Friday, December 7, 2012. There is a show of MFA work-in-progress opening next week, so I’m here to see how Kate’s getting on with her set up. “Smile,” I say, taking her picture, half her face in the light and half in darkness. Which, as it happens, is appropriate.


The biggest piece is in place, projecting onto the back wall behind Kate. That is a short video, a swimming scene, edited from the home movies that Kate’s father made in the late fifties and early sixties. The other moving image is not yet working. Kate has attempted to transfer the interview she gave me in her studio from memory stick to DVD, but the blankness of the monitor on the floor suggests the DVD has not been properly burned.


Kate is off to find Andy, the technician who advised her how to make the DVD. I take a picture as she walks back through the rest of the Hub. We know this space, as a few months ago it was the venue for the final show of the previous year’s MFA. The full-time students of Kate’s year were assessed yesterday and this morning, which is why they are not around right now, the whole process having been stressful (each artist talked for fifteen minutes about his or her work), leaving them needing a break before returning to re-present their work for the public opening of the show. That’s Sam’s space with floor markings to the right, which is unfinished due to her illness (though she did make it in for the assessment). That’s Anna’s colourful paintings on the left, though Anna has been in hospital and the work was erected for her by technicians. There has been a fair amount of mucking in together. When Kate’s first attempt to burn a DVD failed, after having followed Andy’s instructions, Nicole offered to help Kate burn a second disc. It’s the non-functioning of the second disc that sees Kate returning to Andy for advice.


When Andy appears, he soon establishes that the second disc is fine. Once the leads are sorted out, the monitor bursts into light. The green of the painted backdrop shines out like the old friend it has become. I’m glad it’s been transferred from the studio to the show in some form. But what else is there? I make my way to the plinth on which the projector is resting. Because the plinth is the other place where Kate’s work is on display.


The frame on the left contains a photograph of four people sitting at a table, perhaps at a dinner dance, circa 1960. It also contains an envelope which is postmarked the Isle of Man, 2012. This is the envelope that the photograph came in from Kate’s aunt (Gaga’s daughter). Margo is elderly and frail, like her brother George, and doesn’t want to be interviewed about her mother. However, she was pleased to be able to provide a few photographs and Kate wants to acknowledge this.

In the photograph, both Gaga and the other woman at the dinner table are wearing long gloves. A pair of black gloves has been placed in the pages of a book called
In Search of Charm. This book was a gift from Gaga to Kate in 1962 (when the book was published), or 1963 (when Kate was 13), and I know that Kate is going to be enacting a set of instructions from it during the opening of the show next Wednesday. I know also that I am looking forward to this performance.

From here, one gets a view of Kate’s whole show as it stands. As I’m taking it all in, I notice that there are two pairs of headphones attached to the monitor on the floor. Are they working? I make my way towards them and - still standing - put on a set.


She was airy-fairy, head in the clouds, a bit like you really,” says the voice from the headphones

Ha! - it’s that bit where Kate is reporting how her father, George, spoke of Gaga when she interviewed him.

By looking at the projected image while listening to the monitor’s soundtrack, I’m making the experience quite complicated. Let’s see... George, a father of two young children, takes a video of his daughter, Kate, being taught to swim. Fifty years later, George, an elderly man, talks to Kate rather disparagingly about his mother, Gaga. Well, no, it’s Kate’s voice that is coming to me via the headphones reporting the conversation with her father from her seat in front of the painted backdrop which is based on a picture postcard that Gaga sent her from roughly the time when Kate was being taught to swim. Whew! - I could do with a bit of help to keep my head above water too.


Gaga, George, Kate: three generations of Clayton, tentatively held together by bonds of... what?

Kate: grandmother and granddaughter.
Airy-fairy, head in the noose...

A tap on my shoulder recalls me to the present. Kate wants my advice as to whether she should include the postcard itself in the show. Actually, not just the postcard, but the print based on the postcard that she’s temporarily hung in the bottom right hand corner of the back wall.

“What do you think?” she asks me.

“I like the scale difference between the card and the projected image.”

Is that what I mean? No, not just that: “Although the tiny postcard is speaking to the image on the monitor and the print in the corner - not to the projected image - I like the fact that the projection is not directly linked. It’s all work-in-progress after all, and you haven’t tried to tie it all up too tightly into a single installation.”

“There is a connection though. The postcard was sent to me at about the same time as I was taught to swim. I’m more concerned about the print. To use it or not! I didn’t think I was going to use it, I thought it would labouring a point, or an image. But actually I think I am going to use it.”

The print is of the postcard. But Kate has used Photoshop to overlay it onto a photograph of Brancourt Lodge, the house in Bromborough where Gaga used to live, close to the house where Kate lived with her parents and much younger sister.


“I think I’m going to call the postcard
Picture Postcard. I’ve thought about it and I am happy to call the postcard a work, at least a provisional work, even though I’ve done nothing to it except stick it on the wall.”

“Actually, by sticking it on the wall you take the message side of the card out of circulation. Doesn’t Gaga write about ‘snow-capped mountains’? You could use that as a title.”


Kate: “She also writes that she has a lovely bedroom with a balcony. I do think that could be the title of the print, because of the subtle presence of Brancourt Lodge. If you look closely you can just about make out Gaga at the upstairs window. She is there.”


I walk from plinth to print to take a closer look.

“I think I can see Gaga waving at the lovely Swiss children in their red leather shoes. I wonder if she is asking them to come in for their lunch.”

“She’s asking them to come in for jap cakes - which are made from egg whites and almonds and come from the bakers in a special white box which has to be untied. The Brancourt Lodge tea ceremony. And after eating the cakes we are all invited to look at the Vermeer prints Gaga has on display.”

Actually, that kid on the right does look a bit like Kate sitting on the stool. Or is it just the way she’s sitting and the way she’s dressed? I wander back to the plinth while Kate lords it over the space. And why shouldn’t she? It’s hers after all.


Kate carries on talking about neglected facets of her life fifty years ago, while the image of herself as the child she was bobs about on the water behind her. Supported by a rubber ring (and by a steel reinforced noose) in those days, supported by decades of independent experience now.

“Will you be doing your performance from that stool?” I ask. “Gloves and all?”


“On the one hand, I might,” says Kate. “And on the other I might not.”

Did I say I was looking forward to the performance? I am really looking forward to catching another glimpse of Kate’s all-but-forgotten ancestor. Or whatever it is that Kate intends to present in her Search for Charm.