I don’t follow anyone’s rules except my own rules…


…unless your rules are the same as my rules, and then I’ll follow your rules but claim that you are following my rules.

As I’ve said before, I don’t do manifestos and I am generally very distrustful of rules and over-analysis where it comes to art. However, and I know I may be rather late to this particular party, here is a set of rules that I identify with without a single exception. Often attributed to composer John Cage or choreographer Merce Cunningham, they were originally written in 1967/8 by Sister Corita Kent of the Immaculate Heart Convent in Los Angeles, US. In her rules she quotes Cage and both he and Cunningham went on to distribute these rules, hence the mis-attribution. I was introduced to this set of rules by brainpickings.org and was struck by how similar (well, identical) they are to my own rules developed over the years and it suits me to quote them here in order to support my own well established prejudices.

Whereas I like much of what I see on Brain Pickings, I find the endless references to artists’ and writers’ rules and daily routines to be a little repetitive, although in this case I think they are genuinely useful.


Anyway, I find this set of rules so useful and inspiring that I am going to write a (short) blog post for each and say something about how they apply to my own philosophy and work.

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while. 

Many years ago, when Bloc Studios in Sheffield, UK moved to much larger premises, I took a rented artist’s studio of my own for the first time in my life. I hardly went and soon moved into a different shared space. I didn’t use that one either and realised it was just a rather expensive way of storing junk, so eventually I moved out. I am now an associate member of Bloc Projects but it became clear to me that I just don’t work in that way, going to a studio and isolating art work from home life, although it suits many artists.

I met my wife, Stella, in 2008 and each time she came to the flat that I was living in at the time, she said it was like Warhol’s Art Factory because there was always something being made there. Sometimes the floor would be covered with stenciled posters drying out, or the furniture had been moved in order to shoot a video. From this I developed the idea of Factory X, an indeterminate creative space that could represent anyone’s studio, home or simply their notebook. Factory X is wherever you are being creative.

Here is a single-day timelapse video of the place that I trusted as my workroom 2004 – 2012.

Friend and artist Susanne Palzer introduced me to the German word gesamtkunstwerk, meaning “total artwork” or “universal artwork”, and I think this concept better describes the way I am. Without being poncey about it, I do live and breathe my work and often get up in the middle of the night with an idea. This was one of the ideas behind the Factory X brand, a democratization of the Art Factory from an exclusive physical place, to a universal meta-theatre of creativity.

The “place” in rule one does not necessarily mean a physical place, but for me a work room at home is my Factory X and, apart from a while trusting a “proper” artist’s studio, the place I trust is my home.

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