In:quest of Icarus is a tragedy; a contemporary work written of and from a contemporary situation and drawing upon Greek myth to illuminate certain aspects of that situation. Norman Potter
Norman Potter (1923–1995) was an English designer and educator. In 1964 Potter co-founded the Construction School, an experimental design course at the West of England College of Art in Bristol, England. His bold programme de-emphasised specialization in design and encouraged practical collaboration between disciplines. The school’s brief history is burdened by resistance to Potter’s ideas at every level of the educational institution. Coloured by this, and his involvement in the student protests of 1968, Potter’s thoughts on the structure of design education became increasingly anti-authoritarian.
In:quest of Icarus is a complex and allegorical reflection on these experiences. Potter describes the work as concerned with ‘walls, barriers, both of languages and hardware; the codes people use to protect their identity and to make random experiences ordered and comprehensible; the occasional wisdom of foolishness; freedoms and imprisonments; and so forth.’ It is Potter’s only play, and has been performed only once, by students at the Construction School on 5 December, 1974.
Restaged by James Langdon, the work is here represented by participants at the Werkplaats Typografie and the Sandberg Institute.
The staging of the performance is integral. The design of the hall and props follows the visual language and apparatus of the typewriter, on which it was composed. The configuration of the hall itself is a representation of the typewriter, with the audience actively implicated in the position of the keys, described by Potter as ‘the alphabetic possibilities of the spoken and written language.’ The staging is prepared by the performers themselves, and the four day process of construction, rehearsal and performance together constitutes the work.