From 1966-1969 I was a student at Cardiff College of Art. During this time I began to find out what kinds of things I wanted to do. I started to develop ways of working that enabled me to explore the ideas and questions that fascinated me. One recurring interest was the relationship between predetermined and indeterminate orders. I developed various compositional processes to explore this relationship. Using a wide range of materials and forms I investigated, in a playful way, how very regular and controlled systems interacted with more irregular systems over which I had little control. Many of the works made use of grids and repetition in two and three-dimensional contexts and were made of found materials, paint, ink, words or actions.
My interest in systems, process and states of order continued for a while after I finished my Fine Art degree. Here are two examples:
In the autumn of 1968, and following Action for a Summer’s Day, Keith Wood and I spent a week in a large room improvising works and actions. As far as I remember we kept the door of the room locked, but there was a window in the door through which anyone passing could see what we were doing. We worked for about eight hours each day and made use of prepared cards that acted as an ongoing score for the work. Each morning and afternoon we would shuffle the cards and randomly choose a few to guide our activities. All kinds of images, objects and actions emerged from our intense interaction with each other and with the cards. Humour, spontaneity and playful combat were characteristics of our working as we pushed ourselves to open up fresh ideas and forms. Keith and I went on to make many actions and performances, pursuing our interests in John Cage, Zen Buddhism, Antonin Artaud and rock and roll.
The following note is from Keith himself – looking back on those events in November 2012:
Over the door to the to the room there was a sign which read:
COME IN HERE
WITH YOUR MIND
FULL OF RUBBISH
“I remember watching ‘Action for a Summers Day’ from a window high up on a stairwell in Howard Gardens while someone led a man with a tyre around his neck on the then building site before it was a carpark and thinking ‘WHAT”! and “YES”! So inspired by your example at the end of the summer term, I guess July 1968 in Foundation I blew a hole in the Friary car park. It caused an upset (even though it was a small hole) and a lot of debate as to whether it was art or a hole in ground. I followed up by building a tower which I planned to blow up. It was filled with my ideas. The tutors (John Gingell excepted) got very worried and insisted I performed this pyrotechnic event at the Fire Station. Absurdly I did, at the Cathays Fire training field with apprentice fireman standing by with hoses at the ready should art turn ugly. Well it didn’t explode but did burn pretty well, I played The Who very loud on a portable Uher and people threw lumps of mud at the tower. What else would they do?
I am still building towers and blowing up my ideas.
One note, I don’t think our ‘One week of Action’ was in 68 as I was then a first year and would have been doing the ‘colour course’. I actually think it was Autumn term of 1969 when I was in my second year?” Keith is probably correct – so the date should be Autumn 1969.
When I think back to Keith and I in that room an image of Kanzan and Jittoku comes to my mind – a pair of determined fools trying to wake each other up.