Dalek: First Notion of Terror (Book by Anna Best and Annie Toop)

By Anna Best, David Lillington, Pauline van Mourik Broekman and Annie Toop, 10 January 1996

Collective artworks, armies of daleks 1 Corinthians 12, The New Testament - The body is a unity although it has many parts. We are members one of the other. Each other's limbs. A body.

McClelland The idea that the imagery in childrens' stories are an index of a society's concerns.

HG Wells Daleks as the grandchildren of the tripods in War of the Worlds.

Television The book is in part about television, about our common, and technological, culture.

Deleuze and Guattari War machines. Bodies Without Organs.

McEvilley Fear of the alien. Of what's different to you. The unknown, the irreconcilable.

Tanks Tanks.

Haraway '...the difference between machine and organism is thoroughly blurred; mind, body and tool are on very intimate terms...' 'Monsters have always defined the limits of community in Western imaginations.'

Bachelard 'if we experience the imaginary paradox of a vigorous mollusk...we attain to the most decisive type of aggressiveness, which is postponed aggressiveness, aggressiveness that bides its time. Wolves in shells are crueler than stray ones.' - The Poetics of Space.

Repo Man 'Wow, this is intense.'

Craig-Martin 'Drawings are the great secret of art: vast in number, mostly unknown...Their usual characteristics of modesty and intimacy have conspired to deny them widespread recognition.' 'How a drawing is made determines its character. Line drawings often reveal an immediacy and directness bordering on rawness. They show precisely what is needed, no more and no less. No other form is so flexible, responsive, or revealing. Line drawings manifest a particular rigour and economy, as though the eye and the mind of the artist was truly concentrated at that tiny point of contact between the marker and the surface - the pen or pencil or brush and the paper. They range from the sensual to the severe. At their most severe, they do not lack feeling.' Making images as a way of possessing something. Assimilation of, love for, the dalek. Drawings are maps.

Jung In Jung's dream of the house there were three cellars, the last entered through a hatch in the floor. Dark and dripping stone. This is the collective unconscious. The daleks live there. They are archetypes. Archetypes are both good and bad, they flip, negative to positive and back. Remember the image of the people the daleks destroy, flashing into negative. Jung also says that characters in big dreams often take the form of cartoon-like characters, figures from popular culture, which then seem absurd to the dreamer when she awakes.

Gropius Daleks are cute with their half-orange-shaped bumps and their pointy fronts. They are Art Deco dodgem cars, helter-skelters. Their ancestors came from the Bauhaus and Blackpool. Grills for eyes. Sunken wheels.

Freud On humour: 'By its repudiation of the possibility of suffering, it takes its place in the great series of methods devised by the mind of man for evading the compulsion to suffer - a series which begins with neurosis and culminates in delusions, and includes intoxication, self-induced states of abstraction, and ecstasy...This humorous attitude asseverates the invincibility of one's ego against the real world and victoriously upholds the pleasure principle, yet all without quitting the ground of mental sanity.' It adopts 'the attitude of an adult towards a child, recognising and smiling at the triviality of the interests and sufferings which seem to the child so big...Its meaning is: "Look here! this is all that this seemingly dangerous world amounts to. child's play - the very thing to jest about!" '

Book The idea of making an art book out of dalek memory drawings happened gradually. 1st, sitting around having tea with friends of mixed nationality, the dalek came up. We realised that non-Brits didn't know what they were...'is it a real thing?' Thus the first pictures were made, to describe them. As we made them we told of the terror the TV programmes had instilled in us. A 2nd event was over dinner. A French woman drew a dalek to explain the 1st event. A 3rd was on the ferry. We were talking and the ridiculousness of the whole thing seemed a perfect antidote to our concerns about forthcoming shows (serious art). How to get more drawings while living abroad? We phoned and wrote to people in the UK. Pictures arrived by fax and post, some anonymously. The inconsequential 1st event had somehow developed out of our discovery of a shared sense of the absurd. - AB&AT

Canetti Crowds and Power. The extended finger of command. The recipient of a command is in fear of death. The idea that: not only does a collection of people have a self (crowd, audience, society) but that the self itself is also a crowd, a collection. Self as a collection of images of other selves.

Rorschach Daleks in 'Dalek' are organic, People have treated the dalek as a version of themselves. This is one reason why they responding so readily, so mouthwateringly almost, to the request to draw a dalek.

Phallus If for a woman they might represent fear of the phallus, for a man they represent a fear of sexual inadequacy. Daleks are big and self-confident. And Military. Motorised and armoured. But for both women and men they might represent love of the phallus too...

Manuel De Landa 'While a human historian might try to understand the way people assembled clockworks, motors and other physical contraptions, a robot historian would likely place a stronger emphasis on the way these machines altered human evolution.' Notion of the robot historian. Tracing history of technology migrating over bodies, machinic and human, organic and inorganic, rather than tracing history of one particular technology located in autonomous inanimate husk. Here humanity is an industrious agent, a pollinator by proxy, standing in for the reproductive organs of the gigantic machinic flower, enabling the species to reproduce and evolve over time. The evil of technology signified by one entity - the dalek - is a red herring. Technology migrates. Anthropomorphic technology, as typified by the dalek, is a remnant from science fiction.

Man inside Trip to the moon. Record player arm going back and forth. Serious. Absurd. The tardis as womb. Memory. Nature. Androgyny. The dalek is a vagina. And there's a man inside. Britishness. Television. Fiction as real and its relation to dreams: TV as dream world, dreams as TV. Containers. Nostalgia. Memory, & drawing it. The absurdity of the remembered emotion. Waiter and chef of the Stena Sealink ferry cafŽ. The dalek as symbol of technology, BBC style. Evil. Nightmares. Daleks low-tech: the opposite of technology, in fact. Serial art. Archives, collections, 19th century obsession with classification: getting a handle on nature.

Sculpture It is a commonplace that a sculpture is a reflection of the person looking at it, that sculpture is narcissistic, that when a viewer looks at a sculpture they see a version of themselves. Daleks are sculptures. Art book. Silver, head and hand sized, thick as a finger, lots of white space, drawings by anonymous non-artists. Firstly, they are interpretations of memories. Second, the person who draws them brings her own psychological baggage into the drawing, so that they can be seen as a set of Rorschachs, and thirdly, the viewer brings their own interpretations to them, so that they become Rorschachs for a second set of people. Collaboration by people who don't know each other, a community of memory. British memory of the 60s and 70s. If the art object is a version of a self, an art object which is a collection is an idea of the self's constitution as a collection of others.

First Notions Recollections of dramatic experiences strengthen their hold on the mind over time. Iconographic simplicity. Toop and Best investigate the form of one of these childhood terrors - the dalek. Their absurd taxonomy evolves out of an inconsequential event. First drawings deeply unterrifying. But Toop and Best kept them as diagrams of their terror. Benign cacti, salt shakers, soft sexual toys. Dalek representation becoming compelling. Catalogue of interpretations. Problem of visually conveying the notion of terror and the failure inherent in the attempt. The contradictions embodied in daleks. A generation's childhood fears captured in scratchy ephemera. Aluminum robot-bins. Icons of a fast fading, peculiarly British television culture. Art object, beautiful thick paper. Hand made, screen-printed, limited edition. Uncannily appropriate place in the methodologies of 90s' art practice: handing over of the authorial role to the collective, emphasis on process and documentation and questioning of the cultural construction of the self. Daleks: instant pathos. Lost in time, the type of the evil other. The drawings 'like sketches brought back by colonialists of a native species.' Like dreams, people analyse them. To a psychoanalytic eye, about the construction of self...generators of meanings...clues to a universal symbolism... A wonderful and intimate addition to the analysis of technology's place in media culture and in society.

Pauline van Mourik Broekman <pauline AT>

Dalek: First Notion of Terror is available @ £20 from

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