for medicinal purposes. Later, Conrad (age 13) — who became better known as Cronos and front man of proto Black Metal band Venom — eats chips with his new girlfriend and talks to her friend about Ozzy Osbourne’s cop out style “Oh god…!”

WRAPPED IN CLOUDS NOBODY’S THE WISER 2

Composer and teacher of Stuart Marshall, Alvin Lucier said, “Stuart loved spoonerisms. I never failed to start him howling with laughter at a collection of anecdotes, particularly those that had hilarious but plausible reversals, for example, “O, weary benches.” These slips of the tongue delighted Stuart and led him to a deep reading of Freud and, later, Lacan. Like conceptual artist, Joseph Kosuth, whom Stuart particularly admired, words and their multiple meanings played an important part in his thinking.” 3

FRESH LIPSTICK LIP STICKING

We are thinking about the strangely simultaneous proximity and distance of events when considering history. Hilary Mantel cites the experience of seeing a medieval brick imprinted with a dog’s paw on display at Sutton House in Hackney as significant in her understanding of this when writing the novel Wolf Hall. Rodney Jones’ poem Hubris at Zunzal recalls half a coconut shell of coconut milk and 150-proof rum accidentally dumped into the sea, then the act of reaching down with the idea it could be retrieved.

STANDING AT A BUS STOP ON WESTGATE ROAD IN JANUARY, I CATCH A WHIFF OF VICKS FROM A PUNK’S MOHAWK

Using a table fan we blow air above two freshly opened tubs of Vicks VapoRub in the hope of filling the room with an unmistakable scent. Walking around we sniff experimentally, trying to determine how effective the undertaking has been.

REFERENCES

⁰ From Hubris at Zunzal by Rodney Jones, published in The New Yorker, June 22 2009
¹ Text from the manual for The Uher 4400 professional stereo portable battery and A/C operated tape recorder
² These words are spoken in Stuart Marshall’s video piece, Arcanum (1976)
³ Alvin Lucier On Stuart Marshall, Afterall, Spring/Summer 2016