Dancing with Tables : a commission in the making

Jefford Horrigan performing Transmission Gallery 2011

When I asked Jefford Horrigan what he says to people when asked “what do you call yourself?” his answer was quick and decisive “I dance with tables“.   And that is exactly what he does. His ability to transform furniture and household objects in to “something other” through a sculptural performance  – and possibly in our homes was answered almost as decisively with “yes, please”.

Independent curator and consultant Rose Lejeune met up with Tim and Sam at a private view and having heard about the Collective asked if we were interested in participating in her project around commissioning new art for collections. Rose’s main focus is how the process of collecting and engaging with artists and their ideas can have as much value as the traditional accumulation of collectable items, especially when it comes to the  more “performative elements”.  Her proposal was that Jefford should use three of our homes for a performance piece.  We would purchase the drawings emanating from his performance at whatever stage of the process that happened.  The Collective had commissioned a performance piece on quite a grand scale some years previously (which will be the subject of a separate blog) – and one that had involved all seven households at that time.

We all agreed that a trip to his studio was needed in order to understand more and see some of his work.  We also wanted to meet Jefford himself!

The evening trip to Acme studios (co-located with the excellent Matt’s Gallery) in the east end of London was an adventure in itself.  As it involved a walk across the intriguing Mile End park – but in the dark – or along an equally dark, but picturesque canal route I didn’t feel completely comfortable making the journey alone (my penchant for TV crime dramas getting the better of me) , so Tim met me at the station and we walked together. Assembling all the Collective to these visits is almost impossible with work commitments and coming from dispersed locations across London at the end of a long week at work.  But representatives from three households were there – so that was a good start.  I didn’t hold any expectations.

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I was greeted with furniture, lots of furniture. Sturdy four legged wooden chairs hanging from the wall, antique tables, work tables, lamp stands and old shades – all the trappings of a second hand furniture shop – except that it wasn’t – this was Jefford’s studio. Performance videos were playing and there were a number of drawings framed and unframed, and at the centre there was Jefford talking to Rose and those members already there.

It’s more about presence than the thing itself, and it can belong in its own environment . I like to create atmospheres“.

There was certainly a presence about Jefford and I immediately wanted to understand more, not only about the performances but about the legacies that usually come from them in the form of his drawings.  Drawings can appear at the proposal stage for a performance, or during the creation process itself – or even at the end when it’s all over.  There’s no predicting.

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When I work on a performance I have to learn it bodily and the circumstances partly determine the shape of the piece.

Jefford showed us examples of his drawings and explained how they related to the works that they made reference to.  Others represented a mix of ideas emanating from the performance.  But the drawings have to stand alone – “they have another life, it’s another thing”  separate from the performance, and for those viewing the drawing in the future who have not seen the performance they will have a different relationship with it.  “I don’t work across boundaries” says Jefford “I work in the course of them”.

By the time the visit drew to an end we were captivated and agreed to commission Jefford to create a piece to be performed in three of our houses with a triptych drawing bringing all three performances together.   As curator, Rose would manage the commission process with first task being the need for Jefford to visit all our homes to determine which three homes would be most suited. Will I be disappointed if it’s not our house?  Not really, as I felt perfectly confident that Jefford would determine which spaces would work best.

Roll on the autumn!

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We couldn’t part without our inevitable detour to the nearest pub – this time to the Palm Tree Pub well known for its jazz music and relaxed atmosphere.  Described on googlemaps as a “quirky canal- side pub in a shady park” I couldn’t help feeling glad that we were heading out in to the night as a group!


2 thoughts on “Dancing with Tables : a commission in the making”

  1. Sounds fascinating, dancing with tables !Hope it will be in your house and you can invite me along. Was sad to miss the other performance piece you hosted.


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