#FE365 Penny McCarthy

POSTED 09.10.2014

look no further this is it

What difference does it make to say you were there at the time? Faced with this task of reflection on thirty years of Forced Entertainment, I would say it makes all the difference. I met them at the beginning. We are friends whose imaginative and real lives have intersected for all of these years. Any pretense to be detached or objective dissolves in the face of this, yet I cannot resist the transgressive frisson of this invitation to add to the record.

I thought they were crazy, not just funny crazy but crazy insane. I mistook their collective shyness for arrogance and thought their drinking would end things quite fast. I did not understand their physical recklessness or their long jokes, their haircuts or obsession with the aesthetics of the forlorn. I saw an early rehearsal of Let the Water… and I changed my mind. I think of Let the Water  with its gauche assembly of language, its unnerving, startling brutality and its delicious playful absurdities, like a riotous, careening night, full of noise and lights and the potential for violence. For me, it is this work that anticipates so much that happens later, this possibility of transforming something very dense into something weightless.

How are we to understand these works? What is achieved is comic and heartbreaking in equal measure. Any suggestion of reality crumbles as fragments of story flicker as voiced from these ragged narrators that have barely left madness behind them. In the materiality of this precarious world is a poetics of the broken: rails of costumes, inspection lights, cable, buckets, a constellation of things long fallen into disuse to build constructions of a future as if imagined from the Cold War. There are piles of notes but no script and no proper ending. All the time the sound of rain, endless and dreary: this must be England.

Even after all these years it is the rain in the form of a soundtrack by John Avery that seems to define the work’s atmosphere, its cultural moment. From time to time, late at night in the studio, I’ll put on a CD of an old soundtrack and it takes me back in an instant.

Penny McCarthy
Artist and Course Leader MA Fine Art, Sheffield Hallam University