Exhibitions Archive

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  • Paul Buck 'In the disappearing mist, the gift whispers'
  • 8 October to 22 December 2012

'breaking, to reach you, what was maybe, visible, as summer begins to close, memories call, and see, on the beach she listens, a matter of finding, knowing, fragments and possibility, words being tried...'

Three into one: a re-appearance, a fresh breeze, a gathering of friendships with Kathy Acker, David Barton, John Cussans, Tatjana Doll, Margarita Gluzberg, Sophie von Hellermann, Susan Hiller, Liane Lang, Lucy McKenzie, Perle Petit, Richard Prince, Clunie Reid and Claude Royet-Journoud.

This exhibition by writer and artist Paul Buck, ‘In the disappearing mist, the gift whispers’, has been produced in three connected parts. In Buck’s own words, it exists as ‘a re-appearance, a fresh breeze’, and as ‘a gathering of friendships.’

The first section of the project is a reworking of an earlier installation that took place at Cabinet Gallery in London exactly twenty years ago. Based on his published text Disappearing, Buck’s initial project in 1992 transferred ideas of language created for the pages of a book into

the environment of the gallery space. Working directly onto the wall meant that little more than a handful of fragments were retained from this initial presentation, however, the rescued elements have been used along with photographic evidence to sensitively respond to the site of Focal Point Gallery, to make a fresh reading of the same transcript in the light of the intervening years within the appropriate setting of a gallery in a public library. In this second iteration, Buck has made the former text reappear; where the essay on the page doesn’t fundamentally change for any reader, the words on the wall become a new work, a ‘refreshed’ text, to use current parlance.

The second part of this exhibition stems directly from Buck’s involvement in the Focal Point Gallery / Hayward Touring exhibition, ‘Outrageous Fortune: Artists Remake the Tarot’. The card that he drew at random from the deck was The Queen of Pentacles, and Buck has extended his interpretation of the card for this project, together with notions of generosity, a theoretical stance that has been close

to his heart and working practice since the late 1960s. Starting with simple lines of thought written on the page, his intent was to find a way to reflect on language in a much simpler and naked way on the gallery wall, as a poet and artist working with language. To Buck, text has always been ready for revitalisation, and in this section he has brought in the young writer and artist Perle Petit, a fresh breeze, whose various interests enable her to weave, explore, exploit and tighten images as she sees fit.

The third element of this enterprise, while founded on a simple idea, also brings together a complex reflection on ideas of generosity, the gift and views of disappearance. In many ways, the contributors to this section chose themselves, in that each has engaged with Buck and his work as writer, editor, poet and artist for some years. While certain works by these contributors had already been made or started, others were developed specifically with this installation in mind, and revisit correspondence and communication. The artist who has the longest friendship with Buck

is Susan Hiller. With their relationship stretching back to the late 1960s, Hiller’s piece dates from 1974, and takes on another life within this presentation; far from disappearing, dialogue is still being generated between the two people.

Likewise, another longstanding friend of Buck is Claude Royet-Journoud, an early supporter of the writer and poet’s seminal 1970s magazine Curtains. For years there was a regular flow of correspondence to Buck from Paris, such as little notes placed into an envelope by Royet-Journoud as he drank his morning coffee in a café on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. These letters suggested contacts for Buck, informed him of magazines, books, writers and publishers from across the Channel, and enclosed cuttings from literary pages that often contained cryptic comments added by Royet-Journoud. Through this connection, Buck’s efforts to explore the contemporary French culture of the 1970s became an almost daily concern.

Others to be found here include the artist Lucy McKenzie, who asked Paul for objects from his desk and archives

so that she could create a ‘quodlibet’, a free setting of poetry containing loosely related lists of items, and John Cussans who asked Paul how he would like to die – Cussans’ exploration resulted in an image of Buck clutched in King Kong’s hand. Margarita Gluzberg has produced a large drawing for the cover of Buck’s book Two Hearts. Reluctant to lose the impact of the drawing and reduce the publication to normal dimensions for convenience, the writer is seeking to produce an edition in a Gulliverian size.

Liane Lang’s friendship has lead to many involvements with Buck, and her photograph was used by him in a previous performance to draw on ideas around photographic exposure’s ability to capture and acknowledge the disappearances of the many people who crossed the space over time, while Tatjana Doll’s move towards a textual terrain in her painting – a development that came in response to an earlier invitation by Buck to participate in a show at The Apartment in London – is also presented in this installation.

Sophie von Hellermann, who entered Buck’s world around the same time as Doll, has produced a gift for the poet by creating a painting directly onto the gallery wall (ironically, the work’s physical disappearance will take place at Christmas 2012), while Clunie Reid, whose work is often disassembled after being exhibited, will rework the pieces of an earlier collage made for Buck in a new configuration.

Two other contributors who date back to the late 1970s are David Barton and the late Kathy Acker. Barton engaged with Buck to form a dual exploration of text and drawing through a long line of books, while Acker, who first met Buck in Amsterdam and then in Paris a few weeks later, engaged in a rare correspondence as Buck encouraged her to move to Britain. This communication became the basis for the book Spread Wide, which explored ideas dear to Acker’s heart. Generosity and disappearance are also examined as themes in the friendship between Buck and the last of the contributors, the American artist Richard Prince.

All of the participants in this exhibition are engaged within the frame of Buck’s own explorations in writing, poetry, drawing, performance, installation and publishing, and this is what binds the project, together with Buck’s decision to celebrate the personal aspects of his work, which often disappear when an exhibition is produced. Essentially, the writer and poet has created a space that offers a new form of public intimacy in Southend.

Paul Buck was born in Woolwich in 1946. In the mid-1960s he deserted his joint Chemistry Geology degree at Chelsea College to leap into the arts, worked at the famed Better Books bookshop on Charing Cross Road and at Tottenham Court Road’s legendary UFO club. In the 1970s he published the seminal Curtains magazine that presented contemporary French-language writing, particularly Bataille, Blanchot, Noël, Faye, Derrida, Pleynet, Jabès, Roubaud, Ronat and Laporte alongside writers such as Iain Sinclair, Allen Fisher, Eric Mottram, Robert Kelly and Paul Auster, as well as artists such as Susan Hiller, Velickovic, Paul Neagu,

Gina Pane, Brian Catling and Jean-Luc Parant. Performance has included working with the London Calling collective of artists in the 1970s (Tina Keane, Rose Finn-Kelcey, David Medalla, Paul Burwell, Carlyle Reedy and Amikam Toren) to the readings and improvisations that currently interest him, such as those seen recently in ‘Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder’, an exhibition that Buck curated at The Apartment, London in March 2009. He has exhibited textual work, notably with a solo show ‘Sliced and Disappearing’, at Cabinet Gallery, London in 1992, while musical involvements have included working on albums with Marc Almond, Melinda Miel and 48 Cameras. His numerous books include Lust (1976), Violations (1979), No Title (1991) and Walking Into Myself (1995), and more recently Lisbon (2002), Spread Wide (with Kathy Acker) (2004), Prison Break (2008), A Public Intimacy (2011), and Performance (2012). His work is a continuing exploration of language, and its derivations and deviations, that finds expression not only on

the page in the traditional form of books, but through various performative approaches that range from film and theatre, to performance art, poetry readings and music, often resulting in other textual realisations for art spaces.

For further information and images on this exhibition please contact Laura Bowen, Focal Point Gallery Exhibition and Marketing Officer: +44 (0)1702 534 108 / laurabowen@southend.gov.uk