This is the irregular newsletter from Pete Ashton, artist, covering stuff he’s up to and pointing to things he thinks might be of interest. Please unsubscribe if you’re no longer interested, or forward to your friends if you think they might be.
Two years after Instructions for Humans, I’m embarking on my next major period of art-making.
The 1972 Project is the overarching title of work I will be making between November 2019 and September 2022.
I was born in 1972 and the date has haunted me throughout my life, appearing on IDs, forms and drop-down menus. Yet I have no memory of that year and no real sense of what happened in that era because I was a baby.
Thinking this a curious thing I decided to explore 1972 both as the seed of myself but also as the seed of my world. It turns out that it’s quite plausible to see the early 70s as a turning point in western society and it tracks nicely with my growing up.
My 1972 artworks will evolve and iterate over the next three years resulting in something around the date of my 50th birthday. This feels like a more interesting thing to do that a mid-life crisis.
The hardest part of this project was starting it, so I decided to make a film in a fortnight and present it at Andy Howlett’s open film night The Magic Cinema, regardless of its quality. No procrastination, no tweaking, just get it out there, and once it’s done, move on to the next thing.
The film screened last week and is online with a full transcript. It’s rough, but I’m pleased with the results and, talking to folk afterwards, it seems to get the message across.
Alongside the major pieces, which at this stage look like being mostly films, I will be making smaller pieces riffing off stuff I find in my research. The first of these is Most of Stoned Moon, a digital collage of the Stoned Moon series of lithographs made by Robert Rauschenberg in response to the Apollo 11 moon landings. This will be on show at the Artefact Winter Open from Thursday 5th December til the end of January.
I’m currently working on a film about Robert Anton Wilson who was working at Playboy editing the letters page in 1972. This inspired him to write the Illuminatus Trilogy which popularised the Discordian anti-belief system. This has had a resurgence over the last few years in the circles I seek inspiration from with Daisy Campbell, John Higgs and the KLF all drinking from that well. I feel the need to get my thoughts about RAW a bit straighter so will be processing those into a video essay over the next month aiming for a January release. [Sidenote - I wrote a bit about Daisy Campbell last year.]
ARPANET and the Hippies is the working title for my solo show at Artefact in April running for five weeks. It will consist of an exhibition of research around Stewart Brand, publisher of the Whole Earth Catalogue and the connective tissue between the 60s counterculture and the social internet. Through a series of workshops I will invite people to help me make a piece of work, probably a film, that uses his life (as expertly documented by Fred Turner in his book From Counterculture to Cyberculture to understand the situation we’re in today and how we might move on from it.
As always, my darling wife is putting me to shame with her doings. She continues to be active in the Birmingham collage art scene and periodically does twilight walks with other Ladies of the Sunrise. The walking conference we went to last month has seen her formalise her art-walking as Perambulate With Me which starts at the aforementioned Artefact Winter Open where her contribution is instructions for an exploratory walk in Stirchley. It’s all very exciting.
The Notes microblog continues to be posted to and if you enjoyed Sunday Reads I’d encourage you to bookmark it and visit on a Sunday morning. At the moment it’s mostly links to interesting articles I’ve been reading.
A couple of weeks back I scheduled all the Photo School classes and events for 2020, which was a bit weird as I now know what I’ll be doing for the next 12 months. I normally live each season at a time. You can see the first half of the year here.
See you in a few weeks!