Friday, February 10, 2012

David Cunningham | Alphabet

David Cunningham remains best known for his 1979 hit Money, a cover of the Barrett Strong staple, recorded with band The Flying Lizards (which also featured author David Toop and painter Michael Upton). But his resume is long and varied. He has performed collaboratively with John Cage, Kathy Acker, Peter Gordon, Pan Sonic, Michael Giles, Scanner and many others. He scored Sid Vicious' version of Sinatra's My Way. He has produced music for film and television, including collaborations with Michael Nyman on the scores for some of Peter Greenaway's best films (A Draughtsman's Contract, A Zed and Two Noughts, The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover, etc). He has produced albums for other artists, including post-punk band This Heat and Martin Creed's Owada. His collaboration with Creed is fairly extensive; in addition to producing most of the artist's sound works, the pair collaborated on Work No. 211, though it's hard to imagine who did what as the piece is a floppy diskette that contains a computer alert, which consists solely of Creed's voice saying "Fuck off". The work is signed by both. His collaborations with other artists includes Sam Taylor-Wood, Susan Hiller, João Penalva, Ian Breakwell, Mark Wallinger, Gillian Wearing, John Latham, and many others.

His own installations have been exhibited at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, the Tate London, the ICC Gallery in Tokyo, and the 2003 Venice Biennale. He contributed the track Clerkenwell Magistrates' Court to a CD that I compiled for Mercer Union, called Mercersound, which was distributed at to visitors at the 2005 Venice Biennale. Recently he arranged for seven artists and composers to write music for multiple pianos, which were then performed at a music store with a showroom containing over 40 pianos.

His 2010 work Alphabet consists of a boxed set of 26 volumes, one for each letter in the Roman alphabet. The books contain variations on the alphabet, using every letter, but with no two consecutive letters in the same sequence as the conventional alphabet. Each volume includes 97 distinct combinations, producing a total of 2522 different alphabetical series, printed as a horizontal line through the centre of each page. Generated with a complex algorithm, the sequences appear like mathematical code, but periodically a fragment contains a recognizable word. The only series that runs in alphabetical order is along the spine of each volume, laboriously and playfully hand-written by a four-year old girl.

The work is available in an edition of 50 signed copies (with ten artists' proofs) for 1800.00 €.

A digital version, from a few years prior, can be viewed here, auto-updating every few seconds.

1 comment:

  1. Correction: Simon Jeffes of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra apparently arranged the strings for Sid Vicious' cover of My Way. I'm certain I once read this attributed to Cunningham, possibly in Option Magazine (circa the early 90s) but I can't find the issue now to confirm.