April 30, 2008

Since the beginning of MADA there has been over 33,000 words written in this blog and very few were necessary. I might spend the rest of the MA dissecting the text so far; looking for hidden meaning and plotting the frequency of word usage.


At the weekend I had my first face painting show of the season; Buscot Park Game and Country Fair. A long drive was rewarded with a visit to the Uffington Horse (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uffington_White_Horse) before we arrived at the showground. I was more impressed with the topography of the whole valley, as remarkable as the ‘horse’ is. There seemed to be a charged atmosphere, as if the place was significant on many levels. I don’t want to sound too romantic about it but it was clearly a special area, echoes of three thousand years of life not physically obvious but apparent all the same. I would like to go back, spend much more time there.


The show itself was a disappointment financially; very few people attended and those that did seemed reluctant to spend any money. All of the traders were in the same dire situation of either breaking even or making a loss; even the caterers who usually bask in the glory of supplying the gluttonous masses with their tepid over priced filth were struggling. The weather was good, the area pretty affluent so the only conclusion that can be made is that the recession that isn’t a recession is finally hitting the wallet of the ordinary punter and in this situation, it is the luxury items and the unnecessary purchases that go first. No one needs a face to be painted, no matter how good the face painter is.


There was alcohol and good company and a wonderfully creative two days that I am still staggered about. I had taken down some blank cups to work on in the evening during the lull between trading and being ready to sink into the bottomless pit of the beer tent, with all the casual encounters and drink buddies that make it entertaining and tedious in equal measure. I rattled through the cups and I took photographs of the cups on the field, playing with them. I made a ‘Jesus H. Cupp’ and filmed him walking on water. I wrote a long, illustrated letter to a friend and made a extensive list of cup related possibilities, intoxicated by the ideas and the possibility that here was a body of work that I could have fun with, make proposals for and it is work that can be seen as light and throwaway or deep and meaningful depending on your take. Hint; the former not the latter.


During the unfolding narrative of the letter, I decided to turn my part of the stall into a PEEP! gallery for the rest of the season. The stall has a twenty foot frontage, five of which is my hovel, attached but separate. From there I paint faces. I could make a PEEP! sign, create some canvases and hang them. A simple enough idea. I wouldn’t want to take art from other people because the weather plays a significant part of the season; if my canvases are drenched or blown sixty feet into the air, or stolen by uncultured swine I won’t be too bothered. I have some MTS images in mind that are easy to create and might be tempting to some people, not that selling them is the point. The footfall of people at these shows is extraordinarily diverse, in terms of background, income, and attitude and so on. The response that the canvases or indeed the creation of a ‘gallery’ in that environment might provoke is something that I really look forward to. I want to know what people think.


A new phenomena this show was people asking me if I was ‘an artist’. I have been doing face painting for fourteen years and punters have always enthused and commented on how good the faces are and stuff like that. I have never been accused of being an artist though. I can’t see that my technique has changed in any way; perhaps I have the fragrance of an MA student about me? Until the middle of last season, I would dress up as a clown and clowns are only ever drunks and misogynists, never artists. It might be that. I will have to get the clown gear out later in the season to test this theory; if women flinch and small children wet their pants I will know that they suspect ‘an artist’ lurking beneath the surface. The clown nose is the smallest mask.


I thought the weekend of artistic ejaculation was over as I dismantled the last of the stall, shoving banana boxes into the van and becoming slightly excited at the prospect of a stop at the motorway services. I love service stations, especially at night. From nowhere, and I have thought about that since, came the idea to make a trailer version of PEEP! I have considered vans in the past as a mobile gallery and I did plan the earliest version of the c’ART gallery (http://www.free-range.org.uk/cgi-bin/portfolio.pl?yearID=11&exhibitionID=336&memberID=9195/ ) to be a horse drawn cart that would travel from my college to the exhibition in London.


In the van, I was sat next to a friend who has a spare trailer, a trailer that I used to fill with bits of stall. Suddenly, it all fitted as an idea. Part of the reasoning behind PEEP! is to get as many versions of the gallery out there, in different locations and most likely in different sizes. A mobile version would be an excellent addition to the plan. As the conversation about the trailer carried on, I realised it was a very real possibility and nothing beyond my technical abilities. It does need a refit and I have a place that I can take it to work on. There are minor issues like getting a tow bar fitted to my car and then a major one of do I try to get this financed by the Arts Council or plod along on my limited budget. The idea is to tour the nation, stopping frequently and opening the gallery. It would have a mini giftshop, a desk for the attendant and possibly a ‘workshop’ area. All of this can be spewed out of the back of the trailer at each location. I am not sure yet what ‘art’ it would show and how often that would change and for what reason.


As an addition to this dull tale, I have spoken to a few trusted art friends about the expansion of PEEP! galleries to other geographical areas, which would involve them directly as local curators/art monkeys/PEEPETTES! I approached Susan Mortimer about this and following her input to the discussion it became clear that I need to make some kind of document which will clearly state the idea/intention of PEEP! both to help the local agent and the potential host venue. This is not a franchise it is a FREECHISE! 


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April 30, 2008

Collaboration and websites are the twin topics for this posting. C&W from now on; an artistic coupling for the digital age. Not to be confused with the C&W of Country and Western, a dubious form of music lacking in soul or any merit. Keep your cowboy hats and your pointy boots; I’m in the beret wearing brigade. C&W is the future and a large part of the present which existed in the past but was never formalised in the way that it has been now, here, by me.


Simply put, there is nothing else. The blinkers are on, I am right. As my expanding waistline proves, I am not one for starving alone in my garret. People are necessary. Working with people on projects is fun and it goes a long way to convince that there is something worth getting up for on a morning. The situation of big galleries, arts funding and the hierarchy all too evident in the art world make it a very lonely path to take on your own. Maybe I am just not good enough to get a gallery interested or to have an agent who will enthuse and support me. Perhaps my interest in making gallery spaces is because I know I am shit; I don’t even show my own work that much.


Groups go places and together we can all hide from the truth. Nah. Collaboration is vital in preventing the disease that commonly afflicts a lot of artists, especially those who paint; UP YOUR OWN ARSE syndrome. Symptoms include verbal diarrhoea, a fixed smile and an inability to be sincere. Those afflicted tend to gather together where their symptoms become exacerbated and a form of hysteria sets in known as networking. In this state, many false promises are made and hopes are raised, only to be squashed at the first sign of interest from someone with power, money or influence shattering all the previous loose bonds. This in turn can lead to weeping, whining and retreat from normal society. This isolation only inflames the UYOA sufferer, making it difficult to suggest any suitable treatment other than a reality check. These are offered by a local V.P. (visual practitioner) in the form of a brief consultation. There are key words used by the V.P. such as ‘wanker’, ‘pretentious’ which help to alleviate the condition. Some artists may need more than one visit to a V.P. or might possibly seek a second opinion.


I haven’t been reflecting in my blog for two weeks because there was nothing doing at MADA. I know this doesn’t normally stop me. I can’t recall anything of note about the tutorial; I think everything is all right. I sent one hundred mini folded issues of MTS to ‘irk’ to hopefully be included in their next edition, the theme being multiples. (http://irk.org.uk.googlepages.com/home) See, collaboration. And that is their website. I think I should mention the cups. MTS will be showing ten thousand cups at the next exhibition in three weeks time. I have been drawing cups all the time. I took three hundred away with me to draw and then took some photographs and video. I will discuss all of this further in ‘Beyond PEEP!’ the blog within the blog set up for the MADA blogsperiment. The link is over there, on the blogroll.


And on the blogroll is PEEP! which is the link to the piczo website. I know it is aimed at teenagers but it is a place where I can upload images and clips for all to see. All being me and a tutor once in a while; worth the effort though. And tutor, there is also a link to Creaturemag which has a section devoted to PEEP! as part of the current issue. Creaturemag is a place dedicated to C&W.


The point of working with other people, whether that is directly in collaboration as I do with Tom Senior for MTS or indirectly by offering work for other publications that I have no editorial control over (irk, Creaturemag) is that you avoid the total isolation of being on your own and up against the whole art world without someone there to reassure you that you are normal. Connections are made, friendships are formed and even a little encouragement goes a long way to keeping the enthusiasm alive.


You feel part of something and the energy that this builds circulates and offers further inspiration. When you are down, feeling like a worthless sack of shit, there is usually someone in the circle-of-loose-but-important-acquaintances who is ‘up’ and encouraging. In brief, collaboration is a support network for the mentally ill.


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April 16, 2008

There are wider issues with PEEP!


I wrote that sentence when I finished the last post. I did intend to continue the thread immediately but I found that the writing about it was replaced by thinking about it. I had a good response to the call for contributions and most of it was usable. Some of it was very good. I selected over fifty pieces in total, thinking that whatever didn’t make it into issue one, would end up in the second issue. I was vaguely thinking that the PEEP! issue would be twice the thickness of a standard MTS, so twelve pieces of A4 paper, folded to A5 to make forty eight ‘sides’ that all need an image or some text. The main concern was keeping it affordable to produce and making it relatively quick and easy. Black and white, mass photocopied, stapled and folded by machine.


The doubts started to creep in early on. I don’t want to use that format. A slightly thicker less funny, less focused version of MTS. Why bother? A showcase for artists? And then what? More text, less pictures. I like that idea but the selection of writing that made the final selection was mostly fiction. No ‘art’ writing, no critical debate. Here is the danger of doing things on a whim; ask people to send any drawing/writing and they do. Any means whatever they think is good or worthwhile. If you decide later on that you have an agenda no matter how loose, then it is a little too late to bemoan what was offered.


Then again, there has to be room to reconsider and develop the thinking. I am not a robot. I ask questions and I seek answers and I don’t always know why and what when I do. Working by instinct has many attractive features but the main downside is that later consideration can cause distress. Panic! I feel obliged to a number of people who are all expecting PEEP! sooner rather than later. I know I can alter the timetable or even abandon the project if I choose. I am the centre of this mental storm. It is my project, I am PEEP!


So the thinking continued and the main conclusion is that there should be at least three publications under the PEEP! umbrella of progressive action and creative revolution.


The A6 black and white cheaply printed mass produced bile riddled zine. Given away, lost, found, and posted; a freebie. Spread the word and that word is PEEP! Written by me, drawn by me. Collage, quippery, foul language; general naughtiness with a tongue firmly placed in the cheek. 


The A5 hand softbound collection of PEEP! offerings, littered with PEEP! bits by me. Good paper, good printing, playfulness, less coarse, more art book like. Sell it. Play the book arts game a little or die of boredom trying.


As a supplement to both, composed mostly of recycled material will be the series of leaflets and cheap books. Thin in all senses, other than hopefully the proliferation of ideas. Another way in. A comedian has a routine that is altered, tinkered with for a different crowd or for a different purpose. Same message, different vehicle.


Of course all of these have to be backed up by decent images and half baked prose. I am always more interested in the seedy underbelly of anything. The stuff behind the gloss. I think that art is often gloss and little else. I try to balance the emptiness and dishonesty of images with a few words. Words don’t conceal, not in my approach to using them. I think words have more honesty, if you keep the craft simple and don’t disappear up your own rectum. I feel like I am teetering on the edge at the moment, better be careful.


Two publications in this ongoing experiment appeared at a book arts fair in London last weekend. A leaflet entitled ‘Observations from a Lost Cause’, A4 folded in three, a reprint of a written piece from last year. The PEEP! logo was there. Fifty pence. And ‘Mewling Cabbages’, an A5 booklet, produced on cheap paper; an assembly of snippets of writing with pictures. One new drawing, others culled from previous mumblings. One pound. A gaudy fluorescent sticker on the cover stating the price; if you judge the book by the cover, it is cheap.


I made a point of trying to get some feedback from my friend who had the stall. He sold a few of each publication. The main point he made was that people picked them up, looked at them, even laughed at them and then put them back. Despite the cheap cover price, a lack of manners prevailed. I am happy that I got laughs and selling them wasn’t the main purpose. So, what do I conclude from this? Do I need to make them ‘worth buying’ by adopting rather than rejecting the art book approach; fancy papers, block printing and so on? The dead aesthetic, the almost sexual engagement that the book art market seems to play on; caressing the folds, sniffing the cover, carefully fingering each page. Playing their game. I can’t be arsed. Do I make them longer so that even the most rude punter can’t get everything out of a quick flick? Oh – what’s the bloody point?


890 words


April 8, 2008

Unit Two has arrived. I cannot believe how quickly the year has gone. Evaporated like decent single malt left on a window sill in summer, next to a radiator, with heat applied directly via a Bunsen burner. I still feel like I am new to the course, people ask about the MA as if it started yesterday. A third of the way in. Frightening really. No time to construct shabby sentences of mock horror with terrible similes. Tempus fugit; work to do.


Feedback was fed, back. I was content with my grade but there are areas that need some attention, obviously. The one that stands out, as I don’t have the document open, was methodologies. I’m not sure why. I will discuss it at the next tutorial. Not worried about the summer break holding up the project, as there will be no summer break. I might slow down if it is really hot and having the children demanding attention always disturbs the momentum in a good way. For my low tech approach to publishing, it can also mean extra hands to do the menial tasks (drawing, writing, layout etc) that I can’t be bothered with. I will sit in my wicker chair, gently wafting a palm leaf as I sip a chilled G&T, seeking my muse. Cream suit, panama tilted at a camp angle, wellington boots; good at trapping the moisture although this can lead to a mild form of trench foot or at best, wrinkled toe syndrome.


Perhaps for those on the course who work, a short break of some kind is essential. Those of us who spend our lives devoted to the pursuit of excellence, with a reckless attitude to income, need no such period of rest. We cannot rest. The mind, in conspiracy with the hand, will not allow it; constantly in search of the new. Fuck, I really wished I did work that much, a life devoted to smothering thick layers of paint upon canvas, scraping it away and urinating on the work; dropping fag ash into the mixture and vomit. Real suffering not this lame befuddled and meek, self pitying version.


I do put in the hours but it is often on ‘admin’, tasks such as e-mail and printing, sorting and so on. I get some drawing done but I do think I spend more time writing bollocks than actually scribbling. I have notes, a large pile of notes and plans and projects. My ideal job would be a creative steward, wandering the country, fuck that-the globe-and offering advice, sharing plans, pointing the fruitless in the right direction. When I say the right direction, clearly I mean my definition of right, correct and so on. I need art monkeys to do my bidding; a ‘willing of assistants’ (new collective noun; add to dictionary) who question nothing but can do. Preferably semi-naked. I would say semi-clothed but I am an optimist.


I am printing a PEEP! leaflet for the book fair in London at the weekend. I usually have the printer on the foot rest bit of the computer desk but after wrecking my knees last night trying to align paper and so on; it has been pulled out and placed on a chair next to me. This means that my alignment finger can dart about in between typing duty to ensure a correct feed. I feel more efficient as a result, almost semi-professional. The kitchen looks more like a studio than any studio I have ever had, has. I am now printing a second leaflet, an MTS special for inclusion in the next edition of ‘irk’, a Hull based zine/book. The printer is being a bastard. Perhaps I need a new one, a better one. It is my portal to the wider world of publishing. And I am shit at folding. I should give it up.


Live in Horbury; ink crisis! As it happens! I put the black ink in yesterday and already it has gone on stupid bloody head cleaning. So I have had twenty five leaflets and a few misprints, testers and so on for three quid. Not very good price ratio to end result thing. This fair was a test; selling stuff cheap and seeing what happens. Will the cheapness put people off? Will it sell because some people can only do cheap in the current world financial crisis that isn’t a crisis, please don’t worry, your beer is safe. Keep drinking. Drinking not thinking. All these grand plans have now ground to a halt as I don’t have another three quid at the moment. I have to post all these by the end of the week. Oh well.


‘Native New Yorker’ by Odyssey. Listen, love it. 1977.




785 words


April 6, 2008


Perhaps I am blacklisted but I haven’t had any further details of the blog experiment. I have mixed feelings about the whole project. I would have to open a new blog for the task; I am not mixing it in with this. This works for me. I don’t see much personal value to the other suggested methods. I would be willing to try it for the sake of the experiment provided it did not soak up too much time. There are no rules in these blogs as far as I am aware and if I wanted to fill the pages with images I would.


Even though I didn’t take part in the discussion, I was pleased that the chat session had a bit of structure. It is our one chance to discuss anything as a group and although a large component of MA study is self generated research, I think it is good that the sessions have a bit of direction, especially when new research possibilities are highlighted. I had a lot of thoughts about the Manovich text last week but now, very few. The main thrust of my bedraggled thought process was that art was possible before Web 2.0 and will be after. Nothing will stop art; if art is the creation of the new by the few. A small proportion of people ‘join in’ and upload images/video and so on and most of it is crap. I can’t see this trend altering much, no matter what platform is reinvented. A lot of art is crap, so you can’t expect too much from the non-art crowd. There is some genuinely creative stuff around but that would have existed in some form anyway. I might not have seen it, but that doesn’t detract from its value.


Value was the main aspect that the text raised. Is a drawing only of value if three hundred thousand people see it via my webpage, rather than just me and a few hundred people, eventually, because it is in print on a limited basis? No, is the obvious answer. The drawing has implicit value regardless of the eventual fate of it. It might be technically bad, don’t care. You draw because you have to, and what you do with it afterwards is irrelevant.


380 words


April 2, 2008

Curious times. I decided to have a break from the blog once all the work was in place for assessment. Just a short thing, nothing serious. Adding extra posts only pushes the crucial ones further down and I wanted to make it easy for the assessment. The habit broken, it is hard to come back and yet there is so much to write about and because of that my mind is buckling under the weight of bullshit and quippery. This causes a severe confusion and jumblification of reasoning.  

I have the idea that there is a cookie in my system which records things that happen in WORD, one of my most used and favourite applications. I believe that this cookie reports back to Microsoft. Oh, the conflict; as a proper noun it deserves a capital ‘M’ but as an organisation intent on spreading chaos and stifling creativity, it should be a little ‘m’ to show my annoyance. Unless I am wrong. I was too busy doodling much of the time at school. The deputy headmaster, upon confiscating my latest abusive journal aimed at the shortcomings of the teaching staff, commented that nothing good would come of it. How right he was. If he could see me now, struggling to find the right words, hopelessly devoted to a lost cause. Art. Paranoid about a corporation that has bigger fish to fry. Writing sentences that rely on a well worn cliché to hammer the point home. Then again, this was a man who asserted that the best method of contraception was a large glass of orange juice.  

So I discover this cookie and I know it follows every word, every bit of punctuation, always looking and analysing. I suspect it makes reports and files them at Bill Gates HQ. I think it is especially keen on new words, the ones that are tagged as ‘add to dictionary’. If someone is making new words, then it follows that they may question things, anything. Everything. And if they question, it follows that they must think and thinking must be squashed. So please, if your document queribbles a new word, add it to dictionary.  

This self imposed exile was then compounded by a planned but overlooked visit to Edinburgh. I know, I could have written my blog over the border but I am a man of habit. I like to write here and now, not there. I could do it if I really had to; it isn’t some compulsive disorder disorder. Edinburgh is a great city, I like it. It gives the impression of being smaller than it is, friendly and unpretentious; outside of festival time when I dislike it most. I have family there and that is the excuse to visit, although I always make a point of wandering around a couple of galleries, so many to choose from. I feel all at once inspired and alienated, euphoric and depressed.  

It might be the cool air or the smell of cheap food or perhaps the break from contact with people and other art matters but for some reason, I always come away from the place with new ideas or new versions of old ideas; brimming with enthusiasm to get on with some work, to the point that several times I find myself unable to sleep, busily scribbling notes and diagrams in a sketchbook. That is not normal for me, I am usually so drained by the time I sink into my pillow that I sleep deeply. I once toyed with the idea of moving there but I was concerned that the magic might vanish, that too much of a good thing would be disasterly.  

Don’t tinker if it works. I feel the same about the blog.   

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