ANIMAL BODY MACHINE – My head is a desktop

The great thing about the Leckey exhibition is that it keeps throwing up ideas. I’d become interested in the Long Tail idea – 80% of internet users access the same 20% of content but the remaining 80% of content snakes its way through all out lives in various ways. For my last but one gallery intervention I’d asked people to wrote down  what they used phones, television, computers, the internet, books, paper, a pen and the letter A for and also how the felt about these things. I was hoping to find some kind of 80/20 revelation about the way in which we communicate and receive information. I didn’t. But I did get into some very interesting conversations about the exhibition with some of the visitors!

For my final afternoon of gallery interventions I knew that I wanted to do something that would somehow pull all four sessions together and enable me to write something, so I decided to ask visitors to take part in a word association. I started off with the words Leckey uses to categorise the exhibits ANIMAL BODY MACHINE and then, a bit like Chinese Whispers, the next visitor would write a word association to the word the previous person left. No-one saw the whole list and pretty soon it became impossible to tell which category was which. What I was after was trying to recreate the way in which Leckey’s online searches led from object to object by using people’s associative responses instead of the internet.

So this is what it looked like



and this is what I wrote, italicised words are taken straight from the lists:

ANIMAL BODY MACHINE – My head is a desktop

It rained that day.

White pavilion domes on grey skies.

Hunched people, scarves lying parallel to the plain of the horizon in the rain shiny wind.


Inside is quiet.


Except for…

The sound of the dumb things,

The placing of feet,

The murmur of voices.

Sometimes a solo shriek then sshhhh………

A machine’s heartbeat



Click to click to click, click, click.

Pursued, followed, found.

One thing led to another thing.

Snaking round, gathering in

to here.


“I don’t understand it to be honest”

“I think it’s wonderful”


ANIMAL          BODY               MACHINE


Desktop folders. My head is a desktop, sort of. So must yours be. Follow the links and Animal goes to Outfit, Body goes to Wealth and Machine goes to People.

Imagine that!



You, me, them, they

Dumb wonder


The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things


Conform: strict, careful placing


Treasure chocolate angels fake high-life stripes


Treacle parachute flags yellow beach


Car gears ROAR



Tart gems

Tasty fruit nails



Dog meat corpse

Bodies mouth hate noise

Furry vision


ANIMAL          BODY          MACHINE

Lion              Mouth              Robot

Roar              Speech              Movement

Lion              Dumb              Ballet

Cat              Mindless       Strength

Furry              Choke              Wonder

Pipe              Careful              Amazing

Cleaner              Placing              Gears

Liquid              Table                      Machine

Fairy              Tangible              Fruit

Liquidity       Segment              Compote

Sea              Arc                     Vegetable

Beach              Rainbow              Carrot

Swimming       Colours              Jasper

Costume              Yellow                      Person

Outfit              Banana                      People

ANIMAL              BODY                     MACHINE

Giraffe              Clock                      Legs

Spot              Sand                          Nails

Conform              Beach                     Hate

Obey              Sea                     Love

Strict                Fish                     You

School              Chips                     Me

Children       Fish                     You

Sweets              Fear                     Them

Calories       Parachute              They

Dietary              Bungee                     Happen

Fat              Elastic              Find

Treacle              Plastic              Treasure

Tart              Fake                     Pirate

Cake              Gems                     Skull

Tasty              Wealth                     Floral

ANIMAL              BODY                     MACHINE

Dog              Fingers              Car

Meat              Chocolate              Trip

Bread              Mousse                     Vision

Bodies              Chocolate              Express

Corpse              Brownies              Paper

Life              Sister                     Tiger

Death              Family                     Stripes

Angels              Children              Flags

High              Noise                     Travel

Life              Sound                     Car

Death              Vision                     Exhaust

Time              Inspire              Fumes

Short              Help                      Cars



And on a sweeter note:


You inspire


Copyright Christine Harmar-Brown October 2013

With thanks to the De La Warr Pavilion gallery visitors to the Mark Leckey exhibition The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things on Saturday October 19 2013


Creating the Dumb Things Gallery Guide by Sandy Jones

Mark Leckey's Felix the Cat at De La Warr Pavilion

What do a ten metre high inflatable Felix the cat, William Blake’s ‘Ghost of a flea’, a replica Sputnik satellite and a singing gargoyle have in common? They are all part of ‘The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things’, an exhibition at Bexhill’s De la War Pavilion curated by Turner prize-winning artist Mark Leckey. The exhibition is part of the Hayward Touring programme that brings exhibitions to over 100 museums and publicly funded venues in Britain every year. his summer, I was fortunate to work with the DLWP on the gallery guide for this thought provoking

The De La Warr Pavilion is a contemporary art gallery and live performance venue situated on the seafront at Bexhill. Designed in 1935 by architects Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff, the Grade One listed historical building remains an icon of Modernist architecture and a celebration of the International Style. Described by Mendelsohn as a ‘horizontal skyscraper’, the building was restored and redeveloped between 2003-2005 with funding from the Arts Council Lottery Fund. Rather than house a permanent collection, the DLWP flexes its spaces to support a dynamic programme of art and performance, showcasing experimental and inter-disciplinary works from emerging artists and big names like Andy Warhol and Antony Gormley.

The gallery guide project came about after I wrote to the DLWP to ask whether they had any volunteering opportunities over the summer. They wrote back saying they needed some support with the guide and as I’d worked in design before, they thought my experience would be helpful. Before I met their curator, David, I carried out some research and discovered that the exhibition was inspired by the concept of techno-animism, ‘the idea that everything that is in (and of) this earth is being animated from within’. It is an exploration of how technology is changing our relationship with everyday objects and is creating an ambient environment around us where nonliving things are brought to life. Paradoxically, these advances in technology reconnect us with our ancient past where objects and environments were thought to possess magical and divine powers. This was quite a concept to get my head around and it took a fair bit of reading to ‘get it’.

The method of curation was also alternative, approached as an aggregation of ‘things’, a ‘network of objects’, rather than a display of personal taste. Using the internet as a digital archive to research and select works over a period of two years, Leckey meticulously sourced and filed words, images, sounds and video into a conceptual matrix of humans, animals and machines to create a hybrid, an exhibition where the objects are ‘in the physical realm but came from the digital realm’. His concept for the show can be seen on You Tube, in his trailer-like film, Proposal for a Show, watch it and think about the challenge that faced the curator, finding all those things for what has been called a ‘post modern cabinet of curiosities’.

Leckey is often described as a ‘pop cultural anthropologist’ and I can see why, he samples across cultures, eras and media. Fortunately, David and Chelsea (the curator from the South Bank) brought clarity to my task by advising on the most important themes, we agreed that I would research and write about 12 selected works and that the design would be simple because the subject matter was so complex. David also suggested that I join the team on a visit to the Nottingham Contemporary (great gallery btw) to see the exhibition before it arrived at Bexhill, this helped enormously, although when it came to writing the copy it was challenging because there was so much I wanted to say, but no space for it.

I visited the DLWP during the installation process and observed the curators as they worked with the artist to agree where and how the works would be displayed. One highlight was watching as the courier responsible for an ancient Egyptian canopic jar and mummified cat, unpacked and examined each one closely with a torch, checking that they conformed to their condition report and tested the environmental conditions. Another highlight was watching the team inflate Felix’s giant head and position it within the stairwell at the front of the building. For a team that last summer had rigged a bus, Italian Job stylee, to be half-on-half-off the roof, this was a breeze. The team at the DLWP were extremely generous with their time and great to work with, I enjoyed every minute. Catch the exhibition if you can, it’s on until 20th October 2013.

Sandy Jones is a second year student in Museum and Heritage Studies (BA), Brighton University.

The inner life of "dumb things" (gallery interpretations with Sheridan Quigley)

Chris Balcombe

“Cyberman helmet”, 1985. “Please don’t sneeze”.

The new show, “The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things” is magical cabinet of curiosities. There are things to delight, to horrify, to laugh at, to bewilder…but it makes you reflect, connect and consider the shifting boundaries between the animate and the inanimate.

With such a fabulously diverse exhibition to inspire thinking and drawing, the first interaction of the show drew in a wonderful diversity of participants of all ages. It’s great to see small children excited by imagery (“It’s spinning!”), teenage BMXers amused by witty pieces (“Woofer” and the inflatable Felix the cat) and older people genuinely interested in discussing the mindset of the artist and the concept behind the curating process.

Inside the gallery, visitors were asked to imagine the thoughts of the exhibits themselves, as so many of them seem to exude of a sense of their own consciousness:

“Cogito ergo sum” – thinking things:


“Lucy. Autralopithecus Afarensis”, 2011. Marguerite Humeau. “You gave me a new mouth; why won’t you feed me!”

“Untitled”, 1944. Edmund Monsiel. “I’m so pretty, oh so pretty…”

“Untitled”, 1994. Dwight Mackintosh. “I should get a boat.”

“Rocking machine”, 1969. Herman Makkink. “Looking forward to tonight.”

“BigBoxStatueAction”, 2012. Mark Leckey. “I’m just resting. Do Not Disturb”

Boli, Mali. “Sad. Lonely. Stupid.”

“I-limb Ultra”, 2012. Touch Bionics. “I will take over the world limb by limb…”

Wurlitzer sideman drum machine. 1959-65. “My life is one of repetition – I can go faster or slower- but always the same pattern – one day when I am dead, my legacy will be heard on every popular music production.”

Meanwhile…on the terrace, under the ferocious afternoon sun… we set out a 5m square of paper for a collaborative “Rhizomic Drawing” of ideas and connections.

Visitors to the show will no doubt recognise many of the items making an appearance in the drawing:IMG_4670IMG_4675IMG_4676IMG_4677IMG_4672

If you feel inspired to take part in either of these activities, come to the DLWP on Saturday, 10th August.