In the summer of 1968 I made a work that I think was the first action/performance made by a student at Cardiff College of Art. I had been working very intensively on a series of circle paintings in a studio overlooking the waste ground that still surrounded the college. I could also see a roundabout where four roads met and as I watched traffic navigating the junction I could see a metaphor for the way in which life is composed of a series of small, seemingly simple, self-determined actions that when combined and overlapped generate a field of great complexity and indeterminacy. For this action I wrote a score consisting of a series of instructions for 7 individuals, one woman and a group of people gathered in a block. Various bushes, stones and other objects on the waste ground were wrapped or circled with white paint or had arrows pointing to them. There was no rehearsal or try-out for the work. Everyone did what they were requested to do as well as they could – creating a complex interaction that could be viewed by an “audience” on the ground and looking out from college windows high above the site. No acting, in the theatrical sense, was involved – only actions and activities. One aim of the action was to encourage those who participated (including those who watched) to attend more closely to the site – to see how interesting was the waste ground with its plants, rubble, discarded rubbish – a rich habitat for small creatures and passing humans. Extracts from the instructions are given below.
The seven people each carry a sign to predetermined points about the site. They fix the signs into the ground so that they stand upright and visible from the boundary. Printed on the signs are the words: touch, see, taste, smell, think, act. The seven people then walk away leaving the signs behind.
The woman remains on the site. She is dressed in a bikini and lies back on a patch of sand sunbathing. At intervals she is seen to eat something and throw the wrapping paper to her side until there is a pile of paper remaining when she leaves.
The block of people sit tight together with a radio each, waiting to turn them on.
After the seven people have left one man walks out leading another by a chain. The chain is attached to a car tyre around the second man’s neck. They walk around the extremities of the site until the end.
After the two men have completed one revolution of the site, someone is led out by a group of silent people and made to stand in the centre of the space. The crowd draws away forming a single line around him at a distance of ten feet. A figure steps forward with a stick raised above his head. He uses the stick to make a circle in the earth around the feet of the person standing alone. He returns to his position in the line and they all point to the circled figure.
At this moment the block of people simultaneously turn on their radios at full volume and a party commences to which everyone nearby is invited….