Rob Garrett invited Richard Crow to develop a project with the Dunedin Artists at Work residency programme after seeing his performance "Theurgy - Messe Basse" at Performance Space in Sydney, in 1996.
Richard Crow (b 1961) studied electro-acoustic and experimental music, with Philipp Wachsmann in London at the City Literary Institute. The artist gained a strong reputation with his home-based "Institution of Rot" (ca. 1993-1996) an artist-run space located in his private house in London, and the projects realised there. He combines performance with what he calls ‘installation in progress.’ Crow is a master technician of the art of the abject and the emotive fragment.
In Dunedin Crow developed a suite of installations and performances under the title and personna "Executor."
Crow presented three installation projects and artist talks in Dunedin; and he gave a series of artist talks / performances in a tour through New Zealand organised by Artists at Work.
Dr Edward Scheer, renowned Artaud scholar and long-time writer on Crow's work was also a guest of Artists at Work during Crow's time in Dunedin.
Artists at Work (Dunedin) was established in 1993 by Rob Garrett as an invitational artist residency programme focused on artist experimentation, by providing opportunities and the right environment for artists to develop new ideas and new work. Based in the Dunedin School of Art, supported by a diverse technical resource and embedded within a critically engaged arts community, the residency permitted artists to explore new strands of thought and practice without any obligation to produce immediate exhibition outcomes.
Documentary footage of the opening party at Richard Crow's final installation project at the conclusion of ihs 1999 residency: "The Living Archive (Executor)," Blue Oyster Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Crow’s approach as an artist, as an "Executor" of rot, is clearly described in the artist’s own notes which accompanied a similar installation and performance later in the same year in Art Gallery Slovenj Gradec:
The artist will make a performance in a specially constructed (or found) secret space (installation) which he will interpret, activate and inhabit during the opening of the exhibition 'very private' , this will be witnessed live (and pre-recorded) via video projection (or monitors). The artist will work with a selection of objects (discarded items, personal objects.) The performance will consist of obsessively arranging and rearranging these objects, interspersing this activity with contemplation. (The notion that informs this activity is the reversal of the objects' 'death' by creating new uses for them. The actions within the performance are not literal but are somehow visually symbolic, the significance is metonymic, rather than being the thing itself, the items and the performance gesture towards what is aspired to and alluded to, depending on how we focus our perception, an object can have two different readings, existing it might be said, both between and within the real and the imagined. Here the objects impinge on our world, being offered to us like artefacts from a hidden order that is yet to be decoded.)
"You'd better kill that mouse, otherwise it will die..." Richard Crow, with Nigel Bunn (sound and film artist and archivist) and Geoff Noller (residency project manager), devising a water, electrics and sound assemblage for Crow's "The Living Archive (Executor)" exhibition at Blue Oyster Gallery, Dunedin at the conclusion of his residency in 1999.
Scheer: You will be returning to the Southern hemisphere in 1999 to be artist in residence [in] Dunedin. Could you perhaps outline some of the ideas you will be working with in the course of that work?
Crow: Firstly, I am very excited about this forthcoming trip, as you know I am drawn to remote places/locations that are likely to inspire me and test me..... The works that I am hoping to produce whilst there are part of this piece called Executor. It's going be a sort of archiving of the self show, lots of personal details and it’s the last in the series of the performance persona's.....I am going to concentrate on creating quite an elaborate necropolis ...there will also be a lot of images, super 8 films and video's stuff that I have never shown before and it will be located in various locations...like Bad Habitus there will be a gallery space acting as a HQ ......and I will be creating a lot of new pieces while I am there Dunedin with its apparently abandoned and derelict Victorian /Edwardian buildings has a somewhat gothic feel to it.......appears to be the perfect site for this on going meditation on mortality ....Where else can this confrontation take place other than in the persona of the Executor - who is eternally caught up within the riddle and mystery of life and death? I have asked for an assistant to act as a sort of notary and there will be a web site of everything I will be doing..... I've also asked for a Black Sheep to keep me company during gallery hours....it’s another chapter in my strange life and destiny as an artist and performer once again on some kind of strange journey of self -discovery..... I would describe it as a an undertaking of the self in transit - there's this brilliant quote from an interview with Christian Boltanski where he talks about being dead and working from the grave and the problem for an artist like himself that the more he works, the less alive he becomes and finishes by saying that when you are an artist, you gradually become a part of your own art and you don't exist anymore - properly in the world, you become a kind of mirror.... I think I can also relate to this - I like the definitions of the word Executor I immediately saw the performance potential of the word and its implicit meaning for me - one who executes or performs, a person appointed to see a will or testament carried into effect.. one who executes or performs the inheritance of remembering and forgetting, one who performs the will of the deceased, I also read into it to disinter, dig up , bring to light.... it struck me that ...isn't this what I have become ....the artist as executor...a collaboration with corpses ? ....During my Grandfather's funeral ceremony in Yorkshire a couple of years back I somehow got separated from my immediate relatives and for some reason there was a mix up in the fleet of cars and I recall being mistaken ...I was wearing a black suit.....for one of the undertakers ... and got to drive in the hearse with the coffin to the crematorium... more recently a friend of mine who runs his own video production company was sent a fax on spec which he passed on to me from a guy who was seeking a career change to that of the television industry his CV testifies to his previous employment that of working for various funeral directors for the past decade, he'd detailed all the numerous duties and tasks he had to perform very meticulously, which I think is why it had been passed on to me... at present I am setting up a time when he can be interviewed and recorded for future material... His leisure interests are writing poetry and lyrics, reading autobiographies and art of the Impressionists....!! There are a number of potentially interesting sites in and around Dunedin which have been mentioned to me, there are a couple of old cinemas in the city -- one of which has apparently been untouched for most of the century. There are also some very interesting basement spaces in the city -- as much of the central town area has been built on what was once the beach front/harbour entrance. There is one space in particular in the centre of the city, under a shop which has an old stonework basement with a natural spring flowing through it. Therefore a number of site specific installations, performances are planned as well as collaborations with local free noise musicians in the production of a CD. Dunedin has a mythical alternative/experimental noise scene, many have well known international reputations. I will also be introducing and screening a series of films and video's possibly using one of the afore mentioned cinemas - that I feel have a special influence and significance for my work over the last decade - it will be quite fragmentary and I will include a selection of my own work and work produced at the IOR and will be punctuated by readings by me from my library/archive - it is envisaged that some of these films will be accompanied by a live sound mix/treatment - something I have wanted to do for ages. There's lots of obscure stuff I'd love to show as well as the more obvious to anyone that know's me... Bros Quay, Bunuel, Svankmajer, Tarkovsky... So in some sense I am passing things on, giving them up.
"To be objective is to treat others as you treat an object, a corpse - to behave with them like an undertaker." E.M Cioran
The interview, from which this extract is quoted, was conducted in August 1998 and published online by <kunstradio.at>
Note: IOR is the Institute of Rot, Crow's home-based peformance venue and installation site in London.
Richard Crow (Executor) with Nathan Thompson & Tim Cornelius (Sandoz Lab Technicians) Live DJ/VJ set at ARC Cafe, Dunedin (NZ), "The Longest Night" (Winter Solstice) June 21, 1999. Camera: Alan Starrart.