O.T.L. Bongo's Book of Early Scribbles

"To be a free improvisor, you've got to build your own language ..." Tony Oxley told me in September 1997. At the time, I had no idea what he meant. However, continuous contact with Derek Bailey whilst writing his biography changed me. My critical judgments gradually became unacceptable at The Wire magazine (mounting scepticism about sacred cows of faux avant like Thurston Moore, John Zorn and Evan Parker). I started thinking of myself as a primary maker (and primary carer!) rather than a booster of other people's work. Then I began to understand what Oxley was on about. The artist who proceeds from "concepts" is trapped in art history and can make nothing new. He's a journalist wearing an artist's smock, a bourgeois bohemian, a phoney. Real artists deal with the artistic material directly and allow ideas to emerge from this process. They do some WORK (but never ever refer to what they've done as "my work"; we leave such phrases to the grant-avid, form-filling cretins). Having been invited by Kerstin Stakemeier and Nina Köller to exhibit at the Aktualisierungsraum at 17 Talstrasse, Hamburg for the month of September, there was no option: Out To Lunch had to get practical and make some marks on paper. As primary carer of Baby Iris (born 13-vi-2005), I was attending regular playgroups and had access to wax crayons and sugar paper on a daily basis. So I decided to use wax crayons for the Hamburg pictures. In fact, the crayons used in the book of improvisations below weren't the Crayola Jumbo crayons common at playgroups. You can give the Jumbo ones some welly without their breaking and so get really intense colours, especially orange (see Visions). Unable to locate Jumbo Crayolas in time, I used Walt Disney Princess crayons from the 99p Store. These are subtler, with a hint of pastel in them. I actually hated them at first but, looking back, I like the way the marks overlay each other. Wax crayoning is all about overlays and resistance: a picture is finished when the surface of the paper is totally covered in wax and you can't mark it any more. The 68 pages presented here are from the practice book of O.T.L. Bongo - my chimpanzee artist alter ego - gearing up for the 92 A3 crayon improvisations he did in three days flat in Hamburg for the Aktualisierungsraum exhibition (Hamburg artist Thomas Baldischwyler provided the "conceptual" framework). When I made these scribbles, I was like a free improvisor learning his or her instrument, ignoring official procedure and testing an instrument's material possibilities for expression and response. Esemplasticists start from the blank sheet and automatic, primate, infantile gestures because capital has corrupted every tradition, every technique and every concept we "know" about today. We must access the direct and primitive (the common "rubbish" - I was amazed to find that anyone who scribbles can come up with things like Jackson Pollock or Picasso). With O.T.L. Bongo, I believe I have finally exorcised the ghost of Mary Kelly: the bureaucratic structuralism of 70s feminism and conceptual art was as much of a dead end as Blair's babes and New Labour. Long live those who dare to apply intuition and intelligence to the inner form of the artwork! Down with Conceptual, Pop and Brit Art and all the tedious safeties and certainties of "withering" irony!

OTL 25-xi-2007

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