Collaborative Projects: BET4

The Midlands-based BET4Artists collective began in the late 1980s as a group of diverse visual artists aiming to create and exhibit original work. Founder members Walt Shaw and Kevin Burnley were concerned to generate a platform for exhibiting original artworks, but the group's events soon began to embrace more multi-media elements. Sound and movement workshops were developed alongside exhibitions like 'Wet Paint', 'More Wet Paint' and the 'Bean Field Event' in 1992 saw combinations of visual and sound installations and live music taken out into a rural setting. From 1993, important collaborative links with the German art group Axe and the French group Spirale were forged.

In 1995 and 1996, joint exhibitions in Paris, Lingen and Burton-on-Trent provided a platform for the group's first performance work, 'Atsawaytodoit', aka 'Mr. Punch', loosely based on the story of Punch and incorporating dance, physical theatre and live sound. From 1997, the primary focus of the group shifted towards performance work and BET4Performance developed 'InsideOutsideIn', an abstract physical theatre-based work investigating perspective and individuals' frames of reference and performed it in the UK, France & Germany. A second major work, 'SecondSands', constituted a further development of the group's integrated music, dance and performance style and was selected for the platform at the National Review of Live Art in Glasgow in 2001.

BET4 2007 Sampler Video

Compiled by Graham Foster and Walt Shaw

Mr. Punch

1995 - 1996

This was the first of BET4's cross-disciplinary projects, involving contemporary dance, physical theatre, improvised music and action. It was BET4's take on 'Punch and Judy', but with a strong reference to the 16th century 'Commedia dell'arte', the comedy of the creative improvisation.

Central to the performances was the powerful figure of 'the trickster', 'the lord of misrule', that figures in deep-rooted mythologies.

Also it had a nod to the marionette, Pulcinella.

Gigs took place at The Brewhouse Arts Centre, Burton-on-Trent, in the theatre of Lingen, northern Germany, Edinburgh Fringe and in Paris. Walt played percussion and was engaged in physical performance. Although the work was very much a collaborative team effort, the role of Simon Piasecki in shaping and directing the piece was significant.


1997 - 1998

This was a complex BET4 project with Graham Foster and Walt largely involved in the music throughout.

It integrated physical theatre, dance, music, installation and explored mind / body dualism and the conflict between internal and external forces.

It was performed at Birmingham's Custard Factory, Turtle Key Arts Centre, London, Galerie Confluence Paris, Galerie Municipale Vitry-sur-Seine Paris, Lingen Theatre, Germany, Derby University, and at The Documenta ( international contemporary art festival) in Kassel, Germany.


2000 - 2001

BET4 writes of the piece,

"From the start, with six beings washed up on an allegorical beach, re-gaining the status of conscious life forms, to the memorable finish, 'Secondsands' ranges from the exuberant to the mysterious. Featuring a haunting soundscape and enigmatic and captivating movement.

As well as the vitality of contemporary European dance and experimental theatre, the piece is influenced by Japanese Butoh and Taiko."

The project referenced time, evolutionary transition, collisions and chance. It featured a powerful five part Taiko drum score written by Walt, who played percussion throughout as well as being involved in the physical theatre aspects.

Gigs in Wirksworth Arts Festival, Warwick University, Glasgow (National Review of Live Art)

Mendel's Garden


Joint project with Simon Piasecki. Other artists from BET4 collaborated in parts of this project, particularly Graham Foster.

This project was an Arts Council England award for Walt and Simon Piasecki. It sought to explore the drive for meaning and order from apparently random events.

'Mendel's Garden' was a sound and visual installation loosely based on the work of Gregor Mendel. It sought to explore an analogy with Mendel's experiments to elaborate the basic rules of inheritance. Mendel worked painstakingly over years collecting data from crosses of pea plants displaying varying characteristics. A lesser mind would not have made the imaginative leap to derive patterns from the mass of seemingly meaningless, almost chaotic information. In a similar way Walt Shaw and Simon Piasecki attempted to make sense of data from a random process, pea seeds being flung from 40 speaker cones, connected in series in 4 chains. The cones were activated by a prepared electronics piece by Walt, which incorporated Mendel's Laws. Of course they failed in their attempt to make sense of the data, but it was the process of the drive to create a construct from chaotic events that was being explored here! The speaker cones' vibration flung out the peas, disturbed the 'pollen', and created sound. The positions of the peas were plotted, measurements made and collated, diagrams constructed, formulae created and destroyed, gradually becoming more manic, visually and sonically intense, to the level of absurdity. So essentially it was an installation with durational performance. There were three layers to the sound, two were abstract electronic and the third was a repeated loop of Mendel's Laws. As the piece unfolded the visual aesthetic of the installation piece became increasingly complex and intricate.

As an adjunct to the Mendel's Garden projects, Walt Shaw and Dr Simon Piasecki delivered a joint, academic paper at the 'Theatres of Science' at Glamorgan University, a conference exploring the confluence of the artistic and scientific process.


The Rise of Robert


This was an Arts Council England project put together and conceived by Walt's Mahood colleague and friend Graham Foster.

It involved eleven BET4 members, musicians, dancers and performers with Walt playing percussion and narrating.

Dealing with fate and chance, 'The Rise of Robert' was a theatrical experience, visually strong and emotionally dynamic.

A thread of experimentation, danger and humour ran through the piece, which constructed the life of a fictional character, Robert. It was a surreal musical colliding with performance art.

Gigs were performed at Melton Theatre, Melton Mowbray, Deda, Derby and Nottingham Arts Theatre.