BOMBART Radio Alhara shows

2020 onwards

BOMBART: INNA FUNK
One hour of brand new music collaborations from Saul Adamczewski (FAT WHITE FAMILY/ INSECURE MEN), Fritz Catlin (23 SKIDOO) THE HIFI TWINS ( Peter Harris & Zsa Zsa Sapien of MEATRAFFLE/ SCUD FM), Adam Brennan ( FAT WHITE FAMILY/SCUD FM) Bristol underground legend BEEFY TEETH ( Rick Carbone & Peter Harris) ALOHA DEAD, BABYMAN (Thom Driver & Peter Harris) , Warped Artist JIMMY MERRIS, John Strutton (ARTHUR BRICK) and a new HIFI TWIN instumental mix by ADRIAN SHERWOOD!

BOMBART- ‘POLICE & THIEVES’ MEGA, MEGA MIX, ORIGIONALLY AIRED ON RADIO ALHARA ON MAY 2022. A ONE HOUR RADICAL REINTERPRETATION OF THE CLASSIC JUNIOR MURVIN/LEE PERRY TUNE. FEATURING CONTRIBUTIONS FROM DAVID NESS (NOHUMANEYE), ALOHA DEAD, FRITZ CATLIN (23 SKIDOO) & SARON HUGHES. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY PETER HARRIS.
A BOMBART: MARK E SMITH SPECIAL, ORIGINALLY AIRED ON RADIO ALHARA APRIL 2022. A ONE HOUR LEFT FIELD TRIBUTE OF BRAND NEW MATERIAL
WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM SAUL ADAMCZEWSKI (FAT WHITE FAMILY) ADAM BRENNAN (FAT WHITE FAMILY) ZSA ZSA SAPIEN (MEATRAFFLE) LEE “SCRATCH” PERRY, FRITZ CATLIN (23 SKIDOO) ALOHA DEAD, ALEX SEBLEY (PREGOBLIN) JULIAN ROZEC, SARON HUGHES, HAYDEN HUGHES, GAVIN MYSTERION, STEFAN SMITH AND ARTIST RICHARD CLEGG. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY PETER HARRIS.
BOMBART: WILLIAM BURROUGHS SHOW
One hour of brand new music made for a BOMBART – WILLIAM BURROUGHS SPECIAL , featuring Graham Duff, Hayden Hughes, Stefan Smith, Alexander Sebley (PREGOBLIN), Saul Adamczewski (FAT WHITE FAMILY/INSECURE MEN), David Ness (NOHUMANEYE), Fritz Catlin (23 SKIDOO), Mark Stewart ( THE POP GROUP) and Burroughs archivist Graham McEvily! Produced and Directed by Peter Harris
BOMBART (PETER HARRIS & MARK STEWART) BEDWYR WILLIAMS SPECIAL. ORIGIONALY AIRED ON RADIO ALHARA FEB 2022. FEATURING THE WELSH ARTIST’S STORY SPOON 5 AND SOME SLOPPY SECONDS PUT TO THE MUSIC OF LLYR WILLIAMS! AND A BRAND NEW LEE “SCRATCH” PERRY TRACK, AN EXCLUSIVE ADRIAN SHERWOOD DUB MIX OF THE HIFI TWINS, HAYDEN HUGHES AND FRITZ CATLIN (23 SKIDOO).
BOMBART (Peter Harris & Mark Stewart): Tribute to ‘SCRATCH’ Part 2 on RADIO ALHARA. With special guest David Katz selecting some of Lee “Scratch” Perrys more unusual tracks and some left field cover versions of classic ‘Scratch’ tracks by The HIFI TWINS, BABYMAN, GAVIN MYSTERION, ALOHA DEAD, FRITZ CATLIN, SARON HUGHES AND PETER HARRIS.
Peter Harris and Mark Stewart’s second BOMBART CHRISTMAS SPECIAL! including contributions from Warren Mansfield The HIFI TWINS/MEATRAFFLE/SCUD FM, Dead ( Aloha Dead),Alex Sebley (PREGOBLIN) Thom Driver (BABYMAN) Victor Bock, Fritz Catlin (23 Skidoo), Lotte Schroeder and Sotiris Gonis.
BOMBART: TRIBUTE TO “SCRATCH” a two part show
For these 2 shows origionaly aired on Radio Alhara, Lee “Scratch” Perry biographer David Katz was asked by BOMBART (Peter Harris & Mark Stewart) to select some of Mr Perry’s more left field recordings. These are interspersed with new cover versions of Perry classics by new and previous BOMBART collaborators including Alexander Sebley (PREGOBLIN), BABYMAN (Thom Driver), THE HIFI TWINS (Peter Harris and Warren Mansfield of MEATRAFFLE), GAVIN MYSTERION, HAYDEN HUGHES, SHEILA ELLIS (ANNABEL(LEE), ALOHA DEAD, SARON HUGHES and FRITZ CATLIN (23 SKIDOO)!!!
BOMBART: GRAHAM DUFF PRESENTS ‘THE MISSING HORRORS’. A one hour sound collaboration between writer, actor and director Graham Duff and artist/musician Peter Harris including contributions from Cosey Fanni Tutti (Throbbing Gristle), Colin Newman & Graham Lewis (Wire), Saul Adamczewski (Fat White Family), Sheila Ellis, Stephen Thrower, Dorothy Max Prior, Matt Shaw, Malka Spigel, Misha Begley, Jamaican toaster Prince Hammer and trumpet and trombone from David Fullwood and David Andrews. And all the regular BOMBART collaborators Fritz Catlin (23 Skidoo), artist/composer Saron Hughes, Aloha Dead, and vocals from BOMBART partner Mark Stewart (The Pop Group). And most poignantly of all, some of the final recordings from the genius and Harris’s long term collaborator Lee “Scratch” Perry (rest in power).
BABYMAN takes over BOMBART’s Radio Alhara show for an hour-long extravaganza, romping through the whole catalogue including special remixes, collaborations with Mark Stewart and a tribute to our late, great musical comrade Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. BABYMAN, formed in the plague year of 2020 as a creative lockdown outlet, is busy collapsing machismo one song at a time. Behold: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjYl2aDkdrJNO2LGlrMYI-g/videos
A BOMBART exclusive! Dennis Bovell dubs up The Pop Group! plus BOMBART one off mega mixes of classic Black Ark and Yabby You tunes! and 2 brand new EXCLUSIVE dub mixes by On U don Adrian Sherwood!

BOMBART- CLASSIC ROCK N DUB SHOW ORIGIONALY AIRED ON RADIO ALHARA IN JULY 2021. FEATURING RADICAL DUB REIMAGININGS OF SOME ALL TIME CLASSIC HEAD BANGERS!!! INCLUDING BRAND NEW COLLABORATIONS WITH LEE “SCRATCH” PERRY AND THE HIFI TWINS (BABY METAL MADNESS!) ADAM BRENNAN (FAT WHITE FAMILY/ SCUD FM) ALOHA DEAD (AN 80’s SYNTH CONFRONTATION WITH HENDRIX DANCEHALL STYLEE!) CONCIOUS SOUNDS MAIN MAN DOUGIE WARDROP BOMBART MIXES! AND A PREMIERE OF DUB DON ADRIAN SHERWOOD’S MIX OF THE HIFI TWINS BRAND NEW CLASSIC ‘NEVER FUCK A FRIEND’
BOMBART-‘AMBIENT VALUES’ SHOW! including new Peter Harris collaborations with Saul Adamczewski (Fat White Family/Insecure Men), Aloha Dead, Fritz Catlin (23 Skidoo) Zsa Zsa Sapien (Socialist Yoga for the masses) Legendary visual artist Amikam Toren (Self Helpless) Beefy Teeth (Arthur Brick/Pipers Son) Saron Hughes ( Bach and Satie deconstuctions), Llyr Williams, and Victor Bock! first aired on Radio Alhara 19th June 2021.
BOMBART- ‘Not Quite Covers Show’ A ONE HOUR SPECIAL FEATURING BOMBART COLLABORATIONS WITH ABUL- LOUL THE SINGER, GAVIN MYSTERION, THE HIFI TWINS (Meatraffle) Llyr Williams, BABYMAN (Thom Driver), MEATY TEETH (Ricarrdo Carbone) SARON HUGHES, DAVID NESS AND FRITZ CATLIN (23 Skidoo) ORIGIONAL AIRED MAY 2021 ON RADIO ALHARA.
BOMBART- ‘Cut Up/ Readymade’ a one hour sound collage made using all the previous shows as aural ‘readymades’. Including unique contributions from Lee “Scratch” Perry, Mark Stewart & Peter Harris, and Adrian Sherwood
BOMBART- ‘Outsiders’ one hour show origionally played on Radio Alhara on Saturday the 20th 2021. Including reapproprations of : Bingo Gazingo, Harry Partch, Conlon Nancarrow, Francis Bacon, Albert Ayler, Meredith Monk, Kurt Schwitters, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Sun Ra, The legendary Stardust Cowboy, Marcel Duchamp, William Burroughs, Tristan Tzara, Dereck Bailey and more!!!
BOMBART- GREATEST HITS show first aired on Radio Alhara 20th February 2021.
A one hour Lee “Scratch” Perry show by BOMBART (Peter Harris and Mark Stewart) first played on Radio Alhara Janurary 2021. Featuring unheard mixes by Adrian Sherwood, Lee Perry and an opera singer, piano collaborations between L.S.P. and artist/musician Saron Hughes and deconstuctions of classics by BOMBART.
The Second one hour sound collage by BOMBART (Peter Harris and Mark Stewart) as played on Radio Alhara on December 2020
A Monthly one hour sound collage on Radio Alhara by BOMBART (Peter Harris and Mark Stewart)

Chinese Whispers: Google Portraits

2010-2011

As with all of Harris’s work, the theme to these paintings is identity. Where normally Harris uses his art to get beneath the surface and expose our secret selves, these paintings are based on ignorance and distorted generalisations which perversely create an ‘ultra portrait’ of the sitter – more them than they are. Harris chooses archetypes in the public consciousness as his subjects, such as religious and political leaders and cultural icons. Harris starts the portrait by typing a deliberately dumb description of the intended person’s defining characteristics into his Google search engine and selects a person at random. He then paints the portrait with the real person in mind, creating a single hybrid image of the subject and an entirely new individual who functions as the subjects frankensteinian double.

I’d laugh, but there’s no punchline – version

2011

Text by David Katz

As with many of the seemingly mysterious connections that have arisen in my professional/personal life during the last 25 years, I first had the pleasure of meeting Peter Harris through our mutual involvement with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, the shamanic music producer and walking performance art piece that has created an incredible body of recorded music since the early 1960s. The initial link between Perry and Harris came about when Harris sought Perry’s contribution for his film Higher Powers, which explored the possibilities surrounding the existence (or non-existence) of a Higher Power (or Powers) with a number of exceptional contemporary figures. A next link in the chain came through Adrian Sherwood, the inventive producer whose On-U Sound label has remained at the vanguard of experimental British music during the last 30 years by merging the talents of transplanted Jamaican artists with local post-punk players, and with whom Perry’s best post-Jamaican work has been recorded.

In September 2009, Higher Powers was given a special screening in the hallowed ground of the Tabernacle in Ladbroke Grove, accompanied by an exhibition of large-scale collaborative artworks made by Perry and Harris. Perry gave a live dub performance dressed as a kind of anti-Pope, aided and abetted by a sterling mix from Sherwood, while manipulated filmic backdrops created specially by Harris and animated by Llyr Williams formed a dopplegänger visual enhancement which served to underline the messages of Perry’s partially ad-libbed lyrics, acting as a counterbalance to the gig’s inevitable unpredictability. On the night, it was a real pleasure to see quotes from Perry, as first published in my authorised biography of the man, People Funny Boy, beamed onto the wall behind him during the performance, and meeting Peter somehow felt like re-connecting with an old friend, especially since the last time I had visited Perry at his home in Switzerland, he had the Higher Powers film screening on an endless loop on his computer, as he worked on his ever-changing sculptures and collages (most of which were glued to the wall, ceaselessly plastered on top of each other).

Peter Harris’ previous work has typically involved ‘proxy’ creations, making use of the words of others to define himself. His latest project, which takes the form of the short film I’d Laugh, But There’s No Punchline – Version, is something of a departure in that he narrates everything in it himself, appearing as a virtual ‘version’ of himself, this time in the form of a stand-up comedian, with special dub effects on the soundtrack enhancing the overall feeling of anxiety, rootlessness, and despair. As with Adrian Sherwood, Harris says that reggae and dub have long been sources of fascination for him; indeed, the reggae form had twin elements of particular appeal: there was the humour so often evident in lyrics and song titles that referenced in-jokes and made use of peculiar punning, often incorporating cartoonish, over-the-top sound effects, while conversely, there was astute social commentary by artists such as Big Youth and Doctor Alimantado, who railed against social injustices and racism of ‘Babylon’, which perpetually victimizes the poor. The assumption of such obscure names by reggae artists, pointing to a problematised identity, is another element that held resonance for Harris, providing another layer of inspiration for this new work. Perhaps most importantly, there is also the intangible quality of dub music, which opens up new spaces through the reinterpretation of a piece of recorded music by dropping out its original vocal, and then subjecting the raw rhythm to manipulative mixing, as well as echo, delay, and other types of mesmerising sound effects that impart a feeling of infiniteness—the cavernous sound of limitless space, as well as a bottomless abyss.

In dub music, through an inverse process, the accepted mask as presented on a standard vocal recording is stripped away to reveal a truer sense of the core that lies beneath it, often revealing the song’s protagonist to be vulnerable or helpless. Harris says that a particular point of reference for his latest project was the work crafted by the forward-thinking Jamaican producer, Keith Hudson, who was one of a handful of noteworthy Kingston innovators that began issuing dubs during the early 1970s; on his tense and emotionally-laden releases (as heard on both the vocal and dub cuts of tracks such as ‘Satan Side,’ ‘True To My Heart,’ ‘Jonah,’ and ‘Darkest Night On A Wet Looking Road’), Hudson yielded an other-worldly and somewhat tortured feeling, as though he was not at peace with himself, or felt that all was not right with the world.

With such elements in mind, in I’d Laugh, But There’s No Punchline – Version, Peter Harris draws on the altered format of the version B-side, to give an alternate reading of himself as a stand-up comedian, who is here revealed to be an angst-ridden figure, beset by neurosis and potential personal calamities, which are intrinsically linked to the essence of his vocation, or indeed, to that of an artist, or perhaps simply to anyone that finds themselves with the misfortune of being of a certain age, living in our contemporary falsified reality. By reworking and subverting a range of traditional joking forms and turning them in on himself (with occasional visual effects from Llyr Williams adding to the tension), Harris seeks to present an alternate kaleidoscope of his own identity, a splintered anti-comic reflected through dub’s fractured lens. Thus, the dub sound effects that rapidly appear and disappear behind Harris’ troubled monologue (drawn from Adrian Sherwood’s personal archive, but here reconfigured by Harris and sound engineer Riccardo Carbone) form a sonic filter for Harris’ alternate funhouse-mirror portrait of himself as a manic depressive stand-up comic, subsumed by an ongoing identity crisis.

David Katz is author of People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae.

For more information: www.davidkatzreggae.com

A lot of people think contemporary art is a one-liner

2011

Text by David Katz

As with many of the seemingly mysterious connections that have arisen in my professional/personal life during the last 25 years, I first had the pleasure of meeting Peter Harris through our mutual involvement with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, the shamanic music producer and walking performance art piece that has created an incredible body of recorded music since the early 1960s.  The initial link between Perry and Harris came about when Harris sought Perry’s contribution for his film Higher Powers, which explored the possibilities surrounding the existence (or non-existence) of a Higher Power (or Powers) with a number of exceptional contemporary figures.  A next link in the chain came through Adrian Sherwood, the inventive producer whose On-U Sound label has remained at the vanguard of experimental British music during the last 30 years by merging the talents of transplanted Jamaican artists with local post-punk players, and with whom Perry’s best post-Jamaican work has been recorded.

In September 2009, Higher Powers was given a special screening in the hallowed ground of the Tabernacle in Ladbroke Grove, accompanied by an exhibition of large-scale collaborative artworks made by Perry and Harris.  Perry gave a live dub performance dressed as a kind of anti-Pope, aided and abetted by a sterling mix from Sherwood, while manipulated filmic backdrops created specially by Harris and animated by Llyr Williams formed a dopplegänger visual enhancement which served to underline the messages of Perry’s partially ad-libbed lyrics, acting as a counterbalance to the gig’s inevitable unpredictability.  On the night, it was a real pleasure to see quotes from Perry, as first published in my authorised biography of the man, People Funny Boy, beamed onto the wall behind him during the performance, and meeting Peter somehow felt like re-connecting with an old friend, especially since the last time I had visited Perry at his home in Switzerland, he had the Higher Powers film screening on an endless loop on his computer, as he worked on his ever-changing sculptures and collages (most of which were glued to the wall, ceaselessly plastered on top of each other).

Peter Harris’ previous work has typically involved ‘proxy’ creations, making use of the words of others to define himself.  His latest project, which takes the form of the short film I’d Laugh, But There’s No Punchline – Version, is something of a departure in that he narrates everything in it himself, appearing as a virtual ‘version’ of himself, this time in the form of a stand-up comedian, with special dub effects on the soundtrack enhancing the overall feeling of anxiety, rootlessness, and despair.  As with Adrian Sherwood, Harris says that reggae and dub have long been sources of fascination for him; indeed, the reggae form had twin elements of particular appeal: there was the humour so often evident in lyrics and song titles that referenced in-jokes and made use of peculiar punning, often incorporating cartoonish, over-the-top sound effects, while conversely, there was astute social commentary by artists such as Big Youth and Doctor Alimantado, who railed against social injustices and racism of ‘Babylon’, which perpetually victimizes the poor.  The assumption of such obscure names by reggae artists, pointing to a problematised identity, is another element that held resonance for Harris, providing another layer of inspiration for this new work.  Perhaps most importantly, there is also the intangible quality of dub music, which opens up new spaces through the reinterpretation of a piece of recorded music by dropping out its original vocal, and then subjecting the raw rhythm to manipulative mixing, as well as echo, delay, and other types of mesmerising sound effects that impart a feeling of infiniteness—the cavernous sound of limitless space, as well as a bottomless abyss.

In dub music, through an inverse process, the accepted mask as presented on a standard vocal recording is stripped away to reveal a truer sense of the core that lies beneath it, often revealing the song’s protagonist to be vulnerable or helpless.  Harris says that a particular point of reference for his latest project was the work crafted by the forward-thinking Jamaican producer, Keith Hudson, who was one of a handful of noteworthy Kingston innovators that began issuing dubs during the early 1970s; on his tense and emotionally-laden releases (as heard on both the vocal and dub cuts of tracks such as ‘Satan Side,’ ‘True To My Heart,’ ‘Jonah,’ and ‘Darkest Night On A Wet Looking Road’), Hudson yielded an other-worldly and somewhat tortured feeling, as though he was not at peace with himself, or felt that all was not right with the world.

With such elements in mind, in I’d Laugh, But There’s No Punchline – Version, Peter Harris draws on the altered format of the version B-side, to give an alternate reading of himself as a stand-up comedian, who is here revealed to be an angst-ridden figure, beset by neurosis and potential personal calamities, which are intrinsically linked to the essence of his vocation, or indeed, to that of an artist, or perhaps simply to anyone that finds themselves with the misfortune of being of a certain age, living in our contemporary falsified reality.  By reworking and subverting a range of traditional joking forms and turning them in on himself (with occasional visual effects from Llyr Williams adding to the tension), Harris seeks to present an alternate kaleidoscope of his own identity, a splintered anti-comic reflected through dub’s fractured lens.  Thus, the dub sound effects that rapidly appear and disappear behind Harris’ troubled monologue (drawn from Adrian Sherwood’s personal archive, but here reconfigured by Harris and sound engineer Riccardo Carbone) form a sonic filter for Harris’ alternate funhouse-mirror portrait of himself as a manic depressive stand-up comic, subsumed by an ongoing identity crisis.

David Katz is author of People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae.

For more information: www.davidkatzreggae.com

Self Portrait by Proxy 7: Comments

2009

The notion of making those around him directly complicit in his work is something that Peter Harris followed in the video pieces Self Portrait by Proxy 4 and 7, in which he is seen reading everything that the art world has ever written about him and everything gallery visitors have written in the comments book.

The deadpan delivery puts both the complimentary and negative statements into an ambiguous space where the personal reaction and the public personae of the artist merge. The collected comments provide a resume of the vicissitudes of the life of the artist.

Self Portrait by Proxy 6: No Fun

2009

There is a play with the art world’s preoccupation with authenticity. In a sense the video is a readymade self. The snippets of dialogue are collated from hundreds of interviews of people who provide the artist with his points of reference, and their conversations are taken out of their original context to present an autobiography.

Mills & Boon

2006-2009

Following the death of his sister, an avid reader of Mills & Boon, Peter Harris became aware whilst sorting through her books that there was a subtext of death present in a few of the titles. However, when he began scouring charity shops, he realised that many of the book titles could be seen to allude to death.

He saw how the title ‘Unguarded Moment’ might refer to AIDS, or ‘Dark Inheritance’ cancer. Ostensibly stories centred on a kind of naïve, romantic fantasy, Harris was struck by the fact that oblivion was never far away – turn ‘Forbidden Surrender’ on its head and suddenly it’s not about guilty passion anymore – it’s about suicide.

Harris started tearing the covers off old Mills & Boon novels and painting over small sections, leaving whole areas intact. Dark themes are drawn out with small interventions; the trick seems to be that death is all over these books, yet somehow we don’t see it; it’s the delicate act of painting an exquisite skull over the face of a young girl caught in the arms of a handsome cad that allows the morbidity to break through. Harris’s technique is meticulous, perfect, blending invisibly into the original illustration. Over and over again the same scenarios are repeated endlessly by an array of double-barrelled debutantes, nurses, spoilt princesses, air hostesses, needy secretaries – all are seduced by the indiscriminate embrace of Death – the ultimate bad boy lover.

Love, death and fantasy are brought together in a passionate embrace ( Eros and Thanatos). But Harris also splurges black paint over bits of the original image, reminding us that dying (as well as sex) is a messy business. A beautiful woman vomits a fountain of inky gunk; a plant explodes in a spiky-leaved torrent of oily nastiness; even a man’s hair cascades upwards into a volatile ectoplasmic quiff. An act of vandalism has taken place with these slicks of black paint, and real menace is in the air. “I was trying to be as sick and cruel as death,” says Harris flatly, perhaps remembering his sister again, “But that’s impossible.”

In this way, the work in this show is also a testament to Harris’s own grieving process – mourning his sister through his artistic practice. Stuck behind glass in in boxy, coffin-like frames, these painted-over book covers function as a reminder of our own mortality too, memento mori sticking two fingers up at our own short lives. When confronted by death, who doesn’t wonder when their own hour will come? In the same bleak but amused way that Hamlet talks to Yorrick’s skull, pondering the transient nature of existence, Harris reminds us that we are all on the way out. This is vanitas painting for the 21st century, but Holbein’s skull in the corner has flicked hair – a meditation on death for an ironic, post-modern world.

Shown at:

Swiss Cottage Gallery, London
24 January – 22 February 2009

Building, Dwelling, Thinking, Laura Bartlett Gallery, London
11 April – 24 May 2008

Hymn

2003

In the video Hymn Harris uses the language of biblical song and the notion of faith to talk about both the struggles with self and the struggle to be heard in the commercial environment of the gallery system through a collaboration with the London Mennonite society -write about writing song and the genuine feeling that comes through

The song charts the artistic progress from uninspired beginnings to a genuine sense of redemption.

Shown at:

Under Fives, 39 Mitchell Street, London
2004

London and Campaigning, Politics and Shopping, Unit 2 Gallery, London
2003

Self Portrait By Proxy 4

2002

The notion of making those around him directly complicit in his work is something that Peter Harris followed in the video piece’s Self- portrait by proxy 4 and 7 in which he is seen reading everything that the art world has ever written about him and everything gallery visitors have written in the comments book.

The deadpan delivery puts both the complimentary and negative statements into an ambiguous space where the personal reaction and the public personae of the artist merge. The collected comments provide a resume of the viscidities of the life of the artist.

Barbershop Quartet

2001

In this video the network of people who facilitate Harris’s work as an artist are given haircuts by him and become the co-subjects of a portrait. They engage in art world dialogue whilst he creates an image for the people, who collect, represent, write about and collaborate with him. The dynamic of control within the art world is shifted in parallel with the hairdresser client relationship.

Screened at:

Hair: The Show, Tablet Gallery, London
2003

Mixed Ability, Corsica Studios, London

Tribute Artiste, Waygood Gallery, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
September 2001

Self Portrait by Proxy 3

2000

Is identity fundamentally something that is constructed as opposed to a humanistic sense of a coherent and stable self? It is a question that literally figures in the photographic works of Peter Harris, Self- Portrait by Proxy III ( The Rizzla Game). Harris presents head shots of himself playing the Rizzla game – a paper bearing an identity is pasted on his forehead and he has to guess who he is by asking questions.

It’s a party game that many of us have played, but by presenting it within the context of a gallery, Harris forces the deeper question: is our sense of identity fixed? Or rather, is it something we build based on our socio-cultural situations, the questions forced on us and the answers we come up with?

Parvathi Nayar, The Singapore Business Times

Shown at:

Touché, Andrew Mummery Gallery, London
5 – 30 September 2000

Self Portrait by Proxy 2

2000

The ambiguity of self through other, which is to argue that we are as others see us, is another way in which many contemporary artists construct their self-portraiture. The artist Peter Harris often does this by getting other persons to be instrumental in the making of his work.

Recently he did this getting his art world friends, often artists and writers, to draw a portrait of him (from a photograph) and thereafter he presented them as a wall-work installation by the artist Peter Harris.

Shown at:

Pizza Express Drawing Prize, London
2004

Tribute Artiste, Waygood Gallery, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
September 2001

Funny, Andrew Mummery Gallery, London
2000

Touché

2000

“Harris’s collaborations are fleeting, temporary and mutable. It’s in the nature of collaborations to serve as foil; they’re a hybrid construction that often attempts to overcome a lack in the singular with a doubling of artistic personae. While Harris exploits the mode to extend the otherwise dead end of painting, his collaborations are not a strategy designed to service any other lacking. Stretched across various media, his work attempts to plumb what an artist is and has to be in order to survive this moment. Thus, the materials he works from are those of mass culture and pop iconography – the stuff of economies driven by fame and celebrity. His work is a diaristic and everyday account of an autobiography, while his collaborations function as a mode of self-curation that is itself a means of self-reflection on the status of the individual, the artists and the object as a hybridized and friable cultural product.

Reference and influence plays a significant role in this show. The signature – that of style as well as name – functions in his work alongside the band logo: Bob Dylan, Manet, Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh, Duchamp, Johnny Cash, P.T. Barnum, and the Sex Pistols. Harris gave his paintings full of layers of textual identities and icons to a number of artistic friends and colleagues – Bob and Roberta Smith, Amikam Toren, George Shaw, Saron Hughes, Gary Webb, Matt Calderwood, among others- and asked them to make work out of his own. Rather than foregrounding the collaborative act, these paintings, photos, videos, and objects focus on acts of contextualization and identity within culture. Something is lost, something is gained. The end result belongs to the alter and other that is an irrepressible part of the contemporary cultural product and artistic ego.”

John Slyce, Flash Art

The Sex Pistols, who are represented by the band’s logo and by the four band members’ signatures, and “Vincent”, appear repeatedly. In some works the enlargement and overlapping of their names has been used to produce densely worked apparently –abstract paintings, which function partly as tributes.

But what brings the whole scenario to life is the iconoclastic collaborations with artist working today. There are about a dozen, most of which involve Harris giving over a painting of his to the collaborator. So a composition involving Van Gogh’s ‘Crows over Wheatfield’ and the Pistols name as it appears on ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’, signed and dated by Harris, has been given a makeover by Bob and Roberta Smith. The latter has deleted Harris’s name, signed his own, and changed the orientation of the picture when painting ‘NEVER TRUST AN ARTIST”, over it. The fact that the picture is mounted on the wall with this slogan upside down, means that it’s unclear who has had the last word.

Although the names and works of other artists appear everywhere in this show, they don’t serve to hide but instead to bring to light the creative drive of …what’s his names again?

Duncan Mclaren, Independent On Sunday

Shown at:

Andrew Mummery Gallery, London
5 – 30 September 2000

Touched Paper

2000-2012

In my mind the price of an object does not equate to the value of that object. Turk’s quote implies that a numerical value, representing the financial cost, has become the label which defines an object not only as a good quality piece of art, but as a piece of art at all. As I will explain later, Turk has gone too far in suggesting that cost is the key factor in deciding the fundamental definition of an object. However, he has recognized that the value of the work is ascribed by something external to the work itself. Perhaps this can be traced back to Duchamp. His “ready-mades championed the idea that art can be produced without technical skill. The concept and the context, was, for the first time, the focus of the attention for the audience and critic. I think we are still buying into the idea that value is ascribed by something abstract, a concept, a context, a price label, not necessarily something tangible or visual.

This is a theme of Harris’ work. At The Free Art Fair Peter Harris exhibited a piece entitled A4 piece of paper touched by Damien Hirst and signed by Peter Harris. The aesthetic of the artwork is not stimulating; it is only a piece of paper, signed by Peter Harris. Harris is asking us to look beyond the object to the ideas behind the work. Hirst’s touch is not visible, we don’t even know if he actually touched the paper. Harris asks us to consider whether our belief in the touch of Hirst, something separate to the work entirely, is enough to give this piece value. I state below that value has historically been placed on an object because of an abstract belief in what it represents, but in contemporary art, is that all we have to go on?

Mystic Duppy Conquering

1999

For a series of paintings Harris has collaborated with the staff of his local Natwest branch. Such activity is pretty standard fare for publicly funded outreach projects these days, Harris’ project is less altruistic if the work sells the split of the profits will go to reducing harris’ debts. A basic questionnaire was devised and circulated to the employees, including the branch manager ‘Steve’ , and on the basis of their replies works are created with a shared authorship.

In the past social paintings derived of belief in certain shared ideological systems, whether the large scale fresco cycles of catholic church paintings or the murals of socialist states. Harris’ collaborative paintings seem based on the shared understanding that the artist and his ‘assistants’ are linked by their status as service providers.

Piers Masterson

Shown at:

Transit Gallery, London
25 September – 31 October 1999

Self Portrait by Proxy 1

1999

Each of these projects relies on the collaborative actions of others. In Self-Portrait by Proxy, Harris commissioned ideas for pictures from family, friends and cultural icons who have acted as an influence on his person and persona. His mother, wanting to spur on his sales, suggested someone famous mixed with an image from nature: thus we have James Dean and a bird with a worm in its mouth, which she titled save the World. Tony Hart requested a painting that responds to his interest in Islamic imagery, duly expressed in the Pollock-inspired The Moment Before Sleep. Rolf Harris was confused about the concept and remained Totally in the Dark, while Peter’s first art teacher offered Colour is Life. When installed, this series forms a chronological self-portrait across the cultural space of Harris’s identity. Each picture is back-dated to the point in which the collaborator entered the artist’s frame of reference. Small white panels list those unwilling to partake: The Clash,1978. Small black panels refer to those unavailable: Sid Vicious, 1978; Francis Bacon, 1990; and Lenny Bruce, 1992. As he delves into the formation of his own identity, Harris forces the collaborator to take measure of the continuing resonance of their pop-cultural persona, while giving away a bit of their person in the art.

Harris’s work often involves experimenting with new ways of making self-portraits, many of which become collaborations. For his Self-Portrait by Proxy series Harris invited members of his family and cultural icons who have had an influence on his life to give him ideas for paintings, searching for his identity through those who had played a part in constructing it. While gathering responses from sources ranging from his sister to Tony Hart and David Bowie, there were a few significant absentees, most notably The Clash and Sid Vicious, who, either unable or unwilling to enter into this collaboration, were sadly represented in the exhibition by name plaques inscribed with the date that they entered Harris’s psyche.

Shown at:

Andrew Mummery Gallery, London
24 -February – 27 March 1999

Forms

1999

There are times in life when events break into your personal space before you can get out there and meet them: life implodes and you are forced to react. Peter Harris’s reaction to harrowing times seems to be to undertake an exorcism, firstly of the ghosts of these events and secondly of the demons they stir up. Just like the rest of us Harris has suffered the darts and arrows of bureaucratic formality, the irritating pomp of officialdom, the standard form whose tenor addresses the ‘perfect’ citizen and from which stance any deviation or flexibility is intolerable, or the telephone conversation with a bank official by whom any innovation or divergent solution can only be translated as a mental aberration. Such scenarios are the catalysts for Harris’s work in his show at Andrew Mummery – his painted ‘blown-up’ facsimiles of official application forms or licences, loans, hire agreements, etc. which are not what they at first appear to be. Giving vent to an anarchic streak, Harris has wreaked his revenge on these forms.

Deflated by rearranged wording and added satirical musing, these self-important documents have slumped into the realm of farce. The subtlety of these changes, however, allows them to maintain a superficial credibility which gives them a cruel paradoxical edge. The curious thing is that, although the meaning of the work in on these forms has been scrambled and nullified, and the context shifted, the format and style of the original is so ubiquitous and stereotypical and so ingrained in our collective psyche, that the original meanings have become indelible. As viewers we find ourselves reinstating them, and this is one of the most disquieting aspects of viewing this work.

These ‘official’ forms have become a series of veiled artists’ statements revealed only through the unravelling of the distortions which Harris has visited upon them. His anarchic interventions create little cameos of his persona – mercurial traces of his identity which plant their flags of victory over the now recumbent body of bureaucracy.

Roy Exley, Contemporary Visual Arts

Shown at:

Andrew Mummery Gallery, London
12 January – 13 February 1999

Demons

1999

In the Demon Series, Harris explored the psychological distortion that accompanies attacks of fear and panic.  Peter made moulded rubber masks and then directed friends to act out his own demons.  These performances were documented in photos, which then served as the reference for his paintings.  The illogical exchange between the ominous caption and the absurd horror of the image, serves to mock the melodrama that often gives extended life to our anxieties. In Physiognomy – the art of judging human character from facial features – Harris asked good friends and vague acquaintances to fill out identikit forms describing him from memory. 

The form he devised moved from questions of a purely physical nature to those regarding the moral fibre of his persona. Harris collated the data, and worked with theatre artist Margita Roth to construct the received personae. He then donned the masks to portray the mixed bag of characters that added up to ‘Peter Harris’ in the eyes of those who took part. The results read like a game of Chinese whispers where the distorted truths of received knowledge are passed on and on. Patricia Niven photographed Harris’s over-the-top renditions of himself, and these images, along with the assembled paintings and identi-forms, serve as documentation of the entire performative act.

Shown at:

Counter, AVCO Gallery, London
26 January – 26 February 2001

Andrew Mummery Gallery
24 February – 27 March 1999

Physiognomy

1999

Peter Harris’s startling Physiognomy series unmasks the extent to which any coherent notion of a permanent and stable, let alone essential, identity is little more than a consoling and controlling fiction. In basing his self-portraits on other people’s remembered perceptions of him, the face becomes the site of a dynamic transaction, an interface between the self and the other. Notions of inside and outside are abolished as the psychic erupts into the carnal fabric. The disturbing abstract amorphousness of the face and head shifts the register of the image away from external reality to the plane of psychical reality, suggesting the inchoate, the anomalous and unmeasurable experiences and tangled feelings that have no name or image. Resisting identification, the shadowed face insinuates a destabilised self, creating the need to assume various masks and disguises, whose effect is to emphasise that identity flows rather than resides, so that a person becomes little more than an assemblage of identities, or a succession of faces, none of which is inherently any truer than another.

The very malleability of the clay masks from which Harris maps the topography of the unseen, emphasises the fragility and infinite extension of the self, and can be read in a kind of negative theology as an ironic comment on God’s construction of Adam from clay. Attempts to trace the divine image or imprint have given way to a notion of identity as a social construct, hinted at in the fingerprints imprinted on the clay. Thanks to Francis Galton’s interest in physiognomy in the last century, which led him to develop the foundations of modern criminology, not only by producing a taxonomy of criminal and racial types through his ‘composite portraits’, but also by pioneering the technique of fingerprinting, modern identity has been reconfigured in material terms as synonymous with the fingerprint, and as indelibly associated with the criminal as Adam is with original sin. The criminal, like the artist in these portraits, offers a brutal reassessment of the romantic conception of the artist as outsider and his heroic pretensions to transcendental truth.

Just as the mask, like the caricature, fixes the fluid field of the face and denies outright the traditional promise of fullness, so Harris uses more formal means to shape the subject as similacrum rather than as origin. Whereas traditionally virtuoso brushwork was taken as an index of the artist’s genius, expressive of the sitter’s inner spirit as much as the artist’s insights, in the Physiognomy series all traces of the artist’s hand have been effaced. The image is almost photographic in its objectivity, and reflects both the artist’s use of the photograph to create his portraits as well as an honesty, in terms of the artist’s superb technical ability as much as his determination to confront fully the implications of Rimbaud’s gnomic phrase ‘je est un autre’. The heavy gloss of the thickly varnished surface which insistently pulls the viewer’s eye back to the surface of the image denies any illusion of access through depth, suggesting that all we can ever know of a person is the superficial appearance. Similarly, though isolated and tightly framed, the heads imply a proximity, rather than an intimacy or revelation of character. The various facial expressions, their sometimes cropped composition, and the directly confrontational nature of some of the expressions, which seek to engage and challenge the viewer rather than open themselves up as objects of contemplation, are all expressive of social interaction. All this draws attention to the fact that whilst we tend to reduce other people’s bodies to appearance, our perception of our own body is inextricably linked to a perception of it in action, as performative rather than as mere form.

The monochromatic background and the strong shadows of the portraits, suggesting an actor caught in a spotlight on stage, underscore the idea of performance. Thus, whilst the mask becomes an essential means to emphasise an awareness that identity is always constructed according to the distanced gaze of the other, the mask also serves as a cover, allowing Harris the opportunity and excuse to explore those darker aspects of the psyche which are normally repressed or marginalised. Like the actor, projective images of self are sanctioned under the guise of having ceded control of his own identity. Rather than a source of anguish, Harris celebrates the freedom that an elusive identity confers, much as his own art demonstrably celebrates the potential of painting at a time when it, by contrast, has been thought to be known too well.

Shown at:

Multiple Selves, James Hyman Gallery, London
29 January – 21 February 2004

Insanity Benefit, Vilma Gold, London
28 April – 28 May 2000

Nylon Gallery, London
27 February – 23 March 1999