Art and science at the Beat Hotel

Download PDF here

‘The language of invisible worlds’ is an essay by the artist Liliane Lijn that I published for the Arts Council where I used to work, following her residency at the Space Sciences Laboratory at UC Berkeley. That residency was supported at this (UK) end with money from the Arts Council’s former International Artist Fellowship programme, by the Leonardo Network via the endlessly energetic and charismatic Roger Malina, and by colleagues at the Space Sciences Laboratory itself.

The collaboration is summarised on the Leonardo website, and some really excellent work came out of the project, for Liliane Lijn as well as for Semiconductor and Joanna Griffin whose respective residencies followed.

Publication of ‘…invisible worlds’ was a no-budget affair and at that time in 2006 the Arts Council had entered what felt like a strange and stifling period of restructure. Undaunted, we borrowed a horrible old corporate newsletter template and published this, quietly. For some reason only one person in the building at that time had a machine which could write PDFs, and somehow that person managed to add a strange little properties page at the end which tells us that I published this on 9 May 2006 after a total editing time of 40 minutes. As if.

I’m glad that we did find a way to publish this though, as it really is an unusual and lovely piece of writing. Liliane first positions herself and the work she was beginning at the Space Sciences Laboratory in relation to friendships with sculptor Takis and the Beats in the Paris of 1961, where she ‘began to work independently as an artist’. There is some beautifully evocative material about the Beat Hotel and Sinclair Beiles, and on page 2 a description of the art works that Liliane was making at the time, which so perfectly anticipate the fictional Bartlebooth’s defining project in George Perec’s novel La Vie mode d’emploi (translated as Life a User’s Manual), that it is tantalising to wonder if Perec may have seen them. Liliane writes:

I was working on puzzles. I would buy a jigsaw puzzle, take it apart, paint each piece separately to erase all clues as to how to connect them and then try to put the puzzle together again.

As the essay continues Liliane describes a series of events and meetings with poets, scientists and visionaries including most memorably (for me) Jaron Lanier, each of which continually echo and reframe those early explorations.

Liliane’s work at the Space Sciences Laboratory continues to generate new works including the wonderful Solar Hills project.

Because other web resources relating to those artist residencies at SSL are no longer live, and the longer term status of the webpage where this PDF was once available as a free download is not certain, Liliane and I both felt that it would be a good idea to make it available again now.