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About the Work

Jasia Reichardt, Exhibitions Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, saw my final show at the Slade and invited me to make one of the rooms for this exhibition. Ten artists had been invited to contribute a sitting room, including artists of repute such as Patrick Hughes and Bruce Lacey. This was to be my first London show as a working artist. I collected some of my pun-sculptures, covered the walls, ceiling and floor of my room at the ICA with black fur fabric and placed my sculptures in it. My room looked good with the black and white objects, giving the appearance of furniture in a three-dimensional monochrome photograph. To emphasize this further, I had each pun-sculpture photographed, and the large black-and-white prints displayed at strategic points on the walls. I ensured that the surface quality of the prints and the black and white tones within them replicated exactly the look and feel of the sculptures. The result was so satisfying that from this point on, photography became an integral part of my work. I then wrote the following and displayed it in the room:
Professor Vaughan Grylls holds the Chair of Philosophy at the Episcopalian University of Soaring Spires, Idaho. He achieved eminence early in his career with his notorious dissertation 'Why Words', which he first read as a paper before the Society for the Analysis of Arcane Language shortly after graduation. In this paper he demonstrated that conventional, indeed scholarly, language structures could be accompanied by a total absence of meaning. Professors were puzzled and logicians angry. But more was to come, a complete breakthrough in the history of semantics. Grylls rejected language as a viable medium. Claiming that all language re-structures and thereby distorts thought, he delivered a series of quietly brilliant lectures on 'the silence of communication'. At first students were nonplussed. Later they appreciated his taciturnity. Things now began to move fast. Grylls was appointed to the coveted position of Drone's Professor of Comparative Languages. Sacked from this post the following year, he published the theory that had led to his dismissal. This was the famous 'Alice paradox'. Grylls was grappling with the gap between intention and expression: as Alice was instructed, a person can mean what he says without saying what he means. 'We have to find the way to say what we mean; if we mean what we say, we must weigh what we mean'. Colleagues were scornful. But in an article entitled 'On, Means and Says', published a month later, Grylls affirmed that he meant what he said. His genius was coming to be recognized.
Satisfied that language was moribund, Grylls became interested in the possibility of thought without words. He wanted to give an account of that moment in which a concept is formed but has not yet been articulated in words, the pre-verbal implosion, as he called it. In pursuit of this aim he photographed himself in various postures of tortured cogitation. These photographs he sent to the Journal of Behavioural Psychology. They were politely returned and now hang on his walls. But he continued to startle the academic world, this time with his extreme liberalism. Students not yet attuned to the silence of his lectures were permitted to make free with his wife. She gave birth to several children while he was working on a new book. In this he drew an analogy between sexual ethics and outmoded language structures. It was called 'Pre-verbal Implosions and my Wife'. 'Cretinous', pronounced a Harvard professor when it was published. Meanwhile, more children were born.
After the death of his wife, Grylls embarked on his most famous scheme: solid language. His radiogram and lectern exam paper, constructed on his return from London, England in 1969, consummated his career.
Grylls is a man of principle. He has exposed the inadequacy of language in a hundred books. Bereft of students, surrounded by bastards, he sits in triumph among the ruins of his liberalism and learning. No words can describe him.

″I still use the same approach to my work: I get an idea, think of the title and then make the work. So not much has changed since 1964″

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