... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

250: The Sides of Buildings, 2006-2007

Inspired by yesterday’s photography In_tuition @ BLANKSPACE I have been routing around in my old digital drawers for some of the photographs I have taken in the past, which I consider to be worth sharing.  A small number are waving their hands and crying me, me, me.  Many of their even older, film-based ancestors are sadly sitting in envelopes and boxes under the bed waiting to be sorted and scanned.  Over time it’ll be worth pulling out the best, and arranging them into categories, themes, series.

Martin Creed, Work No. 227
For now one obvious theme emerges, and that I will creatively name The Sides of Buildings, 2006-2007.  I added the date to make it seem more important.  The matter of fact descriptive title makes it sound like pure Conceptual Art (see Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs, Piero Manzoni’s Artist’s Shit, and Martin Creed’s Work No. 227, The Lights Going On And Off).  I haven’t decided yet whether or not this series of photos is Conceptual Art, but when I do that decision is final.  I do not delegate to anyone the privilege to say that’s not art.  Anyone can say that’s shit art and be subjectively correct, but anyone stating that’s not art will always be objectively wrong.

Art & Language, Index 001
I’ve always liked Conceptual Art, and oddly enough I enjoy more for the way it looks than the so-called ideas behind the stuff.  It’s all a load of old bollocks, but I’m glad it exists.  I’m talking about traditional Conceptual Art, the stuff from the 60s and 70s; not using it as an umbrella term synonymous with contemporary art.  The stuff which is all filing cabinets (Art & Language’s, Index 001), straight lines drawn on the wall (Sol LeWitt), and repetitive lines or typewritten text on plain white paper (Hanne Darboven or Robert Barry); that’s what I like.  Your blood heads and your shark tanks are all well and good, but to make or buy these are expensive and labour intensive.  But with old-school Conceptual Art if you want to own a representation of the idea you can usually make it yourself with a pencil and a ruler, a typewriter and a piece of paper, or a box of index cards.

There isn’t a real concept here, in The Sides of Buildings, 2006-2007, except for that I think they look good and when I took the first one (Berlin 01) I was happy and decided to carry on.  Isn’t that how all art series get started, and also obsessive-compulsive disorders?  I don’t know; my PhD has yet to arrive from that American mail order college.

Ahem, I now present to you The Sides of Buildings, 2006-2007, World Premiere exhibition.  There’s coffee and cakes in the corner, no smoking in the toilet, wine will be served shortly.  If you enjoy the show please leave a donation in the jar and a comment in the book.  Come again; thank you, bye:



Wednesday, March 30, 2011

249: In_tuition: Photography (001)

In_tuition, every Tuesday @ BLANKSPACE

That rare mutant beast erupted today, which is a hammy-dramatic way of saying this month had a fifth Tuesday in it.  And this means In_tuition at BLANKSPACE becomes photography day; I think this calls for an exclamation mark.  I rudely turned up late, and rudely left early (I had a headache and couldn’t stop yawning), but the time I spent there was extremely interesting.  When I arrived conversation was already in full swing, and the turnout was grand. 

Chris Leyland, Animal Remains series,
@ BlankWeekend 2010
Blank Media Collective member Chris Leyland (our Community Arts & Learning Coordinator) was unfurling some of his images onto the floor in the middle of the circle.  I’m glad I made it for this, because it was a chance to see new developing work and enter a lively discussion about its development.  It’s not for me to tell all about Chris’ work in progress, but it was impressive (as his work always is) and can’t wait to see it develop.  

(I made the general observation that aesthetically it sort of reminded me of some of Dave McKean’s work, particularly some of The Sandman covers.  Really they have next to nothing in common, but nevermind.  I reproduce a couple here, partly for fun, and partly because I think they are ace.  This website, the Dave McKean Collector has a massive collection of his art.)

Also present was Iain Goodyear (whose work can be seen on his blog Almost Photography, and who is the BMC official photographer).  His background is in film editing and teaching and has only recently become interested in photography.  He brought a number of images for us to see and pore over.  The one that grabbed people the most seemed to be Mancunian Way at Night.  It’s a highly stylised urban/night time sort of image.  It looks cool, too cool, but looking through his blog I see other pictures that I personally prefer:

Mancunian Way at Night

Urban Cut, is a study of the trimmed back remnants of a tree or bush of some description, forcing its way out of a rumble of rubble and a deteriorating red brick wall.  It seems to capture a larger scene despite being a close-up; it’s one of those images that makes you think about life and the unsettling contrast between the facts that cities are built to live in, yet as they grow they become more and more hostile to life.

Urban Cut

Shoe Box Living (or Shoe Box as I want to call it), again I think is a great image.  It captures rows and columns of identical abodes, personalised in the most minimal fashion with tables and chairs on balconies.  I can imagine it repeating for ever like one of those 80s computer games where you appear at the bottom if you move off the top of the screen.  It also makes me want to climb, while simultaneously giving me vertigo; that’s a dangerous game to play.

Shoe Box Living

Also present (besides members of the BMC team) were David Morris, whose photos I want to talk about, but I can’t find a website for him.  He still sticks doggedly to film photography and takes as few photos as possible.  I hope he will make good use of the DARK ROOM at BLANKSPACE.  There was another chap whose name I can’t remember (sorry other chap), but when I've figured out these two little hiccups I’ll add some more to the end of this blog.

In summation, I’d like to have been there for the entire thing, and it showed signs of being a popular and productive group.  There were intonations and threats that photography may take over the fourth Tuesday of the month (currently reserved for a free-style mass-up thing of all art forms), however the literature & creative writing group have also made this threat.  Still, good work guys.  It may inspire me to get the ol’ SLR out and have a tinker.  In the meantime I think tomorrow I’ll go through some of the best of my old photos and stick them up here for everyone to have a good old fashioned peer at.

This was just a quick post before bed, but tomorrow I think I'll continue the photography theme.  In_tuition was inspiring.  Thanks to everyone who came, and especially all who showed work.

248: No Offence Intended exhibition recap

BLANKSPACE, 43 Hulme St, M15 6AW
No Offence Intended is now fully stricken from a BLANKSPACE awaiting the next exhibition, Perception/Deception curated by No Such Thing Collective.  Perception/Deception opens with the big launch on 7th April 2011 6pm-9pm (with all the free booze you’ve come to expect from shows at BLANKSPACE), and continues 8th until 17th April during usual BLANKSPACE opening hours.  More about this at a later date.  And unfortunately this is probably the last of our shows by groups using the ‘no’-something-something template of naming.

No Offence Intended put on a great show, that all at Blank Media Collective were extremely happy with.  In two previous posts I’ve documented three of the exhibitions installations (here and here); now let’s take a quick look at the rest of the show.  You know; for prosperity.  All the work had to be seen and heard (and smelt, and talked to) to fully appreciate, but photography is a tried and tested documentary medium, and who am I to argue.  The photos in this post have been provided by Chuman Chu ManChu (check out his blog Chuman’s Interactive Arts for photography, animation, art, and the like).

First up, if walking up the stairs at just the right time, you would hear part one of Runa Begum’s installation, ‘No two men sound the same’.  Every half an hour the Islamic call to prayer can be heard cascading down the stairs; here lovingly recorded as a photo of some speakers on a shelf, perfectly missing the point.  Further into the exhibition, behind a curtain, in a pitch black room one hears subtly quiet prayer recitation in Koranic Arabic, and sees a tiny spotlight picking out a compass.  Using the compass one can orientate east to find the Kaaba in the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest site in Islam.  The room is disconcertingly dark on entering and I couldn’t tell if anyone else was inside, but after the eyes adjust it becomes peaceful and welcoming.


Adam ‘Monty’ Renshaw and Joe Nowacki’s collaboration is a unique piece of art, the like of which I have never seen before.  An image is projected onto a large square of Perspex, from which juts an object like a crashed plane or a stylised bird sitting atop a totem pole.  From the back the projection looks like a technical drawing of a Jeffries tube, but when viewed from the other side at just the right time, the piece comes to life.  The projection animates creating the illusion of the totem bird flying from its perch, circling and then returning.  Technically this is quite an achievement and I want to see development of this idea.  Extra points for including a Black & Decker Workmate in the set-up.  Manly.


In the far corner we can see Kay Woodley’s morning routine in her video and sound installation, My Morning Routine.  She has captured to scenes and sounds that she religiously adheres to every morning.  It’s a self-portrait which doesn’t show the subject.  Here again we have the problem of a photo not truthfully representing the actual work.  I vote for a youtube video.  Seconded.


Marcin Wozniak’s Light is another dark room with mesmerizing content.  Stepping through the black curtain one is dazzled by the light of the projector staring back at you.  Once you move in and look back at the slowly living image thrown onto the curtain your pupils can comfortably settle.  We see subtly shifting lines of light and dark, slowly swirling motes of dust, and gradual movement.


Back in the main room is Sonny Barker’s sculpture Mother Create (here modelled by Sonny Barker).  It’s a hastily cobbled together splash of cardboard, wood, black paint and builders foam, and it looks great.  It tells of a relationship between a protector and carer giving birth to chaos and destruction; cyclical waves of life and death.  Through the patchy paint I can see the tape holding it together, and the flaps of the boxes it is formed from.  Peering up inside through the birth canal I can see the inner workings.  It was constructed in the space; click to see the making of Mother Create at Sonny’s Blog.  When I first saw it in a still unfinished state it reminded me of a quote (which I attribute to Sarah Lucas but can’t remember if this is accurate) “When something is good enough, it’s perfect”.


It’s sad to see the end of our first external exhibition, but roll on the next one.


Monday, March 28, 2011

247: hmmm, let me see

I’ve started putting so much effort into these blogs that writing each one feels like producing a daily dissertation.  Actually, strike that; reverse it.  Instead of starting with a personal complaint, how about I just launch into whatever today’s (i.e. yesterday’s) blog is about.  I’m killing time with my fingers while my brain tries to decide what to write about.  Hmmm, let me see...  An old woman in the shop today, about 89, tiny and decrepit, looked at some cheap shoes and exclaimed fuck me, two pounds!  I enjoyed that.  Last week I heard a woman proudly boasting to her friend, and he’s given up the weed for a whole week now.  I am like a ghost at work tidying up after messy customers but largely ignored by them.  It’s a good place to be.

And then I went to BLANKSPACE, which is much quieter and has only as many shoes as there are people.  I believe this to be closer to the proper ratio.  BLANKSPACE was a buzzin’ lil hive of activ8T today.  The exhibitions team were grouping together to welcome four new members who I have yet to meet properly.  The team of No Offence Intended were taking down their exhibition, papering over the cracks, poly-fillering and dabbing damaged paint.  I had a meeting with local artist Sarah Sanders about the possibility of us hosting her life drawing and exploring drawing classes.  This seems very promising, and I’m sure there will be much enthusiastic hype spindling out from this blog, in the soon as.  We’ve got some great ideas in the pipeline; well worth getting involved with for all drawing enthusiasts and all of you with illustrative curiosity.

I’m looking forward to some drawing in BLANKSPACE as I’m pretty certain that it is my favourite medium of art.  In Japan I bought a massive art book called Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing.  It is seriously heavy and important looking, and super-duperly varied in the styles it shows me.  I’ll do some photos of the best works and lob them up on here.  Might as well get my money’s worth.  I bought it before I had got the hang of the value of Japanese money.  The book still bears the price tag; a painful 9240 after tax.  Xe.com tells me this is £70.  It burns.  It burns.  I’m melting.  What a fool I was.

Right, this is turning out to be one of those old school blogs where I just say a few unconnected things, ramble a bit about what I am writing about, and then finish unconvincingly.  You know, my dad has never read a single one of my blog posts despite professing to be interested in art and literature.  I saw him over the weekend and chastised him for his sins.  I bigged the thing up , mentioning the interesting little things about books and BMC and stuff.  But now if he finally deigns to read the fucking thing, he’ll see this shit.  Ah well.

P.S. Not that this has got anything to do with anything, but still, 'ave it:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

246: a riotous orgy of dance, colour and music

I’ve just BBC iPlayer’d Mark Lawson Talks to... David Mitchell; one hour of semi-intellectual chat about David Mitchell’s life and work (the comedian/actor, not the author of Cloud Atlas).  During their conversation they are seated on the stage of an empty theatre, with the rows of unfilled seating providing the backdrop.  When the conversation ends and the credits roll David Mitchell and Mark Lawson stand up in slow motion and begin walking off stage towards the camera. 

Their paths diverge slightly as if symbolically moving away from each other (discussion over, association over), and then they eerily fade from view like ghosts ascending to the true afterlife after fulfilling their undone task.  The bonds that kept them secured to earth are broken and they can take their places amongst eternal reward or punishment.  The theatre is empty of both audience and performer.  Their hour-long discussion has beckoned the end of their presence here in the land of the living.  Goodbye David Mitchell and Mark Lawson; our thoughts and prayers will be with you.

What is my unfinished business that keeps my ghost rooted inexplicably to the land of the living?  Did I leave buried treasure in my secret vault that needs guarding from bandits, or have I a loved one who requires guidance through a difficult period in their life?  Oh, wait a second; I’m not actually dead yet, am I?  If I was a ghost I would not be able to interact so completely with this keyboard.  My ethereal fingers would float into the laptop’s interior landscape and wiggle ineffectually in the digital innards.  The extent of my interaction with the technology would be spookily turning it on or off at unexpected moments. 

Come to think of it, the laptop has been turning itself off on occasion.  Sometimes it just dies, and sometimes it displays a blue screen of death before restarting.  I put it down to overheating, or some sort of software error.  Now the possibility emerges that it be the result of a haunting.  Am I dead, or am I dead; unaware that my daily activities have only the merest unseen effect on the external world.

If I know anything about the afterlife, and I’ve seen Beetlejuice and The Corpse Bride, so I think I do, I know that the land of the living can be a grey monotonous place, whereas the land of the dead is a riotous orgy of dance, colour and music.  With that in mind, I’m not sure where I am.  Yesterday was sunny; today not so much.

Logically although I have no way of knowing with one hundred percent certainty whether or not I am alive or a ghost, that does not mean that the truth lies midway between the two extremes.  I think it is safe to adopt functional certainty and assume that I am actually alive.  I cannot prove a negative and categorically state that I am not a ghost, but similarly I cannot prove there isn’t an invisible turnip on your shoulder.  So, with that in mind don’t be afraid... boo

245: No Offence Intended Q&A/cake&coffee

On Tuesday this week a nice bunch of people flocked and flew down to BLANKSPACE to take part in an In_tuition special evening.  ‘Meet the artists’ with the team of No Offence Intended, featuring Q&A, and coffee & cakes.  Instead of the usual group discussion we turned our attentions onto the artists taking part in our current exhibition.  They generously and bravely agreed to answer all questions the public cared to throw their way.  We all enjoyed coffee served by Sonny Barker, and cakes made by Runa Begum, before being shepherded downstairs and into the back studio.

(I am slowly collecting photos of all the installations and in my last post from the opening night discussed and displayed photos of the work by Ryan Higgins and Laura Burke/Miriam Baynes.  From the Q&A I must thank Sonny Barker who, as well as supplying me with coffee, also provided the photos posted here.)


In the back studio we stood around stroking our beards as Edwina McEachran explained the inspiration for her installation piece, 待つ (which I think is pronounced matsu and means wait.  I’m sure about the tsu, less so about the ma).  She visited Japan during New Year and witnessed/took part in the celebrations.  Japan is not a religious country at all, but becomes so during certain celebrations.  New Year is a time for praying at the Shinto shrines.  More specifically it is a time for waiting endlessly in a queue for the opportunity to pray for 20 seconds.


待つ  is a meditative private performance; an act of lighting a series of incense cones and sealing each in their own small plastic box.  The piece exists whether the cones are lit or not, but it comes to life during the process.  While lighting them Edwina was bombarded with questions about her intentions, inspirations, motivations and expressions.  The room gradually filled with rich and choking cinnamon smoke.  Edwina noted how nervous we all made her, standing around stroking our chins as she huddled on the floor.  She asked us all to sit down and the atmosphere immediately became more intimate.

The to-and-fro banter afforded by the forum seems to work well, and I think future BLANKSPACE exhibitions should feature a night like this.  Unfortunately I had to duck out and was unable to stay for the rest of the evening.  I am hoping to secure the use of more photos from the opening night of No Offence Intended so I can complete my quest of preserving the exhibition for time, time, time.  Right, it’s late.  Sleep beckons.  So long.  Adieu

244: A fox is a dog, is a dog is a cat?

A heavy-lidded, droopy-jawed pram-pusher plopped her carcass on the back-facing bus seat directly before me.  He young son sat awake and alert in his pram, straining for eye contact with members of the public and excitedly pointing out scenes he observed through the bus window.  Coach station, he deliriously spotted.  Where are the coaches?  There’s one, pointed out mummy.  Cat, blurted out the curious little boy.  It’s a fox, corrected his mother.  It was a bus-side advert for Foxy Bingo, with that smarmy suited little twat of a fox. But, she continued; a fox is a kind of cat; they are in the same family.

I wanted to leap across and slap her, grab the child and say run, run from this idiot you call mummy.  Be free from her stupefying influence, or you too will grow from a curious and bright little chap, into a dunder-headed plonker absentmindedly fumbling from one field of ignorance to another.  She sat there stewing in her own vacuous bliss, completely unaware she had made a total twat out of herself.  My field of vision included her and the Foxy Bingo fox, and she was the biggest twat I could see.

After writing those last two paragraphs I pissed myself laughing at the pointlessly directed fury they contain.  Yes, she was clearly an idiot, but who cares.  Idiots are everywhere.  Some people are too busy watching television to actually bother to know things.  This is Manchester, the city that produces The Jeremy Kyle ShowI read books, and only watch educational and intellectually fulfilling television documentaries on historical diagrams.  I find joy in exercising my mind with the consciousness raising of evolutionary biology, and the intellectual aesthetics of Cy Twombly.  As a general result I have been able to pass into adulthood fully aware that a fox is a sort of dog, more specifically it is related to the dog and is of the family Canidae.

A cat is obviously of the family Felidae, and therefore a fox is not a cat, you twat.  They both fall under the broad order of Carnivora, which obviously means they share the same class (Mammalia), Phylum (Chordata), and Kingdom (Animalia).  But to say a cat is a sort of fox because they both reside within the same kingdom is literally the same as saying a cat is a fox because it is not a mushroom.  That is clearly not intellectually robust.  You know, do that if you want.  But just be aware that people like me will anonymously think you an idiot, and then call you a twat in a blog.

And who’s the twat now?  It’s not me, is it?  Oh, wait; it is...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

243: Kill the Word

I’m really quite behind on the blogging now; this will not do.  I’ve just finished and posted that bizarre thing about eating insects, and suddenly realised that only counts as yesterday’s.  Still got another one to do for today.  And this is it, here and now.  Wednesday.  On top of that I have a vague feeling I missed one out a couple of weeks ago that I never caught up on.  Fortunately I noted on the calendar each time I should be adding another one hundred to the tally.  Initially I intended to post every day on the day.  Now I think it not so important if I miss out a day, as long as I catch up the next day, and don’t let it slip away.  That way if I really don’t have the time or energy I will not risk posting complete rubbish (as I have in the past).  Since I loosened that strict rule I think the blog has improved; moved from bored rants and tired whingeing, towards articles and reviews (with lots of pretty pictures).

I just googled William Burroughs shotgun art (images) because I am thinking of writing a blog on the subject, but right now I am more interested by some of the random elements that this search has thrown up.  A bewildering (too easily bewildered?) array of trashy book covers that have to be reproduced here (as well as some unsettling pictures of fat American men in their pants, playing with guns).  And when the time comes to write about Burroughs’ shotgun art, I will get off my arse and grab the book off the shelf: Ports of Entry: William Burroughs and the Arts.

Of course Junkie: the Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict by William Lee, is actually the first book by William Burroughs (Lee being his mother's maiden name).  Presumably the other silly book covers were pulled up in the search due to a close proximity to a caption about Burroughs.  I could easily slip back into the insect theme of the last blog post, if I continue down the Burroughs route.  Heroin.  Accidental matricide.  Young men.  Or I could interpret my interest in the secondary pictures (over the primary search images of shotgun art) as a reaction to Burroughs’ concept of the cut-up technique drawing together disparate images and text into a new whole.

Cut word lines – Cut music lines – Smash the control images – Smash the control machine – Burn the books – Kill the priests – Kill! Kill! Kill!

Yes, that is what I was doing.  I was killing the word, a revolutionary act against the ultimate clandestine control system.  When we free ourselves from the spoken word, written word and thought word, and can think and communicate in pure conceptual imagery we will finally be free!  That is what I was doing.  If you thought I was just easily distracted by things that stand out, and trying to kill a few hundred words, you were sooo wrong.

For anyone keeping score expect soon a blog about Burroughs shotgun art, a follow-up to the post about the opening night of No Offence Intended at BLANKSPACE, and possibly, just maybe, a post about eating Potted Wood Shrimp...