Festival at the Serpentine: Kinetics, spectator and participatory events
The 1972 Festival at the Serpentine featured a varied programme of artworks, performances, projects and events.
Occupying the third Summer Show exhibition slot for the year, the 1972 Festival at the Serpentine was composed of four varied programmes of artworks, performances, projects and events.
The first, from 27 May–4 June, saw The Bradford Art College Theatre Group, with direction by Albert Hunt and the Theatre and Complementary Studies Department of the Regional College of Art, present The Building of the Union Pacific Railway or The Real Story of the West. The group celebrated the technological achievement of the building of the Central and Union Pacific Railways in the United States during the 1860s by ‘building’ the railways in the Serpentine Gallery. They invited the public to help them accomplish the feat. The public encountered en route such spectacles as the Massacre at Sand Creek, the Building of a Hell on Wheels, and the Moving of Mountains, as well as side shows such as Beat the Gun-Slinger, Cheat the Gambler, and Win Your Own Dancing Girl. There was also an authentic western saloon fully equipped with hoarse barman, sexy saloon singer, card-shapers, and cowardly pianist. There was even a memorial chapel in which the deeds of the great and the good were suitably commemorated.
The second programme (6–11 June) included four separate projects. Stuart Brisley presented You Know It Makes Sense in the South Gallery. This took the form of a continuous series of actions on the themes of isolation, confinement, and states of emotional and psychological dislocation related to allegations that had been made against the British Army in Ulster, and was a version of a project devised for Ikon Gallery in Birmingham in spring of the same year. Alan Davis was in the East Gallery and performed Dream Races, the third of Three Sleep Performances, which involved two performers as dreamers. Jules Baker was in the West Gallery with her work Masses, which was on display throughout programmes two, three, and four. Michael Livingston-Booth’s piece Reactive Floats also remained up for the third and fourth programmes. Reactive Floats were hemispherical shapes one foot in diameter and mounted on castors, which transmitted sounds via a false floor to loud speakers mounted on the gallery walls. As a float was moved from one area of the floor to another, the sound it transmitted moved from one loud speaker to another. The floats were silent until pushed or otherwise impelled to move or change direction, with each float making a different type of sound.
The third programme (13–18 June) saw John Bull Puncture Repair Kit present Beach Boys, Barrow Boys in the East Gallery. In the South Gallery GASP performed Wardrobe with Effects from Shelf 1, 2 and 3. Wardrobe was a series of sculptural, ceremonial and audio-visual art performances.
The final programme (20–25 June) involved Peter Dockley in the South Gallery with Head Environment – Film and Performance Structure, an environment in which the references were human, animal and inanimate, in states of disintegration, violation or negation. In the East Gallery and Garden were Shirley Cameron and Roland Miller with Squares of Experience.