Monday, 26 October 2009

Goodbye to Scratch

The Orchestra effectively came to an end in 1971 after a process of internal wrangling over the purpose of what we were doing. A group around John Tilbury and Keith Rowe, soon to be joined by Cardew, developed a Marxist-Leninist critique which castigated the open playfulness of the Scratch as at best flippant and at worst reactionary.

Recognition of the crisis was confirmed with the project to build a cottage as an environment for activity, designed by Stefan Szczelkun, for the contributions of the Scratch Orchestra to the Arts Spectrum Exhibition at Alexandra Palace, for two weeks in August. (Cardew 1974 p17)

This cottage was to have housed The Refuse Collection. This was a collection of Scratch members' conventional (old) artworks. It was also a place for discussion.

From Chapter 1: 'Collective Provenance: authorial reflexivity' of Stefan's PHD thesis and somewhat biography

For some context on why Stefan was building shanty-style houses in the Ally Pally in 1971 you can read the intro to his great work 'The Conspiracy of Good Taste'.

In 1971 I was in The Scratch Orchestra when it was visiting Newcastle and the North East to do its 'dealer concert' series. These became notorious through the media sensationalising Greg Brights piece 'Sweet FA'. The local papers reported that the well known composer Cornelius Cardew had written 'fuck' on scraps of paper and handed them to children. At about the same time I was preparing my study of basic shelters, later to be published by Unicorn Bookshop in Brighton as 'Survival Scrapbook 1: Shelter.'. Unicorn Bookshop, with the beat poet Bill Butler at the helm, had itself recently been taken to court in one of the rash of obscenity trials at around this time; I think it was for selling 'The Little Red Schoolbook'.

We were camping just outside Newcastle near the village of Overton. Just across the river was a brightly coloured settlement of about fifty 'shanty' houses. These intrigued me. They were startlingly different from the normal speculative, council or vernacular housing. Many were based on an inventive adaptations that had grown from a basic van or shed. Their improvised collage of found or cheap materials had a direct parallel in our activity in the Scratch Orchestra and I took a morning off to photographs them. Later as I travelled about the country I discovered more and more of these shanties. Although they enjoyed a minor architectural vogue at the time and I wrote short articles for Architectural Design Magazine and Radical Technology, it was to be almost twenty years before the full implications of my fascination with these structures would become clear to me.

1 comment:

  1. this is so cool!

    reminds me of the collaboration between Le Corbusier and Varèse.