Bruce Lacey the controversial and eccentric artist, performer, inventor: Experience his life in a day at Camden Arts Centre.
“The objects I make are hate objects, fear objects and love objects. They are my totems and fetishes -”
“Life is not a pretty thing; these are not pretty things. Eventually I may make more love objects, but I must get these out of my system first, perhaps I never will. If people don’t understand them, I am sorry, for I feel they should be aware of the things I am aware of.”
“They may be what we know as art, they may not be, but if they are not, then they are what art should be, No artist should live in an Ivory Tower of Aesthetics. The artist should be at grips with his life, with the essence of life, not its superficial aesthetic manifestation.”
“(His art) should instead be awakening his conscience and his awareness of life as it is and what it is going to be, as we move forward to a frightening future, where man’s very individuality and personality may be lost. It is the artist who must have his finger on the pulse to safeguard us all. For if he doesn’t, no one will.”
These are the inspirational words of a man who the art world never truly took seriously – but maybe it’s because he never really took The Art World seriously either, as he is all about true creativity, honesty and just creating what you feel you should rather than what sells or fits. He never has fitted into a category as such; his work shifts between building robots to perform on stage, simple painting and ritualism – rain dances, mapping the sun, allowing himself to become at one with the earth.
The great thing about this show is that it displays the level of significance performing and creating has had to Lacey since his childhood in films, costumes, toys and drawings from when he was a boy. Even as a child he displayed the great level of general interest and intelligence required to become an inventor, re-enacting ancient battles with his miniature papier-mache castle and excerpts from history in a spectrum of hand made costumes.
His inventions went on to be the stars of the bizarre comedy show British Rubbish: robots playing characters like Queen Mary, and a range of male, female, transvestite, confused or hermaphrodite fellows, which may have been humorous forty years ago but now that rust has set in, they creak eerily in Camden Arts Centre’s classroom spaces – all glittering porcelain teeth and prosthetic limbs.
Honestly, I just enjoyed the complete sincerity of the show; it’s simply “I am Bruce Lacey, and this has been my life” – no frills, no overblown personal tragedies or pretension as is found in most artist retrospectives. This exhibition is just simple, open and sure of itself.
The element of Lacey’s artwork – if that is what this is even intended to be – that I found most enlightening were his rituals. These were developed by him and his wife, who felt the need to go back to nature – something I feel really is necessary to revisit in today’s world, moreso than ever before – so spent weekends in teepees in London parks or across the country, during which they began to perform acts and to write their own ceremonies. Were these Celtic, Aboriginal, native American? No. As Lacey rightly says, none of these peoples had history books to refer to and they created their own ritualism just from what they felt, the way they wanted to move and what they wanted to create – Lacey and his wife did the same.
This honest act of self-satisfaction inspired me, and made me think about Lacey’s work as a whole: it is entirely for him, to enrich his soul and excite the imaginations of his audience.
I’ve been up since 5.30am but am determined to finish this post, so excuse me for babbling.
But anyway, those teepee weekends: how much better, healthier, in touch with yourself would you feel after taking a few days away from people, society, technology? Probably a lot. However I feel that a lot of activities like this are not seen as worthwhile, making yourself feel full and happy is not really very highly regarded as we live in a culture of work, production, climbing ladders and fighting for work. If you’re not working, or producing something tangible – saleable – then it’s a self-indulgent waste of time?
Lacey made me think: he’s happy, he seems to have hugely enjoyed his life – perhaps far more than artists who have been recognised by that all-powerful institution, The Art World, as he avoided such pressure to produce. Instead made what he wanted, what made him happy, and it is only now that people are finally really recognising outsider art that his work can make audiences laugh, admire and think properly about what’s actually important.
Jesus I’m going to bed.