Spike Island

PerformanceIn:quest of Icarus


Saturday 22 June 2013, 7pm


£7, £5 concessions
Free for Spike Associates
Booking advised

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“In:quest of Icarus is a tragedy; a contemporary work written of and from a contemporary situation and drawing upon Greek myth to illuminate certain aspects of that situation.” Norman Potter

→ Read an article on Norman Potter by design critic Alice Rawsthorn

Graphic designer James Langdon and students from the University of the West of England Graphic Design BA present the only play written by English designer and educator Norman Potter (1923–1995). In:quest of Icarus has been performed just twice before, initially by Potter’s students at the Construction School on 5 December 1974 and restaged in December 2012 at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum by Langdon and participants at the Werkplaats Typografie, Arnhem.

In 1964 Potter co-founded the Construction School, an experimental design course at the West of England College of Art in Bristol, England. His bold programme de-emphasised specialisation in design and encouraged practical collaboration between disciplines. The school’s brief history is characterised by resistance to Potter’s ideas at every level of the educational institution. Coloured by this, and his involvement in the student protests of 1968, Potter’s thoughts on design education became increasingly anti-authoritarian.

In:quest of Icarus is a complex and allegorical reflection on these experiences. Potter describes the work as concerned with “walls, barriers, both of languages and hardware; the codes people use to protect their identity and to make random experiences ordered and comprehensible; the occasional wisdom of foolishness; freedoms and imprisonments; and so forth.”

The staging of the performance is integral. The design of the hall and props follows the visual language and apparatus of the typewriter, on which it was composed. The configuration of the hall itself is a representation of the typewriter, with the audience actively implicated in the position of the keys, described by Potter as “the alphabetic possibilities of the spoken and written language.” The staging is prepared by the performers themselves, and the four day process of construction, rehearsal and performance together constitutes the work.

This event marks the culmination of Langdon’s two-year research project into the Construction School, supported by Spike Island, and is followed by  a discussion.

Artist Susanne Kriemann presents Modelling (Construction School), new work created in response to the archive, at Arnolfini, 4 May to 7 July.