Pete Horobin: DATA

May 2012

Publication: The Times

The artist, who for the purposes of this project and exhibition is known as Pete Horobin, has appeared in other guises and with other names. Horobin has changed his name and, more crucially perhaps, his artistic persona as well as his modus operandi every decade since he began practising as a full-time artist. Thus, the identities of ‘Marshall Anderson’ and ‘Peter Haining’ have also served to signify a shift in this practitioner’s approach to art making.
 
 ‘Marshall Anderson’ underlined the artist’s activities as a writer, critic and ceramist in the 1990s, while in the period from 2000 to 2005, under the persona of ‘Peter Haining’, the artist concentrated on documenting and researching ‘outsider’ art, such as that of Angus MacPhee, the celebrated Hebridean ‘weaver of grass’.
 
Horobin is an important artist who is finally beginning to gain some of the recognition his work deserves – and demands. A product of the post-Fluxus generation, Horobin adopts a number of tropes made familiar by Joseph Beuys. Principal among these is the idea that the life of the artist and the process of living is, in itself, a form of art – a work in progress in which anything and everything associated with the artist becomes legitimate artistic material.
 
Beuys famously created ‘Life Course Work Course’ a documentation and chronology in which he described his birth, in 1921, as “Kleve exhibition of a wound drawn together with an adhesive bandage”.
 
This show, which is set out in a broad chronology, demonstrates Horobin’s meticulous self –documentation under the rubric of the acronym DATA: ‘Daily Action Time Archive’.  Horobin produced an A4 template that he completed for every day of the 1980s. Nothing is spared his attention, including defecation, ‘solo sex’ and even blood pressure. 
 
Although much of the material is mundane, as one might expect, it has a cumulative effect not least because of the artist’s total commitment to his own self-historicisation. Data becomes information and is thus transformed from bare fact into narrative. 
 
Horobin also saved and collected everyday materials such as newspaper cuttings, receipts, tickets and other ephemera that he forensically stored in uniform plastic wallets. One example, from 24th January, 1980 shows a receipt from the now defunct supermarket chain William Low, superimposed on a newspaper cutting containing a photograph with the caption ‘The Arts Council gallery in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh…to be turned into office space.’
 
Of his Scottish fellow artists, on 25th February 1981 Horobin writes: “…they are apathetic, lazy, non-communicative, disinterested, unquestioning, non co-operative, self-centred, narrow-minded, dogmatic, unexciting, unadventurous and unimaginative….” Perhaps such strongly held beliefs go some way to explaining Horobin’s lack of exposure and his desire to make connections elsewhere, such as with the European and American avant-garde.
 
While revealing a deep integrity Horobin’s stance must increasingly feel uncomfortable or at the very least ambiguous now that he is gradually being inexorably assimilated into the ‘canon’ of established acceptability.