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Paul Rooney is based in Liverpool and makes music with words, for record releases and for galleries. The words of his sung and spoken pieces deal with ordinary moments and familiar places that are made strange by music, by narrative daftness or by other kinds of artifice, stressing the complications and absurdities of our attempts to make meaning out of the world.

From 1998 to 2000 he released three lo-fi experimental pop CD albums as the band ‘Rooney’, in which every song’s anti-lyrics simply described mundane life, from looking at found photographs to doodling on a call centre shift. Rooney appeared in John Peel’s Festive Fifty in 1998, and recorded a session for Peel’s Radio 1 show a year later (which was re-broadcast on BBC 6 Music in 2016). Rooney’s pieces have been broadcast on BBC Radios 1, 3, 6 Music, Cymru and Scotland amongst many other stations.

Paul Rooney’s next public release, under his own full name, the 2007 post-punk dub 12″ single Lucy Over Lancashire, featured an unreliable narration delivered by a satanic Lancastrian sprite. His first full length album since 2000, Futile Exorcise – sung and spoken word post-punk experimental folk revenant songs featuring ghosts playing poker and haunting toilet seats – was released in 2017.

Rooney also makes musical or non-musical museum and gallery artworks, some of which have been commissioned by organisations such as Film and Video Umbrella, The Drawing Room or Tate Liverpool, or have been made during artist residencies at places like DCA, Dundee; Proyecto Batiscafo, Cuba; and University of Oxford/Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne. He has shown work at Tate Britain; The Arnolfini; BALTIC; Whitechapel Gallery; and ICA; and has exhibited internationally at places such as Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo (Mexico City); Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (Seville) and at the Shanghai Biennial.

Works by Rooney were included in the British Council show Electric Earth: Film and Video from Britain, which toured to eighteen international venues from 2003 to 2006; British Art Show 6, which toured around the UK in 2005-2006; and Running Time: Artist Films in Scotland 1960 to Now, shown at the National Galleries of Scotland in 2009. Other projects include solo art exhibitions at Site Gallery, Sheffield, Matt’s Gallery, London and the Liverpool Biennial; a site-specific sound ‘lecture’ in Leeds for Sound and Music and MAAP; and a museum object divination website for University of Cambridge Museums. He was the winner of the second Northern Art Prize in 2008, and two of his video installations were purchased for the Arts Council Collection in 2015.




Owd Scrat Records label

Arts Council Collection

The Wire magazine

Matt’s Gallery

LUX video agency

Contemporary Art Society

Akerman/Daly publisher




BBC Music




YouTube (Rooney)

BBC Music (Rooney)

Bandcamp (Rooney)

Spotify (Rooney)

iTunes (Rooney)




Articles about Paul Rooney’s work:


Bryan Biggs (Bido Lito magazine). September 2017.

Gregory Blair (Journal of Art for Life). 12/16/2014.

Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). Jan. 2010.

Amanda Ravetz (Connecting Art and Anthropology website). 2007.

Dan Hicks (Situations website). 15/2/2006.

Michael Bracewell (Firstsite Gallery book). 2006.

Claire Doherty (Firstsite Gallery book). 2006.

Neil Mulholland (Site Gallery brochure). 2003.


Reviews of Paul Rooney’s work (records):


Futile Exorcise

Bryan Biggs (Bido Lito magazine). September 2017.

Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). June 2017.

Mark Whitby (Unwashed Territories blog). 14/5/2017.

Daisy Hyde (The Wire magazine, online preview). 22/3/2017.

Neil Cooper (MAP magazine #15). Sept. 2008. [Review of Lost High Street track and video.]

James Clegg (Art Review magazine). Sept. 2008. [Review of Lost High Street track and video.]

Robert Clark (The Guardian). 14/6/2008. [Preview of Lost High Street track and video.]

Lucy Over Lancashire

Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). Oct. 2014.

The 50 best reissues of 2014. FACT (FACT website). 2/12/2014.

Mark Whitby (Louder Than War website). 15/11/2014.

Rushscored1 (This Is My Jam blog). 8/6/2014.

Guy Manchester (Louder Than War website). 25/10/2012.

Jonathan Lovett (Massive Crush blog). 3/01/2008.

Dandelion Radio Festive 50 of 2007.

Calum Craig (Is This Music? website). 5/11/2007.

John Davies (Walking the M62 blog). 11/10/2007.

Neil Cooper (MAP magazine #10). June 2007.

John Davies (Notes From a Small Vicar blog). 30/12/2006.

Rooney albums

Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). Jan. 2010.

Wayne Burrows (The Big Issue magazine). 1/1/2001.

Stewart Lee (The Sunday Times). 31/12/2000.

Stewart Lee (The Sunday Times). 23/4/2000.

Mark Beasley (Untitled magazine). Autumn 1999.

Sarah-Jane (City Life magazine, Manchester UK). Dec. 1998.

Tom Ridge (The Wire magazine). Nov. 1998.

Stewart Lee (The Sunday Times). 18/10/1998.


Previews/reviews of exhibitions featuring Paul Rooney’s work:


Steve Lee (The Big Issue magazine). 21/3/2016.

Chris Sharratt (A-N magazine). 30/9/2015.

Steve Rose (The Guardian). 18/9/2015.

David Hebblethwaite (Bookmunch book review website). 23/10/2012.

Robert Clark (The Guardian). 15/9/2012.

John Kieffer (The Independent). 10/5/2010.

Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). Dec. 2009.

Laura Cumming (The Observer). 18/11/2009.

Skye Sherwin (The Guardian). 13/11/2009.

Abi Bliss (Frieze magazine). 22/10/2009.

Alex Hetherington (A-N magazine). 4/2/2009.

Adrian Searle (The Guardian book review). 6/1/2007.

Catriona Black (Sunday Herald). 17/4/2005.

David Barrett (Art Monthly magazine). March 2005.

Michael Bracewell (Frieze magazine, as art group Common Culture). June-Aug. 1999.


Books that reference Paul Rooney’s work:


Allan, Bruce; Eastop, Ben (eds), Difference Screen. Difference Screen. Screening project catalogue. 2017.

Velvick, Lauren. The Expanded City. In Certain Places. 2016.

Gee, N. Gabriel. Art in the North of England, 1979–2008. Routledge. 2017.

Dezeuze, Anna. Almost Nothing: Observations on Precarious Practices in Contemporary Art (Rethinking Art’s Histories). Manchester University Press. 2016

Amandine Roy, Elodie. Media, Materiality and Memory: Grounding the Groove. Ashgate Publishing. 2015.

Whitby, Mark. The Festive Fifty. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2nd edition). 2015.

Charnley, James. Creative License: Leeds College of Art (1963-1973). Lutterworth Press. 2015.

Whitehead, Christopher. Interpreting Art in Museums and Galleries. Routledge. 2012.

Prager, Brad (ed). A Companion to Werner Herzog (WBCF-Wiley-Blackwell Companions to Film Directors). Wiley-Blackwell. 2012.

Parry, Ben (ed). Cultural Hijack: Rethinking Intervention. Liverpool University Press. 2012.

Bracewell, Michael. Michael Bracewell: The Space Between – Collected Writings. Ridinghouse. 2011.

Fritsch, Juliette (ed). Museum Gallery Interpretation and Material Culture. Routledge. 2011.

Pooke, Grant (ed). Contemporary British Art: An Introduction. Routledge. 2010.

Biggs, Bryan and Sheldon, Julie (eds). Art in a City Revisited. Liverpool University Press and the Bluecoat. 2009.

Garner, Ken. The Peel Sessions: A Story of Teenage Dreams and One Man’s Love of New Music. BBC Books. 2007.

Grunenberg, Christoph (ed). Centre of the Creative Universe: Liverpool and the Avant-garde. Tate Liverpool. Exhibition catalogue. 2007.

Bracewell, Michael; Doherty, Claire; Lucas, Annabel. Got Up Late the Other Day – Paul Rooney. Firstsite Gallery and Cornerhouse Publishers. Artist monograph. 2006.

Farquharson, Alex; Schleiker, Andrea; Mahony, Emma. British Art Show 6. Hayward Gallery Publishing. Touring exhibition catalogue. 2005.

Ledwith, Colin; Beasley, Mark. Electric Earth. Film and Video from Britain. British Council. Touring exhibition catalogue. 2003.




All gallery exhibitions (unless stated).


Croxteth Hall

The Bluecoat


videoclub/Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network (screenings)

Yorkshire Sculpture Park


Berwick Visual Arts (residency)

Arts Council Collection Acquisitions (collection)


University of Cambridge Museums/Metal (website project)


The Bluecoat

Edinburgh Art Festival


Liverpool Biennial

Grundy Art Gallery


Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporàneo



Circa Projects

Storey Institute


FON Air (Full of Noises)

Drawing Room (text)

LUX/Whitechapel Gallery (screening)


Wysing Arts Centre (screening)


Film and Video Umbrella

Sound and Music


Tate Liverpool

Northern Art Prize

Collective Gallery

Matt’s Gallery/Radar

Art Sheffield 08


Tate Britain







University of Oxford (residency)

Contemporary Art Centre Vilnius


Site Gallery

Ikon Gallery (performance)

Grizedale Arts (performance)

British Council touring show


Cubitt Gallery (performance)




Royal Museum of Scotland

BBC Peel Session (performance)





Songs on record.


Futile cover

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Futile Exorcise album

33⅓ RPM 12” frosted transparent vinyl LP/digipack CD/download, 41 mins, 2017.

Owd Scrat Records, OWD003.

Buy via Owd Scrat Records.

Buy via Owd Scrat Records Bandcamp.

Side 1:
Sunday Best (2.36)
Mackenzie (Smell of the Petrol) (3.25)
Bay of Biscay (3.36)
Lost High Street (11.00) video

Side 2:
Father’s Grave (3.51) video
Black Ear (6.47)
The Cruel Mother (with Lutine) (2.34)
Spit Valve (6.56)

Owd Scrat Records press release: “We at Owd Scrat are very proud to present our first full length LP, in beautiful transparent ectoplasm coloured vinyl and CD digipack, which is also the first by Liverpool UK based musician/artist/writer Paul Rooney under his own (full) name. Following on (though ten years later) from his acclaimed 2007 single Lucy Over Lancashire – a dub folklore epic narrated by a Satanic sprite – this long awaited album delves even further into the demonically possessed everyday. It is an album of revenant songs, in which various dead people return from beyond the grave to visit their lover, play poker or haunt a toilet seat. The record features many collaborators including actor Gregory Cox, mesmerizing ethereal harmonisers Lutine, and has a cover image by artist Leo Fitzmaurice.”


Futile Exorcise… is arguably the Liverpool artist’s most accomplished collection to date… a richly layered sound that builds on the dubby spaciousness of Lucy… with a greater range of instrumentation, effects and, importantly, voices, both Paul’s own and guest vocalists.” Bryan Biggs (Bido Lito magazine). September 2017.

Futile Exorcise, the brilliant new album from Liverpudlian multimedia artist Rooney…a record to return to again and again.” Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). June 2017.

“I’m not terribly adept at unqualified outlandish statements of praise so forgive me if this sounds clumsy: this is the most extraordinary album I’ve heard in at least seven years, and probably for much longer than that… It’s a work to be absorbed, laughed at, unsettled by, but above all enjoyed, over and over again.” Mark Whitby (Unwashed Territories blog). 14/5/2017.

“Talking of acoustical experiences here is a very surreal idea, it’s by Liverpool’s Paul Rooney, it uses spoken word… from the point of view of a bit of spittle stuck inside the tube of a trombone.” Verity Sharp, Late Junction (BBC Radio 3). 18/4/2017.

Daisy Hyde (The Wire magazine, online preview). 22/3/2017.

“…Lost High Street consists of the rather wayward observations and autobiographical musings of a loner sitting at the back of an open-top bus as it tours Edinburgh. Rooney empathises and charms us into feeling the subjectivity of his protagonists. Who else but him could achieve such deep pathos with such down-to-earth subjects, methods and materials?” Robert Clark (The Guardian). 14/6/2008.


Lucy new

Lucy Over Lancashire 12″ single

45rpm red vinyl 12”, 16 mins, 2007.

SueMi Records, SueMi15 (and Owd Scrat Records, OWD001 2014 CD/download re-issue).

Buy via Owd Scrat Records.

Buy via Owd Scrat Records Bandcamp.

Side A: Blank
Side B: Lucy Over Lancashire (16.27)

Lucy Over Lancashire (Remastered 2017) single

CD/download, 16 mins, 2017.

Owd Scrat Records, OWD008.

Buy via Owd Scrat Records.

Buy via Owd Scrat Records Bandcamp.

1. Lucy Over Lancashire (16.27)

The ‘vocalist’ of the track is Lucy, a ‘spryte of the air’ who is possessing the grooves of the vinyl record itself. Above and amidst 16 minutes of righteous dub reggae and Lancastrian-tinged post-punk, Lucy tells of how she is damned to endlessly repeat Satanic stories about the English county of Lancashire that she has been told by the evil and shadowy figure of ‘Alan’.

The track was originally commissioned by Touchstones, Rochdale. and first broadcast on 18th November 2006 on the Radio Lancashire programme On the Wire, whose longstanding commitment to dub reggae provided one of the inspirations for the piece. The original red vinyl 12″ was released by SueMi Records, Berlin, in 2007. It notably reached the top 5 of the Dandelion Radio Festive Fifty of that year and received enthusiastic notices from Huw Stephens (Radio 1), Marc Riley (6Music) and Steve Barker (Radio Lancashire) amongst others. A CD re-issue on Owd Scrat Records came out in 2014, and a CD remastered version in 2017.


“Paul Rooney’s magnificent 16-minute opus Lucy Over Lancashire… has become something of a cult classic, and would certainly be one of my eight Desert Island Discs choices.” Bryan Biggs (Bido Lito magazine). September 2017.

The 50 best reissues of 2014. FACT (FACT website). 2/12/2014.

“Rich in comic irony, the narration is nonetheless as deeply rooted as a folk ballad…[a] thought provoking 16 minute gem.” Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). Oct. 2014.

“It’s a masterpiece, is it not?…It is quite magnificent.” Marc Riley (BBC 6 Music)28/5/2014.

“..heavy dub that could easily come from the studios of Kingston”. Calum Craig (Is This Music? website). 5/11/2007.

“Don’t be scared, even though we in the studio are absolutely petrified after listening to that. Lucy Over Lancashire… Brilliant stuff from Paul Rooney, one of the most talked about tracks that we’ve played on this show…” Huw Stephens (BBC Radio 1FM)3/5/2007.


Let Me video still

Let Me Take You There single

An audio guide to a field in Calderdale

Jewel case CD, 17 mins, 2003.

Self released, edition of 3, no catalogue number.

Buy new version via Owd Scrat Records from 2018.

Buy new version via Bandcamp from 2018.

1. Let Me Take You There (17.00)

A CD audio guide to a field near Hebden Bridge by ‘fanzine’ writer Alain Chamois. The limited edition CD was made in 2003 to be listened to in gallery spaces, but a new musical version will be widely released for the first time on Owd Scrat Records in 2018. The monologue, which touches on Leon Trotsky, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Ian Curtis, comic Russ Abbot, and Paul Rooney’s own band Rooney, is structured around a description of part of a TV documentary showing northern photographer Charlie Meecham taking a photograph of a snowy field in Calderdale — the same snowy field that appears on the LCD screen that accompanied the CD when it was presented in galleries. The photograph taken during the documentary, crucially, also appears on the cover of the Joy Division 12″ single Atmosphere.

PDF of transcript.


“It’s at once quite a sad work, where we are repeatedly reminded of death by war and by suicide, and an optimistic one that describes creative ventures – a band, songs, poems, photographs – that can come from small beginnings to give substance and meaning to many people’s lives.” Amelia Crouch (Other Matters blog). 19/2/2015.

“In the encounter created by Rooney’s narrative, the landscape is cast as location for exchanges and relations, drawing the viewer in as a participant in those exchanges.” Gregory Blair (Journal of Art For Life). 16/12/2014.


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Time On Their Hands by Rooney, album

Jewel case CD/download, 57 mins, 1998.

Common Culture Records, comcd009.

Buy via Rooney Bandcamp.

1. Went To Town (2.05) video
2. Into the Lens (3.13)
3. Swarm (6.35)
4. Throw Away (3.46) video
5. It Unnerves Me Watching (2.25)
6. Touts (2.25)
7. Two Orange Dots (2.18)
8. Guillotine (4.08)
9. Scratched (1.33)
10. Perfect Couple (2.08)
11. Walked Round The Estate (2.54)
12. In the Centre of the Image (2.05) video
13. Things (2.39)
14. Marble Tiles (4.28)
15. Marks On the Negative (2.13)
16. It Unnerves Me Watching (Dalry) (2.34)
17. Fountainbridge (1.17)
18. I Can Spend Hours (1.17)

A collection of lo-fi songs of ordinary life by the band ‘Rooney’. The band were initially fictional and consisted of Paul Rooney alone but Colin Cromer, Ian S Jackson and other real collaborators later became involved. The songs are about wandering down the local shops, or looking at family holiday snaps, about overlooked moments and commonplace objects. Rooney released three albums from 1998 to 2000, garnering much support from Stewart Lee and John Peel amongst others (a Peel session and Festive Fifty appearance, for the song Went to Town, resulted).


“Without sounding at all retro this album revisits the original spirit of punk”. Rob Sandall, Mixing It. (BBC Radio 3). Mar. 1999.

“That narrative ‘songs’ can work is proven by Paul Rooney’s fascinating lo-fi collection…it is never less than fascinating”. Tom Ridge (The Wire magazine). Nov. 1998.

“…gorgeous, atmospheric guitar scores similar to Godspeed You! Black Emporer and Mogwai in half the space. Put simply Time On Their Hands is a little treasure chest. Seek it out.” Sarah-Jane (City Life magazine, Manchester UK). Dec. 1998.

Walked Round The Estate is especially good…what emerges is a kind of sweet nostalgia and praise for the everyday”. Gary Valentine (Mojo magazine). Nov. 1998.

“Rooney works the same alchemical miracle as the ‘Sensation’ generation of British artists, making the crushingly mundane fantastic via a simple shift of focus.” Stewart Lee (The Sunday Times). 18/10/1998.

“That’s (Went to Town by) Rooney on Common Culture Records, from an EP called Got Up Late, which is really excellent I think…” John Peel (Radio 1 FM). 28/1/1998.





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Rooney live at The Magnet, Liverpool, 1999.

Lo-fi songs of ordinary life by the band ‘Rooney’. All three albums were recorded on a minidisc 4-track recorder. The band were initially fictional and consisted of Paul Rooney alone but Colin Cromer, Ian S Jackson and other collaborators later became involved. The songs are about wandering down the local shops, or looking at family holiday snaps, about overlooked moments and commonplace objects. Rooney garnered much support from Stewart Lee and John Peel amongst others (a Peel session and John Peel’s Festive Fifty appearance, for the song Went to Town, resulted).

Some comments about Rooney albums:

“After the phenomenal Futile Exorcise album released earlier this year and his incredible Lucy Over Lancashire track from a few years ago, I’ve gone on a search around the net and struggled to find these albums that came out under the name Rooney. And then I discovered that they had been uploaded to Bandcamp. God bless you… All 3 of these albums are, I believe, well worth your money. Though a bit different, they are essential to where Paul is at right now.” Gavin Hellyer (Bandcamp website). July 2017.

“With his 1998 debut, Time on Their Hands, Rooney established his enduring interest in words that register mundane detail…that harbour stories and sometimes spill out unexpected revelations.” Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). Jan. 2010.

“When Call Waiting fuses medieval choral music with words about doodling on post-it notes and working in telesales it’s ironic but it’s also perplexingly memorable and moving to listen to.” Wayne Burrows (The Big Issue magazine). 1/1/2001.

Stewart Lee (The Sunday Times). 31/12/2000.

Time of Day is Rooney’s purest pop moment yet, concluding with an image of a buffet trolley blocking a train lavatory door that is more touching than most singer-songwriters entire back catalogues.” Stewart Lee (The Sunday Times). 23/4/2000.

“Rooney capitalise upon an inherent folk sensibility…strongly rooted in a Northern oral tradition.” Mark Beasley (Untitled magazine). Autumn 1999.

“Without sounding at all retro this album revisits the original spirit of punk”. Rob Sandall, Mixing It (BBC Radio 3). Mar. 1999.

“Rooney is already a cult figure for his recent CD Time On Their Hands, which sets stream of conciousness banalities against some delightful low-tech techno…” Robert Clark (The Guardian). Mar. 1999.

“…the accomplished lo-fi production is no less than exceptional, an unsanitized mix of guitar, primitive keyboards and drum innovation that trancends the pull of normality — transporting the listener from Kirkby estates and daytime bars into a parallel universe of possibility…” Jonathan Bunn (Sleazenation magazine). Jan. 1999.

“…gorgeous, atmospheric guitar scores similar to Godspeed You! Black Emporer and Mogwai in half the space. Put simply Time On Their Hands is a little treasure chest. Seek it out.” Sarah-Jane (City Life magazine, Manchester UK). Dec. 1998.

“That narrative ‘songs’ can work is proven by Paul Rooney’s fascinating lo-fi collection…it is never less than fascinating”. Tom Ridge (The Wire magazine). Nov. 1998.

Walked Round The Estate is especially good…what emerges is a kind of sweet nostalgia and praise for the everyday”. Gary Valentine (Mojo magazine). Nov. 1998.

“Now that’s something special. It sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before…Time On Their Hands is one of the most refreshing album’s of the year…” Steve Oxley (The Big Issue magazine). Nov. 1998.

“Rooney works the same alchemical miracle as the ‘Sensation’ generation of British artists, making the crushingly mundane fantastic via a simple shift of focus”. Stewart Lee (The Sunday Times). 18/10/1998.

“That’s [Went to Town by] Rooney on Common Culture Records, from an EP called Got Up Late, which is really excellent I think…” John Peel (Radio 1 FM). 28/1/1998.


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On the Closed Circuit by Rooney, album

Jewel case CD/download, 45 mins, 2000.

Common Culture Records, comcd015.

Buy via Rooney Bandcamp.

1. Call Waiting (1:56)
2. White Words Scrolled On A Black Screen In Silence (4:32)
3. Albeit Without Backing (1:11)
4. Around, Between (2:58)
5. Don’t Listen (1:05)
6. Into A Mike (2:38)
7. Vocal Part (2:53)
8. Used Up (4:31) video
9. Noise Into Silence (3:33)
10. Blurred At The Edge (2:24)
11. No Time (3:41)
12. Idiot Strength (written by Lloyd/Crow) (3:32)
13. Apart From (3:36)
14. Quiet Moments (1:39)
15. Pause The Tape (4:56)


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On Fading Out by Rooney, album

Jewel case CD/download, 38 mins, 1999.

Common Culture Records, comcd012.

Buy via Rooney Bandcamp.

1. Used To It (4:08) video
2. Farewell (0:52)
3. It Never Rains (4:33)
4. Time Of Day (Cowgate) (3:05) video
5. Shiny Fake Gold (3:18)
6. Voices Outside (0:31)
7. All Round The City (Bridges) (5:00)
8. Spot Fine (1:33) video
9. Slow Motion Car Crash (5:13)
10. Pale Yellow (1:54) video
11. White Path (4:29)
12. American English, But Not (1:11)
13. Dog Eared (1:40) video


mbid a037f5e7 5d28 43a6 a48d f5e392f3df27 7289281253

Time On Their Hands by Rooney, album

Jewel case CD/download, 57 mins, 1998.

Common Culture Records, comcd009.

Buy via Rooney Bandcamp.

1. Went To Town (2.05) video
2. Into the Lens (3.13)
3. Swarm (6.35)
4. Throw Away (3.46) video
5. It Unnerves Me Watching (2.25)
6. Touts (2.25)
7. Two Orange Dots (2.18)
8. Guillotine (4.08)
9. Scratched (1.33)
10. Perfect Couple (2.08)
11. Walked Round The Estate (2.54)
12. In the Centre of the Image (2.05) video
13. Things (2.39)
14. Marble Tiles (4.28)
15. Marks On the Negative (2.13)
16. It Unnerves Me Watching (Dalry) (2.34)
17. Fountainbridge (1.17)
18. I Can Spend Hours (1.17)





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The Topography of Chance, curated by Stewart Lee, compilation album


Compilation CD and 7″ book curated by Stewart Lee, stereo, 45 mins, 2006.

Sonic Arts Network, 2006.

Features Into the Lens by Rooney.

“Part of the continuing Sonic Arts 7” book + CD series. This excellent issue features eclectic and unexpected selections made by comedian Stewart Lee, most of which in one way or another do squeeze into his borrowed (from Fluxus) title. Only a canny civilian could make such unusual choices – so, full marks to SAN for inventive commissioning. The success of the project makes it hard to give a proper impression, but I can say that all these pieces stay close to people, eccentric sometimes, but definitely not trying to slot into the art mafia: Derek Bailey plays but mostly talks, Arthur Smith appears in a musically orchestrated stand-up routine, Tony Conrad’s two year old son anticipates sampling and scratching in 1973; there are settings of tourist brochures, slides found in thrift shops and a photograph found in a Roman street [Rooney]; Mark E Smith of the Fall reads the football results and Jon Rose plays a fence on the Golan Heights. Jem Finer, Evan Parker and a number of uncategorisable performers also appear, and the whole CD is book-ended by a couple of short found tapes, picked up in the street. The book is lavishly illustrated with all manner of maps and extracts of maps, nicely laid out. Imaginative and serious. And very contemporary.” Review from ePower website.




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The Wire Tapper 44 compilation album


Compilation CD free with The Wire Magazine 402 August 2017, stereo, 45 mins, 2017.

The Wire Magazine, 2017.

Features exclusive track Bay of Biscay (Lorenzo Mix) by Paul Rooney.

Free CD to all readers with The Wire 402 August 2017 issue. The Wire Tapper is a series of CD anthologies of new underground music that appear three times a year attached to the cover of all copies of The Wire Magazine worldwide. All subscribers to The Wire also get access to download every edition of The Wire Tapper since The Wire Tapper 25. For more information contact



Works for exhibition.

More works can be previewed on Vimeo or Youtube.


Still at Large written and presented by Nicholas Still

Single screen video with six channel sound, 11 mins, 2015.

The video at first seems to be a film essay about Holy Island, written and presented by architecture writer Nicholas Still. But there is another voice that has mysteriously imposed itself on the soundtrack, possibly during the editing process, another voice as well as that of Still, a female voice which describes a figure on the run from an unspoken crime who is up to his neck in the sea – in the manner of one of St. Cuthbert’s prayer methods, in which a trance is induced by the chill of the water. The voice describes, over the soundtrack’s relentless motorik beat, the fugitive’s ‘hyperthermal’ apocalyptic reveries as he watches from the waves. Thanks to Richard Stephenson Winter and Melanie Dagg. More…



Single screen video with stereo sound (also text only version), 6 mins, 2012.

This video work takes us through the mind of Jack, a self-educated man, or, in his own words, a ‘cerebral forced-growth Lighter-Retch’. His homemade video letter shows us the dark streets, and dark rhubarb forcing sheds, that he prowls — images which are accompanied by his idiosyncratically spelt writing which also appears on screen. More…

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Wall-based sited text work, installed at The Storey, Lancaster, 2011.
From the Storey Gallery website: “Storey Gallery jointly commissioned, with Litfest [Lancaster Literary Festival], a text-based art work by visual artist Paul Rooney for the 1st floor corridor of The Storey. It was installed in 2011…It is centred around a supposed artwork consisting of the two names of ancient Greek representatives of writing and sculpture — Homer and Hephaestus. The fictional installer of this artwork has apparently overstepped his brief and added a series of footnotes, spiraling out across the surrounding walls, creating a complex and humourous narrative.”


Small Talk

Two screen video with stereo sound, 8 mins, 2010.

The footage on one screen is of the petrol station shot in 2001, on the other screen are the same views re-shot nine years later. The subtitles on each screen appear to be having a sardonic conversation with each other about fonts, the weather, the passing of time, music and silence, why an artist would want to re-make a video work nine years after making it, personal and artistic regret, and failure. More…

Purchased in 2015 by The Arts Council Collection.


Thin Air by Dr Annette Gomperts

The Psycho-Vocalic Discoveries of Alan Smithson

Vocal monologue and noise for lecture theatre, with projected still images and accompanying book, six channel sound, 60 mins, 2009.

PDF of the book.

Belgian architectural historian Dr Annette Gomperts and her collaborator Paul Rooney have produced Thin Air: part academic lecture, part science-fiction story. Thin Air highlights the legacy of 1970s Leeds Polytechnic student Alan Smithson, who claimed that ‘voices’ he had recorded in the Polytechnic’s H Building were sonic manifestations of memories that had been somehow preserved in the electromagnetic ether of it’s rooms through a process which he called ‘site-anamnesis’. Smithson also asserted that the particularly radical and eventful — and ultimately tragic — history of the building had contributed to it’s facility for preserving and recalling the charged moments of remembrance. More…

Julian Cowley (The Wire) review of the work.

Abi Bliss (Frieze) review of the work.

The Futurist

Single screen video with stereo sound, 25 mins, 2008.

In a dark, apparently derelict Liverpool cinema, Tony (played by Tony Schumacher), an amateur comedian and gumshoe detective, chats with other comics in the ticket queue and the bar. He talks of his recent visits to his past life regression therapist, and tells some of the jokes he has written about it. At various points the other male and female comics in the cinema relay messages to Tony from an unknown and unseen man who is trying to contact him. There is clearly something unpleasant that Tony has stumbled on at some time in his past, something that he is impelled to uncover further, despite the risks. Will Tony’s past catch up with him before he does? Originally commissioned by Tate Liverpool. More…

Purchased in 2012 by the Victoria Gallery and Museum with funds from The Contemporary Art Society.

Alex Hetherington (AN Magazine) review of the work.

Tony Schumacher‘s memories of filming the work.


La Décision Doypack

Vocal monologue and music, with 16mm film (also text only version), stereo, 27 mins, 2008.

The work is inspired by a real web memoir by a retired Australian food-packaging company manager, who remembers walking the night-time streets of Paris during the turbulent events of May 1968. The dominant monologue of the work (spoken by John Eastman) — which is accompanied by rock music, sound effects and 16mm film images of drama students awkwardly ‘acting out’ the narrative — extends Gregory’s memoir into fiction, playing with contradictory writing styles, from consumer product description to romantic poetry. It is partly because of this connection with real life and real events that the work’s imaginative confabulation and formal artifice is thrown into relief, underlining the melancholy comedy of our attempts to do justice to the past. Originally commissioned by Radar and Matt’s Gallery with funds from Arts Council England.

Skye Sherwin (The Guardian) review of the work.

Rebecca Geldard (Time Out) review of the work.




Vocal monologue and music, with video (also text only version), stereo, 9 mins, 2006.

In the partly sung, partly spoken female monologue (spoken by Paula Berry, with music by Oliver Jackson and Greg Arrowsmith) a fictional hotel maid describes a song (the Brecht-Weill song Pirate Jenny, which is about a maid who looks out of her hotel window and imagines a ship that appears in the harbour, a ship that has come to avenge her suffering). The maid’s description of her song is, in turn, imaginatively expanded to incorporate various historical moments involving ships that do not berth and remain offshore, including the Norwegian container ship Tampa, which, when carrying Afghan refugees in 2001, was not allowed to land on Australian territory and was condemned to wait offshore for days in the glare of the world’s media. A single unedited video shot of the view walking the deck of a freighter accompanies the sound. Originally commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella as part of the Single Shot project.


There Are Two Paths

Two-part performance (for the English Midlands) by two five piece bands, 40 mins each performance, 2003.

Two groups of musicians alternating two verses from ‘Stairway to Heaven’. The verses are played by one band, then repeated by the other band but played and sung backwards. Then the verses are played forwards again … and so on. The ‘Satanic’ phonetic accidents of the reversed song make lines such as “there is power in Satan” audible. Following the initial performance of the piece in the Shropshire countryside, the work was next performed in a Birmingham city centre square (this video cuts between the two performances). The popular myths of guitarists selling their souls to the devil in order to play the blues like no-one else. The English need to obsess about a rural ideal to pretend that the selling of their souls to the ‘dark satanic mills’ of industrialisation never happened. That kind of thing. Commissioned by Meadow Gallery/Ikon Gallery.


Flat 23

Music for three monitors, six channel sound, 10 mins looped, 2002.

Doreen Hughes, a former resident of a block of flats about to be demolished, was asked to list the objects that filled three rooms in her former flat. These words were set to music and sung by a lead female voice with two-part harmony, with a multiple voice backing by the same singer. This forms the soundtrack to static video shots of the same, now empty, rooms. The listing of the hand made furniture made by Doreen’s husband Bernie, who died just as they left the flat, forms the focal point for the piece and the content of the main musical harmony. The work suggests a lament both for a human relationship and for the soon to be demolished flats, and a claim for labour as its own memorial. Originally commissioned by Further Up in the Air, Liverpool. Special thanks to Marie Therese Escritt.

Purchased in 2015 by The Arts Council Collection.

John Schofield essay referencing the work.


Lights Go On

The song of the nightclub cloakroom attendant

Music with video (also sound only version), stereo, 2 mins, 2001.

Nightclub cloakroom attendant Melodie Hook was asked to describe her job. These words were set to music and sung by a lead female voice backed by two other singers. The song plays out to video images of an empty nightclub space on the Sunday morning after the night before, the ‘choral’ singing conjuring a contradictory sense of unity and fellowship from lyrics that describe an isolated context with a very unstable sense of community. Originally commissioned by Gloucester City Council. Special thanks to Jackie Kerr.



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HOMER —— HEPHAESTUS is a newly commissioned text work by artist Alec Masterson Forbes. Sadly it is also the last major work to be made by the artist who died in July this year.2 The strikingly simple work consists of two names: that of the writer of the ‘Iliad’, and that of the Greek god of fire (and of makers, sculptors, artificers). These two capitalized words are placed together like the names of boxers on a fight poster.3 Between each name is a double ‘em’ dash, like a graphic symbol for the corridor in which the work is placed.4 This corridor has at one end the offices of a literature festival and at its other end an art gallery; and crucial to the understanding of this work is a passage by Homer which also attempts to traverse the void between literature and art.5 In Book 18 of the ‘Iliad’, Homer famously describes the astonishing shield crafted by Hephaestus for Achilles, a passage that was one of the first examples of ekphrasis, which is the literary description of a work of visual art, or an account of one work of art by another.6 Homer’s description of the shield is made even more remarkable by its impossible complexity and detail: the shield’s imagery incorporates the earth and sky, two cities, a wedding, a battle, harvesting and dancing, as if the work was an encapsulation of the entire human realm. Sounds and movement within the shield’s imagery are also described, which makes us think that Homer is almost emphasizing, in a kind of contest with Hephaestus, the superiority of words over mere physical representation.7 Masterson Forbes’ last public work was developed over a two-year period with the help of artist and friend, Derek Wilkinson, whose input was close to outright collaboration, so important were Wilkinson’s ideas and advice. The piece makes apparent the presence, if you will, of ‘literature’ and ‘art’ at either ends of the corridor, but beyond that, and as a fitting final legacy for an artist who continually wrestled over fifty years with the relationship between words and images, the work subtly intimates that literary writing and fine art are both intimately connected and irreconcilable, at one and the same time.8

Alec Masterson Forbes was born in Delhi in 1935. Training as a sculptor in Falmouth in the 1950s he is primarily known for his text-based works which he has shown throughout the world since 1969. An honorary fellow at Arizona State University, he was nominated for the Guinness Prize in 1987. He died in Morecambe in 2010.

1This work is clearly related to the large series of ‘’’’’’’’’’name’’’’’’’’’’ pieces that Masterson Forbes initiated with ‘Christ/Holbein/Dostoyevsky’, made for the library of Arizona State University in 1985. I hope you will forgive me for interjecting here. Though foot/end/around notes are not often used for exhibition explanatory texts, they have been known; indeed I have personally installed at least three such footnoted gallery texts for Tullie House Museum alone. So I, Derek Wilkinson, thought it would be fitting to add my commentary to the all too brief explanatory paragraph here provided by the Institute……….. I know that Masterson Forbes would have appreciated my attempts here, in these annotations, to clarify his intentions, for although I am primarily a vinyl lettering installation technician, with twelve years experience in arts sector interior signage provision, I am also a conceptual text artist who is very much indebted to the example set by AMF across – a – broad – range – of – artistic –interventions – publications – + – lectures.

2More of this tragic, unspeakable, wrongful event in a moment.

3See also ‘Frazier — Trotsky’, temporarily installed at The Fruitmarket, Edinburgh, in 1988 or 1989. I am sure there is an exhibition catalogue for the Fruitmarket show, called something like ‘Unfortunate Constellations’, it will be somewhere on Amazon no doubt. I usually carry a spare set of letters and various kinds of typographical symbols for most jobs, and have started improving the punctuation or sentence flow of some of the texts I have been employed to install — there is always the odd comma that needs moving or semi-colon adding. I feel it is part of the service, attention to detail beyond the call and all that. The wall texts are written, of course, to provide a source of authority, to unlock the work, but to offer no opinion as such: the voice is always neutral, and never draws attention to itself as a voice. This is how power works. So I have also started adding a few words here and there, so that a voice can snag the flow. Just making things clearer or, sometimes, providing a comment that the reader may appreciate: some common sense opinion on the material at hand, nothing too critical, just constructive glossing, elucidation, gentle revelation, if, you, will. Firing the arrow of comprehension at the reader’s great round target of uncertainty. The library/gallery/festival staff do not notice my tampering, as they never seem to read the texts again once they have been signed off. Why would they? So with this one I have really gone for it, as you can see: I could not resist, “what” “with” “the” “subject” “being” “so” “dear” “to” “my” “own” “interests”. The wall text they gave me I have annotated, as you can obviously see, fleshing it with my particular (and unique) knowledge, printing out all of this extra vinyl at my own expense. I have also introduced a more experimental approach to the ~~~~punctuation~~~~ and line placement in the spirit of AMF’s own work. Happy to do it, if the work and legacy of Masterson Forbes is in any way aided by me doing so. The staff will no doubt notice this one, but I shall deal with them when it arises. Perhaps I could promise to remove all these notes if they have a problem, then keep delaying the job? That will keep all this on the walls for a few days at least. Call it — the whole process, these words, the fight to preserve their ‘life’ — my tribute to AMF. My homage???!!! My eulogy.

4Em dashes are the longest dash, used for linking words that have some kind of equivalence: ‘New York—Paris flight’ for instance. Information like this you can find on Wikipedia so I will stick to matters related directly to AMF from now on.

5Homer has of course provided the inspiration for a number of AMF pieces over the years. The best reference I can point you to is the monograph ‘Alec Masterson Forbes: A Written World’ published by Routledge in 2001, which gives you a good (but incomplete) survey of the man’s (brilliant), (oblique), (serious) output. Please don’t read the essay in it by Tim Johnson though: anodyne, and inaccurate with it.

6Here is the full text that AMF used on the canvas painting ‘SOCRATES 14’, from 1972: ‘”You know Phaedrus, that is the strange thing about writing, which makes it truly correspond to painting. The painter’s products stand before us as though they were alive, but if you question them, they maintain a most majestic silence. It is the same with written words; they seem to talk to you as if they were intelligent, but if you ask them anything about what they say, from a desire to be instructed, they go on telling you just the same thing forever.” Plato: ‘Phaedrus’ 275D’. I think you will agree this is also a very pertinent comment on the work you are standing before today in this nicely refurbished institutional corridor. The piece I have just quoted from, part of a series of eighteen text paintings that used as their subject eighteen different translations into English of the above excerpt’s original Greek, was my own key of introduction to the heavy duty five lever mortise of AMF and his work. It was early summer 2004 and he was showing the entire series of ‘SOCRATES 1­–18’ at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal. As soon as I received the gallery wall text document, I was immediately taken by the work, captivated by the description of its austere purity, its poetic clarity, its simple!!! articulation, which even shone through the limply pedestrian gallery blurb.

7If I may be permitted, the idea of ‘’’words’’’ (sic) as superior to a visual work of art is questionable. Though the gallery text is not saying this, to be fair, merely that Homer may have thought it. More like an overcompensation for a subconsciously perceived lack, on Homer’s part. We got chatting, AMF and myself, as I was finishing the punctuation on the gallery text at Abbot Hall (punctuation always has to be smoothed on separately: this is my technique at least, and AMF had wanted to change some of the comma positions). I am sure that I impressed him with my knowledge of Greek philosophy, and was impressed in return by the quiet dignity of the man, an artist of great reputation and fame who nevertheless had the time to chat to a humble vinyl lettering man about the Socratic problem. Thus started a friendship — yes, the-word-is-appropriate — that lasted until the tragic events of the 17th July 2010.

8Since that Kendal meeting we, AMF and myself, had entered into a long correspondence that no doubt enriched both of our lives, though AMF replied to me only once, to the first letter I sent him. I feel sure that the many many letters, emails, texts and phone messages I sent his way were fully appreciated, because it is rare that men of such a like mind are able to make a <connection> with each other, share ideas, unconstrained by the restrictions of public discourse or academic enquiry. Our barque of friendship sailed on through six blissful years………. AMF changed his home and email addresses many times and, no doubt because of the pressure of work commitments, always forgot to let me know of his new location, though I was always fortunately able to find his latest address in order to continue our special dialogue. “””But I have destroyed all our correspondences”””. There are no copies of any letter or email sent. I thought this would preserve the purity of our connection ­– our bond, yes, our alliance – in my memory, a notion somewhat in, or to, the spirit of Plato, who claimed that writing is the murderer of memory and wisdom. There are, also, some things I do regret saying, things written in the steam that rose up from the pan of frustration when boiled by the gas ring of my own creative inadequacies, things that are better … consigned … to … oblivion. These were rare lapses in our regular and fruitful correspondence, which ended, as I have said, on July17th. The weather on that day was forecast to be beautifully temperate, so I thought a trip to the seaside at Morecambe was in order, with the added thrill of the possibility of bumping into AMF, who had just moved to the resort. And there at the end of the Stone Jetty — what do you know — was AMF, seated with a copy of ‘The Dialogues’ and bathed, in the warmth, of the evening, sun. Before I was able to shake his hand he quickly got up and moved away, seemingly in eagerness to look from the jetty across the majestic bay to the peaks beyond. But he picked up such a pace that he slipped and crashed through a temporary plastic railing, disappearing over the edge. AMF died, I am led to believe, the moment he hit the rocks, though his body was only recovered in Grange-over-Sands three days later. The fierce sting of the tragedy is tempered somewhat by the dock leaf of the fact that he perished in close proximity to one of his great friends, with the words of a Great in his hands.

         The works of AMF, indeed the man himself, haunt my own art works. ???How could they not??? The trauma of witnessing his death has laid down a challenge: to use art to bring some kind of order out of the wretched, random, ruthless toyings of Zeus (((the God of fate))). Immediately after AMF was taken I was plunged into a white hot furnace of sorrow, so I poured the molten ore of myself into the sand moulds of my own art with a vigour I had never before experienced. One of these works you are reading now. Yes, these notes form an artwork, a collaboration with AMF after death, which was fully authorised by the man himself before his untimely end. “””My own best tribute to the man”””. And it was not until weeks after I finished another work, ‘Pyre’, a meditation on the Louis Edouard Fournier painting of the funeral of Shelley, that I realised that that piece too was shot through with, saturated and charred by, the memory of AMF ­–––. The work takes the form of a poem, which is to be projected above a pile of logs to look like flames issuing from them \\//\\//, a poem that torturously grapples with the madness of ekphratic description, its impossible translation, the violence of it, destroying that which is revered in the very act of rendering it in homage. We are running out of wall space so here I will, humbly, leave you, with a few lines: from: the: work: ‘On the painted beach a man sleeps/who is turning to smoke before our eyes/flesh billowing into air, undulating its stench./A stink of paint and of words.//That clings to us now. And always.’

Fiction (and essays) in print.


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Epiphanies (2017) essay by Paul Rooney
in The Wire 401 July 2017 (music magazine).
Published by Tony Herrington (buy), 2017.

Flash dark

Feral-Nowledge (2012) text by Paul Rooney
in Flash 500 (paperback, short writing collection).
Published by Akerman Daly (buy), 2015.

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19 texts (2003-2012) by Paul Rooney.

Dust and Other Stories by Paul Rooney (paperback, short story collection).
Published by Akerman Daly/Aye Aye Books (buy), 2012. David Hebblethwaite (Bookmunch) review.

Best Laid

I Can Travel Far From Here (2008) text by Paul Rooney

in Best Laid Plans (exhibition catalogue).
Published by Drawing Room (buy), 2011.

Excerpts from Thin Air (2009) text by Dr Annette Gomperts and Paul Rooney
in Education (Documents of Contemporary Art Series) (paperback, writing anthology).
Published by Whitechapel Gallery/MIT Press (buy), 2011.


Let Me Take You There (2003) text by Alain Chamois and Paul Rooney
in Situation (Documents of Contemporary Art Series) (paperback, writing anthology).
Published by Whitechapel Gallery/MIT Press (buy),

Thin Air

Text accompanying ‘sound lecture’ by Dr Annette Gomperts and Paul Rooney, with images by Ron Crowcroft (PDF).
Thin Air by Dr Annette Gomperts and Paul Rooney (paperback, artist’s book).
Published by Sound and Music (buy), 2009.

Trying to Cope

Letters That Rot into Mulch text by Paul Rooney
in Trying to Cope with Things that aren’t Human (Part One) (exhibition catalogue).
Published by

AirSpace (buy), 2009.

Wrongteous cover

Dust (Room 302) text by Paul Rooney
in Wrongteous (hardback, collection of art and fiction edited by Leo Fitzmaurice and Paul Rooney, writers include Graham Greene, David Foster Wallace, Donald Barthelme, Helen Simpson, Malcolm Lowry; artists include KwieKulik, Rachel Goodyear, LS Lowry, Jacob Epstein, Sultan and Mandel, Nedko Solakov).
Published by Art Editions North (buy),


Failing That

Text with images by Paul Rooney.
Failing That by Paul Rooney (gallery brochure).
Published by Matt’s Gallery (buy),





Towards the Heavenly Void text by Paul Rooney
in The Alpine Fantasy of Victor B and Other Stories (paperback, short story collection).
Published by Serpent’s Tail (buy),

Adrian Searle (The Guardian) review.

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Texts and images from 22 works (1998-2005) by Paul Rooney.
Got Up Late the Other Day: Paul Rooney (hardback, artist’s monograph).
Published by

firstsite (buy), 2006.
Includes essays by Claire Doherty and Michael Bracewell.

Pass the Time

Pass the Time of Day text by Paul Rooney
in Pass the Time of Day (catalogue for touring exhibition curated by Paul Rooney, artists were Arab Strap, Marko Ciciliani, Phil Collins, Fugazi and Jem Cohen, Rodney Graham, Mark Leckey, Rosalind Nashashibi, Susan Philipsz, Pipilotti Rist, Paul Rooney, Stephen Sutcliffe and Thomson and Craighead).
Published by Gasworks Gallery (buy), 2004.

Includes an essay by Michael Bracewell.