In roughly 1966 I became a member of London's ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art). At that time the club was situated at it's old address in Dover Street; off Piccadilly. Later in 1968 it moved to Pall Mall and became much bigger and much grander. I then allowed my membership to lapse.
The ICA was London's best venue for everything new and innovative in painting, sculpture, poetry, 'happenings', and any other wacky event you could imagine. I spent a lot of time there, and, on one occasion was allowed to exhibit in The Library.
I attended many wonderful events, and met many interesting and well known people from the art world. Dover Street was very much a club, and members intermingled around the bar (rather like the Chelsea Arts Club today). All this changed when they moved to Pall Mall, and the personal touch disappeared.
One of the most memorable events I witnessed was a 'concert' given by Frenchman Henri Chopin. Chopin was a composer of music created using his own body (growling as he pressed a mike against his throat, etc). He worked with a multi track reel to reel tape recorder, and overlaid various bodily sounds to create 'music'; which he then played back as a completed work. He was not only fun, but he created work of pure genius.
After his 'concert' we all retired to the bar, and I chatted to M Chopin for about half an hour. He was just an 'ordinary' person (if there is such a thing), who found personal expression through sound. He was one of those extraordinary people who just did something because he enjoyed it, and thought no more of it than that. He told me that he intended to move to England; I mentioned that I dreamed of moving to France.
Looking at his photo (which I found thanks to Google images) brings it all back.
A wonderful man.
How sad that many establishments that move to new ''improved'' premises do seem to lose the atmosphere that made them popular.ReplyDelete
Certainly the case with the ICA. Those who didn't know it before wouldn't have understood. Previously it had been an artist's club. Later it became an exhibition centre.Delete
My father à music professor met Chopin at the documenta 8. I do not rembember exactly the date 1987 ? I must confess Chopin's "Klangkunst" as it is called in German get on my "nerfs".You were a very young member of the ICA . I thought it was a very closed cercle and that one must be a confirmed artist already to get à membership.ReplyDelete
Not at all. I was managing a small London art gallery at the time, and members were encouraged from all walks of life. I didn't start at Art College until 1969.Delete
Concrete poetry is all I know of him.. The ICA is still going strong and a good place to see something different in the world of art. I note from looking at Chopin this morning that he died here in Norfolk at his daughter's house not far from me.ReplyDelete
So, he did move to England. I remember him saying that London was the centre of all things innovative, and that's why he wanted to move.Delete
Yes the ICA is still a top venue for exhibitions etc, but it doesn't compare to the old Dover Street club.
As you say people are only 'ordinary' if we consider them (or ourself) to be ordinary. Some of the most talented and famous (in their field) people I know are also the most 'ordinary' in everyday life.ReplyDelete
The pompous ones are best avoided.Delete
Mr Chopin looks as though he had enjoyed the same hedonistic lifestyle as I do. Yes, I remember when the ICA used to buzz, before it became mainstream. I used to go out with a girl whose Great Grandfather was commemorated as a life-size bronze statue, sitting on a horse, standing on a pedestal at the top of the steps which lead down to the ICA. He's still there, I think.ReplyDelete
I remember the steps down, but not the horseman. I once attended a marathon chalk drawing that went down the steps; I might do a piece about it one day.Delete
I remember his face quite well, but it wasn't as 'lived-in' as in the photo. It must have been taken much later.Delete
This brought back thoughts of my first husband, who - as you know - was a painter and I. He was a member of the Royal Academy and we always went to the private viewing day of the Summer Exhibition.ReplyDelete
That is until the veil was lifted from our eyes and we realised that really people only went to be seen, and this was brought home to us when the canape plates and the empty wine glasses were all left on the various sculptures etc. We never went again.
I had a portrait accepted one year, and when it came to hanging it they dropped it and scratched the surface quite badly. I was paid £20 insurance money, and the painting was returned. Just my luck!Delete
This brought me back to my college days in the late 60's. Nonprogramatic music (avant garde) was at its height. I remember a choral group who sang in pig latin, french and german simultaneously for a whole concert. I also think that was the time whale conversation recordings were first sold on vinyl. It was all about the experience and the art!ReplyDelete
I went to all sorts of weird and wonderful concerts and 'happenings' in the late 60's. I even once cut off most of Yoko Ono's clothes on stage. It was a era of great experiments.Delete
Sounds like a column for another day. ;-)
Henri Chopin did move to England... Norfolk, in fact... somewhere in the middle near Dereham.ReplyDelete
I had the pleasure of seeing him perform... at Norwich Beer Festival...
he actually silenced the chatter... a rare thing at a beer festival!!
I can't remember which year, because I went almost every year!! To all sessions...
I then tried to see him in King's Lynn... much closer to home... but was too late to get a ticket... shame.
But there are recordings around, I think. To me he's a real musician... the famous classical Chopin wrote what I call... plinky-plonky music!
I've found some from 2005 on U-Bend...
he was 84!!
I'll have to listen again, tho'... with some beer in hand!!
And I've just found this one....
Le Corps [22 mins]
Everyone should listen to the real Chopin at least once in their lives and marvel!