Marcel Craven is Playing Games With You
By Michelle Dee
The show takes its name from the Peter Gabriel song, Games Without Frontiers.
The world and words of Marcel Craven kept me company on social news-feeds throughout 2012/2013: curious four or five line prose pieces that served as a window in to the mind of the Hull creator.
There was a cool longing present within the text; a yearning, a striving to create and to succeed: even if the success is just in waking up and facing the day. In this way, small, mundane victories are given more impetus and import.
In the new exhibition Marcel continues his enduring relationship and study of word and language wherever and however you, the audience and indeed he, finds it. The space chosen for the show is the Museum of Club Culture on Humber street in Hull's historic fruit market.
Games Without Frontiers acts as witness to the slow erosion of language past, present and future. Marcel's work, and in particular the characterless, sterile, computer designed, wooden typesets, poses the question that we, as a human race, are a willing party to a process of dehumanisation that we should be holding most dear.
Our voices are the most personal and potent tool that we have to make sense of the world. Marcel suggests there is a breakdown not only with the way we deny our voices but in the nature of communication itself.
A second theme that runs in parallel to the words and language is the idea of 'the game.' Whether this is a game with words (wordplay) or something more contentious; 'the game of life.'
Recently there has been a fixation on an idea of 'a perfect recipe for success'. In a city where some seem to thrive and others flag and wane, there is much suspicion and talk of elitism. Marcel represents this idea of 'a game in life' in many different ways. The ball-bearings falling, powered by chance, bounce off a series of wire pegs to land in one of the numbered 'homes'.
There is a phrase in common usage; 'to play the game', meaning if you do what is expected of you, you do your part given a set of real or presumed rules. Then, and only then you will get on. This could be playing the game politically, conforming in society or perhaps (one I sense is higher up Marcel's hit list), the bizarre education system; the hoop jumping, box ticking, self-aggrandisement and ultimately demoralising 21st Century education conveyor belt.
There is a notion and nod to the games that play out in the corridors of power, with chequer-board presentations. There is dry humour here in the notion that the only rational position in which the pieces find themselves is at the start of the game.
Observations of language in media are revealed within the collection of reworked canvases, typeset arrangements and odd snippets of prose and poetry. Marcel argues that language itself is being diminished and reduced.
I ask him about the inclusion each year of new words in the Oxford English Dictionary.
I am not against the progression of language; it is unavoidable – I just believe there should be more exploration to gain a better understanding. It is confounding the way we adopt things like text speak and on-trend buzz words completely without question.
Direction, misdirection, distance travelled and time are the main concerns of the newly worked canvases. Text based canvases are partially covered with a wash of paint and new layers added with irregular letters in relief, stuck collage-like on the surfaces. A word, a suggestion, a thought and act, a pattern - before or after? Just a few things that pull at the corners of your mind, as you walk through the space.
A few surprises await, including a punchy, political, punk pun. Interesting having this particular piece in a space where many subcultures have been celebrated during the first few years the Museum of Club Culture has been open.
Marcel's appropriated Sex Pistols cover shows how these once soapbox, flag-waving symbols of rebellion, lose their grip through over saturation. 'Never Mind The Coalition' it reads: recalling a time when the Gallagher brothers were glad handing politicians. The association proved fleeting, aimless and plastic.
The proximity of the establishment with the so called 'cool' brand renders it so diminished that it becomes impotent and toothless. All sense of anarchy, of individuality, an image of protest, of that which will not be moved, is lost and smothered in the fullness of time.
Mark 'Wigan' Williams, proprietor of the world's first Museum dedicated to club culture says about Games Without Frontiers; What stands out with this new presentation is the interactivity within the work, the show is set out in such a way that demands that the viewer interacts and plays with the pieces. Broadly the work belongs to the area of Art and Language fitting into the Fluxus anti-art movement and the ambiguity of the written word.
Marcel describes how he has never been into instant gratification. He believes a work which reveals its secrets immediately is disappointing and cheats the viewer of the game.
Interestingly and rather aptly in light of recent fantastical aviation events, Marcel takes the idea of the black box recorder as being like the key, a clue to a mystery, and the need to search and pour through many layers and surfaces play out in the canvases.
He adds an interpretation of time in the form of loosely recognisable clock faces; an impressionistic numbered dial from a scientific instrument, suggesting movement and progression.
Through these canvases - including the very welcome sight of 'Newspeak' (a piece I was very happy to display in my 1950's newsroom installation in 2012, my graduation year).
Through these painted/text works Marcel is wending a way back/forward through the different surfaces, different times, to mark out a pathway to where we have already/once will/never go.
Just before I leave the space, I nip back inside and get busy with the letters, making words and phrases, playing: once more a child, making words with magnetic letters on a board.
Marcel is currently studying a Master of Arts at Hull School of Art and Design and Games Without Frontiers is a Marcel Craven trademark 'work in progress'. Marcel is hoping to develop the work and find new places to show it in and around the city.
People - Darren Rogers Retrospective Photography was my chair... By Michelle Dee
I'm sitting with artist Darren Rogers, now in the second location in as many hours, with a soft drink, scribbling furiously... Darren is in full flow; thoroughly consumed by his favourite subject: images. 'A camera doesn't take the picture, same as a pencil doesn't do the drawing...' he says sagely, expanding on the notion of the artist as a vehicle... 'I use a camera, it's a tool', he continues.
People - Simon Binks By Michelle Dee
We are no strangers to sadness and loss on this site, we lost Elsie Creek in 2005 and Philip Barnes in 2010. On a cold wet windy Friday morn I learned about the loss of Simon Binks one of Hull's most popular musicians.
I watched as the news spread across social media and hurt for all those people who were closest to him. Writing this now my eyes start to sting as the emotions of that day and days like it, come flooding back.
People - Ronald Berry: Unsung Hero By Mark Walmsley
Amongst a lot of great names to come out of Hull over the centuries it would seem that most of them are well celebrated if not captured for a lifetime in various works of art such as paintings, sculptures and statues.
We have a list of renowned poets in the form of Andrew Marveland Philip Larkin; entertainers and actors such as John Alderton, Ian Carmichael OBERead more...
People - Steve Rudd: Writer, Musician and Traveller
Steve has been putting pen to paper (or, to be more precise, fingers to keyboard) for as long as he can recall.
Having begun to take writing seriously in his mid-teens when his work attracted attention from fellow scribes in The Zeronaut Society,, a cult underground writing group, Steve's passion for music and movies spurred him on to write and publish a magazine of his own.
People - An Interview with Captain Zip By Michelle Dee
In his first visit to Hull Captain Zip, film-maker and documentarian was invited to show his highly prized collection of seventies street punk films at the newly opened Museum of Club Culture.
Captain Zip (real name Phil Munnoch) is famed for capturing young street punks in their regular haunts from 1978 to '82. During a four year shooting spree he built up an intimate honest record of the much maligned punk subculture.
People - An Interview with Dave Windass By Nick Quantrill
Nick Quantrill talks to Hull-based playwright, Dave Windass ...
Nick : I know you've got your artistic fingers in different pies, but let's start with the obvious - tell me a bit about the plays you've had performed?
Dave : This weird theatrical trip I've been on started back in 2003, when my preoccupations involved attempting to dismantle capitalism via the written word. This sort of led to a short piece called Store Me Whether, originally planned as a side swipe at large chain supermarkets
People - An Interview with Local Writer Richard Sutherland By Nick Quantrill
Nick Quantrill talks to fellow Hull-writer, Richard Sutherland, about his new book.
Nick : 'The Unitary Authority of Ersatz'...what's that all about? Tell me a bit about the book. Where did the title come from? Is this your first book?
Richard : Well the title was a gradual decision. I basically wanted to create a world where all of the book's contents could take place, like my own version of Narnia or Oz.
People - An Interview with author Robert Endeacott By Nick Quantrill
Robert Endeacott talks with Nick Quantrill about his new novel, DisRepute, which chronicles Don Revie's ill-fated spell as England manager, and picks up where his prior novel, Dirty Leeds finished...
Nick : Congratulations on the publication of DisRepute - Revie's England. Is it a follow-up to Dirty Leeds? Tell me a bit about the book, what's the story?
People - An Interview with author Russ Litten By Nick Quantrill
Russ Litten talks to fellow Hull author, Nick Quantrill, about his forthcoming novel ahead of their appearance at the launch of the 2010 Humber Mouth programme on June 27th at Pave, Princes Avenue.
Nick : Congratulations on signing the deal with Random House for Scream If You Want To Go Faster. Tell me a little bit about the book - what's the story?
People - An Interview with Interior Designer Amanda Larson By Steve Rudd
Currently residing in Scottsdale, a suburb of Phoenix in Arizona, Amanda is a hard-working and highly-respected interior designer who has been actively involved in the industry for an illustrious decade. Eager to channel her overactive imagination, Amanda seemed destined to be involved with art and design in the wake of graduating, and she openly admits that she feels most at home wherever she is able to 'create or express a vision'.
People - An Interview with Neil Bailey of Local Band Pastel Jack By Steve Rudd
Pastel Jack are a hard-living, fast-rising Metal band from Yorkshire in England. Loudly and proudly rising from the ashes of other bands, the PJ boys have been setting the music scene ablaze with their passionate vocals and streamlined melodies.
Here, in an exclusive interview with Steve Rudd, PJ ringleader Neil Bailey chats about the band's Metal
People - An Interview with Danny of Velvet Star By Steve Rudd
Aspiring to bring good old fashioned rock 'n' roll music back to the masses, Yorkshire based boys
Velvet Star have triumphantly made a name for themselves in Glam/Punk inspired style during 2009.
In the wake of their Dirty Girl single release, the band is primed to set the music industry ablaze with their vitriolic tunes. Having played well received shows all over the West Riding,
People - An Interview with Luke Keegan By Steve Rudd
Passionate singer-songwriters like Luke Keegan are few and far between. Blessed with a soulful voice and a
mesmerising guitar-playing technique, Luke is currently living in the seaside resort of Scarborough where he is
making a name for himself in local music circles, having recently played a number of high-profile sets,
one of which was at The Victoria Hotel in support of Edwina Hayes.
People - An Interview with Eric Weiner By Steve Rudd
Earlier this year, writer Eric Weiner had a book published about his quest to hunt down the happiest places on earth. Steve Rudd caught up with him to ask him about it ...
Hi Eric, how are things?
Things are good. Or at least as good as can be expected for a self-confessed 'grump'.
You are the author of a book called The Geography of Bliss in which you aim to find the happiest and unhappiest nations in the world. What first motivated you to write a book concerned with happiness?