The thousand sites on the surface of the earth were originally selected by darts thrown or fired by blindfolded members of the public between September 1968 and July 1969.

The original world map was extensively damaged and the sites were transferred to a new one. The point of each arrow on the new world map just touches the edge of a hole made by a dart in the original one. In the event of any discrepancy whatsoever the original map is the one we'll go by. Then we got a hold of all these admiralty charts and detail maps and for interest sake we've given people a rough idea of where the site will be on these. The arrows on the detailed maps are just an approximation, they do not show the actual sites. We're going to get or make larger scale maps of the immediate area of each and select the actual spot with a dart so that you can stand on the actual spot, sling the right angle away and wherever it falls produce the lines of the right angle to form a square of randomly determined size. In this way we can get 1000 completely random squares on the surface of the earth.

On the question of distribution I notice a certain concentration around the centre of the map, perhaps the consequence of giving people who missed the map altogether a chance to shoot again. We could have had a more even distribution using a computer, but maybe we'd just have been substituting an electronic distribution pattern for a human one.



(a) First random studies
(b) Shepherds Bush (London) Studies
1965-68 and First Camber Beach Studies 1966

The London Series


The Tidal Series

The Snow Studies

Son et Lumiere for Earth, Air, Fire and Water


Joan Hills
Seeds for a Random Garden

Son et Lumiere for Insects, Reptiles and Water Creatures

Son et Lumiere for Bodily Fluids and Functions

Body Work

Taste/Sight Event

Smell/Taste Event

Sigh/Sound Events

Lullaby for Catatonics 1967
Studies towards an experiment into the Structure of Dreams 1967/68

Suddenly Last Supper


Event for Judge, Jury and Prisoner at the Bar

Any Play or No Play

'O What a Lovely Whore'

Notes On Requiem for an Unknown Citizen.



(a) First random studies.
A series of random studies of the demolition site at Norland Road, Shepherds Bush, London 1964. (1)

Method (2):
1. Make a frame for a board found on the site.
2. Throw the frame away across the site.
3. With a grid system, transfer and fix down on the board all material found within the frame.

Notes for Appendix 1a
(1) Letters in the local paper complaining about the site described it as a rat infested eyesore that attracted unsavoury elements to the neighbourhood. I wrote to the paper as 'one of the unsavoury elements' and suggested that the site should be preserved as an area of outstanding natural beauty. The letter was never published. The site was fenced in.
(From a lecture at Watford)
(2) I felt that the method was crude and unsatisfactory. I was never particularly involved with the conceptional gesture of using what others rejected. I was interested in using everything but at that time junk was all that was materially and technically available to me.
(From a lecture at Watford College of Technology 1967)

(b) Shepherds Bush (London) Studies 1965 - 68 and First Camber Beach Studies 1966.

A series of studies in the Shepherds Bush area of London, at first, transitionally on boards found near the site, eventually on square boards of pre-determined size. The size was dictated by the amount of wall space available. The method is described by Jasia Reichardt 1966") (1). This series included sites on streets, roof tops, banks of the River Thames, and public parks. A further series included random sites on the beach and dunes at Camber Sands, near Rye, in Sussex. Presentations from both these were exhibited at Indica Gallery London in 1966 [2] for which the poster consisted of a sheet of white paper from which a square was cut out 13 1/2 inches by 13 1/2 inches with the words "Presentation by Mark Boyle" printed underneath. Throughout the Exhibition these posters were given free to the public to put up wherever they pleased.

Notes for Appendix 1b
On chance and Mark Boyle

[1] Contemporary Account:-
Comment by Jasia Reichardt
"Among the manifestations based on chance during the past ten years, including those of Mathieu, Dali, Monzoni, Klein and Burroughs, the aleatory systems applied to interpretations of concrete poetry, musical composition and transformable works of art, one of the most interesting and moving solutions has been that reached by Mark Boyle. The essential attitude at the basis of his activities is the total acceptance of results which these provoke. In relation to the recent pictures which he calls presentations, this may not seem surprising they are aesthetically pleasing (which is irrelevant), and they are original (which isn't, except to Boyle himself)....

The presentations which Boyle started working on in 1965 deal with yet another type of exploration of chance. These consist of real street, beach and bomb site surfaces, permanently fixed with a plastic, and shown vertically, i.e. hanging on the wall. The other deliberate act of transformation in this procedure is the placing of a horizontal surface vertically. The presentations are made as follows: with his house as the centre, Boyle has chosen a strip of London, approximately one mile wide and extending one mile north and one mile south of Shepherd's Bush. This strip cut out of a map, scale fifteen inches to the mile, hangs on a wall in his studio. The selection of a site is made by throwing a dart at the map. When the site is located as exactly as possible, Boyle throws down a rod which represents a pre-determined side of the picture, and thus the exact area is established....

Boyle aims at making as perfect a presentation of a given area as possible. Ideally there should be no difference.....

Several points of great interest emerge from Mark Boyle's recent works. The viewer is presented with images which are intensely lyrical and aesthetic, although these qualities are as unintentional as any other effect which they create. The relationships of leaves, cigarette butts, bricks and shells are there by virtue of being isolated from their general environment. The process employed discards both art conditioning and anti-conditioning it runs parallel to conscious attitudes to what art is or is not, should or should not manifest. If one finds the lack of such attitudes permissive and lacking in heroic declaration, then a whole sphere of creative activity as yet unexplored will be cut off from one's experience. Seeing Boyle's presentation in a gallery, one accepts them as an art experience but what in fact happens is that the spectator is invited to look at something in a way to which he is not accustomed to respond to and to examine nature in a critical way.

Studio International October 1966 Extracts.
I am not trying to prove any thesis and when one is concerned with every thing, nothing (or for that matter anything) is a fair sample. I have tried to cut out of my work any hint of originality, style, superimposed design, wit, elegance or significance. If any of these are to be discovered in the show then the credit belongs to the onlooker".

From the catalogue of the Indica Show
Mark Boyle 1966


The London Series

A series of 100 studies, taking the actual surface, the earth, the moss, the grit, the pebbles, the grass, the film of dust etc., that coats everything and reproducing as exactly as possible the undersurface, in the Notting Hill/Shepherd's Bush area of London began after the house Mark Boyle and Joan Hills lived in in Shepherds Bush was demolished in January 1969. The sites were selected as before, but the area was a little different, so that their new flat was more or less central to the area. The area was also chosen to include a very varied cross-section of London. A number of studies from this series were exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, during an Exhibition to launch the journey to the Surface of the Earth.[3]

Mark with Large Cobbles Piece 30' x 10'

Notes for Appendix 2
1. While we are working on the street as often as not the police arrive. They are usually very understanding and co-operative. We practise a kind of code of behaviour in doing this work. We try to be as unobtrusive as possible and we try not to disturb. One Sunday morning we crept silently into this mews down by the railway and we had no sooner started, than a lady opened a window right above us and started to show "what are you doing to the road". At this stage we needed all our concentration for the road and couldn't reply. So she phoned the police. They arrived quickly, 3 cars and 2 motorcycles blocking off the ends of the road. I explained very carefully to the sergeant what we were doing, and how we had come at six on a Sunday morning so that we wouldn't disturb anyone, and that we wouldn't leave any mess and that the road would just look a little cleaner when we left. He then started to explain to the lady, brilliantly, the entire theory of my work. The last I heard was the lady shouting, "but if its supposed to be random why can't he go and do it somewhere else."

2. A photographer friend of min had called round to see us for the first time in a long while. It was the first time he had seen the London series. Afterwards I walked up the road with him and he kept on drawing my attention to bits of road and pavement. Finally he stopped at one bit, and said, "look at that, wouldn't you say, from the point of view of design, that that is very good? "I said that when I was at school there was this wee boy in my class who was asked by the teacher 2+2 was. He said 4. The teacher said "Very good, Robert". "Very good!" said Robert "Very good!..... it's perfect."

3. Contemporary accounts included:
"Mark Boyle's exhibition journey to the surface of the earth, which opens today at the Institute of Contemporary Arts just off Trafalgar Square, launches a project which crosses the borderline a fairly broad one, you might think before seeing the exhibition between art and exploration.
Apart from a couple of light-shows, a field in which Boyle has been a pioneer, the chief feature is a series of seven colossal reliefs which are, in fact meticulous, lifesize and incredibly life-like copies of the earth's surface at random sites in London.
Now Boyle wants to do the same for sites all over the world, selected by throwing darts blindfold at a map, with the help of Underground-ish supporters who call themselves the Sensual Laboratory. There will be 1,000 sites, but the three selected by visitors at the exhibition illustrate the snags in the idea one is in remote Ethiopia, one in the North Sea just off Bergen, one in the Atlantic midway between Montevideo and Tristan de Cunha.
"I don't know quite how we'll deal with these, but this is a lifetime project it could take 25 years, and we may all be living under the sea by then," says Boyle. "Some have landed in Red China, but in 25 years they may be in favour of my idea."
Heads down for another cultural revolution."
Daily Telegraph

"But some find Boyle's other work on show less easy to appreciate. On the walls of the ICA's main gallery he has hung a series of enormous "studies" meticulous presentations of the earth's surface taken from random sites in the London area. They appear as giant abstract pictures, one seemingly about 30-foot long, by throwing darts at a map of the Shepherd's Bush area of London. Going to the sites thus pinpointed, he threw down a metal frame and used a special plastic material, resin, to reproduce a perfect likeness of the ground contained within the frame. The plastic not only gives an accurate mould of the surface, but also picks up traces of vegetation, moss, grit and other bits of the world.
The initiative process is almost miraculous. At the ICA it seems at first that whole strips of London road-ways, stretches of cobbled alleys and back-yards have been lifted up bodily, framed and hung on the walls."
Robert Macdonald (The Scotsman)

"Anyone still convinced that art must represent the visible world should be well satisfied with mark Boyle's pictures at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. You can't get more realistic than that: full-scale recreations of selected areas of God's earth, detail by detail, enough to make a Pre-Raphaelite look like an Impressionist.
Not selected, exactly more found by chance Boyle throws a dart at a map, then goes to the spot indicated and makes as near as possible a perfect copy of so many square feet of it. Recently he has used the map of London, the Shepherd's Bush area, and the pictures present in effect are sections of pavement and roadway. Beautifully done: the cigarette butt stuck between the flag-stones, the yellow line patterned in infancy by a passing tyre, cobblestones, manhole cover, there they are, as near as dammit to the real things. Traffic noises come at you over a loudspeaker. The whole thing amounts to a quite Napoleonic seizing on the world. There is no arguing with it."
Norbet Lynton (The Guardian)

"Mark Boyle's "Journey to the Surface of the Earth" at the ICA (Nash House in the Mall) is a grand celebration of the everyday. It is really a presentation of commonplace things in terms where they become a great spectacle. The next part of the exhibition is of Boyle's London "Studies", parts of the surface of London, alley-ways, streets, yards, cindertracks, copied with the mimetic perfection of the resin process and hung on the wall as paintings, are hung. These bits of London were selected by throwing darts into a street map."
Guy Brett (The Times)

"the most remarkable of these examination procedures, and the only one completely free of any subsequent need for performance. The results are not only beautiful as aesthetic objects, as fragments of natural texture are almost bound to be. The fact that the process removes and retains the actual surface film at the moment of casting makes them particularly moving witnesses to the role of the two elements out of which they have been lifted....time and change.. inasmuch as they are simultaneously frozen images of reality and fragments of that reality itself, they enforce Boyle's constant preoccupation with a need to look beyond and experience more than just the image in isolation. Avoiding any of the arbitrary fantasies of image association that cling to the objet trouve, these records of actuality, by the very scrupulousness of their detachment and objectivity, start inclining towards the opposite of what they appear to record not an objective but a subjective experience. Boyle would not admit in fact that an opposition was involved. Experience, of heightened perception and awareness. Of the sort his activity sets out to chart is necessarily a seamless garment in which all so-called opposites are woven of the same fabric. Hence the ease with which his best work absorbs in practise what can appear to be contradictions."
David Thomson (Studio International)


1 The party assemble in a pre-arranged spot.
2 They select a site deliberately or at random (by throwing a dart at a map for example).
3 The travel by truck to the site.
4 On arrival a square area is roped off. 2,3,4.
5 The people dig within the square.
6 Each person may contribute one item for the collection.
7 The collection is exhibited.

The Institute of Contemporary Archaeology
announce their annual
on a site to be selected

The party will meet outside the I C A
17-18 Dover Street
12 noon Sunday 6th February 1966
Organised by Mark Boyle

Notes for Appendix 3

1 The Institute of Contemporary Archaeology (which Boyle had found for the occasion) held its annual DIG in February, 1966 on a roped off section of a demolition site in Shepherds Bush which turned out to be the site of an ornamental garden statue factory where thirty or so diggers in three hours excavated hundreds of broken statues, moulds, tools and a magnificent stretch of early 20th Century concrete paving. A second party from the "Institute" worked on a site selected art random which turned out to be an allotment garden in Watford. A tattered scarecrow stands in the entrance to Boyle's flat in Shepherds Bush.

2 The square is chosen deliberately or at random for example, by throwing a right angle into the air and producing its line to form a square of predetermined size.

3 The ornamental garden statue factory deliberately selected as the site for the first part of this 1966 'DIG' had been known to Mark Boyle for some time. It had been operating in the 1960's but had then been burned down. Boyle discovered it, badly damaged but not yet demolished, when he was preparing the piece "Exit Music" 1694 (cf. Footnote Appendix 16. Parts of the factory were six feet deep in broken, mouldering statutes and Boyle describes a visit to the owner of the factory in an attempt to get hold of the statues for the event 'Exit Music'...I was shown into his office in Holland Park. He was old and seated at a long table. I asked if I could have the statues. He said "No." "Just for a loan?" "No." "Of course, I would be glad to pay a reasonable hire charge." "No." "Is it maybe possible that now or at some later date I might be able to buy them off you?" "No." Suddenly I realised that this was the sculptor and that he had experienced a tragedy, all of his work had been destroyed in the fire. And he didn't want to make a few bob out of it, he didn't want some lad like me fooling about with it, he wanted it to moulder away, exposed to the elements.... And so I said, "You're quite right of course. I'm completely insensitive. It's right that it should stay there, exposed to the wind, and rain, to rot back into the earth it came from.. "Get out!" he screamed, white with range, "get out!"

4 Because they didn't feel able to go back even two years later to ask permission to dig the site, Joan Hills rang up Jane Wood, Dai Vaughan and Clay Perry and asked them to arrive with film cameras (with or without film) to divert the attention of the police. In fact they had film in their cameras and the finished film 'DIG' was produced by David Naden Associates later that year. The buildings on the site had by now been demolished as dangerous, and the statues were all buried, so as a further precaution Boyle armed himself with a spurious letter from the Institute of Contemporary Archaeology authorizing him to clear the site.


The Tidal Series.

A series of 14 studies 4' 9" x 4' 9" made on the same square of the beach at Camber Sands after each tide for a week. The objective was to examine the effect of the elemental forces on the site; and to lift the actual sand off the surface and to fix it in its exact place and shape. Camber Beach was chosen because it was extensive, with a considerable area between high and low tide marks. The sands are situated between the sea and Romney Marsh, a very extensive flat area of country. For this reason there is no protection from the wind from any direction. A site was chosen about mid way between high and low water just landward of a large sandbank. The site was not chosen at random. It was selected deliberately to give maximum time to work on the site, in an area that always seemed to be rippled (as was 90% of the beach). The series started on the first of November 1969. It was a week of ferocious gales Force 9 gusting to 10 much of the time. The wind swept all around the compass. When it came from the south west the Beach Cafe, where the series was being assembled, was half buried in sand. The ripple variation on the site was considerable and the sand bar moved about in the storm, with the result that, where the series started to landward of it, on some days the square was actually on the bar either on its seaward or landward slope. Some days there was a considerable amount of animal and vegetable material on, or in the vicinity of, the square with the result that sea-birds moved across the surface of the square. On other days the marks of annelids and crabs appeared in the sand. 1..2. All of these were fixed, the actual grains of sand these creatures touched being in their correct position, in the final study. So that to a very large extent the studies are microscopically accurate, and the individual crystals of quartz and salt can be isolated.

Notes for Appendix 4
1. Cf. Appendix 8 (animal).

2. One day Georgia (6) found a hermit crab. While we were watching it, uncharacteristically it came out of it shell (it spends its life in an old whelk shell) and we discovered a bristle worm (annelid) live in the shell behind it in a symbiotic relationship with the crab. The next day walking down the beach I saw the two children hunched up over something and I overhead Georgia say "It's nothing Sebastian, just another bloody annelid".

3. We were on this beach at Seamill on the Firth of Clyde one Summer during the war. It was dun-coloured and windswept. I remember that it was golden, warm and limitless. I even remember in particular one day when the beach was white and fresh with startlingly blonde children in the distance, shouting and clambering over black rocks. Their voices were brittle and clear. They sounded like seagulls, and we were running to play with them when we were called into the house. "Don't tell me about the kids on the rocks" Mrs. Davidson cleaning and cooking, humming on an endless monotone, and my mother "your dinner's getting cold and they'll be there again in the afternoon". But we knew, and they knew, if they stopped to think about it, that they wouldn't, not only that afternoon but any other, and it suddenly occurred to me in a cafe in South Ken, one morning in 1963, that I never am going to meet those children, and if I did I wouldn't recognise them, and even if by some incredible chance I did recognise them, they would not sound like the gulls.
From a lecture at Watford Technical College.