Form and Substance

© By James King

A real , live, living figure and adjacent to him, an empty, chalked outline, on the wall underneath one of Derry’s gates or arches. The living figure is conspicuous in a high- viz jacket. A dangerous place to be standing as traffic edges past. A reflective outline will later appear on the opposite wall. These outlines will remain for several years.

Outlines of dead bodies are a familar trope . Whether from actual, real observation, memory or screen. But not vertical. This image is more “arty”. Similar shapes sometimes seen, created from the outline of a shadow.

An imprint and a figure. A memory and a life. The disappeared and the one who remains.

This was part of the “Exercises In Spontaneity” project from 1988 to 1992

From 1988 to 1992 myself and Eamonn O’Donnell made a weekly intervention in the streets of Derry, using various forms of action in response to prevailing circumstances and diverse locations: from city centre monuments to back street waste ground. ( ...this has involved an unshakable confidence in the power and limitless possibilities of creativity responding to the every day and ordinary..Prof. Teresa McCormack , Moving Pitches forward). These actions were carried out in Derry, at various opportune sites, and pieces of waste ground, around the West Bank area of the city.”

Two of the images, “Security Fandalism, ” and “Pointless Dividing Line” relate directly to the “troubles.” “Security Fanalism”, was a response to the official barricading of Derry’s walls. “Pointless Dividing Line”, epitomises our concerns about the sectarian divide in the city.

“Form and Substance” , is open to interpretation, including the absence or loss of friends, in those difficult times. “Strip Searchers Brains”, was a spontaneous reaction to the horse manure, reminding me of the forced anal investigations experienced at that time by incarcerated prisoners.

The installation, “Social Security Network”, 1993, was devised by a friend who was at the time a political prisoner in England. Jim Hughes joined us in constructing it at the Playhouse. The overall theme was the constant struggle of people within the web of social security legislation and security force presence.

A detailed account of the “Exercises in Spontaneity ” project is published in “Moving Pitches “, Yes Publications, 2008.


Artwork and photo by James King

Further Infomation