In 2005, having long loved Samuel Beckett’s writing and recently read the wonderful biography Damned to Fame, Lara characteristically found out how to get in touch with the author, James Knowlson, and wrote to him. At his suggestion we got the train to Reading and a bus to the university to find, off a corridor in the upper floors of its musty 1970s library building, the place where all Beckett’s letters and books were being kept. The archivist, Julian Garforth, was one of the few people alive who could read Beckett’s handwriting. He was extraordinarily generous with his time and enthusiasm. I saw the funny little cartoons that Beckett drew in margins. I saw conkers from a tree in the garden of his house in a French village where he went to write. It was the hundredth anniversary of his birth the next year, so I had an idea to make my name with some tie-in art. I took some photos on that first visit, and thanks to Julian Garforth I took more and made some video on another visit a few months later. 2006 came and went, but I still like these photos and the video. It’s all here.
The archive was soon moved to an environmentally controlled basement of the Museum of English Rural Life, where you can’t just visit and leaf through the pages, and Julian Garforth doesn’t work there any more.
It is what it is. Bukhulubakhe Mchunu, AKA Induna, AKA Nicholas, is also a musician. I was hoping to work in some footage of him rehearsing with his dancers, but it would have been a bit corny. I finished editing this in 2016.
I must have fallen asleep, for all of a sudden there was the moon, a huge moon framed in the window. Two bars divided it in three segments, of which the middle remained constant, while little by little the right gained what the left lost. For the moon was moving from left to right, or the room was moving from right to left, or both together perhaps, or both were moving from left to right, but the room not so fast as the moon, or from right to left, but the moon not so fast as the room. But can one speak of right and left in such circumstances? That movements of an extreme complexity were taking place seemed certain, and yet what a simple thing it seemed, that vast yellow light sailing slowly behind my bars and which little by little the dense wall devoured, and finally eclipsed. And now its tranquil course was written on the walls, a radiance scored with shadow, then a brief quivering of leaves, if they were leaves, then that too went out, leaving me in the dark. How difficult it is to speak of the moon and not lose one’s head, the witless moon. It must be her arse she shows us always. Yes, I once took an interest in astronomy, I don’t deny it.
from Molloy by Samuel Beckett
While I was at Central St Martins I played with bricks and paint, went back into my comfort zone of photography and video, started to get bored by my own work, had a bit of a crisis, doodled my way out of it, and worked my way up to this, my degree show piece. I was rather pleased with it. They weren’t.
At first I was predictably dismissive of Tracey Emin and walked around her 1999 Turner Prize show thinking “self-indulgent”, “hype” etc until I saw a video the Tate had made about her. Seeing and hearing her talk about the work made me realise two things: she meant it and it wasn’t easy. And made me reflect on how little I was personally at risk in what I did. So I thought about how I could be as frank and honest as her in my own way. The first fruit was a series of ten photographs – a roll of 6×7 – of myself, identically framed and posed. The rest, you’ll have to see for yourself, but I’m not putting them on the internet. Not now.
1 August 1982. The decades have degraded the colours in the negative in quite a groovy way. This was a graving dock at the West Float, Birkenhead, where I used to row at Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club.
Whenever I don’t know what to take a picture of, I tend to take a picture of rocks. Point the camera at something without trace of human interference. Texture, process stilled in time. Then I look at the picture and think, I like it, but this is a bit old hat, isn’t it? But I keep on doing it. So I made all these pictures into a slide show.
It’s Mount Olympus, 1994; Point G, Bamako, Mali, 2004; river Niger, near Bamako, 2004; Constantine Bay, Cornwall, 2004; Hackney, 2005. Shown in Unhuman.