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Marty St. James on Cage: Cages ideas are so important: prepared instruments, the indeterminate and silence. As an art student in the seventies this was still considered ‘way out’ stuff. As a ‘graduating’ performance artist he had an underpinning type of magical encyclopedic influence on me, which was invaluable.

Upside Down World, 2009 (video) Antarctica Silence, 2010 (video) The Invisible Man, 2007 (video) Petasus I, 2006 (photograph) Two Thinking Actions, 2006 (drawing) Adagio No.8, 2011 (video still)


Cage's ideas are so important: prepared instruments, the indeterminate and silence. As an art student in the seventies this was still considered ‘way out’ stuff. As a ‘graduating’ performance artist he had an underpinning type of magical encyclopedic influence on me, which was invaluable. What I perceived in Cage's works was the invisible but at the same time the tangible. A sense of being in time and space, putting us as audience and people back into our place, reminding and hinting at us who and what we might be. His work opened the door in my mind to other works, he confirmed that there were other ways of thinking in spatial terms through sound, image and performance, locating areas of opportunity to discover just beyond logical reach. He located other ways of reading the world around, beneath and most importantly between us (1). His works touched on the broader side of performance art, suggesting real-time experiences, as with silence as a given. When the ‘time-based’ areas of performance art found it hard to position itself, Cage amongst others was one we looked to for theoretical and philosophical underpinning.

I recently completed an artists residency in Antarctica, over come with the vastness of the experience Cage's works and ideas seemed came into my mind locating the abstract of it all (the massive) talking to the Universe, taking on the mind and place in equal measure. Stood on a glacier in Antarctica, all alone with nothing visibly human in sight, I was mindful of Cage's ideas, as the only sound I could hear, was my own inner body.

Silence is not an acoustic… it is a change of mind, a turning around… Cage (1990)

Petasus I, 2006 (photography series)

The form that visual artist Marty St James’s work takes is that of a fragmentary or sequential nature resulting via digital video or digital photographic print technology and handmade drawings. The physical practice of movement across time and space and the notion of journey as found to be the components of a live performance are essential elements in his thinking and understanding of form. These notions of working with time, translating movement into non-static forms and vice versa, are a logical progression across his use of media, from live works to single tape videos, video portraits and digital works.

His exhibitions include the National Portrait Gallery, Tate, Pompidou Centre, Museum of Photography (Tokyo), National Centre for Contemporary Art (Moscow) and Chelsea Art Museum (New York).

He has undertaken several international residencies, including most recently Antarctica in 2010. His work currently features in Revelation for Streaming Museum in Cyberspace and Public Space on 7 Continents.

Existing somewhere between the moving and the static is an excellent description of the work of and intentions of artist St.James. Stepping, as if from one stone to another he has created artworks primarily in performance art, video art, photography and drawing. He describes it as exploring the physical, the electronic and the pencil equally.

‘a time based artist media artist straddling both modernist and post-modernist times..’- Sue Hubbard The Independent Newspaper.

Tours of Europe and North America in the 1980’s with a suitcase full of props brought him recognition as an improvising based performance artist dealing with popular cultural issues and themes. These social based works were performed in galleries, festivals, ferries and shopping centres. Civic Monument a travelling living sculpture (1990 supported by the Art Angel Trust) saw the end of his live performance art works.

Forty of his video pieces have been archived by the British Film Institute in the UK including Mr and Mrs his first video work based on a television game show appearance and Metamorphosis (Headcake 1998). During the 1980’s a number of his video works were broadcast on national television including Timecode (Heartbeat 1988) shown in a number of countries worldwide.

The Video Portraits of the 1990’s are some of his best known works including The Swimmer an 11 monitor installation work in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London. These works ranged from miniature single monitor video objects to large multi-monitor installations.

He has represented Britain abroad in a number of exhibitions, performance art events, video screenings and festivals via the British Council and Arts Council, including, Electronically Yours at the Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Tokyo (1998) and Artec Nagoya, Japan (1995). During 2000 his year- long inter-active digital work Picture Yourself showed at the Scottish National Galleries celebrating the millennium with the public able to see themselves projected on the museum walls. In 2000 his Boy / Girl video diptych showed at the National Portrait Gallery in London, Painting the Century, 101 Portrait Masterpieces from the 20th century including Picasso, Freud, Bacon, Warhol, Munch etc…

Running through St.James’ works there has been a sense of self-portraiture or the portraiture of others. In his recent shows in Moscow, The Journey of St Maurin (2002) and New York Somewhere or Between (2005) there has been a sense of the artist involved in a struggle to locate an inner sense of self and being. And a serious attempt to try and convey this to audience rather than ignore their presence or pander to our obvious emotions. Too much video art has tended to rely on the obvious, cheap tricks and gimmicks; St James has begun a process of real engagement between self, medium and viewer.

On the subject of his drawings St.James describes his paper works as ‘thinking actions’, things that land and are fought onto the paper via thinking.

…. Marty St.James believes that art only matters if the artist has something important to say, that his or her work is not simply an item of commercial transaction. His is an Apollonian discourse rather than a Dionysian one. For him art is a way of thinking in the visual rather than the making of a heroic statement or precious object. He is in tune with Bachelard’s notion that the embodiment of knowledge exists in the action of making, rather than in the object of the finished piece. His intention is to investigate “the stringing together of moments in frame type form to explore surface and time.” - Sue Hubbard Arts Editor The Independent Newspaper, London


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