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Looking back on Reactor’s two exhibitions Here, the Gold Ones flatter and Here, the Gold Ones meet we commissioned a text by David Burrows released here alongside a single screen edit of the flatter film.

Last night I met Max Gold. This was unexpected as I was at the party celebrating my 100th birthday, invisible to all, feeling sad and sorry for myself (because I could see that I was not in good shape and not long for this world). But I was happy to hear the nice things friends and carers in the care home were saying about me, and enjoying the kind words of (very important) people I had never met before, paying me an unexpected visit. I have had this dream before, several times, but never with Max making an appearance. Max can see me though (in my dream)! Max can see the invisible me (not the me, sitting at a table full of food, shaking hands, exchanging pleasantries). I know this because Max crept up behind me (the invisible me) to deliver a message to my right ear, ‘The fear of loss is a strong motivator… Stronger than the opportunity to gain or change…’ I remember distinctly thinking I have heard these words before but couldn’t place where and when. I looked behind me and couldn’t see a soul but still whispered, ‘Max?’ (Somehow, I knew it was Max Gold who had spoken, a figure or entity that I associate with the art collective Reactor.) Again, with words familiar but not placeable, Max spoke, and with increasing conviction, saying this fear (of loss) was not their own fear. Max was in the zone. Max was the prize. Normally this recurring dream of mine ends after guests praise my stoic acceptance of a life lived less successfully than I might have hoped for, shedding tears at my constant ploughing of a furrow no matter what, which brought reassurance to everyone who counted me as a friend or acquaintance. This part of the dream – the best bit – did not happen. Instead, everyone turned their attention to Max, now materialised as a golden egg (though this description does not do justice to the Gold One – egg-shaped with tentacles, a flickering mouth and rippling, golden skin). On viewing this apparition, I wondered whether this was my dream or, indeed, whether I was in Max’s dream? Was Max in my head, or was I in Max’s head, or were both of us in a stream of thoughts in another head. Or maybe Reactor had hacked my unconscious?

Max Gold

Then I remembered where I heard Max’s words before. Suddenly images of a laptop and video-link flashed in my mind’s eye. Max Gold’s words were from a video I had watched over and over, via a link sent by Reactor, entitled, Here, the Gold Ones flatter. This hour-long film features bodies (creatures, entities, realities?) and their often-overlapping voices. Even though the audio captures every word of the Gold Ones, and their visages are clearly rendered, it is difficult to understand every exchange, every utterance or gesture. Manen’cha – an ever-changing globule of rainbow colours – seemed most coherent of the six Gold Ones that appear in the film, but still oblique in their meaning. The blob-like Gold One suggests the tale told by the film is a prologue and, ‘You’ll need to read between the lines’. Manen’cha does not stop there and offers more authoritative if cryptic comments: ‘it is easy to reveal your hand’ and ‘what we do not imaginatively project our own consciousness into remains strange’. I try to follow Manen’cha’s advice and insights (this is what I am here for after all, I think… to understand the insights of the Gold Ones, when they were flatter). The film does seem to be a prologue, in that it presents a conversation between the Gold Ones about how they are (or were) one or many when flatter. The Gold Ones seem to inhabit different dimensions to each other, or one dimension in which direct exchange is not always straight forward – a latency issue perhaps due to being flat or residents of a two-dimensional world that is the early, soupy stage of the cosmos. Or maybe they just don’t listen to each other when they should, which is certainly true of Max Gold. Somehow though, the Gold Ones communicate ideas and piece together their own origins and the notion that a ‘Fourth Dimension’ promises escape or novel forms of agency for them. So, this is a film about a universe created, or perhaps channelled, by an art collective and their collaborators?


Alternatively, and I couldn’t shake this idea, the film is an allegory for a number of scientific and/or philosophical and/or spiritual problems (but this may say more about me). The film is possibly an allegory for:

  1. The big bang (Manen’cha, speaks of ‘well long, long, long before time was invented’, ‘when there was no before, during or after’);
  2. The origin of life and evolution or, again, the universe (all the Gold Ones talk or sing of ‘soup’, ‘cosmic soup’ and the emergence of a fourth dimension);
  3. Consciousness and/or artificial intelligence (Poostied Piper – a greenish cone tinged with yellow iridescence, like a jelly fish – is trapped in a box, or so they say, and Peeza Peel – an oval with three rotating dots that I think of as a chorus – speaks of a sequence of six dark rectangles that may form a cube when a fourth dimension arrives.

Other voices from two more Gold Ones featured in the film chime in at different times and add substance to my allegorical readings. Challenger – a golden, glowing creature that seems a cross between a porpoise and a ray (fish) of light, ancient and futuristic looking at the same time – says ‘I am of the Deep-End’. And Ivan Poe – a blue, fluttering sheet with a T-shaped tear – says, ‘There is no map. No route to follow out of ‘ere’.

Ivan Poe

I think some more about Peeza Peel’s description of the dark rectangles (not squares – this seems important) that may form a cube (which according to conventional understanding, has six square faces). And then I count the number of Gold Ones in the film, all presented through the rectangle of my laptop: Max Gold, Poostied Piper, Peeza Peel, Manen’cha, Challenger, Ivan Poe. Something registers. For rectangles to become a cube, a transformation of dimension, form or perspective, or possibly all three of these things, must occur. And this must require tremendous energy. I get no further with this thought, something else is bothering me.

That there is no map, well that makes me anxious. Why? I am not sure where I am exactly, and I have nothing to help me work this out. I say to myself, right now I am remembering a film watched on my laptop about the Gold Ones who reside in a flat universe. I remember sitting on my bed to do so, but the remembering of all this is taking place in a dream in which I am at my birthday party in a care home, aged 100 years. In the dream I think I am sitting on my bed, but I can’t be sure of this. How do I know I am not one more rectangle? A seventh rectangle! Why have I not woken up yet. I want to get out of this dream place, this recurring dream play. Where exactly is this care home? I need a map, or something, unless there is no other place to get to from here? But there must be another place, where I sat down and watched a film by Reactor on my laptop and where I will wake up, soon I hope.  

That sounds strange, I know. How can some other place be in the past and the future? Right now, in my birthday dream, I know I am in the presence of Max Gold, only recently escaped from ‘long before time was invented’, but I also know Max Gold has been out of the soup for a while before this (Max has been in other Reactor works going back over many years). The human habit of thinking through timelines seems to have no relevance when thinking about the lives of the Gold Ones. Loops and cycles may be better analogies for their modalities of being. And, I suspect, this is true of the lives of the artists when collaborating as Reactor; in the midst of collaboration, does time have a linear flow for them? There is perhaps an acknowledgement of physics in the discussions of the Gold Ones which may influence the thinking of the Reactor collective: most contemporary physicists will attest to the fact that there is no absolute time, no linear time. But, again, maybe I am reading too much between the lines. Maybe there is no allegory, no metaphor in Reactor’s work. Here, the Gold Ones flatter literally presents the Gold Ones when they were two-dimensional beings, projections in the cosmic soup or just after they escaped or exited? An origin story at any rate, which like all origin stories, is a myth that may have low reality content but that marks a question. This standard, lay-person’s science-fictioning-anthropology. For anyone might observe, as Sun Ra implied, reality can be produced through myth science – ‘I don’t exist, but that’s OK because neither do you!’. In the case of Here, the Gold Ones flatter, the question is where are we (the Gold Ones) from, how did we get here from nothing? The Gold Ones and Reactor themselves make the answer to this question explicit if not entirely clear: at the beginning there was only ‘of the shelf’.

I am thinking (still in my dream), what does this mean – ‘of the shelf’? – when Max Gold speaks again:

‘I is sticky
And I’ve got five ways to get unstuck:
1. Make sure the goal is a upward cosmic call
2. Make that cosmic calling an upward BOOST
3. Always avoid backward boosting
4 Put your mind to it.
5. Put your grind to it.’

The effect of this short speech was instant, I was forgotten by the guests at my (dream) birthday. They demanded to know who this motivator-prophet was, and should they all try and get unsticky, to change and follow the motivator’s example? (And another worrying thought surfaced, were my birthday guests now in my bedroom, watching the film on my laptop?) I wanted to wake up but couldn’t, and experienced a terrible dream-paralysis… I was stuck (the irony was not lost on me). Max Gold continued, ‘I am the One’, and something about not knowing twos or threes. Someone new to the dream shouted, ‘You’ve got that the wrong way round’. This was from Poostied Piper. I don’t know how I knew this as I couldn’t move to look around, and I couldn’t see them amongst the guests. I reiterated Poostied’s observation, as loudly as I could, but no one could hear me. I was not just invisible; I had become inaudible.

Poostied Piper

And then Max Gold declared, ‘One for permanent change, shoot for the boost!’ and I woke up. But not in my bed! I found myself in a large gallery, and on the walls, surrounding me on all sides were the Gold Ones, projected above several assemblages. The six Gold Ones from the film were present: Poostied Piper, Max Gold, Manen’cha, Ivan Poe, Peeza Peel and Challenger. And the conversation picks up where it left off in my dream. Poostied asks Max, ‘Are ya serious?’, for the Gold One might be bluffing about leaving for another dimension. But Max is not. Poostied wants to go too but is wary of the fourth dimension and asks Max for some precious ‘time-periods’. I understand Poostied’s fear, the lack of security and danger that might follow Max pulling the ‘cosmic trigger’, but Max is off, off the shelf so-to-speak (as Max puts it) and leaves without ‘Fear of loss!’, for as they say, ‘Life and death are permanently changing.’

Max does indeed seem to go somewhere beyond the soup, to make a new home or world (though little changes here). I am unable to follow Max. I am still where I was. I find a guide for the exhibition Here, the Gold Ones flatter, dated late March 2022, only it isn’t. I know I have lived until June 2024 at least and the exhibition has been deinstalled. I can’t be sure if this is still a dream though. I remind myself, Reactor time is not linear time and reflect that confusion is to be expected. On being approached to write about the Gold Ones – specifically Here, the Gold Ones flatter – I felt excitement tinged with trepidation. Their past projects have included many strange manifestations, including: a kind of factory in which it was not clear what happened or who was who, even after documentation of the event was made available – there is alleged manipulation of audience member’s memories (Total GHAOS, 2005); a venture in which the objective was to form a cult-like (my italics and term) group that believed whole-heartedly in systems rather than fighting them (Big Lizard’s Big Idea, 2009-10); and a world in which time is a currency, to be traded in periods (Dummy Button 2013). And then there is the Martinmas Interviews, held annually, to recruit secret members of the group. These secret members, should they exist, could be anyone, including people you probably know (I swear I am not and never have been a member of Reactor). They play with your sense of what is real (that is why I had a sense of trepidation on being approached to write this text), but they also offer you a way out of mundane realities, to get unsticky and take a chance (it is exciting to get lost in the worlds they create). To enter the narratives of Reactor involves becoming somebody or something else as well as disassembling your ego. It is best not to think you know best, or you know much at all when encountering Reactor. I suspect, the ethos of Reactor and the world’s they create is not focussed on understanding but making, changing, breathing a different air.

Peeza Peel

Yet I want to wake up! Still in the gallery, I close my eyes and think hard on something bizarre that Peeza Peel says, which stops my heart beating. As Max boasts about the qualities of Gold – its ‘bold’, ‘courageous’, ‘brave’, ‘strong’, like ‘steel’, ‘a champion’, ‘a hero’… ‘the Gold One’… he must be talking about himself here – Peeza says my name. This must be coincidence. After stating ‘The landing of Max on this Fourth World became known to the Hands as the ‘day of Gold’, Peeza says, ‘Poostied Piper of Hamline Instrategy – David size see Max in the cosmic care home. Does ee know that you trapped him in this celestial loophole?’ I think back to a past discussion with Reactor, about their use of materials of all things, and a brand of filler that I think was called ‘David’s Eyes’, but I am not sure, I could have just made this up out of desperation. I play Peeza’s words through my head one more time. Peeza definitely says ‘David’ – that is my name! What the actual fuck! I open my eyes and… oh no! I am now inside the Cosmic Care Home. I know this place from viewing another video that Reactor sent me some time ago, to aid our discussion of the group’s performance at the Bonington Gallery in 2021. The Cosmic Care Home is where the Gold Ones reside in the future. (Wrong word perhaps – future? I don’t know, Reactor were hesitant when talking about times and dates, for reasons stated above). During our discussion, I was fascinated and eager to understand the protocols and rules of the Cosmic Care Home, and the nutritional regime of its residents. It is a place in which care is evident but in which the Gold Ones’ irrational behaviour (irrational to me at least) is disturbing. But then the Gold Ones may well be very old (if that means anything) when they are residing in the care home, or I was seeing customs from the present that have evolved beyond recognition, so as to become a foreign culture to me. As eager as I was to find out about the care home, I did not want to visit it though, or be trapped in a celestial loophole. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. I couldn’t possibly be trapped there (here). How to escape this feeling of reverse déjà vu? How do I get out of here? Context! I will reach for context.

Here, the Gold Ones flatter. Installation view. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Reece Straw.

I am writing a text on Here, the Gold Ones flatter, and the work of Reactor, and I fell asleep. When I wake up, I am going to list the context of Reactor’s film and the Gold Ones project. I have thought a lot about the context of this film, and also the earlier exhibition Here, the Gold Ones meet situated in the Cosmic Care Home. The earlier work seemed to have a relation to performance and installation that emerges in the territories first explored by American artist Paul McCarthy, but Here, the Gold Ones flatter moves my frame of reference closer to home. The film has the frontality of theatre, a directness of delivery and, at times, a musical layering of intersecting monologues spoken by various avatars, which makes me think of the theatre of Samuel Beckett. In particular, Beckett’s Not-I (1972) – a single pair of lips in a dark void speaking at break-neck speed – and Play (1963) – three figures in funeral jars, facing an audience, babbling away. In the first work, a mouth says, ‘not I’; in the second, three figures constantly talk of themselves and over each other, and about an affair that obsesses the small ensemble. Is Here, the Gold Ones flatter, a digital, sci-fi Beckett-like play with non-human, cosmic existential questions aired by six Gold Ones? There is something else though that will not stop nagging at me. The word ‘flatter’ in the title of the film differentiates it from the earlier work Here, the Gold Ones meet. This is not just a play on words. To meet suggests a three-dimensional space or four dimensional spacetime in which bodies come together. To be flatter implies the Gold Ones are not in a dimension of volume and duration, perhaps not in a realm of entropy either. They are in a flat space, in perhaps what they call ‘cosmic soup’. I think here of the novel Flatland (1884) by Edwin A. Abbott, about a square that lives in a two-dimensional world who is visited by a sphere. The sphere shows the square a three-dimensional world that the square does not believe in until lifted high and above his homeland, a two-dimensional plane that looks like a table-top or perhaps a screen. But this is not the only world they see. The square and the sphere also view a land of one dimension – dots and dashes that do not see each other as they are arranged, side-by-side as a line (just like the Gold Ones in the Bonington Gallery installation, as entities projected in a line around the gallery’s walls) – and a land of no dimensions – where a single dot lives and thinks they are the whole of the cosmos (similar perhaps to the soupy world the Gold Ones speak of, which may explain their confusion or disagreement about whether there is only one of them or many). And this would mean that I am in flatland – I am the square – watching the Gold Ones as rectangles, the Cosmic Care Home being a three-or more-dimensional space in which the Gold Ones evolve new forms. Perhaps Reactor’s Gold Ones explore, above all else, mathematical states within the cosmos, from the soup to the Cosmic Care Home?

This cannot be right though. The community of the Gold Ones, and the long-term collaboration of Reactor, is not a mathematical exercise, it is social and communal work – it is a society of actual and virtual people. And in thinking this through, I feel one last reference must be mentioned: Félix Guatarri’s schizoanalysis – his counter to, and development of psychoanalysis – which, as has been said elsewhere, involves experiments that dissemble and dissolve the self and other configurations or modes of organisation to realise a diversity of different individuations and durations, organic and inorganic. It is the legend of La Borde Clinic too, where Guatarri worked with Jean Oury, that also seems relevant; a clinic that dispensed with hierarchies as much as possible and engaged doctors and patients alike in group performances, storytelling and art-making.

Whether right or wrong, my art writer’s reverie has brought me home. I am looking at my laptop, still playing the film Here, the Gold Ones flatter. Yet I can’t quite trust what I am sensing and blink several times and stare at my hands to make sure I am truly awake (hands always look different in dreams and this knowledge helps with lucid dreaming). I think about the contexts I have outlined: McCarthy, Beckett, Abbott, Guatarri – they seem like the magic words of a spell that has freed me from a cosmic loophole. It is an interesting mix, but I am not sure these figures set the right context. ‘Rats seeing what David’s eyes see?’ (I don’t know where this question comes from, and my fear of being manipulated briefly surfaces again. Am I really back?) My doubt about the contexts I have drawn comes from knowing the work of Reactor over many years. I suspect the basis of what I think of as a genuine cosmic practice is a commitment to chance and embracing what is unknown or nonsensical (perhaps they follow the advice of the Greeks, ‘never turn a stranger away from your door, they may be Zeus in disguise’). And this is why I have a sense that the dense and oblique narrative of Here, the Gold Ones flatter is both a play on, and embrace of a cosmic order. The film on my laptop is reaching the end now. While Max Gold declares first residency in the Cosmic Care Home, Manen’cha – the Gold One that I count as the most sensible – says that I understood but did not comprehend the explanatory matter relayed by the Gold Ones. I understood, I think, from outside – my artist writer’s context – but did not comprehend from inside. Manen’cha isn’t finished and before a farewell, I am asked, ‘if you flip memory around does it become anticipation? Let’s imagine, but, for all that ‘as ‘appened, that you are still ‘ere now. Here me CORRECTLY, then ask yourself, what have I become?’

I cannot answer this but know, last night I met Max Gold, and I will most likely meet Max again, as everyone might well do, in the Cosmic Care Home. And the next time it will not be a dream.

David Burrows is an artist, writer, member of the group that produces the collaboration Plastique Fantastique and Professor of Fine Art at Slade School of Fine Art, UCL.

On Thursday 20th June Bonington Gallery was delighted to welcome 300+ school children as part of the inaugural Creativity Showcase – Nottingham School of Art and Design’s partnership with East Midlands Education Trust (EMET). The event’s aim was to reposition creativity as a vital skill set and inspire young people to aspire to higher education, particularly within the vibrant and dynamic environment of the Art School and its resident art gallery. 

The Creativity Showcase featured a variety of engaging activities with pupils having the opportunity to explore diverse creative disciplines, from visual arts and design to digital media and performance art, highlighting the boundless potential of a creative education. 

Event Highlights included: 

On the 11th of April, cinephiles gathered in the heart of Nottingham at the Bonington Gallery for ‘The Night of the Red Herring’ held by our student film collective Reel Em In. This evening was the product of our Film Programming module at Nottingham Trent University where we were given the opportunity to build a film night from the ground up, taking on various responsibilities such as curating the film programme, which involved undertaking research into relevant short films, contacting directors and putting together the programme making sure the sequence of the films flowed. Other roles included event setup and organisation, as well as marketing and promotion.

Promising a night of crime and mystery shorts, the event was a success with a substantial number of people in attendance. The auditorium was set up for a fully immersive experience, decorated with caution tape, a chalk figure, some crime scene treats (edible body parts!), and a rogues’ gallery, whilst a pianist sat at the keyboard playing his graceful chords as everybody entered. The film programme was accompanied by our host, who, as on theme as the rest of the event, was dressed head to toe as a detective, working as the commentary and driving the interactive crime mystery we staged, which gave our audience the opportunity to engage in it.

Our programme consisted of eleven different films shown in two instalments. From a twisted family who will do anything to access their inheritance, to beautifully curated noir animations and dystopian tales of murder and a whole bucketful more each film fell under the sweeping umbrella of crime, noir, and mystery. One of the best consequences of dealing with shorts is that the films were made by independent directors from all over the world, allowing us to introduce their work to a new audience of film fans all the way over here in our city of Nottingham.

In short, this evening allowed us to celebrate short films with one another and collectively revel in the thrill of the unknown. On behalf of Reel Em In, we appreciate everybody who was in attendance, and can only hope you enjoyed the night as much as we enjoyed organising it.

You can find us on our socials: Reeleminnotts