Presentation of a Failed Artwork and a Court Case That I’m Still Not Really Meant to Talk About

Presentation of a Failed Artwork and a Court Case That I’m Still Not Really Meant to Talk About

A script for a performance by

Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau

(This work was performed at the Ben Uri gallery, London, in 2011)


My name is Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau and this is a lecture about a piece of work that isn’t in this exhibition. Actually, it is a lecture about a piece of work that no longer really exists - both physically and legally.

In due course you’ll find out why this is the case, but first I’d like to explain to you the relationship between this lecture and to the current exhibition at the Ben Uri gallery.

For this exhibition, I made an audio guide to the work of John Allin. You put a pair of headphones on and whilst looking at his paintings of the East End of London, you can listen to a fictionalised biography that mixes up the real story of John Allin’s life with the stories of various other John Allins that I found on the internet.

Making the work for this exhibition reminded me of an artwork that I made in 2008, which was for an exhibition that was similar to the format of this exhibition. Both this current exhibition and the exhibition I’m going to tell you about were based on the concept of responding to another person’s work or life. I thought I would tell you about this previous exhibition, as a way of comparing two artworks - one that I consider a real success, and one that didn’t go so well. I must warn you now that a lot of the specifics of the artwork cannot be discussed because of legal proceedings, some that are still going on, and some that have effectively gagged me from speaking too much about the work itself.

So, the exhibition took place in the city where I studied, which for absurd but unchallengeable legal reasons I can only refer to as ‘N.’. I studied in N. from 2004 to 2007, and then stayed on for about a year before I moved to London. That year from 2007-2008 was pretty hard for me. I was working badly two badly paid jobs that I hated and not being offered much in the way of exhibitions. I was also drinking a lot and using drugs.

Maybe it is important to elaborate somewhat about the drug use, as it explains a lot re: the artwork and subsequent criminal and civil proceedings.

So, I don’t know if you know the TV show called ‘Mad Men’? It is an American TV show about advertising in the 50s - or at least the first series of it was, and that is the series I watched in N.. I basically structured my drug taking around watching this program. Ketamine was the drug, by the way, that I was taking, and in large doses it can have an incredible, hallucinatory effect - creating huge, logically consistent worlds within your mind, shifting space and time in a way unlike any other drug with the possible exception of DMT, which I hadn’t tried and certainly wouldn’t even think of trying nowadays.

Anyway, so with ketamine you have to build up a tolerance before you can take the large doses required to get the full, otherworldly, hallucinatory effect, and so throughout the week I would take small amounts of ketamine after work, and perhaps drink a few cans of strongbow black, which is like the Special Brew of the cider world. The people who make Strongbow have actually recently discontinued Strongbow Black on grounds of ‘social responsibility’ . For unrelated reasons I also eventually had to give up drinking cider, and now I can barely look at a bottle of Bulmers without wanting to be sick on the person drinking it.

Anyway, so the tolerance building was so that I could take a huge dose of ketamine without passing out entirely, because obviously you can’t experience the full hallucinatory effect of a large dose of the drug when you are unconscious. Also you sometimes piss yourself. Which is annoying. Both for the person doing it and the person who next sits down on the sofa after the person who pissed themselves stumbles to bed without realising they have pissed themselves until like a day later.

And the reason I was building my tolerance over the week was so that when Mad Men was available on the iPlayer, I could go into this little room which I suppose was like an office, but just had a shitty PC which we used solely for the purposes of watching BBC iPlayer plus a sofa to crash onto with washable covers that the other housemates made me buy, and take a huge, mind-shattering amount of ketamine in one go, just before pressing play, so that I could watch the opening credits of Mad Men - which involved the silhouette of a 1950s advertising executive moving around and eventually falling out of the window of a skyscraper - and be totally drawn into a world that was based on the visual and audio input I was receiving from Mad Men, but was, essentially a totally subjective, individual world inside my own mind.

That point, in the opening credits, where the guy fell out of the window, was normally the moment at which I would like ‘drop’ into my hallucinatory world. As I remember the whole soundtrack sort of crescendos at that point, and this would in some way make the hit of the ketamine happen all at once - this feeling of synchronicity was also just an effect of the ketamine, but you don’t know that while it is happening. I honestly thought that everything was happening at the same time and there was some sort of necessary connection between the ketamine hitting my nervous system and the crescendo of the music and the little silhouette man falling out of the window. And, in a way, I became that little man falling out of the window. Out of my world, and into a completely separate physical and temporal space.

I didn’t see my drug use as problematic, but now I realise that it had a direct effect on the artistic opportunities I was being offered, because basically I was a social cripple, drunk on strong cider and either always on ketamine - which gives you the equivalent conversational skills of a corpse - or on a residual drippy, half stoned ketamine hangover, which would make me an irritable arsehole with grand visions of my artistic skills and philosophical prowess but no actual artwork or ideas that might make people look past how much of an arsehole I was.

I did eventually get the opportunity to take part in a group show at a gallery which I am still legally obliged to not use the name of so I’ll call it ‘W.’. The idea of the show that was to take place at W. was that we would make work in response to local figures of interest. And, apparently, I had proposed to do a sort of sound work.

Actually, the reasons I got offered the opportunity to take part in the show are hazy, even to me. The curator - I shouldn’t even be referring to him at all, because according to my lawyer the restraining order he has taken out on me could technically get me taken to court for even saying his name when no one can even hear me, i.e., just saying it out loud to myself in an empty room is a breach of the restraining order. Which obviously doesn’t work on a practical level, because if no one can hear you then no one can know you are saying his name, but it gives you an idea of how seriously everyone took the whole thing, even after the criminal cases were dropped.

So, I think I randomly met the curator - who we shall call ‘K.’ for the aforementioned legal reasons - at a pub in N. and I had snuck in several cans of Super Strongbow and had taken a relatively small amount of ketamine to build up my tolerance for my ritual weekly Mad Men/ketamine binge which was scheduled for the next day and was braying on and on about something like hypothetical factual representation, or disrupted histories or something like that but I think there was actually quite a good specific idea which I proposed, which must have caught K.’s attention for a second because the next day I got an email asking if I wanted to be in the show.

I was excited but also quite confused because - just like a serious skunk addiction - the effects of ketamine on your short/mid-term memory are outrageous and I had only the vaguest of recollections of speaking to the curator and for the life of me couldn’t remember what the idea was for the artwork. In his email K. had referred to a sound piece and the concept for the show, which as I mentioned before was that each artist responded to a local historical figure in some way. He explained who I was meant to be responding to, we shall call them BR. and it is enough for me to say that this person was very much alive at the time and was something of a hero in N. and even the mention of his name in certain pubs near the football stadium could make grown men weep and stand up and sing local songs in broad regional accents.

Just as an aside, I want to talk about the effects of infrasonic waves on the human body. Now, I cannot stress enough that this information was not known to me at the time, and it is only through more recent research that I have found technically specific and scientifically correct data which does back up some but not all of the charges that were brought against me after the opening night of the exhibition.

So, infrasound is basically super-low pitched sound. and here are some some direct quotes from research papers I found after the first of the court cases had been brought against me

“Lethal infrasonic pitch lies in the 7 cycle range (7hz). Small amplitude increases affect human behaviour in this range. Intellectual activity is first inhibited, blocked, and then destroyed. As the amplitude is increased, several disconcerting responses have been noted. These responses begin a complete neurological interference. The action of the medulla is physiologically blocked, its autonomic functions cease."

“Acoustic, Infrasound. Very low-frequency sound, which can travel long distances and easily penetrate most buildings and vehicles. Transmission of long wavelength sound creates biophysical effects; nausea, loss of bowels, disorientation, vomiting, potential internal organ damage or death may occur.”


So, although I was a bit worried about the exhibition, because I couldn’t remember what it was I was meant to be making, that wasn’t going to stop me taking a huge dose of ketamine and watching an episode of Mad Men, which I did do. And I don’t actually remember what happened that evening - generally I didn’t remember the content of the episode, or really anything about the hallucinatory experience. All I would remember was the significance of the experience, how it felt really life changing, and meaningful, even though I couldn’t remember what the experience was, or if I could remember anything, I could only describe weird stupid dreamlike notions like how everything was massive or really far away but in perfect detail. And the fact that it sounded stupid and boring just made it seem, to me, that I had experienced something ineffable and really profound, when in fact, it was just the ketamine that made me feel like it was really profound, and in fact it was actually really stupid and boring.

Yeah, so I don’t remember what happened but it must have been a particularly heavy evening because instead of sort of ‘coming to’ after an hour or so and taking myself to bed, I actually woke up in my bed with all my clothes on and I was holding my laptop - I was actually holding my laptop up in the air like it was a trophy or something and I had no idea why.

The important thing at this point is that my extra-heavy session of ketamine use seemed to have wiped all memory of the exhibition from my mind. I didn’t remember the email I had received, the conversation at the pub, or anything about any exhibition or any artworks and I didn’t think anymore about it until the day of the opening, when I got a phone call from the curator saying that he had installed the piece and though he hadn’t turned it on the techies had installed all the sound equipment that I had asked for and they said that it should all work fine for the opening and that it was a shame that I hadn’t come down for the installation but that he looked forward to seeing me tonight for the show.

Another important thing to say is that BR., the local hero that I was making the work about, actually funded the W. gallery, and was a big patron of the arts in N., and would actually be at the opening of the exhibition along with his family - including his pregnant daughter, and his wife - now widow - who had recently undergone a hip-replacement. Also - and I couldn’t have possibly known this at the time - he had a pacemaker, and these certainly don’t respond well to infrasonic waves at any volume, let alone the volume of a 100K system with specially adapted bass bins, designed for the purposes of emitting what is known in sound circles as a ‘burp’, which is a super-loud burst of infrasonic waves made by using a sharp low-pass filter to force all of the power of the soundsystem into the lower frequency ranges.

And so when I got that phone call, and he began speaking to me I felt several emotions and trains of thought moving through my head all at once which are probably useful at this point to explain to you. In no particular order, the thoughts and feelings were these

- I suddenly remembered this exhibition and that I was meant to have made some work for this exhibition and I was filled with panic at fucking up the only opportunity I had been given since university
- I slowly came to realise that somehow I had given K. some sort of work, somehow, possibly digitally, along with instructions on how to install it, and that the only time that I could have done this was in the middle of a severe hallucinatory episode brought on by a huge dose of ketamine.
- I felt a wave of relief, mixed with fear: relief that I hadn’t fucked it all up, and fear at the fact that I had no idea exactly what the artwork was.
- a sort of pride that I had managed to do anything at all whilst hallucinating wildly. Typing was normally pretty impossible when on ketamine, let alone conceiving of and producing a sound work, and writing an email and attaching files to the email and writing instructions on how to install it and what equipment I needed.

I am limited as to what more I can say by the legal implications of what actually happened, especially in regard to the actual content of the work and how it came to be that the curator didn’t have time to listen to it, and how no one had even questioned the rental of a 100K soundsystem with specially adapted bass bins that could actually deafen people in a space as small as the W. gallery, even without the infrasonic sound-work that apparently I was responsible for.

Here, I must stress that the word ‘responsible’ does not imply any legal responsibility on anyone’s part, especially not on the part of the gallery or the curator.

And I am especially limited as to what I can say about the ongoing medical issues for everyone concerned, especially BR. who sadly passed away in 2009 which I would like to just say is a year later and therefore cannot be related to any injuries sustained whilst at the exhibition opening, and I have been asked to not mention specifics regarding the moment when the sound work was turned on, like for example how close the famous local hero BR. was to the speakers, or to describe the smell of around two hundred people simultaneously evacuating their bowels, or to even explain - though it is easily searchable on the internet - what happens to a pace maker when it is subjected to 100k of infrasonic frequencies, and definitely I can’t go into the visual details of what happens when a metal hip is literally ripped out of a woman’s body by a series of super-loud pulsing 7HZ sound waves.

What I will say is that this experience allowed me to move on from my drug use, effectively ‘curing me’ of my dependence on ketamine, and also gave me the legally enforced opportunity to leave the city of N. and move to London and make artworks that are always thoroughly tested for safety before members of the public get anywhere near them.

Also I don’t watch very much Mad Men anymore, though I hear it goes downhill after the second series anyway.

Thanks very much.