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Art and Culture AKA Still and Chew (1966-1969 or 1966-67) by John Latham (1921-2006) is a key work of conceptual art that was purchased by the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in 1969. It consists of a few chewed up pages from a book in a labeled glass jar, and various supplementary documents. John Perreault stripped the frequently repeated legends that surround this piece down to their bare bones in an Arts Journal blog: "John Latham is an art hero because in 1966 he instigated an event called Still and Chew that required several participants to bite off, masticate, and then spit out pages from Clement Greenberg's Art and Culture. The results were put in a flask and returned to the library from which the artist had borrowed that influential, devilish collection of essays. Because of this, Latham was fired from his teaching job at the prestigious St. Martins School of Art in London, and as far as I know he never taught again." (December 12, 2006).

All of which sounds very groovy but it isn't true; and it simultaneously demonstrates that many art critics are incapable of looking beyond the end of their own nose and should be actively discouraged from producing cultural commentary. Before demolishing the urban myth that Latham was sacked from St Martins, I'd just like to note that a year after moving on from that institution, he dabbled as a teacher at the Anti-University of London (alongside the likes of David Cooper and Allen Krebs). Likewise, tutors aren't dismissed from their teaching posts for failing to return library books; or even for destroying/transforming the odd tome! When Still and Chew is exhibited the supplementary material shown with it is supposed to include a document dated 14 June 1967, which certain commentators have misrepresented as a letter notifying Latham of his dismissal from St Martins. In fact this missive from Latham's line manager reads as follows: "I have been considering our working programmes for next year, and I am sorry that we will be unable to invite you to do any teaching for us."

Latham was not sacked, he was on a standard temporary lecturer's contract that was not renewed. The ILEA Engagement Form covered this and Latham would have been issued with one for the "Engagement of part-time teachers in higher and further education colleges". The formal conditions stipulate - point 2: "All engagements automatically terminate at the end of the session. During the session, the engagement may be terminated without notice if a class is closed or merged… Otherwise, the engagement is subject to a fortnight's notice on either side." Since the letter Latham received was issued on the 14 June 1967, it is safe to assume that the end of term and academic year was an 'automatic termination of contract'.

If Latham believed that having been employed by St Martins for 2 years on temporary contracts, he was automatically entitled to further extensions of them, then he was delusional. Apparently basing their arguments on a critical reading of Latham's unreliable propaganda about the matter, commentators such as Simon Ford have suggested that this artist's unconventional teaching methods may be the real reason he was not re-employed. If not going to work and leaving students to their own devices can be described as a form of teaching, then I guess it is reasonable to describe Latham's methods as radical. Likewise, it seems that Latham was not popular with the vast bulk of those attending St Martins, although a few students such as Barry Flanagan and the under-documented Jeff Sawtell (who participated in Still and Chew and assisted Latham in organising his  April 1967 'book plumbing' events at Better Books) viewed him as 'an ally and hero'.

Jeff Sawtell has an interesting background, he arrived in London in 1965 to become an artist after jacking in his factory job at Ellesmere Port. He soon found himself involved with both Soho bohemia and drugs, and became close to John Latham. Obviously other members and former members of the sculpture department - such as Alexander Trocchi - were considerably more notorious for their drug use than Latham, but they were all part of the same milieu. Trocchi, for example, also collaborated with Latham on non-college based events and projects such as Sigma and Wholly Communion (1). Sawtell tells me his odyssey through the drug scene had ended by 1972. After leaving St Martins, Sawtell played a key role in Royal College of Art Redefined AKA RCA Re-Defined (Yellow Paper 1970) – Sawtell referred to it recently in a comment he left on an Arts Against Cuts blog post. RCA Re-Defined was an early-seventies student-led audit of the Royal College of Art, which eventually grew into a radical new model of art education. There are few visible residues of these confrontational challenges to institutional power in Sawtell's more recent role as a film critic for the Morning Star newspaper.

Returning to Latham and his failure to secure ongoing temporary teaching contracts from St Martins, his employers seem to have had issues with him using his teaching time to further the interests of the Artists Placement Group (APG). Latham claimed to be spending about 80 hours a week working on the APG project, and viewed it as an essential part of his teaching even when it was taking him away from the college and the supervision of his students. That said, my suspicion is that the main reason Latham was no longer wanted at St Martins had more to do with the institution being completely freaked out by the fact that some of its tutors were prominent in the burgeoning drug culture. A dawning awareness of this appears to have been awakened in the college hierarchy after the theft in December 1965 of supplies a wine merchant and caterers had left in the building.

All the parties involved agreed that the value of the stolen alcohol was around £50, the value of purloined food was disputed. Taking just the booze, £50 was a considerable sum of money in 1965. It also seems that this was not an isolated incident, but the culmination of ongoing 'bad behaviour' by students and possibly even one or more tutors. Moreover, this problematic behaviour was not restricted to individuals directly connected to the institution. A number of people, including Jeff Sawtell, have suggested to me that up to the mid-sixties St Martins formed an integral part of the Soho scene and after hours would fill up with all manner of bohemians, pimps, prostitutes and other hangers-on. Following on from the Christmas 1965 theft, the college authorities wanted to put an end to this open door situation, and so began restricting access to the building.

A further part of the fall out from this theft may have been notorious British beat novelist and junkie Alexander Trocchi failing to have his contract to teach in the sculpture department renewed in the spring of 1966. Trocchi taught at St Martins on a pretty much full-time basis from October 1964 until March 1966. He'd been brought in by Frank Martin, then Head of Sculpture, to shake up the department. Towards the end of his time at St Martins, Trocchi also ran The Sculpture Forum, a weekly series of talks and discussions. Curiously, Fluxus artist Yoko Ono was a tutor in the St Martins painting department when Trocchi was teaching sculpture. This was, of course, prior to her relationship with pop singer John Lennon. Trocchi, it has been alleged, was dealing heroin to students – and this may well have been one of the main reasons the college decided to dispense with his services. Trocchi viewed drugs as a major aid to the creative process. Given his relationship with Trocchi, and other documentary and anecdotal evidence, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Latham may well have shared this outlook.

Aside from Trocchi, I am aware of at least one other St Martins tutor who was involved in extensive drug dealing. This was Francis Morland, who from the mid-sixties onwards was a major international cannabis smuggler. Morland left St Martins for a post at Norwich School of Art in 1966, but was soon booted out of the latter institution due to his 'scandalous' relationships with students, which included – but was not limited to – supplying them with LSD. Morland's troubles at Norwich began very shortly after his departure from St Martins' sculpture department and they may have played a role in hardening institutional attitudes towards Latham. It is Morland's more domestic-scale drug sharing and his informal but passionate relationships with students that are most likely to have impacted on Latham's fortunes as a teacher, since Morland's first smuggling bust didn't take place until 1969 (although it remains possible the St Martins hierarchy heard rumours about his activities as a major-league international drug smuggler as early as 1966; both his fearlessness and lack of discretion are legendary).

As far as I can tell, Latham was not involved in extensive drug dealing of the type favoured by Trocchi and Morland. However, his unconventional teaching methods - and the way he built relationships with the few students attracted to him - would have put him in the frame beside Trocchi and Morland as a prime example of the type of staff St Martins no longer wished to employ as it attempted to crack down on what the administration perceived to be a criminal element within the institution. Especially if, following Trocchi and Morland's lead, Latham indulged in recreational drug use with his students. It seems to me that alongside other matters, Latham's visibility within the counterculture - which for many of those outside it acted as a synonym for the drug culture - was a factor (and possibly the main reason) for St Martins deciding not to retain his services at the end of the 1967 summer term. My impression is that the college was attempting to clean up its image, and as a matter of policy letting go of tutors who it suspected of drug use, when it decided not to issue Latham with a new contract. While from most points of view Latham was a very minor 'offender' with regard to drug abuse if measured against Trocchi or Morland, his behaviour and visibility within the counterculture still left St Martins as an institution open to recriminations.

As already noted, one of the many things that infuriated the St Martins administration about Latham was that he expected the college to pay him for time he devoted to the Artist's Placement Group (APG). In correspondence with St Martins, he gave the 80 or so hours a week he claimed he was devoting to the APG (a lobby group for Latham and a handful of his fellow professional artists), as an excuse for not going into the college to teach students. Latham expected to be paid even if he omitted to perform the work he'd been contracted to undertake. He doesn't appear to have understood that St Martins weren't paying him to do whatever he wanted, and that he had been contracted by the college to teach students on their premises. Likewise, he seems to have been completely oblivious to the fact that his failure to perform the duties for which he was employed was further compounded in the eyes of the college administration by his unwillingness to even turn up for work.

The Portable John Latham - edited and introduced by Antony Hudek and Athanasios Velios (Occasional Papers, London 2010, page 33) - reproduces a typed 'document' that demonstrates Latham's pseudologia fantastica with regard to his failure to secure ongoing employment from St Martins. Latham's untitled paper is presented as notes from a meeting about his 'dismissal' from the college. Given that Latham was not dismissed, he is either misrepresenting a meeting or meetings about something else, or else the entire encounter covered by this set of notes is a product of his fetid imagination. Latham provides a list of three reasons discussed at this fictionalised meeting to bolster the much repeated lie that he was sacked: "1. The incident of the book distillation work"; "2. Professional inadequacy"; "3. Poor attendance" (implicit in the notes is that this poor attendance was on Latham's part; i.e. he failed to turn up for work). Latham writes that a fourth reason for the loss of his job - his attempts to put 'personal views... into operation without submitting them to other members of staff' - was not raised at the fictionalised meeting that forms the backdrop to his fraudulent notes.

In the papers from the St Martins archive that were recently put on public display (2), and more specifically those that deal with Latham's employment there, I saw nothing to suggest the college administration was aware of his claims to have transformed one of their library books into a work of art. Based on St Martins documents I have seen, items 2 and 3 on Latham's list do echo what the college administration thought of him as a teacher - but it should be stressed they did not sack him, but rather chose to let him go when his temporary contract expired. Latham's fictional document has a college representative telling him: "Your base is too narrow... I can't run the school on the basis of one student to one staff... Your influence on students has been negligible except for one or two..." Although Latham's assertion that he was sacked by St Martins is an outright lie, the editors of The Portable John Latham provide the following incredibly deceptive and uncritical description of it: "John Latham, document regarding dismissal from St Martins School of Art, London, undated".

If Latham had been sacked - and obviously he wasn't - he would have received a letter of dismissal. The absence of such a document is one of a number of gaping holes in both The Portable John Latham and other naive publications about this self-mythologising artist. It is difficult to understand why Hudek and Velios (among others) appear to accept Latham's absurd claims about how he came to leave St Martins, when there is no evidence for it beyond the self-interested lies of the man himself - and the echo these find in his supporters. I'd imagine that most of those who met Latham quickly realised it was impossible to have a rational discussion with him. My experience in the 1980s was that when I challenged one of Latham's assertions with a counter-argument, he either ignored what I had to say, or else he responded by attacking me over words he put in my mouth - and which bore no relation to what I'd actually said. Given the lack of corroborative evidence for much of what Latham and his supporters claim, I find it surprising that the editors of The Portable John Latham fail to properly address the rather dubious status of the material they've gathered together in this publication.

Shortly after being informed St Martins would not be re-employing him, Latham was charged with possession of a Durophet tablet without a doctor's prescription and various other non-drug related offences including obstruction. As a consequence, he was summoned to appear at Bow Street Magistrates Court at 10.30am on 20 September 1967. Latham claimed that the Durophet belonged to a St Martins student who he'd been looking after as a 'pastoral care' duty in addition to teaching him. (3) This and much of the other information I'm including in this essay is documented in St Martins archival material that was recently on display at In Exchange, a gloriously chaotic exhibition put together by current Central St Martins students at the Lethaby Gallery between January and March 2011. The material on display was constantly changed, and was rarely identical on two consecutive days. A series of accompanying talks and discussions provided further anecdotal evidence from former staff and students about Latham, and related 1960s counterculture and drug manifestations in and around St Martins.

When I spoke to the former student Latham claimed had asked him to look after the speed, the individual in question insisted his teacher's assertion that the Durophet belonged to him wasn't true. I'm inclined to believe the former student (who doesn't want to be named) rather than Latham on this matter. Indeed, it appears that this former student only learnt that Latham had used his name in this way more than forty years after the event. I ran into Latham quite often at London art openings during the mid to late-eighties and he left me with the impression that he'd been a serious speed freak. Therefore, I was not surprised to learn more recently that back in the sixties he'd been busted for possessing a black bomber, the street term for Durophet; some people also called them black beauties. Both black bombers and purple hearts were used to treat obesity in the 1960s, but this was discontinued as a medical practice due to their side-effects; and possibly also because of their popularity among recreational drug users. Taking Latham's bust as one of a number of pieces of evidence suggesting that he was probably a speed freak (his skinniness and tendency towards motor-mouthed paranoia indicate it too), might lead to some curious re-readings of Still and Chew and other works. Since Latham apparently used appetite suppressants like black bombers for recreational purposes, this can certainly provide us with a humorous angle on why a book - allegedly written by Clement Greenberg - was chewed and then spat out.

Since the Saint Martins administration appear to have been more concerned with Latham's relatively high profile within a counterculture that was awash with drugs and his brushes with the law (there was another one, for example, in September 1966 over his contribution to the London Destruction In Art Symposium), than what he claimed to have done to a Greenberg book he'd allegedly borrowed from their library, we ought to use such knowledge to transform the - to date - largely erroneous critical reception of Still and Chew.

Before being sold to MOMA, Still and Chew was exhibited at least three times. Its first public showing seems to have been at Finch College Museum of Art, New York, as part of the exhibition Destruction in Art: Destroy to Create, running from 10 May to 20 June 1968. It was shown again at the Bluecoat Gallery in Liverpool (UK) as part of a three week Latham exhibition in a series entitled The Art Forum during January and February 1969. While the show was being hung, one of Latham's paintings was daubed by vandals, and either at the same time or a little later, the letter mentioned above that formed a part of Still and Chew in its incarnation as Art and Culture was stolen. Through his solicitors Diamond & Co., Latham demanded £200 from The Bluecoat for the damage to his painting, and £800 for the loss of the letter dated 14 June 1967 telling him his teaching contract would not be renewed by St. Martins.

The Bluecoat's insurers queried the £800 value Latham placed on the stolen letter, and this left the gallery liable for a loss it lacked the funds to cover. On 2 June 1969 Diamond & Co. wrote to the Bluecoat stating that if their client had not received concrete proposals for resolving the matter within 10 days then they would issue proceedings without further notice. As a consequence, a representative of the Bluecoat wrote to St Martins asking them if they would supply a copy of the letter to Latham dated 14 June 1967 from their files. Since the Bluecoat did not close, the matter was resolved by some means, although exactly how is not known to me. One possibility is that this was done by raising funds from supporters, or else by taking legal action against the gallery's insurers and forcing them to cover the loss. Another possibility is that St Martins furnished either the Bluecoat or Latham with a copy of the letter. And there are, of course, other ways in which the matter may have been resolved.

Still and Chew may or may not have been shown as a part of Number 7 curated by Lucy Lippard at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York between 18 May and 16 June 1969. If it was shown there it would be interesting to know whether this was with or without a genuine copy of the letter dated 14 June 1967. The work was then placed in another exhibition curated by Lippard entitled 557,087 Seattle (the city's population at the time of the show) at Seattle Art Museum between 5 September and 5 October 1969. Shortly after this, Still and Chew AKA Art and Culture was sold to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

What all this raises for anyone interested in Latham's work is the provenance of the letter dated 14 June 1967 that constitutes a part of Still and Chew AKA Art and Culture as held by MOMA. Logic dictates that the document must either be genuine or a fake - and for me this matter has yet to be resolved, so let's look at both possibilities. If the letter is genuine then either it was recovered from whoever stole it (something that strikes me as unlikely unless it was nicked by Latham himself in order to dun the Bluecoat and their insurers out of £800), or else St Martins supplied a further copy of the letter based on the material they held on file. If the latter possibility proves to be the case, it might be argued that this is not the original document and that the monetary value placed on the whole work should be substantially lowered: in asking the Bluecoat for £800 to cover his loss, Latham himself claimed that the piece had no financial value without this letter.

I have seen Still and Chew AKA Art and Culture bracketed with two different sets of composition dates, viz 1966-67 and 1966-69. The fact that MOMA use the latter dating might be taken to suggest the letter was reissued by St Martins, since if the original document had been recovered it would seem more logical to bracket the work with the earlier 1966-67 date. That said, without further evidence MOMA's dating is not conclusive proof the letter was reissued, and since the work contains more than one document, their post-1967 dating does not necessarily refer to the problematic letter of 14 June 1967.

I like the idea of Latham stealing his own letter and thereby emphasising the con in conceptual art at its very inception. However, while I find this notion very attractive, I know of no evidence that would prove it, and so the possibility must remain for me at this juncture purely speculative. If the letter in MOMA's possession is 'genuine' the most likely explanation for this is that St Martins did provide Latham – either directly or via The Bluecoat Gallery – with a further copy of it. But why would St Martins do so when in the process they would be assisting Latham in his construction of a public persona as a misunderstood 'genius' who'd been 'persecuted' by this art school? A charitable explanation might be that those in positions of authority at St Martins were horrified by the threat Latham posed to the future of the Bluecoat Gallery, and wished to avert its closure. On top of which they may have felt there was nothing dishonourable in their behaviour, and that by allowing their letter of 14 June 1967 to remain in public circulation, they would puncture the more outlandish claims doing the rounds about their decision not to re-employ Latham; but if this was the case, then they misjudged the matter.

By way of contrast, a cynic might suggest that by furnishing Latham with a further copy of this letter, St Martins were deliberately propagating the myth that they'd treated him shabbily and did so as part of a self-conscious cover-up of the fact that they'd employed a number of 'drug fiends' as tutors; viz, if people believed Latham no longer worked for St Martins because he'd destroyed a library book, then this would quash any rumours about the college not wanting to renew his contract because he was a motorhead. Talk of tutors using drugs would be more damaging to an institution like St Martins than claims it was unsympathetic to avant-garde innovation, since the British government that funded it had little sympathy for either frolics involving the 'destruction' of library books or pharmaceutical experimentation (but would have found the latter more worrying). Thus if St Martins did furnish Latham with a further copy of the letter, and further the college was worried about his drug use damaging its reputation, its actions can be viewed as a damage limitation exercise.

There remains, nonetheless, the possibility that the document held by MOMA is neither the original letter nor a copy sanctioned by St Martins, but instead a brazen fake. If this is the case, then who would have fabricated the fraudulent letter? It seems unlikely The Bluecoat would have attempted to forge the document since even if those running this space had been inclined to do so, without the 'original' to consult it is improbable they could have produced something good enough to fool Latham. I really like the idea of Latham producing a fraudulent copy of it himself. But unfortunately once again I'm unaware of any evidence with which it might be possible to prove such a claim - so for now this notion is purely speculative.

For me the richness of Latham's work lies precisely in the type of questions it has allowed me to raise here, and I say this knowing the art world fetishises the 'authenticity' of objects - and thus the use value of Still and Chew operates in an inverse relationship to its financial worth. Since the actual back story to the 'work' completely outstrips the myths that surround it, as news of this spreads it may well damage the monetary value of both Still and Chew and the rest of Latham's output (which basically hasn't been selling after a very short spurt of market interest following his death in 2006). Given this, it will be interesting to see whether MOMA sponsors research into the matters raised here, and possibly even forensic examinations of Still and Chew AKA Art and Culture; or whether this institution chooses to ignore what I and others have to say, in the hope that the market value of its holdings are not damaged.

For me, the more fraudulent Latham's life turns out to be, the more I will like it. Since Latham could not be trusted to tell the truth about anything, I think until we have conclusive proof, we should not assume that the book destroyed to create Still and Chew was a St Martin's library copy of Art and Culture. I'd like to think Latham had the last laugh on those critics who took him seriously and who he could have hoaxed by using chewed up pages from something like Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts or I, The Jury by Mickey Spillane to make Still and Chew. I enjoy Latham's work in expanded cinema, some of his painting and sculpture, but most of all his Skoob Towers groove me. Nearly everything else he involved himself in is just so much worthless froth.

Unfortunately much of the current research into Latham - with funding from pathetic academic bodies such as the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) - lack any worthwhile historical framework, and simply take what Latham and his supporters have to say at face value (despite the fact that the sources they are using are less than reputable). Typical of this is the AHRC funded Archive As Event, which summarises itself as follows: "This research project is about organising the writings, correspondence and other archival documents of John Latham at his house in South London. The research will produce detailed descriptions of the archive contents and a newly designed database and classification system that will mirror Latham's theories on 'Events and Event Structures'. Without the presence of John Latham, this research will allow his material to be presented to a new generation of artists and academics in a manner consistent with his way of thinking, promoting new work and disseminating his thinking to a much wider audience."

Doh! Let's run that again - Latham's 'material' is "to be presented to a new generation of artists and academics... disseminating his thinking to a much wider audience.' Artists and academics are a specialised audience, not a wide one! Likewise, you can safely bet that Archive As Event won't be handing out black bombers to anyone interested in emulating Latham's speed freak paranoia, oops sorry I mean 'thought'. This is unfortunate because given that Latham's theories are ridiculous and he was a self-mythologiser, projects such as Archive As Event are clearly on a hiding to nothing by taking what this artistic fraud had to say at face value. Handing out free drugs would be considerably more useful than what Archive As Event are actually doing. This academic waste of time also mirrors the difficulties I have with Latham's APG - since after the APG came up with the notion of the incidental person operating within industry, they immediately allowed this vision to collapse back into the decrepit figure of the artist (which funded researchers ape by collapsing back into the decrepit figure of the academic).

It should go without saying that in order to build a revolutionary new world it will be necessary to do away with art and academia. In the meantime, our task is to exacerbate the contradictions within the art and academic worlds - and all other sectors of the capitalist economy - as well as enjoying the ride as these worn out and anti-social forms race towards their demise! "Art is dead baby, burn the museums!"

1. Jeff Nuttall describes his and Latham's abortive contribution to Wholly Communion this way: "At the Albert Hall reading John Latham and I were to have a battle. We dressed in blue paint and huge Aztec costumes of books which we were to tear off one another. Trocchi forgot to signal our entrance. As we waited in the wings John passed out. There was a fight with one of the British Legion attendants who tried to prevent Cohen and I from using a door as a stretcher to carry John to Sir Malcolm Sargent's dressing-room. It was the same attendant, pulverized by the goodly Anglo-Saxon pouring forth from Jewish lips down in the auditorium, who burst into Sir Malcolm's bathroom, found John and I giggling and washing one another, assumed the worst and staggered away in an advanced state of shock." (Jeff Nuttall, Bomb Culture, Paladin, London 1970, page 229 - this is the paperback edition, the hardback was published by MacGibbon & Key in 1968). Nuttall fails to convey that the piece - Juliet & Romeo - was a work of expanded cinema. Click here for some further details about it, based around a 2009 restaging of the work.

2. In Exchange, a student show and archival exhibition at the Central St Martins Lethaby Gallery, London, January-March 2011.

3. Latham's claim that he was carrying speed as a favour for one of his St Martins students - an assertion the student in question says is untrue - may in part account for a couple of other documents that aren't properly contextualised in The Portable John Latham. On page 35 what the editors describe as a 'letter from Roland Penrose and Bernard Bertschinger' contains the following: "On August 22nd, the police arrested seven Dutch artists outside the new I.C.A. building during the drawing of a continuous chalk line from London to Amsterdam. The drawing was being watched by many people including Desmond Morris and John Latham... Subsequently in court the police brought the charge that he (Latham) had been drawing the line and the story was corroborated under oath by two constables. The magistrate dismissed the case against John Latham, and also granted an absolute discharge on a further indictment in connection with his appointment at the St Martins School of Art.... Latham was acquitted firstly because he was innocent and secondly because of the efficient defence..."

The idea that Latham was acquitted - if he actually was, since one can never trust information that originates from Latham and his camp - because 'he was innocent', rather undermines Penrose and Bertschinger's credibility. The British legal system serves those who are brought before it very poorly in terms of 'justice'. If Latham got off it was because he was middle-class and able to muster support from the bourgeois art world and engage decent legal representation. While I'd dismiss out of hand the claims the cops made in court, since it is well known the old bill routinely lie to get convictions, I think it's worth invoking what Jeff Nuttall has to say about this matter on pages 180-181 of Bomb Culture (op cit, footnote 1): Tjeb van Tijen... has organised... a continuous drawing that started in London, spread along the streets to a taxi, thence to a plane, from the plane to an Amsterdam taxi to the Stedelijk Museum. A number of the draughtsmen involved, including John Latham, were arrested in London and subjected to heavy fines." On page 202 of Bomb Culture, Nuttall says: "They arrest sigma artists for drawing on the pavement and they arrest John Latham for protesting about it." Although I view Nuttall as an at times questionable source, he does appear to be more reliable than Latham, and he is not necessarily contradicting himself here. Latham may have been arrested for protesting about the cops nicking other people, then charged with the same offence and a few additional ones - if this is what did happen, it reflects the way the old bill operated in London then and still do now. And I would stress that Nuttall seems to believe Latham was actively involved in creating the line between London and Amsterdam.

If the charge relating to St Martins invoked by Penrose and Bertschinger isn't the speed bust that Latham blamed on his 'pastoral' work with a drug addicted student (albeit a month or two after his employment with the college had come to an end), it would be interesting to know what it was about. That speed bust is the only legal incident involving Latham that I know of in which there is an alleged connection to St Martins. If I am correct in speculating that the ICA obstruction arrest was followed by the cops searching Latham and finding speed on him, then this might explain why based on material in The Portable John Latham, it appears that the old bill may have raided his home and found drugs there. On page 34 of the tome edited by Hudek and Velios (op cit above), there is a letter dated 14 September 1967 in which Bernard Bertschinger vouches for John Latham's 'probity': "John Latham... is absolutely honest and responsible in what he does and in the seven years I have known him well he has been modest and sober in his drinking habits - he drinks so little I have never even seen him 'merry from alcohol'. It is totally inconceivable that he could be a taker of drugs... John also has open house to all his friends and we all come and go as we like. I am sure that if any pills were found then they are not his as there is no evidence he has the slightest interest in drugs of any sort. I imagine that anyone could have left things in his house or clothes in view of the open hospitable house-studio that serves as his family home..." As I demonstrate above in dealing with Latham's lies about having been sacked from St Martins, Latham was not 'honest' and Bertschinger is going further than bending the truth a little when he makes this claim. While I view Bertschinger's willingness to lie in the hope this will help get a friend off a drugs charge as admirable, it does undermine the credibility of what he has to say when it comes to setting the historical record straight as regards Latham.

Once again, Jeff Nuttall's sketches of Latham in Bomb Culture appear to contradict Bertschinger. Writing about the disastrous mid-sixties Project Sigma meeting at Brazier's Park, Nuttall recalls (page 215, op cit above): "John Latham had a pint of whiskey. He shared it... In the morning Alex (Trocchi) overdosed. I began to see the pattern of his habit. It was, basically, a kind of worrying towards self-perfection. Thus he lasted longer than most. He came down to the meeting late. By the time he came down Ronnie, Joe and Beba had gone off on the piss again. Another pattern...." That said, Bertschinger's letter is clearly a character reference aimed at getting a friend out of legal trouble, and so it would be ridiculous to expect him to be truthful within it; which is why I won't bother refuting each and every claim Bertschinger makes, although it would be possible to do so.

Book Shredding

Psychedelic Art & London Drug Culture

Dope In The Age Of Innocence

Stewart Home as writer-in-residence at Level 2, Tate Modern

London Art Tripping



cover of John A Walker's John Latham monograph

Cover of The Portable John Latham

Cover of John Latham Guide To Rio

Cover of John Latham Early Works

Cover of John Latham Canvas Events
Covers of publications that take John Latham way too seriously - while at the same time failing to puncture the inflated claims this mythomaniac made for both himself and his art.

Cover of Art & Culture by Clement Greenberg
Cover of Art & Culture: Critical Essays by Clement Greenberg.

Cover of I, The Jury by Mickey Spillane
Could this be the joker in Latham's pack of lies? Is it possible that the masticated book that forms the core of Still and Chew is not Art and Culture as is widely believed, but rather Mickey Spillane's I, The Jury?

Cover of The Burnt Orange Heresy by Charles Willeford
Was the art fraud who is the central character in Charles Willeford's The Burnt Orange Heresy based on John Latham?