Being There: David Hoyle

Feature in Issue 21-4 | Winter 2009

Three points-of-view of David Hoyle's installation/performance for Rules & Regs at BAC, 25 September 2009.

The Rules:
1. Think of England
2. Don't be Yourself
3. Be Straight with Us
4. Panic

I’m ushered into a room with a ring of pineapple on my finger, placed there by our host’s rather elegant attendant (‘The Blackamoor’). The room contains an installation/performance/ party presented, hosted and haunted by David Hoyle. The warmth of the welcome makes me question whether our host and I have actually met before. We haven’t. That’s just how things work in this room. It has an intimacy somewhere between a secret society, an adolescent bedroom and your Nan’s front room.

On the walls are a series of photographs, portraits of the growing club of young men who made themselves heard in school corridors and classrooms across the civilised world, gunning down their classmates, teachers and finally themselves. They are in gold frames; an aristocratic lineage of disaffection, icons of alienated youth, the alter-egos and supervillains to our ideal selves.

The walls tell of broken adolescence across the years. With the directness of slogans scrawled on school-books, the evils of society are referenced with words daubed on the white walls in stark red and black – a savage and eclectic barrage of references. This litany of rage is tilted at the dogmas and demands that have broken many young men over the centuries, and balanced with David Hoyle’s: Death, Revenge, Society Is Evil. Be False, Displacement, The Myth of the Masculine.

Among all this is David Hoyle, standing, sitting and dancing by his words. Reworking them, mulling them over, often just chatting about whatever comes up, having a laugh. Wine, grapes, more pineapple rings, candelabra, conversations with strangers: gifts made not against the darkness, but inviting it in, asking how it is doing. Maybe we can start to understand, just a little bit.

We all drink lots and smoke inside.
Tim Harrison

My allocated room was dingy and rather depressing … shades of Miss Haversham (where’s the wedding-cake and mice?!). The budget was spent on transforming the nicotine-esque walls to bright white. Words which related to my interpretation of the four ‘Rules’ were painted onto the walls (expertly by Cath O’ Gorman). I mixed up the aristocratic world of Evelyn Waugh (with particular reference to Brideshead Revisited and the Lygon Family, whose home Madresfield Court served as a template for Brideshead) and the world of Dis-Enchanted Youth, presenting photographs of various youths who had gone into schools or academies and shot people indiscriminately. The Grandiosity of The 18th CenturyHouse Party converging with The Dysfunctional NOW!

I reasoned that there was a connection as some great estates were founded on murder and ruthless seizure of territory – a comment on the seemingly NICE and the seemingly EVIL.

To present the killers as aristocratic ancestors, their faces framed in gold (some smiling attractively), was deliberately provocative. We live in a world where the media feasts on the latest atrocity: they need the killers to sell their product.

These are poisonous times of manipulation and mis-information – is it any wonder that in the confusion guns are fired, people are blown away? We tell our young people that murder is bad, yet at the same time normalise perpetual war.

History records how the aristocracy for centuries ruthlessly sent youths to their deaths. The dukes involved in Highland clearances; the Crimea; Lord Kitchener sending gilded youths in their thousands to be torn apart in Ypres or the Somme during WW1.

I hosted a Party in this room, with wine and candles, and engaged in conversation with all who attended. This was a space that said that at some level ALL is PROFOUNDLY CONNECTED and that DISPLACEMENT activities can distract us from a wider REALITY!

25 September was my first night OPEN to the public! We drank, we conversed, we spun around to the music. We transgressed! Together we created a temporary autonomous zone. It was Bacchanalian, and we all had a wonderful time. Nobody got killed.

Evelyn Waugh was a huge inspiration to the project so I shall finish by quoting what he insisted be printed at the front of Brideshead Revisited. I AM NOT I, THOU IS NOT HE OR SHE, THEY ARE NOT THEY.
David Hoyle

‘Home’ is something of a recurring artistic motif for David Hoyle. The award-winning short film At Home with David Hoyle (directed by Nathan Evans) took us inside his Manchester pad; a visit to BAC for the Burst festival saw him create an artist’s garret usurping the Romantic tradition; and in his latest BAC residency, he’s created a Brideshead-inspired stately home – replete with banqueting table, stained glass windows (well OK, painted Perspex, but equally lovely), and portraits of the aristocracy.

The New Aristocracy, that is… for within the six gilt frames are photographs of ‘Disillusioned and Immortalised Youth’ – high school killers (or presumed would-be-killers). In smaller frames on another wall are some of the bon mots of these young men: ‘Humanity is Over-Rated’ and ‘Remember Me This Way’.

David Hoyle’s performance personae range from extreme alter-egos (like the dearly departed Divine David) through to a lightly masked version of his own dear self, and it is this David that shares the space with us tonight – chatting, drinking, smoking, dancing, discussing his artistic influences.

As a veteran of the punk era, the evening reminds me of the opening of the Prostitution exhibition at the ICA in October 1976. It is interesting to note that it is still the same things that can shock and subvert: the tongue-in-cheek ‘celebration’ of teen violence; the use of images of criminals as artistic icons (remember Vivienne Westwood’s Cambridge Rapist T-shirt?); gay men who refuse to play it straight; an interest in Englishness (Derek Jarman’s Jubilee); the appropriation of upper-class fashion foibles (Adam and The Ants). On that former occasion, the Daily Mail response was ‘These People Are the Wreckers of Civilisation’. And — surprise! — three decades have passed, but we haven’t gone away! Punk: the Crone Generation…
Dorothy Max Prior

David Hoyle was in residence at BAC as a participating artist in Rules & Regs. Musical mixes for the evening were provided by Grim Outlook. David was assisted by Thom Shaw (meeting and greeting).

Rules & Regs is a practice-led development initiative for artists working in Live Art that travels around the UK and is sited at a new venue for each phase of its development. Each month-long programme is curated by a different organisation and culminates in a public exhibition of work, the chosen artists each creating new work in response to rules devised to challenge their usual creative strategies. For the BAC residency, the artists were: David Hoyle, Deborah Pearson, Sharon Smith, and Swen Steinhauser. The artists were in residence at BAC from 1 September 2009, with showings of work taking place 25–26 September, in tandem with the BAC Scratch festival. For further information see

Other David Hoyle events late 2009:

David Hoyle’s Total Abasement came to The Basement arts centre in Brighton on 30 October 2009. See

David’s Theatre of Therapy is at The Chelsea Theatre in London 6 & 7 November as part of the Sacred season, which will also include On the Couch with David Hoyle.

For details of this and other shows and events at Sacred see

David Hoyle will also be hosting a life-drawing class in the sculpture gallery at the V&A in London on 27 November.

If you wish to contact David Hoyle, email

Referenced Artists

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-4
p. 8 - 9