Homage to Mrs. Rowlatt
Clare Qualmann

Part of 'Correspondence' 25th and 26th June 2010 at London Metropolitan University.

This performative testing of the hypothesis ‘There’s no such thing as black felt tips’ reflects on the role of teachers, education, memory and aesthetics.


Mrs. Rowlatt was my science teacher in the first year at secondary school. Although I imagine that this experiment had a different intention and description from the way I have remembered, its visual beauty – the slow reveal of the constituent colours that together ‘pretend’ to be black – mean that it stuck with me.


Through the performance I will endevour to adhere to the scientific principles introduced by Mrs. Rowlatt, as I remember them. I will define the hypothesis (there’s no such thing as black felt tips), I will define the extent/limits of my test (a range of at least 20 different pens will be tested, from a range of brands), I will construct a fair test (my method for testing each pen will be the same).


This piece is intended as the first in a series ‘Everything I learned in science’. As the documentation of the idea originating conversation demonstrates.
‘Mrs. Rowlatt’ was for a while the only thing I could remember.Since then I have had a think, wracked my memory, and future works may include ‘Homage to Mr. Shaw, or Osmosis’ and ‘Homage to Mr. Taylor, or the peanut test’.

Thanks to Melanie Howard, Wayne McGee and Catarina Moreno for photos and support