Essay by Ben Washington
Daniel Kelly began his working life in the water town of Buxton. Starting work at 5.30 of a morning, with a steaming hot cup of cocoa his only comfort, he‚Äôd cover for his Dad, who would more often than not be off sourcing himself a drink with a slightly different warmth to comfort ratio.
Manning the market stall alone, the time would slowly pass, punctuated by the sale of a knocked off video (maybe Back to the Future, maybe Robocop) or the odd second hand jazz mag.
In those drawn out hours, rubbing his hands and stomping his feet for the warmth, there was a lot of time for the mind to go wandering. And wander it did. Through the rooms and corridors of his mind he happily ambled.
Aspirations formed and tastes were refined. They were tastes that were about as unlikely to be sampled in the vicinity of Buxton as was possible. Buxton is a town located at the heart of the Peak District. It is however not technically a part of the Peak District. This being because it has been so heavily mined as to negate the ‚ÄėPeak‚Äô bit of the equation completely. It being more aptly described as The Massive Hole District.
It was these tastes he developed that helped furnish the spaces in his mind, the d√©cor being of an order that would match Versailles for its grandeur. Grand staircases would gracefully glide upwards into vast halls. The vaulted ceilings ready to collapse from the weight of the gilt moldings and cornices that plastered their every inch. Marble fireplaces would provide convenient resting places for his exquisite bone china cups of green jasmine tea, as he mooched around his private palaces finely dressed in silk cravats and tweed suits.
He worked long hours.
These are the musings and imaginings that led to the work that Kelly now makes. The images he creates are built up of fragments of places and time periods. Out of kilter with each other, pulled apart then stuck back together, they still manage to create the illusion of another space. These spaces remain on a knife-edge, they let you in so far and yet the very rips and tears essential to their own construction always threaten to unmask the illusion.
It‚Äôs precisely these rips and tears that allow you to peer behind what is being represented. For although there is a joy and a reveling in the grandeur that is on display, Kelly is not blind to the decadence and folly that goes along with it. There is an understanding that all the grandest undertakings of art or architecture were shackled to the ego-ridden drives of the patrons or regimes that commissioned them. The insanity of Versailles or the sacrifices that went into the Pyramids are not forgotten, nor is the fact that they were built on the back of some poor bastard who‚Äôll never get a credit.
This understanding is illustrated in the quiet violence of the rips and tears and shattered nature of the images that are presented. But there is a subtlety at work here as well and it‚Äôs also within these fragments that some sort of redemption can be found. The germ of the original aspirations can still be seen. Kelly‚Äôs work makes you aware of all the small creative explosions that originate at the heart of every great work of art and reminds you that these are the bits worth holding onto. The foibles and follies that give rise to a piece of work are secondary. Back To The Future can be as good creative starting point as being given a commission to make a golden egg for a Russian prince. Kelly‚Äôs work is about all of these things and still in some ways it‚Äôs simply about finding something with a bit more refinement and delicacy than a well thumbed copy of the Razzle.
ARTIST INTERVIEW: DANIEL KELLY AND THE PIRATES OF CARTHAGE
Jan 12th 2012, By Francesca Brooks, The Flaneur
This week, after almost a year of work, Daniel Kelly‚Äôs play The Pirates of Carthage will finally make it out of the studio and onto the radio waves before moving to the stage at The Nellie Dean in Soho next week.
I go to meet Daniel Kelly in his Bow Road studio in the East of London. Newly moved in, with a couple of artist friends, the space is still sparse although it has got a newly built mezzanine. Kelly is tall, he‚Äôs wearing a fuzzy Russian hat, and a slightly paint bespattered tartan jacket with a silky scarf. He looks appropriately arty, but then it‚Äôs also a ploy to keep warm. With jasmine tea, and a heater between us, we begin to chat about The Pirates of Carthage.
This is ‚ÄėA play about Tunisia, Twitter and the power of the people‚Äô. But to describe it simply as a play is a little misleading, as Kelly explains; he is primarily a visual artist and this hasn‚Äôt been about leaving all that behind to become a writer. The Pirates of Carthage would be more accurately described as a multimedia artistic project; an interactive series of performances across media, based on a collage of tweets, quotations from Gustave Flaubert‚Äôs Salammbo, Tunisian hip-hop, and a video montage of internet surveillance. On Thursday 12thJanuary at 8pm a live interactive radio performance will be broadcast on Resonance FM (resonancefm.com/listen), on the 14th there will be a live streaming (frenchriveria1988.com, 4.30pm), and from the 16th there will be performances at the Nellie Dean in Soho.
Kelly sees his new project as having roots in his earlier practice of collaging in painting. The artistic development involved in The Pirates of Carthage, from painter to multimedia artist, was necessary in order to respond to Kelly‚Äôs inspiration; the powerful utilization of Twitter during the Tunisian uprising which led to the overthrow of the prime minister in January last year. Perhaps like many people, Kelly watched the Tunisian people revolting via Twitter in awe. Feeling the need to respond he began by taking photographs from the newspapers and working them into paintings, but this seemed too simple. He had to use the tweets at the centre of the story, and it was essential that they were read aloud. Flaubert‚Äôs Salammbo, which is included as excerpts from an audio tape, adds historical resonance to our sense of the significance of the recent uprising.
THE PIRATES OF CARTHAGE
Dazed Digital, 2012
As the one-year anniversary of the Arab Spring approaches, artist Daniel Kelly presents a distinctive interpretation of the Tunisian uprising that sparked it all. The idea for The Pirates of Carthage came about from the pure serendipity in Kelly‚Äôs reading Gustave Flaubert‚Äôs Salammbo at the time of the revolutions in the Arab world; Flaubert‚Äôs historical novel tells of the mercenary revolt against the ancient city of Carthage, and held an unexpected resonance with the contemporary uprisings that Kelly was inspired to explore.
Twelve months later, the artist unveils his ambitious multi-platform production; a narrative that spans the generations, retold through excerpts from Flaubert‚Äôs novel and the Twitter feeds that drove so much of the rebellion. Presented through live stream, interactive radio, a stage event held at Soho pub The Nellie Dean, and an accompanying publication, The Pirates of Carthageencourages the audience to experience protest from every perspective. Dazed caught up with the artist to talk about some of the ideas behind the impressive project.
Dazed Digital: The Pirates of Carthage intertwines two narratives, the uprising in Tunisia from 2010 and the Mercenary War from 240BC; why did you choose to present the story through these dual timelines? Do you find an inherent timelessness to protest?
Daniel Kelly: I was captured by the way the Internet and social media were harnessed as a tool in the will of the people in the Middle East. It was the first time I noticed new media being used to achieve something productive and make a positive change in a society. Coincidentally I was reading Salammbo at the same time, and started to draw all these parallels between the two stories, and the ways in which they were passed on to me as a young adult in London in 2011. It does feel like the patina over the certainty of the last 20 years is starting to show signs of ageing; people are starting to question the order of things and this I find reassuring.
REVOLUTION PLAY IN ‚ÄėKARL MARX‚ÄôS LOCAL‚Äô THE NELLIE DEAN OF SOHO
January, 2013, by Josh Loeb, West End Extra
The Pirates of Carthage, by visual artist Daniel Kelly (pictured above), examines last year‚Äôs uprising in Tunisia ‚Äúas told through Twitter‚ÄĚ.
It will be performed at the Nellie Dean in Dean Street, Soho, which lays claim to a history dating back to the 1600s.
Mr Kelly, 30, said he decided to stage the play in a pub rather than a conventional performing arts venue as he wanted it to be ‚Äúnon-elitist‚ÄĚ.
He added: ‚ÄúOne of the themes of the play is people power ‚Äď people overthrowing a president and having something to kick against, so it was important that it happened in the real word. Karl Marx lived just across the street from here at one point. This has been a pub for hundreds of years, so there‚Äôs a good chance he would have had a pint in here.‚ÄĚ