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bad idea 1


A group of artists together. I wanted to make a publication. Asked them to write something to go alongside images of their work. The instructions were open ended. Most of them started writing. Some were quicker than others. There was no clear deadline. I was presented with some rather difficult and sometimes unsavoury questions. Some of the artists were unsure whether they wanted to be in the same publication. Some of the artists were unsure whether they wanted to be in the same exhibition. Some of the artists were afraid to be honest. Now the project lies dormant. Buried under a mountain of other work. Better luck next time.


bad idea 2


It’s hard to remember bad ideas, lots of ideas roll through my mind before I land on one and decide to follow it through. However, there is one idea that I keep coming back to, even though I’m pretty sure it’s terrible. I’ve played around with it in my head, perhaps hoping I can find a way to fix it, but every time I come to the same conclusion. It really is a bad idea.
I first had the idea about 15 years go. At the time I earned a living by running workshops in galleries and local schools.. Making in a classroom can be exciting and unpredictable, because the potential for anarchy is always close by. I began to make work in which control became the focus, shifting power between the artist and my collaborators.
I normally figure out what I’m making as I go along and tend not to go in for lightbulb moments, but in this case the idea presented itself to me as a very clear startling image. I imagined a classroom with a grid of tables set out as if for an exam. I can see a child at every desk. Everyone is silent and completely still. The camera moves slowly towards the front of the room. The hands and feet of the seated child in shot are secured to the furniture with gaffer tape. The next shot reveals the scene from the front and the whole class is fixed in place, hands and feet bound to the tables.
I have often wondered if I could get a school to help me make this work. I’ve thought about the health and safety measures and the consent forms.How would I convince a class of children that it was ok to be taped up and for how long could I keep them in that position? The real problem is that none of these questions really matter, it’s a bad idea and should not be made.
I think maybe I should always be suspicious of ideas that arrive too fully formed, with no room for discovery. I prefer to make work without ideas.

bad idea 3


Making decisions about the artistic form is never simple. Problems that arise in the process can create the form or the form can adjust the problems. Sometimes your bad ideas can be rethought after a while , and they start to seem brilliant. It might remind you of standing on a slippery floor. Is that the measurement for bad artists and bad decisions?  The difference between bad and good feels like sliding on a wet floor, and sometimes it seems that I should be more careful about where to put that “Wet Floor” sign. As maybe this is the criteria for being a bad artist or making bad decisions. One friend mentioned to me once that the ideas of “good or bad” are created by the church . I should know, I come from a catholic family. 

bad idea 4


So, some time ago I had an idea for a project. Actually, the idea was more a way to find the money to develop another project, or maybe it was just a pretext to make some money and I didn’t even had an actual artwork I wanted to produce.
Anyway, It seems like many people are buying or adopting dogs lately. More than before I feel. It is almost like if the dog could compensate people’s frustrations, you can basically walk your frustrations out with a lace and feel a little more ok. 
The fact is that sometimes dogs disappear, they are running in a park and a second after they are not there anymore.
Dissolved. When this happens not only the dog disappears but also the owner’s impression of having their desperation, failures and uncertainties under control. The only way to alleviate that sense of anxiety is to have the animal back. So when dogs disappear, the owners would do anything to have them back. 
The plan was to hire retired police dogs, to search for the lost ones. It would be enough to have a trace of the lost animal’s smell to find it within few miles. Of course I couldn’t guarantee a 100% success rate, the fee for the service was very high but if the animal was found dead or if it wasn't found at all the fee wasn’t applied.
The problem is that police doesn’t give their dogs away that easily. 

bad idea 5


While we have each had many bad ideas (and we have indeed realised some of them), we couldn’t think of a really useful bad idea to share. 


However, creative doubt and personal misgivings, asking “why not?” as well as “why?” -  that’s all bread and butter to us.  

But, possibly, one of our worst ideas was to work collaboratively.  We skipped into it rather naively.  Seeing it as a chance to have a holiday from our own egos and art making habits - as a one off project.  


The term, collaboration, conjures up a spirit of cooperation, team effort, of all moving in the same direction. Actually it is rarely like that.  


Collaboration can be quite competitive, particularly when setting out on a new project. At that stage we often have very different views about what we want to do. This can be the most painful time.  We can be too sympathetic, or too harsh and unwavering. Sometimes we feel absolutely no interest in the other’s treasured idea, or we might feel jealous, because we know that really it’s better than our own. 


With collaboration the arguments you have with yourself as an artist are amplified, and internal conflicts are inevitably externalised. This can propel decision making, but it can also provoke quick and over critical judgements.   ‘Why would we want to do that’ becomes the response you dread to hear.   


Meanwhile, reaching consensus can lose the immediacy of creative impulse. It can feel inhibiting and demotivating. 


However, collaboration can provide a useful detachment, where doubt and the essential embarrassment of making, can be blamed on each other, kidding yourself, “well I’m just going along with this for now, until we both recognise how bad it is.”  


Then again, in any practice, what might actually be a perfectly good idea can easily become bad, by overworking, elaborating and jumping to conclusions. 


Of course there are times when thoughts bounce back and forth freely. When a dull, unpromising starting point escalates into something unexpected. 


And then there is such a thing as delusion, which can be contagious… 


At some point though, you have to simply agree to start on something, even if it is a really bad idea.

bad idea 6



bad idea 7


When I was about six or seven years old, I was called a ‘cunt’ by some bully boys. I knew it was a swear-word, but it was one I’d never heard before, so I didn’t know how to react. I could detect disappointment in their faces – at the words not having the effect they’d hoped for.

With no image in my head for the word ‘cunt’, all I remember was the suggestion of a ‘nutty smell’ in my mind. It seemed linked to the word ‘conker’. And subconsciously I was smelling cooked chestnuts – the edible version of a ‘conker’.

I told my mother what the boys had called me and asked her what it meant. She told me it was a bad word. And that I should take no notice of it.



There was an art teacher who took the schoolboys on field trips to Epping Forest. It was so that we could make accurate sketches directly from nature. I remember seeing him stop and look down, fascinated by a small brown lump of dogshit.

He said: ‘Look, it is shaped just like a butterfly’.

bad idea 8


Once I had an idea and I called it "Insignificant spot=Spot which doesn't matter". The project predicted glued men in plastic or airtight latex suits to the wall in a star position. The colour of the suits would match the colour of the walls and men would be glued in a crowded pattern.

As the head is the only visible element creating a pattern, the rest of the body becomes insignificant as it blends in with the background becoming like a camouflage. But using nothing but glue is relatively impossible to support human weight on the wall. 

If men suddenly start falling from the wall - they are not any more insignificant spots. If the bodies perform an action – they create a visual and physical barrier and emotional reaction. They are becoming significant.

bad idea 9


| | A basement | | Dark space | | An undefined space | | One of the rooms had a staircase | | None of the rooms had a staircase | | One of the rooms had a glass door | | One of the rooms had a glass door | | It had great potential | | I heard it had great potential | | I spoke with you | | I spoke with you | | You wanted to come | | I wanted to come | | I was so happy | | I was so happy | | I went for meetings with these people | | I don’t do meetings | | When everyone was present nothing seemed out of order | | Everything seemed fine | | When left alone with any one of them everything went wrong | | Never met any of them | | Aggressive | | passive | | Repulsive | | passive | | Degrading | | passive | | Revolting | | passive | | Disgusting | | passive | | I got the space | |  You got the space | | We spoke – I had the space | | We spoke – you had the space | | Speaking with you made me forget the bad and look towards the good | | You were checking dates | | I was checking dates | | The last time I went there to confirm the dates I was slammed into a wall. | | I wasn’t aware that… | | Managed to escape | | I could not return | | …You could not return | | A basement | | An undefined space | | I heard it had great potential | | I spoke with you | | I wanted to come | | I was so happy | | Everything seemed fine | | Never met any of them | | passive | | passive | | passive | | passive | | passive | | You got the space | | We spoke – you had the space | | I was checking dates | | I wasn’t aware that… | | …You could not return

bad idea 10


I live in a house that was built in the 1980s’ which gets quite warm in the summer and it’s not unusual for bees and wasps to come in at the beginning of summer looking for places that they might want to make their home. One summer a queen wasp came in and kept flying around the windows in my bedroom and she kept flying underneath my bed and she came in more and more frequently and after a while I couldn’t work out what she was doing.  She was always flying underneath my bed so I looked anyway I could see anything but she kept on coming. about two weeks after or a week later I looked under my bed again and suddenly I saw that she had been building a nest on the frame of my bed and this was quite shocking to me because even though I had looked at the nest she was building a number of times and I hadn’t recognised what it was that was  building and had thought that it was just part of the wood just an extension of the wooden frame so it felt like this was a lesson in seeing. I had not recognised what the nest was and so my mind hadn’t seen it. I have often thought about disappearing I wondered if like the wasp nest I could also disappear out of sight like abra cadabra poof.

bad idea 11


When I was an art student my tutor told me I was too ambitious. I was frustrated by this and I wanted to prove them wrong.I imagined a big worm, hanging out of the window, like a rubbish chute or a rollercoaster weaving in and out of a tunnel. It felt like my work was getting too big for the studio,  so exploding out into the world seemed like the logical thing to do. Not just hanging though, it would have been seven metres reaching from the third floor down to the roof just visible from the entrance of the building. I realised it wasn't actually right for the work. When you place sculpture outside in the bigger world it tends to get smaller. lf it was suspended in mid air, out of reach and out of sight, then the detail would be missed. It wasn't impossible but it was beyond my own reach. The experience would be changed from an encounter to a glimpse. 

I eventually got over my ego. But I’m not sure I’ve actually learned my lesson. I think sometimes you have to go too far to take a step back, or at least want to go further, that’s where the ambition comes into it. It's often a relief when I realise what I’ve done already is actually ok, even when it doesn’t feel finished. The unfinished is actually better, in a constant flux of making and unmaking. It could go on and take a new form, that something monumental could just disappear overnight.

bad idea 12


I was once invited to contribute to an evening of bad performance art. The difficulty that arose was that the idea I 
eventually came up with started to seem to me to be too good.

bad idea 13


Participatory Performance (unrealised)


Each volunteer is entrusted with the safekeeping of a piece of digital information belonging to the artist. The volunteer has two minutes to study the document and then the original is permanently destroyed. A photograph of a park in the late afternoon in which all that is visible is bright green grass and the photographer’s own shadow.


A two-line email reciprocating a desire two meet up at some unspecified point in the future. A word document containing detailed noted towards an as-yet unrealised performance work which, the artist will conclude, is better left as an idea than anything that actually exists in the world.

bad idea 14


I don't think I have bad ideas. Some of them I just can't rescue. I describe them as unworkable, unsuitable, inaccessible or unwise.

In 1993 I suggested a couple of temporary sculptures for a public site in the city where i was living at the time. When I showed my ten year old daughter this film that illustrates this idea she said,'Did you really do that? Why are you going to tell people?'

Occasionally I have popular ideas, ones that people want to be part of. Sometimes though when they hear these ideas they can berate themselves, frustrated that their ideas aren't so popular. But most often I experience my ideas as lonely ones, that friends, foe and funders are happy to ignore.

bad idea 15


I received a text asking me to record a video message for the recent graduates of a university where I had taught. I had met most of them in their first year and felt close to the group. I thought a look could say more than any number of words I could think of, a look as a special, personal, poetic and meaningful gesture. 


Sometimes it takes time to recognise a bad idea as such. One might be too entranced with convincing oneself that one has what it takes to pull it off. It can be as uncomfortable as looking at oneself in an uncomfortable way. 


Most of the time what makes an idea good or bad has more to do with where the attention is being placed than with what the intentions are. We trick ourselves into believing we are just rational beings, although our decisions are based also on emotion and intuition. And it is precisely an emotion, such as uneasiness, self–doubt or utter rejection which will eventually point out that an idea is not worth the while.


After an hour of excruciatingly painful attempts, I could not bring myself to send the message. [Maybe now, I can send them this video]. 

bad idea 16


I’d been doing a piece of research into a relatively new area of science that didn’t lend itself to visual representation. One day, I saw an open call, and thought I might be able to fit the research into the theme. But I had no idea how to do it, so I ignored it until the penultimate day for submissions. Because I had to think very fast, I threw everything I was currently obsessed with into the proposal. In the end, it was a pretty good proposal. But it was a work of pure phantasy, existing in the realm of wish fulfilment and speculation only...

bad idea 17


Chorus: Paepens & Persyn

P: Hello, we are Paepens…

P: … and Persyn.

P: And we would like to inform you that we are now available for all your consultations, …

P: … support, …

P: … information, …

P: … guidance, …

P: … and curatorial advisory…

P: … through our newly formed advisory commission…P&P: Paepens & Persyn.

P: Hello. To follow up the introduction on our advisory commission Paepens & Persyn, we would like to share with you the five main goals of our program and working. And the first one is, uh, named “FUN BUT NOT FUNNY”. (P laughs)

P: “FUN BUT NOT FUNNY” can be seen as our motto. It is a concept, it’s an idea that we try to use in everything we do. We see the relevance of humor within our project, and we think it’s very necessary that humor and the art world go hand in hand. On the other hand, we do see the dangers of the humor within itself. It can become easily a joke (choke) or a too playful thing, which is a danger we want to avoid, that’s why we chose “FUN BUT NOT FUNNY”. Within “FUN BUT NOT FUNNY”, we also try to embed our roleplay, which Paepens & Persyn represents, without it trying to become a vulgar cynicism. 

P: The second goal of our program is called: “A NEW ICONOCLASM”, which starts from the museal institutions we perceive as classical temples, in which the artworks are presented in outdated shrines which are the white walls and being installed and presented as sacred objects. Paepens & Persyn aims to adapt this system and question the conventional, traditional norms of this institutional thinking. In this manner, we would like to add a new

perspective or an alternative layer on this constitutional and institutional thinking.

P: The next point we want to address is us as “CURARTIST”. The curartist is a term we conceptualized in its between being an artist and a curator, as both our practices involves either of those. Then we have a vision on what we wanted to do as curartist. Within the curartist, we want to look for new lines as artist in a curatorial story. We don’t claim that this is a completely new, or fresh idea. We just wanna explore the possibilities of what’s possible as playing in this field. Further on, we want to think with the curartist about the new lines that works can create when you pose them or oppose them to themselves and to others.

P: The fourth goal of our program is called: “CONVERTING THE CONVERSATION”. We see the exhibition as a platform for conversation on several levels. In first place, we see the exhibition as a meeting point of artworks or objects or happenings in which a dialogue can be held between the several interventions in the space. On a second level, we see an exhibition also as a vehicle, or a facilitator for conversation, with as many as possible audiences. The exhibition is of course, most of the times, held in a space or a setting. To pull this goal a bit further, we also see the space, either physical or non-physical space as an agora, a place where people can encounter and exchange thoughts. This can also function in a non-textual, but also visual vocabulary.

P: As a last point, we would like to talk about text. Text within its context of museums for now, is for us a bit… hard. Most texts don’t talk honestly about what they are showing but try to acknowledge what they are showing. Text is perceived as a closed door, but we want to open the portals. We want to have an honest communication and an honest feeling when we write.

Chorus: Paepens & Persyn

P: So, thank you for you time, this was our introductory presentation on theadvisory commission Paepens & amp; Persyn. We truly hope you consider our application to be an addedvalue for your program, and as you can see, we are very eager to start from a blank canvas.Thank you very much. Hope to see you soon. Paepens…

P: … and Persyn. Advisory commission.

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