Scarecrows & Lighthouses

Logical consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men.

T. H. Huxley – 1881

Three men are passing a camera hand to hand, moving through doorways and interior spaces. Who is ‘cameraman’, who is ‘actor’, who is ‘director’?

Three pairs of hands are pressing and plucking at a musical instrument. The faces of the players are not seen. On a second screen, the same hands strike and stroke another instrument. On a third, the same.  Is this a ‘trio’? A trio of trios? Which one is the ‘musician’?

Sit. Enjoy. And spend a moment wondering who made the chair that supports you in that familiar but rarely examined posture, half-passive, half-pilot. Was it the sculptor who made it, as seems logical given our contemporary micro-specialisation, or was it a collaboration between all three?

Some of these questions are some way down the line; some are more immediate, for Scarecrows & Lighthouses is a multi-part art project involving a visual artist, a musician and a filmmaker. It explores the nature of what the OED defines succinctly as ‘united labour’. It is not a ‘meditation on collaboration’, has no single guiding principle and no absolute destination. And yet it is not merely a seminar of idealists but a practical and hands-on experience in which each artist enters the world and the methods of his fellow-participants, adopting/adapting their methods and philosophies on equal terms, bringing his own languages and techniques.

Sculptor Martin Boyce, saxophonist Raymond MacDonald and director David Mackenzie have known each other and in two cases worked together for some time, but never before as a trio. For the last eighteen months, they have made seemingly random forays out into the world, to Baalbeck in Lebanon, to Paris, and to the island of Barra, a three man pod of creative hunger, experimenting with role play, with notions of travel, work, identity and specialisation, sucking up a plankton of aesthetic experience. Each collaborator was required to set aside some basic assumptions and to adopt new ways of creative thinking and doing. Film is of necessity collaborative and largely pre-planned. Improvised music has by definition no fixed agenda. Sculpture requires that a physical object eventually exists in a particular space and with particular relation to walls, floor, windows. But what if all these principles are thrown in together, none given priority or determinate value, and allowed to rub up together without boundaries or set roles.

There will be a playful atmosphere in Tramway when Martin Boyce, Raymond MacDonald and David Mackenzie open up their collaboration for the first time and as the first part of a project that will continue through 2012, returning to Tramway in October. Not so much a bonfire of the vanities as a party for the senses.

Part one is called Scarecrows. Think what happens when you throw a few old clothes on a cross of sticks. It is both you and not you, something that is both identifiably human and obviously an illusion. The birds are not frightened away but come and perch. Here is what happens when you swap artistic and professional attire, not in order to play media charades, but to see what lies underneath. There is no ego left inside, just simple constructions, logical consequences that may be followed or just as likely abandoned, improvised moments and encounters. There is ‘music’, ‘film’ and ‘sculpture’, but they don’t need those uniforms any more. Sit. Watch. Listen. Dance if you will. There’s nothing to be afraid of.