with a description of performance and critique of Portland,

                          the Sallis Benney Theatre performance 'Van Gogh's Boots'

                          and an hisorical view of

                         'action space' (1967 - 78) to 'The Imaginative Eye Project' 2004.



                    PORTLAND REPORT  2003

Bowers Mine - Quarry on the Isle of Portland "One can’t be sure of the earth we tread... or the paths we follow...”
                                                            (from the video projection)

Previous to this event the artists Jane Whitaker, Ken Turner and Milena Yon visited Portland Trust 28-30 May 2003 to break the ground in view of performing in the Drill Hall in October of the same year. The site research was the essential moment in grounding the performance in the local environment and for the local audience. In meeting with the Portland Sculpture Trust. An investigation ensued concerning the common ground between two developing processes, the creation of the performance of Boots & Laces and the consultative process in terms of a contribution of ideas to the project of the Trust.

“ Timeline of the Earth formation is ‘written in the stone’, Portland stone, over millions years. This stone is the representation of the highly uncertain movements of elements and organic matter compounded into highly dense substance. This metamorphosing from uncertain into the certain is a measure towards the greater understanding of a dynamics of these two opposing forces.

One can’t be sure of the earth we tread upon…or of the certainties of the political or economical structures we live in… That was a thought I shared with Jan and Barry in the garage-studio early on at my arrival to the Portland Trust and Drill Hall. In the light of the most recent war in ex-Yugoslavia, where I came from this is what I’ve learned - that war can happen anywhere and at anytime.

In my recent work I have been looking into our own primeval and European roots as much as into the latest discoveries in the scientific world. Spanning from two different ends of history I am finding different strings all leading towards greater understanding of the underlying principles universally applicable. The web of these interconnections amuses and amazes me to the point where I stand in awe speechless, mute, and unable even to mutter or stutter a seed of sense. But nevertheless the seed of knowledge is born within this wonderment and only long and convoluted labor brings a fruit of articulation. For someone (dis)placed in between two languages this labor is twice as long as the thought process constantly bounces from one to the other tongue. (I personally don’t like using the popular term ‘displacement’. I believe that we are on this planet ‘placed’ rather than ‘displaced’. We always exist somewhere for the reason.)

My recent performance work has been grounded in the personal experiential knowledge where the inspiration was born out of my own flesh and out of feelings and comprehensions of that flesh. I regard my own body as an ultimate code of information handed in from generation to generation. Through our own feelings we connect to the zones of knowledge omnipresent through the presence of others and accessible through our own ‘speed of sensitivity’. In the same way through the presence of the stone we connect to the knowledge of the Earth. While visiting Tout Quarry it became obvious to me that by learning about the traces of the past we inform our present. Layers of uncertainty have created the certainty of the hard ground, of the earth we walk on. And our own disgrace starts with forgetting that all we live in is in the constant flux and change and that we are a subject to that change too.”
Milena Yon, 23/06/2003

I believe that what we gave Portland was a glimpse of chaos and its emerging order: a risky ground of renewal, not governmental ‘regeneration’, toward the notion of restitution of values within a revaluing process. And I believe there was a valuable exchange of ideas and we would be happy to continue this process of exploration within the parameters of performance art as a questioning force.

What hits you directly on the Isle of Portland with its quarries, is the stone and the feeling of stone. One wants to cry out against it. It’s like too much plum pudding in the stomach and too many fossils lying heavily on the mind. The time of the mind is in the beginning of time, and should be as an action of steel cutting with play of section and slice through a multiplicity of sensations and experience. We have to find the face of humanity in the earth’s landscape: it can occur in the best sculpture (falling figure) or the environment of stone carving with its scaffolding structure and regimented stone benches, a platform for the immanence of desire in performance. Or the gigantic stone cutting machinery employed in Bowers Mine which brings to the fore the power of the mind through technology.

Whilst being for the stone we must be against it. Lastly, I would like to discuss the idea of the simulacrum being the way forward in describing our process of documentation. In order to carry our argument through (faulteringly) of the philosophies, poetry and art we are engaged in we need to reflect through the progress of work. Once performed, a piece has a past and a future, and many layers of experience tumbling over each other in a process of evaluation. At times surprises come up one never thought about and need to be explored further. Like the educational aspect of the work that previously had never been thought about; the coming through of such ideas is the very stuff of art. It is also important that the venues realise our intentions if they are to mutually benefit from an exchange in information.

Similitude and simulacra, in platonic terms, has a meaning of copy and imitation. However this view has been reverted by Delueze to mean a multiple layering of sensations and reflective thought over the whole process to become a work in itself, documentation having a value beyond the original; the power a contextual view can offer, We see this then as a research into our own methods and philosophy and also a research into the generality of the whole field of performance whilst at the same time a specific focus on questions of audience and education as part of the building of the simulacra. That is, ‘inventing an audience, finding an audience and evaluating an audience as part and parcel of the work itself.

A member of the audience at the Drill Hall in response to my saying we have invented this audience said, “Yes, and we have invented you!” Yes indeed, a two-way convergence! The topology unfolds!

Ken Turner, December 2003

Van Gogh’s Boots

Studio performance in the Sallis Benney Theatre

and introductory seminar

A preliminary period of exchange was largely conducted by email in order to establish the structure of the event. The technical requirements and the introduction of new visual exerts a multi/sound CD-ROM - recorded from the PLAYSCRIPT was written during the Newlyn residency. The brevity of the rehearsal period in the theatre in some ways precipitated the idea of a ‘Studio performance’ for an invited audience - including students from the Theatre and Visual Arts Course, who were given text printed from the website in advance that introduced the role of the performance installation in terms of an ‘Imaginary Audience’.

The soundscape to the performance began by again re-assembling the text of ‘Restitutions of the truth in pointing [pointure]’ – from the edited exposition of Jacques Derrida’s ‘The Truth in Painting’ published in translation 1978.

As the audience become situated within the performance space they were faced with this ‘corporeal writing’ in the interrelation of the performers to the two screened projection and the commentary that was introduced and amplified live as the performance happened - layers constructed within the assimilated concept of the simulacra; the re showing of the original digital projection in its present form.

The original text takes the form of an examination by Derrida as he imagines standing witness to a duel taking place [over a span of thirty years] between the famous philosopher Heidegger and the art critic Meyer Schapiro; a critique of what exactly did Heiddegger say about Van Gogh’s shoes in that essay?, referred to in 'The Origin of the Work of Art'. A performative environment from this dialogue emerges of Polylogue of n + 1 voices which “happens to be that of a woman”.

That the boots in the picture are the boots or shoes of the 'peasant' woman, (& in as much as this might be the question - to whom do they belong?) the discussion ensues that Van Gogh - the artist himself, renders himself invisible in this painting and that if indeed this is a self-portrait. What of shoes? What shoes? Whose are the shoes? What are they made of? To whom and to what, in consequence, one would have to restitute them, render them, to discharge a debt in this Truth. Does the artist restitute himself then to the boots in picture? And so on... Where does the truth lie? In the Painting.

“Others would say: the shoes produce a discourse on painting, on the frame on the traits. These shoes are an allegory on painting, a figure of pictorial detachment. They say we are painting in a painting. Or again one could entitle this picture, “the origin of painting” It makes a picture of the picture and invites you not to forget the very thing it makes you forget:: you have a painting. And not shoes under your nose[just try putting them on, on your own feet or someone elses!], painting is originaly this detachment which looses its footing. But detachment must also be understood.*

Did anyone answer my first question?

Can anyone remember what it was?

Who was it/ I don’t remember now, who said, "there are no ghosts in Van Gogh’s
pictures, no visions no hallucinations. It is the torrid truth…?”

- Artaud-protesting another way of suiciding van Gogh (van Gogh, le suicidé de la société)


But to suicide someone isn’t that to make him come back as a ghost where he is in short, p[retty well buried, having only his “nots” left? Not a revenant. Not a name.
Its to his name that Van Gogh returns.
[see rend]

The performance is released in this way as a sequence, of historical and mental processes that have been rendered 'for the audience' into random conceptual tableaux

*p379 Jacques Derrida - The Truth in Painting - Bennington and McLoed

“The stage [scene] thus illustrates but the stage, the scene only the scene; there is only the equivalence between theater and idea, that is [as these two names indicate] the visibility [which remains outside] of the visible that is being effectuated. The scene illustrates, in the text of a hymen – which is more than an anagram of hymn [hymne] out of which flows dream tainted with vice yet sacred ……” The confusion or consumation of this hymen eliminates the spatial heterogeneity of the two poles in the “supreme spasm,” the moment of dying laughing……………

[Is there any ruse not belonging to reason to prevent philosophy from still speaking of itself, from borrowing its categories from the logos of the other, by affecting itself without delay, on the domestic page of its own tympanum (still the muffled drum, the tympanum, the cloth stretched taught in order to take its beating, to amortize impressions, to make types (typoi) resonate, to balance the striking pressure of the typtein, between the inside and the outside, with heterogeneous percussion? Can one violently penetrate philosophy’s field of listening without its immediately – even pretending in advance, by hearing what is said of it, by decoding the statement – making the penetration resonate, appropriating the emission for itself, familiarly communicating to itself between the inner and middle ear, following the path of a tube or inner opening, be it round or oval? In other words, can one puncture the tympanum of a philosopher and still be heard and understood by him?”]

To hear with the eyes so to speak?

Well no, you're off on a tangent -- first there is the thing itself in flesh and blood.

[pause] From whence does this idea of the dialogue come then?

Look: if we take the ‘metaphor of the ‘book’, to represent the silent discourse of the soul with itself when no interlocutor is at hand, then that indicates that the object of writing is to reconstitute the presence of the other, and therefore its model is dialogue.

Phew what a relief that is! I thought you were going to say something else then!

[ignoring the interlocutor] I'll go on ./.....‘The soul and the book can be compared because each is the likeness of the other, and both are thought to be the image of the logos. Thus the comparison with painting naturally follows.’

You what?

“a painter, who comes after the writer and paints in the soul pictures of these assertions that we make”.

A collusion!
........................................................................... between painting and writing ?

action space 1970    -       event in Fitzrovia Festival       -      Fitzroy Street outside Berterelles

   From Action Space to The Imaginative Eye

                 background to the project     

Aesthetics is to do with the theory of sensibility as a form of possible experience – on the other hand it is also about theory of art of real experience. Reflection on experience through art is not quite one story – it is convergence of stories and different points of view that engage with a sensibility of possible experience.

Where does this lead us to then..................................!!?

The work of art is fundamentally about experiment: deviation from the norm and disruptive to cultural systems; a combination in form of questioning and non-philosophy. That is, at its most important when ‘primitive’, as kind of posting (positing) and kind of poster of signs, it indicates new territories of thinking, the mapping out of ideas. The working of multiple milieus.


Sensibility toward new thinking is always in the imaginary, the placing where order turns into chaos, a particular state of mind where chaos becomes the productive agent for chaosmosis of change. The business of art is to do just that and directly relates in the ‘telling’ when feeling as sensibility and reflection of experience are made evident in action.

Children at play build for themselves another world, the neither-world Paul Klee spoke about; the word apart and in-between, where force of feeling in the imaginary springs from the point in the circle and from there flung into free space: not as a spiral, but splintering of lightening, forking itself out of conformity, toward another world, another reality.

Now you're talking.

Action Space as an experimental combined arts group had on its headed note-paper the sub-heading: ‘play, education and arts’. In that order of action the group functioned from 1967 to 1978. Our experience began through involvement in the play-group movement where we began to observe the real force of creative play. We saw the strength of the imaginative power and its connection through education in the arts.

Without play there is no art, without art there is no education.

There were many events in the life of Action Space. All manner of techniques and methods were developed. We not only looked at the idea of play in children but also to other artists and movements, historically, that ‘played’ out the absurd and the surreal. Finding some sense in all this we began to realise that our revolutionary stance had an historical precedence, even to the experimental period of art in Revolutionary Russia.

We were from the beginning concerned with cultural change through the working of play, education and the arts.Our undoubted success in convincing the Arts Council of the day, and the borough of Camden, where we were based, contributed, to what I feel was our downfall. While maintaining a force in the community outside the art world, there grew in time a distinct flavour of misunderstanding as to the real motivation of our work and its intentionality. It seemed, paradoxically, whilst striving after high aims through our ‘headed slogan’ we had made evident that there was a need for art in the community, becoming thus ‘community art’. And it was in response to this development that we changed the sub-heading of our note paper to ‘art-play-education’. A reversal of emphasis to escape categorisation and to avoid community art. There was a feeling of wanting to run away from an entrapment.

I can see that.

It was shocking for us to realise, however much ‘good work’ community art does, that Action Space’s original purpose of changing society through art had become hijacked into a ‘hospitalisation process’, issuing crutches of art as ‘tools’ for recuperation. Not a real situation for renewal through creative regeneration, and makes nonsense of experiment in art as ideas for re-thinking and revaluing. Even now ‘regeneration’ has been hijacked and misunderstood in institutional circles.

Whilst I believe it’s purpose of all art forms to point the way of re-valuing and re-thinking, the force of economics in the market place work against this aim. Performance art however, with care and understanding of its real advantages, may be well placed to withstand economic pressures and media influence, and hopefully will not be taken for a ride on the conformist band-wagon. There is hope that an emergent energetic and purposeful direction is taking place both on the streets and places of learning.

My artistic practice in performance from 1967 to the present time has always evolved around experiment and connectivity to the original purpose of Action Space. At this moment I see the world being sunk under simulations of the real, or even what constitutes consciousness of reality. The very function of simulation is to copy and to distort surface of reality; having no real depth. The media in ‘playing’ with simulation is creating an arena where no ‘play-back’ is really possible – the imaginative mode is dismantled, and there is no room for argument. We become stupefied in pretend wars, relationships and phoney real time, not to mention celebrity hunting, chat and game shows.

Education is also one of simulation. It is becoming an indistinct copy of real education, torn apart from learning and understanding; imaginative practice is turning instead to that of instruction towards an economic pattern. How does one retrieve the ‘real’ in education on all academic levels, directions and multi-layered thinking that ‘artistic methods’ can provide.

To quote Baudrillard: “such is simulation, in so far as it is opposed to representation, stems from the principle of the equivalent of the sign and the real, …. from the radical negation of the sign as value”. In other words, it becomes false representation. And what is representation.

Is it not over - used, in word only


Performance is found in the imaginative function of the mind, even in fantasy or phantasms; a space for the creative act to take place. Children find this natural when in the state of play, as we know from experience and observation. Artists find this a necessity. We all ‘perform’ to some degree, children more so, until is knocked out of them as they progress through the curriculum. Because we live in an age of terrorism, perhaps the artists’ only recourse is to re-establish notions of cultural or ontological terrorism: no half measures, no two faced measures with institutions, no falling back on cliché propositions.

As a subject philosophy is beginning to be taught in schools. It could also be seen as a subject allied to the arts in art galleries and in particular wherever performance art is programmed. Ideally it should be a part of some form of performance art, integral to its representations of ways of life. With this perception it could be shown as an artistic programme with experiment in integration, though the two in themselves are separate disciplines as concept and percept, there is an interesting argument for an idea of Thinking as an art form, and one that could be put into practice. In fact, as the Imaginative Eye is doing.

To reiterate and quote: “In the realm of the simulacra, philosophy is caught in the wrenching duality of aesthetics: on the one hand, it designates a theory of sensibility as a form of possible experience, on the other hand, it designates the theory of art as the reflection of the experience.” Deleuze in Philip Goodchild’s ‘An Introduction to the Politics of Desire’. In reversal of Plato’s understanding of the simulacra, Deleuze importantly found that: “The simulacrum, as contrasted with the copy, produces resemblance merely as a surface effect of unknown forces: it operates by implying huge depths and dimension that the observer cannot master, and includes a differential point of view within itself. Goodchild in his argument concludes: “Following Nietzsche, the reactive ‘Will to Truth’ of the philosophy of the representation is replaced by the active condition of ‘Will to Power’ as ‘Will to Beauty’ (Heidegger), where thought is evaluated by purely aesthetic criteria.”

The Imaginative Eye Project, of which Boots & Laces and the other titles of its performance art exposition, is set on a philosophical and aesthetic quest. The ‘quest’ while maintaining its aim, moves around in changing titles, avoiding academicism, in order to remain in the poetic mode. Questioning and examining sensibility, simulation, simulacrum by poetic and artistic means, particularly with regard to performance art, process and origins from event as idea through to performance and documentation.

Extremely important to this programme is the idea of reflection (simulacrum) being integral to documentation and the manner of integration into the work as it progresses. Also in order to evaluate developments overall we include audience and education as they form but two of the ‘layers’ of re-thinking value: What is education? What is audience? And also: What is performance?

What indeed!

Within this context it is felt that renewal of ideas on the simulacrum reveal a real potential to bring thoughts to a new approach to not only the function of performance art but to documentation and performance as a whole.

The tour of Boots & Laces in its venue stages and changing headings (titles) is beginning to build perceptible evidence on the above theoretical basis. With regard to semblance being merely surface effects of unknown forces and expressive of differential points of view within itself, our audience is responding through all ages.

Generative interconnection between people, ideas and performance is thus showing progress on all expressive levels.
Ken Turner Nov 2003


We are still writing stuff…………………………………………………………………..........................


for performance
in the mind of the audience

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