The Snow Studies.
A series of studies of snow planned when snow covered the beach at Camber
while the Tidal series was being fine-finished in December 1969. The sites
for the snow series were selected at random by Cameron Hills (Joan Hills
son) who shot six arrows across the dunes. Two of the arrows were lost
and two of the sites were damaged during the process, so only the remaining
pair of sites were completed. The studies were made to show the surface
features, but the snow from each site was gathered and when it had melted
was bottled with the idea that it would be reconstituted as snow by passing
it, atomised, through liquid nitrogen and then presenting it in a thin,
refrigerated compartment behind a transparent cast of the surface form.
Unfortunately expense has made this impracticable for the time being.
Notes for Appendix 5
(1) A previous attempt to make a snow study in January 1969 in London
was not successful.
Son et Lumiere for Earth, Air, Fire and Water (1)
The presentation of Earth, Air, Fire and Water by the projection of various
chemical and physical reactions occurring in special containers in the
projectors, with the amplification of the sound of the actual reaction,
or tapes of colossal reactions in the same medium or with performed sound
using the medium (i.e. rock movement, storm, fire or waves).
This is a rough sketch of a possible performance of limited dimensions.
There is no rigid score. The performance depends on whatever materials
and equipment are available. These events can be performed by one person
sitting alone in his room. If he has a microscope or a projector and a
tape recorder so much the better, but no equipment is necessary. At the
other end of the scale there is no limit to the amount of equipment that
may be used. (2)
other chemical reactions
amplification of sound of the actual reaction, or a tape of the eruption
of Vesuvius or an avalanche or a live performance using amplified chemical
Project movement of air through liquids
Various physical reactions are set in motion so that air passes through
a variety of liquids with speeds from gentle to frenetic.
sound of the actual reaction tape of storm, hurricane etc. performed sound
(e.g. with compressor)
Burn various types of plastic in the projectors.
amplified sound of fire (actual or recorded)
Project melting ice, convection, boiling water etc.
sound:- sea, rivers, actual sound etc.
Notes for Appendix 6
(1) Originally performed in Liverpool in 1966 Son et Lumiere for Earth,
Air, Fire and Water was a concentration of a variety of projected phenomena
developed by Mark Boyle and Joan Hills from 1962 onwards. In the early
stages experiments were performed for and with friends in Boyle's Studio
in Queensgate London. The first public demonstration of the technique
was before an invited audience during the event "suddenly Last Supper"
in 1964. At the Liverpool performance John Claxton joined Mark and Joan
(a collaboration that was to last for several years) and at subsequent
performance in Bristol, London (Cochrane Theatre) and U.F.O. (the "Unidentified
Flying Object" in Tottenham Court Road, London) the sound was performed
by Peter Schmidt. After the Cochrane Theatre show, Mark, Joan and John
Claxton formed the 'Sensual Laboratory', and after the performance of
Earth, Air, Fire and Water at U.F.O. in 1967, Hoppy (John Hopkins, founder
of U.F.O.) invited them to perform regular liquid light environments at
U.F.O. Further performances of Earth, Air, Fire and Water took place in
Geneva, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin (to the accompaniment of John Cox's
exciting water music), at the opening of the new Institute of Contemporary
Art, London and many other places. In 1968 the Earth, Air, Fire and Water
overture was performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London. In 1969 during
the ICA Exhibition the Sensual Laboratory made two Earth, Air, Fire and
Water environments on film shown on a circular screen. One, in colour,
of induced reactions and the other, in black and white, of observed phenomena.
From 1967 the Sensual Laboratory began a long collaboration with the Soft
Machine (cf. Appendix 13 Perceptual Events).
"Son et Lumiere for Earth, Air, Fire and Water (1966) consisted mainly
of representative chemical and physical reactions projected on to a screen
with amplification of the sounds made. (A development from this and earlier
performances is the now complex technique for the breath-takingly inventive
and beautiful light shows which Boyle has performed both by himself and
in collaboration with pop musicians such as the Soft Machine, The Cream
and Jimi Hendrix and with the dancer Graziella Martinz.) The brilliance
of his light shows is partly due to his skill in the manipulation of climax,
contrast and even the repetition, as in musical form, of certain 'themes'.
David Thomson Studio International
"There is more. Two specially constructed dark areas present works by
the "Sensual Laboratory". People who saw "The Beard" at the Royal Court
will recall Boyle's projections which provided an overture and the accompaniment
to Jean Harlow's ecstasy. They are worth seeing by themselves. The scale
and the proximity is right, also the fact that the show is continuous
so that you can drift away and come back to see what's new. The shapes
flow and flicker and flame across the embracing screens: mood and tempo
Norbert Lynton (The Guardian)
"Boyle's latest work is another cinematic experience an extremely well-realised
camera amplification of natural things, a candle flame, the constant slow
movement of water, a column of sand falling and bounding in slow motion
repeated four times side by side on a wraparound screen....
The same applies to the wraparound cinema; concentration is taken off
the centre of the eye and spreads to the weaker parts of the retina to
give a more diffused experience. It is a sudden relief not to stare, but
to be made more broadly conscious. Using the ability of film and magnetic
tape to isolate and amplify the real. Boyle orchestrates these effects
like a ringmaster".
Guy Brett (The Times)
"Entering the exhibition one passes through a dark room in which a film
of changing abstract colour is projected onto a giant screen. This is
one of the famous "light shows" which Boyle pioneered, and there are two
in the exhibition, described in handouts as "continuous light environments."
The results when filmed are incredibly lovely, with continuously changing
shapes, colours and harmonies and dramatic changes of mood in the abstract
images. The colours have a mesmerising effect.
In the ICA exhibition there is a circular cinema "environment" which Boyle's
Sensual Laboratory have four films projected simultaneously onto a wrap-around
screen. They feature the elementals. Water, Fire and Earth. One can lie
on mattresses on the cinema floor and be lulled by the taped sound of
crashing breakers or lapping waves, while surrounded by giant screen patterns
of rippling water, writhing flames and light laying on falling sand. There
is a grandeur about such phenomena which removes any need for explanations.
People just go into the dark rooms and sit and watch, undisturbed by questions
of what it's all about."
Robert McDonald (The Scotsman)
"Next, an almost all-round film screen with four projectors showing film
of physical reactions in the elements; with sound Air, Fire, Water and
Earth. This is most effective, fascinating, refreshing and with interesting
Michael Shepherd (Sunday Telegraph)
Meticulously selected at random, without the slightest consideration for
beauty, utility, edibility, scent, or horticultural interest, we are now
able to offer from various random sites and from the Sensual Laboratory's
random nurseries in the Hebrides, London, Norfolk and Sussex.
Joan Hills Seeds for a random garden
RANDOM HARVEST. Seeds collected periodically from a series of squares
selected with a dart, thrown blindfold into a large scale map, and a square
frame thrown down on the spot in such a way that no personal selection,
conscious or unconscious, could operate. Series Commenced 1966.
HARVEST FALLOUT. 30 empty seedboxes put out by Joan Hills in the London
random nursery on 1st October, 1969 were brought in, one each day throughout
October. Any seeds were packeted.
BLOWN SEEDS. A find mesh net was hung vertically in the London random
garden and periodically the seeds caught in the mesh, or in the collection
trough below, were collected and packeted.
WATERBORNE SEEDS. A net of fine mesh was placed in various (randomly selected)
areas of water (lake pond and sea). It was taken up at intervals and examined
for seeds Autumn 1969.
NOTTING HILL HARVEST FESTIVAL. Seeds from one of a hundred sites selected
at random from the Notting Hill/Shepherds Bush area of London.
URBAN GLEANINGS. Seeds collected following various routes during which
Joan Hills would stop at pre-determined intervals and gather a seed from
the nearest plant (continuing series).
SEEDSMANS MEDLEY. For this Medley Joan Hills bought one of each packet
of seeds stocked by a local seedsman mixed them together and then divided
and packeted them.
FROM THE RANDOM NURSERIES. Random selections from the sensual Laboratory's
random nurseries in London, Sussex, Norfolk and the Hebrides.
FORTHCOMING Earthprobe: Collections of seeds from each of 1000 sites selected
at random from the surface of the earth.
A SEED FOR JOAN'S GARDEN. Members of the public attending the openings
of Journey to the surface of the Earth exhibitions will be admitted on
production of a seed for Joan's garden. These seeds will be divided randomly
1. Seeds maybe planted in sterilised earth in pots or seed boxes or planted
out (under glass initially) in beds of sterilised earth.
2. Seeds may be sown on a square site selected at random from any area.
3. Seeds may be scattered at random from the air.
4. Random seeds will be planted on each of the 1000 sites of journey to
the surface of the Earth packets of seeds are available in exchange for
a contribution to the funds of the Sensual Laboratory. Amount to be chosen
at random by donor.
Son et Lumiere for Insects, Reptiles and Water Creatures (1)
1. Select a site at random
2. Remove all the live creatures from the site.
3. Project them onto a screen with slide or micro-projector or examine
them, using whatever equipment is available.
4. Amplify the sound made by the insects, etc.
There are a number of possible techniques for selecting the site. They
may not be random absolutely but they serve. For example a dart thrown
into a map or a computer selection can decide a particular square of earth
or water. We can then decide to examine the surface, or to dig down 6
inches or whatever. Or we can decide to use whatever we find under the
first large stone in a particular area or whatever you find in a container
or a net of particular mesh on being dipped once into the nearest pond.
If you don't like these or if they are impractical invent a technique
of your own.
Notes for Appendix 8
(1) The programme note from "Sound/Light for Insects and Water Creatures"
the opening programme of the Destruction in Art Symposium London 1966
performed by Mark Boyle, John Claxton, Joan Hills and Mike Rose. 1st September
1966 Cochrane Theatre.
Joan Hills, John Claxton and I were working on the beach at Camber one
day in summer when I noticed a labyrinth of minute tracks in the sand.
At the centre an insect lay on its back. I though, surely even in its
death agony this fly could not have created all these tracks. I turned
it over with a small stick to see if it was a fly or a wasp and as I did
so a number of smaller insects scuttled out of the corpse.
I don't think I'm specially interested in 'destruction in art'. I'm interested
in destruction as an aspect of everything. The intimations of violence
and futility which figure so largely in the destruction movement attract
my curiosity, but no more than, say pacifism, or the euphoria at a Conservative
Things are created and survive only by the destruction of other things.
In this sense, materially or formally, all art is destructive. When Ortiz
destroys a chair he is destroying an object which is the record and trace
of the ritual destruction of a tree. And I feel that my life and death
are neither more nor less futile than the life and death of that tree
or that fly ....... we are going to take the opportunity provided in this
theatre to indulge ourselves by watching and sharing with anyone who cares
to stay Amoebas, Hydras, Daphnes Euglenas, Parameciums, Cyclops, Planarias,
various larvae, wasps, sperm and anything else we find.
Originally we meant to go on all night,.......so if the amoeba should
decide to perform the ultimate act of auto-destruction, reproducing by
splitting its self in two, or if we get particularly involved with any
part of the presentation we may well watch it until the theatre closes
continuing the rest of the presentation some other time, aware that whether
we watch or not the process of destruction/creation continues everywhere
in our universe and in ourselves.
Son et Lumiere for Bodily Fluids and Functions (1), (4).
FLUID ACTION / SOUND REACTION / PROJECTED ON TO A SCREEN
1. Catarrh Coughing up / Contact mike on throat / Examine with microscope
2. Snot Blow nose etc. / Contact mike on nose / Examine with microscope
3. Saliva Kiss to arouse saliva possibly eat / Contact mike in mouths
of kissers or on throat if eating / Examine with microscope dyes separate
4. Earwax / Extract / Melt and examine
5. Tears / Extract Tape - children crying adults howling / Crystallise
tears in microprojector
6. Urine Piss in can / Contact mike on can / Sugar test on urine
7. Sweat / Exercise furiously / Breathing and heart beat Examine with
8. Blood / Extract with hypodermic / Loud breathing and heartbeats / Examine
9. Sperm Extract by copulation (2) or masturbation / Attach electrocardiogram
and electroencephalogram / Televise oscilloscopes of equipment, project
using T.V. projector Maybe silence, maybe climactic heart and breathing
sounds / Project live sperm in microprojector
10. Gastric Juices Swallow sponge on the end of a string Pull up / Contact
mike on stomach / Examine with microprojector
11. Vomit Take emetic / Contact mike on stomach and throat / Examine with
1. I think moral shock tends to be a barrier to perception. It is therefore
perhaps advisable to leave out any sections that might cause moral shock
to the particular audience.
2. The entire piece may be performed with the continuous rhythm of breathing
3. Obviously this piece is another that may be performed by one or two
people alone, or, it is usually performed in concert halls and theatres,
or as an environmental piece with a circular screen.
Notes on Appendix 9
(1)This event was first performed at Liverpool in 1966 and subsequently
at Bristol, London (Cochrane Theatre) and at the Roundhouse.
(2) In the Roundhouse production the performance area was surrounded by
an enormous white screen. The reacting fluids were projected onto this
one after the other.
In the Sperm sequence a couple wired up to ECG and EEG celebrated intercourse,
while the oscilloscopes of the ECG and EGG were televised on closed circuit
television and projected with an Eidafor TV projector on to a large screen
behind the couple. Thus, their heartbeats and brainwaves were instantly
visible and every excitement and tension was immediately revealed. The
man and the girl had never met before. Describing the event in a lecture
at Glasgow Art School Mark Boyle said, "Everyone that was there seemed
to find the experience very moving. The dirt and the mystique, the secretness
and the sacredness were washed away. For me, provided the participants
are free, all sexual manifestations are marvellous and from that moment
on I knew that it doesn't matter whether people are guilty or lascivious
or pure or perverse or promiscuous the mechanism that drives them is unbelievably
complex and ecstatically beautiful."
(3) In the Bristol performance tears were gathered with great difficulty
and were examined in a microprojector for the first time and to everyone's
amazement they crystallised before their eyes on the screen.
(4) Public reaction to this event included:
A Sick Performance
"The extraction of bodily fluids and the amplification of the sounds of
their production on the stage of Bristol's Art Centre last night was a
nauseous experience for the participants and the audience.
Mark Boyle and a production team gave a clinical performance that stripped
the human frame of all dignity.
In his own words it was a contrivance. In this critic's opinion it was
an insult to civilised man, and those who left the theatre in disgust
were more to be admired than those who might pretend that it had any association
with art. Bristol Evening News.
"He practices an openness of response so lacking in self-consciousness
(or perhaps so conscious of the need to preserve unself-consciousness
- we are all human) that it is capable on occasion of shocking the unsophisticate
and embarrassing the sophisticate. I am not talking primarily of the kind
of reactions aroused by performances of the 1966 Son et Lumiere for bodily
fluids and functions (microprojector images of specimens as per title,
necessarily including such items as nose-snot, sperm and vomit - disturbing
less in themselves than in the fact that they were supplied by the presenter
of the performance)."
David Thomson (Studio International)
"Nearby, yet another kind of realism: realism ex machina. An electroencephalogram
of a woman "celebrating intercourse" (the word "celebrating" somehow does
more for me than staring at the squiggles, but never mind)."
Norbert Lynton Guardian.
Body Work (1)
1. When the audience arrives the performer is lying on the table.
2. A member of the audience is blindfolded
3. A photograph is displayed of the naked body of the performer showing
his body from the front, the back, both sides, from above and from below.
4. The blindfolded member of the audience is invited to throw a dart at
the unknown target (i.e. the photograph).
5. When the dart strikes the figure in the photograph the corresponding
part of the body of the performer is exactly located.
6. Photographs, X-rays, sound recordings, and electricity readings are
made of the spot.
7. A square millimetre of skin is removed from the spot. It is examined
in a micro projector.
8. Any blood is examined in the micro-projector.
Notes for Appendix 10
(1) First performed at Institute of Contemporary Arts, London 1969.
Taste/Sight Event (1)
1. A plate of white food, e.g. rice, ice cream, potato, is displayed in
an alcove in a dark room.
2. A colour slide of a different tasting food is projected on to the food
via a mirror angled at 45¡.
3. The public are invited to eat. (2)
1. A strong food or drink aroma (e.g. coffee beans scattered on a hot
plate) is allowed to drift through the darkened room in which the public
2. A different food or drink is served to the public. (3)
Notes on Appendices 11 & 12
(1) In these events Mark Boyle and Joan Hills were concerned with synaethesia
(the way separate senses overlap and inter-react). They were first performed
(not very successfully) at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London,
(2) In a lecture at Edinburgh Art College Mark Boyle admitted that their
initial concept of this piece had been too crude. He said, "We discovered
if you project fish and chips on to vanilla ice cream nobody is fooled.
But when the texture is the same and only the flavour is different you
create a moment of hesitation.
(3) In the 1969 performance we used coffee beans on a hot plate and served
hot chocolate and tea to an audience in the liquid light environment.
Nobody thought it was coffee but most people were not really sure what
it was. This may have been caused by the quality of the tea and the chocolate
but in fact the senses of taste and smell are closely inter-related.
In 1967 the Sensual Laboratory joined forces with an experimental music
group called the Soft Machine and worked and toured extensively with them.
(1) The sensual laboratory projected their liquid light environment around
the Soft Machine as they played. Although the light environment was not
in any way synchronised with the music the audience were invariably convinced
that they were synchronised. As the light environment consisted of chemical
and physical reactions with no manipulation or interference from the performers
the only possibility of genuine synchronisation would be that sound waves
might interfere with the reaction or that the group were influenced by
the lights. However, films of the light performance run with tapes of
the Soft Machine invariably produce the same phenomena. In a lecture at
Glasgow School of Art, Boyle described this synaesthetic process as "an
electrical oscillation forcing two disparate sensary experiences to coincide
causing excitement, satisfaction, pleasure." (2), (3).
Soft Machine in the liquid light environment of the Sensual Laboratory.
When asked during a lecture why he spent so much time with the Soft Machine,
Boyle replied, "Whenever I get asked that I know that this person has
never heard the Soft Machine live. Its acetylene music. No need for explanations."
Notes on Appendix 13
(1) The Soft Machine and the Sensual Laboratory gave numerous concerts
in England and Europe including the Concertebouw in Amsterdam, the Palais
des Sports, Paris and Olympia, London. In 1968 the Sensual Laboratory
toured America and Canada with the Soft Machine and Jimi Hendrix Experience.
The synaesthetic phenomenon was pronounced in a number of TV performances.
(2) Public reactions included the following:
"Everyone with a serious concern for the stature of art and its sense
of direction should give time and thought to Mark Boyle's multi-media
exhibition Journey to the Surface of the Earth at the I.C.A. The exhibition
starts with a darkened area where slides of liquids in movement (by the
Sensual Laboratory of Son et Lumiere for Earth, Air, Water and Fire) make
patterns extraordinarily similar to Matisse's cut papers, and the accompanying
music is often marvellously matched."
Michael Shepherd (Sunday Telegraph)
"A tape of Shepherds Bush traffic cuts into the ripple film as well as
a Soft Machine tape - after a while they both seemed as if they were made
for the film."
Rolling Stone, Colin Moorcroft