Chapter Ten: realisation


YEARS passed. The seasons came and went, the short artist lives fled by. A time came when there was no one who remembered the old days before the Riot, except Clive, Benjamin, and Moses.

Muriel was dead; Bluebell, Jessie, and Pincher were dead. Jones too was dead−he had died in an inebriates’ home in another part of the country. Shaun was forgotten. Bob was forgotten, except by the few who had known him. Clive was an old and stout now, stiff in the joints and with a tendency to rheumy eyes. She was two years past the retiring age, but in fact no artist had ever actually retired. The talk of making a home had long since been dropped. Nathan was now twenty−four stone. Steve was so fat that he could only with difficulty see out of his eyes. Only old Benjamin was much the same as ever, except for being a little greyer, and, since Bob’s death, more morose and taciturn than ever.

There were many more in the studio now, though the increase was not so great as had been expected in earlier years. Many artists had been born to whom the Riot was only a dim tradition, passed on by word of mouth, and others arrived form schools who had never heard mention of such a thing before their arrival. They accepted everything that they were told about the Riot and the principles of Collaboration, especially from Clive, for whom they had an almost filial respect; but it was doubtful whether they understood very much of it.

The studio was more prosperous now, and better organised: it had even been enlarged by two buildings had been bought from Mr. Pilkington. The Marsden shed had been successfully completed at last, and the studio possessed an extra dark room and canvas stretcher. Whymper had bought himself a new car. The Marsden shed, however, had not after all been used for generating electrical power. It was used for producing prints brought in a handsome money profit. The artists were hard at work building yet another Marsden shed; when that one was finished, so it was said, the dynamos would be installed. But the luxuries of which Shaun had once taught the artists to dream, were no longer talked about. Nathan had denounced such ideas as contrary to the spirit of Collaboration. The truest happiness, he said, lay in working hard and living frugally.

Somehow it seemed as though the studio had grown richer without making the artists themselves any richer−except, of course, Nathan. There was, as Steve was never tired of explaining, endless work in the supervision and organisation of the studio. Much of this work was of a kind that the other artists were too ignorant to understand. For example, Steve told them that Nathan had to expend enormous labours every day upon mysterious things called “files,” “reports,” “minutes,” and “memoranda.” These were large sheets of paper which had to be closely covered with writing, and as soon as they were so covered, they were burnt in the furnace. This was of the highest importance for the welfare of the studio, Steve said. But still, the officials never produced any work by their own labour; and there were very many of them, and their appetites were always good.

As for the others, their life, so far as they knew, was as it had always been. They were generally hungry and had to work very hard. Sometimes the older ones among them racked their dim memories and tried to determine whether in the early days of the Riot, when Jones’s expulsion was still recent, things had been better or worse than now. They could not remember. There was nothing with which they could compare their present lives: they had nothing to go upon except Steve’s lists of figures, which invariably demonstrated that everything was getting better and better. The artists found the problem insoluble; in any case, they had little time for speculating on such things now. Only old Benjamin professed to remember every detail of his long life and to know that things never had been, nor ever could be much better or much worse−hunger, hardship, and disappointment being, so he said, the unalterable law of life.

And yet the artists never gave up hope. More, they never lost, even for an instant, their sense of honour and privilege in being members of Artist Studio. They were still the only studio in the whole county−in all England!−owned and operated by artists. Not one of them, not even the youngest, not even the newcomers ever ceased to marvel at that. And when they heard the gun booming and saw the green flag fluttering at the masthead, their hearts swelled with imperishable pride, and the talk turned always towards the old heroic days, the expulsion of Jones, the writing of the sentences of conceptual art, the great battles in which the government had been defeated. None of the old dreams had been abandoned. The Republic of the Artists which Major had foretold, when the green fields of England should be untrodden by minister’s feet, was still believed in. Some day it was coming: it might not be soon, it might not be with in the lifetime of any artist now living, but still it was coming. Even the tune of Artists of England was perhaps hummed secretly here and there: at any rate, it was a fact that every artist on the studio knew it, though no one would have dared to sing it aloud. It might be that their lives were hard and that not all of their hopes had been fulfilled; but they were conscious that they were not as other artists. If they went hungry, it was not from feeding tyrannical government ministers; if they worked hard, at least they worked for themselves. All artists were equal.

One day in early summer Steve ordered the sculptors to follow him, and led them out to a piece of waste ground at the other end of the studio, which had become overgrown. They spent the whole day there longing  under Steve’s supervision. In the evening he returned to the studio himself, but, as it was warm weather, told the sculptors to stay where they were. It ended by their remaining there for a whole week, during which time the other artists saw nothing of them. Steve was with them for the greater part of every day. He was, he said, teaching them to sing a new song, for which privacy was needed.

It was just after the sculptors had returned, on a pleasant evening when the artists had finished work and were making their way back to the studio buildings, that a terrified scream sounded from the yard. Startled, the artists stopped in their tracks. It was Clive’s voice. All the artists broke into a run and rushed into the yard. Then they saw what Clive had seen.

It was Steve dressed in government clothing. And a moment later, out from the door of the studio came a long file all walking in the uniforms.. And finally there was a tremendous chanting form the guards and out came Nathan himself, majestically casting haughty glances from side to side, and with his guards all round him. He carried a whip.

There was a deadly silence. Amazed, terrified, huddling together, the artists watched the long line march slowly round the yard. It was as though the world had turned upside−down. Then there came a moment when the first shock had worn off and when, in spite of everything of the habit, developed through long years, of never complaining, never criticising, no matter what happened−they might have uttered some word of protest. But just at that moment, as though at a signal, all the sculptors burst out into a tremendous bleating of−

“Two heads good! One head better!” It went on for five minutes without stopping. And by the time the sculptors had quieted down, the chance to utter any protest had passed, for the traitors had marched back into the main studio.

Benjamin looked round. Clive’s old eyes looked dimmer than ever. Without saying anything, he tugged gently at his arm and led him round to the wall, where the sentences were written. For a minute or two they stood gazing at the tatted wall with its white lettering.

“My sight is failing,” he said finally. “Even when I was young I could not have read what was written there. But it appears to me that that wall looks different. Are the sentences the same as they used to be, Benjamin?”

For once Benjamin consented to break his rule, and he read out what was written on the wall. There was nothing there now except a single sentence. It ran:


After that it did not seem strange when next day those supervising the work of the studio all carried whips. It did not seem strange to learn that the pigs had bought themselves a wireless set, were arranging to install a telephone, and had taken out subscriptions to John Bull, TitBits, and the Daily Mirror. It did not seem strange when Nathan was seen strolling in the studio garden with a pipe in his mouth.

A week later, in the afternoon, a number of cars drove up to the studio. A deputation of neighbouring studioers had been invited to make a tour of inspection. They were shown all over the studio, and expressed great admiration for everything they saw, especially the Marsden shed. The artists worked diligently hardly not knowing whether to be more frightened of Nathan or of the visitors.

That evening loud laughter and bursts of singing came from the office spur. And suddenly, at the sound of the mingled voices, the artists were stricken with curiosity. What could be happening in there, now that for the first time artists and government ministers were meeting on terms of equality? With one accord they began to creep as quietly as possible to the door. They paused, half frightened to go on but Clive led the way in. They tiptoed along, and such artists as were tall enough peered in at the dining−room window. There, round the long table, sat half a dozen studioers and half a dozen of the government ministers, Nathan himself occupying the seat of honour at the head of the table. The company had been enjoying a game of cards but had broken off for the moment, evidently in order to drink a toast. A large jug was circulating, and the mugs were being refilled with beer. No one noticed the wondering faces of the artists that gazed in at the window.

Mr. Pilkington, of Foxwood, had stood up, his mug in his hand. In a moment, he said, he would ask the present company to drink a toast. But before doing so, there were a few words that he felt it incumbent upon him to say.

It was a source of great satisfaction to him, he said−and, he was sure, to all others present−to feel that a long period of mistrust and misunderstanding had now come to an end. There had been a time−not that he, or any of the present company, had shared such sentiments−but there had been a time when the respected proprietors of Artist Studio had been regarded, he would not say with hostility, but perhaps with a certain measure of misgiving, by their neighbours. Unfortunate incidents had occurred, mistaken ideas had been current. It had been felt that the existence of a studio owned and operated by artists was somehow abnormal and was liable to have an unsettling effect in the neighbourhood. Too many ministers had assumed, without due enquiry, that on such a studio a spirit of licence and indiscipline would prevail. They had been nervous about the effects upon their own artists, or even upon their employees. But all such doubts were now dispelled. Today he and his friends had visited Artist Studio and inspected every inch of it with their own eyes, and what did they find? Not only the most up−to−date methods, but a discipline and an orderliness which should be an example to all everywhere. He believed that he was right in saying that the lower artists on Artist Studio did more work and received less food than any artists in the county. Indeed, he and his fellow−visitors today had observed many features which they intended to introduce on their own studios immediately.

He would end his remarks, he said, by emphasising once again the friendly feelings that subsisted, and ought to subsist, between Artist Studio and its neighbours. Between them and government ministers there was not, and there need not be, any clash of interests whatever. Their struggles and their difficulties were one. Was not the labour problem the same everywhere? Here it became apparent that Mr. Pilkington was about to spring some carefully prepared witticism on the company, but for a moment he was too overcome by amusement to be able to utter it. After much choking, during which his various chins turned purple, he managed to get it out: “If you have your lower artists to contend with,” he said, “we have our lower classes!” This bon mot set the table in a roar; and Mr. Pilkington once again congratulated on the low rations, the long working hours, and the general absence of pampering which he had observed on Artist Studio.

And now, he said finally, he would ask the company to rise to their feet and make certain that their glasses were full. “Gentlemen,” concluded Mr. Pilkington, “gentlemen, I give you a toast: To the prosperity of Artist Studio!”

There was enthusiastic cheering and stamping of feet. Nathan was so gratified that he left his place and came round the table to clink his mug against Mr. Pilkington’s before emptying it. When the cheering had died down, Nathan, who had remained on his feet, intimated that he too had a few words to say.

Like all of Nathan’s speeches, it was short and to the point. He too, he said, was happy that the period of misunderstanding was at an end. For a long time there had been rumours−circulated, he had reason to think, by some malignant enemy−that there was something subversive and even revolutionary in the outlook of himself and his colleagues. They had been credited with attempting to stir up riot among the artists on neighbouring studios. Nothing could be further from the truth! Their sole wish, now and in the past, was to live at peace and in normal business relations with their neighbours. This studio which he had the honour to control, he added, was a co−operative enterprise. The title−deeds, which were in his own possession, were owned by his group jointly.

He did not believe, he said, that any of the old suspicions still lingered, but certain changes had been made recently in the routine of the studio which should have the effect of promoting confidence still further. Hitherto the artists on the studio had had a rather foolish custom of addressing one another as “Comrade.” This was to be suppressed. His visitors might have observed, too, the green flag which flew from the masthead. If so, they would perhaps have noted that it had now been removed.

He had only one criticism, he said, to make of Mr. Pilkington’s excellent and neighbourly speech. Mr. Pilkington had referred throughout to “Artist Studio.” He could not of course know−for he, Nathan, was only now for the first time announcing it−that the name “Artist Studio” had been abolished. Henceforward the studio was to be known as “The Manor Studio”−which, he believed, was its correct and original name.

“Gentlemen,” concluded Nathan, “I will give you the same toast as before, but in a different form. Fill your glasses to the brim. Gentlemen, here is my toast: To the prosperity of The Manor Studio! ”

There was the same hearty cheering as before, and the mugs were emptied to the dregs. But as the artists outside gazed at the scene, it seemed to them that some strange thing was happening. What was it that had altered in the faces of Nathan’s followers? what was it that seemed to be melting and changing? Then, the applause having come to an end, the company took up their cards and continued the game that had been interrupted, and the artists crept silently away.

But they had not gone twenty yards when they stopped short. An uproar of voices was coming from the offices. They rushed back and looked through the window again. Yes, a violent quarrel was in progress. There were shoutings, bangings on the table, sharp suspicious glances, furious denials. The source of the trouble appeared to be that Nathan and Mr. Pilkington had each played an ace of spades simultaneously.

Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of Nathan’s followers. The artists outside looked from Nathan follower to minister and back again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

Chapter Nine: Bob passes on.


They had started the rebuilding of the Marsden shed the day after the victory celebrations were ended and Bob refused to take even a day off work, and made it a point of honour not to let it be seen that he was in pain. Both Clive and Benjamin urged Bob to work less hard. But Bob would not listen. He had, he said, only one real ambition left−to see the Marsden shed well under way before he reached the age for retirement.

At the beginning, when the laws of Artist Studio were first formulated, the retiring age had been fixed at Sixty. Liberal old−age pensions had been agreed upon. As yet no artist had actually retired on pension, but of late the subject had been discussed more and more. Now that the small field beyond the orchard had been set aside for another studio extension, it was rumoured that a corner was to be fenced off and turned into a retirement home for artists. Bob’s. Sixtieth birthday was due in the late summer of the following year. Meanwhile life was hard. The winter was as cold as the last one had been, and food was even shorter. Once again all rations were reduced, except those of Nathan’s close group. A too rigid equality in rations, Steve explained, would have been contrary to the principles of Collaboration. In any case he had no difficulty in proving to the other artists that they were not in reality short of food, whatever the appearances might be. For the time being, certainly, it had been found necessary to make a readjustment of rations (Steve always spoke of it as a “readjustment,” never as a “reduction”), but in comparison with the days of Jones, the improvement was enormous. Reading out the figures in a shrill, rapid voice, he proved to them in detail that they had more food equipment and money than they had had in Jones’s day, that they worked shorter hours, that they lived longer. The artists believed every word of it. Truth to tell, Jones and all he stood for had almost faded out of their memories. They knew that life nowadays was harsh and bare, that they were often hungry and often cold, and that they were usually working when they were not asleep. But doubtless it had been worse in the old days. They were glad to believe so. Besides, in those days they had been slaves and now they were free, and that made all the difference, as Steve did not fail to point out.

There were more mouths to feed now. In the autumn a couple in their second year had had a son. It was announced that later, when bricks and timber had been purchased, a schoolroom would be built in the studio garden. For the time being, the youngster would be given his instruction by Nathan himself in the studio kitchen. He took his exercise in the garden, and was discouraged from playing with the other young artists. About this time, too, it was laid down as a rule that when one of Nathan’s guards and any other artist met on the path, the other artist must stand aside: and also that all of them, of whatever degree, were to have the privilege of wearing green ribbons to church on Sundays.

The studio had had a fairly successful year, but was still short of money. There were the bricks, sand, and lime for the schoolroom to be purchased, and it would also be necessary to begin saving up again for the machinery for the Marsden shed. Then there were lamp oil and candles for the house, and all the usual replacements such as tools, nails, string, coal, wire, scrap−iron, and paint. The contract for paintings was increased to six hundred a week, so that that year the painters were mostly sent into nervous breakdown. Rations, reduced in December, were reduced again in February. But Nathan’s close group seemed comfortable enough, and in fact were putting on weight if anything. One afternoon in late February a warm, rich, appetising scent, such as the artists had never smelt before, wafted itself through the studio from the little brew−house, which had been disused in Jones’s time, and which stood beyond the kitchen. Someone said it was the smell of cooking meat. The artists sniffed the air hungrily and wondered whether a warm roast was being prepared for their supper. But no warm roast appeared, and on the following Sunday it was announced that from now onwards all meat would be reserved for Nathan’s close group.

But if there were hardships to be borne, they were partly offset by the fact that life nowadays had a greater dignity than it had had before. There were more songs, more speeches, more processions. Nathan had commanded that once a week there should be held something called a Spontaneous Demonstration, the object of which was to celebrate the struggles and triumphs of Artist Studio. At the appointed time the artists would leave their work and march round the precincts of the studio in military formation, with the Nathan leading. The Guards flanked the procession and at the head of all marched Nathan’s black Ninja. Bob and Clive always carried between them a green banner marked with the caption, “Long live Comrade Nathan! ” Afterwards there were recitations of poems composed in Nathan’s honour, and a speech by Steve giving particulars of the latest increases in the production of works, and on occasion a shot was fired from the gun. The sculptors were the greatest devotees of the Spontaneous Demonstration, and if anyone complained (as a few artists sometimes did) that they wasted time and meant a lot of standing about in the cold, the sculptors were sure to silence him with a tremendous chanting of “Two heads are better than one!” But by and large the artists enjoyed these celebrations. They found it comforting to be reminded that, after all, they were truly their own masters and that the work they did was for their own benefit. So that, what with the songs, the processions, Steve’s lists of figures, the thunder of the gun, and the fluttering of the flag, they were able to forget that their bellies were empty, at least part of the time. In April, Artist Studio was proclaimed a Republic, and it became necessary to elect a President. There was only one candidate, Nathan, who was elected unanimously. On the same day it was given out that fresh documents had been discovered which revealed further details about Shaun’s complicity with Jones. It now appeared that Shaun had not, as the artists had previously imagined, merely attempted to lose the Battle by means of a stratagem, but had been openly fighting on Jones’s side. In fact, it was he who had actually been the leader of the forces, and had charged into battle with the words “Long live the government!” on his lips. The wounds on Shaun’s back, which a few of the artists still remembered to have seen, had been inflicted by Nathan.

In the middle of the summer Moses suddenly reappeared on the studio, after an absence of several years. He was quite unchanged, still did no work, and talked in the same strain as ever about Sugarcandy Mountain. He would talk by the hour to anyone who would listen. “Up there, comrades,” he would say solemnly, pointing to the sky with his large beak−”up there, just on the other side of that dark cloud that you can see−there it lies, Sugarcandy Mountain, that happy country where we poor artists shall rest for ever from our labours!” He even claimed to have been there. Many of the artists believed him. Their lives now, they reasoned, were hungry and laborious; was it not right and just that a better world should exist somewhere else? A thing that was difficult to determine was the attitude of Nathan’s followers towards Moses. They all declared contemptuously that his stories about Sugarcandy Mountain were lies, and yet they allowed him to remain on the studio, not working, with an allowance of a gill of beer a day.

After he had healed up, Bob worked harder than ever. Indeed, all the artists worked like slaves that year. Apart from the regular work of the studio, and the rebuilding of the Marsden shed, there was the schoolhouse for any youngsters, which was started in March. Sometimes the long hours on insufficient food were hard to bear, but Bob never faltered. In nothing that he said or did was there any sign that his strength was not what it had been. It was only his appearance that was a little altered; his hair was less shiny than it had used to be, and his great shoulders seemed to have shrunken. The others said, “Bob will pick up when the spring gets here”; but the spring came and Bob grew no fatter. Sometimes on the slope leading to the top of the grounds, when he braced his muscles against the weight of some vast boulder, it seemed that nothing kept him on his feet except the will to continue. At such times his lips were seen to form the words, “I will work harder”; he had no voice left. Once again Clive and Benjamin warned him to take care of his health, but Bob paid no attention. His sixtieth birthday was approaching. He did not care what happened so long as a good store of stone was accumulated before he went on pension.

Late one evening in the summer, a sudden rumour ran round the studio that something had happened to Bob. He had gone out alone to drag a load of stone down to the Marsden shed. And sure enough, the rumour was true. A few minutes later two first years came racing in with the news: “Bob has fallen! He is lying on his side and can’t get up!”

About half the artists on the studio rushed out to where the Marsden shed stood. There lay Bob, between the shafts of the cart, his neck stretched out, unable even to raise his head. His eyes were glazed, his brow covered with sweat. A thin stream of blood had trickled out of his mouth. Clive dropped to his knees at his side.

“Bob!” he cried, “how are you?”

“It is my lung,” said Bob in a weak voice. “It does not matter. I think you will be able to finish the Marsden shed without me. There is a pretty good store of stone accumulated. I had only another month to go in any case. To tell you the truth, I had been looking forward to my retirement. And perhaps, as Benjamin is growing old too, they will let him retire at the same time and be a companion to me.”

“We must get help at once,” said Clive. “Run, somebody, and tell Steve what has happened.”

All the other artists immediately raced back to the studio to give Steve the news. Only Clive remained, and Benjamin. After about a quarter of an hour Steve appeared, full of sympathy and concern. He said that Comrade Nathan had learned with the very deepest distress of this misfortune to one of the most loyal workers on the studio, and was already making arrangements to send Bob to be treated in the hospital in Reading. The artists felt a little uneasy at this. Except for Mollie and Shaun, no other artist had ever left the studio, and they did not like to think of their sick comrade in the hands of government workers. However, Steve easily convinced them that the surgeons in Reading could treat Bob’s case more satisfactorily than could be done on the studio. And about half an hour later, when Bob had somewhat recovered, he was with difficulty got on to his feet, and managed to limp back to his bedroom, where Clive and Benjamin had prepared a good bed for him.

For the next two days Bob remained in bed. Nathan had sent out a large bottle of pink medicine which they had found in the medicine chest in the bathroom, and Clive administered it to Bob twice a day after meals. In the evenings he sat in his room and talked to him. Bob professed not to be sorry for what had happened. If he made a good recovery, he might expect to live another three years, and he looked forward to the peaceful days that he would spend in the retirement home. It would be the first time that he had had leisure to study and improve his mind. He intended, he said, to devote the rest of his life to learning about the ancient greeks.

However, Benjamin and Clive could only be with Bob after working hours, and it was in the middle of the day when the ambulance came to take him away. The artists were all at work when they were astonished to see Benjamin come running from the direction of the studio buildings, shouting at the top of his voice. It was the first time that they had ever seen Benjamin excited−indeed, it was the first time that anyone had ever seen him run. “Quick, quick!” he shouted.

“Come at once! They’re taking Bob away!” Without waiting for orders, the artists broke off work and raced back to the studio buildings. Sure enough, there in the yard was a large ambulance,

The artists crowded round the ambulance. “Good−bye, Bob!” they chorused, “good−bye!”

“Fools! Fools!” shouted Benjamin, pacing round them and stamping the earth. “Fools! That gave the artists pause, and there was a hush.

Do you not understand what that means? They are taking Bob away to die!

A cry of horror burst from all the artists. At this moment the ambulance moved out of the yard. All the artists followed, crying out at the tops of their voices. Clive forced his way to the front but the vehicle had gathered speed. “Bob!” he cried. “Bob! Bob! Bob!” And just at this moment, as though he had heard the uproar outside, Bob’s face, appeared at the small window at the back. Bob!” cried Clive in a terrible voice. “Bob! Get out! Get out quickly! They’re taking you to your death!”

All the artists took up the cry of “Get out, Bob, get out!” But the ambulance was already gathering speed and drawing away from them. It was uncertain whether Bob had understood what Clive had said. But a moment later his face disappeared from the window and there was the sound of a tremendous kicking inside. He was trying to kick his way out. But alas! his strength had left him; and in a few moments the sound of drumming grew fainter and died away. In desperation the artists began appealing to the driver to stop. “Comrades, comrades!” they shouted. “Don’t take your own brother to his death! ” But the stupid brutes, too ignorant to realise what was happening, merely carried on. Bob’s face did not reappear at the window. Too late, someone thought of racing ahead and shutting the five−barred gate; but in another moment the ambulance was through it and rapidly disappearing down the road. Bob was never seen again.

Three days later it was announced that he had died in the hospital at Reading, in spite of receiving every attention he could have. Steve came to announce the news to the others. He had, he said, been present during Bob’s last hours.

“It was the most affecting sight I have ever seen!” said Steve, wiping away a tear. “I was at his bedside at the very last. And at the end, almost too weak to speak, he whispered in my ear that his sole sorrow was to have passed on before the Marsden shed was finished. ‘Forward, comrades!’ he whispered. ‘Forward in the name of the Riot. Long live Artist Studio! Long live Comrade Nathan! Nathan is always right.’ Those were his very last words, comrades.”

Here Steve’s demeanour suddenly changed. He fell silent for a moment, and his little eyes darted suspicious glances from side to side before he proceeded.

It had come to his knowledge, he said, that a foolish and wicked rumour had been circulated at the time of Bob’s removal. Some of the artists had said that Bob was being sent away to die. It was almost unbelievable, said Steve, that any artist could be so stupid. Surely, he cried indignantly, surely they knew their beloved Leader, Comrade Nathan, better than that?

The artists were enormously relieved to hear this. And when Steve went on to give further graphic details of Bob’s death−bed, the admirable care he had received, and the expensive medicines for which Nathan had paid without a thought as to the cost, their last doubts disappeared and the sorrow that they felt for their comrade’s death was tempered by the thought that at least he had died happy.

Nathan himself appeared at the meeting on the following Sunday morning and pronounced a short oration in Bob’s honour. It had not been possible, he said, to bring back their lamented comrade’s remains for interment on the studio, but he had ordered a large wreath to be made from the laurels in the studio garden and sent down to be placed on Bob’s grave. And in a few days’ time they intended to hold a memorial banquet in Bob’s honour. Nathan ended his speech with a reminder of Bob’s two favourite maxims, “I will work harder” and “Comrade Nathan is always right”−maxims, he said, which every artist would do well to adopt as his own. On the day appointed for the banquet, a grocer’s van drove up from Reading and delivered a large wooden crate at the studio. That night there was the sound of uproarious singing, which was followed by what sounded like a violent quarrel and ended at about eleven o’clock with a tremendous crash of glass. No one stirred in the studio before noon on the following day, and the word went round that from somewhere or other Nathan had acquired the money to buy another case of whisky.

Chapter Eight: Battle 2

A FEW days later, when the terror caused by the executions had died down, some of the artists remembered−or thought they remembered−that the Sixth sentence decreed “No artist shall kill any other artist.” And though no one cared to mention it in the hearing, it was felt that the killings which had taken place did not square with this. Clive asked Benjamin to read him the Sixth sentence, and when Benjamin, as usual, said that he refused to meddle in such matters, he fetched Muriel. Muriel read it for him. It ran: “No artist shall kill any other artist without cause.” Somehow or other, the last two words had slipped out of the artists’ memory. But they saw now that the sentence had not been violated; for clearly there was good reason for killing the traitors who had leagued themselves with Shaun.

Throughout the year the artists worked even harder than they had worked in the previous year to rebuild the Marsden shed extension, with walls twice as thick as before, and to finish it by the appointed date, together with the regular work of the studio, was a tremendous labour. There were times when it seemed to the artists that they worked longer hours and earned no better than they had done in Jones’s day. On Sunday mornings Steve, holding down a long strip of paper, would read out to them lists of figures proving that the production had increased by two hundred per cent, three hundred per cent, or five hundred per cent, as the case might be. The artists saw no reason to disbelieve him, especially as they could no longer remember very clearly what conditions had been like before the Riot. All the same, there were days when they felt that they would sooner have had less figures and more food.

All orders were now issued through Steve. Nathan himself was not seen in public as often as once in a fortnight. When he did appear, he was attended not only by his retinue of guards but by a black ninja who marched in front of him and acted as a kind of scare-monger, letting out a loud grunt before Nathan spoke. Even in the studio, it was said, Nathan inhabited separate apartments from the others. He took his meals alone, with two guards to wait upon him. It was also announced that the gun would be fired every year on Nathan’s birthday, as well as on the other two anniversaries.

Nathan was now never spoken of simply as “Nathan.” He was always referred to in formal style as “our Leader, Comrade Nathan,” and some liked to invent for him such titles as Father of All Artists, Terroriser of the government, Protector of the fold, and the like. In his speeches, Steve would talk with the tears rolling down his cheeks of Nathan’s wisdom the goodness of his heart, and the deep love

he bore to all artists everywhere, even and especially the unhappy artists who still lived in ignorance and slavery in other studios. It had become usual to give Nathan the credit for every successful achievement and every stroke of good fortune. You would often hear one hen remark to another, “Under the guidance of our Leader, Comrade Nathan, I have maid five sculptures in six days”; or two artists, enjoying a drink, would exclaim, “Thanks to the leadership of Comrade Nathan, how excellent this beer tastes!” The general feeling on the studio was well expressed in a poem entitled Comrade Nathan, which was composed by Minimus and which ran as follows:

Friend of fatherless! Fountain of happiness! Lord of the paint brush! Oh, how my soul is on Fire when I gaze at thy Calm and commanding eye, Like the sun in the sky, Comrade Nathan! Thou are the giver of All that thy followers love; Every artist great or small Sleeps at peace at night, Thou watchest over all, Comrade Nathan!

Nathan approved of this poem and caused it to be inscribed on the wall of the main space, at the opposite end from the sentences. It was surmounted by a portrait of Nathan, in profile, executed by Steve in white paint.

Meanwhile, Nathan was engaged in complicated negotiations with the neighbouring departments. Of the two, Frederick was the more anxious to make the deal, but he would not offer a reasonable price. At the same time there were renewed rumours that Frederick and his men were plotting to attack Artist Studio and to destroy the Marsden shed, the building of which had aroused furious jealousy in him. Shaun was known to be still skulking on Pinchfield Studio. In the middle of the summer the artists were alarmed to hear that three second years had come forward and confessed that, inspired by Shaun, they had entered into a plot to murder Nathan. They were executed immediately, and fresh precautions for Nathan’s safety were taken. Four guards were by his bed at night, one at each corner, and a first year was given the task of tasting all his food before he ate it, lest it should be poisoned.

At about the same time it was given out that Nathan had arranged to sell a number of works to Mr. Pilkington; he was also going to enter into a regular agreement for the exchange of certain products between Artist Studio and Foxwood. The relations between Nathan and Pilkington, though they were only conducted through Whymper, were now almost friendly. The artists distrusted Pilkington, but greatly preferred him to Frederick, whom they both feared and hated. As the summer wore on, and the Marsden shed neared completion, the rumours of an impending treacherous attack grew stronger and stronger. Frederick, it was said, intended to bring against them twenty men all armed with guns, and he had already bribed the magistrates and police, so that if he could once get hold of the title−deeds of Artist Studio they would ask no questions. Moreover, terrible stories were leaking out from Pinchfield about the cruelties that Frederick practised upon his students. He had flogged an old man to death, he starved his employees, he had killed a dog by throwing it into the furnace, he amused himself in the evenings by making cocks fight with splinters of razor−blade tied to their spurs. The artists’ blood boiled with rage when they heard of these things being done, and sometimes they clamoured to be allowed to go out in a body and attack Pinchfield Studio, and set the artists free. But Steve counselled them to avoid rash actions and trust in Comrade Nathan’s strategy.

Nevertheless, feeling against Frederick continued to run high. One Sunday morning Nathan appeared in the studio and explained that he had never at any time contemplated selling products to Frederick; he considered it beneath his dignity, he said, to have dealings with scoundrels of that description. The artists who were still sent out to spread tidings of the Riot were forbidden to set foot anywhere on Foxwood, and were also ordered to drop their former slogan of “Death to the government” in favour of “Death to Frederick.” In the late summer yet another of Shaun’s machinations was laid bare. The white emulsion tins were full of white spirit and it was discovered that on one of his nocturnal visits Shaun had poured this in to ruin the paint.

An artist who had been privy to the plot had confessed his guilt to Steve and immediately committed suicide by swallowing deadly nightshade berries. The artists now also learned that Shaun had never−as many of them had believed hitherto−received the order of “Artist Hero First Class.” This was merely a legend which had been spread some time after the Battle by Shaun himself. So far from being decorated, he had been censured for showing cowardice in the battle. Once again some of the artists heard this with a certain bewilderment, but Steve was soon able to convince them that their memories had been at fault.

In the autumn, by a tremendous, exhausting effort the Marsden shed was finished. The machinery had still to be installed, and Whymper was negotiating the purchase of it, but the structure was completed. In the teeth of every difficulty, in spite of inexperience, of primitive implements, of bad luck and of Shaun’s treachery, the work had been finished punctually to the very day! Tired out but proud, the artists walked round and round their masterpiece, which appeared even more beautiful in their eyes than when it had been built the first time. Moreover, the walls were twice as thick as before. Nothing short of explosives would lay them low this time! And when they thought of how they had laboured, what discouragements they had overcome, and the enormous difference that would be made in their lives when the sails were turning and the dynamos running−when they thought of all this, their tiredness forsook them and they gambolled round and round the Marsden shed, uttering cries of triumph. Nathan himself, attended by his guards and ninja, came down to inspect the completed work; he personally congratulated the artists on their achievement, and announced that the Marsden shed would be renamed Nathanshed.

Two days later the artists were called together for a special meeting. They were struck dumb with surprise when Nathan announced that he had sold a stack of paintings to Frederick. Tomorrow Frederick’s wagons would arrive and begin carting it away. Throughout the whole period of his seeming friendship with Pilkington, Nathan had really been in secret agreement with Frederick.

All relations with Foxwood had been broken off; insulting messages had been sent to Pilkington. The scouts had been told to avoid Pinchfield Studio and to alter their slogan from “Death to Frederick” to “Death to Pilkington.” At the same time Nathan assured the artists that the stories of an impending attack on Artist Studio were completely untrue, and that the tales about Frederick’s cruelty to his own students had been greatly exaggerated. All these rumours had probably originated with Shaun and his agents. It now appeared that Shaun was not, after all, hiding on Pinchfield Studio, and in fact had never been there in his life: he was living−in considerable luxury, so it was said−at Foxwood.

The main followers were in ecstasies over Nathan’s cunning. By seeming to be friendly with Pilkington he had forced Frederick to raise his price by twelve pounds. But the superior quality of Nathan’s mind, said Steve, was shown in the fact that he trusted nobody, not even Frederick. Already Frederick had paid up; and the sum he had paid was just enough to buy the machinery for the Marsden shed.

When it was all gone, another special meeting was held for the artists to inspect Frederick’s money. Smiling beatifically, and wearing both his decorations, Nathan reposed on a bed on the platform, with the money at his side, neatly piled on a china dish from the studio kitchen. The artists filed slowly past, and each gazed his fill. And Bob put out his nose to sniff at the bank−notes.

Three days later there was a terrible hullabaloo. Whymper, his face deadly pale, came racing up the path on his bicycle, flung it down in the yard and rushed straight into the studio. The next moment a choking roar of rage sounded from Nathan’s apartments. The news of what had happened sped round the studio like wildfire. The banknotes were forgeries!

Nathan called the artists together immediately and in a terrible voice pronounced the death sentence upon Frederick. When captured, he said, Frederick should be boiled alive. At the same time he warned them that after this treacherous deed the worst was to be expected. Frederick and his men might make their long−expected attack at any moment. Sentinels were placed at all the approaches to the studio. In addition, four messengers were sent to Foxwood with a conciliatory message, which it was hoped might re−establish good relations with Pilkington.

The very next morning the attack came. The artists were at breakfast when the look−outs came racing in with the news that Frederick and his followers had already come through the five−barred gate. Boldly enough the artists sallied forth to meet them, but this time they did not have the easy victory that they had had in the previous Battle. There were fifteen men, with half a dozen guns between them, and they opened fire as soon as they got within fifty yards. The artists could not face the terrible explosions and the stinging pellets, and in spite of the efforts of Nathan and Bob to rally them, they were soon driven back. A number of

them were already wounded. They took refuge in the studio buildings and peeped cautiously out from chinks and knot−holes. All of the buildings, including the Marsden shed, was in the hands of the enemy. For the moment even Nathan seemed at a loss. He paced up and down without a word. Wistful glances were sent in the direction of Foxwood. If Pilkington and his men would help them, the day might yet be won. But at this moment the four scouts, who had been sent out on the day before, returned, one of them bearing a scrap of paper from Pilkington. On it was pencilled the words: “Serves you right.” Meanwhile Frederick and his men had halted about the Marsden shed. The artists watched them, and a murmur of dismay went round. Two of the men had produced a crowbar and a sledge hammer. They were going to knock the Marsden shed down.

“Impossible!” cried Nathan. “We have built the walls far too thick for that. They could not knock it down in a week. Courage, comrades!”

But Benjamin was watching the movements of the men intently. The two with the hammer and the crowbar were drilling a hole near the base of the Marsden shed. Slowly, and with an air almost of amusement, Benjamin nodded his head.

“I thought so,” he said. “Do you not see what they are doing? In another moment they are going to pack blasting powder into that hole.”

Terrified, the artists waited. It was impossible now to venture out of the shelter of the buildings. After a few minutes the men were seen to be running in all directions. Then there was a deafening roar. All the artists, except Nathan, flung themselves flat on their bellies and hid their faces. When they got up again, a huge cloud of black smoke was hanging where the Marsden shed had been. Slowly the breeze drifted it away. The Marsden shed had ceased to exist!

At this sight the artists’ courage returned to them. The fear and despair they had felt a moment earlier were drowned in their rage against this vile, contemptible act. A mighty cry for vengeance went up, and without waiting for further orders they charged forth in a body and made straight for the enemy. This time they did not heed the cruel pellets that swept over them like hail. It was a savage, bitter battle. The men fired again and again, and, when the artists got to close quarters, lashed out with their sticks and their heavy boots. Nearly everyone was wounded. Even Nathan, who was directing operations from the rear, had the tip of his arm chipped by a bullet. But the men did not go unscathed either. Three of them had their legs broken; another was gored in the belly. And when Nathan’s own bodyguard, whom he had instructed to make a detour under cover of the hedge, suddenly appeared on the men’s flank, panic overtook them. They saw that they were in danger of being surrounded. Frederick shouted to his men to get out while the going was good, and the next moment the cowardly enemy was running for dear life. The artists chased them right down to the bottom of the field, and got in some last kicks at them as they forced their way through the thorn hedge.

They had won, but they were weary and bleeding. Slowly they began to limp back towards the studio. The sight of their dead comrades stretched upon the grass moved some of them to tears. And for a little while they halted in sorrowful silence at the place where the Marsden shed had once stood. Yes, it was gone; almost the last trace of their labour was gone! Even the foundations were partially destroyed. And in rebuilding it they could not this time, as before, make use of the fallen stones. This time the stones had vanished too. The force of the explosion had flung them to distances of hundreds of yards. It was as though the Marsden shed had never been.

As they approached the studio Steve, who had unaccountably been absent during the fighting, came skipping towards them, beaming with satisfaction. And the artists heard, from the direction of the studio buildings, the solemn booming of a gun.

“What is that gun firing for?” said Bob. “To celebrate our victory!” cried Steve.

“What victory?” said Bob. His knees were bleeding, he had lost a shoe and split his lip, and a dozen pellets had lodged themselves in his leg.

“What victory, comrade? Have we not driven the enemy off our soil−the sacred soil of Artist Studio? ” “But they have destroyed the Marsden shed. And we had worked on it for two years!”

“What matter? We will build another Marsden shed. We will build six Marsden sheds if we feel like it. You do not appreciate, comrade, the mighty thing that we have done. The enemy was in occupation of this very ground that we stand upon. And now−thanks to the leadership of Comrade Nathan−we have won every inch of it back again!”

“Then we have won back what we had before,” said Bob. “That is our victory,” said Steve.

They limped into the yard. The pellets under the skin of Bob’s leg smarted painfully. He saw ahead of him the heavy labour of rebuilding the Marsden shed from the foundations, and already in imagination he braced himself for the task. But for the first time it occurred to him that he was fifty years old and that perhaps his great muscles were not quite what they had once been.

But when the artists saw the green flag flying, and heard the gun firing again−seven times it was fired in all−and heard the speech that Nathan made, congratulating them on their conduct, it did seem to them after all that they had won a great victory. The artists slain in the battle were given a solemn funeral Nathan himself walked at the head of the procession. Two whole days were given over to celebrations. There were songs, speeches, and more firing of the gun, and a special gift was bestowed on every artist. It was announced that the battle would be called the Battle of the Marsden shed, and that Nathan had created a new decoration, the Order of the Green Banner, which he had conferred upon himself. In the general rejoicings the unfortunate affair of the banknotes was forgotten.

It was a few days later than this that Nathans followers came upon a case of whisky in the cellars of the studio. It had been overlooked at the time when it was first occupied. That night there came from the studio the sound of loud singing, in which, to everyone’s surprise, the strains of  Artists of England were mixed up. At about half past nine Nathan, wearing an old bowler hat of Mr. Jones’s, was distinctly seen to emerge from the back door run around, and disappear indoors again. But in the morning a deep silence hung over the studio. Not one of Nathans inner circle appeared to be stirring. It was nearly nine o’clock when Steve made his appearance, walking slowly and dejectedly, his eyes dull, with every appearance of being seriously ill. He called the artists together and told them that he had a terrible piece of news to impart. Comrade Nathan was dying!

A cry of lamentation went up. With tears in their eyes they asked one another what they should do if their Leader were taken away from them. A rumour went round that Shaun had after all contrived to introduce poison into Nathan’s food. At eleven o’clock Steve came out to make another announcement. As his last act upon earth, Comrade Nathan had pronounced a solemn decree: the drinking of alcohol was to be punished by death.

By the evening, however, Nathan appeared to be somewhat better, and the following morning Steve was able to tell them that he was well on the way to recovery. By the evening of that day Nathan was back at work, and on the next day it was learned that he had instructed Whymper to purchase in Reading some booklets on brewing and distilling. A week later Nathan gave orders that the ground where the Marsden had been, was to be ploughed up. It was given out that Nathan intended to use the area for a beer making factory.

About this time there occurred a strange incident which hardly anyone was able to understand. One night at about twelve o’clock there was a loud crash in the yard, and the artists rushed out. It was a moonlit night. At the foot of the end wall of the main space, where the Sentences were written, there lay a ladder broken in two pieces. Steve, temporarily stunned, was sprawling beside it, and near at hand there lay a lantern, a paint−brush, and an overturned pot of white paint. The guards immediately made a ring round him, and escorted him back to Nathan’s residence in the offices as soon as he was able to walk. None of the artists could form any idea as to what this meant, except old Benjamin, who nodded his head with a knowing air, and seemed to understand, but would say nothing.

But a few days later Muriel, reading over the sentences to herself, noticed that there was yet another of them which the artists had remembered wrong. They had thought the Fifth was “No artist shall drink alcohol,” but there were two words that they had forgotten. Actually it read: “No artist shall drink alcohol to excess.”

Chapter Seven- Death to the Traitors!


It was a bitter winter. The stormy weather was followed by sleet and snow, and then by a hard frost which did not break till well into February. The artists carried on as best they could with the rebuilding, well knowing that the outside world was watching them and that the envious government ministers would rejoice and triumph if it were not finished on time.

Out of spite, the government ministers pretended not to believe that it was Shaun who had destroyer the shed: they said that it had fallen down because the walls were too thin. The artists knew that this was not the case. Still, it had been decided to build the walls three feet thick this time instead of eighteen inches as before, which meant collecting much larger quantities of stone. For a long time the area was full of snowdrifts and nothing could be done. Some progress was made in the dry frosty weather that followed, but it was cruel work, and the artists could not feel so hopeful about it as they had felt before. They were always cold, and usually hungry as well. Only Bob and Clive never lost heart. Steve made excellent speeches on the joy of service and the dignity of labour, but the other artists found more inspiration in Bob’s strength and his never−failing cry of “I will work harder! ”

In January food fell short. No work was being bought. Starvation seemed to stare them in the face.

It was vitally necessary to conceal this fact from the outside world. Emboldened by the collapse of the shed, the government ministers were inventing fresh lies about Artist Studio. Once again it was being put about that all the artists were dying of famine and disease, and that they were continually fighting among themselves and had resorted to cannibalism and infanticide. Nathan was well aware of the bad results that might follow if the real facts of the food situation were known, and he decided to make use of Mr. Whymper to spread a contrary impression. Hitherto the artists had had little or no contact with Whymper on his weekly visits. He was deceived, and continued to report to the outside world that there was no food shortage on Artist Studio.

Nevertheless, towards the end of January it became obvious that it would be necessary to procure some money from somewhere. In these days Nathan rarely appeared in public, but spent all his time in the studio. When he did emerge, it was in a ceremonial manner, with an escort of six others who closely surrounded him. Frequently he did not even appear on Sunday mornings, but issued his orders through Steve.

One Sunday morning Steve announced that the painters must surrender their latest workd,  Nathan had accepted, through Whymper, a contract for forty pictures a week and they must now work doubly hard. The price of these would pay to keep the studio going till summer came on and conditions were easier.

When the painters heard this, they raised a terrible outcry. They had been warned earlier that this sacrifice might be necessary, but had not believed that it would really happen. For the first time since the expulsion of Jones, there was something resembling a riot. Led by three first year painters they made a determined effort to thwart Nathan’s wishes. Their method was to ruin their own work slashing canvases and spilling ink on hangings. Nathan acted swiftly and ruthlessly. He ordered the painters equipment and share of food to be withheld. For five days the painters held out but then had to give in. Nine had died in the meantime. Their bodies were buried under the construction under the dead of night and all were told they had decided to leave and live elsewhere.

All this while no more had been seen of Shaun. He was rumoured to be hiding on one of the neighbouring studios or departments. Nathanwas hesitating between the two, unable to make up his mind about which to join forces with. It was noticed that whenever he seemed on the point of coming to an agreement with Frederick, Shaun was declared to be in hiding at Foxwood, while, when he inclined toward Pilkington, Shaun was said to be at Pinchfield.

Suddenly, early in the spring, an alarming thing was discovered. Shaun was secretly frequenting the studio by night! The artists were so disturbed that they could hardly sleep. Every night, it was said, he came creeping in under cover of darkness and performed all kinds of mischief. He stole the equipment, wiped the macs, tipped paints over. Whenever anything went wrong it became usual to attribute it to Shaun. If a window was broken or a drain was blocked up, someone was certain to say that Shaun had come in the night and done it, and when the key of the store−shed was lost, the whole studio was convinced that Shaun had stolen it. Curiously enough, they went on believing this even after the mislaid key was found.

Nathan decreed that there should be a full investigation into Shaun’s activities. He set out and made a careful tour of inspection of the studio buildings, the other artists following at a respectful distance. At every few steps Nathan stopped and studied the ground for traces of Shaun’s footsteps. He examined every corner, and found traces of Shaun almost everywhere. He would put his eyes close to the ground, give several deep “hmmm”s, and exclaim in a terrible voice, “Shaun! He has been here! ”

The artists were thoroughly frightened. It seemed to them as though Shaun were some kind of invisible influence, pervading the air about them and menacing them with all kinds of dangers. In the evening Steve called them together, and with an alarmed expression on his face told them that he had some serious news to report.

“Comrades!” cried Steve making little nervous skips, “a most terrible thing has been discovered. Shaun has sold himself to Frederick of Pinchfield Studio, who is even now plotting to attack us and take our studio away from us! Shaun is to act as his guide when the attack begins. But there is worse than that. We had thought that Shaun’s riot was caused simply by his vanity and ambition. But we were wrong comrades. Do you know what the real reason was? Shaun was in league with Jones from the very start! He was Jones’s secret agent all the time. It has all been proved by documents which he left behind him and which we have only just discovered. To my mind this explains a great deal, comrades. Did we not see for ourselves how he attempted−fortunately without success−to get us defeated and destroyed at the Great Battle?”

The artists were stupefied. This was a wickedness far outdoing Shaun’s destruction of the building project. But it was some minutes before they could fully take it in. They all remembered, or thought they remembered, how they had seen Shaun charging ahead of them at the Battle, how he had rallied and encouraged them at every turn, and how he had not paused for an instant even when the pellets from Jones’s gun had wounded his back. At first it was a little difficult to see how this fitted in with his being on Jones’s side. Even Bob, who seldom asked questions, was puzzled. He lay down, shut his eyes, and with a hard effort managed to formulate his thoughts.

“I do not believe that,” he said. “Shaun fought bravely at the Battle. I saw him myself. Did we not give him ‘Artist Hero, first Class,’ immediately afterwards?”

“That was our mistake, comrade. For we know now−it is all written down in the secret documents that we have found−that in reality he was trying to lure us to our doom.”

“But he was wounded,” said Bob. “We all saw him running with blood.”

“That was part of the arrangement!” cried Steve. “Jones’s shot only grazed him. I could show you this in his own writing, if you were able to read it. The plot was for Shaun, at the critical moment, to give the signal for flight and leave the field to the enemy. And he very nearly succeeded−I will even say, comrades, he would have succeeded if it had not been for our heroic Leader, Comrade Nathan. Do you not remember how, just at the moment when Jones and his men had got inside Shaun suddenly turned and fled, and many artists followed him? And do you not remember, too, that it was just at that moment, when panic was spreading and all seemed lost, that Comrade Nathan sprang forward? Surely you remember that, comrades?” exclaimed Steve.

Now when Steve described the scene so graphically, it seemed to the artists that they did remember it. At any rate, they remembered that at the critical moment of the battle Shaun had turned to flee. But Bob was still a little uneasy.

“I do not believe that Shaun was a traitor at the beginning,” he said finally. “What he has done since is different. But I believe that at the Battle he was a good comrade.”

“Our Leader, Comrade Nathan,” announced Steve, speaking very slowly and firmly, “has stated categorically−categorically, comrade−that Shaun was Jones’s agent from the very beginning−yes, and from long before the Riot was ever thought of.”

“Ah, that is different!” said Bob. “If Comrade Nathan says it, it must be right.”

“That is the true spirit, comrade!” cried Steve, but it was noticed he cast a very ugly look at Bob with his little twinkling eyes. He turned to go, then paused and added impressively: “I warn every artist on this studio to keep his eyes very wide open. For we have reason to think that some of Shaun’s secret agents are lurking among us at this moment! ”


Four days later, in the late afternoon, Nathan ordered all the artists to assemble in the main space. When they were all gathered together, Nathan emerged from the central gallery, wearing both his medals (for he had recently awarded himself “Artist Hero, First Class,” and “Artist Hero, Second Class”). They all cowered silently in their places, seeming to know in advance that some terrible thing was about to happen.

Nathan stood sternly surveying his audience; then he uttered a high−pitched chant. Immediately his bodyguards seized four of the sculptors by the ear and dragged them, squealing with pain and terror, to Nathan’s feet. To the amazement of everybody, three of them flung themselves upon Bob. Bob saw them coming and pinned him to the ground. The guard shrieked for mercy and the other two fled. Bob looked at Nathan to know whether he should crush him to death or let it go. Nathan appeared to change countenance, and sharply ordered Bob to let go.

Presently the tumult died down. The four sculptors waited, trembling, with guilt written on every line of their countenances. Nathan now called upon them to confess their crimes. They were the same four as had protested when Nathan abolished the Sunday Meetings. Without any further prompting they confessed that they had been secretly in touch with Shaun ever since his expulsion, that they had collaborated with him

in destroying the Marsden, and that they had entered into an agreement with him to hand over Artist Studio to Mr. Frederick. They added that Shaun had privately admitted to them that he had been Jones’s secret agent for years past. When they had finished their confession they were taken away and Nathan demanded whether any other artist had anything to confess.

The three painters who had been the ringleaders in the attempted riot over the extra work now came forward and stated that Shaun had appeared to them in a dream and incited them to disobey Nathan’s orders. They, too, were taken away and slaughtered. And so the tale of confessions and executions went on, until there was a pile of corpses lying before Nathan’s feet and the air was heavy with the smell of blood. When it was all over, the remaining artists, crept away in a body. They were shaken and miserable. They did not know which was more shocking−the treachery of the artists who had leagued themselves with Shaun, or the cruel retribution they had just witnessed. No artist had ever killed another artist. They had made their way on to the ground where the half−finished shed stood, and with one accord they all lay down as though huddling together for warmth−Clive, Muriel, Benjamin, everyone. For some time nobody spoke. Only Bob remained on his feet. He fidgeted to and fro

Finally he said:

“I do not understand it. I would not have believed that such things could happen on our studio. It must be due to some fault in ourselves. The solution, as I see it, is to work harder. From now onwards I shall get up a full hour earlier in the mornings.”

And he moved off to go to work. Having got there, he collected two successive loads of stone and dragged them down to the shed site before retiring for the night.

The artists huddled about Clive, not speaking. The space where they were lying gave them a wide prospect across the countryside. Most of Artist Studio was within their view. It was a clear spring evening. The grass and the bursting hedges were gilded by the level rays of the sun. Never had the studio−and with a kind of surprise they remembered that it was their own studio, every inch of it their own property−appeared to the artists so desirable a place. As Clive looked down the hillside his eyes filled with tears. If he could have spoken his thoughts, it would have been to say that this was not what they had aimed at when they had set themselves years ago to work for the overthrow of the human race. These scenes of terror and slaughter were not what they had looked forward to on that night when old Major first stirred them to riot. If he himself had had any picture of the future, it had been of a society of artists set free from hunger and government rule, all equal, each working according to his capacity, the strong protecting the weak. Instead−he did not know why−they had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, guards roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes. There was no thought of riot or disobedience in his mind. He knew that, even as things were, they were far better off than they had been in the days of Jones, and that before all else it was needful to prevent the return of the government ministers. Whatever happened he would remain faithful, work hard, carry out the orders that were given to heim, and accept the leadership of Nathan. But still, it was not for this that he and all the other artists had hoped and toiled. It was not for this that they had built the shed conversion and faced the bullets of Jones’s gun. Such were his thoughts, though he lacked the words to express them.

At last, feeling this to be in some way a substitute for the words he was unable to find, he began to sing Artists of England . The other artists sitting round him took it up, and they sang it three times over−very tunefully, but slowly and mournfully, in a way they had never sung it before.

They had just finished singing it for the third time when Steve, attended by two dogs, approached them with the air of having something important to say. He announced that, by a special decree of Comrade Nathan, Artists of England had been abolished. From now onwards it was forbidden to sing it.

The artists were taken aback. “Why?” cried Muriel.

“It’s no longer needed, comrade,” said Steve stiffly. “Artists of England was the song of the Riot. But the Riot is now completed. The execution of the traitors this afternoon was the final act. The enemy both external and internal has been defeated. In Artists of England we expressed our longing for a better society in days to come. But that society has now been established. Clearly this song has no longer any purpose.”

Frightened though they were, some of the artists might possibly have protested, but at this moment a few whispered “Two Heads Are Better Than One” which went on for several minutes and put an end to the discussion.

So Artists of England was heard no more. In its place Minimus, the poet, had composed another song which began: Never through me shalt thou come to harm! and this was sung every Sunday morning after the hoisting of the flag. But somehow neither the words nor the tune ever seemed to the artists to come up to Artists of England.

Chapter Six- The Great Storm…something is awry!

All that year the artists worked like slaves. But they were happy in their work; they grudged no effort or sacrifice, well aware that everything that they did was for the benefit of themselves and those of their kind who would come after them, and not for a pack of idle, thieving government ministers.

Throughout the spring and summer they worked a sixty−hour week, and in August Nathan announced that there would be work on Sunday afternoons as well. This work was strictly voluntary, but any artist who absented himself from it would have to have good reason. Even so, it was found necessary to leave certain tasks undone. The rate of production was a little less successful than in the previous year. It was possible to foresee that the coming winter would be a hard one.

The Marsden Shed conversion presented unexpected difficulties. There was a good quarry of limestone on the studio, and plenty of sand and cement had been found in one of the outhouses, so that all the materials for building were at hand. But the problem the artists could not at first solve was how to break up the stone into pieces of suitable size. There seemed no way of doing this except with picks and crowbars, which no artist could use, because no artist enjoyed such hard labour on the hands. Only after weeks of vain effort did the right idea occur to somebody−namely, to utilise the force of gravity. Huge boulders, far too big to be used as they were, were lying all over. The artists lashed ropes round these, and then all together, any artist that could lay hold of the rope they dragged them with desperate slowness up a slope where they were toppled over the edge, to shatter to pieces below. Transporting the stone when it was once broken was comparatively simple. They mainly used the department trolleys loading them up and taking it in turns to drag them over. The laziest artists tried to sit on the backs of them for free rides. By late summer a sufficient store of stone had accumulated, and then the building began. But it was a slow, laborious process. Frequently it took a whole day of exhausting effort to drag a single boulder, and sometimes when it was pushed over the edge it failed to break. Nothing could have been achieved without Bob, whose strength seemed equal to that of all the rest of the artists put together. Clive warned him sometimes to be careful not to overstrain himself especially his back, but Bob would never listen to him. His two slogans, “I will work harder” and “Nathan is always right,” seemed to him a sufficient answer to all problems. He always set an alarm three quarters of an hour earlier in the mornings than everyone else. And in his spare moments, of which there were not many nowadays, he would go alone to the quarry, collect a load of broken stone, and drag it down to the site unassisted.

The artists were not badly off throughout that summer, in spite of the hardness of their work. If they had no more food than they had had in Jones’s day, at least they did not have less. The advantage of only having to feed themselves, and not having to support extravagant government ministers as well, was so great that it would have taken a lot of failures to outweigh it. And in many ways the artist method of doing things was more efficient and saved labour. And again, since no artist now stole, it was unnecessary to lock off sections of the studio which saved a lot of money on padlocks and security systems which used to be accessed by card key out of hours, the ministers keeping tabs yet again on activity. Nevertheless, as the summer wore on, various unforeseen shortages began to make them selves felt. Later there would be need for various tools and, finally, the machinery for the Marsden. How these were to be procured, no one was able to imagine.

One Sunday morning, when the artists assembled to receive their orders, Nathan announced that he had decided upon a new policy. From now onwards Artist Studio would engage in trade with the neighbouring studios: not, of course, for any commercial purpose, but simply in order to obtain certain materials which were urgently necessary. The needs of the Marsden must override everything else, he said. He was therefore making arrangements to sell part of the production and later on, if more money were needed, it would have to be made up by the sale of by products or more commercial crafts, for which there was always a market in Reading.

Once again the artists were conscious of a vague uneasiness. Never to have any dealings with government ministers, never to engage in trade, never to make use of money−had not these been among the earliest resolutions passed at that first triumphant Meeting after Jones was expelled? All the artists remembered passing such resolutions: or at least they thought that they remembered it. The four first years who had protested when Nathan abolished the Meetings raised their voices timidly, but they were promptly silenced. Then, as usual, the sheep broke into “Two Heads Are Better Than One!” and the momentary awkwardness was smoothed over. Finally Nathan raised his hand for silence and announced that he had already made all the arrangements. There would be no need for any of the artists to come in contact with government ministers, which would clearly be most undesirable. He intended to take the whole burden upon his own shoulders. A Mr. Whymper, a solicitor living in Reading, had agreed to act as intermediary between Artist Studio and the outside world, and would visit the studio every Monday morning to receive his instructions. Nathan ended his speech with his usual cry of “Long live Artist Studio!” and after the singing of Artists of England the artists were dismissed.

Afterwards Steve made a round of the studio and set the artists’ minds at rest. He assured them that the resolution against engaging in trade and using money had never been passed, or even suggested. It was pure imagination, probably traceable in the beginning to lies circulated by Shaun. A few artists still felt faintly doubtful, but Steve asked them shrewdly, “Are you certain that this is not something that you have dreamed, comrades? Have you any record of such a resolution? Is it written down anywhere?” And since it was certainly true that nothing of the kind existed in writing, the artists were satisfied that they had been mistaken.

Every Monday Mr. Whymper visited the studio as had been arranged. He was a sly−looking little man with side whiskers, a solicitor in a very small way of business, but sharp enough to have realised earlier than anyone else that Artist Studio would need a broker and that the commissions would be worth having. The artists watched his coming and going with a kind of dread, and avoided him as much as possible. Nevertheless, the sight of Nathan, delivering orders to Whymper an offcial, roused their pride and partly reconciled them to the new arrangement. Their relations with the ministers were now not quite the same as they had been before. The government ministers did not hate Artist Studio any less now that it was prospering; indeed, they hated it more than ever. Every one of them held it as an article of faith that the studio would go bankrupt sooner or later, and, above all, that the shed conversion would be a failure. They would meet in the public−houses and prove to one another by means of diagrams that it was bound to fall down, or that if it did stand up, then that it would never work. And yet, against their will, they had developed a certain respect for the efficiency with which the artists were managing their own affairs. One symptom of this was that they had begun to call Artist Studio by its proper name and ceased to pretend that it was called the Art Deapartment. They had also dropped their championship of Jones, who had given up hope of getting his studio back and gone to live in another part of the county. Except through Whymper, there was as yet no contact between Artist Studio and the outside world, but there were constant rumours that Nathan was about to enter into a definite business agreement with another close by department.

It was about this time that Nathans closest supporters suddenly moved into the studio and took up their residence there among the offices in spur C. Again the artists seemed to remember that a resolution against this had been passed in the early days, and again Steve was able to convince them that this was not the case. It was absolutely necessary, he said, that the brains of the studio, should have a quiet place to work in. It was also more suited to the dignity of the Leader (for of late he had taken to speaking of Nathan under the title of “Leader”) to live in. Nevertheless, some of the artists were disturbed when they heard that they also took their meals in the kitchen and used the common−room as a recreation room, sleeping in the offices. Bob passed it off as usual with “Nathan is always right!”, but Clive, who thought he remembered a definite ruling against this, went to the end of the barn and tried to puzzle out the Sentences which were inscribed there. Finding himself unable to read more than individual letters, he fetched Muriel.

“Muriel,” he said, “read me the Fourth sentence. Does it not say something about never sleeping in the studio?”

With some difficulty Muriel spelt it out. “It says, ‘No artist shall sleep in a the studio in a proper bed ,”‘ she announced finally.

Steve, who happened to be passing at this moment, was able to put the whole matter in its proper perspective.

“You have heard then, comrades,” he said, “that we now sleep in the studio? And why not? You did not suppose, surely, that there was ever a ruling against sleeping here? But not more comfortably than we need, I can tell you, comrades, with all the brainwork we have to do nowadays. You would not rob us of our repose, would you, comrades? You would not have us too tired to carry out our duties? Surely none of you wishes to see Jones back?”

The artists reassured him on this point immediately, and no more was said about the sleeping in the studio. And when, some days afterwards, it was announced that from now on Nathan close followers would get up an hour later in the mornings than the other artists, no complaint was made about that either.

By the autumn the artists were tired but happy. They had had a hard year, and after the sale of many they had a good pot of money. The shed however compensated for everything. It was almost half built now. After September there was a stretch of clear dry weather, and the artists toiled harder than ever, thinking it well worth while to plod to and fro all day with blocks of stone if by doing so they could raise the walls another foot. Bob would even come out at nights and work for an hour or two on his own by the light of the moon. In their spare moments the artists would walk round and round the half−finished extension, admiring the strength and perpendicularity of its walls and marvelling that they should ever have been able to build anything so imposing. Only old Benjamin refused to grow enthusiastic though, as usual, he would utter nothing beyond the cryptic remarks he always did.

November came, with raging south−west winds. Building had to stop because it was now too wet to mix the cement. Finally there came a night when the gale was so violent that the studio buildings rocked on their foundations and several tiles were blown off the roof. In the morning the artists came out to find that the flagstaff had been blown down and an elm tree had been plucked up like a radish. They had just noticed this when a cry of despair broke from every artist’s throat. A terrible sight had met their eyes. The shed was in ruins.

With one accord they dashed down to the spot. Nathan, who seldom moved out of a walk, raced ahead of them all. Yes, there it lay, the fruit of all their struggles, levelled to its foundations, the stones they had broken and carried so laboriously scattered all around. Unable at first to speak, they stood gazing mournfully at the litter of fallen stone Nathan paced to and fro in silence. Suddenly he halted as though his mind were made up.

“Comrades,” he said quietly, “do you know who is responsible for this? Do you know the enemy who has come in the night and overthrown our shed? SHAUN!” he suddenly roared in a voice of thunder. “Shaun has done this thing! In sheer malignity, thinking to set back our plans and avenge himself for his ignominious expulsion, this traitor has crept here under cover of night and destroyed our work of nearly a year. Comrades, here and now I pronounce the death sentence upon Shaun. ‘Artist Hero, Second Class,’  to any artist who brings him to justice. A first class honour to anyone who captures him alive!”

The artists were shocked beyond measure to learn that even Shaun could be guilty of such an action. There was a cry of indignation, and everyone began thinking out ways of catching Shaun if he should ever come back. Almost immediately footprints were discovered in the grass at a little distance. They could only be traced for a few yards, but appeared to lead to a hole in the hedge. Nathan starred deeply at them and pronounced them to be Shaun’s. He gave it as his opinion that Shaun had probably come from the direction of Foxwood.

“No more delays, comrades!” cried Nathan when the footprints had been examined. “There is work to be done. This very morning we begin rebuilding, and we will build all through the winter, rain or shine. We will teach this miserable traitor that he cannot undo our work so easily. Remember, comrades, ‘there must be no alteration in our plans: they shall be carried out to the day. Forward, comrades! Long live the Marsden! Long live Artist Studio!

Chapter Five- The struggle for leadership and Shaun’s Takeover.


As winter drew on, Mollie became more and more troublesome. She was late to the studio every morning and excused herself by saying that she had overslept, and she complained of mysterious pains, although her appetite was excellent. On every kind of pretext she would run away and go to the common room, where she would stand foolishly gazing at her own reflection in the giant mirror. But there were also rumours of something more serious. One day, as Mollie strolled blithely into the studio, flirting her long hair and chewing at a strand of it, Clive took her aside.

“Mollie,” she said, “I have something very serious to say to you. This morning I saw you looking over the hedge that divides Artist Studio from Foxwood. One of Mr. Pilkington’s men was standing on the other side of the hedge. And−I was a long way away, but I am almost certain I saw this−he was talking to you and you looked like you were talking back. What does that mean, Mollie?”

“He didn’t! I wasn’t! It isn’t true!” cried Mollie.

“Mollie! Look me in the face. Do you give me your word of honour that that man was not talking to you?”

“It isn’t true!” repeated Mollie, but she could not look Clive in the face, and the next moment she took to her heels and ran away.

A thought struck Clive. Without saying anything to the others, he went to Mollie’s studio area and turned over the papers. Hidden under the straw was a little bunch of daisies.

Three days later Mollie disappeared. For some weeks nothing was known of her whereabouts, then there were reports that they had seen her on the other side of Reading living with a strange man. None of the artists ever mentioned Mollie again. In January there came bitterly hard weather. The earth was like iron, and nothing could be done outside. Many meetings were held in the main studio, and the sculptors who usually exhibited outside on billboards and the like occupied themselves with planning out the work of the coming season. It had come to be accepted that the video artists, who were manifestly cleverer than the other artists, should decide all questions of studio policy, though their decisions had to be ratified by a majority vote. This arrangement would have worked well enough if it had not been for the disputes between Shaun and Nathan. These two disagreed at every point where disagreement was possible. Each had his own following, and there were some violent debates. At the Meetings Shaun often won over the majority by his brilliant speeches, but Nathan was better at canvassing support for himself in between times. He was especially successful with the sculptors. Of late many had taken to chanting “TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE” as they worked and they often interrupted the Meetings with this. It was noticed that they were especially liable to break into it at crucial moments in Shaun’s speeches. Shaun talked learnedly about workwork techniques, curation tips and editing preferences, and had worked out a complicated scheme for all the artists to negotiate and work around the space together. Nathan produced no schemes of his own, but said quietly that Shaun’s would come to nothing, and seemed to be biding his time. But of all their controversies, none was so bitter as the one that took place over the marsden.


Not far from the studio buildings, there was a shed which housed all unwanted storage. After surveying the situation, Shaun declared that this was just the place for a new workshop to be built, which could be made to house several work benches whilst leaving some room for storage still. This would also run a circular saw, and a generator to power the mac rooms at a lesser cost. The artists had never heard of anything of this kind before (for the studio was an old−fashioned one and had only the most primitive machinery), and they listened in astonishment while Shaun conjured up pictures of fantastic machines which would do their work for them while they improved their minds with reading and conversation.

Within a few weeks Shaun’s plans for the marsden were fully worked out. The mechanical details came mostly from three books which had belonged to Mr. Jones␣ One Thousand Useful Things to Do About the House, Every Man His Own Bricklayer, and Electricity for Beginners. Shaun used as his study a corner of the studio separated from the rest. He was closeted there for hours at a time. With his books held open by a stone, and with a pen gripped between his fingers, he would move rapidly to and fro, drawing in line after line and uttering little whimpers of excitement. Gradually the plans grew into a complicated mass of cranks and cog−wheels, covering more than half the floor, which the other artists found completely unintelligible but very impressive. All of them came to look at Shaun’s drawings at least once a day. Only Nathan held aloof. He had declared himself against the project from the start. One day, however, he arrived unexpectedly to examine the plans. He walked heavily round, looked closely at every detail of the plans and snuffed at them once or twice, then stood for a little while contemplating them out of the corner of his eye; then suddenly he grabbed them, tore a sheet in two and walked out without uttering a word.

The whole studio was deeply divided on the subject of the. Shaun did not deny that to build it would be a difficult business. Stone would have to be carried and built up into walls, then the sails would have to be made and after that there would be need for dynamos and cables. (How these were to be procured, Shaun did not say.) But he maintained that it could all be done in a year. And thereafter, he declared, so much labour would be saved that the artists would only need to work three days a week. Nathan, on the other hand, argued that the great need of the moment was to increase production of items to sell, and that if they wasted time on the windmill they would all starve to death. The artists formed themselves into two factions under the slogan, “Vote for Shaun and the three−day week” and “Vote for Nathan and survival.” Benjamin was the only artist who did not side with either faction. He refused to believe either that food would become more plentiful or that the Marsden conversion would save work. He said, life would go on as it had always gone on−that is, badly.

Apart from the disputes over this there was the question of the defence of the studio. It was fully realised that though the government ministers had been defeated in the Battle they might make another and more determined attempt to recapture the studio and reinstate Mr. Jones. They had all the more reason for doing so because the news of their defeat had spread across the country and made the artists on the neighbouring studios more restive than ever. As usual, Shaun and Nathan were in disagreement. According to Nathan, what the artists must do was to procure firearms and train themselves in the use of them. According to Shaun, they must send out more and more spys and stir up riot among the artists on the other studios. The one argued that if they could not defend themselves they were bound to be conquered, the other argued that if rebellions happened everywhere they would have no need to defend themselves. The artists listened first to Nathan, then to Shaun, and could not make up their minds which was right; indeed, they always found themselves in agreement with the one who was speaking at the moment.

At last the day came when Shaun’s plans were completed. At the Meeting on the following Sunday the question of whether or not to begin work on the arsden conversion was to be put to the vote. When the artists had assembled in the main space, Shaun stood up and, though occasionally interrupted, set forth his reasons for advocating the conversion. Then Nathan stood up to reply. He said very quietly that the idea was nonsense and that he advised nobody to vote for it, and promptly sat down again; he had spoken for barely thirty seconds, and seemed almost indifferent as to the effect he produced. At this Shaun sprang to his feet, and broke into a passionate appeal in favour of the plans. Until now the artists had been about equally divided in their sympathies, but in a moment Shaun’s eloquence had carried them away. In glowing sentences he painted a picture of Artist Studio as it might be when sordid labour was lifted from the artists’ backs. By the time he had finished speaking, there was no doubt as to which way the vote would go. But just at this moment Nathan stood up and, casting a peculiar sidelong look at Shaun, and uttered a criptic phrase.

At this there was a terrible baying sound outside, and nine enormous men wearing protective vests came into the space. They dashed straight for Shaun, who only sprang from his place just in time to escape their cricket bats. In a moment he was out of the door and they were after him. Too amazed and frightened to speak, all the artists crowded through the door to watch the chase. Shaun was racing across the campus. Suddenly he slipped and it seemed certain that they had him. Then he was up again, running faster than ever, then they were gaining on him again. Then he put on an extra spurt and, with a few inches to spare, slipped through a hole in the hedge and was seen no more.

Silent and terrified, the artists crept back into the barn.

Nathan, with the men following him, now mounted on to the raised portion of the floor where Major had previously stood to deliver his speech. He announced that from now on the Sunday−morning Meetings would come to an end. They were unnecessary, he said, and wasted time. In future all questions relating to the working of the studio would be settled by a special committee of video artists, presided over by himself. These would meet in private and afterwards communicate their decisions to the others. The artists would still assemble on Sunday mornings to salute the flag, sing Artists of England , and receive their orders for the week; but there would be no more debates.

In spite of the shock that Shaun’s expulsion had given them, the artists were dismayed by this announcement. Several of them would have protested if they could have found the right arguments. Even Bob was vaguely troubled. Some of the sculptors themselves, however, were more articulate. Four younger ones in the front row uttered disapproval, and all four of them sprang to their feet and began speaking at once. But suddenly the men sitting round Nathan let out warning looks and they fell silent again.

Afterwards one artists was sent by Nathan round the studio to explain the new arrangement to the others.

“Comrades,” he said, “I trust that every artist here appreciates the sacrifice that Comrade Nathanh as made in taking this extra labour upon himself. Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure! On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade Nathan that all artists are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be? Suppose you had decided to follow Shaun, who, as we now know, was no better than a criminal?”

“He fought bravely at the Battle” said somebody.

“Bravery is not enough,” said Squealer. “Loyalty and obedience are more important. And as to the Battle, I believe the time will come when we shall find that Shaun’s part in it was much exaggerated. Discipline, comrades, iron discipline! That is the watchword for today. One false step, and our enemies would be upon us. Surely, comrades, you do not want Jones and those ministers back?”

Once again this argument was unanswerable. Certainly the artists did not want Jones back; if the holding of debates on Sunday mornings was liable to bring him back, then the debates must stop. Bob, who had now had time to think things over, voiced the general feeling by saying: “If Comrade Nathan says it, it must be right.” And from then on he adopted the maxim, “Nathan is always right,” in addition to his private motto of “I will work harder.”

By this time the weather had broken and outdoors work could begin again. The shed where Shaun had drawn his plans had been shut up and it was assumed that the plans had been rubbed off the floor. Every Sunday morning at ten o’clock the artists assembled in the studio to receive their orders for the week. After the hoisting of the flag, the artists were required to file past in a reverent manner before entering the building. Nowadays they did not sit all together as they had done in the past. Nathan, with his friends sat on the front of the raised platform. The rest of the artists sat facing them in the main body of the space. Nathan read out the orders for the week in a gruff soldierly style, and after a single singing of Artists of England, all the artists dispersed.

On the third Sunday after Shaun’s expulsion, the artists were somewhat surprised to hear Nathan announce that the Marsden was to be converted after all. He did not give any reason for having changed his mind, but merely warned the artists that this extra task would mean very hard work. The plans, however, had all been prepared, down to the last detail. The building, with various other improvements, was expected to take two years.

That evening Steven explained privately to the other artists that Nathan had never in reality been opposed to the conversion. On the contrary, it was he who had advocated it in the beginning, and the plan which Shaun had drawn on the floor had actually been stolen from among Nathan’s papers. The whole thing was, in fact, Nathan’s own creation. Why, then, asked somebody, had he spoken so strongly against it? That, he said, was Comrade Nathan’s cunning. He had seemed to oppose the windmill, simply as a manoeuvre to get rid of Shaun, who was a dangerous character and a bad influence. Now that Shaun was out of the way, the plan could go forward without his interference. This was something called tactics. He repeated a number of times, “Tactics, comrades, tactics!”. The artists were not certain what the word meant, but it was  spoken so persuasively, that they accepted his explanation without further questions.

Chapter four- The Battle

By late summer the news of what had happened on Artist Studio had spread across half the county and there were uprisings in all of the capitals some of which got very out of hand. Every day Shaun and Nathan sent out some of the artists to spy on what was going on whose instructions were to mingle with the artists in London studios, tell them the story of the Riot, and teach them the tune of Artists of England.

Most of this time Mr. Jones had spent sitting in the taproom of the Oakford, complaining to anyone who would listen of the monstrous injustice he had suffered in being turned out of his property by a pack of good−for−nothing artists. The other tutors who had been kicked out of similar positions sympathised in principle, but they did not at first give him much help. At heart, each of them was secretly wondering whether he could not somehow turn Jones’s misfortune to his own advantage. It was lucky that the owners of the neighbouring typography and agriculture departments which adjoined the Artist Studios were on permanently bad terms. Typography was a large, neglected, old−fashioned studio, much overgrown by woodland, with all its pastures worn out and its hedges in a disgraceful condition. Its owner, was an easy−going gentleman called Mr Foxwood who spent most of his time in fishing or hunting according to the season. The other department of agriculture was smaller and better kept. Its owner was a Mr. Frederick, a tough, shrewd man, perpetually involved in lawsuits and with a name for driving hard bargains. These two disliked each other so much that it was difficult for them to come to any agreement, even in defence of their own interests.

Nevertheless, they were both thoroughly frightened by the riot on Artist Studio, and very anxious to prevent their own students from learning too much about it. At first they pretended to laugh to scorn the idea of artists managing a department for themselves. The whole thing would be over in a fortnight, they said. They put it about that the artists on the Studio were perpetually fighting among themselves and were also rapidly starving to death having sold no artwork. When time passed and the artists had evidently not starved to death, Foxwood and Frederick changed their tune and began to talk of the terrible wickedness that now flourished on the Studio. It was given out that the artists there practised cannibalism, tortured one another with red−hot glueguns, and had their males in common there being a much reduced male to female ratio in the art department. This was what came of rebelling against the laws of Nature, they said.

However, these stories were never fully believed. Rumours of a wonderful studio, where most tutors had been turned out and the artists managed their own affairs, continued to circulate in vague and distorted forms, and throughout that year a wave of rebelliousness ran through the country. Students which had always been tractable suddenly turned savage, breaking into towns and looting shops and attacking government buildings. The following days saw similar scenes in other parts of London with the worst violence taking place in Hackney, Brixton, Chingford, Peckham, Enfield, Croydon, Ealing and East Ham. The city centre in Oxford Circus was also attacked. From August 8 onwards, other cities in England including Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool, along with several towns, saw what was described by the media as ‘copycat violence’. The riots were characterised by rampant looting and arson attacks of unprecedented levels. As a result, British Prime Minister David Cameron returned early from his holiday in Italy and other government and opposition leaders also ended their holidays to attend to the matter. All police leave was cancelled and Parliament was recalled on 11 August to debate the situation.

Above all, the tune and even the words of Artists of England were known everywhere. It had spread with astonishing speed. The government ministers could not contain their rage when they heard this song, though they pretended to think it merely ridiculous. They could not understand, they said, how even artists could bring themselves to sing such contemptible rubbish. Any artist caught singing it was given a flogging on the spot. And yet the song was irrepressible. The blackbirds whistled it in the hedges, the pigeons cooed it in the elms, it got into the din of the smithies and the tune of the church bells. And when the ministers listened to it, they secretly trembled, hearing in it a prophecy of their future doom.


Early in October, a group of students cam running into the Artist’s Studio in the wildest excitement. Jones and all his men, with half a dozen others from the staffs of agriculture and typography, had entered the five−barred gate and were coming up the track that led to the studio. They were all carrying sticks, except Jones, who was marching ahead with a gun in his hands. Obviously they were going to attempt the recapture of the studio.

This had long been expected, and all preparations had been made. Shaun, who had studied an old book of Julius Caesar’s campaigns which he had found in the library, was in charge of the defensive operations. He gave his orders quickly, and in a couple of minutes every artist was at his post.

As they approached the studio buildings, Shaun launched his first attack. Students threw cans of paint from the roof drenching them and making their path slippery. However, this was only a light skirmishing manoeuvre, intended to create a little disorder. Shaun now launched his second line of attack. They all rushed forward and kicked and punched the men from every side. But once again the men, with their sticks and their hobnailed boots, were too strong for them; and suddenly, at a yell from Shaun, which was the signal for retreat, all the artists turned and fled through the gateway into the Marsden shed.

The men gave a shout of triumph. They saw, as they imagined, their enemies in flight, and they rushed after them in disorder. This was just what Shaun had intended. As soon as they were well inside the grounds, the students, who had been lying in ambush in the shed, suddenly emerged in their rear, cutting them off. Shaun now gave the signal for the charge. He himself dashed straight for Jones. Jones saw him coming, raised his gun and fired. The pellets scored bloody streaks along Shaun’s back and one artist slipped inside to call the police for this was already out of hand and illegal. Without halting for an instant, Shaun flung his fifteen stone against Jones’s legs. Jones was hurled into a pile of dung and his gun flew out of his hands. But the most terrifying spectacle of all was Bob, who ran at him with a knife screaming. His very first blow took a Jones on the leg and stretched him writhing in the mud. At the sight, several men dropped their sticks and tried to run. Panic overtook them, and the next moment all the artists together were chasing them round and round the yard. They were gored, kicked, bitten, trampled on. There was not an artist on the studio that did not take vengeance on them after his own fashion. At a moment when the opening was clear, the men were glad enough to rush out and make a bolt for the main road. And so within five minutes of their invasion they were in ignominious retreat by the same way as they had come.

All the men were gone except one. Back in the yard Bob was regretful and trying to help Jones who limped away shouting abuse at him.

“No sentimentality, comrade!” cried Shaun from whose wounds the blood was still dripping. “War is war.”

“I have no wish to hurt people” repeated Bob, and his eyes were full of tears. “Where is Mollie?” exclaimed somebody.

Mollie in fact was missing. For a moment there was great alarm; it was feared that the men might have harmed her in some way, or even carried her off with them. In the end, however, she was found hiding in the Marsden with her head buried among some random objects. She had taken to flight as soon as the gun went off. The artists had now reassembled in the wildest excitement, each recounting his own exploits in the battle at the top of his voice. An impromptu celebration of the victory was held immediately. The flag was run up and Artists of England was sung a number of times. Shaun made a little speech, emphasising the need for all artists to be ready to die for Artist Studio if need be.

The artists decided unanimously to create a military decoration, “Artist Hero, First Class,” which was conferred there and then on Shaun and Bob. It consisted of a brass medal to be worn on Sundays and holidays.

There was much discussion as to what the battle should be called. In the end, it was named the Battle of the Marsden shed, since that was where the ambush had been sprung. Mr. Jones’s gun had been found lying in the mud, and it was known that there was a supply of cartridges in his old office. It was decided to set the gun up at the foot of the Flagstaff, like a piece of artillery, and to fire it twice a year−once on October the twelfth, the anniversary of the Battle of the, and once on Midsummer Day, the anniversary of the Riot.

Chapter Three- Funding the daily toil.


HOW they toiled and sweated to get the work done! But their efforts were rewarded, for the subsequent exhibition was an even bigger success than they had hoped.

Sometimes the work was hard; and it was a great drawback that no artist was able to use any of the workshop tools. But the video artists were so clever that they could think of a way round every difficulty. They did not actually work, but directed and supervised the others. With their superior knowledge it was natural that they should assume the leadership. Bob and Clive guarded the tools making sure they were the only ones to use the.  And every artist down to the humblest worked at producing work and gathering research. Even the first years toiled to and fro all day in the sun, carrying plinths in from the Marsden . In the end they finished in two days’ less time than it had usually taken Jones and his men. Moreover, it was the biggest exhibition that the studio had ever seen. There was no wastage whatever; the first years with their sharp eyes had gathered up a crowd for the private view.

All through that summer the work of the studio went like clockwork. The artists were happy as they had never conceived it possible to be. Every hour was spent working and was an acute positive pleasure, now that it was truly for their own benefit, produced by themselves and for themselves, not doled out to them by a grudging master. With the worthless parasitical government restrictions beings gone, there was more than enough custom for everyone to sell their work. There was more leisure too, inexperienced though the artists were. They met with many difficulties−for instance, later in the year, when they exhibited again, they had struggled with assigning space and not letting it look like a jumble sale. Bob was another frustration but at least he supplied equipment when the artists needed them. He had been a hard worker even in Jones’s time and now there were days when the entire work of the studio seemed to rest on his shoulders, if he didn’t get them what they needed they couldn’t work as well. From morning to night he was pushing and pulling, always carrying to and fro from the store. He had made an arrangement that he would start before the regular day’s work began. His answer to every problem, every setback, was “I will make everything safe!”−which he had adopted as his personal motto.

But everyone worked according to his or her capacity. Nobody stole, nobody grumbled over sharing resources, the quarrelling and biting and jealousy which had been normal features of life in the old days had almost disappeared. Nobody shirked−or almost nobody. Mollie, it was true, was not good at getting up in the mornings, and had a way of leaving work early on the ground she was tired out. It was soon noticed that when there was work to be done Mollie could never be found. She would vanish for hours on end, and then reappear at meal−times, or in the evening after work was over, as though nothing had happened. But she always made such excellent excuses, that it was impossible not to believe in her good intentions. Some like Clive, seemed quite unchanged since the Riot. He did his work in the same slow obstinate way as he had done it in Jones’s time, never shirking and never volunteering for extra work either. About the Riot and its results he would express no opinion. When asked whether he was not happier now that Jones was gone, he would say only “each day seems like a long time.” and the others had to be content with this cryptic answer.

On Sundays there was no work. Breakfast was an hour later than usual, and after breakfast there was a ceremony which was observed every week without fail. First came the hoisting of the flag. This was run up the flagstaff outside the studio every Sunday morning. The flag was white, Shaun explained, to represent the gallery walls, while the brush and camera signified the future Republic of the Artists which would arise when the government had been finally overthrown. After the hoisting of the flag all the artists trooped into the main space for a general assembly which was known as the Meeting. Here the work of the coming week was planned out and resolutions were put forward and debated. It was always the video workeres who put forward the resolutions. The other artists understood how to vote, but could never think of any resolutions of their own. Shaun and Nathan were by far the most active in the

debates. But it was noticed that these two were never in agreement: whatever suggestion either of them made, the other could be counted on to oppose it. Even when it was resolved−a thing no one could object to in itself there was a stormy debate The Meeting always ended with the singing of Artists of England, and the afternoon was given up to recreation.

The video artists had set aside the digital workshop as a headquarters for themselves. Here, in the evenings, they studied editing, and other necessary arts from books which they had brought out of the library. Shaun also busied himself with organising the other artists into what he called Artist Committees. He was indefatigable at this  organisning echibition commitees, fundraising initiatives and catalogue and advertising groups but on the whole, these projects were a failure. They continued to behave very much as before, and when treated with generosity, simply took advantage of it.

The lectures put on, however, were a great success. By the autumn almost every artist on the studio was a master in theory. Muriel, could read seven theory books a day and sometimes used to read to the others in the evenings. Clive was less keen. So far as he knew, he said, there was nothing worth reading.

On several occasions, indeed, he was found with a text but he always denied that he was reading it or liked it and professed it was all nonsense. Mollie refused to learn anything but the six seminal essays they began with, reading them over and over again.

It was also found that the stupider artists, were unable to learn the sentences by sol lewitt by heart. After much thought Shaun declared that the sentences could in effect be reduced to a single maxim, namely: “two heads are better than one” This, he said, contained the essential principle of Collaboration. Whoever had thoroughly grasped it would be safe from corrupting influences.

The younger artists did not understand Shaun’s long words, but they accepted his explanation, and all the humbler artists set to work to learn the new maxim by heart. TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE, was inscribed on the end wall of the studio, above the sentences and in bigger letters. When they had got it by heart they would chant it as they worked.

Nathan took no interest in Shaun’s committees. He said that the education of the young was more important than anything that could be done for those who were already grown up. He took charge of the first years and gave them a separate space to work in so that they didn’t feel intimidated by the others and there kept them in such seclusion that the rest of the studio soon forgot their existence.

The mystery of where the profits of selling artwork was soon cleared up. It was for now channeled back into materials and food until such time as they built up quite and excess. The artists had assumed as a matter of course that these would be shared out equally; one day, however, the order went forth that all the windfalls were to be collected and brought in for common use. At this some of the other artists murmured, but it was no use. Most were in full agreement on this point, even Shaun and Napoleon.

“Comrades!” Shaun cried. “You do not imagine, I hope, that we are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health and guarantee future productivity. The whole management and organisation of this studio depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we do this. Do you know what would happen if we failed in our duty? Jones would come back! Yes, Jones would come back! Surely, comrades,” “surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?”

Now if there was one thing that the artists were completely certain of, it was that they did not want Jones back. When it was put to them in this light, they had no more to say. The importance of keeping their funds in good health was all too obvious. So it was agreed without further argument that funds should be completely collective.

Chapter Two- The Take Over.


Three nights later old Major died peacefully in his sleep. His body was buried under the Marsden shed. This was early in March. During the next three months there was much secret activity. Major’s speech had given to the more intelligent artists in the department a completely new outlook on their work. They did not know when the Riots predicted by Major would take place, they had reason for thinking that it would be in London rather than reading, but they saw clearly that it was their duty to prepare for it, possibly organize coach trips over to main protests. The work of organising the others fell naturally upon the video artists, who were generally recognised as being the cleverest of the artists and most organised. Pre−eminent among them were two finalists both by the name of Emily, whom Mr. Jones was also encouraging to put together exhibitions on behalf of the year group. The first Emily was a rather confused looking girl whilst the other was quicker in speech and more inventive, but was not considered to have the same depth of character. They had formed a collective in the style of an older pair of tutors to whom they looked up to. The male of these was a brilliant talker, and when he was arguing some difficult point he had a way of skipping from side to side which was somehow very persuasive. The other tutors said that he could make you believe black was white.

These two newer editions to the teaching staff had elaborated old Major’s teachings into a complete system of thought, to which they gave the name of collaboration. Several nights a week, after Mr. Jones was asleep, they held secret meetings in the studio and expounded the principles of collaboration to the others. At the beginning they met with much stupidity and apathy. Some of the artists talked of the duty of loyalty to Mr. Jones, whom they referred to as “Master of the arts,” or made elementary remarks such as “Mr. Jones gives us this space. If he were gone, we should have nowhere to make work.” Others asked such questions as “Why should we care about him he charges us extortionate mounts to come here?” or “If this Riot is to happen anyway, what difference does it make whether we work for it or not?” and the emilys had great difficulty in making them see that this was contrary to the spirit of Collaboration. The stupidest questions of all were asked by one performance artist. The very first question she asked was: “Will there still be studios owners after the Riots? “.

“No,” said Shaun firmly. “We will all own our own. Besides, you do not need tutors to be in charge. You will have all the props and actors you want.”

“And shall I still be allowed to wear whatever clothes I like?” asked Mollie.

“Mollie,” said Emily One, “those clothes that you are so devoted to are the badge of slavery. Can you not understand that liberty is worth more than clothes? “

Mollie agreed, but she did not sound very convinced, trying to but in again and again.

The sculptors had an even harder struggle to counteract the lies put about by Moses, the digital technician. Moses, who was Mr. Jones’s especial pet, was a spy and a tale−bearer, but he was also a clever talker. He claimed to know of the ways to use mysterious editing programme. The secret was unknown to most a little beyond them, Moses said. The artists liked Moses because he told them tricks and was always easy to find. The sculptors and painters had to try very hard to convince others that they should steer clear of video work and technology and join them, now that they had Moses’ help.

Their most faithful disciples were the two other technicians Bob and Clive. These two had great difficulty in thinking anything out for themselves, but having once accepted some of the students as their teachers and hating Moses for his popularity, they absorbed everything that they were told or found out from spying, and passed it on to the other artists. They were unfailing in their attendance at the secret meetings in the studio, and led the singing of Artists of England, with which the meetings always ended.

Now, as it turned out, the Riot was achieved much earlier and more easily than anyone had expected. In past years Mr. Jones, although a hard department head, had been a capable one, but of late he had fallen on evil days. He had become much disheartened after losing money in a lawsuit, and had taken to drinking more than was good for him. For whole days at a time he would lounge in his Windsor chair in his office, reading the newspapers, drinking, and occasionally feeding Moses on crusts of bread soaked in beer. His staff were disloyal and dishonest, the fields were full of weeds, the buildings wanted roofing, the hedges were neglected, and the artists were underfed.

June came and the work was almost ready for exhibition. On Midsummer’s Eve, which was a Saturday, Mr. Jones went into Reading and got so drunk in the Oakford that he did not come back till midday on Sunday. The tutors had undertaken most tutorials in the early morning and then had gone out for lunch, without bothering to tell the student artists. When Mr. Jones got back he immediately went to sleep on the chez long in the common room with the News of the World over his face, so that when evening came, the artists were still in the dark about what was going on. At last they could stand it no longer. Someone broke in the door of the store−shed with a crow bar and all the artists began to help themselves from the shelves to others canvases and plinths. It was just then that Mr. Jones woke up. The next moment he and four other tutors were in the store−shed, lashing out in all directions with their words. This was more than the ignored and ill-treated artists could bear. With one accord, though nothing of the kind had been planned beforehand, they flung themselves upon their tormentors. Jones and his men suddenly found themselves being butted and kicked from all sides. The situation was quite out of their control. They had never seen artists behave like this before, and this sudden uprising of students whom they were used to thrashing and maltreating just as they chose, frightened them almost out of their wits. After only a moment or two they gave up trying to defend themselves and took to their heels. A minute later all five of them were in full flight across the car park that led to the main road, with the artists pursuing them in triumph.

Another tutor looking out of the window, saw what was happening, and hurriedly flung a few possessions into a carpet bag, and slipped out of the department by another way. Moses sprang off his desk chair and ran after her, croaking loudly. Meanwhile the artists had chased Jones and his men out on to the road and slammed the five−barred gate behind them. And so, almost before they knew what was happening, the Riot had been successfully carried through: Jones was expelled, and the department was theirs. The news later reported that some 4,000 officers were on duty, as demonstrators marched peacefully in a protest against higher tuition fees and “privatisation” in universities. Scotland Yard said three arrests were for public order offences, one was for possession of an offensive weapon, three were for going equipped and 12 breaches of the peace.


For the first few minutes the artists could hardly believe in their good fortune. Their first act was to secure the studio round the boundaries, as though to make quite sure that no others were hiding anywhere upon it; then they raced back to the buildings to wipe out the last traces of Jones’s hated reign. The equipment cupboard at the end of the stables was broken open; the projectors, the dvd players, the speakers, the sound recorder, were all taken by one or the other of the students. The booking out lists and schedules health and safety forms and signing in sheets were thrown on to the rubbish fire which was burning in the courtyard. All the artists capered with joy when they saw the paperwork going up in flames.

In a very little while the artists had destroyed everything that reminded them of Mr. Jones. Nathan then led them back to the department shop and served out a double ration of paint to everybody, with two brushes for each painter. Then they sang Artists of England from end to end seven times running, and after that they settled down for the night and slept as they had never slept before.

But they woke at noon as usual, and suddenly remembering the glorious thing that had happened, they all raced out onto the grass together. A little way down the road there was a platform that commanded a view of most of the campus. The artists rushed to the top of it and gazed round them in the clear morning light. Yes, it was theirs−everything that they could see was theirs! In the ecstasy of that thought they gambolled round and round, they hurled themselves into the air in great leaps of excitement. Then they made a tour of inspection of the whole area and surveyed with speechless admiration the rest of the campus. The union the lake, it was as though they had never seen these things before, and even now they could hardly believe that it was all their own.

Then they filed back to the studio buildings and halted in silence outside the door of the studio. After a moment, Shaun and Nathan butted the door of spur I open with their shoulders and the artists entered in single file, walking with the utmost care for fear of disturbing anything. They tiptoed from room to room, afraid to speak above a whisper and gazing with a kind of awe at the unbelievable extra space they now had unimited access to. They were lust coming down the corridor when Mollie was discovered to be missing. Going back, the others found that she had remained behind in the best room. She had taken a piece of blue ribbon from someone’s work, and was holding it against her shoulder and admiring herself in the glass in a very foolish manner. The others reproached her sharply, and they went outside. A unanimous resolution was passed on the spot that spur with the tutors offices should be preserved as a museum. All were agreed that no artist student must ever have to work there.

The artists had their lunch, and then Shaun and Nathan called them together again.

“Comrades,” said Shaun, “it is half−past two and we have a long day before us.

The sculptors now revealed that during the past three months they had taught themselves to use the workshop machines. Nathan sent for pots of black and white paint and led the way down to the five−barred gate that gave on to the main road. Then Shaun, painted student studio on the top bar of the gate. This was to be the name of the studio from now onwards. After this they went back to the buildings, where Shaun and Nathan sent for a ladder which they caused to be set against the end wall of studio 4. They explained that by their studies of the past three months they had succeeded in reducing the principles of Collaboration to 35 Commandments. These Sentences on conceptual art would now be inscribed on the wall in the shape of a smiley face; they would form an unalterable law by which all the artists on must live forever after. With some difficulty Shaun climbed up and set to work. The Commandments were written on the tarred wall in great black letters that could be read thirty yards away. They ran thus:


By Sol Lewitt:

  1. 1.       Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.
  2. 2.        Rational judgments repeat rational judgments.
  3. 3.        Irrational judgments lead to new experience.
  4. 4.        Formal art is essentially rational.
  5. 5.        Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.
  6. 6.        If the artist changes his mind midway through the execution of the piece he compromises the result and repeats past results.
  7. 7.        The artist’s will is secondary to the process he initiates from idea to completion. His willfulness may only be ego.
  8. 8.        When words such as painting and sculpture are used, they connote a whole tradition and imply a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the artist who would be reluctant to make art that goes beyond the limitations.
  9. 9.        The concept and idea are different. The former implies a general direction while the latter is the component. Ideas implement the concept.
  10. Ideas can be works of art; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find some form. All ideas need not be made physical.
  11. Ideas do not necessarily proceed in logical order. They may set one off in unexpected directions, but an idea must necessarily be completed in the mind before the next one is formed.
  12. For each work of art that becomes physical there are many variations that do not.
  13. A work of art may be understood as a conductor from the artist’s mind to the viewer’s. But it may never reach the viewer, or it may never leave the artist’s mind.
  14. The words of one artist to another may induce an idea chain, if they share the same concept.
  15. Since no form is intrinsically superior to another, the artist may use any form, from an expression of words (written or spoken) to physical reality, equally.
  16. If words are used, and they proceed from ideas about art, then they are art and not literature; numbers are not mathematics.
  17. All ideas are art if they are concerned with art and fall within the conventions of art.
  18. One usually understands the art of the past by applying the convention of the present, thus misunderstanding the art of the past.
  19. The conventions of art are altered by works of art.
  20. Successful art changes our understanding of the conventions by altering our perceptions.
  21. Perception of ideas leads to new ideas.
  22. The artist cannot imagine his art, and cannot perceive it until it is complete.
  23. The artist may misperceive (understand it differently from the artist) a work of art but still be set off in his own chain of thought by that misconstrue.
  24. Perception is subjective.
  25. The artist may not necessarily understand his own art. His perception is neither better nor worse than that of others.
  26. An artist may perceive the art of others better than his own.
  27. The concept of a work of art may involve the matter of the piece or the process in which it is made.
  28. Once the idea of the piece is established in the artist’s mind and the final form is decided, the process is carried out blindly. There are many side effects that the artist cannot imagine. These may be used as ideas for new works.
  29. The process is mechanical and should not be tampered with. It should run its course.
  30. There are many elements involved in a work of art. The most important are the most obvious.
  31. If an artist uses the same form in a group of works, and changes the material, one would assume the artist’s concept involved the material.
  32. Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution.
  33. It is difficult to bungle a good idea.
  34. When an artist learns his craft too well he makes slick art.

35.     These sentences comment on art, but are not art


It was very neatly written and the spelling was correct all the way through. Shaun read it aloud for the benefit of the others. All the artists nodded in complete agreement, and the cleverer ones at once began to learn the Commandments by heart.

“Now, comrades,” cried Shaun, throwing down the paint−brush, “to the lecture room! Let us make it a point of honour to lead better seminars than Jones and his men could do.”

Comrade Shaun lead the way.. “Forward, comrades!”

So the artists trooped down to the lecture room to begin the first seminar.





Chapter One – ‘Afters Hours’


Mr Jones, of the Head of the Reading art School, had locked the studio doors for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the windows. With the ring of light from his lantern dancing from side to side, he lurched across the campus, kicked off his boots at his back door, drew himself a last glass of beer from the barrel in the scullery, and made his way up to bed.

As soon as the light in the bedroom went out there was a stirring all through the studio buildings. Word had gone round during the day that old Major, the senior lecturer, had had a strange dream on the previous night and wished to communicate it to the students. It had been agreed that they should all meet in the main studio space as soon as Mr. Jones was safely out of the way. Old Major (so he was always called, though the name under which he had exhibited was Reading master) was so highly regarded in the department that everyone was quite ready to lose an hour’s sleep in order to hear what he had to say.

At one end of the white space, on a sort of raised platform, Major was already ensconced on his platform, under a lantern which hung from a beam. He was fifty years old and had lately grown rather stout, but he was still a majestic−looking artist, with a wise and benevolent appearance in spite of the fact that his hair fell down to his waist never having been cut. Before long the students began to arrive and make themselves comfortable after their different fashions. First came the video artists, and then the sculptors, who settled down in the mixture of objects immediately in front of the platform. The painters perched themselves on chairs around the edge of the room, the performers paced around not settling, the photographers sat down behind the sculptors and began to chat among themselves. The two technicians, Bob and Clive, came in together, walking very slowly and setting down their vast hairy bodies with great care lest there should be some small artist concealed in the clutter. Clive was stout and approaching middle life. Bob was a tall man, nearly eighteen hands high, but as slow as any person you have ever met. A white stripe down his hair gave him a somewhat stupid appearance, and in fact he was not of first−rate intelligence, but he was universally frustrating for his slow, slow speed of pace. After the technicians came Muriel, the receptionist, and Beatrice, the office assistant. Beatrice was the youngest staff member in the department, and the best tempered. But she seldom talked, and when she did, it was usually to make moan about past experiences at the art school for instance, she would say that others in her year had ganged up on her. Alone among the students she fitted in better than the other staff. If asked why, she would say that she saw nothing different between them and herself. Nevertheless, without openly admitting it, she was devoted to Bob; the two of them usually spent their Sundays together in the small courtyard between studio spaces, smoking side by side and never speaking.

The two had just lit up when a brood of first years who had lost their tutor, filed into the space, chattering worriedly and wandering from side to side to find some place where they would not be shouted at for getting in the way. Clive made a sort of wall of comfort for them with kind words, and the first years seemed to calm down promptly settling down on the floor in small groups. At the last moment Mollie, the foolish, pretty blond girl who drew Mr. Jones’s trap, came mincing daintily in, chewing at a lump of gum. She took a place near the front and began flirting her blond curls, hoping to draw attention to the red ribbons it was plaited with. Last of all came the security guard, who looked round, as usual, for the warmest place, and finally squeezed himself in between Bob and Clive; there he was at home but surely wasn’t listening to a word of what major was saying.

All the students and staff were now present except Moses, the digital technician, who slept in the building never leaving the studio for fear of losing time to work. When Major saw that they had all made themselves comfortable and were waiting attentively, he cleared his throat and began:

“Comrades, students, colleagues, you have heard already about the strange dream that I had last night. But I will come to the dream later. I have something else to say first. I do not think, comrades, that I shall be with you for many months longer, and before I resign, I feel it my duty to pass on to you such wisdom as I have acquired. I have had a long career, I have had much time for thought as I sat alone in my office, and I think I may say that I understand the nature of life in this department as well as any lecturer currently working here. It is about this that I wish to speak to you.

“Now, comrades, what is the nature of this studying of ours? Let us face it: our time on courses are miserable, laborious, and short. We are enrolled, we are given just so much teaching and guidance as will keep our grades just acceptable, and those of us who are capable of it are forced to work to the last atom of our strength; and the very instant that our talent has come to an end we are thrown off the course with hideous cruelty and for all this we have to pay extortionate amonuts, I am on your side! No art student in England knows the meaning of happiness or leisure after they have studied. No student in England is free. The life of a student is protests and riots and books: that is the plain truth.

“But is this simply part of the order of nature? Is it because this department of ours is so poor that it cannot afford a decent education to those who dwell upon it? No, comrades, a thousand times no! The ideas of England are fertile, its talent is good, it is capable of affording work in abundance to an enormously greater number of viewers than now visit galleries. This single department of ours would support a dozen more students, and all of them studying in a comfort and a dignity that are now almost beyond our imagining. Why then do we continue in this miserable condition? Because nearly the whole of the produce of our labour is stolen from us by examiners who continue to undermark us. There, comrades, is the answer to all our problems. It is summed up in a single word−examiner. The government are the only real enemy we have. Remove them from the scene, and the root cause of depression and overwork is abolished for ever.

“They are the only people who criticize without creating. they dont make work Yet they are the lords of the university. They strike fear into hearts of students, set them to work, give back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from crying, and the rest they dismiss. Our labour makes good paintings and sculptures, our video experiments and pushes boundaries, and yet there is not one of us that sells our work. You students that I see before me, how many thousands of pieces have you made during this last year? And what has happened to that work which should have been in galleries? Every piece of it has gone been criticized. And you, Clive, you never have time to help everyone, who supports you in your old age? In return for your four roles and all your labour in the workshop, what have you ever had except your meager pay? Even the miserable lives we lead are not allowed to reach their natural span. For myself I do not grumble, for I am one of the lucky ones. I am fifty years old and have had over fourteen good years here. Such is the natural life of a lecturer. But nobody escapes the government cuts in the end. You young ones who are sitting in front of me, every one of you will have to get through the coming years. To that horror we all must come. You, Bob, the very day that those great muscles of yours lose their power, Jones will sack you, As for the office workers, when they grow old and toothless, Jones forces them to resign. “Is it not crystal clear, then, comrades, that all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of the government and examiners? Only get rid of them, and the profits of our labour would be our own. Almost overnight we could become rich and free. What then must we do? Why, work night and day, body and soul, to put work in galleries and buy out the department! That is my message to you, comrades: Riot! We must riot in the streets and campaign against the government and take over the building. I do not know when that Riot will come, it might be in a week or in a hundred years, but I know, as surely as I see this paint beneath my feet, that sooner or later justice will be done. Fix your eyes on that, comrades, throughout the short remainder of your careers! And above all, pass on this message of mine to those who come after you, so that future generations shall carry on the struggle until it is victorious.

“And remember, comrades, your resolution must never falter. No argument must lead you astray. Never listen when they tell you that students and the government have a common interest, that the prosperity of the one is the prosperity of the others. It is all lies. government serves the interests of nobody except themselves. And among us let there be perfect unity, perfect comradeship in the struggle. All politicians and examiners are enemies. All students are comrades.”

At this moment there was a tremendous uproar. While Major was speaking four more third years had crept out of their spaces and were sitting on stools, listening to him. The first years had suddenly caught sight of them, and it was only by a swift dash for their spaces that they saved their lives. Major raised his hand for silence.

“Comrades,” he said, “here is a point that must be settled. The alumni−are they our friends or our enemies? Let us put it to the vote. I propose this question to the meeting: Are alumni comrades?”

The vote was taken at once, and it was agreed by an overwhelming majority that they were comrades. There were only four dissentients, the three third years and the receptionist, who was afterwards discovered to have voted on both sides. Major continued:

“I have little more to say. I merely repeat, remember always your duty of enmity towards the government and all its ways. And remember also that in fighting against it, we must not come to resemble them. Even when you have conquered them, do not adopt their vices. No student must ever live in a big house, or sleep in a double bed, or wear designer clothes, or drink non alcoholic beer, or stop smoking, or refuse money, or engage in other subjects. And, above all,  a student must ever tyrannise over his own kind. Weak or strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers. No student must ever crit any other. All are equal.

“And now, comrades, I will tell you about my dream of last night. I cannot describe that dream to you. It was a dream of the art schools  as it will be when government has vanished. But it reminded me of something that I had long forgotten. Many years ago, when I was a little boy, my mother and the other women used to sing an old song of which they knew only the tune and the first three words. I had known that tune in my infancy, but it had long since passed out of my mind. Last night, however, it came back to me in my dream. And what is more, the words of the song also came back−words, I am certain, which were sung by the artists of long ago and have been lost to memory for generations. I will sing you that song now, comrades. I am old and my voice is hoarse, but when I have taught you the tune, you can sing it better for yourselves. It is called Artists of England.”

Old Major cleared his throat and began to sing. As he had said, his voice was hoarse, but he sang well enough, and it was a stirring tune, something between Clementine and La Cucaracha. The words ran:


Artists of England, and of Ireland,

Artists of every land and clime, Hearken to my joyful tidings Of the golden future time. Soon or late the day is coming, Tyrant government shall be o’erthrown, And the fruitful fields of England Shall be trod by us alone. Debts shall vanish from our credit raitings, And the loans from our worries. Riches more than mind can picture, Shall be ours upon that day.

Bright will shine the galleries and art schools of England, Purer shall its works be, Sweeter yet shall be its studnets On the day that sets us free.

For that day we all must labour, Though we fizzle out before it break; sculptors painters, performers, All must toil for freedom’s sake. Artists of England, and of Ireland, of every land and clime, Hearken well and spread my tidings Of the golden future time.


The singing of this song threw the students into the wildest excitement. Almost before Major had reached the end, they had begun singing it for themselves. Even the stupidest of them had already picked up the tune and a few of the words, and as for the clever ones, such as the video artists, they had the entire song by heart within a few minutes. And then, after a few preliminary tries, the whole studio burst out into Artists of England in tremendous unison. The painters sang it, the sculptors hummed it. They were so delighted with the song that they sang it right through five times in succession, and might have continued singing it all night if they had not been interrupted.

Unfortunately, the uproar awoke Mr. Jones, who sprang out of bed, sure that there was someone up to no good after hours. He seized the gun which always stood in a corner of his bedroom, and let fly a charge of number 6 shot into the darkness. The pellets buried themselves in the wall of the studio and the meeting broke up hurriedly. Everyone fled to his own space. The painters hurried to the walls, video makers scuttled off to the digital workshop, the sculptors went to look in the skip, and the whole studio was quietly working away in a moment.