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Art of the Lived Experiment


Art of the Lived Experiment


Published on the occasion of DaDaFest International 2014, to accompany the exhibition Art of the Lived Experiment, devised and commissioned by DaDaFest in partnership with the Bluecoat and the exhibition curator Aaron Williamson. The Bluecoat, Liverpool, England, 8 November 2014—11 January 2015 Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Kendall College of Art and Design (KCA) and Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM), Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, 10 April — 31 July 2015 Co-curated in the USA by Amanda Cachia as part of the DisArt Festival. Alternative formats of this publication available on request to DaDaFest info@dadafest.co.uk / 0151 707 1733 www.dadafest.co.uk Published 2014 by The Bluecoat, School Lane, Liverpool L1 3BX and DaDaFest, The Bluecoat, School Lane, Liverpool L1 3BX

978-0-9538996-3-0 Editor: Bryan Biggs Design: Mike Carney

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Images Š the artists, the Bluecoat and DaDaFest except where stated otherwise. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. A catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library. Cover image: reproduction of plate from Mutus Liber, image from The Golden Game: Alchemical Engravings of the Seventeenth Century. Author: Stanislas Klossowski de Rola. Published by Thames & Hudson, Ltd., London (1998) The curator of the Art of the Lived Experiment exhibition, Aaron Williamson, DaDaFest Artistic Director, Ruth Gould, and this publication’s editor, Bryan Biggs, would like to thank the following: the participating artists, all the lenders of works in the exhibition, the DaDaFest Board, and staff from both DaDaFest and the Bluecoat who have worked on the exhibition, in particular Ruth Adams, Denise Courcoux, Caroline Maclennan, Sara-Jayne Parsons and Claire Smith.


Foreword Ruth Gould, Artistic Director, DaDaFest Nothing, it appears, is stable: we see this in the impact of technological advances on our lives, the effects of climate change, and in the increasing inequality brought about by the effects of continuing global economic crisis. How we adapt to these changes varies from culture to culture, location to location, but one area of change that remains fraught with confusion, stigma and fear remains that of disability. Disability is a human issue that affects us all, eventually, impacting on our position in society, how we think about ourselves, our daily interactions, and how the ordinariness of life can evade and remove itself from us. Our bodies and minds are fragile, delicate and fleeting in terms of human evolution. Yet this is how we have always been and will always be. It is positive to be curious about difference, but never to negate or view disability in terms of deficiency. We need to learn to embrace our changing bodies, our ageing bodies, our cyber-bodies, and explore how we interact within a world that either works for or against us. The exhibition, Art of the Lived Experiment, has been commissioned for DaDaFest International 2014, which adopts its title as the theme for the festival. I am grateful to Aaron Williamson, who we invited to curate the exhibition, and our close partners the Bluecoat. The exhibition captures thinking from extremes of life and will, I hope, help counteract the intrigue, trials and voyeurism that feature in many disabled people’s lives.

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Introduction Bryan Biggs, Artistic Director, the Bluecoat The exhibition that this publication accompanies represents a collaboration between a festival — DaDaFest, an artist — Aaron Williamson, and a gallery — the Bluecoat. It follows a similar process used for DaDaFest International 2012, when an international group show, Niet Normaal, was presented in our gallery. That exhibition — its title translated literally as ‘Not Normal’ — was a smaller version of an existing show curated in Holland by Ine Gevers, and was complemented by new works commissioned specially for DaDaFest. It was not conceived as an exhibition exploring disability, however its focus on questioning what it was to be ‘normal’ chimed with the context of the Liverpool festival. Following the considerable interest and critical response that Niet Normaal generated, it was felt that a further, equally ambitious exhibition involving artists from the UK and abroad be curated for the 2014 festival. We wanted to build the momentum of high quality visual art presentations that avoided the ‘ghettoisation’ that often befalls exhibitions with a disability focus. DaDaFest’s invitation to Aaron Williamson to devise and select a completely new show that would further interrogate themes pertinent to the festival — this time with a focus on the idea of transmutation — was an inspired choice. Aaron came to the project as an artist with an estimable track record of innovative, genrecrossing practice, operating between performance and visual art. He was also a self-confessed curatorial novice. Of necessity then, the curatorial process became collaborative, and has proved to be a genuinely dynamic experience, a three-way partnership between Aaron, DaDaFest and the


Bluecoat (including valuable early input from our then curator Sara-Jayne Parsons). Aaron’s approach, which he outlines in this publication and which was refined through conversations with both us and the invited artists, took an overarching concept rather than being strictly thematic. His original idea was to invoke the philosophical tradition of alchemy, taking its magical, transformative and experimental associations as a template with which to consider practices employed by contemporary artists. Reflecting his own artistic methodology — one encompassing performance, video, drawing, music and writing — the selection of artists for Art of the Lived Experiment is characterised by an emphasis on experimentation, the performative, and the interplay between art forms. With the intention of being serious yet playful, the exhibition brings together a range of works by 28 artists, a combination of established and emerging, some exhibiting in the UK for the first time. Process-based and performative work is strongly featured, and includes Brian Catling’s performance interventions into his installation at intervals throughout the exhibition. Mike Parr will complement large-scale portrait prints in the gallery with a new print created in Liverpool. Other artists are also making new works for the show: Tony Heaton’s gold re-sprayed Invacar, titled Gold Lamé, created specifically for the gallery’s voluminous ‘Vide’ space; Katherine Araniello’s video of her negotiating a cobbled street in Liverpool in her wheelchair; Simon Raven’s mannequin installation facing out onto a busy shopping street through the gallery’s huge windows; Juliet Robson’s exploration of radically different perspectives using tape markings on windows; documentation of the vacuum cleaner’s self-made mental health institution, Ship of Fools.

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As these examples demonstrate, many of the artists have an engagement with the everyday or with institutional structures, their work expressing an intensely personal relationship to these, as seen in the photographs of the late Stephen Cripps’ ‘private performances’, or Bobby Baker’s diary drawings. They echo the work of forerunners, not all of them classified as artists, who went out on a limb in their compulsion to understand, interpret and imaginatively picture the world. A selection of these are represented in what Aaron has dubbed ‘The Ignition Room’, an introductory space that hosts a range of ephemera, illuminating the exhibition’s themes and including an acoustic chair and material relating to a surprisingly eclectic cast of mostly historical characters. Envisaging the artist’s studio as akin to the alchemist’s laboratory may not be so fanciful, considering the close relationship that has existed between art and science since Leonardo’s exquisite drawings of the human body and natural phenomena defined the Renaissance model of an integrated investigation into the physical world. Artists’ interest in technique and scientists’ in technology may be considered to have something in common with each other, both sharing the same root, techne, the ancient Greek word for art. In recent years there are signs that the relationship between the two disciplines — having largely grown apart and developed as distinct cultural practices over the past two centuries — is drawing closer together again. This is shown by the advent for example of funds specifically for arts and science projects, and access to digital technology providing tools and opening up hitherto ‘closed off’ scientific territory to artists.


Art of the Lived Experiment however is not an exhibition ‘about’ art and science. Just as alchemy, with its hermetic principles, arcane rituals and impossible quests, is regarded as irrational, outside of empirical science (even if it was in part precursor to modern medicine and chemistry), the art here abides by no rules other than the discipline determined by the artists and an openness to experimentation. Paradoxically, the alchemist’s search for the impossible, to create gold from ‘base’ metals, to attain eternal youth through the ‘elixir of life’, suggests — not emancipation — but materialistic pursuit. From the contemporary perspective of our consumer driven reality, the alchemist’s goals could be seen to reflect greed, vanity, and ultimately power and control — the antithesis of the open-ended, unconstrained enquiry we associate with artistic process. In this respect, the freedom to break from societal norms, to open up new insights, and revel in the unpredictable transformation that is at the heart of the creative process, may well align the artist with the alchemist. I hope that the work in Art of the Lived Experiment, and this publication, stimulates interest and discussion about the way artists create, as well as the possibilities for both individual transformation and different ways of negotiating the everyday. In the context of this year’s DaDaFest, the exhibition will hopefully also contribute to the festival’s manifest aim to celebrate difference, challenge thinking and ignite debate.

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Art of the Lived Experiment Aaron Williamson, exhibition curator In contrast to the objectivity of modern science, the ancient practice of alchemy — ostensibly a quest to discover the Philosopher’s Stone with which to turn base metals into gold — believed the experimenter’s presence was integral to the experiment itself. Indeed, alchemy’s quest for transmutation was often aimed primarily at effecting personal change in the alchemist. In contemporary art, one might ask, can the artist’s own subjectivity be incorporated, like the alchemist’s, into his or her work in new, experimental and challenging ways? Art of the Lived Experiment explores this question, not through the fixed securities of autobiography or illustration, but through a more immediately compelling emphasis: by acknowledging that just as the unfixed, mutable nature of existence demands constant adjustment and experiment, so does making art. The exhibition addresses the idea that both art and life are subject to flux and transformation. In both realms, all that is certain is continual change. Experiment is necessary in order to process, alter, combine and transform conditioning elements, since nothing in life or in art can be permanent. Unsurprisingly perhaps, art that is process-based and performative (as living, ultimately, is) features prominently in the exhibition. The aim was to gather a range of artworks, including sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, video, installation and durational performance, from an international spread of artists, many new to UK audiences. Additionally, there is a ‘catalytic’ show-within-a-show, ‘The Ignition Room’, which presents a range of ephemera from historical sources that illuminate the themes addressed by the exhibiting artists.


The Ignition Room In an alchemical experiment the conditions required for starting the combustion of fuel were exacting. Many factors came into play: astronomic, numeric, spatial,
 the arrangement of objects, lunar cycle, horology and weather. The circumstances required to ignite a process of transformation were made subject to situation and rhythm. But above all, as testified by the ecstatic 1st century alchemist Maria Prophetissa, the experimenter had firstly to deal directly with the confused mass of the self before the fires could be started. Introducing the exhibition, ‘The Ignition Room’ contains circumstantial relics and effects pertaining to an eclectic collection of figures. This bricolage forms a suitably abstruse, coded illustration of the exhibition’s central premise. Gathered together is a diverse group of artifacts and images that might be considered to have ‘coagulated’ out of rarefied conditions: book plates describing an alchemical experiment through mute, secret emblems rather than words (the 17th century Mutus Liber); a gold disc awarded to a singer listening to himself through a gold-plated hearing aid (Johnnie Ray); newsreel film of chickens trained to walk backwards by a young woman who uses crutches (Flannery O’Connor); a drawing of the tree of life from a notebook by a man with cyclic vomiting syndrome, intrepidly undertaking sea voyages to search for the ‘origin’ of Nature (Charles Darwin); a cartoon illustrating a great writer’s Sisyphean task beneath lines of crossed-out prose (Franz Kafka); the coffin used for sleeping by a monopod ‘grand dame’ of theatre (Sarah Bernhardt); a drawing by the discoverer of gravity depicting an alchemical vase defying his newly-minted law (Sir Isaac Newton); disturbing images that were developed into murals painted on the walls of his house by a reclusive 10 / 11


deaf man to scare away fellow villagers (Goya); a press book detailing a performance involving selling ‘empty space’ in return for gold (Yves Klein). A summary reading then of this collection of relics, images and documents — their recurring testimony to ill-suited, abrasive forces — is a consideration for the alchemical premise of ‘equivalent exchange’, which holds that, in order to ‘gain’, by return, something of equivalent value must be ‘lost’. This is the essence of experiment: the uncertainty of the outcome. Loss and gain are subsumed into the process as sparks fly, alimentary routes explored, and chimeric tasks ardently performed. In this sense the collective aura that the ‘Ignition Room’ generates might be considered to provide a catalyst, kindling with which to ignite the ‘art of the lived experiment’ attested to by the exhibition’s contemporary artworks. Art of the Lived Experiment — Then Art of the Lived Experiment is my first experience curating a group exhibition for a gallery. In identifying potential contributions, I was firstly concerned to identify artists whose approach to art reveals some, or all, of the traces of the work’s making — its ‘performed realm’. The starting point for the curatorial rationale I shared with the artists was an invitation to address the question of transformation, or alteration, as a guiding principle. This emphasis was twofold: I was looking, firstly, for work that reveals a process within its design, and secondly, the influence of the artist’s experiences in making it. These elements reflect the two traditions the exhibition draws on — one ancient, the other modern — both of which are strikingly parallel in their aims and operations. My own field of art made through, or in relation to, performance often


strikes me as resounding with echoes of the ancient tradition of alchemy. Whereas performance art is a comparatively young discipline that only reached some sort of cohesive, collective endeavour in the mid 20th century with its ‘classic’ phase, alchemy achieved its high point in the 17th century. Yet there are answering echoes across the two practices. Just as alchemy abandoned or distinguished itself from empirical science, classic performance art moved away from its early roots in theatre in a similarly emphatic fashion. Again, individual figures who took up these iconoclastic movements often did so at some personal cost, preferring the threat of obscurity in order to win the freedom to radically experiment, to risk failure away from the obligations and securities of institutional patronage. But the parallels between alchemy’s and performance’s respective discoveries I am most concerned to liken here are the stakes waged in each domain: the experiment’s effects upon the experimenter. Surely, to be truly compelling and complex, human endeavour must firstly aim to answer its contested relevance to the travails of living, to have no more compelling motive than to testify to the risk-value of uncertain outcomes: to approach life not solely as a trudge through dogged calculation, but as an experiment that rewards risk and imagination. In the realm of alchemy at least, all is insecure. Copper might be turned into gold and gold back into lead, mud becomes milk, and dew ‘fixes’ fire. Many of the tracts describing experiments conducted by the seers/charlatans of alchemy were deeply encoded to drive off non-initiates, and they remain unsolved to this day. As a bottom line, gnomic obscurities provided more sustenance than pedantic counter-argument. For example, 17th century alchemists were still fruitfully mining Prophetissa’s enigmatic 1st century saying: ‘one becomes two, two becomes three, and by means 12 / 13


of the third and fourth achieves unity’. Indeed, Carl Jung was still expending interpretive ingenuity upon this supposed ‘formula’ in the 20th century. Similarly, performance art offers a laboratory, a testingground for what may seem, to the non-adept, an entirely pointless endeavour. One can turn to the well-documented history of performative art, and marvel at the foresight artists invested into often deathless, indomitable statement-acts. In the face of all but silent applause at the moment of their work’s transient, fleeting detonation, what could be their motive other than personal curiosity as to the unpredictable outcomes of their capricious acts? Art of the Lived Experiment — Now Likewise, the artists invited to make and exhibit work for Art of the Lived Experiment each investigate, in their own ways, the uncertainties of art’s purpose in their and others’ lives. Ideas about transmutation and experiment have arisen from a range of perspectives as each artist responds to the notion of lived experiment. In many respects some have no choice but to experiment with even the basics of living: without specifying biographic details, the certainties of social belonging may not (or not always) pertain due to their circumstances. This isn’t a simplistic or empty clause for inclusion in Art of the Lived Experiment. The exhibition does not include intimate narratives, medical testimony or bald biography, all excepting, as a perverse remedy to this exclusion, my own personal account of ‘lived experiment’ here. Different Not all of my work as an artist consciously stems from a sense of identity. Yet where I set out wilfully to erase any ‘personal’ material, some sort of connection to my own lived


experiences tends to work its way in at the edges of a piece. Often, I only subsequently recognise the work’s personal, biographical significance. On the other hand, the notion of a neutrally objective universal subject (i.e. one operating seemingly without any identity/subjectivity at all) is surely something of an anachronism now. Art historians have expended much effort pinpointing the actually quite particular circumstances of lived, subjective experience behind universalist posturing. Which brings me to my own formative identifications: in 1976, aged 16 and already partially deaf, punk exploded in the UK and I immediately allied myself with its anticonformist stance. Because of deafness I wasn’t entirely accepted within my normative working class background. I failed apprenticeship exams to the two trades in Derby (railway offices and engine factories) that my schoolfellows/ tormentors were sucked into. Punk enabled me to assertively reflect my perceived oddness and, since then, I’ve never considered being different from the norm to be predicated on ‘lack’. In my view, I gained deafness, and probably would have had a much less satisfactory time of it if I’d been able to assimilate into normal life. The main bane of my existence, the perception by others that I was more ‘other’ than them, was the very fulcrum by which I effected my transformation. Yet who is the ‘not other’ if not the dull, conformist social median adopted by those supporting forms of privilege predicated on ‘common sense’, convention, rectitude, habit, routine and so on? Liberatingly, this was the ‘not other’ rejected by punk in favour of being wilfully apart and different. When I first encountered ‘disability art’ I recognised, particularly in the acidic, dark hues of what is termed ‘crip humour’, something of the spirit of punk. However, in contrast 14 / 15


to disability art as a category of artistic practice, Art of the Lived Experiment does not position the artist as ‘specimen’. This is a medical term and, whereas some disabled artists make graphic work drawing on their clinical experiences of impairment and medical backgrounds, I haven’t curated that type of work for this exhibition. I also feel some discomfort about ‘disability’ being used as an either/or condition against ‘non-disabled’; the latter category, if it exists at all, can only be a temporary state in any case, and I’d prefer to stress that everyone experiences disability at some point in their life. And so, rather than curate a show purporting to ring-fence ‘disability art’, I have invited a disparate collection of artists whose work I admire to address the concept of ‘lived experiment’. There is a rhetorical undertone: surely everyone has to experiment with living at some point, sooner or later, forced out of the conventional conformity that one no longer embodies, either through choice or circumstance. An Uncertain Rationale So, with Art of the Lived Experiment, my ambition has been to address a mainstream audience in a prestigious public gallery and to challenge the cultural ghettoisation of disability art. The main way I set out to
do this was to prioritise the quality of the artists over the claims of social categorisation. Many exhibitors in Art of the Lived Experiment have not previously expressed themselves as different — or dis-abled, and nor are they requested to do so here. I believe the future is not for the category of disability to be ‘included’ in the mainstream, but the other way around: ideally I’d prefer everyone to feel that disability is something they have, or will have, experience of.


Reflecting this stance, the key to the exhibition’s development has been the rationale shared at the outset with the other artists, inviting them to interpret the concept of ‘lived experiment’ with its implication of ongoing subjective transformations. The rationale specifically requested that this concept be filtered through interpretations of the fundamental purpose of alchemical transmutation — of turning a supposedly valueless material, via personal experiment, into a valuable state. Whereas the artists each respond to this premise, suffice it to say that this exhibition does not represent any homogeneity of either position or expression on their part. Nor does it reflect, as an entity, any consensus on what an art of lived experiment should look like or be concerned with. Despite the exhibition having a theme or starting point, this is not a collective manifestation. In this sense, it is hoped that Art of the Lived Experiment is a new kind of exhibition, promoting complexity and debate over aesthetic or political certainties. By placing the emphasis on ‘lived experiment’, individual change and adjustment (and by advocating the value of such processes), the aim is to reach a far wider audience than if we were to reduce the exhibition to a common aim. Note on ‘Disability’ Art of the Lived Experiment is the showpiece exhibition of DaDaFest International 2014, a festival dedicated to Deaf and disability arts. I am a vociferous exponent of the disability movement’s political aims, in particular, the philosophy of access. However, after years attending conferences, exhibitions and events, I now wonder at the effectiveness of ‘disabled’ as a signifier. Even within the politicised community there are too frequent references to ‘people with disabilities’, or individuals referring to ‘my 16 / 17


disability’. The social model of disability clearly asserts that we are ‘disabled by’ conventions and perceptions, not by specific impairments. I support this position, but am frustrated that the distinction between impairment and disability will never be widely understood — particularly if many disabled people themselves don’t insist upon the distinction. It’s impossible to call for the abandonment of a movement’s moniker (the predominantly negative prefix of ‘disability’ can also be problematic), but I have come to prefer thinking of myself as being differently-able, or preferably, simply ‘different’. Even the mainstream understands the value of this as a descriptor: a common enough form of acclaim being ‘well, that was different!’ This Publication To reflect the exhibition’s concern with process and experiment I decided, in conversation with the editor Bryan Biggs, that the publication would not, catalogue-style, simply reproduce images of works in the show. Instead, we chose to invite artists to submit pages not necessarily representing the finished work but revealing instead something of the process of its making: the ‘experiment’ involved. And so, herein are pages from notebooks, photographs of work in progress, textual description, plans, drawings and other material that conveys a sense of the process each artist undertook in response to the invitation to create Art of the Lived Experiment.


Index of artists’ pages

Katherine Araniello Page 22

Bobby Baker Page 24

Anna Berndtson Page 26

Brian Catling Page 28

Ellie Collins Page 30

Ellen Friis Page 32

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Tony Heaton Page 34

Melanie Jackson & Esther Leslie Page 36

Floris Kaayk Page 38

David Lock Page 40

Kate Mahony Page 42

Maurice Mbikayi Page 44


Index of artists’ pages

Sinéad & Hugh O’Donnell Page 46

Mike Parr Page 48

Bekki Perriman Page 50

Simon Raven Page 52

Juliet Robson Page 54

Dimple B Shah Page 56

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Terry Smith Page 58

Matthew Thompson Page 60

the vacuum cleaner Page 62

Amy Vogel & Joseph Grigely Page 64

Aaron Williamson Page 66


This work is a development of an earlier piece entitled Walking: St Ives. For this new piece, I locate a popular tourist destination, Albert Dock in Liverpool. A distance of approximately 80 metres takes an average of 1 to 2 minutes to walk. The same distance took me 22 minutes. The rain continuously pelts down as my journey is altered by the environment; transmuting the mundane task into a physically challenging durational and endurance piece. The arduous task of ‘walking’ presents a display of exploration and self-dependence, as no assistance is offered from passers-by, and no assistance is expected. Soundtrack (original sound from filming) includes ambient chatter, wheelchair electrics ‘clicking’ and sound of rain. Katherine Araniello Walking: Liverpool

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These two drawings were made while I was on holiday in France during the summer of 2009. It was a year after my treatment for breast cancer ended, and I was also recovering from recent total knee replacement surgery. Earlier that year a four month exhibition at Wellcome Collection, London of my work — Bobby Baker’s Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me, 1997–2008 — had proved an unexpected success, attracting over 50,000 visitors and great critical acclaim. So, after years of surgery for arthritis and cancer and recovery from mental illness, I felt very cheerful about the future. These drawings reflect my optimism and a sense of the absurdity at my somewhat fervent desire to ‘save the world’. The next few years would actually pose some of the greatest challenges I had ever faced around prejudice and discrimination, but this was a moment of hilarity before the storm. Could I transform myself into a pioneering dog? But whose is the ominous hand in a blue glove that threatens to topple my perch?! Bobby Baker

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An early page out of my workbook, with the first notes and a drawing to the performance Churned. Later on the butter idea developed and in the performance I use cream, which I churn into butter. Anna Berndtson Churned Photo: Jenni Berndtson Š Anna Berndtson

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Brian Catling

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As an infant mouths a favoured toy, so a commuter absentmindedly fiddles with a coat buckle. A youth invisibly probes teeth with tongue. Meanwhile a tourist bunches and stretches sandaled toes. ‘…In his left hand was the little white van; its familiar wheels and the tiny smooth windows decipherable against his fingertips. The other hand rested on the carpet where his fingernails, well overdue a trim, were dragging and catching lazily against the synthetic fibres woven in tight ridges…’ Ellie Collins, Slipped Halo, 2009

Grade Level: Top five Type: Anatomy of touch Research Question: Can you examine the human subject alone and in pieces? Objective: To test things Materials: Craft several small cardboard boxes large enough to insert secret feelings, secured with paperclips. Cut an X in the middle of each. Experimental Procedure: Lay out the terms and concepts over the openings so that the test subject can push through limitless pictures of all the things using only a small rubber ball. Suggestions: Remove the edges with scissors when the glue dries or touch the component hand to give each piece of information about the environment in front of the other boxes. Reassembled appropriated text. Original directions obtained 18 July 2014 at http://www.education.com/ science-fair/article/exploring-sensetouch-secret-feeling-boxes/

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‘The disappearing object is for me all about sculptural language — the walking around something, or turning something over in one’s hands and forgetting what was there before, what was seen or felt a few seconds ago — it’s a disappearing act... sculpture, despite its physicality, refutes a static image, and is always changing...’ Quote from Phyllida Barlow in an essay entitled Unidentified Foreign Objects: Phyllida Barlow in conversation with Elizabeth Fisher, featured in On Not Knowing: How Artists Think, Fisher, Elizabeth and Fortnum, Rebecca, 2013, p. 102, Black Dog Publishing, London, UK Ellie Collins


Ellen Friis MARK, 2014

STELA (Greek: ‘shaft’ or ‘pillar’) Standing stone slab used in the ancient world primarily as a grave marker but also for decoration, commemoration and demarcation.


MARK is a field in Danish an old currency in German, and an imprint in English.


This sculpture began, as many do, with a conversation. This particular conversation was with the curator of Art of the Lived Experiment, Aaron Williamson, concerning alchemy, the idea of turning a base metal into gold, turning something of little value into a substance of value, a speculative philosophy. The objective of alchemy, the quest for transmutation, was often primarily aimed at effecting personal change in the Alchemist. The changing of objects and meaning has been constant within my practice as an artist, and, for this current work and in response to the idea of ‘the art of the lived experiment’ I have selected an iconic object, the Invacar, and the notion of transmutation, the effecting of personal change. It’s complicated, I transmuted from Biker to Invalid. I was issued with an Invacar in 1971. The Invacar was a societal response, initiated by government, to the lack of access to so-called public transport. The solution was to provide invalids with a form of very cheap transport, though one also considered a prosthetic,

a medical replacement for legs. An unlined fiberglass shell, 9’ 9” long and 4’ 6” wide with a single seat, sat on a chassis of three wheels, with space for a folding wheelchair. It was propelled by a small motorcycle engine with a cubic capacity of 197, had three gears plus reverse and a maximum speed of around 45mph. The single seat meant you travelled alone, the assumption being you had no friends, family, lovers — the solitary cripple. Each was painted the same colour, to mark you out as ‘other’. A pale blue, NHS blue, which became know as ‘spazz blue’. It was banned from motorways, whose signage read: No Invalid Carriages. It disappeared from Britain’s roads in 1983, and like all icons can now only be witnessed, restored pristine, in the museum. But this one escaped, transformed from prosthetic to sculpture, transmuted from spazz blue to gold, lame to lamé. Tony Heaton Gold Lamé, 2014 Proposed sculpture for the Bluecoat in fibreglass, steel and automotive paint

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Melanie Jackson & Esther Leslie

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David Lock L: Study for Misfit (Slice​)​​ R: Study for Misfit (Smoke) both ​2012 (details​), ​collage

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Kate Mahony L: Object one R: Object two


Maurice Mbikayi Voices 2 (Intersections) 2011 Print on paper National Art Festival (in collaboration with Grahamstown Police), Grahamstown, South Africa. Photos: Prof. Ruth Simbao 44 / 45


These scores / drawings are how we discussed our ideas for the Art of the Lived Experiment exhibition, passing a notebook back and forward to each other. SinÊad & Hugh O’Donnell Gravity

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Mike Parr

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Simon Raven

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What Are You Looking At:

To perceive is to forget the name of the thing we see

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‘Go on, take a risk. Make contact. Take a moment and ask ‘another’ what they are experiencing and how their view compares to yours and ours. Share your individual yet common experience in this fleeting time and place and context. What’s the worst that can happen? Don’t be rude, of course, but lightly transgress social etiquette. I will if you will.’ Pairs of overlapping photographs taken by two people with radically different eye levels, both looking through the same fixed point of reference (blue

tape), reflect a camera’s view through gallery windows. The artist invites you to experience our different viewpoints and perspectives literally and metaphorically. What does a real understanding of ‘different view points and perspectives’ mean? Can art be a conduit, a catalyst or a thought experiment for contemplation and communication? Juliet Robson


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head of a tonsured bearded saint reading with eyes lowered about 1435-43


The Ship Of Fools A project/residency with the vacuum cleaner

Image: the vacuum cleaner and Sophie Nathan

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Anti-Section 1 of the vacuum cleaner’s Mental Health Act; 2011 i: From now (10th May 2011) and for the next 28 days, artist/activist the vacuum cleaner has committed himself to the self-made mental health institution The Ship Of Fools (his flat in Hackney, London). ii: The Ship Of Fools will function as an inter-section between mental sanctuary and creative liberty. As part of this time the vacuum cleaner seeks creative residencies at the Ship Of Fools: both artist and non-artists alike in an attempt to find creativity in madness. Artists can use the residencies for making, researching, reflecting or anything else that they need time and space for. The only condition is that the residencies must involve the vacuum cleaner in some way — as material, as collaborator, as helper, as observer or as anything else that is creative and useful to both/all. iii: During this time the vacuum cleaner will also attempt to create work and you are invited to join this process, should you wish. iv: The Ship Of Fools will offer a small honorary fee, space to work, computers, fast internet access, stills camera, video camera, screen printing facilities, cake and cups of tea, maybe even some lunch. Residencies can last anywhere from one day to the full twenty-eight.

v: What happens at the residency is totally open but is dependent on a mutually beneficial relationship between the vacuum cleaner and the resident. Material from the residency may be collected and presented in some form in the future. vi: Participants of the residency should be aware that this may be a challenging experience and willing to work with the artist to find mutually respected boundaries. vii: Applications, however small or large, mental or not are welcome. Submissions are open from now until the 24th of May. Include a brief description of what you would like to do, some form of documentation of previous work and a timeframe for when you would wish to undertake the residency. Submissions can be in any format, digital, hard copy or in person. fools@thevacuumcleaner.co.uk (email to arrange in person submission) the vacuum cleaner, Toynbee Studios, 28 Commercial St, London, E1 6AB (Don’t post anything you want back) www.thevacuumcleaner.co.uk/ shipoffools This is the original call out for the vacuum cleaner’s Ship of Fools project.


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Art of the Lived Experiment addresses the idea that art and life are in a state of continual change and uncertainty. This publication accompanies an exhibition of the same name whose starting point is the practice of alchemy, taking its magical, transformative and experimental associations as a template with which to consider the work of a range of international contemporary artists. Rather than an exhibition catalogue, the publication contains artists’ pages relating to their working processes, including sketches, proposals and notes — glimpses into their own ‘experiments’. An essay by the exhibition curator Aaron Williamson explores process-based and performative art in relation to alchemy, and interrogates terms such as ‘disability’ and ‘difference’ used to describe and frame his own art, and that of others in Art of the Lived Experiment. Art of the Lived Experiment is published by DaDaFest and the Bluecoat as part of DaDaFest International 2014. ISBN 978-0-9538996-3-0

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Art of the Lived Experiment  

Publication to accompany the exhibition 'Art of the Lived Experiment' at the Bluecoat Liverpool. Published by DaDaFest and the Bluecoat 2014...

Art of the Lived Experiment  

Publication to accompany the exhibition 'Art of the Lived Experiment' at the Bluecoat Liverpool. Published by DaDaFest and the Bluecoat 2014...

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