c.c. The first things that I saw of yours were the star pieces, six pointed stars, we should talk about them.
g.d. The first piece in the show is called SOLAR PRINT. I was trying to make art where the work was made by not making any work, just re-arranging what already existed . It was just a sheet of newsprint and I put a cut-out cardboard star on top for a period, a couple of days and left it in the sun so that the uncovered paper darkened, leaving a print of the star when it was removed; so that as you were looking at it you knew that the image was disappearing into the paper, catching up with the background, so you would be looking at nothing, it was living, or maybe dying.
c.c. What significance did the star as a form have for you?
g.d. It didn’t have any specific symbolic meaning, I liked it and used it because it was a perfect shape, very easily seen and remembered, dynamic. The six points are equidistant from one another and from the centre. A perfect multisymetrical equilibrium. I made the star the vehicle for all of the work that I did then, each piece was stamped “Homage to the Hexagram” and given a number.
c.c. Something else about this work then was about the materials.
g.d. The simplicity of them, their economy. It wasn’t to do with money.
c.c. Pared down to the basics?
g.d. It was a deliberate non-luxurious use of basic things. It was also a sort of reverence, a homage to the ‘thingness’ of things. Remember it’s late 60’s, Zen, Arte Povera, English Conceptualism were all in the air. Everybody was mythologysing the mundane.
c.c. Other ‘star’ pieces of yours around that time involved printed texts; ENGLISH STAR , MAZE and LABYRINTH and the Borges chess board story THE TWO KINGS .
g.d. Concrete poetry was big in the late 60’s when I was at Corsham. John Furnival taught in the design department, and he introduced me to Dom Sylvester Houeard who worked with typewriters. I took existing texts, descriptions, stories and set them in type so that the form of the piece was the content, you read the text and experienced visually what it was like to be physically in a maze.
c.c. How were they printed?
g.d. Screen-printed in black, and red if you needed a contrast, on newsprint in open editions. Printing seemed an obvious method, they could be given away, exchanged, sent out worldwide.
c.c. Then there were other book pieces, text pieces. I remember the dictionary.
g.d. We were learning bookbinding and Roy Salter, the binder, had us take a book apart to understand how it was made and then put it back together again exactly as it was. I was reading John Cage at the time, my girlfriend Caroline Dale had given me his collection of essays, ‘Silence’, and I thought of using that but then I came across his anecdote of how one day he looked up the word ‘music’ in the dictionary and the preceeding entry was ‘mushroom’, which started him searching out and eating funghi, one of which nearly killed him. I liked the idea of a chance encounter having dangerous consequences, of being sidetracked, of getting rid of intention. I threw all of the loose pages up in the air a couple of times, collected them up without any order and rebound them.
c.c. The pages of a standard dictionary?
g.d. Then I changed the title on the spine from Consise Dictionary to CONCISED DICTIONARY, it had been cut up.
c.c. Was there a connection with Brion Gysin and the Beat writers?
g.d. No, I knew about Burroughs and his cut-up technique of producing weird juxtapositions of lines but that wasn’t the lead.
c.c. Another book of yours from the late 60’s and early 70’s in your retrospective is the DIRECTORY OF RECTANGLES, four big volumes, two thousand different drawings of rectangles that decrease by 2 mm on each page.
g.d. I wanted to make a book where the first page was completely different from the last, but at no point in between could you really see where the change occured. I was reading Raymond Roussel. 8 I’d discovered in Rayner Heppenstall’s monograph that one of Roussel’s techniques was to construct a homonymic equivalent of the first sentence in the book and the story had to flow seamlessley from one to the other, a sort of floppy palindrome.
8 French novelist, 1877 -1933. Author of ‘ impressions d’Afrique ‘. 1910 and ‘ Locus Solus’. 1914