Here's a new film, by Tracy Drew, of the artist Marcia Farquhar reading the closing pages of Ulysses, the thoughts of Molly Bloom before she falls asleep. It was filmed at Tanya Peixoto's wonderful bookartbookshop in Pitfield Street, London. This is the place to go for artists' books and small press publications, especially books like these beauties from Atlas Press.
The bookshop is also the headquarters of the London Institute of 'Pataphysics, Alfred Jarry's 'science of imaginary solutions' which is why you can see a painting of Jarry on the wall in the film's opening.
There's a tradition in the bookshop that Marcia performs the complete final chapter of Ulysses on Bloomsday. Tanya provides Banbury cakes (in honour of Bloom's gift to the seagulls by the Liffey).
Wait. Those poor birds.
He halted again and bought from the old applewoman two Banbury cakes for a penny and broke the brittle paste and threw its fragments down into the Liffey. See that? The gulls swooped silently two, then all, from their heights, pouncing on prey. Gone. Every morsel.
Aware of their greed and cunning he shook the powdery crumb from his hands. They never expected that.
Lisa and I have been fans of Marcia's work ever since 2005, when we came upon her performing her Punch and Judy show, 'The Cabinet of Horribly Violent Glove Puppets', at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill.
This gave us the idea to become Punch and Judy for our 2012 Christmas card.
Marcia's work often involves story telling, which she is able to do spellbindingly and at epic length,. For the 30th anniversary of the National Revew of Live Art, in Glasgow in 2010, we saw her give a 30 hour talk, 'ruminating about the events of the last 30 years'.
Here she is, 28 hours in, wearing an 'arte povera' homemade fur ball.
She played records on a dansette, including 'Puppet on a String', illustrating a story about trying to get Sandie Shaw's autograph. Later, she put on the Pistols 'God save the Queen' while talking about Stuart Brisley who would play the National Anthem repeatedly at the ICA, to annoy audiences who were then expected to stand for it.
'There are hours of anecdotes, spattered with a thousand quotable lines ('I was accused unfalrly of being a shaman and went into a lavatory and cried', and, referring to Stuart Brisley, 'He's the one who sat in offal and vomited from the top of a tower')'
Dorothy Max Prior, Total Theatre, Summer 2010
Someone brought in a load of balloons from another performance and gave them to her.
Lisa suggested, 'We could stamp on them!'
Marcia replied, 'Or we could suck them!'
Marcia replied, 'Or we could suck them!'
Which she then did....
She didn't think it was working and said, 'Perhaps it's not helium!' - which came out in a squeaky voice.
At the very end, she played 'God save the Queen' again, and we all stood and cheered.
'Farquhar's stage presence is difficult to pin down. Her performances aren't about stories or props, but a magical charisma that radiates between the past she describes and the audience in the here and now.' Mary Patterson
Here's a photo I took at another performance, 'Recalibrating Hope', at the Chelsea Theatre in 2015, which Lisa reviewed here.
'Works from Farquhar’s extensive ‘repertoire’ from the 1980s to now will be re-imagined, nestled alongside recent and new work created for the occasion. Actions and performances will occur throughout the show, the artist will most certainly be present; appearing to show and tell as the tour guide of her own relics via spontaneous actions, situations, interruptions and habitations on Fridays and Sundays throughout the exhibition.'
We saw one of Marcia's performances at CGP yesterday, when we found her resurrecting the disused fountain of the park lido for an audience of pataphysicians and passers by.
Here she is in an ascension pose
'Fountain' was inspired by the old knitted doll toilet roll covers, by Winnie in Samel Backett's Happy Days, and the fact that she likes to spout.
A high wind was blowing, and Marcia hates heights.
She said, as a young woman, she didn't understand Happy Days until her mother told her, 'I do - I'm up to my waist already!'
Read all about Difficuλt here.