Generous Illusions _ performance lecture

an extremely ambitious piece, delivered with a wonderful combination of confidence and sensitivity.” Paul Luckraft, Oxford Contemporary Art

A ‘performance lecture’ which I originally wrote as part of a residency at the Bluecoat
and performed with a voice-responsive visual by Scott Spencer and audio by Carl Brown.

The piece is an experiment in combining several modes of speech.
From the emotional response the time in which it was written,
to a discussion of the role of poetry in the fine arts.

Among other things, the text references the birth of my daughter, abstraction, adaptation,
and the freedom of the audience within performance.

It also features several poems, including Slow Magic and The Orphan.

The latest version includes an intro adapted from a John Le Carre novel:

“Are you familiar with this habit of speech? The times when we resort entirely to oblique allusion, offering a raw material which the consumer, not the purveyor, must refine.

I could still hear her voice. See the rows of little teeth like houses hanging in the rain; I tried to imagine my life without creativity. I realised that it was too late, as it always had been, because I had gone to it for the little it could give me, and it had taken the little I had. Like a doubting cleric, I felt that whatever my small heart contained was safely locked in the palace of my retreat; now it is gone.”

Here is a clip from the Liverpool performance


Equinox _ with Andre Guedes

Andre Guedes is an artist from Lisbon.
He asked me to adapt a letter into a performance text.

The letter was originally a request to all tenents of the Bluecoat prior to refurbishment
which Andre found during his research in the organisation’s archive.

We kept the sinister and threatening undertones of the text,
transfering them into a more personal setting.

The result is an original and quite enigmatic text.

This is a technique I have used in other written work since,
including the adaptation of the Noah’s Ark story for film.

Equinox was performed by a dance pupil in Summer 2009
where the text was also available to take away.

We also adapted the artwork for an exhibition at Lost Soul and Stranger Service station,
showing it alongside a crushed brick from a ‘lost wing’ of the Bluecoat.


Here is the text:

Dear John,

I have to write this letter. I just do. Last night, we went out to the lake and threw stones into the black slick. We’re going to do it. Our fortunes have become distorted for now, and they will be obliterated completely before they are reassembled as anything a duck can land on. Of course, I said we should leave you be for a while, until January at least. But that’s the end. I won’t see you again after that, even if I want to.

Plans and preparations need to be made so we can get rid of you quickly and without too much fuss. Perhaps you can drop hints that you are too sad to carry on. Then all that’s left is to make sure you’re calm, and that you don’t ruin anything. It’s funny really – we will be the ones ruining something. But you can’t ruin that. Just make sure you take your stuff.

Dan has another place. I don’t know if I trust him so hurry and be quiet about it.

There is more news. This, too, will not come as news to you. There are meetings on these evenings, where you can speak and ask questions. I don’t know what you would ask. Maybe that could be your first question! I’m sorry, it’s horrible really. But perhaps it will clear your throat of the feeling of sickness.


O, what a strange shape those disjointed days make.

Anyway, there will be the newspaper articles as well, saying that you have gone away. It’s part of our duty, we think. That will make it clear locally, at least, that you aren’t involved in anything.

Meantime there’s going to be a reading or a series of readings for us all, held by some of the boys. There are people that you like to speak with, even after all this. Maybe someone will sing.


Like Love _ intervention

The second intervention at the Bluecoat was again based on the title of the show.

For ‘Like Love’, I set myself up to write love poems on demand, using google as a collaborator from a starting point set by the participant.
In this way, I looked to take myself out of the equation, and question ‘value’ in relation to poetry.

In many ways I think people are more interested in a poem if it is written ‘for them’, no matter how throw-away the procedure!

I presented the poems in a specially designed envelope and printed page for people to take home.


School Desks _ at the Bluecoat Bistro

I was asked to come up with a permanent installation for this newly refurbished art centre bistro.

The Bluecoat famously used to be a school,
so we got some old desks and got down to some good old fashioned graffiti.

Contributors to this project included
Markus Soukup / Tabitha Moses / Joe Bramall / Phil Marsden
and many more uncredited visitors to the Bluecoat since…

images © Alex Wolkowitz


Tim Brunsden also made this cool little video of the process

Slow Magic _ intervention

I created bespoke interventions for two ‘private views’ at the Bluecoat.

The first of these was Slow Magic, where I had people create their own ‘fridge magnet’ montage-poems.
As the source-texts, I used a mixture of the brochure text from the show, with some texts from miracle reportage
which I found on the internet.

This was a simple exercise, but playing with source-texts in this way ended up being a running theme of my work in 2009-10.

I also rewarded people with these little gift-cards that I made using ‘magic ink’.
(The poem revealed itself after the card was put in the freezer)