Never Knowingly Understood: How Ivor Cutler Turned Daftness into Serious Business – 从来没有明知:Ivor卡特勒如何转变成严肃的生意

‘Those who are blocked off from my messages, or do not like them, think I am a fool, or hate me.’ Reading these words of Ivor Cutler’s (1923–2006) – written in a non-cursive, naïf hand, in a small exercise book that’s displayed in a vitrine at Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Arts in London – I’m reminded of parties back in Glasgow at the home of an overzealous Cutlerite friend. Pretty regularly, at a certain point in the evening, she’ll interrupt the regular flow of dance tunes to broadcast Mr. Cutler (as he insisted always on being called), pronouncing, in his thick Scots brogue – spoken deadpan, or else sung in a barrelling, music-hall baritone and set to a wheezing harmonium – his nonsensical aperçus and instructions. ‘Peel your mother from off the ceiling’. ‘My hat beats a warning to the flies’. ‘You cannot erase a love-letter with a nipple, no matter how rubbery’. More often than not, the room quickly clears.

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Never Knowingly Understood: How Ivor Cutler Turned Daftness into Serious Business - 从来没有明知:Ivor卡特勒如何转变成严肃的生意

Item from Ivor Cutler’s archive, installation view, Goldsmiths CCA. Courtesy: © The Estate of Ivor Cutler

For those of us who stay behind, part of the appeal is precisely the polarity of us-and-them that Cutler’s art insists upon. The occasional little digs he’ll make against anyone he conceives as being blinkered by conventional modes of thinking (‘This is a song for people in business’, he declares at the outset of ‘Pickle Your Knees’ (1959)) are far funnier for the near-certainty that his targets won’t be listening.  He’s surreal, sure – but in a quaint, antiquated sort of way, such that you can understand the common, out-of-hand reactions of scoffing and scorn. His wry, whacky, childlike humour revolves around minutiae – domestic life; chance meetings with birds and insects; scatology. Listening to him is a little like being let in on a secret you’re not immediately convinced is worth knowing.

You have to meet him on his own terms, like the girl in his short fable, ‘A Loaf of Bread’ (published in A Wet Handle, 1996). Here Cutler imagines himself as a baker who sells only scraps of paper that bear the words: ‘A Loaf of Bread’. Most of his punters may ‘hum and haw’, but, perhaps unable to imagine an alternative, they cough up their money anyway. This girl, however, ‘with eyes like currants’, intuitively speaks Cutler’s language. She pays him with a piece of recycled paper on which ‘69p’ is written. In return, he proffers fourpence change (in kind, of course), and a friendly word of warning. ‘Don’t let anybody know that I let you have it cheap’.

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Never Knowingly Understood: How Ivor Cutler Turned Daftness into Serious Business - 从来没有明知:Ivor卡特勒如何转变成严肃的生意

Item from Ivor Cutler’s archive. Courtesy: © The Estate of Ivor Cutler

Daftness, for Cutler, was a serious business. It was a way of slicing through the routine ways we interact with one another, exposing the essential arbitrariness at their core, revealing the way to more meaningful, intimate connections. For much of his life he struggled to find anyone who saw things his way, confessing once in an interview on Swedish radio in 1985 that he believed he was ‘a stupid man’ until the age of 43. Having worked as a schoolteacher, first in Paisley and then in London, he began to perform on late-night BBC entertainment shows from the late 1950s, and would continue to appear on television and radio frequently on John Peel’s Sessions, for the next 50 years. In 1967, aged 43, he turned in a memorable stint as Buster Bloodvessel in the Beatles’s Magical Mystery Tour, which led George Martin to produce his second studio album, Ludo, later that year. But it  would take him another seven years to produce work that he felt was ‘professional’. On Dandruff (1974) – an album of huge poetic range, by turns tender and grotesque – he released the first in his series of pseudo-autobiographical vignettes of his childhood in Glasgow, ‘Life in a Scotch Sitting-Room’, which he would continue throughout the 1970s and early ’80s, and which are collectively his masterpiece.

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Never Knowingly Understood: How Ivor Cutler Turned Daftness into Serious Business - 从来没有明知:Ivor卡特勒如何转变成严肃的生意

Item from Ivor Cutler’s archive. Courtesy: © The Estate of Ivor Cutler

The Goldsmiths exhibition, with sketchbooks, posters, letters and other ephemera, offers the great joy of seeing just how Cutler went about developing his ‘profession’. The title-sheets of his musical scores, for instance, are adorned with the sort of doodles you’d expect from such a maverick mind (think of a cross between Ralph Steadman and Chris (Simpsons artist)), but the real revelation comes with seeing songs like ‘There’s a Turtle in My Soup, Waiter’ (1961), which I’d unconsciously assumed were the product of casual ad-libbing, set out in formal notation on a stave. I’m reminded of the poem ‘Birdswing’ (1975), in which a thrush sends Cutler a letter, inviting him to ‘come and see me compose’. ‘She stuck her beak into the ink, and sputtered onto the manuscript’.

Cutler found life itself so inherently comical and absurd that he undertook, as his life’s work, the momentous challenge of not being outdone by it. There’s a beautiful moment in the poem ‘Fremsley’ (1974) when the radical potential of this becomes clear. Cutler and Fremsley – a sparrow – have been running hand-in-wing through the countryside, when all of a sudden Fremsley dives beneath Cutler’s shirt, telling him to hide in the nearest bush. Presently, ‘A great aristocrat bursts into the bush with two slavering dogs’. Yet even though this man catches sight of a fluttering beneath Cutler’s shirt, and looks exactly the sort who ‘could extirpate a sparrow without mercy’, he is ultimately thwarted when Cutler explains that the fluttering is just the beating of his heart.

He knew I lied. I knew he knew I lied. But I knew he would never reach into my shirt. He was a man.

A moment of fantastical danger has been averted by an absurdity that’s all too real. Time and again, in Cutler’s gloriously odd universe, society’s most idiotic preconceptions are turned against it, bringing it to heel. In a world that sometimes seems to grow more foolish by the day, you dismiss victories like these at your peril.

Ivor Cutler, ‘Good morning!  How are you?  Shut up!’, runs at Goldsmiths CCA, London until 4 November. 

Main image: Item from Ivor Cutler’s archive. Courtesy: © The Estate of Ivor Cutler

Samuel Reilly

Samuel Reilly is editorial assistant at Apollo magazine, based in London, UK. 

Opinion /

Ivor Cutler
Goldsmiths CCA
Samuel Reilly
Humour
Scottish Art


“那些被我的信息封锁的人,或者不喜欢我的人,都认为我是个傻瓜,或者恨我。”读一下Ivor Cutler(1923-2006)的这些话,这些话是用非草书、天真的手写的,写在一本小练习本上,这本小练习本在戈德史密斯当代艺术中心的玻璃瓶里展出。伦敦-我想起了在格拉斯哥的派对,在一个过分热情的克丽丽特朋友的家里。经常地,在晚上的某个时候,她会打断舞蹈曲调的正常流动,播放卡特勒先生(正如他一直坚持要被称呼的那样),用他浓重的苏格兰方言发音,或者用桶唱,用音乐厅里的男中音演唱,然后开始喘息。口琴——他那毫无意义的表和指示。“把你妈妈从天花板上剥下来。”“我的帽子敲打苍蝇的警告。”你不能用乳头擦掉一封情书,不管它有多橡皮。通常情况下,房间很快就会打扫干净。来自Ivor Cutler档案馆、安装视图、金匠CCA的ivorcutler.ion3.jpg Never Knowingly Understood: How Ivor Cutler Turned Daftness into Serious Business - 从来没有明知:Ivor卡特勒如何转变成严肃的生意项目。礼貌:象牙卡特勒庄园_对于我们这些留下来的人来说,部分吸引力正是我们和卡特勒艺术所坚持的极性。他偶尔会对任何他认为被传统思维模式蒙蔽的人进行一些小小的挖苦(《这是商业人士的歌》,他在《舔膝盖》(1959)一开头就宣称),因为几乎可以肯定的是,他的目标不会被列出来,所以要笑得多。的确,他是超现实的——但是以一种古怪的、过时的方式,你可以理解嘲笑和蔑视这种常见的、失控的反应。他那扭曲、古怪、孩子气的幽默围绕着细节——家庭生活;与鸟类和昆虫的偶然相遇;粪便学。听他有点像是被一个秘密告诉你,你并不立即相信他是值得知道的。你必须按照他自己的条件去见他,就像他短篇寓言中的那个女孩,一条面包(发表在一个湿柄上,1996)。在这里,卡特勒把自己想象成一个面包师,只卖纸条,上面写着“一条面包”。他的大多数投注者可能是“哼哼唧唧”,但也许无法想象另一种选择,他们无论如何都会把钱吐出来。然而,这个女孩“眼睛像红醋栗”,直觉地说出了Cutler的语言。她付给他一张再生纸,上面写着“69P”。作为回报,他提出了四便士的变化(实物,当然),并友好的警告字。不要让任何人知道我让你便宜了。IVOR CARLLL存档GCCAL06JPG Never Knowingly Understood: How Ivor Cutler Turned Daftness into Serious Business - 从来没有明知:Ivor卡特勒如何转变成严肃的生意项目从Ivor Cutler的档案。礼貌:对Cutler来说,Ivor Cuter-Daffy的产业是一项严肃的事业。它是一种打破我们彼此之间日常互动的方式,揭露他们核心本质上的任意性,揭示通往更有意义、更亲密的联系的方式。在他一生的大部分时间里,他一直在努力寻找任何能以自己的方式看待事情的人。1985年,在瑞典电台的一次采访中,他承认自己在43岁之前一直认为自己是“愚蠢的人”。从佩斯利到伦敦,他当过教师,从上世纪50年代末开始在BBC深夜的娱乐节目中表演,在接下来的50年里,他将继续频繁地出现在约翰·皮尔的电视和广播节目中。1967年,他43岁,在披头士乐队的《魔法神秘之旅》中饰演巴斯特·血船,这令乔治·马丁在那年晚些时候创作了他的第二张录音室专辑《路多》。但他还要花七年的时间来生产他觉得“专业”的工作。在《头皮屑》(1974)上,他推出了他童年在格拉斯哥的一系列伪自传体小插曲《苏格兰客厅生活》中的第一张,这张专辑诗意丰富,温柔而怪诞。统统是他的杰作。IVOR CARLLL存档GCCAA05.JPG WPAP6023 602IMG项目从Ivor Cutler的档案。礼貌:象牙卡特勒庄园_金匠展览,有素描、海报、信件和其他短篇小说,让人们非常高兴地看到卡特勒如何发展他的“职业”。比如,他的音乐乐谱的标题页上就装饰着你从这种特立独行的头脑中期待的那种涂鸦(想想拉尔夫·斯蒂德曼和克里斯(辛普森斯艺术家)之间的十字架),但真正的启示来自于看像《我的汤里有只乌龟,服务员》这样的歌曲。(1961)我在不知不觉中假设是随意的诽谤的产物,用正式的符号表示在一个板条上。我想起了《鸟翼》(1975)这首诗,画眉给卡特勒寄了一封信,邀请他“来看我作曲”。她把嘴插进墨水里,然后溅到手稿上。卡特勒发现生活本身天生滑稽可笑,荒唐可笑,因此他承担了作为他一生工作的重大挑战,即不能被它超越。在这首诗“Fremsley”(1974)中有一个美丽的时刻,当这个激进的潜力变得清晰的时候。卡特勒和麻雀弗莱姆斯利手牵手在乡间跑来跑去,突然弗莱姆斯利跳到卡特勒的衬衫下面,叫他躲到最近的灌木丛里。不久,一位伟大的贵族和两条奴隶狗一起闯进了布什。然而,即使这个人看到了卡特勒衬衫下飘动的东西,而且看起来正是那种“可以毫不留情地拔出麻雀”的人,但是当卡特勒解释说飘动只是他心脏的跳动时,他最终还是被挫败了。他知道我撒了谎。我知道他知道我撒了谎。但我知道他永远不会伸进我的衬衫。他是个男人。一种幻想的危险已经被一种完全真实的荒谬所避免了。在卡特勒的奇妙宇宙中,社会上最愚蠢的偏见一次又一次地反过来,使之跟上潮流。在一个有时看起来越来越愚蠢的世界里,你会放弃这样的胜利。伊沃·卡特勒:“早上好!你好吗?闭嘴!在伦敦的GooSmithCCA,直到11月4日。主要图像:Ivor Cutler档案的项目。礼貌:Ivor Cutler Estate of Ivor Reilly.Samuel Reilly.Samuel Reilly.Samuel Reilly是英国伦敦阿波罗杂志的编辑助理。伊农/象牙·卡特勒·金匠CCA·塞缪尔·赖利·幽默·苏格兰艺术


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