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BLIND MANS BLOOD


Teiresias, you who understand all thingswhat can be taught and what cannot be spoken of, what goes on in heaven and here on the earthyou know, although you cannot see, how sick our state is. Sophocles, Oedipus the King (420 BC) The audience has voted no to the giving of blood, in accordance to a series of starting points and references lived, contemplated, thought and dreamed. In accordance to the facts of history remembered and comfortably forgotten, your vote of no has been heard and over-ruled. Michael Mayhew, Liverpool (2010)

Slayed? by Slade. An album cover from the 1970s is positioned above a work surface that also includes dolls heads, a broken clock, scalpels, cigarettes and empty picture frames. The present arrangement of these objects could be described as a kind of taxonomy; though not labeled or categorized as such, they function as an assemblage of traces or fragments that contain their own narratives, having passed through a host of human hands, situations and contexts. Some are altered, fabricated, damaged and are residues of past performances, while others await their turn and patrol the limits of a thinking practice. Their alignment resembles the dusty displays of the curiosity shop, yet the objects also operate as an effective index system for a complex artistic practice. Curiously, the Slade album, as object, depicts four males, one stripped to his waist, knuckles scribed and in a fist. This image, for all its pretence of sexual aggression and an asserted maleness may be metonymic of phallocentric power, yet also suggests a queer and comic homo-eroticism. This unscrambling of biological and genetic dimensions of the male body from its social and psychological perception reveals a central ground where the body underlies and contradicts symbolic reference. Mayhew is the centre ground that connects these objects into a series of inter-linking sequences that describe a passage of time. Artists, who use their bodies as material, understand its potential as a site where questions of sexuality, power, biography and history are played out. Michael Mayhew is one of these artists, and while the Slade album maybe considered as an ironic, self-effacing totem, it also introduces an urge to explore depth beyond surface, to tease out deeper meanings and motives that inform a relentless and contemporary arts practice formulated around the body, place and objects. How do I begin to describe the working methodologies and live research of an artist who has performed across the globe for over thirty years? This writing is constructed around a range of contexts; from immediate live performance and video documentation, to hours spent alone in Michaels studio, from intense conversation in transit, to drunken dialogues in his own backyard of Manchester. It is difficult to separate these contexts in terms of how they may inform or constitute a performance event. Formality and informality are indistinguishable in Mayhews practice and so it has been useful to reflect on his work from a variety of angles, hoping to interweave and interfold elements that can then be unpacked and untangled. Certain patterns or motifs re-appear and reoccur in Mayhews work; there is always a

2 focus on the body, recognitions of place and space, emphasis on the materiality of words, an exchange with a community, an assemblage of objectsand the giving of blood. My first encounter with Michael Mayhew is an isolated and mediated one. In a room located above Hope Street in Liverpool, I am invited to view a special video screening of his work presented as part of the Liverpool Biennial in 2010. The piece, based on a previous work entitled 333, explores notions of identity, the nature of language and socio-political discourses that inform and inscribe the materiality of the body. Sitting comfortably in an empty room I observe Mayhew, smartly dressed in a white shirt and black suit, as he describes political landscapes and slowly draws the audience in like a bogus preacher or a travelling charlatan, gaining their trust and interest. I myself, feel comfortable, while acknowledging an objective distance. Mayhew soon turns a sly sleight of hand where the audience are implied in an intimate exchange, an implication that suggests personal responsibilities in actions leading to conflict and war, where the audience bears witness to the handing over of artists blood for money. This exchange materializes as Mayhew directs the curator to insert a needle into his arm in order to draw a pint of blood. On completion of this task, the resulting bag of blood is exchanged for a roll of cash, surreptitiously passed, hand to hand from curator to artist as Mayhews blood begins to circulate between attendant observers and witnesses. Chalked white lines mark squares and black tape delineates vertical stripes that evoke a cage. Mayhew stands imprisoned within a cell, trapped within the restraints of a visual bar code. A litany of text is read aloud - a text that maps the artists thoughts around participation, language, commodity and injustice. The blood bag is hung and the plastic tube cut. Silken rope is tied tight around the neck restricting the airways; self asphyxiation is initiated as Mayhews body jerks and struggles to read official articles on human rights. Blood drips and spirals as Mayhew violently maintains a crescendo of discourse. Spitting and choking accompany his diatribe, bitter and forceful. Suspended between the figures of a prophetic god and rhetorical politician, Mayhew spins and gags while his white shirt is steadily stained red. His actions slowly convert him from human to gargoyle, a diabolic demon with a pointed tongue while spattered black boots dance around penumbras of blood and saliva. The audience clap as the discourse runs dry and Mayhew leaves the building expended and drained. Their response appears inappropriate, perhaps revealing a nervous reaction to shock and after-shock or a sense of relief that they have survived a sustained ordeal. My next encounter with Michael is a live one. Sometimes the reputation of an artist surpasses expectations. I have to admit an initial caution, a hesitance before meeting Michael in the flesh due to a kind of mythology surrounding his personae. Just as one may describe the performance artist as a deity or a shaman, Michael appeared to bear the scars and character of a performance art gangster with a reputation for toughness and speaking his mind; uncompromising and unforgiving. Though these representations were not entirely nullified in our initial exchanges, I sensed a warmth of character and a recognition of a northern, working class sensibility demonstrated in our mutual enjoyment of beer, cigarettes and story-telling. As we talked in the shadows of a mid-day Hackney sun, the hours drain away as quickly as empty brown ale bottles and fag ends began to encircle us. Michaels task was to perform a new piece of work entitled Away in a Manger, while my job was to notate and document multiple performances over three days as part of the ]performance space[ Beyond Necessity event.

3 The resultant written documentation of Away in a Manger slowly emerged on the walls of ]performance space[ to a soundtrack of birdsong. Michael noted that sometimes the setting up of performances, the various assembling of objects and materials were as interesting as the performances themselves, demarcating the fine lines between performance and everyday activity. This certainly rang true as he hung blank sheets of white paper to the walls of the space, slowly and methodically unpacking bags and containers containing a variety of medical equipment and writing tools. Dressed in a white shirt and cream trousers, Michael silently traversed the space with purposeful calm. When does it begin? A pair of stools with plastic covers, one green and the other red. Mayhew sits on a neat bundle of straw facing a corner where blank sheets of paper hang. The space awaits inscription as a chatter of bird song hangs in the air. Mayhew mirrors patterns of ornithology as he begins to disperse and re-arrange straw into a kind of nest. In The Poetics of Space (1994)Gaston Bachelard associates the image of the birds nest with a primitive urge to rest and shelter - the nest becomes a human metaphor for home, safety and security. Mayhew echoes these ideas physically - his head hidden in the hay, his torso twisted and akimbo as his body burrows and curls into straw and shifts through various permutations of a fetal position. At times it appears if his body has fallen from the sky, arms and legs contorted, eyes closed. Mayhew rests his outstretched limbs and sighs, inducing himself and the audience into a soporific statepeaceful and content, safe and snug. Like a baby Jesus Multiplicities and synchronicities tie together in isolated moments. I find myself meandering around Manchester with Michael preparing for our roles in Ron Atheys Gifts of the Spirit, a series of automatic writing workshops culminating in a performance at Whitworth Hall. We have procured a couple of bikes to carry us through the streets of the city. In transit, Michael relates significant stories as we weave in out of gridlocked cars, pram pushers and plain-closed police. The narratives and events that Michael enacts reveal insights into the emergence of his site specific arts practice and the integral role it plays in relation to local culture, identity and history. His combinations of stories construct a conceptual framework that borrows notions of the psychogeographic and mythographic, revealing a methodology and a process that thrives in an urban context. Mayhew is a communicator, a weaver of discourse who celebrates the spoken word; an embodiment of Walter Benjamins storyteller:
The Storytelling that thrives for a long time in the milieu of the work the rural, the maritime, and the urban is itself an artisan form of communication, as it were. It does not aim to convey the pure essence of the thing, like information or a report. It sinks the thing into the life of the storyteller, in order to bring it out of him again. (Walter Benjamin, The Storyteller. Illuminations.)

Mayhews 're-writing of place could be described as potentially reactionary or subversive. Mayhew reclaims space via autobiographical and personal narrative. Performance allows him to preserve place in the memory and the imagination. Though monuments, houses, schools and pubs may have been erased to make way for parking lots and supermarkets, these places continue to have an existence through Mayhews re-telling and interaction within a local community and strangers. The connections between place and the self are revealed through dialogic discourse and practice. As Greame Miller suggests:
We write ourselves into the landscape. We own space because we can tell stories about it. And I thought that by making a narrative piece about the neighbourhood, I could put my life back on the map and reappropriate ten years worth of memories that had been stolen.

4 In conversation, Mayhew emphasizes the importance of place and the politics of everyday survival, where resilience, optimism and humour fortify the human spirit, the heart and soul of communities are based on reciprocal and symbiotic exchange; an economy centered on gifts and sharing as opposed to commodity and capital gain. His studio, situated in an old garage, testifies to these very notions and acts as a collation point for personal memories as-well as a functional art space that enables experimentation and a testing of materials. As the shutter slowly opens, an Aladdins cave is revealedan endless procession of objects and ephemera surrounded by images of a younger Mayhew engaged in a range of documented activities and forgotten processes. The space resembles a three dimensional scrap booka hording of memories and ghosts; their presence tattooed in dark corners, scattered cigarette butts and the smell of engine oil. If performance art is closely related and reactionary to the emergence of consumerism and multinational capitalism, I would argue that in performance the individual subject, as artist, becomes a site of resistance, where the body itself is reclaimed, re-inscribed, and literally marked. Words are abandoned in favour of actions; universal gestures that communicate directly in intimate and often esoteric spaces to a limited number of audiences who privilege the live above mediated forms. This perhaps comes as no surprise given our constant bombardment of media, advertising and streams of drip-fed discourse that seek to perpetuate cycles of commodification. We are all marked by these process; the results of a perverse and extreme modernism that seeks to classify and colonize. We consume and consume until death, bearing in mind that verb itself is modeled on destruction. Our bodies are not metaphors of a micro-physical pan capital world, they live it and embody it through an unrelenting hunger for commodityour computers, our clothes, our food, our cigarettes. We are not bystanders or objective observers and Michael Mayhew emphasizes this with an equally unrelenting intensity. Even as he potters around a communal allotment at the bottom of his street, watering flowers and nurturing vegetation he is aware of his own complicity and responsibilities regarding economic and ecological sustenance. Away in a Manger avoids any comfortably forgotten political sub-text. Audience members are invited to read an instructive document that reads as an inventory of personal objects: Your i-pod Your TV Your shoes Your shower curtain Your condom Your money Your sunglasses Your straw Your war Your oil Your blood

5 While these items are read out, Mayhew scribes the list onto the walls of the space. His body appears empty, docile and obeying as repeated pronouns slowly begins to fill the space. This action becomes circular and is only interrupted by bouts of rest and sleeping. Eventually, Mayhew hovers over a table, carefully collecting the tools and implements that will guide a bloodletting. He breaks a silent vow, demystifying his process with humour as he struggles to force a needle into his arm. Eventually, through the aid of an audience member he is allowed to complete the task - producing an obligatory pint of blood. The resultant blood bag finds its way into my hands. The plastic feels like skin as the warm blood rests in my palms. There is an unexpected serenity and calm surrounding this transaction and oddly, I can still sense a dull pulsing in the warm package that reminds me of holding a new born baby. In opposition to an expected recoil of abjection, I feel a sensation of intimacy and closeness. The object I hold lingers as a special and generous gift. I am reminded of a birth in a foreign land a long time ago, somewhere near a desert, a nativity scene watched over by the wise, a human incarnation free of sin. Mayhews next task involves the injection of engine fuel into an empty sterile bag until, again, a pint is produced. The two fluid bags become juxtaposed in the space, hanging together, hovering over an empty stool embedded in straw and ready for use. Blood and oil hold similar connotations. Notions of travel, supply and demand, quality and value come to mind. Both substances are consistent with human survival, one internal, one external. As commodified items, blood and oil share networks of exchange at a price. The exchange and transfer of oil may even involve danger, while the sharing of blood enhances human survival. Blood usually inhabits the interior body, protected by a film of skin that differentiates the self from other while oil travels around the globe, from continent to continent through a network of pipes and mobile containers. Obvious anthropomorphic parallels can be drawn here, with capillaries, veins and vessels that ease the flow of blood to the bodys vital organs. Blood can be fragile, exposed and open to contamination and the dissemination of viruses. Corruption and murder follow oil like vultures, eager to pick out profits. Controlling distributions of oil often results in bloodshed. Blood and oil are symbiotic in nature; stuffs which exist in close association, to the advantage and disadvantage of each other; both are non-expendable and come at a price. That price may extend to various manifestations of repression, exploitation and even death. It may be of no surprise that Mayhews studio was once a garage, where engine oil regularly figured in the context of repair and the re-habilitation of broken machines and machinery. I had arranged to revisit Michaels studio in order to produce and a kind of inventory of objects; a collection of ephemera and traces that leave clues to a 30 year load practice. The aim is to explore Mayhews life work from the inside out, to discover hidden processes that have governed aesthetic and formal decision making. I meet Michael at a bus-stop, close to the studio. It is pissing down with rain and we get soaked as we meander down an alley way past a series of dilapidated Morris Minors. Michael seems slightly agitated as he hands me his keys and leaves me to get on with the list. Maybe he feels exposed? I am conscious of this exposure which is why I am determined to attend to this initial notation as a simple and insensitive enumeration and naming of things. However, this un-sentimental approach soon falters as I sense my own vulnerability, negotiating a path through a host of personal and previously hidden

6 artifacts. By borrowing the common tools of classic colonization, I find myself weary of folly and unexpected surprises: A chair Slippers Rubber gloves A suicide letter Shot gun shells A pink cuckoo poking through a broken speaker Scalpels A used syringe A suitcase A toy clown holding a STOP THE WAR sign. As I ponder a black and white photo of Michael lying in hospital, his body bound with bandages and surrounded by various drips and drains, I am curious as to the narrative surrounding this image. Later on as I shuffle through family photographs and newspaper clippings from the 26th June 1980, my blackened fingers unfold and turn fragile yellow paper searching for connections that maybe located in advertisements and notices. Turning back to the front page I discover an article detailing the rescue of Michael Mayhew from the foot of a mountain. Michael must have smashed every bone in his body. Lying, delirious and broken, he had perhaps cheated death. In the same suitcase, I discover a second newspaper detailing the suicide of Michaels father. The two accounts illustrate the fragility of life and the thin lines that exist between darkness and light. However, Michael is a survivor, and the innards of this studio testify to his survival and a need to inscribe his permanence in a locality, a society, a community, a place Other objects and documents jostle for attention. I find electro-cardiographs detailing the heartbeats of inmates of a long shut down asylum, the sewn up personal records of patients who were to subject to the institutional confinement of madness and a large leather bound book recording the duties of people who worked there, themselves subject to demands of the state, where small penny red stamps allocate servitude and patterns of reward. A black bag full of Tanzanian passports detail the journeys of mysterious strangers, their travels stamped by a host of officials who patrol restrictive borders and enforce ideologies on displaced identities. It seems that these objects were collected by Mayhew in his own search for truth and identity; where a nomadic practice haunts and squats former government buildings, forgotten institutions, and collates the traces, objects and left-overs that disclose secrets which are eventually re-located to his studio for further contemplation - where the objects themselves begin to embody displacement and new interpretations as if back from the dead, as if re-discovered from an ephemeral past and inevitable destruction. Like prodigal sons, these objects return to Mayhew, their re-appearance is celebrated and reincorporated into bodies of work as data, framed textiles or sculptural materials. Mayhews work understands the subjective and historical processes that inform and inscribe the body. His hunger is to create and use knowledge for personal and social transformation, even if the outcomes are uncertain. Mayhews work resonates, triggers feelings, experience and thoughts; there are

7 productive tensions to be explored in viewing his work as a research practice, particularly within a commitment to embodied subjectivities that are part of a larger social movement. This entanglement of performance art and qualitative method is an enigmatic one with multiple dimensions. Performance is process and process is learning and Michael uses the body in a form of haptic learning that insists on connections between memory, movement and thought. As Kristine Stiles states:
Emphasisng the body as artamplified the role of process over product and shifted from representational objects to presentational modes of action that extended the formal boundaries of painting and sculpture into real-time and movement in space. Removing art from purely formalist concerns and the commodification of objects, they (performance artists) also sought to re-engage the artist and spectator by reconnecting art to the material circumstances of social and political events.

These remarks suggest how Mayhews practice, as a performance artist, may viewed as a qualitive methodology: both performance art and qualitive research methods emphasise questions rather than answers; promote creativity in design and expression and focus on embodied subjectivity as an aspect of the process of aesthetic, social and political inquiry. This material embodiement of practice as research is underscored in Rituals of Not Being (2007) where Michael travelled to Galway as an artist in residence. The collecting of stories, from fourteen people over ten-days, culminated in a series of performance and writing actions. In Rituals, Michael tests ideas around performative acts and sustained utterance, while also pursuing notions of self-erasure through a variety of rituals and practices. The collation of stories becomes a performative act, established through truth, trust and communication; where relative strangers offer stories of people or things that have disappeared in their lives. These private memories constitute ideas around loss and how we react to the trauma of sudden and unexpected absence. In a durational process of disappearance Mayhew attempts to archive human experience through the processing of text into action. While Mayhew nods to ideas of referentiality, framing and notions of performance as an extended field beyond sculpture and painting, his concerns question subjection and the body as material. His head swings from side to side, hair flails from left to right, the hair is cut and the head shaved until glabrous and sore. Blood is given and texts are painted on the body, stories wrap themselves round the neck and chest, like tribal adornments or ritual scarifications that re-constitute the skin as a writing surface. These ideas around economies of inscription and the body emerge in relation to Michel de Certeaus writings on everyday life;
There is no law that is not inscribed on bodies. Every law has a hold on the body. The very idea of an individual that can be isolated from the group was established along with necessity, in penal justice, of having a body that that could be marked by punishment, and in matrimonial law, of having a body that could be marked with a price in transactions among collectives. From birth to mourning after death, law takes hold of bodies in order to make them its text. Through all sorts of initiations (in rituals, at school etc.), it transforms them into tables of the law, into living tableaux of rules and customs, into actors in the drama organised by a social order. Michel De Certeau

Living beings are transformed into signifiers that embody rules and regulations. The skin is the parchment on which authoritys hand writes. De Certeau illustrates this idea by quoting from Shakespeares Comedy of Errors, where Dromio the slave says to his master if the skin were parchment

8 and the blows you gave were ink. Here, the relationship between domination, repression and writing is expressed, where the law is inscribed on on the back of its subjects, where bodies are books and skin becomes paper. In Rituals, Mayhew effectively sheds identity in order to sidestep a kind of intextuation that aims to colonise, control and commodify the body. Here, the body becomes a text to be shared; where written words constitute the narratives of a lost other. Through the act of collation, reading, writing and rewriting, these memories of erasure once again emerge into a symbolic order that has neither author nor owner. The text is autonomous; it describes a psychic utterance while Mayhews flesh becomes merely surface without depth, where identity and being dissolve as the body is stripped down, emptied and extracted. A spirit inhabits the remaining void, conveying new messages and carrying fresh signs. Michaels own narrative has a series of starting points, origins and catalysts. Like Michael, I share an experience of Dartington College of Art, a place we attended many years apart, but nevertheless a site where we discovered the infinite possibilities of what art could achieve. Dartington was about the breaking down of barriers between art forms, a celebration of inter-media where theatre, writing, dance and visual art fused together in strange alchemies, where practices became indistinguishable from each other and formal practice was examined from a range of contexts and situations. Dartington itself seemed removed from the rest of the world, a haven or bubble of innovate, experimental and avantgarde practice, hidden in the rural countryside of Devon;
Such is the meadowland Delivered to oblivion, All overgrown and flowering With frankincense and tares Amid the frantic buzzing Of the filthy flies May it come, may it come The time of which wed be enamored Arthur Rimbaud A Season in Hell

I insert Rimbauds text here as metaphor for my own experience of Dartington, where convention and traditions of what may constitute and arts practice were challenged and re-constructed through creative and critical dialogue. At times this experience could be described as hellish, where isolation and alienation accompanied a purification of practice and a spiritual re-building of identity, where nature re-negotiates an understanding of subjectivity far from the chic metropolitan centres where artists seek celebrity and self publicity. Ironically, Michael was removed from Dartington due to an institutional confusion of how to handle and formally examine a dyslexic artist. Fortunately for him, this situation was resolved by re-locating him to a studio in Rotherhithe, London where he was able to develop and instigate a working practice which drew on the ideologies and methods learnt at Dartington, where performance and textual practices became indistinguishable as isolated forms, where experimentation and innovation explored the materiality and performative aspects of writing and experience.

9 My live notation of Away in a Manger consisted of a variety of lists, translations and observations. Blood, oil, straw and piss were bagged and neatly hung on a wall that became a map of transcribed actions, a charting of physical bodies in space, where duration exposed inter-textual folds and anthropomorphic jig-saw puzzles, where articles from newspapers were carved out, re-edited and reconfigured in response to new(s) contexts. Immediacy was key to this writing, where writing itself literally became performance. The produced text, largely written on blank A4 paper, was sealed alongside a variety of objects from other actions that had occurred at the same event; chicken claws from Alastair MacLennans performance, and a lilac rose from Paul Hurleys. Following the event, this assemblage of texts, objects, traces and fragments were sealed in a box. Lines of enquiry, observation, real-time notation and automatic responses were concealed and hidden away, just as moments of trauma may be assigned to the sub-conscious. The box was posted from London to Liverpool where it inhabited a corner in my studio. As I was away at the time, the contents were exposed to a process of self-disintegration until my return.

In White Lines Mayhew journeys across Australia, a 3000 mile journey from Perth to Brisbane via the outback. Vast areas of desert are dissected as he searches for a missing identity. A camera catches the white lines of a never ending road, rising dust, big blues skies and white clouds. This drift weaves as Mayhew is lured by the prospect of discovery, a resolution of absence. Threads in a textual fabric are acknowledged in intersections of the past and present, history and culture. Mayhew is an emotional nomad, exploring his restlessness and a locus of desire directed at place and identity. Encountering the new and unfamiliar Mayhew is an outsider looking in, a reader of history and landscape, collating ideas, objects, sights and sounds. Political and spiritual legacies are exposed as he seeks the antidote to a prevailing alienation. Skeletons of dead animals and carcasses of cows act as memorials, the site of human murders become temporary markers of barren land, where sand and heat provide ideal conditions for flies that buzz and feed on the sunken eyes of stranded dead dogs. The landscape resonates; it is ruthless and knows no compassion as Mayhew abandons the car for periods of time to explore the texture of red earth, to experience the weight and rhythm of his steps on unchartered territories. The psychological and geographic combine to concoct pasts and futures; where the character and affect of the changing land dictates unattainable dreams and bitter sweet realities. As an artist Mayhew must interrogate place, disentangling alien memories, known and unknown histories, marks inscribed on the land that provoke and evoke. Many theorists have attempted to chart and translate these empty, barren spaces uneasily labeled as place. Lucy Lippard describes place as: latitudinal and longitudinal within the map of a persons life. It is temporal and spatial, personal and
political. A layered location replete with human histories and memories, place has width as well as depth. It is about connections, what surrounds it, what form it, what happened there, what will happen there.

Mayhew mediates between an external world and human subjective experience. His spontaneous attraction to place is really an emotional response to the landscape that hides a mysterious identity. As he ventures further into the desert histories unfold not in pictures or narrative form, but in bursts of landscape and blue skies, indescribable wholes that have devoured and absorbed the cultures that once inhabited these spaces.

10 Mayhew responds to these absent communities through performance. Draped in a dust sheet he becomes a re-animator of dead animals, falling and rolling on the floor. Pouring red dust over his body he leaves bones and totems that surround white feet outlined by earth, marking the ground and leaving human traces. Suspended in senescence, grainy photos depict Mayhew communicating with his species and passing on truths. Mayhew recaptures the language of animals and allows the subconscious to respond and speak through actions and gestures to strangers and inhabitants of the burnt desert. He ascends to a state where conscious thought and instinct synthesize, through acts of disalienation that re-discover a species of being, a state of grace in which he becomes complete. The red desert dust is carefully stored in jars in a crate on the floor of Michaels studio, along with bottles of piss, a kangaroo, empty cigarette packets, and a Tony Hancock record entitled The Blood Donor. Wooden frames containing painted fish, blood bags and soiled shirts adorn the walls, while mannequins standby silently - altered by Mayhews hands they carry ventolin inhalers on their torsos and wear nuclear radiation signs and butterflies. A large horses skull stares at me from the ceiling with an uncanny sense of knowing; a strange and timeless recognition of sustained durational enquiry. Syringes and tissues soaked with tears add a melancholy to this room, a melancholy stolen from the eyes of naked models, their heads cut off in frozen and mysterious portraits. This place is an inventory of madness where interlocking sequences break down, only to emerge again unexpectedly to reveal a clearer picture of process and thought. This process allows the artist to keep going, to keep things intact by responding to unfortunate events in order to restore order, life and identity. The studio is reclamation of space and time, a perpetuation of activities shaped by the assemblage of ephemera and stuff. What happens to these things, stored in boxes and how does their transformation enable an understanding of practice? I am complicit in these activities collecting materials that are secretly stored and exposed to indeterminate durations. Unpacking my own box of transformed matter obtained from my notations of Away in a Manger I receive a face full of black flies. Maggots, spawn, blood, oil and piss swill over reams of scripted pulp. Brown holes have appeared through texteaten away by emerging and destructive lifeforms. The notated texts from the performances have a life of their own, caught in a cycle of destruction, consumed and illegitimate. The words smell bad and lengths of black wool have shaped themselves like the hair on a dead scalp attached to an uncovered pillow. Hurleys flower is shriveled and rotten while MacLennans chicken feet have transformed beyond recognition, despite being carefully sealed in plastic. Sifting through the mould, I source Mayhews text, stuck together in a green and brown wad, a thick palimpsest layered with dematerialized text. As I try and peel way the layers, paper begins to rip and disintegrate under my fingers. If performance is a process of disappearance, then this sepulchral mummification of its remains and traces attempt to assimilate the live. To use Rebecca Schneiders metaphor, the archive is bone (that which remains) to performances flesh (that which slips away). Aligning performance with ephemerality reifies the historiographical economy of the western archive, predicated on saving material remains. An understanding of performance becomes predetermined by our cultural habituation to the logic of the archive, and therefore we limit an understanding of performance. The insistence of performances ephemerality constitutes a red-herring, whereas a more

11 rigorous understanding of how performance itself can interrogate destabilize the archive may be more useful. For Schneider, it is inaccurate to say that performance disappears and the archive remains, rather, performance remains, but remains differently. Performance challenges the authenticity of material remains because it offers an uncanny disturbance of the past into present. As Schneider writes, performance becomes itself through messy and eruptive reappearance, challenging, via the performance trace, any neat antinomy between appearance and disappearance, or presence and absence the ritual repetitions that mark performance as simultaneously indiscreet, non-original, relentlessly citational , and remaining. Remains and loss are mutual; the bones of the archive are performative, producing fleshy losses to which they testify. History is a series of ritual actions. The live performing body has entered the archive, through these bodily encounters with material remains, the past takes on a messy corporeality, seeping into live flesh and bone, and transmitting across generations through body to body transmission, causing us to re-think the site of history in rituals of repetition. Performance does not disappear but becomes a ritual act, a ritual act that reconstitutes the document as a performative act and as a site of performance. The box is resealed and left to its own devices in the corner of my studio in Liverpool. The material contents inside perpetuate their own life cycle and are susceptible to destruction just as the array of objects in Michaels studio are susceptible to disappearance. Their subsequent notation becomes important as forensic evidence, as reminders and as memories that will be utilized in future projects, reappearing in different contexts and sites. Their handling reveals histories and mythic pasts. Away in a Manger - Mayhew sits before the audience. A square of gauze attached to the forehead renders him blind, as blood and oil flow into his mouth. His body, clothes and straw are covered in these substances. A silent statue etched in blood, a silent Teiresias awaiting further instruction from external forces. Mayhew continues to write blindly under the instruction of the audience. He continues with the listing of commodities, sometimes unaware that the marker pen he uses is running on empty, leaving blunt indentations as opposed to words. His hand writes nothing on the blank space, but other parts of his body leave lines and shadows of blood and oil, traced choreographies where movements of the body are dictated by enunciations of text. This bodily transmission of textual material emits a violent narrative accompanied by blood and oil, spread in arcs, lines, drips and circles across the walls like an interrupted murder scene. The space has undergone a transformation from a tranquil and sedate nativity, to a terrifying scene where blood and oil outline generational pursuits of profit and property, the essential ingredients that lubricate the mechanics of capitalist system. The blood that drips over the text is a warning directed at our own unconscious practices, fuelled by selfishness and greed at the expense of fellow human beings. It is impossible to escape this scenario and we can only recognize our complicity within structures of self-destruction. While the modern dystopia that Michael describes paints a depressing picture a Sisyphean scenario that is inescapable and restrictive, there is also a powerful message of optimism. We know our positions in ratios of production and consumption, we are capable of counter discourse and change, where love between members of a community can reciprocate and survive beyond systems of profit and greed, fame and celebrity. Throughout my time with Mayhew, one aspect re-emerges and re-occurs over and over. This is the motif of family. His young sons share the studio, their output measured in drawings and

12 paintings. Michaels daughter Ro, has documented his work for over thirteen years and as an independent, professional photographer she has developed a practice in conjunction to her fathers. This affords an intimate and intuitive understanding of Michaels language and work, and a familiarity with each others working methods and roles within a collaborative practice. Michael never underestimates his role as a father familial support and responsibility signify a broader concern with community and the preservation of the important ties that constitute a wider performance art network. Mayhew regards his position as an artist in terms of work and labour. His practice evolves through a development of skills and ideas that emerge in a series of shifts. The studio is a where ideas are enmeshed, fused and integrated. At times this labour has little or no monetary return but still warrants a legitimate lifestyle where production has a cultural role that is important to his fabric as a human being. His choice of materials reflects a working sensibility that requires a certain degree of skill and physical effort. Spray guns, latex, plastics, resins, metal and wood figure in a process that utilizes procedures of work or going to work. He has a job to do, a contribution to make. This is important and perhaps reflects the art market and economy as it exists, where galleries and institutions seek to maintain a hierarchical position. The positioning of his work place within a working community is crucial as it speaks to a real environment of fellow workers and also the jobless and disenfranchised. The resulting dialogue attempts to realize the concerns and anxieties of a local community, but also celebrates creativity and cultural participation. Some may argue that Mayhews practice is a blind mans bluff, where he grasps around in the dark, effecting a search for realities lost, where the boundaries between the simulated and the real have long been blurred. He aims to uncover the truth while exposing the inadequacies and unsustainable nature of forces that seek to control and repress, where individual and collective dissent is silenced or trivialized. In his studio I read a statement on a large wooden cut-out of a Christmas tree that states all advertising is lies. However, a perhaps more revealing and profound statement is found on a poster specially created by Michael that re-visits the words of Herman Goering:
Naturally, the common people dont want war, but after all it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice the people can always be brought to the bidding of leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works in every country.

In other words, we all blind to certain dangers, subject to smoke and mirrors that seek to divert us from the truth. It is only through an acknowledgment of this scenario that we can return to new systems of co-habitation and tolerance. If we seek each other in the dark, eventually it may lead us to the light. Hallelujah