Errors of Memory, Memories of error: Slip-roads and pit-stops on The Long and Winding Road

The Long and Winding Road

The Long and Winding Road began on 17 May 2004 when I embarked on a journey in a graffiti-covered car from Nottingham to Liverpool. The journey lasted until 17 May 2009 when I drove the car into the River Mersey.

Five years of art history in 25 minutes. From 2004-2009, I toured a one-to-one performance in a car. Passengers were invited to fasten their seat belts and join me for a travel sweet as I shared the reason for the journey via the rear-view mirror. The narrative of the performance was the journey of auto-recovery I made following my brother’s death on 17 May 1998, as the car was dented, damaged, written off and towed for five years. On 17 May 2009, I presented the final one-to-one performance at The Bluecoat (Liverpool) and immersed the car in the River Mersey to mark the end of the road. It was both a baptism and a drowning. The car and its contents were then crushed. In March 2010, the remains of the car were discarded in Michael Landy’s Art Bin at the South London Gallery and then deposited in landfill. The only criteria for acceptance into the Art Bin was that the artwork had to be deemed a failure. I argued that if the project was intended to repair the damage left behind by loss then it had failed. The submission was accepted. This paper explores the erroring of memory implicit in auto-biographical projects as creative mistakes were embraced and the car’s breakdown was retro-engineered into an act of catharsis. As Cage said, ‘there is no mistake, only make’. As Beckett wrote, ‘Fail. Fail again. Fail better’. The project was a poetic failure. It memorialised my loss and commemorated errors.

Artist talk delivered at Association for Art History’s Annual Conference, London on 6 April 2018. More information here.