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Gee Vaucher - poster for Introspective exhibition

THE POSTER FOR the upcoming Gee Vaucher ‘Introspective’ exhibition at the Firstsite gallery in Colchester has been released.

The exhibition runs from 12 November 2016 to 19 February 2017, and admission is free. A series of events, talks and performances will also run in parallel with the exhibition (details and ticket prices to follow).

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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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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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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Yes Sir - Coldspring Records - 2016

The challenging / provocative / controversial / suspect / distasteful / unconscionable (* choose your adjective) Coldspring Record label are to release a CD version of the live reworking of Crass’ 1983 album Yes Sir, I Will performed at the 2014 Rebellion punk festival.

The label previously announced (August 2015) and then summarily cancelled (September 2015) plans to release bootlegs of live Crass performances. This latest project appears to have the active support of performers Penny Rimbaud and Eve Libertine, with Gee Vaucher providing artwork for the packaging.

Yes, Sir, the Truth of ᴙevolution is scheduled for release on 27 June 2016 and is available for pre-order.

CRASS WAS THEN – THIS IS NOW. WAKE UP TO IT

Crass’ album, Yes Sir, I Will, was possibly the most angry and hard hitting attack on the political/military/industrial complex ever consigned to vinyl. Written by Penny Rimbaud in 1982 at the height of the Falklands conflict, it seethes with righteous indignation over what he saw as a pointless but vicious exercise in vote catching by a government whose popularity was severely on the wane. So powerful was this critique that it led to threats of prosecution by that very same government, threats which were typically used by Crass to further their attacks on it and its tyrannical leader, Margaret Thatcher.

Over thirty years later, in 2014, Rimbaud was asked to participate in the Rebellion Festival, a yearly punk gathering held in Blackpool, UK. Realising that the opening date of the festival closely coincided with that of the euphemistically named ‘Great War’, Rimbaud and the festival organisers agreed that as an appropriate response they should open the event with a performance of Yes Sir, I Will.

In preparing for this performance, Rimbaud began to question the relevance of some of the content of Yes Sir, I Will. It seemed to him that much of it was pertinent only to the time in which it was written, a time when a genuine social uprising had appeared to be a very real possibility (one that was violently and conclusively squashed during the miners’ strike of 1984). But times change and there was, he now felt, an element of aggression within the work which veiled its essential message of love and peace; it was a passion that could all too easily be mistaken for blind anger. With this in mind, and inspired by John Lennon’s ‘All You Need is Love’, he set about rewriting ‘Yes, Sir’ from what he describes as a more Taoist viewpoint. Through replacing screams of anguish with laments of love, he was largely able to satisfy his wish to change Yes Sir, I Will into an expression of compassion, that being the hugely demanding realm of love in its unconditional form.

For the Rebellion performance of the now retitled Yes, Sir, the Truth of ᴙevolution, Rimbaud was joined by Crass’ lead vocalist Eve Libertine plus a group of leading musicians from the London jazz scene with whom they’d worked extensively in the past. Named ‘L’Académie des Vanités’, the band consisted of Eve Libertine/vocals, Penny Rimbaud/vocals, Louise Elliott/sax, Kate Shortt/cello, Jennifer Maidman/guitar, Phil Robson/guitar, Thad Kelly/bass and Gene Calderazzo/drums. The live recording of that show, presented here, captures all the tense excitement created by presenting a primarily punk audience with complex poetics of love, accompanied by equally demanding freeform, improvised jazz. However, as had generally been the case with Crass’ output, wild, willing and worrisome, it would be wise to expect the unexpected. Equally, through its progressive and colourful imagery, the vibrant packaging designed by Gee Vaucher shows a refusal to harp back to the illusory golden past of punk dreams and conceits.

‘We are poets, armed with the cobblestones of love, unconditional, uncompromising, beyond need of proof.’ However, if proof is needed, it will most surely be found in the content of this radical, imaginative release.

CD in digipak with 28-page booklet.

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Musician Marc Carroll‘s seventh studio album (released on One Little Indian Records) features collaborations with Penny Rimbaud and Gee Vaucher.

Rimbaud provides the lead vocals on the title track Love Is All Or Love Is Not At All; while Vaucher supplies designs and illustrations for the album and CD artwork. Carroll told the Louder Than War site of the collaboration:

Everything about Penny and Gee resonates with me, their art, words, sense of humour. Their life’s work has influenced millions. And it has been a life’s work. It’s a beautiful story that is still lived out to this day. Quite simply, there is no authority but yourself.

Love Is All Or Love Is Not At All is reviewed by Folk Radio UK; The Irish Times; and Louder Than War; and in Mojo, Record Collector and Uncut magazines.

The album is available in digital format from iTunes and in physical formats from the One Little Indian online shop.

Love Is All Or Love Is Not At All - Gee Vaucher

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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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V. VALE PRESENTS AN EVENING WITH PENNY RIMBAUD & GEE VAUCHER at
The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD
19 May 2016
Tickets: £5 (in advance) / £6.50 (on door)

Penny Rimbaud - Gee Vaucher - The Horse Hospital - May 2016

“What truly matters in life?” Many people do not comprehend that punk was about Black Humour first — creatively making fun of authority, authoritarian scenarios, mind-control in all its forms, conformism.

Three early punk instigators discuss the problem of how to remain permanently radical into the far future and debate the ethics of ‘Punk London’: V. Vale from San Francisco (Search&Destroy, RE/Search Publications); Londoners Penny Rimbaud (poet-philosopher-drummer), and Gee Vaucher (total visual artist-activist) who founded the band Crass. Audience Q&A at end.

PENNY RIMBAUD

Penny Lapsang Rimbaud was born in South West London. He is a poet, writer, philosopher, painter, and musician. He was formally a part of the performance art groups EXIT and Ceres Confusion. In 1977 he co-founded the anarchist punk band CRASS with Steve Ignorant, which disbanded in 1984. From then up until 2000 he devoted himself to writing. He returned as a performance poet working with Louise Elliot, an Australian saxophonist, as well a wide variety of other jazz musicians as the group L’académie des Vanités.

V. VALE

In 1977 V. Vale founded Search & Destroy which was published at City Lights Bookstore and funded by $100 each from Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg. In 1980, V. Vale launched RE/SEARCH; initially funded by Rough Trade’s Geoff Travis. V. Vale released books about Jello Biafra, Henry Rollins, Lydia Lunch, William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, Genesis P-Orridge, SPK, Monte Cazazza, and others. Best-sellers include The Industrial Culture Handbook, Incredibly Strange Films, Incredibly Strange Music (Vol. One and Two), Modern Primitives, Angry Women, etc. RE/SEARCH TV is a monthly cable TV programme made by Marian Wallace. RE/Search has produced specialty videos (notably, on J.G. Ballard and W.S. Burroughs) and done live presentations, panels, and workshops all over the world.

GEE VAUCHER

East London born Gee Vaucher, made outspoken record covers and newsletters for anarcho-punk band Crass starting in the 70s. She used her paintings and collage work to question social change, exposing the hypocrisy and corrupt arena of the worlds we are all forced to face. Since Crass, Vaucher has continued to create and question with her paintings, films, posters, collages, and books. She exhibits internationally as well as being included in numerous books and publications.

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