The Custard Factory, Birmingham
I have this clear memory of having this recurring dream when I was a kid where I was running along the beach with a dog (I don't own a dog and never have) and there was this feeling of dread like I knew something bad was about to happen. I was watching myself in the dream as I got closer and closer to the jagged remains of a broken bottle point up in the sand. At the point where I was just about to tread on the glass, I would always wake up. The point about telling this story is that I later discovered that this was in fact a Government Information Advert that was aired repeatedly in the 1970s when I was growing up. I had the memory filed in the wrong area of my brain or something.
When I went to the Custard Factory Gallery to see the Gary Seven show, curated by Ana Benlloch, I had feeling the same thing had happened again. Gary Seven was a character from the second season of Star Trek (The Original Series), from the episode 'Assignment Earth'. The Character and his assistants; a transmogrifying (Transmoggyrifying?) black cat/woman called Isis, and a ditsy blonde 'hippy' called Roberta were obviously designed as characters for a spin off Gary Seven series, but Paramount decided not to take up the option. Enter a team of Writer/Directors that had experience of working on a Sci-Fi TV series from early Doctor Whos and Gary Seven became British.
Throughout the Seventies and early Eighties, Gary Seven had a small, late night cult following on BBC2, but was axed after an unpopular attempt at a Dr Who style regeneration into a new leading man.
The work in this exhibition refers back to the original episode of Star Trek and the British TV series and features fake TV adverts using a 'Donovan Masters look-alike' (the leading man in the series), a replica of a special effects workbench, examples of outsider/fan art (cardboard and gaffa tape phasers), a black plastic tunnel full of blue fog, and interviews with extras and security guards from the British studios where the series was filmed.
The overall ambience of the show is added to by Stuart Tait's audio work constructed from sound effects from the original Star Trek episode, and a bank of spotlights set up to resemble a lighting rig from a stage set. As I moved around the space a projection of images from Assignment Earth by James Preston flipped and changed on a wall projection and it took me a while to figure out that there were about a half dozen PIR sensors triggering the images to change as I moved between them. I tried standing still and it came up with images of a white computer screen from the same episode.
Works featuring in the show were displayed under names such as Will Fifty Six, Stuart Eight, Justin Zero, as a device referring back to the series. By the end of the show, I was beginning to remember the feeling I used to have when I was allowed to stay up and watch Gary Seven as a child, and was disappointed to be told it was entirely a fiction. At least it wasn't an advert this time. But this is.
© William Martin 2005
Gary Seven curated by Ana Benlloch was at The Custard Factory 9th - 15th May 2005
The Custard Factory, Gibb Square, Birmingham. B9 4AA
T: +44 121 224 7777
Gary Seven Exhibition