For Vicki on Ralph Rumney: Hidden
connections, ruminations and
(For those who don't know and to all the victims of the dumbing down engineered by the media class, Ralph Rumney was a co-founder of the International Situationists in 1957. Originally from the north of England he was an artist who tried to move beyond the boundaries of art; one encompassing a profounder social vision helping initiate psychogeography and the practise of the derive. Failing in his quest he fell back on prior artistic paradigms venturing into the circles of a cultural high society forever tending to gave him short shrift.)
Let's first consider Ralph Rumney's excellent points: In his mid teens in the early 1950s he tried to get hold of copies of De Sade's books creating violent contra-temps with his parson father. He then courageously refused the compulsory National Service stint in the army. Going on the run he was forced to appear in a Bristol court where he gave a spirited, existential, even Camus-like defence of his refusal when it would have been much easier to have fallen back on a more conservative, 'thou shalt not kill' religious plea-bargaining. Not too afraid of the consequences he had the courage to face penury with equanimity: 'I discovered material poverty at the same time as intellectual wealth'. His undoubted lust for life meant he could take on board a more or less youthful street existence for a while in London and Paris; an experience which obviously helped enormously in opening up his mind. Rumney's lifestyle was thus inseparable from developing concepts, which later were to produce the more fully worked out derive. It meant too he came slap bang up against the modernisers, the city developers and planners and he had the guts to confront them head on. Rumney hated Colin Buchanan, the chief architect responsible for the 1950s London clearances and had the honour of being excluded from the so-called radical Independents Group for condemning the architects in their midst. (No doubt this was the Smithsons and others belonging to the school of brutalism). Against the 'flattened universe' of modernism, Rumney's alternatives for London, though hardly fleshed-out weren't bad at all, envisaging a psychogeography of pedestrian zones (down with the car) bringing out the ambiences of the different huddled together villages that make up London.
Unfortunately we must now consider the down side; the soft underbelly. Despite all the excellent contrariness, Rumney, no matter what was always an artist even in his most rebellious early days. By 1953 and only twenty years old he had landed a paid-up contract with London's Redfern Gallery and over 25 years later, not having moved on, he was teaching art at Canterbury School of Art. Throughout the years from the early 50s onwards, exhibition after exhibition of his works followed in England, Italy and Belgium etc. Sorry to keep repeating this but Rumney was essentially a gallery artist and the vast majority of his writings and interviews are concerned with this central fact, endlessly name dropping about all the artists - with all their bullshit works - he met and met and met. It's all pretty pointless, even sickening because real critique was marginalised and when he attempted to get to the heart of the matter it was always through a deflection. Thus totality - which for people like us implies the attempted praxis of total revolution - became for Ralph Rumney 'the total praxis of art' in a re-vamped Renaissance, Italian city state sense where the artist strutting his/her stuff on the stage overshadows and overawes the paymaster: The Modern Prince. Concepts like detournement were deployed in the narrow, artistic sense of collage and montage and Rumney's substitute attack on art was against 'artism', that endless repetition of marketable themes. It became a get-out clause; a means whereby the guy didn't have to confront his artistic role. Half measures were it seems enough! All these foibles are today entirely familiar and in fits and starts deployed by all the rag-tag post-modernists far, far, far more mediocre than Rumney. We need only think of Tracy Emin, the Chapman Bros and Banksy.....
So much for a brief historical, critical context: What follows are some thoughts on Ralph Rumney I've mulled over in my head for many a year. He's a guy who wasn't to be one thing or another, who searched but hardly found who fell back on past historical roles (the bohemian artist) but was unable to really cut through into anything like a fully-fledged revolutionary critique - one that superseded art - and thus offering hope for the future of human kind. He seemed unsure of what he did find like the outcome of certain derives he initiated, the best concerning east London (Limehouse) and the worst concerning Italy, (Venice). Hesitating, unable to complete and to make ruthless but necessary jumps, Ralph fell backwards only to then many years later update himself, revisiting somewhat his lapsed past - the explosions of the late 1960s largely I think passed over him - and alas, for this update to lack substantial cutting edge. It was at this late hour and getting on in years a mode whereby he merely mimicked original situationist anger as the done thing to do, a substitute anger he hoped would give him some historical presence the more he realised he was acquiring fame seeing much younger people were seeking him out. There was however nothing original on offer having quickly acquired a second hand knowledge of what had happened in the interim since he'd been evicted (rightly) from the early moments of the Situationist International. This may sound harsh but there's no way Ralph Rumney achieved the clarity, audacity and heights of a Patrick Cheval, a Sebastiani or a Rene Riesel and all those largely unknown others who proved to be so effective in the late 1960s...and having started like this does not mean the following is a paean of praise for the Situationist International.
For me Ralph Rumney is personal, perhaps too personal. He came from the same neck of the woods as my twin brother and myself and where we spent a big part of our childhood and early teens, only to return - even closer to where Rumney was born - a few decades later but without leaving London wholesale, the city we'd been forced more or less into exile and, because the place is so big, we could find ways of rudimentary survival where our infamous names meant little.
One huge and shattering difference between Rumney and ourselves: Ralph didn't really like the north of England ; we loved it and still do. For us The North is also a passion, for Rumney it was almost as nought. Maybe this points to the essential class difference between us? Having been forced out of the Bradford/Halifax arena in the mid 1950s Rumney was never to return spending the rest of his life in either Italy (Venice) or southern France with a few lateish interludes in the most supine, traditional enclaves of a time past, typical southern English rural retreat. Rumney had called Halifax: 'A town without culture' meaning a philistine place in a pejorative sense, and try as I might to see this description indicating the beyond of culture, I obviously cannot! None the less the town that had forced him into exile put on a exhibition of their rehabilitated son in 2002. Moreover, Rumney had been born in Newcastle just like ourselves.
Yet in a way Rumney's experience of Halifax/Bradford was the real crux of the guy's intervention in the historical becoming of the modern (or rather anti-modern) revolution. Though not so much a child of the manse - the Wesleyan thread that courses these gaunt, shorn hills - but a Church of England's parson's son, his was first and foremost a revolt against the puritanism, perhaps even the somewhat hell-fire puritanical denial and death obsession of the area, which made us so coldly shudder as children imagining we were seeing haggard looking ghouls lurking behind high, overgrown privet hedges with sealed gates fronting the then blackened Victorian Yorkshire stone of modest mini-mansions where it seemed all life was forbidden always fearful putrid green arms covered in sores would reach out from an ever-welcoming grave as we hurried on by! It was an atmosphere so unlike the more seemingly libertarian face of the northeast coalfield we'd originally hailed from. We initially hated it and as if symbolising the essence of this hatred, at the bottom of the Calderdale escarpment beneath where we lived in soot-strewn Horbury Jct, that most horrible of horrible Methodist hymns 'Onward Christian Soldiers' had been coined in a hovel of a dwelling.
Rumney as a teenager of 17 must also have felt this ambience acutely as ourselves, though much younger, and only a few miles away in Ossett, we certainly did. Our escape even at the age of 9 or 10 was New Orleans jazz and the Mississippi blues especially Pinetop Smith with his brutal but practical lyrics like: 'I want a woman who'll help me rob and steal' etc though obviously hardly knowing what this meant, the passion of Pinetop's spare boogie piano and equally spare voice were enough to keep you going. (Jazz had yet to reach the era of its potential becoming in the greatness of be-bop where it sounded like the search for a new world and another life leading to a break it failed to make simply because it would have meant a 'recovery through transfer' (Marx) i.e. revolutionary praxis, though the signs were there in Pinetop). Within this West Yorkshire context, at the time, Rumney cut through to the very essence of such vague longings managing to get hold of a copy of some of De Sade's writings via a naive, clueless local librarian simply doing his job providing books from all over the country to an earnest young man in Halifax. At the same time Rumney refused army National Service. All hell broke loose and Rumney was scandalous news. The guy went on the lam. Escaping the wrath of his father and giving a forefinger up to the family and church, he escaped '- for the time - into 'revolutionary' Halifax asking the innovative but then largely unknown social historian EP Thompson to give him a bed for more than a few nights. Malcolm Imrie said in Rumney's Guardian obituary (March 8th 2002) that staying with EP 'deepened his understanding of Marxism' though finally I've got my doubts about that.
How did Rumney know about EP Thompson, was it through the Communist party and its youth league which he was a member of? Rumney had helped picket the army-recruiting centre in Bradford demonstrating against National Service and did he casually meet Thompson at one of these events, or what? That we'll never know! But let's imagine: Thompson at the time was revaluating the history of the English working classes, though his classic book on the subject was yet to be published. His research though was gradually becoming remarkable greatly assisted by on-the-spot evening class tuition via the Workers' Educational League, itself product of a form of social democratic inclusiveness. In a way Thompson was a well-meaning toff - one of the very best of them - his students, lowly, mainly manual workers who wanted to broaden their minds. The times though were opening up and things weren't what they used to be. The workers were talking back! Thompson was telling the workers their history through his assiduous, remarkable and painstaking researches. For sure his worker students would listen but then they'd query and query and query. Thompson responded, acutely listening in turn and a dialectical process unfolded, just as it should. Perspectives morphed getting subtler, getting profound.
Thus I fondly imagine, Thompson quickly realised these workers weren't stupid people: they had their own kind of often profound learning and sometimes a relevant memory passed on from generation to generation few of the more superficially literate middle classes had ever grasped. Perhaps this helped EP see - or at least bring out - the realisation the Luddite movement of this region during the early 19th century could also grasp broad, general theories; theories largely emanating from 'revolutionary' France, illiterate as these handloom weavers were supposed to be. Thompson was able to incorporate all of this into dawning new perspectives. He was right! He was then able to imaginatively reconstruct for instance and for the first time moulding it into an exciting, readable account, the battle of Rawfolds Mill, just around the corner from Halifax where a son of the Wesleyan manse joined with the armed weavers taking on the army (Sharpe's army!) in a magnificent battle where many died, and which still resonates to this day in the hidden history of this still benighted area. (Indeed only nineteen years ago or so, the development agenda in Rawfolds oriented mainly around big warehousing and being as bland as warehousing is everywhere, refused to countenance the suggestion that the new road through this consumer estate be called 'Luddite Way' recommending 'Mandela Way' instead simply because the latter name was less divisive and inflammatory. Seeing the first suggestion provoked furious letters in local papers, in the event the much more business-like 'Rawfolds Way' was chosen).
What did these two talk about in the evening? Perhaps Rumney was listening to all of this? Perhaps he began to realise the area had something remarkable about it, or, at least a certain train of thought was beginning to penetrate suggesting there was something joyous and unrepressed about it where men could dress as women in a subversive way like Lady Ludd holding Enoch's hammer smashing up the machines (& madness) of capitalist industrialisation? Where industrialised manufacture was negating the Luddite lifestyle of a pleasant and fairly minimal working week of independent cottage employment, their revolt pointing skew whiff to the abolition of pointless overwork which capitalism, more than ever, depends on.
Perhaps EP Thompson was listening to Rumney also? The agonised Rumney must have been wringing his hands at the misery he'd caused his father but also cursing the repressive character of Halifax knowing he had no choice but to ship out. No doubt Thompson asked him about De Sade - for after all the guy was virtually banned in Britain - and no doubt Rumney was able to elaborate somewhat about sexual transgression of all varieties whether leading to a kind of death-in-life or a wonderful fulfilment. Though this is speculation none the less, I cannot help feeling this must have had an impression on EP. How could they have not discussed De Sade seeing, along with military desertion, it was the main reason Rumney had arrived on Thompson's doorstep in the first instance? Moreover, for his sexual transgression and anti-militarism Rumney had immediately been thrown out of the Young Communist League but wasn't Thompson also on the brink of leaving the CP? The East German workers uprising of 1953 wasn't far off leading to the even greater ferment of the Hungarian revolution of 1956? All this uncertainty surely must have been mulled over in some way.
Later, much later, in fact just before he died, EP Thompson wrote a book on William Blake, which I initially thought was meant to be oriented around Blake's fiery, and it seems, transgressive manuscript/notebooks with the lid off on sex and liberation that may even have been as profound as De Sade though that is probably doubtful. Different maybe. As we've sadly heard (but from where?) on Blake's death the manuscript it seems was instantaneously burnt and so typical of philistine England which regularly was to frequently resort to the same procedure throughout the next 200 hundred years. (My twin brother and myself have felt its scorching presence as our elder brothers and their wives put some of our subversive statements from the late 1960s to the flames). Evidently Blake's manuscript was amazing but we'll never know what it contained. Expecting something of a lascivious thriller, in the event the book by EP Thompson, 'Witness Against the Beast' was nothing of the sort and Blake's transgressions are hardly mentioned. Though Thompson brilliantly explains Blake in terms of a lost history of antinomianism which among other exhortations emphasising social injustice, proclaimed villages based on free love and sexual orgies in place of religious services, through which one experiences God or, experiences the God within oneself, had had its real focus initially among the Ranters in and after the English revolution of 1640-9. Open expression had been followed by Restoration persecution 'disappearing' underground and reappearing decades later in 'irregular' Methodism and others cults as well as in Blake around the time of the build up to the French revolution of 1789. Tepidly even pruriently stated, EP Thompson's book apart from this history is so monumentally dull yawning quickly kicks in, though I like to think, perhaps behind these concepts lies something of the shadow of Ralph Rumney and those forgotten conversations?
It also took an occasional student of Thompson's, Peter Linebaugh to fully explain much later something else that's extremely telling: Blake was to the forefront of the rioters that swept through London in 1780 in what was to become the massive conflagration of the Gordon Riots, ending up at Newgate prison which was burnt to the ground. On the walls an emblazoned mark was left: 'His Majesty King Mob'.
One of the antinomian sects that Thompson describes was the Muggletonians. In 1968 Thompson gave a lecture on William Blake at Columbia University in New York . At the time the place was in uproar with on-going strikes and occupations and going with the flow Thompson proclaimed himself to be 'A Muggletonian Marxist'. It went down well. Yet again the shadow of those early years in Halifax and passing acquaintance with Rumney was to the fore though by then, EP was blissfully unaware of its consequences. The occupation at Columbia University was heavily influenced by the New York Motherfuckers who used the freshly opened up terrain to promulgate some of the hippest notions of subversion many of them hot foot from the French situationists, ranging from radical sexuality, to the bankruptcy of culture via the destruction of the university with its propensity for a pointless, pedagogic learning completely removed from daily life, to even putting some of the Rector's prized artefacts on the makeshift barricades preventing full-scale police assault.
Back though to the 1950s. Though Thompson must have gone on to Rumney about his illuminating researches vis-a-vis the exploited, were the workers (to put it crudely) of any real interest to Ralph? Did EP soften him up on this level revealing a wider vision? Interestingly, work, workers, proletarianisation - call it what you will - never seemed to have any foci in anything Rumney wrote or said. Again was this down to our different backgrounds with RR a public school product (and thus so typical of the original English situationist milieu) we secondary modern school cannon fodder thrown together in gangs comprising weavers and miners off-spring with the occasional petty businessman's son thrown in for good measure? Some of this experience took years to sort out never mind sink in. On reflection years later, the elaborate, even bizarre oaths we all had to undergo to become members of a particular gang were more than reminiscent of the 'twisting in' pledges demanded of new Luddite recruits, perhaps meaning really explosive, historical moments die hard, if ever and we have EP Thompson's revelations to thank for being able to even begin to make such possible connections!
For Rumney enforced, alienated labour wasn't something that was to figure in his life. In fact it seems he had only one typical humdrum job in his life and that was as in telephone operator in 1968 when destitute in London having escaped from Peggy Guggenheim's private security agents in Italy and France who were trying to pin on him the blame for her daughter's suicide (Pegeen Guggenheim was Rumney's wife) he had little other choice. Well, that's usually the case for all of us who have no dosh. Yet later and interestingly Rumney never wrote or recalled these experiences; it seemed it was something to be forgotten, something to be quickly buried as soon as he was able to resume the serious business of the artists role. Yet in a way that should have been his renewed starting point if he'd really wanted to make a belated, concrete contribution to the fallout from the situationist critique as it was then generally encountering a much more proletarianised space after the late 1960s. (Writing on say a telephone operator's scams and/or how you push the power structure off your back in an office context would have most likely fascinated Guy Debord at that moment in time). Instead after 1970, Rumney was to become a broadcaster on the French radio station ORTF, a cadre role and the type of bullshit Rumney felt more at home with.
That down over direction was sadly not to be as his old ways of existence were too ingrained in him to make such a break. After all, as befitted a product of the English public school, Rumney always knew how to turn on the charm and con the system, how to play the enfant terrible as a form of entre and cache into a well-heeled, cultural coterie that the powers that be are acutely dependent on in soft selling their rapacious reality. He was therefore easily able to hob-knob with a kind of late 1950s, La Dolce Vita jet set in Italy and France, which with its entire early tabloid limelight, celebrity promoting tittle-tattle, was just coming on stream. This type of banal media expose was the type of thing that was bound to get the early adherents of the Situationist International, especially Debord, particularly uptight and Rumney was to pay the price: He was expelled. (Well, this together with a weakening cultural critique as he cultivated the likes of William Burroughs and other American Beats in Venice. In fact the two seemingly distinct scenes weren't that inseparable. As an aside to this, for me such drastic action was necessary as along similar lines in the late 1960s some individuals belonging to the King Mob milieu made a big banner for a London demonstration on which was emblazoned Burroughs' words: 'Storm the Reality Studios. Re-Take the Universe'. Even though these were perhaps the best lines Burroughs ever wrote it none the less sent out wrong, cultural signals).
In fact no matter how Rumney fell out of grace and favour with this cultural coterie he was forever to hang on to its coattails like the aforementioned ORTF job. It ruined him. All he could forever do was ceaselessly proclaim himself as 'a situationist artist' - an obvious contradiction in terms - hanging out producing more and more lamentable artistic offerings, mainly twee paintings and collages reminiscent of 50s and 60s vinyl LP covers. They were completely worthless as far as any genuine creativity was concerned. This evaluation isn't meant as any particular critical weakness inherent in Rumney's oeuvre rather it should be taken as a statement concerning the general creative bankruptcy of all art in this era and even more so since when nothingness can only be the essence of anything officially, or even unofficially, deemed part of the arts. In the age of the aesthetic economy the common thread is the redundancy of artistic form coupled with the redundancy of all the tons of empty prattle related to it and Rumney really did believe in art. In 'Le Consul', the interview-like book about certain aspects of his life, he says: 'Art once played a real role in society, and I thought it might be possible to reproduce that situation. In 1962, Debord didn't believe that at all. He was wrong I think'. No, Debord was utterly right.
Money though is quite a different matter and that's what the prattle essentially relates to; the massive wall of fictive capital, which imperiously must find an outlet in order to further enrich its self-consuming cancerous growth. The more Ralph got older gaining a reputation that grew daily because of his previous association with the Situationist International, the more his 'artistic' abominations were churned out, ever increasing in value dollar-wise thus occasioning the following very telling but nasty tale.
In the mid to late 1970s we collaborated somewhat with Infantile Disorders, a kind of studenty pro-situationist group in Leeds . There was something above the ordinary, run-of-the mill about the group though you could well see their limitations as none of them had really ever set foot into the big, brutish - and getting more brutish - outside world and which makes all the difference to genuine revolutionary critique. Its erstwhile 'leader' Dave Dunbar hailed from Newcastle and had been enormously influenced by the post-Icteric fall-out there. We kind of got friendly engaging in a few critiques and more especially he helped in the production of the book, 'Wildcat Spain Encounters Democracy' under the auspices of the now defunct BM Bis. Imagine our horror when we found out Dunbar had stolen all the money accruing from the sale of the book, money which was needed to fund a publication on subversion in Italy in the 1970s. (You can see the remnants of that project on the Revolt Against Plenty web). Threatening the guy with violence he immediately coughed up. It was thoroughly underhand and very unpleasant though he then went on to cross swords with Michel Prigent and Nick Brandt both rapidly finding him an unsavoury character.
Although a lot of us at the time extolled shoplifting, not paying fares, withholding rent and could manufacture gizmos allowing massive auto-reductions in telephone, gas/electric utilities and the like that didn't mean anybody and everybody were fair game to be taken to the cleaners, even more especially where it concerned close friends. Dunbar pretended friendship the more to create a vulnerability he could then exploit economically. An emphasis on crime without specifying precisely what was meant by acceptable crime thus fostered pathological character traits. These unpleasant incidents sharpened our critique of crime and its limitations. It was a sad lesson and we rightly fell back on a more popular, time-honoured Robin Hood example - robbing the rich to give to the poor - as anything else was more or less counterproductive in terms of the necessity of fostering compelling up-front and open vibrant personal relationships so necessary for over-turning this ever viler old world.
Then the toe rag Dunbar seemed to disappear. Imagine our amazement when he turned up again ten years later having in the meantime cultivated Ralph Rumney even organising an exhibition in London with Dunbar himself hosting lectures at the Tate & Lyle (as Michel Prigent tellingly renamed it). Naturally Michel picketed these performances handing out his usual amusing, often trenchant leaflets. Then, ah hah, we learnt Dunbar was up to his old tricks as he attempted to steal some of Ralph's pretty dire exhibits so he could make more dosh on the side. There it was again that horrible duplicity that simply broke people in two and finally executed in such an amateurish way you simply couldn't get you head round it! Moreover, as Geoff S, a friend said, with his trademark, brutally ironical guffaw: 'I hate incompetent dippers'! Rumney however was so hurt he never again spoke to Dunbar.
It wasn't long before we realised we'd inadvertently set Dave Dunbar on the track of Ralph Rumney. One night sometime in the mid to late 1970s a few of us were having a drink. Dunbar began to elaborate on some of his recent ideas on a new subversive human urbanism in relation to the atmospheric backgrounds in De Chirico's paintings. It had been a question that had fascinated others including the surrealists who'd asked individuals to point out where the sea was in specific De Chirico paintings. Dunbar further ruminated saying it was impossible to translate any of this haunting presence, this 'new melancholy' (as De Chirico had described it) into 3D human interactive space, or rather what were the problems involved and just how delicate? This was really fascinating stuff obviously set to encounter the fringes of the derive, then, as if it was an entrance cue, he asked me: 'Whatever happened to Ralph Rumney'? I hadn't a clue though I thought he was still in Venice venturing to suggest - without any foundation - that perhaps he'd got involved in something to do with urban restoration like saving the Doge's Palace from sinking into the surrounding lagoon. This in itself provoked an argument for or against urban restoration though the outcome was that Dunbar seemed quite determined to follow up the mystery of Rumney's present whereabouts and activity. And from Dunbar's initial quest others followed like Tom Vague, Stewart Home, Alan Woods, Malcolm Imrie and Andrew Hussey. (The truth is; it's doubtful if any of them would have shown any interest in Rumney if he hadn't been a proper artist/writer connected to the Situationist International. Can you imagine any of them doing the same to Patrick Cheval or Ben Trueman?)
Interestingly enough whilst googling through the Internet coverage on Ralph Rumney I expected Dunbar 's contribution to be prominent. It seems cyberspace does not acknowledge it though the very absence was also very telling. Was it too contentious in the sense it provoked the memories of Michel's caustic disruptions? Never the less I was forced into trying to remember the gist of Dave Dunbar's arguments but couldn't. Then in a flash it came back to me: Even way back then I couldn't understand the argument because the language was so dense and opaque peppered with long, incomprehensible words placed on the page, I suspect, for the sole purpose of obscurantism. Memorable it wasn't. As for Dunbar he later retrained as an IT software engineer joining the dwindling band of English surrealists and two friends of ours who lived in Leeds - we called them the Armley Surrealists - in the mid 1990s told us they found him 'a creepy guy'.
The problem with Ralph Rumney was that he couldn't make any clear break between the artistic past and the more visionary side of himself. He allowed the old world in its dead duck forms to smother all that was tantalisingly pointing to something that was a sweet wind blowing from the future in the best of his derives especially the investigation of London's Limehouse. It is a sad comment on modern times when comparing the situation say with a century and more earlier when De Quincey and Hazlitt who initially tried to write to poetry in the style of the earlier romantics like Wordworth, Coleridge or even Southey, when finding they were making a mess of things, quickly realised something ineluctable was unfolding within the spirit of the age. They took full heed of this new, beckoning spirit painfully realising in their different ways, the arts were dying and thus set off on the road of profound exploration never repeating, or returning to their early fumbling beginnings and inevitable mistakes. Sad to say Ralph Rumney could never get away from his mistakes; indeed he constantly returned to them pointing to that profoundly blocked dialectic strangling our times. Even his excellent, borrowed insight: 'the map in not the territory' was constantly revisited as art in the studio rather than a signpost on the hoped-for road leading to a passionate, vibrant, renewed daily life.
Ah yes, De Quincey! By the time Rumney hit early to mid 1950s London, De Quincey's central London rookeries around Tottenham Court Rd and Clerkenwell etc had all been well and truly cleared out, not to say completely neutered, replaced with a dull respectability. You had to go east to find anything that remotely approximated and Limehouse beckoned still retaining something of its 19th century character, though obviously far removed from the ambiences De Quincey had experienced. Limehouse was lined with terraced housing for those streets that had been lucky enough not to have been bombed by the Luftwaffe even though the houses were often cold and damp with wet cellars prey to the effects of the river and its constant fogs. (Rumney reckons he coined the 1950s phrase: 'London destroyed more by developers than the Luftwaffe'). A Chinese community existed there with more than the occasional opium den still hanging on though by then an emerging consumer market meant opening a Chinese restaurant offered a more lucrative future. Some quickly acquired chic status serving a growing number of artistic bohemians having chosen the area for its charm plus a nascent gay community then still criminalised. Both were attracted by cheap rents. The area also became a magnet for the changing face of London's gangland also fascinated by its informal atmosphere and the pub, the Prospect of Whitby became a hang-out as emerging Carry On film stars like Barbara Windsor (later governess of EastEnders, Queen Vic) hooked up with that vicious sadist Ronnie Knight (later exiled to the Costa del Crime in southern Spain) who started to glamourise the pub's name as Royalty in the name of Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon tarried with rough trade roles that Knight's crew obligingly deferred to. The coal cats that gave the Prospect of Whitby its original name were truly now serviced by a new - the original media-savvy clientele - meant glamour had arrived giving a new inflection to 'taking the piss'. (Originally the coal cats did the return journey to Newcastle-upon-Tyne laden with urine, denoted by the local east end population for a few precious pennies, hence 'taking the piss', bound for the alum quarries on the coast a mile north of Whitby and used to cure the alum important for among other things, pharmaceutical products which later were to form the basis of ICI on Teesside. There were often so many coal cats immaculately jammed together in Whitby's two harbours that there wasn't 'enough room to swing a cat'). It was indeed all this ambience, its changing tempo between the old and incoming febrile modernity that obviously so captivated Ralph Rumney; an entrancing embrace he enthusiastically communicated to his new European cohorts of the early Situationist International whom, no doubt instantly felt the same attraction when they visited the area.
Alas, like the derive it so inspired it was not to retain its 50s character simply because the dynamics of capitalism cannot let anything remain within its own organic propensity for whatever innovation might be needed and to prove the point, there's no need here to quote apposite lines from Marx as they as they are so plentiful in the pages of the Communist Manifesto to the Grundrisse to Theories of Surplus Value. Almost immediately Limehouse was torn apart as an ugly, pared down, cost-cutting pastiche of reductive modernist, square block urbanism did away with all the damp cellars and twisted alleyways. No more would there be the ghosts of Shadwell Stairs Wilfred Owen hauntingly invoked only a few decades previously. The destruction was carried out c/o the LCC (London County Council) precursor of the GLG (Greater London Council) and if former 'Red' Ken Livingdeath had been boss way back then he would have done exactly the same as today as he proceeds to viciously humiliate, trouncing all that's leftover of a decent and different, though still penniless, east London for the sake of some poxy Olympic Games!This appalling arsehole!
The derive, despite the fact that its precursors are still startlingly prescient in the history of the long, drawn out, demise of art searching for its limitless but ever more beautiful transcendence from the romantics through to Baudelaire, passed on to Rimbaud and so on is marked today by its absence; its final, forced exit. The Surrealist communal walks of the 1930s were to prove the beginning of the derives last, greatest and essentially most clearly conceptualised moment in the late 1950s within the orbit of the Lettrist International and what was to follow. It was of course an impulse wider than that coterie acting behind one's back as it were and there for the taking for anyone who cared to test the real temperature and smell of the urban terrain. It could be said that Jack Common's breathtaking book about Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the 1930s, 'The Freedom of the Streets' is in a way, a contribution to the derive though also a record of the most remarkable pub crawl ever recorded. And if we need to find more historical pedigrees, why shouldn't Engels's incredible book 'The Conditions of the Working Class in England in 1844' be considered here because regarding analysis of the ambiences of Manchester and central London urbanism and the cleverly discreet separation of the rich from the poor, it is incomparable?
Over the last decade I've felt something else about Ralph Rumney when considering derives and drifts. They concern another drift; the drift mines that once surrounded well over half of Halifax up to the 1850s. Here on these gaunt hillsides past the village of Mountain that connects Bradford to Halifax, I increasingly felt I was inhabiting an awesome place that once was something of a nightmare of child labour and brutal, back-breaking work that has evolved into a lonesome but ever-increasing paradise of biodiversity packed with now estranged industrial leftovers of abandoned, overgrown, often half-buried machinery whose original use you can only guess at, coming up against steep shale faces no doubt leading to subterranean passages where miners sweated and died knowing there was nothing in life but revenge and death. And where you can still find long, cool, very dark stone built tunnels built into the hillsides leading where? To a long gone quarry or a walk back to a hovel of a home? It is a massive area stretching through Shibden Dale to Holly Bank Bluff to the newish wind farm cresting Ovenden Moor overlooking Wuthering Heights, scene of the greatest anti-novel/novel ever written (well until James Joyce really did destroy the form of the novel) in that all sense of time and narrative is deliberately telescoped and stretched almost to the point of incoherence and where if God ever existed he was threatened with being dug up and destroyed. (No Russian Dostoyevskian sentimentality about religion here).
Yet this supreme, wild moorland site of industrial dereliction also harboured another more recent secret one also profoundly related to the disintegration and transcendence of art. It was here in the early 1970s the Angry Brigade were able to get up to some wild antics, even one might say some playful guerrilla training if that isn't today an over-loaded term and too misleading considering the stupid terrorist provocations of Islamic fascism. 'Ben' Trueman, the guy who'd doffed the Santa Claus outfit for the invasion of Selfridges' store on Oxford St, Xmas 1968, had become the tenant of an old Yorkshire stone cottage outside the village of Wainstalls above Halifax and high on the edge of Ovenden Moor where Ben worked for a local 'libertarian' farmer, a Mr Scholes who'd was a lapsed member of the Communist party. This lonely though sizable cottage was in the following years to become a wild scene of all kinds of seemingly insane activity and merry making and many is the time over the last few years around the table in Jim Greenfield's kitchen as the wine and dope flowed, story after story spilled out relating to these episodes that still had us falling on the floor with laughter.
This place and others including some of the old 19th century urban terrain of higgledy-piggledy landscape sometimes sets my teeth on edge because it is so remarkable. Yet did Ralph Rumney experience any of this and wouldn't he in any case have found it awful rather than aweful? Better Limehouse, better the left bank of Paris , and better Venice than this thankfully God-forsaken place. Yet when walking through these overgrown hillsides, hearing the cries of buzzards, observing green hairstreak butterflies or suddenly stumbling across rare plants that must have been blown here, who are you kidding? (These hillsides continually remind me of that delightful photograph of Breton and Peret trawling a butterfly net on a surrealist walk; a walk specifically organised as an insect discovery expedition). And if you meet anybody chances are a growing passionate conversation ensues that can cut to the bone of things (and their price) very quickly. I know, simply know that Ralph never talked to anyone at the sharp end in Halifax or Bradford, never mind showing any ecological interests, though he evinced an interest in natural history as a child. He didn't know, or rather didn't really know how to talk to those that finally really can overthrow the capitalist mode of production despite the fact his parson father was the son of a miner! And believe me when walking these forsaken transcendental hillsides, wrestling with its memories, I often think of Ralph Rumney, and what would he have made of the Angry Brigade and would he have been able to make the connection. I think it's fair to say RR wasn't interested in strikes or any kind of general insurgency. There's no way he could have discussed these things with any kind of depth never mind make any relation between these acts and a possible fertile ground for fruitfully evolving 'the map is not the territory'.
What I've said about these hillsides isn't really a prelude to an area deserving of a new derive, though it can relate perhaps to say, the Surrealist walks a la Earnshaw's and Thacker's English surrealist walks in and around West Yorkshire a few decades ago. We must face the fact the historical moment of the derive is long dead and gone. Essentially the fully conceptualised derive came about product of the lacunae between older, mainly 19th century areas tacked on to previous dwellings and the rise of mid 20th century town planning carried out with the assistance of quasi-architects with their cost-cutting audits, themselves pitiful reflections of what architects had been even 50 years previously. Any repeat of such experimentation rapidly becomes meaningless; either empty like Stewart Home's and Fabian Thompsett's attempt to recreate Rumney's, London Psychogeographical Society or, empty via some barren media stunt. Even in the late 1980s, Guillaume formerly of the French revolutionary grouping, Os Cangerceiros and more lately of 'the Happy Unemployed' in Germany said you could just to say consider an experimental derive in Latin American or south east Asian countries like Vietnam, countries sufficiently under-developed. Alas since then all this perspective has gone - and so speedily - as just-in-time prefabricated cities geared towards a push-fit, bolted together legoland are thrown up virtually overnight. Cities where, if the inhabitants did but know it, anything remotely approximating the passion of a derive is out of the question. What we have here are replicant cities where replicants replicate going hand in hand with the 'home' as the pivot of the aesthetic economy and realisation of all 'must-have' Bleak House commodities. None the less, Guillaume was for a while to play on derive fallout choosing odd and evocative places like old wartime, underground Berlin bunkers to host Happy Unemployed parties more, most likely, to keep the group together than create an aura of urban possibility.
Ralph Rumney was a handsome man. He had a passion for Michele Bernstein, the erstwhile, married companion of Guy Debord. The couple had an open relationship though as far as I know nothing in the early days of the Situationist International ever happened between Ralph and Michele in a sexual sense. Not that such tittle-tattle matters but deeper impulses do.
Guy and Michele broke up around 1970. Hardly surprising as everybody's did including my own; a break up, may it be said, I never got over and I've thought about my beloved Anne Ryder every day of my life since. Basically these break-ups weren't about sexual difficulties or inadequacies nor about not being able to relate or even love but finally about history and how the most profound revolt ever experienced, failed so utterly, and the essential by-product of such failure was a psychosomatic pain so desperate it seemed in need of therapeutic treatment; a treatment simple warm cuddling and quiet affection couldn't match. We stormed and smashed open the gates of paradise to let in every exploited nutter who cared to join in. We really did and yet on the brink of utopia were refused entry and where, just where could you go from such a point of no return? We didn't go far enough that's true but how, how, Howlin' Wolf, how?
Passions usually don't subside but go ape-shit forced into a hardly manageable sublimation, never to be fulfilled in the way they should have been. All that remain are tokens of the past, distorted memories sending you crazy. Coherence goes out of the window and the mind three sheets to the wind penetrating to the very essence of mores, irresistible in its growing perception of horrors you instantly knew were stacking up for the future.
I was no exception to such madness. One cold night so many years ago and out of my brains with misery and general erotic loss; a loss essentially around the growing eclipse of passionate love, I stood on the corner of Gt Titchfield St and Oxford St where De Quincey once stood waiting to meet with his beloved Annie, the kindly, destitute teenage prostitute he'd fallen in with. It was an arrangement he made a few days earlier having suddenly being called away on a courier's errand. She never turned up and although De Quincey searched and searched these then uncontrollable teeming streets for days on end, he was never to see his beloved Annie again and her absence was to forever haunt his life. For me I was also longing and searching for my own Anne, also from Manchester the city De Quincey originally hailed from. Completely insane, the two women had become collaged together in my fevered mind. Sometime later, much later, in a Grasmere churchyard in The Lake District where De Quincey vividly describes an astonishing laudanum fuelled dream where again he sees his beloved Annie sitting on a tombstone I too had another moment (though by then somewhat saner) when I hoped to see, to conjure up like a hologram, the two women sitting together; De Quincey's opium, wish-fulfilment of a dream having proved to be far more potent than banal reality.
Then there was another night sometimes in the early 1980s and I was talking with Michel Prigent and Lucy Forsyth about Guy Debord. Michel back then worshipped the guy (excuse the pun); a worship no matter whom or what it concerned, I've always found impossible to understand, seeing I'd never worshipped anybody or anything though profoundly respectful of those deserving of respect. Michel was talking about Rumney and Ms Bernstein. Debord had just told Michel how he'd thrown both of them out and what he had to say was rather different - and I think more accurate - than what has subsequently appeared in books e.g. Andrew Hussey's, "The Game of War". It seems Ralph Rumney had suggested to Guy he must be in the pay of the police in order to live out his the subversive lifestyle, and if he was paying them off could he help get him some official residents documents? Debord rightly went berserk and had shown them the door. By then it seems Rumney had decided to 'return' to revolution after a long, long absence. He thus re-invented himself donning a somewhat militant image proclaiming he was under threat from the police for being a dangerous man with dangerous views. Nothing could have been further from the truth and Ralph's dangerous phase was well and truly in the past. As we well know, he ventured to say: 'The police know who the real revolutionaries are, obviously they have to, it's their job'. But do they? Anybody who's been in any kind of trouble with the police relating to revolutionary theory and action knows Plod is pretty slow, even dumb regarding these matters.
Though I nodded, this tale was passed over with mild interest but then, almost as an afterthought, Michel laconically said - as if it was of little importance - that Michele Bernstein just before they broke up, asked Guy to whip her. Michel looked mildly perplexed and said Debord couldn't do it and that was that. It was mentioned as a casual fact; a comment without theory as to the whys and wherefores and yes, maybe it wasn't worthy of further elaboration.
None the less my mind raced. Why? To me it was now symptomatic of a maimed, imperious, genitalised impulse having tipped over from the essence of the expected beautiful social liberation, inseparable from the totality of liberation having utterly lost its way, even capsizing. The walls of the late 1960s were full of transcendental longings like: 'You say you love me. Oh say it with paving stones' or Vaneigem's: 'I love my love so much I wish to give her the magnificent bed of a revolution'. (My own somewhat Eng Lit biased King Lear reference was: 'Love comes empty handed like Cordelia bringing nothing' and that had been culled from Norman O' Brown's book, Love's Body). Failure to achieve any of this as vital years rolled by finally produced a cry of agony expressive of a new depression that had never figured in the clinicians' books on the subject; a new ugly concoction indicative of profound misery, darker mirror image of an earlier light-hearted erotic liberation and bringing with it the bottom line of a much greater emphasis on consumption. The backdrop to all this was an ever more invasive capitalisation as sex and 'love' went bizarre. Nor could it be satisfactorily described in the categories of traditional kinky responses, more to the realisation sex was entering the arena of something like a spectator sport and/or a form of commodified shopping compulsion endlessly repeated pointing to erotic absence, bringing no satisfaction; sex inseparable from an aberrant form of commodity fetishism which all relationships are forced to succumb to simply because there's no internal escape from capitalism and no place to hide. It does mean though we cannot blame couples or individuals succumbing to its invisible might mangling relationships everywhere in its deadly embrace and, least of all, paragons of revolution like Guy Debord and Michele Bernstein.
Behind the scenes such darkness reflected the movement of capital from relative openness to a growing ultra-repression; from Eros to Thanatos; from the making of capital to the consuming of capital concentrated especially in America alongside a more subordinate Europe. It has culminated in an immense success for capitalism the like of which history has never seen at the same time as it is rapidly proving to be the most pyrrhic of pyrrhic victories one bringing on the extinction of most life on this planet. In 1968 I painted on a London wall: 'The Sky Has Died' and little did I realise at the time how telling such observation was to become as I see my clumsy, spray painted handwriting reproduced over and over again. Perhaps too, seeing the times are so dire, the definitive moment of loser wins is again returning.
All old, pre-'68 relationships abandoned, a little later Guy was to take up - and marry - a much younger woman, Alice Becker-Ho which came about most likely as by-product of his growing fame which was reaching the point of adulation. Such meaningless worship possibly contributed to Debord's suicide simply because his razor sharp perceptions couldn't live with the falsity of such fame. Later too Michele Bernstein was to marry Ralph Rumney and for a time Ralph lived with her in Salisbury in Wiltshire. (One thing I could never get over here was how all these libertarians needed to marry and divorce! I always liked a comment Bruce Elwell threw off when talking to him in the late 1970s concerning somebody belonging to an ultra-leftist outfit called 'Zero Work': Bruce a former American member of the SI quipped: 'He believed in really straight things like divorce'. Bruce was a divorcee!)
At the same time, Ms Bernstein was contributing paid for articles to the newspaper, Liberation in Paris, a hotchpotch of post '68 Mao Spontex leftism and anything else you care to mention ever weakening throughout the years. It was though a relationship based on pre-1968 memories, never facing up to the new complexities and the horrible Pandora's Box of a post 1960s world that was gradually going utterly insane. Seeing nostalgia was really the only basis between Rumney and Michele it couldn't last and the relationship broke up. Neither Michele nor Ralph could abandon or rather supersede art. They couldn't escape its contradictory modernism/anti modernism via a kind of more clued-in post-Dadaism. It simply wasn't sharp-edged enough.
It is said that Ralph Rumney argued with Georges Bataille about eroticism but like EP Thompson previously what was discussed is irretrievably lost. This new mood beginning in the early 1970s, this new darkening, unwelcome passage to Hades found itself mirrored in the writings and interests of the French surrealist, George Bataille. From the late 1950s to the early 1970s his book, 'The Accursed Share' was given great prominence in any discussion of the surplus most societies, primitive or modern, throw up, whether in a potlatch of destruction, festivity or the bestowing of fabulous gifts. The book even celebrated somewhat the contemporary American Marshall Plan! Now Bataille was re-defined and his sadomasochistic researches or obsessions came much more to the fore and were rather more alarming than his growing collection of objet trouve medical experiments like pickled babies in kilner jars. I for one could never forget Andre Breton's pithy but sharp riposte, noting his 'scatological obsessions' which went something, like: 'Bataille loves wallowing in shit. We don't'. The revolutionary side of Bataille was thus eclipsed and ever after there's been a surfeit of 'wallowing' everywhere suiting swathes of pornographic imagery and the language of aggressive marketing (e.g. initiated by the former Benetton ads), as well as more informed Batailleistas like the Chapman Bros commoditizing horror in saleable safe, artistic form, to Stewart Home's novels of sexualised mutilation etc. Bataille's canonisation - if you like - was fully secured in 2006 with the promotional surrealist exhibition at London 's Hayward gallery instigated by the art historian, Dawn Ades. For those somewhat more clued in, though still lacking, is it possible to say there's little difference between Bataille's oeuvre and Lautreamont's, 'Songs of Maldoror'? I'd reply saying, though the latter on the surface is a hideous book that's impossible to comfortably like, at the same time, page after page, line after line, there's a subtlety now fully open, now somewhat disguised, shot through with a materially transcending perspective pointing beyond horror. Lautreamont offers unequivocal hopes of revolution, though without deploying the word or concept, Bataille apart from the profundity of 'The Accursed Share' doesn't (though in the 1930s in 'Contra-Attaque' he held Trotskyist sympathies) but I bet Rumney's argument wasn't pitched on this necessary level! Later the latter lamely said about Bataille: 'I didn't agree with his interpretation - but I cannot remember my conversation'. Moreover, remember Lautreamont, to say the least, mocked art's limitations, Bataille revelled in them reviving the novel and praising Francis Bacon's paintings to the skies. No wonder Stewart Home feels so safe with him.
I would have liked to have discussed some of this train of thoughts with Os Cangerceiros that heavily situ-influenced group from France mentioned previously. True you could raise some such thoughts but only go so far sometimes tramping the hills around Halifax as we did especially and so often with the delightful and warm hearted Morgane and sometime with Pete our mutual friend. Morgane was a woman who was only eight years old when May '68 exploded in France remembering really well the kiddy occupation of her school. For sure, she had read every word of Guy Debord but I cannot recall we ever talked about Ralph Rumney looking down on Halifax from windswept moor tops. As for the Kangaroos (as Os Cangaceiros was nicknamed) they were delighted that Michele Bernstein in the pages of Liberation had praised their book, called 'Tendre Venin' (Gentle Poison) on the Chiapas uprising in Mexico in the early 1990s, which was one of the best on the uprising despite a too profiled concentration on the Zapatista army and not enough on the local people. As for myself I always wondered why Michele and Ralph had to live in Salisbury. What was wrong with those really down home hills and the great sites of industrial dereliction?
As for Ralph Rumney having broken up with Ms Bernstein, he went to live in Monasque, a thoroughly bourgeois town in Haute Provence where he continued to paint and continued to drink himself silly (not that there's anything wrong in the latter activity). He died aged 67 in 2002.
For Liverpool Vicki: David Wise. July 2007
Footnote On Yves Klein:
It is said that Ralph Rumney introduced the work and thoughts of Yves Klein to London after Klein's exhibition - more publicity coup - in the small Iris Clert gallery on the Rue des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1958. There's no point here in enumerating in detail what Klein got up to other than to note he played on radical ideas as so many others did around this time and throughout the following decade simply because it was the done thing to do. Most of this was nebulous experimentation that was neither one thing nor another and few pushed things through to an incendiary revolutionary conclusion. Even novelist supreme, Simone de Beauvoir could pontificate endlessly on the end of the novel without taking her conclusions seriously as a jumping off point for something far more cutting edge. (Everywhere much of this critique was deployed opportunistically, though today, of course, there's nothing like this spirit of enquiry around).
Klein tried to encapsulate a modern dialectic of opposites bringing into play ideas redolent of the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclites as well as modern tomes like Gaston Bachelard's 'The Psychoanalysis of Fire'. These opposites for Klein were presented in a mystical/artistic way and hardly the stuff that had kept Hegel so grounded. Within this 'flow' were incorporated certain absolutes from modern art: Mallarme's blank page, Malevich's 'White on White', Rodchenko's 'Black on Black'; tabla rasas pointing to an end and a new (explosive?) beginning. For Klein this 'new' beginning was initiated by way of 'the void', the immaterial and IKB (International Klein Blue), which was an approximate memory of the intense blue skies above the beach at Nice he felt an intense empathy with as a child. It was though a pseudo beginning, one that was merely pastiche and imitation and none of this 'experimentation' encountered the real subversive drift of the time, which was assiduously avoided. His tabla rasa wasn't a springboard towards a practical 'recovery through transfer' (a profound concept of Marx's I've mentioned elsewhere here in the context of bebop) but the re-definition of the mystical playing to the tune of the death of art whereby 'the ashes of my art' became a requiem put up for sale; part of 'the void' sold for gold rather than taking payment in francs, half thrown into the Seine half kept. Such acts all added to radical image making though with no substance behind them because Klein wasn't anti political economy as such. (At that point in time the Situationist International of 1957 had refused to sell anything and rightly had got Klein's number!)
Throughout part of the Icteric years in Newcastle-upon-Tyne - to be exact from 1965 to early 1967 - we took Yves Klein seriously though this was due more to our youthful uncertainty and naivety than anything else. Ron Hunt of course wrote about him and Klein seemed to mirror our growing wider concerns as we groped towards a revolutionary totality. At the time despite being a distorted perspective, the doors were being opened to dialectics, to bad taste (Klein had said 'I howl it from the rooftops: Kitsch, Corn, Bad Taste' though in truth we preferred Andre Breton's: 'In the bad taste of my epoch I wish to go further than any other' a slogan that was duly spray painted on a wall), the end of art and the wider transformation of the environment. We thus took an interest in Klein's architecture; or rather anti-architectural schemes pointing towards a sophisticated technology discreetly placed underground allowing a naked new Eden to run a mock on top. We were also interested in personalised forms of flying a la Malevich's proposals for slow flying white squares and Klein's attempts to fly like a bird, maybe to replace birds, also grabbed us. We liked his emphasis on the elements; on fire, air and water particularly as Icteric emphasised the other element ' earth - and we can claim the dubious (dis)honour of initiating land art in these islands. By the middle of 1967 all this was definitively pushed aside and very rapidly, as the real perspective of a total revolution revealed its shape. For sure we still wanted the new Eden but by then we knew how to get it and that had more to do with Detroit going up in flames via the re-awakened anger of the exploited, than schemes flattering a particular artistic ego and the growing bank account behind it. (Finally the truth of the matter is, we - about 7 or 8 individuals - in Newcastle's remote urban backwater went on to make theory and action far more coherent than anything Klein or Rumney ever did).
Maybe the above is kind, far too kind to Yves Klein. If the guy had lived - he died at an early age of a heart attack - he would have been pilloried on the barricades of May 1968 and that would have been that. But it wasn't to be and periodically Klein's memory keeps returning in the form of a watered down cultural radicalism pretending to encompass some kind of totality. In the mid 1970s David Jacobs and Chris Winks, wrote a somewhat interesting pamphlet called 'At Dusk' critical of some of the delusions prevalent in the American pro-situationist circles and among other things, broadly the argument fell back heavily on a Freudian interpretation of many of these foibles. A little later meeting Chris Winks in London in the company of one or two others, the conversation somehow got round to Yves Klein and it took me a while to recollect what precisely were my criticisms of the guy. I was quite surprised by the interest shown wondering what was intended. By then Chris Winks was just to say helping play a major part in producing a magazine called 'Processed World' oriented around the early days of the white-collar computer slave interminably nailed down to a re-vamped office desk. Chris had become one such slave himself. Indeed it was a very interesting magazine even if the articles were often uneven but I always looked forward to reading it. Over the years though I couldn't help but notice how the critique of culture contained within its covers was getting sloppier and sloppier.
Then the magazine seemed to fold. Around 2005, a well rehearsed, installation art phenomenon hit the London stage called The Blue Man Group. I couldn't be fooled; the blue was unmistakeably IKB (International Klein Blue) and a little later it came as no real surprise to find that a Chris Wink (the 's' had been dropped) was responsible for much of this display. It was as if the guy was ashamed of his re-accommodation with culture trying perhaps to hide his name? Unmistakeably too, around the same time an ad became prominent on TV promoting Intel Centrino IT technology as the best CPU processor on the market. A blue man flew through the air on a skateboard and the connection with the now defunct 'Processed World' became blindingly obvious. And the man on the skateboard: Why it was a simulation of Yves Klein flying through the air'''
DW: Early Summer. 2007
For further recent commentary related to the above read the following in the "Wreckage & bric-a-brac" series: