I was asked recently if I would take part in an event at The Castlefield Gallery in Manchester. The title was Day Zero organised by Tether, a Nottingham based art collective. I was happy to oblige. All I had to do was talk for 10 minutes or so about a topic of interest, not necessarily related to my practice, something Tangential. At a tangent to it. I was excited and then fearful. I was not sure where to begin. I didn’t want to over research or intellectualise a subject that was to be spoken from the heart but I didn’t want to look a fool in front of an audience that could consist of, well, anyone. I procrastinated but eventually wrote a couple of pages of tangential prattle. Subjects began and ran off into each other, crossing over without coherence uncommitted to anything, neither highbrow or low (more eyebrow, thanks, Sis), misquotes of Nietzsche, confessions of Time Team obsession. Poodles ahoy, none of it what I’d really want to say, I guess I lacked what a friend of mine would call ‘fidelity’. When it came to give the talk I decided not to read from my notes which was a bit of a mistake. I fumbled through overcoming dry patches with bouts of verbal diarrhea, trying desperately to make up for my poor content with a winning storytelling style. Thank God it wasn’t recorded! When I’d finished and sat down I whispered to my companion, ‘Was it rubbish?’, he replied, ‘A bit’.
I seem to be enjoying myself, or am I praying?
To my relief the other 3 speakers seemed as nervous and inadequately prepared as me (not the Bug talk, nice slide show). Now the trauma of public address is over, it is interesting to reflect on the way we reacted as artists to the task of having to talk about a passion not related to our REAL passion, our art practice. We were not invited as experts in a field, but as ordinary people who quite like something. The talk was in a gallery, did this make it an art piece a Performance? It was a wholly strange and disorienting experience.
Here I gaze lovingly at David Attenborough while he smokes a ciggie and records wildlife sounds simultaneously.
I tried not to let it being ‘A bit rubbish’ bother me, however I can’t help playing it out in my brain, remembering things I should have said, images that would have articulated ideas on my behalf. What I ought to do is put things right somehow by doing it properly, then if its still rubbish I will know that it was the way it was meant to be. On the other hand I might not bother. Part of the problem was that I was debilitated by the suffocating task of choosing one thing. To this day I’m still getting ideas of what i should have talked about. I was debilitated by fear and doubt, normal under the circumstances, idiotic but it can’t be helped.