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Communiqué § 4

Communiqué § 4
Alun Rowlands
Institute of Contemporary Art, London, 2008
pp. 40, 230 x 165mm,
black and white publication,
designed by Sarah Boris,
published on the occasion of
Nought to Sixty

Full publication available here:
Communiqué § 4 (pdf - 3.5MB)

3 Communiqués is a documentary fiction charting a journey through the marginal histories of communalism, self-presentation and collective agency. The narrative speculates as to the significance of a small pamphlet, a strange orange flower, the disappearance of a statue and the productive misreading of theory, while succumbing to the vertiginous unreliability of archives.

Available here: Bookworks


Nought to Sixty
282 Pages, 28 x 20 cm, 2008
Editor: Mark Sladen, Richard Birkett, Isla Leaver-Yap
Contributors: JJ Charlesworth, Melissa Gronlund, Pablo Lafuente, Lisa Le Feuvre, Paul O’Neill and Mick Wilson, Sarah Pierce and Emily Pethick.

The ICA's six-month season Nought to Sixty was a large and ambitious programme that presented 60 emerging artists based in Britain and Ireland in week-long exhibitions, events and openings. This catalogue represents the documentation, essays and discussions of Nought to Sixty, beginning with an introduction by Melissa Gronlund. With a full-colour section of all artists' projects, the Nought to Sixty catalogue comprises of texts about each artist's practice, extracts of the season's salon discussions, and essays that address the networks that form and contribute to an emerging visual art scene. The catalogue also contains a large directory of artist-run spaces and organisations in Britain and Ireland, written by each organisation in question.

‘Apart from a short communiqué we remained silent… why? who is the Angry Brigade… what are its political objectives… a lot of criticism was directed toward vague directions… we believe the time has come for an honest dialogue… through the Underground Press… through anything. Look around you brother and sister… look at the barriers… don't breathe… don't love, don't strike, don't make trouble… DON'T… Slowly we start to understand the BIG CON.


We saw that they had defined ‘our possibilities'. They said: You can demonstrate… between police lines. You can have sex… in the normal position and as a commodity; commodities are good – we got frightened…. every knock, every word became a menace… but simultaneously we realised that our panic was mild… AND IT FLASHED:

WE WERE INVINCIBLE… because we were everybody. WE WERE ALIVE, AND GROWING!'

'The fourth communiqué, surreptitiously inserted inside the final Nought to Sixty magazine, mimics the genre's typically opportunistic means of distribution. Moreover, Rowlands' compulsion to add further communiqués recalls his first protagonist, Stanley Green, whose days were split between preaching on Oxford Street and revising his cryptically titled, self-printed pamphlet, Eight Passion Proteins With Care. Rowlands' case studies may vary in their duration and geographical reach, and may range in focus from eccentric loners to international campaigns, but a pattern gradually emerges. The experiments all coalesce around 1968 and relate, self-consciously or not, to the Situationist-inspired student revolts of that year. Furthermore, each cause models its ideology on that of earlier theorists, creating strange hybrids and mutations of Aristotle's ethics, William Morris' anti-urbanism, and Wilhelm Reich's and Charles Fourier's Freudian- Marxist blueprints for communal living. But it is the shared characteristics of their demise to which Rowlands draws special attention: the burden of their ideological demands; the tedium of an over-determined routine; the seduction of spectacle and consumer capitalism.

Unusually for documentary writing, the reader is continuously made aware of the idiosyncratic, physical nature of the source material itself, including microfiches, home videos and court documents. Far from the dry, neutral tone expected of the historian, Rowlands' atmospheric descriptions and snippets of conversation seem to take us straight to the heart of the action, while at other times the writing shifts tense and voice to reflect a tentative, hypothetical account of events. Rowlands denies the reader key facts and a clear linear narrative, focusing instead on the imaginative and generative possibilities of uncovering recent history. In doing so, he allows radical ideas from the past an ongoing potential.'

Jennifer Thatcher
Nought to Sixty publication no.6, October 2008, ICA London, p. 13-14

Communiqué § 4 is a political fiction drifting in and out of material archives. Speculating about communitarian politics, action and writing it descends into the underground to meet the angry.

Following 3 Communiqués this pamphlet continues the renegotiation of unfulfilled beginnings or incomplete projects – in art and politics alike – that might offer points of departure again.


'Conspiracy and rumour strip a story to the minimal. It makes it easier to pass around in complexity, until it no longer resembles its original form. Conspiracy is of course a fiction speculating itself through the mouths of people. A process whereby ideas take form through an exchange continuously copied incompletely, again and again. As if events passing through a copier obtain particles and dust from the glass table that haze the image. This image and its affiliations are captured by writing that operates as a mechanism to access the event. Better to describe a possible narrative than narrating possibilities. Make strange molar organisations. Our journey, our drift through materials leaves an account that clears up nothing. The elsewhere, they say, remains a story.'