Abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz,
Peter Liversidge and Levin Haegele, Blip Blip Blip East Street Arts Patrick Studios

Text by Catherine Jones.

Blip Blip Blip presents abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz. If it could speak, the title would say something like this, “Want a title? Here I am, the entire alphabet, pick and choose one for yourself.”

It’s not that the collaborating artists Peter Liversidge and Levin Haegele are lazy, or that titling their show in this way is some form of splendid institutional critique. It is not for a lack of imagination either. Rather it is that abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz is an attempt at a bold provocation of audience imagination, and in this way it is drunk with generosity.

This exhibition is constructed with a series of typewriter written proposals, ludic gestures and theatrical props. Peter Liversidge explains to me the strange cuts of wood that sit on the floor of the gallery. This is the result of one of his famous proposals, in this instance that there should be a number of wooden pieces sawn to the height of Liversidge’s hip. Levin Haegele has hung the keys to his apartment on the wall. On the floor lie two piles of paper. Printed on one is giant ‘&’. On the other is a text stating the instructions for the making of the giant ‘&’.

An elegantly poised sound system occupies an entire wall of the space. Another wall of the gallery is relinquished to a grid of 120 white CDs upon which the names of the artist and the tracks are handwritten. Sixty have been selected by Haegele, and sixty by Liversidge. We are invited to select a track and insert it into the CD player. The responsibility of the atmosphere created from therein lies with you.

As the track I have selected permeates the gallery space I see legs moving in time, heads swaying, I hear laughter. I feel that I have enhanced the mood. Another track is selected, it is less cheery and the mood depresses. A heavy-metal track is chosen, people go to the bar. We, the audience, are little machinations playing the part of jukebox, welding the power of melodies and lyrics to create a mood in the gallery space.

In the programme I read out loud the lyrics to one of the tracks, Silver Jews – Suffering Jukebox, taken from the bands Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea LP on Drag City:

suffering jukebox such a sad machine

your filled up with what other people need

and they never seem to turn you up loud

there are a lot of people in this crowd

The melancholy lyrics to Suffering Jukebox do not apply to Haegele and Liversidge’s jukebox, because the jukebox is no longer a sad machine. Theirs is a machine with the ability to control the overall mood of the space, and it is turned up loud, very loud, so loud that what is designed to be a background is brought into the fore and inflicts itself over how we read the rest of the artwork in the exhibition.

Therefore I consider Liversidge and Haegele’s choice to include this quote, and indeed this piece of work. The metaphor is ripe – perhaps the artists’ do not hope to make objects that impress themselves upon the viewer. They do not strive to make pieces of art that act as mere décor, they do not want to make sad pieces of work that people walk around passively.

Haegele and Liversidge’s method of avoiding the sadness of the jukebox in Silver Jews’ song is to not really make anything, but instead to plant a series of prompts and props for us to play with, for us to create, and most importantly for us to use our imagination. Like Henry Bosco states in Sites et Paysages, “I have my amulets: words”. Imagine if Liversidge actually stood in the breeze as opposed to typing a text for us to read – I propose to stand in the breeze. We would all be very chilly watching him stand in the breeze for one.

Like the utopia, these proposals do not exist apart from in the imagination. As soon as they are realized they become a completely different thing. However Liversidge states that it is important that at least some of his proposals are realized. When he tells me that the hip height pieces of wood were actually made incorrectly and are a few centimeters off, I can’t help feeling that the realization of the proposals are done so as reminders – reminders that the idea is a beautiful thing and that bringing the proposal to life can be a violent and deflating act.

The proposal for the show reads like this: I propose to bruise all the apples in all the shops in Leeds.

The Doubles Series asks a mid career artist to invite another artist, with whom they have some form of artistic relationship, to make an exhibition with them.

Abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz, Peter Liversidge and Levin Haegele ran between 10th – 31st January at East Street Arts, Leeds.

Catherine Ailsa Jones writes short stories and is the co-editor of Maude Magazine.

Published 31.01.2013 by Alexander Taber in Reviews

840 words