’Pataphysics provides a framework for dialogues between Barry Flanagan and John Latham. Defined by its inventor, the Symbolist poet and writer Alfred Jarry, as ‘the science of imaginary solutions’ ’pataphysics preoccupied Flanagan from the early 1960s before he enrolled on the Advanced Sculpture Course at St Martin’s School of Art in 1964. There he met John Latham, who was at that time teaching in the painting department, and discovered their shared interests; notably economic theory, linguistic systems, value systems, language structure, metaphysics, ontology and poetry. Both enjoyed serendipity and chance, which combined with a certain gnomic humour are catalysts for investigative, creative processes.
’Pataphysics is properly denoted with the apostrophe before the letter p, as if to close a previous speech mark and thus mark a metaphorical circularity, or to put it another way, an ending before a beginning. This circularity of intention is a primary characteristic of pataphysical thinking and is frequently symbolised by the spiral form. The movement is similar to the palindrome, which is a paradoxical forward-backward relationship.
This exhibition will illuminate Flanagan and Latham's collaborative and shared concerns, beginning with the notorious Still and Chew happening, when the formalist critic Clement Greenberg’s recently published collection of essays Art and Culture was systematically chewed to a pulp in 1966. Flanagan’s catch phrase ‘examine the facts’ provides a curatorial key.