September 10, 2009

The course is over, the piece of paper is on my desk; it is real, the MA is done. Two years went by so quickly. I’m left with a lot of bits and untidy ends to sort out. I don’t know how much of the ‘bigger picture’ (no pun intended) I resolved on the course, or whether that was the point in the first place. I did a project. I can continue it or abandon it. I seem to be ending a lot of ‘projects’ before they have a chance of becoming something; if they ever had a chance at all. Everything is at best, superficial or at worst, done on a whim.

I want to be one of those people who arrive at their studio in the morning knowing what they have to do. A steady, growing body of work concentrated and considered. Sequential and intelligent, not dashed off and done in response to some exhibition opportunity. I think I need to connect the thinking with the doing.

Or maybe I am wrong about all this. Does it really matter so long as I enjoy my art life and feel happy about mooching around my studio? I do feel a bit lost, hopefully only temporarily and I worry that this feeling of isolation and absence of some academic structure behind me is leading me to be tempted to the dark side of being like them.

The art wankers.

Spoon fed the mainstream propaganda, desperate to be accepted and recognised for their pallid, limp imitations of ‘art’ that they have seen on their countless visits to state sponsored galleries; each trip a notch on the bedpost of the impotent. These neutered shells haunt every private view, greedily gobbling up another portion of crap. Connecting, networking, being seen. If they speak at all, it is about them and rarely about the exhibition. Honest opinions are dangerous, a wrong word or a disparaging remark might cost them dearly. There is usually a loud one, the drunken rebel in the room, willing or unable not to speak up and seemingly rail against the considered view. He, for it is invariably a man, unkempt and with it, edgy, has nothing but contempt for these people and yet is content to repeatedly perform for them. Well, there is free wine. The innocent bystanders quietly murmur their disapproval and once he is out of the room and only then, openly mock him. His delusion, his lack of understanding and have you seen his work?   

And I don’t know what to do with the blog, not really. There is no project to prattle on about. I can natter about art stuff or bore myself and the three readers with endless twaddle about nothing. I could make it more of a diary, a precise and detailed account of the daily struggle with art; my art life and other minor distractions.  

I may start a diary anyway, a real one about all my life, not just the art side, which is admittedly the bulk of it. I don’t know. I can’t see the point; it would end up as an endless gush about the kids. Good to live through, dull to read. I met an old friend yesterday and we discussed memory, very relevant as we hadn’t seen each other in a decade. Mine is scattered at best. I think it is all there but filed away. I attribute this to living in the present. I really do not plan ahead beyond the next week and I rarely even think about the past. I think it all exists simultaneously anyway, so if I need to I can recall the past in quite good detail to the extent that I can feel it, almost. And to do that all the time would stop me being here now, and this moment is all that in reality counts. I suppose life is a little like a blog. I know there are eighty eight other entries and I can remember hazy details of some of them, possibly even the odd line, or more accurately, the gist of a line but I don’t spend any time looking back. This entry, the one I am writing at the time, is always my favourite one, my most cherished post, until it is on the internet and then I turn back to word. What was the future entry, becomes the current entry (and it is only current whilst being written) and is mine for a short while.

Most of the time, I shoot off an entry in one session. That session might be over a half day simply because I am doing other ‘net’ things but as often as not, it is all written and posted in a short time, an hour at the most. Very occasionally I will write a bit, then come back to it a day or so later. Some posts can take a week of brief visits. I realise now that I am writing all of this for me. I know you don’t care about my ‘writing pattern’, I do, though mainly as a record of what is what, fact wise.

Perhaps I fear the end and need to sort my affairs?

Oddly I did buy a 4GB stick today to back up all my stuff, just in case.

Should there be more pictures and more links for you to click around? I could put all my old BA blog/journal and pre-BA ‘journal’ writing up here too. Archive it all; the complete work of Bob Milner, all in one place. I can then bin the paper copy. I feel the need to tidy and sort and order. I have cleared the studio, boxed things up and so on. I can work in there again after the chaos of the final show and the last part of our gallery project. I want to sort out all my reference files and gather all my writing together. That could take a year, which is a good way of avoiding making artwork. Well if you want to avoid it stupid fucker, maybe you should quit.

No, I intend to have a routine. Several paper based projects on the go at the same time, the odd painted piece happening and when I am feeling really rough, start the archiving, seeing it as a long process but interesting. I want it all to be manageable and coherent. It is to me, I see it all, each pile of paper ephemera, as a visual thing; I instantly know why I saved it, what it means. How it all relates in a bigger way, still working on that. I don’t think I am yet drawing or painting what I was meant to draw, paint and archive. I have to be careful as I can envisage a time when I have a room full of work and a reluctance to let any of it go. I think I am making my own museum; dedicated to preserving for posterity a half life.

On a sour note, it was nice to unpick my drawings from the final show. They had been tacked up using pritt pads, one in each corner. Whoever took them down piled them up one on top of the other, not opposing (face to face…oh, the irony) so as to avoid the sticky tack from damaging the surface of the drawing, so I now have nine ‘ruined’ drawings. Yes, they were intentionally ‘throwaway’ or more precisely, not precious in any sense but a little care, attention or respect would have been nice. I handle a lot of artwork that isn’t mine and I am always careful, no matter what I think of the work.

Friends are important. And regular contact with friends is vital. I have a few very good art friends who I couldn’t imagine life without. I won’t name them as that would be revealing too much. I know who they are and I’d hope they know who they are too. The thing is most of them are scattered across the country, a couple of them abroad. I always think of ‘abroad’ as a very English concept. So contact is frequent but limited in a way. I wish they lived locally and we all met often and had a drink, chatted, maybe even made some work in the same space. Some of them are ‘here’ because of the internet, so I can hardly bemoan the concept of virtual friends but if we were all geographically closer, we might get some kind of ‘movement’ on the go. I’d like that; the need to belong is very strong. Again, maybe it is a portent of some kind of doom.

I was in the studio today thinking of one particular friend and wished I had some phone credit to text him, see how he was, possibly get him to come up and visit the studio. We occasionally write letters which is always good and I thought of writing him one instead. I returned home and there was one from him on the mat. And in it, he is proposing some kind of friends writing letters to inspire work project. Apparently, I predicted a ‘post-MA’ slump and he is suffering it and I know I am. I don’t remember predicting it and I wouldn’t have thought it likely, I do after all have an art ‘career’ albeit unpaid and unseen, mostly. So, there, that was odd.

Another friend is not called Creature, though he uses that name. He is a good lad. And that is all you need to know dear reader. The reason I am mentioning him though, is that his website really needs another four hits this week and if both of you reading this visit twice, that would be great. He has been….assembling, or curating…or allowing other people to create special mini ‘friends’ issues of Creaturemag and I think the idea is great and the work is great too, so please, have a look. I may do my own version and if he likes it, there will be a peep at my friends but knowing my reluctance to work, it could be some time.

Clicketh here: www.creaturemag.com and seeketh the friends.

An exciting but potentially hazardous project that is underway with another friend is a comedy writing thing. Fuck art, it doesn’t pay the bills. It would if you were better at it. I have two degrees. So fucking what means nothing. Do some pencil portraits of pop stars and minor celebrities; that should pay the bills. I’d rather not. Fuck you then. We’re both a little bit funny and we can’t be any worse than most of the ‘comedy’ on TV at the moment. Well, we could be but one of us has an ear for dialogue and the other an eye for the ladies, so that ought to be a winning combination. If you locked a monkey in a room with a typewriter for long enough, you’d find it credited on some BBC 3 programme. We will write it, edit it, and send it away. I predict we will be rich and famous very soon. Job done, go back to making art that no one likes.

Television is all I ever really wanted. Art was just a way of passing the time. I want to reach out to millions and make them laugh. What can be more satisfying than that? I feel like a young lad; the world is my lobster. I could do anything. I could write the novel to end all novels. I could dance, sing. I’ll do anything that doesn’t involve sitting in that fucking studio every day dribbling paint and scratching at paper; back to the movement thing, making ‘art’ is a lonely business. I need an audience, without one, without some chance to talk and laugh I curl up and retreat into a dark place.

In 1997 I worked in a bank. It was a large telephone bank, no direct contact with customers. I was a back room banking representative. One of the cogs that kept the greasy wheels of capitalist enterprise in motion. I didn’t mind it, it was very dull and I clearly wasn’t going to be there for a long time. We sat on large desks, perhaps ten of us around a table, like in school. We had work to do and the teacher, sorry, team leader would sit at the head of the table to ensure that we concentrated on getting the job done. Friday was dress down day and there was always someone celebrating something, so team gelling visits to the local pub broke up the monotony.

Inevitably in that kind of environment, there were ‘characters’, people who were so grotesque that if you wrote about them, no one would believe it. I was on a team with Ray. We’ll call him that to protect his identity; he does still work in banking. That isn’t his real name, he was called Raymond. I thought that Ray was the funniest man on the planet. He was witty, fast with it and had a truly unique take on life. One time, during one of the regular after work pub sessions, he was so funny that as I laughed, I spat a mouthful of beer all over him. Not really my fault, I was drinking as he spoke and I wasn’t expecting the nugget of comedy that came. Of course, I can’t remember it now. I knew he had a degree in English or something wordy, so I suggested we write some comedy. He was the comedy God, I was merely his willing secretary who might occasionally come up with a pun or two but what a lethal combination that would be. I suggested we used what we had right there in front of us every day; the office. Ray spoke: ‘No one will watch a comedy programme about an office’. He convinced me. Four years later Ricky Gervais proved him wrong. I’m not bitter.

We tried once to write something. We were smoking some imported tobacco at the time which didn’t help.

Ray was so sharp, so funny. His office persona was brilliant, almost a little too brilliant, not quite rehearsed but something told me it wasn’t that spontaneous. A few years after I last saw Ray, I found Bill Hicks. I have a long but weird history with Bill. After rediscovering him, I remembered that I had seen him on TV years before but he was a minor passing interest one night when the imported tobacco hadn’t yet kicked in. Bill Hicks is dead now, he died in 1994. I hungrily listened to all the old recordings. There was something familiar about the material. I had heard a lot of it before, not when he was alive and I was smoking, no, this was after that. It puzzled me for ages and then I remembered; it was Ray. My illusions were shattered. Ray knew that no one in the bank would know Bill. The comedy project was doomed before it began. Ah well, we’ll see what happens this time.

You never know, post one hundred and fifty two might be written straight after the BAFTA awards where we narrowly miss out on a ‘Best Comedy’ gong to Mitchell and Webb.

2551 words and no animal was harmed in the process though I did eat some boiled ham.