Andre Stitt's Homework (Scores, Statements, Notes for Akshuns 1976-2000)

By Stewart Home, 10 July 2001

Stewart Home reviews Stitt's newest book

In live art circles André Stitt has a violent and uncompromising reputation. This book will hopefully change perceptions and allow a broader audience to see that there is more to him than outrageous performances in which rabbits are dissected with chainsaws. From Stitt’s early days the humour that is such a crucial element of his work has often been overlooked. This sense of fun is perhaps most evident in ongoing works such as The Geek, which were initially responses to challenges thrown by veterans of the ‘marginal’ arts such as Blaster Al Ackerman. In the seventies, US based Ackerman provided inspiration and lyrics for Throbbing Gristle. By the mid-eighties he was suggesting Stitt should be known professionally as ‘Stan The Geek’ and wear “a colourful costume of fur, feathers and filth.” This was all the encouragement Stitt required to immerse himself in the confrontational shamanism of a trickster figure. Collected here are photographs of performances, alongside notes and drawings by Stitt, as well as excerpts from Ackerman’s letters. All of which provide a hilarious insight into how the pieces developed.

From his native Belfast to London and now Cardiff, Stitt has come an awfully long way both personally and artistically. Despite minimal support over much of the past twenty-five years, it’s inspiring to see how he’s pushed the boundaries of his project. He happily shares with us not just his triumphs, but also his mistakes and insecurities. There isn’t much critical signalling in this book, just two short prefaces, but it quickly becomes apparent that Stitt is obsessed not just with art history, but with moving beyond it. His emphatic appropriation of the old Russian avant-garde slogan “art isn’t a mirror, it’s a fucking hammer,” is just one example of this.

Stewart Home <> is, among other things, author of Neoism, Plagiarism & Praxis and The Assault on Culture: Utopian Currents from Lettrisme to Class War (both AK Press).

Homework: scores, statements, notes for Akshuns 1976-2000 // André Stitt // Krash Verlag, Cologne // 2000 // ISBN 3-927452-97-1

Also forthcoming...Small Time Life // André Stitt // Black Dog Publishing // July 2001 // 144 pages // ISBN 1 901033 67 8 // £16.95 // US $29.95