I recently discovered some video art pieces I made at art school back in the 80s, in a catalogue on the web. Lux were kind enough to digitise these for me and I’ve loaded a couple on to YouTube.
On re-viewing one of these, ‘Redtown’, I realised that its mythologising of place and self was a kind of psychogeography – and that I’m aiming to walk the filmed street again, toward the end of this journey – so I’m sticking it on here for your viewing pleasure and to fill in time until I do some actual walking again.
It has decayed over decades of storage on a tape that was already a copy, followed by conversion into various formats. What remains, like Burroughs’ ‘dream slipping away from me, receding into the past, dim, jerky, far away’ – barely qualifies as a memory. But it’s also a container of memories, including some I had forgotten (eg being scared at the idea of snakes and ladders as I thought the box contained the real items.) I do remember that the idea of a ‘real’ town-within-a-town known only to locals came to me in a dream, and that the name ‘redtown’ probably came from having recently red Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest.
The clip is a fragment of a longer piece. I was too young to realise that less is more, so basically put in everything I could think of. There’s another six minutes, during which you get to meet the Devil and learn about entropy and the Heat Death of the Universe. As you may have gathered, I find it hard to watch (though think what you were doing 25-30 years ago and imagine putting it on display via a planetary computer – it may not be pretty.) However I do like some bits, such as the super-parochialism of making it about ‘Portslade and West Hove’, as if even the rest of Hove was some kind of here-be-dragons, terra incognita blankness. And I rather admire my youthful counterpart’s total scorning of technique, just poking the giant camera (a model called a KY2000, which seemed hilarious at the time) from the window of a car.
A live version of Redtown was probably my first piece of performance art, in a pre-Arches incarnation of the Zap Club in the Royal Escape basement. My droning, tangential tale was hideously inappropriate for a bar-room audience, leading compere Ian Smith to ‘hate this man [ie me] more than anyone else on earth’ and think ‘he [me] was the worst man in the world’ – though his stance later softened to the point where we lived under the same roof for a while and I once appeared, naked, in one of his performances, stabbing his minotaur character with a plastic sword.
A less overthought piece, Fireman Jack, is also on YouTube:
Back in the present day, I’m hoping to resume the walk from Stafford in early August.