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Gee Vaucher - exhibition

Gee Vaucher (1945) is an internationally renowned political artist living outside Epping, Essex. She is best known for her radical creativity, montages and iconic artwork for the infamous anarcho-pacifist band Crass. Employing an eclectic range of styles and techniques, coupled with an essentially DIY aesthetic, she creates powerful images exploring political, cultural and personal issues. She sees her work as a tool for social change.

This retrospective survey of Vaucher’s work is her premiere in the UK, bringing together for the first time a comprehensive collection of her paintings, collages, prints, photographs, videos and sculptures plus installation work and rare archive material.

MORE DETAILS OF the events that will accompany Gee Vaucher’s upcoming ‘Introspective’ exhibition, which will run from 12 November 2016 to 19 February 2017 at the Firstsite gallery space in Colchester have been published. Not all of the specifics are yet known, but these are some of the dates for the diary…

  • Friday 11 November 2016, 18:00-20:00: Private viewing of the exhibition, on the eve of the main opening; opening party
  • Saturday 19 November – Sunday 20 November 2016: The Print Project Workshop (featuring the Letterpress gang from Shipley)
  • Thursday 24 November 2016: Screening of ‘Angel’, a film by Gee Vaucher; followed by a Q&A session.
  • Friday 25 November 2016: Penny Rimbaud performs with “assorted musicians & words”.
  • Saturday 26 November 2016: Artist and Curator tour of the exhibition.
  • Thursday 1 December 2016: A discussion and debate on Gee Vaucher’s work with: Rebecca Binns, George McKay, Brandon Taylor & Stevphen Shukaitis (plus Gee “maybe stirring the soup”).
  • Friday 2 December 2016: Eve Libertine and Charles Webber. Eve Libertine has written the lyrics for & is co-director of an exciting new chamber opera Room of Worlds for live voices, electronics and video. The opera charts the physical and psychological journey of a woman in a patriarchal landscape of domesticity, love and loneliness, through medicine and memory, to the edge of madness. Room of Worlds is based loosely on The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and is the result of an ongoing collaboration between electronic artist Charles Webber (composer/video) & experimental vocalist and ex-Crass chanteuse Eve Libertine.
  • 13 January 2017: Penny Rimbaud reads the poetry of Wilfred Owen
  • 14-15 January 2017: Monoprint workshops with Eve & Pandora
  • 28-29 January 2017: no.w.here Film Workshop for Young Women

Full details of these and other events are still to be announced.

Firstsite
Lewis Gardens, High St, Colchester CO1 1JH
http://www.firstsite.uk.net
http://www.firstsite.uk.net/page/gee-vaucher

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Alastair Gordon’s new book Crass Reflections on Punk: Capitalism, Culture & Ideology is now available from the Active Distribution online shop. (This is the paperback printed version and not the limited edition version sold at the Leicester Crass Artwork Exhibition in June 2016).


Crass Reflections - Alistair Gordon

Alistair’s Gordon’s new book Crass Reflections on Punk: Capitalism, Culture & Ideology was launched at the Keep It Simple, Make It Fast conference in Porto, Portugal in July.

Jointly published by Active Distribution and Itchy Monkey Press, Crass Reflections is a revised and extended version of Gordon’s Throwing the Punk Rock Baby Out with the Bath Water: Crass and Punk Rock a Critical Appraisal, originally published in 1996. That text had its own origins in Gordon’s undergraduate thesis.

Crass Reflections revisits, revises and extends the text of Throwing the Punk Rock Baby and comes with a lengthy new scene-setting introduction by Gordon. The book has been designed by Russ Bestley, and includes a Foreword by Crass’s Penny Rimbaud.

This book comprises an undergraduate monograph an essays written in the mid 1990s. The central theme sets up and critically examines the need to examine the work of the anarchist punk band Crass in light of a poverty of discussion of their activities in previous cultural studies writings on punk. Equally, notions of endpoints in underground cultures are put to the question. The broad thesis of the monograph interrogates links between critical theory and Frankfurt school perspectives on art and subversive culture and Neo Marxist accounts of their phylogeny. There is critical discussion of the tension and similarities between Crass and Neo Marxist accounts of the role of dominant ideology (traditional notions of false consciousness/media effect) in contrast to the cultural monopoly of survival needs as the central motor of social reproduction in capitalist culture. The monograph concludes with a discussion of the importance of the legacy of Crass and the need for future research. This monograph was written before the groundswell of punk scholarship in its wake and serves as vindication of its obscure and early importance. It’s principle importance lies in the fact that most accounts beyond this work have focussed not on critical theory but instead on historical contextual salience, aesthetic value and biographical detail.

This new edition comprises a new extensive introduction assessing methodological approaches in punk scholarship and examines the stormy DiY publication and contextual history of the original monograph. Moreover expanded versions of an original chapter is included in addition to essays on subversive culture, the 1982 Falklands conflict and an examination of philosophical approaches to repressive technologies.

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SEAN CLARK CURATED the recent well-received The Art of Crass exhibition in Leicester, which developed to include a series of live performances and other events to complement the main exhibition. With the exhibition now completed and the artwork packed away and returned to its creators, The Hippies Now Wear Black invited Sean to reflect on the experience of putting together this distinctive exhibition of Crass creativity…

I’m sure it’s all been a bit of a whirlwind, but how do you feel that the exhibition went?

Well, I’m only now just starting to take stock! It went incredibly well though. There were over 200 people at the opening, both Penny’s and Steve’s show were sold out and there was a steady stream of people coming to the exhibition.

How has feedback been? What sort of things have visitors been saying?

Feedback has been universally positive. I’ve literally had people coming up to me in the street in Leicester saying thanks for putting it on. These have been people who were already Crass followers and, importantly, people new to the band and its members. We had a “feedback wall” up in the gallery and there were some great comments too. I photographed them all and will be putting them up on theartofcrass.uk soon.

Did you achieve the sort of visitor levels you hoped?

I genuinely didn’t know what to expect. I initially put the exhibition together because I wanted to see the work in a gallery setting myself and I through there would be some interest. As the project it grew – with new works being added, and then the gigs – I got the sense that it would do pretty well, but you never know. Interest on Facebook does not always translate to people coming to an exhibition.

Have you any sense of how many of the people visiting the exhibition were encountering the work of Crass for the first time?

I can’t be exact, but I think it was pretty much a 50/50 split. A big surprise for me was just how many Crass followers there are out there. People in council jobs, heads of arts organisations, people who run companies and many others have all told me about their own “Crass stories”. For people encountering the band for the first time I think it has been quite inspirational.

Penny Rimbaud in conversation at The Art of Crass exhibition

Penny Rimbaud in conversation at The Art of Crass exhibition

Did you have any criticism about filling the exhibition space with old punk stuff from the 1980s? Did anyone question the relevance of the material?

I was expecting some criticism and had come up with a few ideas for responses. However, I didn’t need them. I think when you look at the work in its entirety it is unquestionably interesting “art”. Even the copies of the flyers we put up were interesting. When you look at them individually you see might see a scruffy hand-made thing, but when you see 20-30 of them together you something beautiful. It gives you a unique insight in to the band.

I decided not to have any music by Crass playing in the gallery because I wanted people to take a fresh look at the art that emerged from this group of people

Have the events and performers been well supported too? Have you been pleased with how the performers made use of the context of the exhibition?

Without wanting to sound to gushing, all the performers were amazing! When it became clear that I would be able to put on both Penny, Eve and Louise (Cobblestones of Love) and Steve Ignorant and Slice of Life I wanted to make sure that there would also be opportunities for local performers to share the spotlight too. There is a performance night in Leicester called “Anerki” and I’ve been to a couple of their events. They have a really creative mix of poetry, music, performance, comedy, hip-hop and they provided a 45 minute support set for Cobblestones of Love and then curated 4 hours of performances on the final day of the exhibition on the 18th June. Then on the evening of the 18th we had local bands Jesuscarfish, Brassick Bears and Not My Good Arm playing before Steve and Slice of Life came on. Everyone was so generous with their time.

How simple or difficult was the selection process for the exhibition – you could have filled a space many times larger than the one you were working with?

I probably could have filled a space twice as big. Certainly if I had included books, records, photographs. “ephemera” and so on. I think, though, the size was about right and the artwork on display made for a very coherent exhibition. If I do it again elsewhere – which is on the cards – I’ll consider adding a bit more if space allows.

It’s clear that several former members of Crass have been extremely supportive of the exhibition; that must have been really gratifying!

I contacted Penny Rimbaud and Gee Vaucher first and they were very supportive. Penny then put me in touch with Eve Libertine who was similarly enthused. I emailed Steve Ignorant and, again, he was great and offered to do a Slice of Life gig. I also had a chance to meet Dave King (who designed the Crass symbol) and he generously added some work to the show. I got to meet Mick Duffield (who made videos for Crass performances) just before the show and he said it was fine to show his video work. I tried to contact Andy Palmer a couple of times, but he didn’t get back to me and I respect that. I’d have happily included work by Phil Free, Joy de Vivre and Pete Wright but couldn’t find a way of getting in touch.

Not all the ‘artistry’ or the artists of Crass were represented in the exhibition though (Andy Palmer’s paintings or Mick Duffield’s video work, for instance). Was that any sort of disappointment?

I did include some of Mick’s video work in the area outside of the gallery and would like to make it a more integrated part of the exhibition in the future. You’ll find links to his videos, and more Crass-related things on theartofcrass.uk website. I found Andy’s website on-line and think his paintings are excellent. I’d like to get one to put on my wall at home! I wouldn’t include anything in a post-Crass context without his permission of course.

Fight War Not Wars - The Art of Crass - Leicester - June 2016

Looking back, is there anything major that you would have done differently if you were starting the process afresh?

Nothing major. It would have been nice to have a longer gallery slot, two and a half weeks was not really long enough. But LCB Depot in Leicester gave me the slot they had for free, so I can’t complain!

Have you a favourite anecdote or story that came to your attention during the exhibition?

Well, having said that everything went really well, there was one negative in that we had a strongly worded “noise” complaint from a local resident about the show on the 18th June. I mustn’t be dismissive of it, but in the email the person said that, “the music (with screaming and screeching) is of a kind that 99% of population would consider extremely unpleasant”. It’s possibly the best review I’ve ever had!

Is the intention that the web site will continue indefinitely as an online resource? Will it continue to be developed or will it be maintained as a ‘fixed’ archive?

Definitely. I’m in the process of finishing off the website – with full documentation of the events. I plan to keep collecting Crass-related stuff when I come across it and will keep adding to the website. It would be great to combine it with other collections in the future and see it exhibited again in the future.

Is there any potential for the exhibition to go on tour around the country in future? Have you had any offers?

I’ve alluded to this a couple of times. Yes, I think a tour of some sort would be great. I would like to see it going to unusual places around the country – not just London and big cities. I’m up for offers from potential galleries, a couple of offers have come through already. I might see if I can get some Arts Council funding to cover the costs, otherwise it’s a case of “Do It Yourself” again.

if you want to understand what Crass was about then I think you need to look beyond the eight or so years the band was around for

Have you considered compiling a book out of the exhibition – artworks, plus history and commentary?

Perhaps a catalogue more than a book. But let’s see what happens. The artists deserve recognition both individually and collectively and there are some interesting stories in there that are perhaps not part of the accepted “Crass” and post-Crass history. Gee Vaucher is about to get a long-overdue retrospective in Colchester and I think she will come to be seen as one of the most significant artists to emerge in the UK in the latter 20th century. It would be interesting to see Penny’s writing and artwork presented as a “body of work”. Likewise with Eve and the other former members. In fact, you’re convincing me, perhaps a book would be a good idea!

What is your own personal take away from the event? What did you learn through curating and organising the exhibition (either about Crass or about curatorship)?

I think that the most important thing is that there is more to the people involved in Crass than being in Crass. All of the ex-members I have spoken to have done plenty of other things. In fact, if you want to understand what Crass was about then I think you need to look beyond the eight or so years the band was around for. I intentionally called the exhibition “The Art of Crass” because I thought this would be a good way to explore this idea, and at the last minute decided not to have any music by Crass playing in the gallery because I wanted people to take a fresh look at the art that emerged from this group of people. I think it worked.

Exhibition curator Sean Clark (second left) with Slice of Life

Exhibition curator Sean Clark (second left) with Slice of Life | photo: Simon Balaam

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Crass Reflections - Alistair Gordon

Alistair’s Gordon’s new book Crass Reflections on Punk: Capitalism, Culture & Ideology will be launched at The Art of Crass exhibition opening in Leicester in June.

Jointly published by Active Distribution and Itchy Monkey Press, Crass Reflections is a revised and extended version of Gordon’s Throwing the Punk Rock Baby Out with the Bath Water: Crass and Punk Rock a Critical Appraisal, originally published in 1996. That text had its own origins in Gordon’s undergraduate thesis.

Crass Reflections revisits, revises and extends the text of Throwing the Punk Rock Baby and comes with a lengthy new scene-setting introduction by Gordon. The book has been designed by Russ Bestley, and includes a Foreword by Crass’s Penny Rimbaud.

Ordering details will be available shortly after the book launch.

This book comprises an undergraduate monograph an essays written in the mid 1990s. The central theme sets up and critically examines the need to examine the work of the anarchist punk band Crass in light of a poverty of discussion of their activities in previous cultural studies writings on punk. Equally, notions of endpoints in underground cultures are put to the question. The broad thesis of the monograph interrogates links between critical theory and Frankfurt school perspectives on art and subversive culture and Neo Marxist accounts of their phylogeny. There is critical discussion of the tension and similarities between Crass and Neo Marxist accounts of the role of dominant ideology (traditional notions of false consciousness/media effect) in contrast to the cultural monopoly of survival needs as the central motor of social reproduction in capitalist culture. The monograph concludes with a discussion of the importance of the legacy of Crass and the need for future research. This monograph was written before the groundswell of punk scholarship in its wake and serves as vindication of its obscure and early importance. It’s principle importance lies in the fact that most accounts beyond this work have focussed not on critical theory but instead on historical contextual salience, aesthetic value and biographical detail.

This new edition comprises a new extensive introduction assessing methodological approaches in punk scholarship and examines the stormy DiY publication and contextual history of the original monograph. Moreover expanded versions of an original chapter is included in addition to essays on subversive culture, the 1982 Falklands conflict and an examination of philosophical approaches to repressive technologies.

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Steve Ignorant - The Guardian - 7 May 2016

Steve Ignorant features in today’s (7 May 2016) Guardian‘s magazine ‘Never mind the bus pass‘ retrospective; which sees six punk activists ‘look back at the wildest days of their lives’.

Steve Ignorant, 58
Then: lead singer, Crass
Now: lifeboatman

Punk had a purpose. Every gig would benefit something: a rape crisis centre, a donkey sanctuary, an old people’s home. It was positive. We wanted a nice world to live in. Only, this time, we weren’t asking – we were telling.

From 1977 to 1984, I was the lead vocalist for Crass. We toured the UK, playing gigs wherever and whenever we could. When Crass finished, I continued to perform and record with Conflict and later formed the bands Schwartzeneggar and Stratford Mercenaries.

In 2007, I moved to Norfolk with the intention of living quietly by the coast. I was going to sweep up leaves and all that sort of stuff – but it wasn’t to be. The year I moved, I got an offer to do two nights at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. With every gig I do, I like to donate to a cause. I knew the independent lifeboat service in Sea Palling is always desperate for funds, so I thought that was ideal: I could see where the money actually goes. They got about £1000 and bought new life jackets that went on to save people’s lives.

The crew took me out on the boat, dressed me up in a drysuit, threw me overboard and picked me up, then asked, “So, what about joining?”

At first, I was very reluctant – I worried about the commitment and imagined that I would have to go on parade. The idea of some bloke telling me off for not shaving properly went totally against my principles. But they were all scruffier than me. Now I’m a full-time member.

Being part of the crew is similar to being in a band. You’re full of adrenaline when you’re on stage, but the worst thing that can happen is that you forget the words or the lead guitarist plays a bum note. It’s not the same adrenaline when you’re suddenly out at sea and pulling someone from the water. It affects different people in different ways. It doesn’t hit me at first, but about an hour later, it’s as if I’ve taken amphetamines. I can’t shut up about it.

Also included in the feature are: Ausaf Abbas, Lesley Woods, Terry Chimes, David O’Brien and Jordan.

Nige Tassell. 2016. ‘”Never Mind the Bus Pass”: punks look back at their wildest days’, The Guardian, 7 May 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/may/07/never-mind-bus-pass-punks-look-back-wildest-days

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Fight War Not Wars - The Art of Crass - Leicester - June 2016

Fight War, Not Wars – The Art of Crass

1-18 June 2016
LCB Depot Lightbox
31 Rutland St, Leicester LE1 1RE

Free entry to exhibition
[More details]

This exhibition includes records, posters, prints, videos, books and other items from Leicester-based digital artist Sean Clark’s collection of Crass-related materials, built up over almost 20 years. Thought-provoking, confrontational, angry and beautiful in equal measures, the art of Crass remains as important now as it was almost four decades ago.

Exhibition Opening

Wednesday 1 June 2016
18:00-22:00
LCB Depot Lightbox
Free entry
[More details | Book]

There will be a welcome by Sean Clark at 7pm followed by an introduction to Crass by Alastair Gordon from De Montfort University and a short talk by Stevphen Shukaitis about the Gee Vaucher retrospective happening in Colchester in November.

Penny Rimbaud and Louise Elliot

Yes Sir, I Will
Friday 10 June 2016
LCB Depot Lightbox
Entry £10.00 (including booklet)
[More details | Book]

Penny Rimbaud (vocals, ex-Crass) and Louise Elliot (saxophone) present a lyrical re-working of Crass’ seminal anti-war album Yes Sir, I Will. The show will take place in the gallery and be include video projections. This is a very rare opportunity to see this work performed live. It is also the main fundraising event for The Art of Crass exhibition. Support will be provided by Leicester’s Music, Live Art, Spoken Word and Film night Anerki.

Exhibition open from 18:00, Anerki at 20:00, Penny Rimbaud and Louise Elliot at 21:00, the exhibition will remain open until 23:00.

DIY + Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life

Saturday 18 June 2016
12noon-23:00
LCB Depot
Free entry to daytime event
Evening gig: £8.00
[More details | book]

Punk may have been 40 years ago, but the “do it yourself” attitude it promoted is as relevant now as it ever was. To mark the end of “Fight War Not Wars: The Art Of Crass” exhibition we will be holding an all-day and evening event of self-organised creativity of all kinds. More details will be released soon, so keep the day clear. If you are interested in contributing please post on the Facebook Page or email theartofcrass@interactdigitalarts.uk.

To finish off the Art of Crass exhibition we have Crass co-founder Steve Ignorant’s latest band – Slice of Life. This is a real treat!

Having cut his punk teeth in Crass, Steve Ignorant’s latest project – Slice Of Life – allows for the more contemplative side of his song-writing to reveal itself. Like musical depictions of a British kitchen-sink drama, the songs on the debut album Love and a Lamp-post (Overground Records, 2014) provide vivid vignettes of the everyday. Both personal and universal, Slice of Life present ruminations from the bar stool honed on the late-night walk home. Musically, the band is built on an acoustic arrangement of piano, guitar and bass. Having shed the punk noise that defined Crass, Slice of Life retain the emotional impact and compassion that has long distinguished Steve’s work.

Fight War, Not Wars: The Art of Crass: http://www.theartofcrass.uk

UPDATED, 26 April 2016: New version of the poster added.

UPDATED, 8 May 2016: Third and final version of the poster added.

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Penny Rimbaud
Open Door, Open Heart
26 May 2016 – 19:00 to 20:30
Focal Point Gallery – Gallery 2 – Elmer Avenue, Southend-on-Sea SS1 1NB
Entrance is free; but places are limited – so book in advance.
 

Under the heading of ‘Open Door, Open Heart’, poet, philosopher and social activist Penny Rimbaud discusses notions of community, radical lifestyle and acts of resistance. The talks and events programme for ‘The Peculiar People’ is curated by Ellen Grieg.

Penny Rimbaud

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