nedjelja, 5. listopada 2014.

Bruce Lacey - The Bruce Lacey Experience (2012)

Jedan od onih umjetnika koji cijeli život ostaju "djeca". Muzičar, filmaš, duhoviti apsurdist širokog spektra i pionir otkačene robotike.

Bruce Lacey (born 1927) is one of Britain’s great visionary talents. Artist, stage, screen and TV performer, absurdist, propmaker and filmmaker, he figured prominently on London’s counter-cultural art scene during the 1960s and is as creative now, aged 85. Known for his unpredictable humour and strong political views, as well as his idiosyncratic art practices, he exerted considerable influence on post-war culture. Lacey has worked with all manner of filmmakers, musicians and other artists, from The Beatles to the Goons, and yet somehow, much of his work has remained obscure and little seen in recent years. 

The Bruce Lacey Experience, 2012
(with Nick Abrahams)

A film by Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahams about the artist, musician and silly bugger Bruce Lacey. "When we met Bruce Lacey we were entranced – a modern day magus in brightly coloured clothes, he combines a very British interest in art and science, bringing them together in a way unlike anyone else either of us had encountered. It was as if Dr Dee had been reimagined by the Goons. We proposed to Bruce that we would like to make a feature film about him, and he kindly agreed. So every few months we would descend on his farmhouse and commit a little more of his world to video. Very soon we realised that we would only be providing an introduction to the world of Bruce Lacey, as a thorough documentary would have to be more like a TV series to cover all the ups and downs of Bruce's extraordinary career…. So please take your seats, fasten your safety belts and enjoy your trip into the Bruce Lacey Experience…"

A British Guide to Showing Off - Rosa Bosom from Ponystep on Vimeo.

 The Bruce Lacey Experience - review

Bruce Lacey at his home in Norfolk
Bruce Lacey at his home in Norfolk. Photograph: Amit Lennon

In the course of a long and extraordinary life, Bruce Lacey has been celebrated in song by Fairport Convention and in film by Ken Russell; vilified in the Daily Mail by Anthony Burgess; and befriended by radical US standup comedian Lenny Bruce (who also offered his services as Lacey's manager for a tour in America). Lacey appeared as George Harrison's gardener in the Beatles' movie Help!, and designed all kinds of wacky props for the post-Goon Show TV careers of Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Michael Bentine.
Lacey has been oddball comedian, actor, painter and sculptor, briccolage inventor of robots and automata, post-hippy shaman, errant guru to travelling bands of new age travellers, and who knows what else. Now in his mid-80s he is still at it, whatever it is.
You couldn't make it up. Born in 1927, the young Lacey was narrowly missed by a falling V2 rocket in Enfield, north London, and after suffering tuberculosis was propelled into a life of art, comedy, early television and performance with the comedy trad jazz band the Alberts, where he was billed as "Professor" Bruce Lacey.
An extraordinarily engaging, cantankerous, energetic and creative figure, Lacey has become the subject of a major exhibition at Camden Arts Centre, curated by the art historian David Allan Mellor, who has also written a fascinating catalogue-cum-biography, and the artist Jeremy Deller, who has made Lacey the subject of a new film.
Lacey has always been a radical (perhaps a free radical), bolshie and idealistic, batty and awkward. Whatever mystical claptrap he has embraced since the 1970s, he has never lost his verve. Things were a bit shambolic on my visit to Camden. Deller was on the floor, rubber-stamping Lacey's signature on to a pile of prints. A technician was up a ladder in one gallery, putting the finishing touches to a skeletal sculpture of an erect cock and balls (plastic hula-hoops seemed to be a significant structural element) which Lacey has hung from the ceiling. Little white balls and various dolls float meaningfuly in the testicles.
The artist wandered about, muttering about whether cake might be forthcoming. A sculpture mechanically cocked its leg. Footage of 60s comedy shows, of performances and rituals punctuates the show, along with Lacey's mad robotic figures and the debris of a life lived to the full.
Normally I wouldn't dream of reviewing a show in this state of incompletion, but the disarray felt an apt reflection of Lacey's art and life. An entire wall is hung, academy-style, with the paintings Lacey made as a student at the Royal College of Art in the early 1950s. There's a portrait of kitchen-sink painter John Bratby, paintings of pipework at an oil refinery, birdcages, architectural views and a vulture flapping about in an aviary.
The young Lacey had genuine talent, and when he returned to painting later in life, his paintings of a cratered moon, a throbbing Jupiter, biomorphic innards and all kinds of symbolic claptrap are no less beguiling, even though they are stretched on scaffolding poles and painted on old sacking. He has gone from boffin (while in the Air Training Corps he built a working flight simulator in his bedroom) to buffoon, from assisting French artist Yves Tinguely to hardcore underground artist, from zany comic and instigator of Evenings of British Rubbish to shamanistic conjuror of the Earth Goddess. Nostalgic, daft, decrepit, wilful, funny and tinged with pathos, it's all cock and bull really, but in a wonderfully errant way. Bruce Lacey, I salute you!

The Lacey Rituals: Films by Bruce Lacey (and friends)

There is so much going on in this BFI box set that it’s hard to get a grasp on it, and that’s all down to the artist in question, Bruce Lacey. A leading figure of the 1960’s counterculture movement, Lacey worked with everyone from Spike Milligan to the Beatles. Artist, filmmaker, shaman, painter, actor, pilot, performance artist, conductor, family man, archivist and experimental musician, his scope is wide, his eye mystical and strange, and his work often just plain silly. But don’t be fooled; as he states in the exclusive documentary included on the box set (directed by Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahams): “If you use humour, you can get below the protective armour of people”.
This release coincides with a Bruce Lacey season at the BFI and a retrospective at the Camden Arts centre, and is, as we have come to expect, a fairly comprehensive and well organised ragbag of riches, offering a wealth of films and information on the great British eccentric.
Lacey’s films are organised into categories. His early films, such as ‘Head in Shadow’ (1951), ‘The Running Jumping and Standing Still Film’ (1960) and ‘Everybody’s Nobody’ (1960) show a running strain of slapstick comedy with an emphasis on visual gags inspired by silent cinema. Hardly surprising that ‘Running Jumping and Standing Still’ starred Spike Milligan and Richard Lester, and was a notable influence on ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’.
The next category is his ‘Human Behaviour Films’, which I particularly enjoyed. His ‘Kissing Film’ (1967) is a touching and beautiful instructional film, made with his then wife, in which Lacey and her try to instruct an audience on how to snog, at one point eating an orange and later involving a chocolate éclair and some cream. ‘The Lacey Rituals’, which the DVD takes its name from, is my highlight on the boxset. Lacey gets his young children and family to act out the rituals of daily life, in order that Martians might understand the human condition in the future. We are so used to the 1960’s clichés of performance art involving nakedness, drugs and violent sexuality, that actually watching something involving performance art and family life is so utterly unusual, as well as charming.
Another category called ‘Performances and Documentation’ includes a film (directed by Roger Graef) called ‘The Flying Alberts’, which involved the comedy group the Albert brothers, and used a homemade ‘rocket’ made by Lacey. We also see Lacey’s props in ‘R.O.S.A. B.O.S.O.M (1996), a short history of a robot created by Lacey and standing for Radio Operated Simulated Actress, Battery or Standy Operating Mains. Lacey’s ‘Earth Rituals’ films are otherworldly treats, shot mainly on Super 8 and documenting the artist’s exploration of mystical and occult ideas, such as stone circles around the British Isles in ‘Wales Stone Cirles’ (1981) and ideas about Neo-Naturism in ‘The Reawakening of My Ancestral Spirits’ (1987).
A notable highlight, and useful insight into all this is ‘The Bruce Lacey Experience’ (2012), a so-called ‘fragmentary portrait’ of the man and his art. Filmed over a three year period in which the artists Deller and Abrahams visited Lacey in his Norfolk home, it works as a collage of different art styles, time periods and objects, which Lacey loving explores in interviews. In his 1963 Gallery One show, he pinned a statement on the wall, which I reproduce from the usually impressive BFI DVD booklet: 
“Singly, an object can only vaguely report, but by juxtaposition of apparently alien objects, they can be given the power to comment. These objects, then, are the vocabulary through which I can communicate”.
This is the key, if any, to the films on show here: Lacey juxtaposes objects, often man-made, in order to create a new kind of language, which often hovers on the mystical. This juxtaposition can be seen in the way in which interviews and private and public performances and rituals filmed by Deller and Abrahams are put against a wide variety of material from his archives. This documentary captures in many ways the effect of watching the box set, as we move from props to clips to talks and back again. It also reminded me of ‘The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman’ exhibition at the British Museum by another British eccentric Grayson Perry. Much like Perry, Lacey is an archivist, and his eccentric, charming yet disorganised persona belies a life of collecting, organising and systematising. This box set is without a doubt essential viewing for those interested in the history of British comedy or the 1960’s counterculture.

This review can be seen on the Cinevue website. -

Bruce Almighty! The Lacey Rituals Explored
Anthony Nield

Anthony Nield celebrates veteran polymath Bruce Lacey, subject of a new British Film Institute DVD compilation. Stills courtesy of the BFI

Songs about filmmakers have a tendency to be thin on the ground. Mogwai named a track after Stanley Kubrick on their third EP, while Stereolab took inspiration from Stan Brakhage. John Cassavetes has come off better than most thanks to namechecks by Fugazi, Le Tigre and The Hold Steady. But the list is a short one and to delve further is to delve into some real obscurities. Consequently songs about filmmakers which also happen to feature their subject - surely the highest of honours - are even rarer, though two do spring to mind. In 1994 Sparks invited Tsui Hark, one of the key figures in the Hong Kong film industry, to provide the spoken word accompaniment to a tribute track: "I'm Tsui Hark. I've made several films. I've won several awards for my films." Twenty five years earlier Ashley Hutchings wrote about his pal Bruce Lacey for a track on Fairport Convention's second album, What We Did On Our Holidays. 'Mr Lacey' not only featured the man himself but also his homemade robots whirring away in-between the verses. It also included the telling final lyric: "It's true no one here understands now/But maybe someday they'll catch up with you."
I strongly suspect that Lacey doesn't quite register with readers in the same way as a Kubrick or a Cassavetes. Even Brakhage and Tsui, while perhaps not familiar to a mainstream audience, are major names in their respective fields. Yet Lacey is different and finds himself still languishing in obscurity; nothing more than a footnote in the annals of cult-ish British filmmaking. Hutchings was right, we still don't understand, but perhaps 2012 - some sixty years since Lacey first got himself involved with a movie camera - will finally see the rest of us catch up. This summer brings all manner of goodies, including a brand new documentary from Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahams, various screenings at BFI Southbank, an exhibition at the Camden Arts Centre and The Lacey Rituals: Films By Bruce Lacey (And Friends): a typically weighty, two-disc endeavour from the British Film Institute that is chock full of his eccentric delights.
Lacey was a product of art school and National Service, part of the generation that would redefine the landscape of British humour during the 1950s and '60s. As a satirist and self-confessed silly bugger he was anti-establishment and against any notions of empire, yet firmly tied to his culture's past through a deep love of music hall and vaudeville. Indeed, it could be said that Lacey never left his childhood, forever demonstrating a youthful energy and curiosity across the decades as his work slowly shifted and mutated into areas of fresh interest. Starting out as a sculptor he has also been a performer, a filmmaker, a composer, a musician, an artist in myriad senses of the word, and plenty more besides. Approaching the man without any prior knowledge can be a daunting task, though paths can be plotted through those years.
If Lacey is ringing the tiniest of bells and yet you're struggling to place him, the most likely source is his brief cameo in the second Beatles movie, Help! (1965). He played George Harrison's gardener, the one who tends to his indoor lawn with a mower constructed from joke shop teeth. Such an appearance was typical for Lacey, often with one of these self-made contraptions to hand, in both features and on television. Cult oddities such as Adult Fun (1972) and Smashing Time (1967, tagline: 'Two Girls Go Stark Mod!') had a space for the man and his inventions, while Associated-Rediffusion Television gave him regular employment as a props man. His designs - and occasionally himself - earned themselves supporting role in various post-Goons sketch shows for the likes of Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. At the same time they would also find guest spots on the BBC, turning up in an episode of Not Only... But Also alongside Pete 'n' Dud or subject to an entire Monitor documentary helmed by Ken Russell. Lacey was rubbing shoulders with the key players of the time, but rarely allowed his own solo slot or starring vehicle. Instead, he had to do so on the periphery.
Fittingly, the first efforts with a camera were amateur ventures dating back to Lacey's time at the Hornsey School of Art. These were playful and ambitious films, celebrated within their own circles (including favourable coverage in Amateur Cine World and its ilk) but effectively hidden from general view. Only now can we get a glimpse, thanks to the BFI DVD and its attendant Southbank screenings, and it's interesting to see how their moods and methods would remain constant throughout Lacey's cinematic endeavours. The various shorts to which he has put his name remain defiantly lo-fi and retain that home-constructed aesthetic. Oftentimes they are simple sketches or mere records/reconstructions of his various 'happenings' and installations - in other words, not quite fully formed. Ideas excite Lacey and these are what he communicates, whether it be a slice of politically motivated satire or something a little more artistically inclined.
This waywardness - flitting between the humorous and the serious - poses the question as to whether Lacey was more comedian or artist. Certainly, many of the television appearances and various feature film cameos position him in the former category; another Brit eccentric to rank alongside his more famous co-stars. The earliest of the shorts do much the same too, especially those made in collaboration with anarchic musical comedy duo the Alberts and/or future Roobarb/Henry's Cat animator Bob Godfrey. They possess the same spirit and silliness as many of the comic acts that were to come into their own during the Sixties. The overall tone seems to predict both Monty Python's Flying Circus and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Neil Innes and Rodney Slater, then students of the Royal College of Art, even pop up in The Flying Alberts (1965) to cement the connection. Other co-stars and collaborators during this period included John Wells and William Rushton of Private Eye, fellow British comedy everyman Graham Stark, Ivor Cutler and glamour photographer George Harrison Marks.
Perhaps there's something about Lacey's appearance too which inherently lends itself to the comedic. Blessed with a gangly frame, long but thinning hair and a false set of top front teeth, he seems a natural fit for the onscreen absurdities. Such a figure and features make perfect sense within the comic context - opposite Spike Milligan, say, or playing The Beatles' gardener - and yet they were just as readily employed in Lacey's more experimental works. In the late '60s he embarked on the Human Behaviour films, a series of works which refused to take for granted everyday activities such as taking a bath, having a shave or going to the toilet. With mainstream filmmakers more concerned with action, great drama and romance, where were the cinematic records of such things in case the human race were to die out? Thus Lacey, his second wife Jill Bruce and their three children were employed to ensure this information existed for other civilisations to discover.
Of course, such an idea, once again, has its comic potential. Yet Lacey's execution - while playful - is entirely serious. Indeed, the reference points and kinships created by these works relate more to genuine experimental filmmakers than they do the British satirical set of the time. The Lacey Rituals (1973), a day-in-the-life collection of commonplace activities- "all the things you never saw in The Waltons" - recalls Ian Breakwell's Continuous Diary series; the strong ties to Lacey's family life bring to mind Stan Brakhage's most personal films (Cat's Cradle, say, or Window Water Baby Moving); and the frank sexuality of Double Exposure (1975) and its use of superimpositions create a connection with Carolee Schneemann's Fuses. The artistic credentials were upped further by Lacey's involvement in the 1965 International Poetry Incarnation at the Royal Albert Hall plus exhibitions at the ICA and the Serpentine Gallery. The latter involved the entire family - now dubbed the Community Art Group - in an extension of the Human Behaviour films. Later, Lacey would develop an interest in New Age mythologies and the ancient sites of Britain, creating and performing his own rituals at festivals around the country (prior to their corporate takeover) and making landscape films on Super 8. He even dabbled in video art.

All the while, there have been the robots and the crackpot inventions. Lacey never stopped being a sculptor, forever enthralled by junk shop discoveries and the now rather quaint space age futurism of his creations. They've toured galleries, featured in the movies, put in an appearance at an Ideal Home Exhibition, even competed in - and won! - the annual Alternative Miss World contest that Andrew Logan has been putting on since the early '70s. Strangest of all was one of the robots acting as Lacey's best man when he married Jill in 1967. In doing so was he being serious or irreverent, or maybe just taking the piss? The answer is probably a mixture of all three, which also happens to perfectly sum up the man himself. -

1965 – ROSA BOSOM – Bruce Lacey (British)

R.O.S.A. B.O.S.O.M.
Radio Operated Simulated Actress –  Battery Or Standby Operated Mains
(sometimes seen written as ROSA. BOSOM, or Rosa Bosom, or Rosabosom.)
Bruce Lacy rosabosom 001 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Image courtesy Bruce Lacey.
Bruce Lacey with RosaBosom  x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Image courtesy Bruce Lacey.
Bruce Lacey RosaBosom Detail x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Image courtesy Bruce Lacey.
RosaBosom and Bruce Lacey 72 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Bruce Lacey RosaBosom robot 85 robot x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Bruce Lacey RosaBosom Miss Alternative Universe 1985 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Her finest moment was to win The Andrew Logan's Alternative Miss World competition in 1985.
When I first met Bruce in 2009 and saw Rosa, she was wearing a box with a heart shape on it (see photo below). This is a remnant from when Rosa won the 1985 Alternative Miss World. This event was run by Andrew Logan. There are three costume changes with an overall water theme. So there is day-wear, beach-wear and evening-wear. Although Bruce's second wife was a contender in previous years competition, he himself was invited this year. Not wanting to be in drag, he then thought of entering Rosa. For day-wear Rosa was a bride, for beach-wear she wore a deep-sea divers helmet, and for evening-wear she was lit up, including a lamp in her 'heart', little lamps along her arms (see pic below). To Bruce's surprise, Rosa won the competition that year.
Bruce Lacey RosaBosom robot lacey11 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Bruce Lacey RosaBosom robot lacey12 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Bruce Lacey RosaBosom robot lacey13 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Bruce Lacey RosaBosom robot lacey16 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Bruce Lacey RosaBosom robot lacey17 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Bruce Lacey RosaBosom robot lacey19 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Bruce Lacey RosaBosom robot lacey20 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
The above still are from the British Pathe video clip seen here .

Jasia Reichardt invited Bruce to exhibit at Cybernetic Serendipity – 1968
Bruce Lacey RosaBosom robot cyberserendipity x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
The image below shows ROSA BOSOM with MATE at the 1968 Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition of 1968.
Bruce Lacey RosaBosom robot fullrosa x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Bruce Lacey Mate CAI x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Bruce Lacey RosaBosom Blue Peter1968 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Rosa appearing on "Blue Peter" in 1967.
Bruce Lacey RosaBosom robot RosaBosom bookcover x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
ROSA featuring on a book cover.
Bruce Lacey RosaBosom robot Rosabosom Illus p1 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Even the Russians new about ROSA !
Bruce Lacey RosaBosom robot RosabosomP2 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
 see some wonderful and rare images of Bruce and ROSA
David Lewis-Hodgson Photography
 Bruce Lacey RosaBosom robot rosa getty x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Bruce goes on to tell me about his wedding to Jill in 1967. I mention to Bruce that this Wedding photo showing Rosa Bosom as the "best man" went around the world, and I still have the newspaper cutout in my childhood scrapbook.
Although Bruce had already teed-up John Sewell as his best man, he asked him to step-aside and let Rosa perform the duties. With Bruce at the radio-controls, he commands Rosa to give him the wedding ring, then, via a tape-recorder attached within the robot, the bridal march gets played. Rosa then kisses the bride, and  blows confetti everywhere.
 Rosabosom1 x640(1) 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
I have had the above image of Bruce Lacey with ROSA as his best "man" ever since it was published in 1967. It was one of my inspirations when I decided to travel from Australia to Britain and Europe on my robot pilgrimage in mid 2009.
Stookey Bill Baird x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Inside of Bruce's farm house there is a large photograph on the wall showing Logie Baird's experimental television set-up.  Bruce tells me that he was inspired by this photograph, showing the utilisation of a ventriliquist's dummy's head [called "Stookey Bill"] as a replacement of a real person's head. He thought of this when he started to build the first of his many "robot actors", as he refers to them as.

Bruce Lacey ROSABOSOM Telegraph 2010 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
(Image from The Telegraph showing Bruce and Rosa at the Kinetica Art Fair, Feb 2010)
Bruce Lacey
(b. London, 1927)
Hornsey School of Art, 1949–1951; Royal College of Art, 1951–1954
At the Royal College of Art, I performed at student shows sawing women in half, dancing with a dummy woman that disintegrated. The staff called this “silly bugger activity”. I left with a first class degree and a silver medal. I didn’t know whether to carry on as a painter, or to be a performer, as I had been since childhood. In West End nightclubs, I played tunes on the spokes of a penny farthing bicycle and exploding pianos.
My lodger, who was working in television, asked if I would make special trick props for Spike Milligan in a series called The Idiot Weekly, Price 2d. I appeared in and also supplied sets, costumes, props and special effects for The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film, with Spike and Peter Sellers. After not receiving any credit or payment for this work, I began hating the whole of professional show business. To express this hatred, in 1961 I built two robot electric actors and performed with them at the Establishment nightclub, run by Peter Cook, showing their superiority over live actors.
I performed with the Alberts and Ivor Cutler in An Evening of British Rubbish (which I saw as a satire of show business) at the Comedy Theatre. At this time I was also creating automata and assemblages expressing other hates, fears, loves, wishes and dreams.
I could see a relationship between unrelated objects, as if they were meant to be together to express something afresh. I saw my machines as props, and was most surprised when a friend sent me off to Gallery One, run by Victor Musgrove, who gave me an exhibition in 1963. I had my second show at the Marlborough Gallery in 1965. The critics called it neo-Dada. I didn’t even know what Dada was, let alone whether it was art. I hated Pop Art as it was the very opposite of what I was concerned with – the state of the world around me: war, famine, spare-part surgery.
I built The Womaniser from objects I had around me. It was a fantasy wish to be an hermaphrodite with sex on the brain. It was satisfying to make these things using consumer objects and technology – to criticise the very society that had made them. It was my psychotherapy; why I had started art in the first place, suffering from TB in 1946, and how I’ve carried on since. 

 From Bruce Lacey – 40 years of Assemblages Enviroments & Robots. 1975
My life has been spent, so far, making and doing things for no other reason than that they were the instinctive thing for me to do at the time. To my friends and various tutors, these things sometimes appeared to be madness, eccentricity, self-indulgence or just playing silly-buggers.
In retrospect, I can see that all these activities were fulfilling very strong psychological needs at the time and that seemingly unrelated activities can eventually be seen to be in fact related. I have followed many completely separate threads of interests and activities right through my life and it is only now that all these threads have fused together in a way it would have been impossible to foresee.
This exhibition is an attempt to show how the things I am doing now in my work with Jill, had their origins in my early childhood, and to chronicle and document their development throughout my life, and also to show how, at various critical points in my life, when my life was going along in a certain direction, I stopped completely, re-assessed myself and carried on as though re-born.
Finally, many people, who only know me in one of my activities, think there are several different people called Bruce Lacey This exhibition is also an attempt to show that they are in fact all one and the same person.
November 1974.
1927 Born Catford, London
1942-3 Worked in explosives factory
1943-5 Worked as bank clerk. Began doing events. Built aeroplane simulator in bedroom.
1945-7 Electrical mechanic in Navy.
1947-8 In hospital with TB. Began painting as occupational therapy.
1948-51 Studied painting at Hornsey College of Art.
1949 Got married.
1951 Won Knapping Prize.
1951-4 Studied painting at Royal College of Art. During this time he devised and appeared in many revues and circus shows (doing knife-throwing, tightrope walking, trapeze, magical illusions, etc). Developed cabaret acts using mechanical devices and doing magic lantern acts. With others, made and performed in films which won prizes in festivals. Did one-man events. With others developed light-sound workshop, Mobilux, doing many performances and TV programmes. Created many environments. Became President of the Dodo Society.
1954 Won Silver Medal from the RCA and Abbey Minor travelling scholarship. Visited Middle East, Italy and Greece.
1956-60 Gave up painting. Made trick props and special effects for television, for Spike Milligan (such as Footo, the Wonder Boot Exploder), Michael Bentine (invisible fleas), Peter Sellers, The Army Game, etc. With Bob Godfrey and Joe McGrath, formed the Gnits and made many short comedy films which were shown on Cool for  Cats – an early pop programme. Became a comic cabaret performer and appeared in nightclubs on his own and with comic jazz musicians, The Alberts. Appeared in such places as the Blue Angel, The Gargoyle, The Satire Club, The Savoy, Ronnie Scott's club, 100 club, and Albert Hall. Was to be seen in series of posters designed by John Sewell for City Books and Better Books on the underground.
1960 Met Jill Bruce. Appeared in Don't
Shoot, We're English, on tour and at the Cambridge Theatre, with Michael Bentine. Appeared in series of joke commercials for Frothingslosh – Foam on the Bottom Beer, for American TV. Did first performance work with Jill Bruce.
1962 Cabaret with The Alberts at the Establishment Club in London. They were seen by Lenny Bruce who became their American manager and presented them at the Blue Angel Club in New York. Made first assemblage sculpture for window of Portal Gallery.
1963 Starred with The Alberts, Ivor Cutler and Joyce Grant in An Evening  of British Rubbish at the Comedy Theatre, which included an act with two electric actors. Made record Sleepy Valley for EMI, with The Alberts. Having been making assemblage sculptures, had one-man exhibition of them at Gallery One. Took An Evening of British Rubbish  to the Little Fox Theatre in San Francisco.
During the following few years did British Rubbish (now including Jill Bruce) at the Theatre 140, Brussels; The Poor Millionaire, Winter Gardens, Bournemouth; St Pancras Town Hall; Civic Theatre, Darlington; Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon; Civic Hall, Barnsley; New Victoria Theatre, Halifax.
1964 Group environment Stigma at Better Books, London, organised by Jeff Nuttall. Appeared in the opening programme of BBC-2 with The Alberts. Made first version of his robot for international poets convention at the Albert Hall.
1965 Made environment Osmosis with
students at Leeds College of Art. With The Alberts and Jill Bruce wrote own version of The Three  Musketeers and performed it in Brussels.
1966 With The Alberts and Jill Bruce developed The Three Musketeers and presented it at the Arts Theatre Club, London. His Robot, ROSA BOSOM played the part of the Queen of France. Made Vietnam environment for Angry Arts Week at the Roundhouse.
1967 Continued to perform British Rubbish.
Got divorced. Married Jill Bruce and had Robot as best man.
1968 With an Arts Council grant made an environment Journey through the  organs of the human body, with Gill Southgate and Tony Bindloss, for the City of London Festival, and later took it to Woburn Abbey. Did events at Middle Earth. Began making films with Jill Bruce.
1969 Continued making assemblages.
Devised British Landing on the Moon  with Mike Reynolds and Jill Bruce and first performed it at Transport Museum. Has since continued to perform it with Jill Bruce.
Performed The Three Musketeers Ride  Again at the Royal Court Theatre, London, with The Alberts, Jill Bruce, Rachel Roberts and Valentine Dyall. Once again his Robot appeared as the Queen of France. He made all the sets and props, including a robot cuckoo clock.
1970 Demonstrated robots at the International Broadcasting Convention in London with Jill Bruce on radio 'mike as the voice of the robot, Come Together  festival at the Royal Court Theatre. An evening of his films at the ICA.
1971 Became caretaker of one of SPACE studios. Joined end of Arts Council Blow Up tour with Jill Bruce and robots, appearing at the DLI Museum and Arts Centre, Durham; Serpentine Gallery and Art Spectrum  at Alexandra Palace. Gave John Player lecture at the National Film Theatre. Commissioned by Habitat to construct a work Universal Integrator for the British Steel Corporation stand at the Ideal Home exhibition.
1972 Began working as a group 'The Laceys' with Jill, eldest son John and youngest children Kevin, Tiffany and Saffron, in the community arts field. With a London Borough of Camden grant made the Incredible Whatsit Machine, which they presented at the Camden Festival and Crystal Palace Children's Day, and since have taken it to numerous sites all over London – to parks, playgrounds, blocks of flats, etc. With 'The Laceys', devised, constructed and presented Journey  Through a Black Hole to a Coloured  Planet, a multi-media experience, sponsored by the Arts Council as
part of their Outside In tour of Northern England, and has presented it at several art centres since.
1973 Made The Lacey Rituals film with the family. Continued work as 'The Laceys' in the community arts field and developed The Magic Fun Factory. With Jill Bruce and The Alberts, wrote and starred in The Electric  Element at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. A multi-media,
comedy, musical, science fantasy, helped by an Arts Council grant. He designed and made all the sets, and the live action films, with Jill making the costumes, painting the sets and making the animated sequences.
1974 Continued to work with family in community arts. Began to realise life-long ambition to write songs and create music. With Jill Bruce formed Galactic Theatre and created their first production of Stella  Superstar and Her Amazing Galactic  Adventures, an environmental, multimedia science fantasy, for which he has created all the electronic sound and written one song, constructed the sets, and made many electronic devices……

from Cybernetic Serendipity catalogue
On the human predicament
Bruce Lacey
Given a brain, man has the possiuility of developing into a sublime, happy, creative, and unique creature, but he is prevented from realizing this potential by the severe limitations imposed on him by the environment he has created for himself in order to survive physically. Having to adapt psychologically to his environment, and if the environment has been too hostile, religions have stepped in to offer a pleasanter one after death. If man has resisted external pressures, he has either been put to death, put into prison, or put into a mental home. To survive in the future, he must rebuild his cities, rewrite his laws, and re-educate himself and his 38 children. He must do all these things to suit his emotional, sexual and psychological needs. In other words, he must change his environment and his society to suit himself and not change himself to suit his environment or society.
In my robots and humanoids I attempt to present this predicament, In my events I attempt to ask questions, And in my simulations and environments I attempt to point direction towards the answer.
In attempting to solve these problems I use all advances in technology, electronics, psychology, market research, medicine and mathematics at my disposal. Using, in fact, the very hardware that has brought about these problems in the first place.
Right, Rosa Bosom (R.O.S.A.—Radio Operated Simulated Actress), 1965
Electronic parts, aluminium, batteries, motors, etc. 24x 36 x 72 in.
Originally designed as an actress to integrate with live performers in production of Three Musketeers, at the Arts Theatre 1966. where it played the Queen of France.
Method of control: radio; programmed ; environmental.
Far right, Mate, 1967
Electronic parts, aluminium, batteries, motors, etc. 24 x 24 72 in.
Built as companion to R.O.S.A., which it follows automatically and generally interacts with.
Using ultrasonics, infra-red and sonic signals.

Bruce Lacey  born 1927

Inscribed ‘Bruce Lacey’ and ‘1964’ on embossed metal strip on front side of wooden box
Wood, metals, plastic, canvas, leather, with electric motor, in metal frame, 78 1/4×59×15 (198.2×150×38.1)
Purchased from the artist (Grant-in-Aid) 1976
Exh: Bruce Lacey, Marlborough New London Gallery, January 1965 (1 repr.); Exhibition of Assemblages, Fairfield Hall, Croydon, July 1965 (no catalogue); An Exhibition of Humanoids and Constructions, Arts Council Gallery, Cardiff, April–May 1967 (1, repr. and cover); Bruce Lacey, 40 Years of Assemblages, Environments and Robots, Whitechapel Art Gallery, February–April 1975 (16, repr.); Manifestations of the Obsessions and Fantasies of Bruce Lacey and Jill Bruce, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, May–June 1975 (16, repr.)
Repr: ‘Spare Part Surgery’ in Hospital World, October 1965
‘Boy, Oh Boy, am I Living!’ was made in the artist's workshed at Bounds Green, Muswell Hill, London at the same time as a series of works which were first exhibited at the Marlborough New London Gallery in 1965. The work was constructed partially from objects already in the artist's possession, and partially from objects specially sought after. The component limbs of the humanoid figure were made from discarded artificial legs and arms obtained from the Limb Fitting Centre at Roehampton, with permission from the Department of Health and Social Security. Permission was only granted on the assurance that they would form part of a serious work of art. The head utilises a plastic globe from a Belisha beacon obtained in Holland, as it is more orange than the British version. The mouth is made from a dentist's tooth selection chart, used to match the correct colour for dentures. Various small parts have had to be replaced since it was first constructed, because of pilfering during exhibition, including the eyes, spectacles, nose, mouth, pulley and electronic ‘implant’ on the side of the head. Lacey had to search to find the water geyser which forms the trunk of the figure, and this was used in a similar way to that forming the trunk of ‘We'll make a new man of him’, a humanoid constructed in 1963.
After leaving the Royal College of Art in 1954, Bruce Lacey had within two years given up painting, and was concentrating on performance work. This varied between cabaret, television and films and included performing and constructing special effects. In 1962 he made his first assemblage sculpture for the window of the Portal Gallery, and between 1962 and 1963, while performing at the Establishment Club, Lacey made two humanoids which appeared on stage as part of the performance entitled ‘An evening of British rubbish’. In June 1963, sixteen ‘automata and humanoids’ were exhibited at Gallery One. Lacey was spurred to exhibit his constructions after seeing the exhibition of work by Kurt Schwitters, which included many collages, at the Marlborough Gallery in March and April 1963. Previously he had been uncertain whether such everyday scraps could be exhibited as art, and in these works he was keen to use ‘real’ objects rather than to cast in bronze or transmute the objects in any way. At this time the artist obtained a quantity of key-clamp metal tubing and was thus able to provide a physical framework for building each work, without having to rely on gluing each individual part. After making ‘Boy, Oh Boy, am I Living!’ where the figure is held in by this frame, he progressed to making such works as ‘The Institution’ where an old person appears to be living in a coffin-like box, and then ‘The Living Room’ where part of a room was reconstructed in the gallery.
The idea for this work came from current developments in ‘Spare Part Surgery’. In 1964 it was becoming apparent that doctors and surgeons might be able to replace every section of the human anatomy with artificial substitutes. Experiments with electrode implants into the brain implied that the actions and thoughts of individuals might in the future be remote-controlled. Lacey wished to express his fears about the creation of robot-like humans. He gave the ironic title ‘Boy, Oh Boy, am I Living!’ to emphasise that this society might induce individuals to imagine that they were enjoying life-here we see the humanoid man apparently pleased that he is allowed to move one of his legs when we can see that he is completely caged in. All Lacey's automata and humanoid sculptures of this time used ironic titles and imagery. He saw his works as ‘hate, love or fear’ objects expressing his own hates, loves and fears. He has said that he intended his work to be psychologically therapeutic for himself rather than for the aesthetic appreciation of others. ‘Art shouldn't just be stimulating man intellectually or emotionally, like a love potion or a panacea for purely aesthetic motives. It should instead be awakening his conscience and his awareness of life as it is and what it is going to be, as we move forward to a frightening future, where man's very individuality and personality may be lost’. (catalogue of exhibition at Arts Council Gallery, Cardiff, 1967). In making the works, Lacey tried not to make aesthetic decisions about the disposition of parts, but to allow the materials necessary for a particular image to dictate the lay-out of a particular sculpture.
After the exhibition at the Marlborough Gallery in 1965, Lacey decided to make ‘active’ rather than ‘passive’ works. He had found that he had to spend too much time explaining the works in the exhibition. Thus he developed the use of automata in his performances, started to build his first robots and was able to substitute these for actors in performances. His work then progressed to making a series of environments, where the spectator experienced the work from inside, and he put less emphasis on the exhibition of his constructions. Since 1974, for some of his performance art work, made in collaboration with his second wife Jill Bruce, he has created another form of ‘machine’ with the lighting and special effects systems which he builds and then operates as part of the performance.
The information for this catalogue entry was obtained from an interview with the artist (4 March 1977) and a letter (13 March 1977), and has been approved by him.
Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978  

A Statement by Bruce Lacey about R.O.S.A. B.O.S.O.M  [Kinetica 2010]
Radio. Operated. Simulated. Actress. Battery. Or. Standby. Operated. Mains.
A Statement by Bruce Lacey about R.O.S.A. B.O.S.O.M
prepared for Kinetica 2010 talk on Cybernetic Serendipity and ROSA BOSOM.
I studied Electrical and Mechanical Engineering in the Royal Navy 1945-48. In 1951 I went on to study painting at The Royal College of Art, London, leaving in 1954 with a First Class Honours Degree.
Two years on I had lost interest in painting, I began making props and special effects for television shows, this developed and I found myself performing in West End night clubs with my electrical assemblages.
In 1965 there was a poetry convention at The Albert Hall, London. I was asked to do an event, so I built a radio controlled Robot called John Silent, who came on stage making farting and belching noises. This was my comment on Poetry. The Poets thought this was very Avant-Garde, there was a style of Poetry called 'Noise or Sound Poetry' of which I knew nothing.
1966 John Silent had a sex change and became R.O.S.A. B.O.S.O.M (Radio. Operated. Simulated. Actress. Battery. Or. Standby. Operated. Mains.) to play the part of the Queen of France in a production of the Three Musketeers with myself playing the part of D'Artagnan at the Arts Theatre, London and later at The Royal Court Theatre, London in 1969.
In 1967 I built another Robot called MATE, who performed with R.O.S.A at various venues, such as The Middle Earth in Covent Garden and The Brighton Festival, they interacted cybernetically with each other using Ultrasonics, Infra-Red and Audio Signals.
In 1968 Jasia Reichardt invited me to participate in the Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition at the ICA, London. I was overjoyed.
I performed with both R.O.S.A. B.O.S.O.M and MATE. I also exhibited a light sensitive OWL and an experience called SENSEXPLORATION.
Over the years R.O.S.A. has achieved many things, being Best Man at my second wedding, acting in films, appearing in television shows, newspapers, magazines, and exhibitions. Her finest moment was to win The Andrew Logan's Alternative Miss World competition in 1985. R.O.S.A. is still going strong today, and loving every minute of it, at the age of 45.

See British Pathe video clip here .
There is another video clip showing MATE interacting with ROSA. It is an interesting clip in that, other than a clip showing Schoffer's CYSP-1, shows other elements of Cybernetic Serendipity (1968), including Gordon Pask's "Colloquy of Mobiles", Edward Ihnatowicz' SAM, amongst others. It is found here, but you need to create an account first (no payment required to see preview) login, then search for "ACCIDENTAL ART".
See also Tomorrow's World video clip
[There are earlier Bruce Lacey assemblages in a video clip here.]
Bruce Lacy Reuben Hoggett rosabosom 025 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
The author, Reuben Hoggett with Bruce Lacey and ROSA BOSOM [June 2009].
I asked Bruce about what motivated him to build Rosa.  Bruce said that in the 1960's [actually 1965, not 1964 as stated in the Whitechapel catalogue that he constantly referred to], there was going to be a poetry convention in Albert Hall featuring Ginsburg, Michael Horowitz and Ernst Jandl  amongst others. Bruce was invited, but his proposal of smashing up a large statue of Venus de Milo was rejected as being to visual for a voice  event. Again, as a reaction to this rejection (Bruce's therapy), Bruce decided to build a robot. He called it "John Silent" (I didn't know this until I was speaking with Bruce at the time). It wasn't silent, it didn't utter words, but it did make farting-type noises. This reactionary piece somewhat back-fired as, although intended as a "piss-take", turned out to be a new form of "noise" poetry pioneered by Ernst Jandl who was there.
Rosa Bosom then came about, following the "electric actor" theme, as a reaction to actors being bossed about. Bruce's approach is for spontenaety, creativity – not a prescribe, rehearsed part that totally obliviates the actors input. So, if that's how the director wants it, then use a robot instead who doesn't care about being bossed around. The robot had a sex change, and "John Silent" became "Rosa Bosom". Rosa played the Queen of France in "The Three Musketeers" at the Royal Court Theatre.

BruceLacy 012 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
Detail of Rosa Bosom (June 2009).
BruceLacy 032 x640 1965   ROSA BOSOM   Bruce Lacey (British)
In the event of not being able to use the radio-control unit e.g. flat batteries, unit failure, R-C ban, etc., Bruce made up a joystick control out of an aircraft gun control. -

'The Bruce Lacey Experience', exhibition view
Tucked away on Fairport Convention’s 1969 album What We Did On Our Holidays is a psychedelic blues song called ‘Mr Lacey’. In the middle eight, if you listen closely, you can detect faint mechanical beeps and whirrs. These ‘noises off’ emanated from automata constructed by Bruce Lacey, the Fairport members’ near neighbour in Muswell Hill at the time, and an artist whose work, by the late ’60s, dwelt on the threshold of performance, sculpture, film, robotics, painting and environmental installation. ‘No one here understands now,’ runs the song’s closing line, ‘but maybe some day they’ll catch up with you.’ And now they have. ‘The Bruce Lacey Experience’, the largest survey of his multifarious activities to date, was shaped by the co-curation of David Alan Mellor and Jeremy Deller, another North Londoner whose interest in amassing archives and subverting public ritual owes a debt to Lacey’s example.
Spread across three gallery spaces and a vestibule, the show broke Lacey’s practice down into manageable chunks. An introductory display of posters located ‘Professor’ Lacey among the fringe entertainment scene, including ‘interruptions’ at a 1959 Albert Hall jazz festival, and his regular participation in ‘Evenings of British Rubbish’ during the ’60s: a kind of goonish, madcap, cod-Edwardian revue/Happening that clearly prefigured the English comic surrealism of Monty Python, Viv Stanshall, Spike Milligan et al, and later the alternative comedy of Reeves & Mortimer and The League Of Gentlemen. Appearances at the Roundhouse in Camden and at the radical Stratford Theatre Royal sucked him sideways into the underground scene, where his ‘humanoids’ – crude androids jerrybuilt from scrap metal, military hardware and medical/kitchen sundries – provided perplexing diversions at the era’s lysergic love-in. A 1967 trip to the prehistoric stone circle at Avebury helped him tune in to the secret archaeology of Albion, and his marriage to collaborator Jill Bruce speeded this ‘silly bugger artist’’s turn towards geomancy and ‘a deepening relationship with the mysteries of the earth’. Posters from the late ’70s advertise the couple’s ‘elemental co-ordinations’: attempts to tap into the species-memory of ritual and natural cycles within a wholly other, and somewhat forgotten, slice of underground culture – Faerie Fairs, Ariel Fairs, Fire Fairs, Moon Fairs.
The artefacts from Lacey’s shamanic rituals at such events, gathered in one room, proved to be the least successful in a gallery context. Tie-dyed outfits, pentagrams and cosmically inclined canvases veered close to New Age kitsch, animated only by video footage of his pyrotechnic interventions and ritualistic magic performances around a fire. The room of robots and humanoids, though, was stunning. Dating from between 1963 and 1965, these machines and assemblages, ‘expressing fears, love, hates, and feelings about society’, confronted you with an atavistic android primitivism whose moral force gestures towards the seven deadly sins: Lust (The Womaniser), Avarice (Old Moneybags) and Vanity (ROSA BOSOM, which eventually won the 1985 Alternative Miss World contest). To invoke the title of the ICA’s influential 1968 ‘Cybernetic Serendipity’ exhibition – in
which Lacey took part – his automata express the opposite: cybernetic zemblanity, or
an inexorable unearthing of negative traits in modern humanity.
A room filled with Lacey’s youthful memorabilia provided a counterpoint, tracing the developing sensibility of a youthful collector of fragments, an antiquarian who was nevertheless fascinated by the postwar machine age. Teenage sketches of aircraft parts, factory machinery and handbuilt models of V2 rockets testified to the fact that Lacey’s street was
hit by a flying bomb in World War II, an irruption that charged his later life and work with an urgency. His later route into shamanism and ritual could be understood as an escape route from the postwar heaviness that shadowed his first few decades.
But beneath the pizzazz of a ceiling-mounted wire-mesh penis spurting Sindy dolls, the most evocative object in the whole show was a small, battered handmade wooden fort, built by his father and used by Lacey as a boy to stage miniature siege re-enactments. It’s a tatty ruin whose frayed battlements seem to contain a lifetime of imaginative play and, as with so many of the artefacts on display, you found yourself marvelling that this resiliently fragile trinket could have survived its owner’s nomadic and eventful life to catch up with him again, here. - Rob Young

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