Through video, performance and comic strips as the Barefoot Lone Pilgrim, David Blandy (b.1976, London, UK) integrates real life and virtual adventures. Donning the orange robes of a Buddhist Shaolin Monk, portable record player in hand, Blandy’s semi-fictional alter ego has manifested itself in various ways: as a hermit in an 18th Century park in Surrey, made an American road trip, crossed the English Lake District from one record shop to another, and searched New York for places associated with soul songs.
Music, specifically American soul music from the 60s and 70s through to hip hop, is at the heart of Blandy’s work, manifesting in ways that go beyond mere homage. In ‘whiting up’ for instance to lip sync to black consciousness classics such as Gil Scott Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised or Syl Johnson’s Is It Because I’m Black, complete with white gloves, top hat and cane, he inverts the stereotype of the blackface minstrel to problematise the already complex relationship between race, popular music and cultural appropriation. Blandy plays with his own identity, layering one fiction on top of another.
For MADE UP, the Barefoot Lone Pilgrim continued his spiritual journey in search of another fictional character, the recently ‘discovered’ American soul singer Mingering Mike, whose home-made records, produced between 1968-77, turned up in flea markets around Washington D.C. This sparked an interest amongst record collectors in the identity of this mysterious, unheard soul voice lost within cardboard grooves and hand drawn album sleeves. Blandy’s soulful tribute was a mythical search for a mythical identity, a process in which two different fictional universes collided.
The resulting film saw Blandy insert himself into a cinematic brew of cosmic revelation, as he is guided towards Mingering Mike by jazz legend, Sun Ra – another musician who constructed his own mythical, extraterrestrial identity, claiming Saturn as his home. A semi-psychedelic meditation on the mythical nature of identity, race and authenticity, the film was accompanied by a ‘museum’ local history installation. Here ephemera such as photographs, posters, hand drawn record sleeves and other artefacts relating to the Lone Barefoot Pilgrim / Mingering Mike hybrid further blurred the distinction between fantasy and authenticity, between a so-called ‘outsider’ artist and an artist who was ‘for real’.
The Way of the Barefoot Lone Pilgrim: The Search for Mingering Mike, 2008
Performance, photography, video and comics
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2008
Exhibited at the Bluecoat
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation