The discussion was wide ranging:
everything talks with David Medalla.

David MedallaImage 1
Throughout the exhibition "The Secret History of the Mondrian Fan Club. Mondrian in London" there was a constant flow of people visiting and chatting with David Medalla. everything went along. The breeze was shot and the interlocutors were David Medalla (DM) everything Magazine (e) and artist Colin Hall (CH)

"Exploding Galaxies: The Art of David Medalla" by Guy Brett. Published in May 1996 by Kala Press: PO Box 3509 NW 6 3PQ (0171 372 0826). 16.95. Available in all artistically literate book stores.

Image 1:
David Medalla (left) and Adam Nankervis,
founder and vice president, respectively of the Mondrian Fan Club,
beneath the time-based event of writing the letter M in smoke over Manhattan 1994.
Photo: John Arnold.

We join the conversation at the point at which I happened to mention that we are carrying an article about the pyrotechnic sculptor Stephen Cripps in issue 15.

DM: ......I got to know Steve when he was a student at the Bath Academy. He was writing a paper on Tinguely - who I knew and helped him get Stephen in touch with. Stephen suffered through comparison to Tinguely but his work was completely different. It was very English, it had a romanticism and gentleness about it despite the fact that he was using explosives. He was a very gentle guy.
He moved to Butlers Wharf where Anne Bean, Derek Jarman, Giles Thomas, Charles Hustwick and a few other people were staying and I used to go down to see him when it was cold in our squat - the Fitzrovia Cultural Centre. He wanted to have a show so I helped him put one on at Fitzrovia. I remember going out with him in a van to an RAF base. I would be his look out whilst he collected bits of derelict planes. I would hear the sound of machine guns - they would be practising some distance off - and I said "For God's sake Stephen, hurry up, we're going to get shot" and he'd say "Don't be so paranoid, David" I said "This is off limits territory - where the RAF are trying out their new weapons". But I enjoyed going out with him and he did the show at Fitzrovia and during that show he met Paul Burwell and David Toop and they started to do events together. At the very closure for Artist For Democracy which I worked on with Nick Payne, Guy Brett, Steve Oxley, Virgil Calaguian, Jun Terra, Philip Cohan and others. The main show was mine and the main event was Stephen's. He constructed a windmill on the top of this house - running round exploding fireworks, the police were called, the fire brigade - it was amazing. We did a few things together, one of which was called Wild Grass but unfortunately there are no photographs or anything.

CH: David, do you remember Mayfair Illuminations in 1977?

DM: That is another beautiful thing. But these things are not known - they weren't recorded - it seems all the interesting things weren't recorded. Mayfair illuminations was part of a whole series that included a beautiful auction of champagne bottles decorated by artists: the auction was conducted with a full orchestra ......

CH: The place where it was held was like a derelict business property with very plush walls- I later made some pieces out of this beautiful wall paper - there were water pipes being redirected out of the building and projections onto the buildings around Piccadilly.....

DM:......there were so many rooms...

CH: These things happen and then they pass by.

DM: But they will be remembered. Peoples memories are very strong.

e: If we could broaden the discussion, I'm trying to get some idea of which were the seminal galleries in the period before this - what was the situation that Fitzrovia, Mayfair Illuminations, Artists For Democracy and the ACME Gallery grew out of? I know that the Indica Gallery was influential in the sixties.

DM: The first important gallery, to my mind, was Signals. Signals was the first gallery of the sixties - done by Paul Keeler - and I helped him - that was in '64. To put it into context there were already galleries such as Robert Frazer's Gallery which introduced many of the American artists - I remember events there with John Cage and a lot of other important American artists. The other important venues were New Vision Centre - run by Denis Bowen and Kenneth Coutts - Smith and Gallery One - run by Victor Musgrave - he put on shows by Yves Kline and Tinguely and also a very important Fluxus show called "The Misfits" which included artists like Robert Filliou and Ben Vautier - they lived in the gallery on Duke street. I was amused a few years ago when they had a fluxus show at the Whitney Museum in New York and they had reconstructed this gallery to perfection - it amazed me I thought "How did they do this ?"

e: Well these days you sometimes see galleries which are made out to look a little like warehouses, so the museum becomes a facsimile of it's point of origin - so that things look arbitrary...But getting back to Signals Gallery....

DM: For two years it was the most active gallery for the Avant Garde. Takis had his big show with magnets there a lot of events and happening and this inspired John Dunbar to start up Indica two years later in 1966.

e: You later worked at the Lisson?

DM: The Lisson gallery was originally a place where Nicholas Logsdail sold second hand furniture and he came to me when I had a performance at the Royal College of Art and said he had a place in Bell Street and he would like to start a gallery and I said "OK. I'll run the gallery for you". I invited Yoko Ono and she did a show called "Half a Wind" and she went around Portobello Rd with a group of people and collected lots of furniture and cut each piece in half - I remember she had half a cake, I always wondered what happened to the other half - I think it was her best show.

e: Tell me about the Mondrian Fan Club. It's a world wide thing isn't it?

DM: On New years eve 1993 I founded The Mondrian Fan Club with the Australian Artist Adam Nankervis and to mark the foundation we had an event with a young cowboy who was working with me. I had previously done a piece with him called Cowboys and Bodhisattvas, using real guns, rattlesnakes, video and laser projections. I said to him "Do you mind doing an event for me ?" - because I needed someone very tall and very powerful. I made two gloves; the first with red, yellow,white and blue ice cubes in the palm and another glove which was thermally heated by batteries. He went to Times Square and at the stroke of midnight he went up to people and said: "If your feeling that your genitals are cold - I can warm them up" and for those who had hot genitals he would cool them down.

e: What was the response?

DM: Oh, they loved it - it was new years eve.

e: Of course.

DM: He also had speakers strapped to his body, playing a tape of certain Boogie - Woogie music - this was in homage of Mondrian. He threw one of the gloves into the Hudson river and the other into the East river off 42nd Street and that was the official founding of the Mondrian Fan Club. Adam and I later did a whole series of time based events which celebrated Mondrian. For example Adam went to the Museum of Modern Art where there are a lot of Mondrian paintings and assumed yogic postures which related to Mondrian's interest in Theosophy. We visited the place where he was buried and had a conversation on his grave - an event which is recorded in one of these paintings. It was a very beautiful day. We also did this thing - which was fortunately photographed - at long Island where a pilot we knew sky wrote the letter M in the sky. We will be writing the letter O in Honolulu on 31st December 1995. Every new years eve we will be adding a letter until we have spelt the name "Mondrian" and over a period of time you will see these two guys ageing. Mondrian with eight letters is eight years my name is another thirteen then Adam Nankervis another twelve years and if we're still alive we can go on to "homage too......" It will be very random: Lets say people in Bristol invite us to do the letter N and Athens the letter D.....

e: I like the idea of it taking so long to read something.

DM: Well, Mondrian took twenty five years to finish a painting .

e: Tell me about the neon piece. It looks to me like the sign for a night club.

DM: This piece has been very successful and I want to continue working with neon. Mondrian used to do these gestures called Mudras as a form of yogic exercise. I created my own Mudras and I use four here in the neon piece - two are based on the Kathakali of India: The hands closed together is containment and memory and the hands going out like that [flat outward] - is touching and wonderment and finally [the first finger of the right hand pointing out] is male and the left hand [Index finger touching the thumb] is female - but this is also time and space and so it was wonderful to work on something which is so modern and yet was imbued with values which were beyond the commercial. Mondrian was both fascinated by modernity and also ancient knowledge which is something I can relate to. I describe myself as a transcendental hedonist I like the good life but I think you should also transcend into a form of miracle shamanism - to avoid unnecessary dependencies.

e: I understand that you are making a new edition of your broad-sheet Signals which has appeared on and off since the sixties.

DM: Yes, I am and it is exciting the amount of things that are arriving from all over the world. Things from old friends and members of the Mondrian Fan Club. I'm getting things like entire music scores and I keep telling them I can only use so much. Iniva are giving us four pages of colour and they want this show so I can't include everything. The end result will be mainly images with some poems. It will be a different kind of art publication - it's not an art magazine - it's a collaboration .........

© Steve Rushton 1995 elogo