David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites kicked off on Thursday, 21st January 2008. It was held in the new bar in what was then ArtsAdmin’s recently refurbished Toynbee Studios. I wrote the following for the host’s website:
Just a projector and 20 images. Just 20 seconds per image. During those 20 seconds the Presenter talks about the image. So simple. So precise. So demanding. This is the Peachy Coochy Way. David Gale, ever keen to launch a nationwide performance must-have, is to curate a series of Peachy Coochy events at ArtsAdmin’s new, stylish yet reassuring Bar. Each event features five Coochers, or Presenters, drawn from many walks of life. Each Coocher will compose a verbal response to 20 images of their choice. The images need not be narratively linked but randomness is frowned upon. Thematic associations are embraced. Each presentation lasts 6 minutes and 40 seconds. There will be gaps between presentations for drinking and light conversation. It might be that a typical Peachy Coochy event contains contributions from, say, a reliable yet inevitably narcissistic performer, a lepidopterist, a nun, a surgeon, a robber. We shall see. I can’t wait, personally. David Gale, something of a Black Belt in these matters, will both compere and present in the course of the novel and fabulous evening.
After presenting a few Peachy evenings I found that I was referring to the presenters as ‘coocheurs’ rather than ‘coochers’. I felt that this added something rather exotic and sophisticated to the events. Then I found out what ‘coucheur’ meant in French.
I built up a mailing list and sent out a monthly announcement. Some of these ads are individually linked below. Each ad contains chunks of repeated, basic info that can be skipped.
After a few gigs The Guardian came to visit and ran this.
I’ve been setting up a series of art’n’entertainment evenings – David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites at ArtsAdmin’s new bar in Toynbee Studios, down London way. Last Thursday was the inaugural occasion, featuring presentations from dancer Wendy Houstoun, visual artists Dan Harvey, Jeff McMillan, Gary Stevens and Dragan Alexsic and myself. The presentations consisted of responses to the following brief: you have 20 images and 20 seconds per image. In those 20 seconds you talk about the images. You must be precise. That’s it.
As a means of tempering the oral exuberance of young architects a Japanese architectural firm restricted pitching session invitees to the aforedescribed format. The feeling was that 400 seconds per pitcher was a reasonable amount of time in which to make a decent case and ascend to the short list. The events were called pecha kucha which is an onomatopeic term that, to the Japanese ear, resembles the sound of chatter.
The format has been recognised around the world as a rather good set of constraints for non-business purposes. Give it to a bunch of artists, performers and anyone with a tale to tell or a point to make and see what happens. The other night, playing to a packed bar, the pioneer coucheurs (Fr, ‘mauvais coucheur’ – awkward customer) mounted the podium and submitted to the merciless machine timings of a Powerpoint show set to progress through an image series at precisely 20 second intervals.
And what a pleasure it was to behold! We had Harvey, wry but poignant, on his Arctic visit; McMillan on Lubbock, Texas, his paintings and his roof garden; Houstoun’s strident and witty manifesto for the wholesale rejection of most aspects of everyday life; Stevens – normally the monkey in the pack, delivering an entirely straight but thoroughly absorbing disquisition on Van Eyck’s ‘Double Portrait’; myself with a tale of Capgras syndrome and parallel universes; finally Alexsic, suffering from flu and exhaustion, breaking most of the fundamental ground rules with great charm and laconic three second-long speeches instead of the mandatory 20 seconds, applied to images of his drawings.
The coucheur needs to have his or her wits about them. Speech units must terminate at the point of slide transition unless the coucheur has designed segue into the system. At this early stage in the development of the form that will supplant karaoke it may be wise to echew extreme purities – they will only constrain the innovators in non-fruitbearing ways. However, it is certainly possible to identify a small number of offensive practices: the use of random images that are connected in a random manner i.e. there is no continuity to the text that frames the images; the use of non-random images in a non-random manner i.e. the presentation resembles a conventional narrativised ‘My Holidays’ show in which the theme is privileged to the exclusion of the unexpected counterpoint of images. Within seconds of writing the second half of the last sentence I retract it. This is far too prescriptive – what must I have been thinking? Were this fastidious prescriptiveness to be extended to the neurosurgeons, policemen, robbers and collectors of Unusual Things who might grace the evenings with their stories then we would have no stories. Which reminds me, I must try to persuade Hazel to do it.
Next Peachy Coochy Nite: February 28th. Booking advised.
I had derived considerable pleasure from organising and mounting the Text & Image entertainment known as David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites, in which a presenter presents to an eager audience a succession of 20 slide images at precisely 20 second intervals, whilst delivering a verbal commentary on each image. The format, invented in 2003 by the architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham Architecture in order to curtail the tendency of young architects to bang on interminably when given a presentation opportunity, is versatile. It was soon appropriated by artists for whom it served to curtail constructively the tendency of that group to respond at great length to the enquiry ‘What are you up to?’
In my role as curator of the Nites I hunted down a variety of willing presenters – artists, performers, a physicist, a green activist and so forth – the majority of whom found unusual ways of working within the stern constraints. A few days before each monthly Nite I would send out publicity to an ever expanding mailing list. Prior to mailing out I would, necessarily, ascertain the availability of Peachy. I had to satisfy myself that he could be drawn forth. I don’t quite know why I thought of it like that. At first a wisp, then a vapour, then, not uncomfortably, Peachy began to rise from the fumes and assume a presence.
Over the course of my long residency as Curator and CEO of the Peachy Coochy Nite (a text and image entertainment) it was my regular pleasure to prefigure this London-based cult occasion with publicity materials that strive to capture the tone of the diverse and eruptive evenings that reflect human ingenuity under unnatural constraint yet remain refreshingly devoid of spiritual value. Ten days or so before each Nite I despatched to an ever swelling mailing list an informative electronic notelet. These stylistically unadorned and matter-of-fact advertisements have, by dint of their spartan transparency, garnered a covey of keen collectors whose completism I shall now satisfy.
I invite the reader to savour the archive here, or by clicking on ‘Peachy – the Ads’ on the top bar of this page.
20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.
Season 1: PC#1
Seized by the skull by strangers she struggled to free her eyes from their insistent searching. What were they after? Was it just another gouge or did they honestly think she was hiding something in her head? Not thoughts or ideas but things like keys, a small piece of jewellery, a wire puzzle, a toffee even? What if they were right?
And what if it were a golf ball? What irregular optical phenomena might be generated by the pressure of a small piece of sports equipment on the visual cortex? And what if the anomalies were not visual but psychological? How could she trust her own assessment of what was happening to her? A golf ball, in particular, would roll around, sparking off all manner of false impressions.
And then she understood. It was not Cap Ferrat that she remembered but Cap Gras! The Capgras Syndrome, no less – a rare psychiatric condition in which the sufferer is convinced that people and objects around her are doubles or impostors. Family members are seen as mechanical duplicates or hired actors. Chairs, tables, jugs – all have been replaced by exact replicas.
Breaking away at last from the souwestered fishermen who had been poking about in her head, she ran along the beach towards the point where it touched the sky. Or what seemed to be the sky. She would never be sure again. Except for one thing. She would dedicate her life to countering the counterfeit, unmasking the veiled, bombarding the bogus, exposing the forged.
Moments later she found herself in a wooded area. She turned to her companion, Peter Cartwright, from Hertfordshire, for advice. Something about his reply made her instantly suspicious. “Hello! Hello! Who’s a pretty boy? Hehehehehheh!” Could it be that her Capgras was overlaid in some way with a zoological element hitherto unremarked by mental medicine?
She realised that she was among campers. Their clothing and their table covering were checked. Their equipment was apposite. They seemed very much in love. One of the men stood out from the outdoor crowd because he was wearing a boater. She checked herself – it was not a boater – it was a canoe! She had mistaken Peter Cartwright – for it was he – for a toucan!
“Peter!” gasped Gwen – for that was her name – “I am seized by a syndrome that compels me to trust nothing!” He swept her into his tent, muttering “This is no ordinary camp, Alison! It is actually a still point between worlds, a place in which the eyewatering multiplicity of universes is obfuscated by the generation of pathologies.” “Come again?” said Gwen.
“Alison,” Peter said to Gwen, “even as you listen to me now you are lying in a makeshift sisal hammock. Next to you is another Alison, let us call her Gwen, in a universe where Alisons are called Gwen. She too may be lying in a hammock listening to a man…” “Let us call him Andrew,” interrupted Gwen. “Whatever,” said Peter, “Yes, Andrew is telling Gwen…
…that there are worlds in which psychiatric diagnoses are routinely deployed to deflect attention from the very real problem of inter-universe osmosis.” “Do you mean…?” Gwen blurted. “Yes!” Peter spat. “Leakage! The very real sense of dislocation that dogs our days derives not from despair or desuetude but distinct discharges from adjacent realities!”
“Fuck a pony!” swore Gwen. “Are you saying that there is some sort of insidious sideways drift through the veil?” “Yes!” breathed Peter, “That which Everett and Deutsch considered to be theoretically feasible has nevertheless been widely regarded as prohibited by quantum linearity…up until now.” “Fuck a donkey!” breathed Gwen.
“So those days where everything seems distant and unreal, almost a theatrical display, which I had taken as an index either of psychological inadequacy or, at best, an effect of late capitalism, are actually multi-world slippages?” “Exactly, Alison. Those times when you say something and some fucker criticises it – that’s because he’s in the wrong world!”
“So there are worlds in which everything goes right and people agree with you and that’s where you belong but you might have somehow slipped out of it?” Gwen asked. “Not only that, Susan,” Peter was excited now, “Even by thinking of such a world you create it! Since the beginning of time every thought has sparked a universe!” “Strewth!” Gwen said.
“Let’s go for a walk, “ she suggested, arbitrarily. “Somewhere I can breath.” Soon they were in East Anglia. Near Thetford. “Which Thetford, though?” she mused. “Alison, this is the thing, there are numberless Thetfords. This is the Thetford that came into being when we began discussing Thetford.” “That’s so far out,” Susan observed.
Suddenly the sky darkened and was filled with a terrible roaring. As if inscribed like flies on a speeding windscreen, echelon after echelon of multi-role fighter aircraft thundered across the vault of the heavens. “What world is this?’ cried Gwen. “Why F-16s in a universe created by our aborted thought-patterns?”
Over-identifying with the massive G-forces generated in the contemporary cockpit, Gwen felt her very flesh rolling like lava towards her chin. “Alison,” croaked Peter throatily, “I love what you do with your face!” “It’s because of you, Peter, you tyrant, your mastery of the worlds brings out my hidden plasticity!”
Gwen glanced up. “Jelly fish!” “No, Gwen, it’s raining men! They are paratroops from another dimension! The veils are being rent! The plasticities are running like lard! Now we can meet the man who didn’t get Pamela Henderson pregnant in 1971!” Gwen paled. “I never knew!” “Lucy. She is a milliner now,” said Peter matter of factly.
But Peter’s insouciance was not to last. From out of the crowd of silk-folding troops stepped a figure that caused his blood to run like ice. Gwen understood immediately. “My God, Peter! It’s Andrew! It’s because I thought of him! He has come from the universe in which Gwens are Alisons and Peters are Andrews. What does he want?”
“I want you, Gwen,” said Andrew, casting aside his canoe in one muscular gesture. “In my universe you are Alison but here you are Gwen, Gwen. I have yearned for you across the impenetrabilities of quantum linearity and now you have thought of me I am free.” Gwen turned to Peter. Peter asked Andrew “I don’t suppose you have a number for Alison?”
20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.
Season 1: PC#2
I realised that I was suffering from a fear of bursting. Some months ago a friend had been performing a yoga posture in the quietness of his front room. Without warning his intestines rushed from his body and coiled on the floor before him. Despite the enduring serenity he claimed to have achieved thereby, I saw myself become uncharacteristically chastened and cautious.
Everything around me seemed distended. Things thought thin now oozed uneasy bloat. Mere tautness to the touch portended splishsplash. Surfaces seemed to seep, to suppurate. I flinched in parks as flamboyant gesticulators inflated then shrugged or softly smiled. Envelopes groaned, sausages mocked me.
I lived in a small house in North London. The street was secluded and little traffic passed along it. Most of us in the street read the work of Dick Francis although we did not discuss it. House hedges were high but used volumes were left on low walls for communal exchange. I had just finished the 1972 tour de force ‘Smokescreen’ and hoped to acquire 1973’s ‘Slayride’.
Preoccupied with my preoccupations I rose that day and made my way along my street. Dick’s works were laid out as usual. I had read them all. Towards the end of the street I spotted an unfamiliar jacket. At first I assumed it was a Dick because the first two letters of the surname were the same. “Dick…Freud. Who is that?” I wondered. I picked up the volume and examined it.
I read the book from cover to cover, initially under the impression that it was a pseudonymous racing mystery with a theme of prediction. I gradually realised that, in fact, it contained a very interesting theory. Apparently, at least in Freud’s view, there was a vast hidden world buried deep inside every one of us. Why had no one in the street mentioned this?
The book had been translated into English in 1913. The relative obscurity of my street meant that the translation had not become available until 2007. This would explain why I was so poorly informed. I knew, however, that I must now, without further delay, do something that would reshape my life and stop me bursting. I wanted a subconscious and nothing would stand in my way.
I left my street, taking some some fish paste sandwiches, a dictionary and a cassette player. Where would I go to get a subconscious? I passed a number of imposing towers and these somehow stiffened my resolve. I had a choice: either I could head into the dense bush in the hope of finding a mound or I could consult a passerby.
As luck would have it I came upon a most accommodating fellow. “How might I obtain a subconscious?” I asked him. “Fuckingpigsarse! Fuckingduckshit! They’re all fucking smiling now but he’ll come down if you ask him! Come on puss, come on, you fucking belligeranti, you fucking warwound! Fuckyourmother! Fuckyourmother!”
So I went to see the Queen. She was relaxing in her Royal Room. I bowed low and told her what the red-headed man had said. “Yeah,” she said “if you go with me it will certainly make things easier for you.” The Queen lay very still and shouted royal messages “This is my throne, this is my ermine, this is my sceptre, you are all vermin.” I went blind.
Nurse, nurse! She opened her purse and my eyes have burst. In the park in the dark. My eyes have burst. I’m cursed. I’m immersed. All taut gone slop. All night gone shite. All night now. Who seeks shall find; Who sits with folded hands or sleeps is blind. I miss the sweetest sight, my parents’ face.
Benny! Benny! Benny!
(repeat for 20 secs)
Down the deep creeks creak sheep. Flying fences in their sleep. Stifled with a muffle. The engine rooms are just intolerable. Wrap some towel round that, would you? They were soft, like grapes – we cut them out. We heard a tapping. On a pipe. With a spoon. Or a knife.
Then I saw my parents again. Len, Joan, Joan and Len. I had to move them apart. I got between Joan and Joan for the first time ever. I went between them and pushed and pushed. There was a crack. They kept holding on to Len and Len but I broke my mothers in two. Joan and Len then Joan and Len. The sky opened up and things came down.
Oh now! Jimmy Croc Cow! Jimmy Croc Cow and I don’t care. Dogcheese, catalept, pigment, turvy tops and tails, in through the out door. Well, I don’t know, Margaret, I opened the curtains and people were relieving themselves in the street! It was awash with ones and twos! The fucking stench! Men with banjos were speaking with their mouths full!
She went to the cupboard and I was bare. Then she opened it. Then she ran her hands over the shelves. Her little dog barked. I screamed out because those shelves were so sensitive – I could feel her fingertips, they were rough. Doesn’t she know those things are inside me? Doesn’t she know I’ve eaten the world and I’m a naughty boy?
“It was getting silly.” I either had to swallow or puke. If I swallowed then I would shit – I’d shit the world out. If I puked then the world would not be so harmed. It would come out more or less in decent condition, none the worse for its days in my stomach. The only problem was not knowing what order it would come out in.
I moved my legs apart slightly to give myself a stable footing and stood between two parallel bars that I had noticed nearby. I grasped the bars and, thus braced, took a deep breath. The world felt heavy but I knew I could do it. I opened my mouth wide and contracted my diaphragm forcefully. Suddenly the world was in space again. I jumped down onto it.
The very first thing I did was to go and see Celine Dion. We had met in Morrisons and become friendly. I found her down to earth and easy to be with. Celine quoted from Guy Debord, the Situationist writer, of whom she was very fond. They had been neighbours when she was a little girl.
“You see, David,” Celine said, “The spectacle is not a collection of images, rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.” “But, Celine,” I confessed, “I fear the sheer, engulfing volume of it all. It floods into me until I can hardly bear it.” Celine grew serious “David, listen to me. Your fear of bursting is over now. Once you’ve puked the world you can do what you fucking want.”
I didn’t go back home. I felt light. I felt effective. I discovered that you don’t have to have a subconscious – it’s just an idea. I met some people who were cognitive behavioural therapists – they confirmed this. They said it was all to do with changing mental images. If you have an image inside you you don’t like, you can change it. It’s all to do with images.