Lawrence Upton

Lawrence Upton (b.1949) is a poet, graphic artist, sound artist and curator. He is the current director of Writers Forum, and recently finished his tenure as AHRC Research Fellow in the Music Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is now an Honorary Research Fellow.

Much of Upton’s practice is rooted in, and birthed from, collaboration and multi-disciplinarity. His work, both as an individual and in partnership, probes the relationship between sound, text, image and performance, exploring and extrapolating new mental landscapes and methodology beyond the existing cannon.

He made well-received (reel-to-reel) sound works in his late teens and early twenties and was invited to spend periods as guest composer at Fylkingen in Sweden (1974—1978), that country's foremost association for contemporary music. There, he studied by practice text-sound composition, presenting in 1976 The Last Man's Song, a four channel piece, and, in 1977, an a capella set with cris cheek and Clive Fencott, his colleagues in jgjgjg.

As a member of jgjgjg (1976—1978) he explored improvisation, and began to combine studio-made sound with live performance through studies at West Square Studios and elsewhere, collaborating with cris cheek, Erik Vonna-Michell and later Lilian Ward, and with the groups Bang Crash Wallopp and The Great Escapists.

The Last Man's Song incorporates a studio vocal performance by Bob Cobbing, and Upton contributed to Cobbing's Round Dance. In 1977, the two published their first collaborative publication, FURST FRUTS OF 77.

2 preparatory sketches towards 'Dialogue with Bob Cobbing',
an installation by Guy Begbie and Lawrence Upton.
© Lawrence Upton 2012

In the mid 1970s, Upton served twice as elected Deputy Chairman of The Poetry Society (before resigning in 1978 on a matter of principle) and founded and ran a not-for-profit bookshop in the basement of the Society.

In 1982, he had a solo exhibition of 2d and 3d works, Deteriorating Texts, at the LYC Museum and Art Gallery in Cumbria. His title may suggest a lack of faith in art as monuments, as it is suggestive of cross-disciplinarity.

However, for the rest of that decade, much of his output was mostly for the page (including two large books of Messages to silence, Writers Forum, 1995). He devoted himself to teaching, home life and the study of Computer Science – culminating in a year of full time funded study at Kings College, London 1987—8.

That led eventually to four years as Head of Academic Computing at a London F.E. (1992—1996); but, before that, he had already explored by coding a number of aspects of computer generation of text (Ian's 575's, exhibited at ICA London and SUNY Buffalo in 2011, In praise of John Coltrane and Stone Head). As an “e-poet”, he was a contributor to all three Incubation conferences and has attended all but one of SUNY's e-poetry conferences.

In the early 1990s he renewed and expanded collaborative work with Cobbing, publishing 12 works in all including Collaborations for Peter Finch (1997) and Domestic Ambient Noise (1994—2000: about 2000 pages over 300 pamphlets, performed in full over six years at numerous locations and events). Their Word Score Utterance Choreography (1998) has been very influential.

'Dancer Triptych'
© Lawrence Upton 2005

He has since published Bob Cobbing and the book as medium; designs for poetry (2008); and his book Commentaries on Bob Cobbing is forthcoming.

Between 1994 and 2005, he directed Sub Voicive Poetry, staging around 200 readings and 5 colloquia.

From 2000 until 2006, he spent most of his time in St Ives, Cornwall, in accommodation provided for him, commuting to London events. During that time, he researched the life and work of Alaric Sumner (1952—2000), resulting in: Remembering Alaric Sumner, Masthead 8 (perhaps 500 pages of retrospective & documentation; Alaric Sumner Festival (Camden People's Theatre, 3 full days); Alaric Sumner's Graphics (3 month exhibition at CPT) and the extensive study Some initial responses, after 10 years reading, to Waves on Porthmeor Beach by Alaric Sumner (Readings) – all 2004.

Upton was one of those to whom Bob Cobbing passed Writers Forum just before his own death in 2002; and Upton continues now as its sole director, hosting monthly workshop events in London, publishing literature, and curating exhibitions e.g. Variations on a theme of Bob, Space Studios, 2011. After taking on Writers Forum, he suspended activity of his small press Pointing Device and the magazine Read Write Create which had been irregularly active since 1990, the latter running to 40+ issues.

© Lawrence Upton 2011
By 2005, withdrawn from the metropolis for some years, he had explored a number of intermedia approaches, most notably Trachea with dancer Rory McDermott, using recorded and a capella voice, film and projections (Nottingham, 2003), but took none further.

He ran a series of poetry / dance workshops at Chisenhale Dance Space in 2001 and has since guest-lectured on a number of occasions at Trinity Laban at Creekside.

In 2005, after working with John Levack Drever on events for Alaric Sumner Festival, they began collaborating on multichannel live texts-sound composition, including Close to the literal (8 channel, 2005), NAMELY for Peter Manson (2, 4 and 8 channel, 2009) and Speculative Scores (4 channel, 2011). This work continues and now includes participation by Benedict Taylor and Wilton Azevedo.

His work with Taylor and latterly Tina Krekels is extensive and continues. Workshop research with Tina Bass into scored multivoice verse (2007+) has resulted in Upton's Memory Fictions (2012) and continues.

His book works and installations with Guy Begbie have been widely exhibited since 2010 and he has an intermittent but ongoing collaboration with Chris Goode, largely constrained by the latter's own busy schedule.

He has, he says, no plan for retirement this side of the grave, but plans for many projects if he can fund them.

From Recent Projects

This exhibition, From Recent Projects, explores some of Upton’s current working processes, displaying a number of indicative scores, as bases for performance, and maquettes, as aids to thought experiments; and a silent film arising from his collaboration with the Brazilian plastic artist Wilton Azevedo, as a basis for performance.

Free entry
Open daily
20—27 September 2012
 visiting for further details.

Lawrence Upton will be performing on Wednesday 26th September (19:00-21:30) alongside some of his favourite collaborators, John Drever, Tina Krekels and Benedict Taylor at the event Unsettling Scores as part of the Sho-Zyg showcase.

Please see here for further details of the event.