OTO at Ikon: David Toop

In the early 1970s, Carlyle Reedy, Paul Burwell and David Toop were invited to perform in Flanagan’s exhibition at the Rowan Gallery, London, though little remains of this improvised performance as it was not recorded or filmed. For Ikon, Toop explores the ghostliness of such events, disinterring memories from virtually nothing – a photograph, voices of living witnesses (if they can be persuaded) or perhaps instruments and gestures used over 45 years ago.

There is a backstory to this event and a brief outline of the story will help to make sense of things. First of all, Keiko Yamamoto invited me to perform in the context of this Barry Flanagan exhibition at Ikon. What she didn’t know is that I performed in another Barry Flanagan show in the early 1970s. That was at the Rowan Gallery in Bruton Place, central London, and I performed with percussionist Paul Burwell and Carlyle Reedy’s Monkey Theatre, which was, on that occasion, Carlyle and Roy Cramer. I recalled almost nothing other than the fact the we played, possibly on a Saturday morning, then all repaired to the pub. The pub was called The Guinea – that I learned during a psychogeographic trip to Bruton Place recently. There was a faint memory of the audience including John Latham, Barbara Steveni, Barry Flanagan, perhaps Marie Yates, perhaps not.

Paul Burwell, John Latham and Barry Flanagan are no longer with us. To my knowledge there was one photograph of this performance, now lost, so it became a mystery as to how it happened or what happened. What I remember about that photograph is that I was playing a long bamboo flute, self-made.

A lenthy conversation with Carlyle Reedy on the 28 September, 2019, gave me some insight along with clues. She had one photograph, a different photograph, herself costumed, performing in front of a mirror with cello and basket, all part of the exhibition. That at least helped me to pinpoint the Barry Flanagan exhibition, which turned out to be called Homework, running from 10th November to 7 December, 1972, so almost exactly 47 years ago. Her costume was made of string, a lot of it, and Vilene, a material I incorporated into my solo performance at Ikon. I also brought the long bamboo flute, along with a recording of Paul Burwell playing percussion and the edited recording of my conversation with Carlyle.

The memories are frayed and tattered, all these wisps distributed among individuals, ancestors and ghosts, sounds and gestures lost to the air, like a sculpture that slips through the fingers. 

Sound Recording – Samuel Rodgers

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