Bob Jubilé: a year-long celebration of Bob Cobbing
Bob Jubilé is a year-long programme of displays and events devoted to the career and legacy of Bob Cobbing, curated by William Cobbing and Rosie Cooper.*
Bob Cobbing (1920-2002) was ‘the major exponent of concrete, visual and sound poetry in Britain’ (Robert Sheppard, The Guardian). His performances of printed sound poems involved stretching language through the deployment of shouts, hisses, groans, interspersed between more recognisable tracts of spoken word.
19 November – 19 December
16 John Islip Street, SW1P 4JU
11am – 5pm Wednesday-Friday
Destruction in Art, 1966
Concrete poet, arts organiser, publisher and printmaker Bob Cobbing (1920-2002) is best known for his performed works in which language is anarchically stretched and dismantled through the deployment of shouts, groans and hisses, interspersed between recognisable tracts of spoken word. He also made innumerable publications and prints, visual scores that blur the distinction between decipherable text and abstract imagery, making use of typography, image and found texts, and using the typewriter, printing press, screen print, photocopier and computer to replicate, destroy and remake.
Bill Jubobe highlights the interrelation between Cobbing’s live performance and his experiments on paper, considering the two as inseparable. The exhibition presents rarely seen footage of his live performances from the 1970s until his death, alone and with Birdyak (Lol Coxhill, Jennifer Pike and Hugh Metcalfe). Publications of his anthologies, released under his prolific Writers Forum imprint, are available for visitors to leaf through, and graphic posters announcing his innumerable performances cover the walls.
The exhibition’s title is an excerpt from a line written by Cobbing’s friend and collaborator François Dufrene, “Bob jubile et, bien sur, à la langue, Bill jubobe”: a tongue-twister that stresses the material presence of written and performed language in Cobbing’s work, casting Cobbing himself as the anagrammatic protagonist. Cobbing liked the quote so much that in 1976 he used it as the title for one of his books.
Intensely collaborative, Cobbing worked with many outstanding figures of the international sound and poetry scenes of the 1960s and 1970s, including Dom Sylvester Houédard, Henri Chopin, Allen Ginsberg, Jeff Nuttall, Paula Claire, and his wife Jennifer Pike. In the mid 1960s he was the manager of Better Books on Charing Cross Road, London, helping to make it an important centre for performance and publishing. During his time there, the bookshop hosted events as part of the Destruction in Art Symposium (1966) as well as being the headquarters for the emergent London Filmmakers Co-op, co-founded by Cobbing.
Cobbing had an early career as a schoolteacher, where he worked enthusiastically with pupils to set up film screenings, libraries and magazines, which led to his formative project Group H, an experimental art society based in Hendon, North London. Cobbing’s entry into the world of concrete poetry came in 1964, with the writing of his alphabetical sequence ‘ABC In Sound’, recorded for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. He made further recordings for Fylkingen Records in Stockholm, and with anarchic noise ensembles abAna and Birdyak. He was also committed to the promotion and publication of other poets, artists and writers’ works. Between 1963 and 2002 Writers’ Forum published more than 1,000 pamphlets and books of his own works as well as many others including Jeff Nuttall and Dom Sylvester Houédard.
From 1965 to 1967 he managed the legendary bookstore Better Books on Charing Cross Road, a focal point for the countercultural ‘Bomb Culture’ scene. While he was there, Cobbing published texts by Allen Ginsberg and John Cage, and vinyl records of sound poetry by Henri Chopin and Francois Dufrene. In 1966 Cobbing collaborated with Gustav Metzger to present a series of events for Destruction in Art Symposium, and screened Jeff Keen’s 1967 short film collage ‘Marvo Movie’, for which he made the soundtrack. The Better Books programme, ‘Cinema 65’, led to the formation of the London Filmmakers’ Co-op. In 1966 he became a founding member and vice president of the Association of Little Presses and served on the council of the Poetry Society.
In the last decade Cobbing’s works have featured in survey exhibitions of 1960’s visual culture including ‘Live in your Head’ at Whitechapel (2000), ‘Shoot, Shoot, Shoot’, a LUX touring exhibition (2004), the Radio 4 documentary of his practice ‘Make Perhaps This Out Sense Of Can You’ (2011), and ‘Eye Music for Dancing’ at Flat Time House (2012.)
*Texts taken from the Bob Jubilé and Chelsea Space websites