391 Visual Artifacts

When The Famous Fashionable Trousers Label was founded in the early 1980s, it had two purposes. The first was to distribute cassettes that were considered too abstruse even for Deleted Records. The second was as an outlet for a graphic art form that the members of 391 had labelled Waisenkunstwerk - literally "orphaned artwork". (No good reason for giving it a German name - it just sounded more pretentious and "arty".)

This movement was seen as a reaction against the so-called "cult of originality" that 391 believed was polluting the world of fine art: an original painting by Van Gogh, for example, will sell for thousands - maybe millions - of dollars, whereas a print of the same picture can be bought from an art shop for a few pounds. The subject of the painting (i.e. the "idea" of the artist) is the same in both cases, so what is the cause of this vast disparity in value? Simply the "originality" of the source painting. The purity of the artist's conception seemed to have been lost or ignored in an ignominious scramble to possess mere canvas and paint. As a retort to this, 391 proposed a method whereby an original piece of art would be photocopied a number of times. The original "parent" piece would then be destroyed (thus "orphaning" the copied artwork). The copied "orphans" could then be copied further to produce even more "children" or "clones" that would all be indistinguishable from, and as "valid" as, each other. These waisenkunstwerken would then be distributed in the same way as the cassettes - free to anyone who sent a stamped, self-addressed envelope. The recipients would be free to make their own copies and distribute them as they wished. No one could demand an extortionate price for a waisenkunstwerk purely on the basis of its "originality".

A number of these pieces were planned, but only those linked below were ever completed - the cassette-distribution aspect of Fashionable Trousers, along with other commitments, meant that there was virtually no spare time to develop this intriguing idea.

Hell Is A City Much Like London (Triptych): (inspired by a letter from Su The Vampyre)
Panel 1 Panel 2 Panel 3   
Deconstruction of Audrey Hepburn (one of a planned series featuring Audrey Hepburn)
Portrait of Patricia Morrison With Ballerinas and Spider (one of a planned series of female bass players)
Portrait of Gaye Advert (unfinished working copy)
Portrait of Cait O'Riordan (unfinished working copy)
Portrait in Sunglasses on Concrete

STOP PRESS: 391 have produced a new piece of Waisenkunstwerk to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Chris Chubbuck, who shot herself on live television in Sarasota, Florida on 15th July 1974. As far as we can ascertain this is the only image of Chris currently available on the Internet. The artwork itself is, of course, not copyrighted, but if you do use the image we would appreciate a mention:

Portrait Of Chris Chubbuck (low resolution version)

Portrait Of Chris Chubbuck (zip file of full-sized version - 246K)

NB: For the most in-depth analysis of Chris's story, 391 recommend Sally Quinn's article from the Washington Post of 4th August 1974. It features a detailed account of the events of the morning of 15th July 1974, interviews with Chris's family, friends and colleagues, and an investigation into the possible reasons behind her suicide. It's available from the Washington Post archive for the very reasonable sum of $2.95 

Other Works

Portrait of 391 (circa 1980)
Summer Meadow with Spherical Cat (Levitating)
Anamorphic Projection of Audrey Hepburn in the Desert
Be Convincing With Your Eyes And Head (from flyer advertising the Angst In My Pants EP)
The Sound Of Knives And Forks (from flyer advertising the No Easy Way Out cassette)
Psychedelic Mick Davies
The Tree In The Library

391 Home (for those who have arrived via alternative channels)