The most important idea behind this show was that I wanted to work with my son Charlie Whittuck. We had worked together before – somehow I’ve made a habit of working with members of my family. He is a sculptor and very good at making things and coming up with unusual ideas. The trouble is, he’s not very good at being pinned down to proper conversation, being someone who’s always on a mission of his own.
In 1978 I did a show Packed Lunch at the Hayward Annual. I met an artist there called Jim Wilding who made extraordinary mechanical sculpture machines. I thought I’d love to collaborate with him but he buggered off to live in Germany and has firmly stayed there ever since. When it occurred to me that Charlie had Jim’s skills I was buzzing. I told him about Jim and asked him if he’d like to work with me and he said ‘Oh, so you spawned me then’. But he agreed to give it a try. He had already made some great stuff for shows but with Mad Gyms I wanted the chance to collaborate more closely with him over a longer period of time.
His first suggestion for the touring gym and kitchen show was to emulate the Fischer Price children’s mini kitchen. A promising start.
Driving down to Bath for the 2-week residency we finally started to talk about the idea. Charlie said, “So what’s a residency?” I said, “I don’t know”.
They were so kind and welcoming in Bath, so in the end we ‘performed’ doing a residency so as to be polite. But we came up with some good ideas and Charlie made some magnificent models.