The Canadian Art Database

Victor Coleman

HP at A Space & Beyond (1976)

Only Paper Today, 1976.
[ 943 words ]

'H' is Henry Bull and 'P' is Patrick Ready; HP is 'The Third Man' — or should that read 'Person' — this 'Third' is the spirit, the dead weight, of collaboration. HP are the brains behind an early Western Front manifestation called Luxe Radio Players, whose radio play performances have been audible / visible since sometime in 1974. A recent performance commissioned by Vancouver's UN-assembled Habitat Conference, and a tour that included A Space, Media in Montreal, The Winnipeg Art Gallery and Plug In in Winnipeg, Parachute Centre for Cultural Affairs in Calgary and the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in Lethbridge, have allowed HP the relative freedom to devote most of their time to the development of an art form few people are ready to classify or define.

When one person creates, whatever the medium, the process of individuation abstracts the substance, or 'object', from the act. When two or more persons create, collaboratively, the third thing that arises from this union concretizes the creative process, although in doing so allows banality to reign. Sadly, the reign of banality is secure; but in the act of collaboration, in this case of writing or 'ad-libbing', banality is merely the colour of the stone, and the brush strokes and chiselings reveal the real. Collaboration counteracts the monument.

Syzygy is the highest state of collaboration. It is maintained, in human conjunctions, through devotion to the eradication of self-centred creative production, leaving one mind free to conjoin another mind, as in collective musical improvisation, or in séance, as opposed to syntax or phalanx.
Have you paid your parataxis?

The Bachelor Machines
In presenting the seven dimensions at A Space, HP constructed a number of Bachelor Machines to support their performance activities; these machines celibataires included a still, a bicycle-operated generator which was used to grind corn to mash for the still, and a Tesla coil. 'Unlike real machines and even the majority of imaginary but rational, useful machines ..., the bachelor machine appears first of all as an impossible, useless, incomprehensible, delirious machine. It may even not appear at all, depending on how far it blends into the landscape around it. The bachelor machine may, therefore, consist of a single peculiar and unknown machine, or of an apparently heteroclite assemblage. It may just as well include a lightning-conductor, a clock, a bicycle, a train or a dynamo, as a cat ...' - (The Bachelor Machines, ed. Jean Clair, Rizzoli, New York, 1976)

On September 14 HP presented an evening of bicycle generated films. The focus here was on generation, not on the film projected. A series of hearty cyclists in full dress took turns on a tandem, and the performance was reminiscent of the great race in Alfred Jarry's Le Surmale. As Michel Carouges points out: 'Here we now have love (or rather what is left of it) metamorphosed into a grand sports competition ...

'By far outstripping the "cycling tour de France"; this gigantic Race is intermechanical (train, car, cycle, flying machine) and international (one Frenchman versus eight Americans) ... '

'... a pacesetting car with no driver, shaped like a torpedo, is followed at a distance by a 5-seater bicycle ridden by ... male bachelors ... not dressed in "gold-beater" skins. They lie horizontally on their tummies, their heads lower than the saddle, their faces wrapped in masks which protect them from the wind and dust. Their ten legs are joined together by aluminum rods which make them stiff levers for their engine. The 5-seater cyclists are formidably doped by means of Perpetual Motion Food.'
There was no PM Food for the A Space cyclists and consequently the last rider wiped out the spokes of the rear wheel.

Shadow Play
The kinematics of shadow play were investigated on two fronts: through 'The HP Shadow Play', essentially expository, a play about shadow, the medium also the subject matter, in many ways background, and good background at that, to the presentation of 'The Exploits and Opinions of Doctor Faustroll, 'Pataphysician', a shadow adaptation from Jarry. In this work the audio is carefully prepared and pre-recorded, which allowed the artists to manipulate their cut-outs for the projector beam. These objects are evocative of all things two- and three-dimensional. The third dimension, entered through the medium of the second, i.e. light and shade on a surface, clearly demonstrates the impossibility of ever nailing down the imagination, or fourth dimension. The audio narrative actually divines the image, which has no detail, only definition.

'The God was its shadow.'

Mirage Mechanics
Radio, as a medium, is not dead — it's only resting while 'the media' (which is a monster, not a collective), hypnotizes the susceptible.

Bob and Ray: Bachelor Mechanics
Believe it: Bob Elliot & Ray Goulding are our only living link with an audio media tradition, the modern oral comic tradition, that finds its roots in Greek Tragedy, Noh, the Dada performances of Tzara, Hugo Ball, Duchamp and automatic writing. Their totally deadpan routines have captivated radio audiences for decades, a direct mass plug-in to the quintessence of collaboration. Their banal inventions and disclosures of the mundane retread the consciousness more assuredly than the rapid-fire information and the highly repetitive musical programming that seeps insistently and incessantly into our homes and autos.
In their radio show format performances HP pick up this tradition and apply its grids to the elements of their style. 'Captain Bonnard & Captain Lafarge [& Caroline in Space' and 'Tales from the Days of Sail' both offer the dialogue of men adrift in 'the element'; further explication, through comedy, of the conditions of their art.

Only Paper Today, 1976.

Text: © Victor Coleman. All rights reserved.

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