During the period when I was making actions (1967-76) I had always produced drawings and texts of various kinds. Also I had made objects, often using found materials, which seemed to belong to stories that evolved as I was making them. Sometimes these stories would be presented in brief texts that accompanied the objects. Gradually the actions themselves became less important than the remains of the actions, the objects and materials that seemed to hint at what had happened. The narrative of the action was somehow embodied in a poetic way in the things that were left behind.
I came to realise that the process of making objects in my studio and the narratives I was spinning as I made them, might be of interest to others. So I began to make working exhibitions in which anyone who came to the museum, gallery or other exhibition space, could watch what I was doing, seeing how the work developed from tentative beginnings to some kind of resolution. In many of these working exhibitions there was a dialogue going on between the visitors and myself – ideas and interpretations that arose were often fed back into the narrative of the work. In that sense there was always a collaborative, participatory dimension to work. Here are a few examples of these working exhibitions.
First a few of the objects made in the studio or in public sites that preceded the larger scale exhibitions.
Many of the indoor works produced in the 1970s were made on an 8 foot square of canvas that also served as a base for performances and rituals. Over time the canvas became covered with smudges and marks — traces of years of activity. In the 1990s the canvas was re-used as a base for groups of objects featuring in still-life paintings done at the time. Lifeline was made in my studio over a few weeks in October 1975. The old piece of canvas can be clearly seen in the photographs. The plan drawing includes the following note:
A man sits and with his finger describes a line in the soil. Nothing particular in mind, no message to convey. And yet the figure he makes is himself and the line is as close to the course of his life as the shadow he casts behind him.
The Hunter’s Log – Vehicule Gallery, Montreal, Canada. July 1974.
Heading South – Vancouver City Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada. Oct. 1974
Ghosthouse – (with Charles Garrad), Exeter Festival, UK. June 1975.
Another Rat Flat – Spacex Gallery, Exeter, UK.May 1976.
Outwork – (four days’ work with students), South Hill Park, Bracknell, UK. May 1977.
A Walk in the Mountains – Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia. June/July 1977.
Seven Days’ Work – Ewing & George Paton Galleries, Melbourne, Australia. July 1977.