Exhibition in the Artists' Books Study Area at the Library
School of Art, Media and Design, UWE Bristol:
John Bently's
Liver and Lights Scriptorium, 20th Anniversary Exhibition

13th November 2004 – 9th January 2005

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Twenty years of Liver & Lights! What has it all meant?
I left College in 1980 and moved into a derelict factory in East London with
Stephen Jaques and James Blundun. We slept on doors covered in damp newspapers, rarely washed and dreamt of fame and clean clothes. We lived, slept, drank and dreamed art together and eventually in 1984, we published a manifesto. We believed passionately that we could make a difference to the world with our art.

This was the first
Liver & Lights.

I made a second and a third. I became obsessed with making them. Eventually they metamorphosed from passionate diatribes into very personal parallel worlds, launched as theatrically as I could manage. Contributors and collaborators came and went. I collected musicians and actors who could perform the books live.

From about 1990, two different strands begin to emerge. Some books/events become devised explicitly for Gallery spaces, but increasingly, in collaboration with the extraordinary
Harvey Eagles and his electrifying Cello, I begin to make the books specifically to sell at our performances.


Other interests arrive and are contained by the series. I made a series of publicly funded books with community groups, of which the most successful I suppose is
no 27 Concerning the poetry of lost things, Harrow.

This was an attempt to draw a picture of contemporary Harrow using only dropped handwriting picked up from her oh so typical suburban streets. It was banned by the commissioners (Harrow Council) who disapproved of what I'd found.
No. 24. Fife Heroes, was a collection gleaned from over a thousand interviews on the streets of Fife. (Incidentally, this was funded as public sculpture, not as a book! - My argument being that the entire edition was a physical entity broken down into constituent parts, each one a reflection of the whole etc.)

In the last few years, the political fervour of the early
Liver & Lights manifestos has returned somewhat. A touring exhibition of Liver & Lights No. 23. 100 Books was cancelled in three of the five venues in which it was booked because of the political content (I was criticising State Tyranny…).

Galleries abandoned me…I took again to the road. For the last two years I have again created the books to be sold at gigs. The last three (and in particular
No32 Afterrabbit featuring John Bently, which contains an audio cd) have all been created with the band Afterrabbit. They are Alan Outram, Phil Outram and Oliver Cherer and they contribute loud electro disco punk to my frantic wailings.


Finally, in celebration of twenty years of
Liver & Lights is No.33 Twenty Household Objects; a simple hardback book containing musings on twenty mundane things in my home, illustrated by lovingly simple drawings of said objects. It is not made for performance, but to give to friends and lovers, to brighten up their day.

Changing the world, but only slightly.

John Bently
November 2004

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