Tony White in the Department of French
As part of the Entrepreneur in Residence scheme at King's, supported by Creativeworks London, from 2013–14 Tony White worked with Dr Sanja Perovic in the Department of French on a project exploring the work of British artist Stuart Brisley.
Tony White is a London-based author whose residency at King's comprised a literary and critical exploration of a previously overlooked aspect of Stuart Brisley’s work. Brisley is an artist whose works cross a variety of mediums, including most notably performance art, sculpture and installation. Since 1973 he has been producing works relating to French Republican Calendar created by Sylvain Maréchal in 1788 and implemented during the French Revolution between 1793 and 1805. The calendar was designed in part to remove all religious and royalist influences from the calendar, and was part of a larger attempt at decimalisation in France.
Working with Brisley and Dr Sanja Perovic, a senior lecturer in the Department of French at King's and author of the book The Calendar in Revolutionary France: Perceptions of Time in Literature, Culture, Politics (2012), Tony set out a series of exploratory activities, beginning with a series of ten wide-ranging conversations, which led to a period of writing and outputs. One of the outputs was the pamphlet, Into Day One of the Revolutionary Period: A Conversation, created through a collaboration between Tony and Sanja. It was published by Domo Baal in November 2013 whereby the publication launch of the pamphlet coincided with two exhibitions by Stuart Brisely at Domo Baal and Mummery+Schnelle both in London.
As co-director of the Centre for Enlightenment Studies at King's, Sanja organised an event and installation as part of Tony's residency that was titled The Cenotaph Project & the public sphere. It was exhibited in King's College Chapel for the 2014 Arts & Humanities Festival. A similar event was reprised at the Metropolitan Art Centre (MAC), Belfast, in March 2015 on occasion of a retrospective dedicated to Brisley’s work. Both events centred on a discussion with Stuart Brisley and Maya Balcioglu, the artists of The Cenotaph Project (1987–91), which was a project that arose from Brisley's 1987 residency at the Imperial War Museum and placed the cenotaph as the subject of the work and as a found object to be reworked and deconstructed. Cenotaph literally refers to an empty tomb, from the Greek 'kenos' which means empty, and 'taphos' which means tomb. It both conceals remains that are lost or buried elsewhere and serves as a powerful signifier of military and state power. It thus raises questions about the relation between what is 'above ground', state-sanctioned, revealed, and what remains underground, buried and concealed.
A work of fiction created by Tony during his residency, titled The Holborn Cenotaph, was also premiered at the event and is a short story drawing on conversations Tony had with Brisley during his residency. Presented in the Swiftian tradition of a ‘modest proposal’, The Holborn Cenotaph frames a satirical proposition: that the current high-rise tower of Holborn Police Station be decommissioned and converted into a new Holborn Cenotaph, a 50-metre high, networked memorial to those men and women who have lost their lives or who will die in contact with the police in the UK.
Tony continues to perform The Holborn Cenotaph and as a by-product of the residency he was awarded a visiting research fellowship at King’s until June 2015. Elements of his forthcoming novel The Fountain in the Forest draw on research that was undertaken during his residency at King’s that is due to be published in 2018.
A further work of fiction resulting from the residency titled High-Lands was commissioned by London Fieldworks and Resonance FM as part of Remote Performances, a radio art project broadcasting from the Outlandia studio in Glen Nevis, Scotland. High-Lands was also performed as part of the TULCA Festival in Galway in collaboration with New Pope.
Tony reading his specially commissioned short story High-Lands as a live broadcast from the Outlandia studio on Glen Nevis, Scotland, as part of the Remote Performances project. Video still: Inga Tillere, 2014
About his residency, Tony said: ‘My residency with the French Department at King’s presented a unique opportunity for a sustained period of research and 'a loose collaboration' (in the words of Stuart Brisley), the impacts and outputs of which have far exceeded and outlived its duration. I am grateful to my collaborators and to the department for their hospitality. The exploration of the Revolutionary Calendar that the residency enabled has proved to be very productive in terms of the stories and approaches it has generated, opening up many new opportunities to explore literature and performance in the public sphere.’
About the artist
Tony White is the author of the critically-acclaimed novel Foxy-T (Faber and Faber, 2003). He is chair of the board of directors of London’s award-winning arts radio station Resonance 104.4FM. His latest novel, The Fountain in the Forest was acquired by Faber and Faber for publication late 2017.
As well as being entrepreneur in residence and Visiting Research Fellow at King’s, Tony has been writer in residence at the Science Museum (2008) and Leverhulme Trust writer in residence at University College London School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) (2009–10).
Recent appearances include readings and panel discussions in King's College Chapel, the British Library, MAC in Belfast, Turner Contemporary in Margate, Brixton Book Jam, Lit Crawl in London, London's Radical Bookfair, The Cornelius Foundation’s Supper Club, Richard Strange’s Cabaret Futura, the Royal College of Art, Glastonbury and Port Eliot festivals, the Story Conference, Guardian Masterclasses, the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester for Whitworth Lates, the Free Word Centre, Goethe Institut, London Review Bookshop, Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin, Newcastle Writers’ Conference, TLC’s The Literary Conference: Writing in a Digital Age, and a 3-city tour of Australia funded by the Australia Council and Performance Space, Sydney.