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PEDDLING MIND PORN TO THE
CHATTERING CLASSES SINCE 2000
by Andrew Gallix and Utahna Faith

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      [4.3.06] [Andrew Gallix]
    LIKE ORPHEUS LOOKING BACK AT EURYDICE
    Tom McCarthy and Rod Dickinson's Greenwich Degree Zero exhibition is reviewed in today's Guardian:

    "At the Beaconsfield Gallery, a former Ragged School tucked next to a line of railway arches in Vauxhall, a huge screen displays flickering film images from a hand-cranked camera. A Victorian gentleman stands in Greenwich Park watching smoke and flames billow from the bombed-out shell of Christopher Wren's Royal Observatory. The room is filled with 1894 newspapers, anarchist pamphlets and government memos giving both dramatic and prosaic details of the atrocity. But hang on. While it's true that on the afternoon of February 15 1894, Martial Bourdin, a French anarchist, took a bomb to the park and it is assumed the Observatory was his target, in fact his bomb detonated some distance away, killing him but leaving the observatory unscathed. The event was first claimed for art by Joseph Conrad in The Secret Agent (1907) and has been appropriated again for an intriguing literary-artistic collaboration between writer Tom McCarthy and artist Rod Dickinson, who have 're-imagined' Bourdin actually pulling it off. McCarthy's 2005 debut novel, Remainder (Metronome Press), dealt with a man reliving a serious accident. Dickinson has re-staged Stanley Milgram's infamous 1961 'Obedience to Authority' psychology experiment. 'So we're both interested in re-enactments,' explains McCarthy. 'They can tell us about the past, about the historical processes since and about the world today. They also tell us something about how fact and fiction operate.' . . . Dickinson and McCarthy acknowledge historical parallels between the Bourdin case and the position of some radical Islamists today, but insist 'this is not a 'what if' exercise. We're more interested in the way history mediates an event.' Their surprisingly light-touch manipulation of contemporary newspapers and other documentation hasn't changed the hysterical tone, which can easily be read as if the observatory had been blown up. 'In a way we see everything as a type of fiction,' says McCarthy. 'All events become stories which are mediated through many many forms. At the base of the story is this pure moment of violence or death. But that is unrecoverable. Like Orpheus looking back at Eurydice, it vanishes. All you are left with is residue and relics such as newspapers or letters which are ultimately untrustworthy. And that's true whether you are dealing in art or literature or factual history.'

    A series of talks will take place around the exhibition:
    Thursday 9 March, 6.30pm: Rod Dickinson and Tom McCarthy. Free, booking advisable. Dickinson and McCarthy discuss their collaboration in the light of previous individual projects. The event will include a short reading from Remainder by the author, a documentary excerpt from the Waco Re-enactment and a guided tour by the artists of the current installation.

    Thursday 23 March, 6.30pm: Steve Rushton. Free, booking advisable. Steve Rushton will discusses the relationship between early documentary news footage and re-enactment.

    Friday 7 April, 7pm: International Necronautical Society. 5 quid entry (includes 1 quid annual membership fee). Beaconsfield's Society is a concept as well as an artist's club -- both an interactive art project and a social event. The Society formula is 'good food, good wine, good conversation'. The basic Society structure is uniquely ignited on each occasion by the participating artists and transformed into whatever they want the event to be. For 7 April, The International Necronautical Society (INS) makes seven Degree Zero propositions in the spirit of a nineteenth century Anarchist club. A Society membership event.

    Greenwich Degree Zero runs until 30 April (Wednesday to Sunday 12-6pm) at Beaconsfield, 22 Newport Street, London, SE11 6AY (Tel: 020 7582 6465)

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