‘Proposals for the Government Art Collection’ sets forward ideas or propositions that may or may not be realised. These span from the playful to poetic, geeky to prosaic, to some that are way beyond the realms of realisation.
‘Proposals’ is an artistic approach that Peter Liversidge employs to explore a rich seam of ideas, often associated with a particular organisation, place or project. In 2017, the Government Art Collection commissioned him to produce a set of 60 ‘proposals’ for An Eyeful of Wry, a special exhibition celebrating humour in art. The exhibition opened in 2017 at the Brynmor Jones Library Gallery, Hull University, as part of the UK City Of Culture celebrations.
Making sure there is a cat up every tree, or making an ice tray mould from the spectacles of the British poet (and famous Hullovian) Philip Larkin, are just two of the impossible proposals Liversidge created for this project. ‘Proposals’, which are always produced on a portable Olivetti Lettera 35 typewriter, are the start of often a much broader concept, as Liversidge comments: ‘The proposals are descriptions of work and, although I consider them to be “the work”, they are often just the beginning. It is important that they are descriptive and not prescriptive, in that they are a starting point to the work’.
In this case, a set of ‘Proposals for the Government Art Collection’ was framed and displayed as a wall-based work in the gallery space in Hull. A further element was the realisation of some of the proposals in Hull, including the ‘Joke Stack Prints’, a collaborative project for which Liversidge invited leading British comedians to send him their favourite jokes. He then worked with a group of Foundation Fine Art students from Hull College to produce an edition of screenprints, each of which featured 1 of 12 jokes. Displayed on the floor of the exhibition, the ‘Joke Stack Prints’ were freely available for visitors to take away every day.
Liversidge works across media, often with everyday objects and materials, questioning the boundaries of what is and isn’t art. A surreal and offbeat humour lies at the heart of his idiosyncratic approach which, as Jessica Lack commented in ‘The Guardian’ in 2009, is a ‘… surreal form of pedantry that is reminiscent of the comic genius Spike Milligan’.
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