It Was 40 Years Ago Today

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A research project devoted to uncovering and archiving the history of Performance Art in Wales.

Prosiect ymchwil i ddadorchuddio ac archifo hanes Celf Perfformio yng Nghymru.

Winner of the David Bradby TaPRA Award for Research in International Theatre and Performance 2011.

If you have any information on performance in Wales that could be of use to the project, please get in touch!

Whether you are an artist who has made performance work in Wales, or an audience member who once witnessed a performance (voluntarily or involuntarily!), we would be pleased to hear from you.
Any material will be of interest - from actual pieces of documentation to vague memories of events caught out of the corner of one's eye.
mail@performance-wales.org

Cysylltwch â ni os oes gennych unrhyw wybodaeth am berfformio yng Nghymru a allai fod o ddefnydd i'r prosiect!

Efallai eich bod yn artist sydd wedi gwneud gwaith perfformio yng Nghymru, neu'n aelod o gynulleidfa a welodd berfformiad unwaith (o'ch gwirfodd neu'n anwirfoddol!). Pwy bynnag ydych chi, hoffem glywed gennych.
Bydd unrhyw ddeunydd o ddiddordeb - o ddogfennau gwreiddiol i atgofion amwys am ddigwyddiadau a welwyd o gornel y llygad.
Mae'r manylion cyswllt wedi'u rhestru dan 'Cyswllt' yma, neu gallwch anfon e-bost i'r cyfeiriad hwn: mail@performance-wales.org

Project Director Cyfarwyddwr Prosiect: Heike Roms
Dept Theatre, Film and Television Studies, Aberystwyth University
Adran Astudiaethau Theatr, Ffilm a Theledu Prifysgol

Contact: Professor Heike Roms
Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies
Adran Astudiaethau Theatr, Ffilm a Theledu Prifysgol
Aberystwyth University
Adeilad Parry-Williams Building
Aberystwyth SY23 3AJ,
UK phone ffon: (+44) 1970 - 621911 (direct uniongyrchol) mail@performance-wales.org

Funded by Wedi ei drawsgronni gan:
ARTS AND HUMANITIES RESEARCH COUNCIL (AHRC) (2009-2011)
(CYNGOR YMCHWIL Y CELFYDDYDAU A’R DYNIAETHAU) (2009-2011)
ARTS COUNCIL OF WALES (ACW) (2006-2008)
CYNGOR CELFYDDYDAU CYMRU (CCC) (2006-2008)
SIR DAVID HUGHES PARRY AWARD 2006, 2008
ABERYSTWYTH UNIVERSITY RESEARCH FUND (2007)

AHRC logo and link to website

Aberystwyth University Logo and link to website

Arts Council Wales logo and link to website

National Lottery Logo

Copyright © 2011 All Rights Reserved
Hawlfraint © 2011 Cedwir pob hawl

What's Welsh for Performance? Beth yw 'performance' yn Gymraeg?

:15 events from 15 years: 1968

:1965 :1966 :1967 :1968 :1969 :1970 :1971 :1972 :1973 :1974 :1975 :1976 :1977 :1978 :1979

      

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Ivor Davies; with: Lois Turner, John Phillips, Ian Breakwell, Jackie Breakwell, Jackie and the members of THE 98% MOM & APPLE PIE WEST COAST ROCK'n'ROLL BAND

Adam on St.Agnes' Eve (a multimedia presentation) (also: Experimental Theatre Event) (also: Still Life Story)

21 January 1968

Swansea: Debates Chamber, Union House

University College of Swansea Arts Festival

[Photos: Ian Breakwell; score; bag handed out to audience members to place over their heads; courtesy of Ivor Davies Archive Collection (Private)]

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'Gustav Metzger who was the originator of DIAS was invited to Swansea University for the 1968 Festival where I and a number of other people were involved in destructivist performance....'
(Ivor Davies, 'Editorial', LINK 52 (1986): p.2.)

'This is another thing I did here in Swansea where the whole thing was [sic!] dark, huge room and there were bird songs coming out. It was just like a dark forest of green and red lights. Then figures moved across and slides and film projected on pieces of cardboard. Then I had a figure dressed as a surgeon, Ian Breakwell. I had projections of Adam and Eve on nude figures and the figures were behind a sheet of paper and he cut out round the sheet of paper to reveal these nude figures, a man and a woman, Adam and Eve.' (Kristine Stiles: Interview with Ivor Davies, LINK 52 (1986): 10)

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Ivor Davies. The performance was called Adam on St Agnes Eve because it was done on Sunday 21st January 1968 and prepared during the winter of 1967. I generally used to prepare performances quite carefully. I've kept all sorts of things from that event, even the tickets, an obsessive sort of collection of things. Here is a score which lists the sound, the cues, the explosions and the timing of the explosions, the lighting, the projections, the performers, the actions and props, other objects that were used, and then times it exactly. 7.30 it began and 8.05 it was supposed to finish. What I tried to do was to remove myself from the performance physically. I wonder if it would work if I said what was happening in the film while we are watching it, oh yes … This is the beginning. 7.30. Recording of birdsong, which I'd taken from the Ornithological Society, and red and green spotlights on the floor, which give this feeling of a forest. [In response to a performer appearing on screen] I really don't remember inviting him …

Heike Roms. Who was he, do you know?

ID. I don't know who he was.

HR. But is he in it? I mean, he's naked and painted.

ID. Well he's in it, yes, but I didn't ask him to do it. That kept happening – when you tried to organise something very precisely, things like that happen… There's a large paper screen across the front of this big room in Swansea University. There's an amplification of silence 10 minutes later and a blackout followed by gunfire and sounds of war and then a tape recording of children playing and also projections on the screen. The white screen had projected on it the details of anatomical figures and of Albrecht Dürer's Adam and Eve , and a nude figure of a girl wheels forward an operating trolley and a man dressed in a surgeon's outfit [the artist Ian Breakwell ] comes forward to cut the screen. Various boxes, some entirely covered with lips, some entirely covered with eyes, move around with figures in them – two by two slides are projected on the screen. A pianist enters, sits at a grand piano and plays a chord at the same time as each cut is made, and there are three explosions. There are actually all together I think nine explosions, they are carefully punctuated. I think the pianist had red light shining on her and it grows stronger until the fourth explosion. The projector continues to show slides, there are about six cuts made in the screen with a scalpel. The piano continues throughout the performance, lights flash to accompany the cuts. It's difficult to read the writing after forty years but these various instruments are handed to the surgeon and the cuts are made to very specific parts of the body, the right arm, the left arm … [Film ends] Well, that's the end of that. It probably sounded as if it was nothing to do with the film but that's what happened.
[...]

HR. [..]. You are from Penarth originally and then went to Edinburgh to work in the university. So how did the invitation to do something in Swansea come about?

ID. John Plant was the person who was organising the students union festival at the university and he'd invited Gustav Metzger to do a piece of sculpture there and then I was invited. There was a very big audience, two or three hundred perhaps. And it seemed to go down quite well because the students were very open-minded. I felt when I had done that first performance in Edinburgh in 1966 that the people were art lovers, and maybe it didn't quite go down as well with them because the destruction in art might have been confused with the destruction of art.

HR. Although in the Swansea piece you actually do symbolically destroy an art work, although not the original, of course. You have the Dürer reproduction there projected, which gets cut open by the surgeon, and then the real bodies of Adam and Eve step through that.

ID. The real bodies of Adam and Eve are exposed. They just stand there.

HR. So there is an element of destruction of art, of destroying a painterly figurative representation of the body,

ID. Yes, I suppose there is a virtual destruction of a sort, also of the human body. It's very interesting when things happen at the same time and people want to claim primacy. I remember telling Mark Boyle about this performance and he said he'd done the same thing, cutting a sheet of paper open – he had done it with Botticelli's Birth of Venus , which I think is a beautiful idea. Shortly after we discussed that, he published the work – I think there was an anxiety to publish things at that time to show that you had done it in case somebody accused you of plagiarism. There was a desire for primacy.

HR. Are you aware of people in Wales responding to this work in the late 1960s, having seen it and maybe creating work of that sort in the aftermath?

ID. Absolutely nobody. [...]

(Ivor Davies in conversation with Heike Roms, Cardiff 15 October 2007)

For the full transcript of the conversation click here.

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For more information on the event and on its available documentation search our database.

Or listen to our oral history conversation with Ivor Davies about the event.