John Latham (1921 to 2006) occupied a distinct position in contemporary British art placing his practice at the intersection between artistic, philosophical and scientific theories. Flat Time House in Peckham is his former residence and studio, open to the public since 2008 as a permanent gallery of his work, a changing exhibition space, and a centre for research into Latham’s theories about life and the universe.
Walking down Bellenden Road, the space is not hard to spot: there’s a giant book embedded in the front window. Beyond this, the first room hosts permanent exhibits that demonstrate Latham’s central Time Base theory – Flat Time – a theory that prioritizes time and event over space and object as the building blocks for the universe.
In and amongst this first room lie the first pieces of Nights of Skoob Sadness; an exhibition revisiting Latham’s Skoob Tower Ceremonies, controversial book-burning events that took place in the 60s in such loaded locations as Senate House, the British Museum, and the Law Courts. Despite Nazi connotation, these slow-burning towers of reference books stood for knowledge captured in aspic, received ideas taken as gospel.
The exhibition continues with an example of a Skoob Tower made from bound copies of the Economist, a slide show of Latham’s work, photography and film clips. It’s not an exhibition to rush, in fact without a bit of contextualization it would be baffling. Seats and copies of written documentation invite viewers to sit and learn something about Latham, to really begin to understand his slant on life rather than just cruise past one of his works thinking how nice it would look in the living room.
So, for those prepared to fire-up the grey matter, Flat Time House is well worth a trip to Peckham. For those who aren’t, there’s plenty in Central London.
-- Laura Bushell
All images courtesy Flat Time House
Images: John Latham, Skoob Tower Ceremony, Bangor, March 1966; John Latham, Skoob Tower Ceremony at MOCA Los Angeles on the occasion of the exhibition
'Out of Actions', 1998.