Thursday, August 5, 2010

John Latham





Too bad I'm nowhere near London, but if I were I would go see Blow Up: Exploding Sound and Noise (London to Brighton 1959-1969), a Wire Magazine sponsored show curated by Tony Herrington and David Toop. The show is loosely organized around the time-sensitive or "auto-destructive" art that flourished in the basement happenings of Better Books on Charing Cross Road during the 1960s. John Latham is the animating figure here -- his hard-to-find "skoob" films will be screened -- but the show also maps out the concentric circles of artists, poets, and musicians surrounding Latham, including Toop himself, Syd Barrett, free jazz guru Joe Harriott, Anna Lockwood, AMM, Jeff Keen, Gustav Metzger, etc. Latham's entire filmography looks amazing, and used to be available for viewing here. I believe a DVD is in the works. The film I'd really like to see is a paper disc animation number called "Speak," partially owing to the rumored existence of not one but two lost soundtracks (one by Pink Floyd, and the other by, I think, Lockwood.) Apparently Pink Floyd used to play in front of "Speak" at live gigs.

5 comments:

  1. I saw a Gustav Metzger performance at the University of Sussex when I was a student there (1982-83). And one of the holy grails of the Pink Floyd/Syd Barrett bootleg community is an unreleased PF piece called "John Latham" recorded in 1967 that remains buried in the EMI archives.

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  2. I've been trolling some Pink Floyd nerd websites but I can't seem to find that "John Latham" track. Apparently there are four songs and they are all still at Abbey Road.

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  3. The best source for the early PF/Barrett arcana is David Parker's _Random Precision: Recording the Music of Syd Barrett 1965-1974_ (London: Cherry Red, 2001). He's done exhaustive research at EMI and clears up a lot of the myths and rumours that keep fanboy anorak culture alive (although his own attention to detail, it must be said, has its anorak elements too!).

    Parker says that John Latham himself collaborated with PF at their "Music in Colour By The Pink Floyd" show at the Commonwealth Institute (January 17, 1967):

    "During an interval in the show there was a performance of 'NOIT, a mime for paper giants' created by John Latham. According to a report in the 'Kensington Post'this was apparently a three dimensional representation of Pink Floyd's state of mind" (102).

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  4. Photo of Latham's paper giants: http://latenightdiscussion.com/viewtopic.php?t=3933

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  5. Thanks -- what a great photo!

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