Saturday, 31 October 2009

Excerpt from diary found a few days later

28th October 2009

This morning I set off from Ipswich my whole show packed into large case on wheels. I in turned crammed this (and myself) into a packed train to London. There was only one scary moment when a, I have to say heavyset, man decided to lean on my case. I imagined my work breaking and bending within but could do little about it. My journey to Bath went surprisingly well. I caught early connections and chose polite and helpful taxi drivers. Happily I arrived just as the ICIA Bath staff was about to go to lunch and was able to join them for a convivial orange juice (the "all day breakfast bap I had eaten on he train put paid to any thoughts of food). I sat back and relaxed as conversation flowed from relative office sizes to the narrative merits of Ben Elton's "We will rock you".

After a busy afternoon setting up my show in Space 1 I paid a visit to Space 2 to see Lucy Harrison's new show "Remains". This exhibition is a work in progress displaying documents from Harrison's previous visits to East London and East Berlin and some new work from her ongoing residency investigating the pending demolition of Bath University's Arts Barn. The former are introduced in highly personal ways as Harrison subtitles her photographs with memories of her childhood and mother's death. The work on the Arts Barn includes photographs scans of documents and a highly involving set of interviews with some of the staff that work there. By the time I had finished watching I was feeling a definite attachment for what seemed to be an unloved building. Soon it will be knocked down and replaced by a new Arts Centre, which will host another show bringing together more memories and documents from Harrison's investigations. I hope she will find people with more tender feelings towards the place.

I Finished the evening by watching Terence Davies' "Of Time and The City" which was gripping and monumental although I have to say he does things with voice over and popular music that would make me blush.

Exhibition View - Lucy Harrison, Remains

Friday, 30 October 2009


There is a new film in my show at ICIA. It is a cut out of an old sailing ship it barely moves and appears "as idle as a painted ship on a painted sea". This is Stoker's description of the blighted vessel that transported Dracula to Whitby. The show is up now and all I have to fear is a visit from the university rowing club (a rambunctious lot) and my impending meeting with Mr Charlesworth. I am now travelling towards London. I spoke to my beloved before I left. She was intending to rise from her bed but I have just heard she is feeling languid and tired and slept on after.

-- posted abroad

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Hanging a show at ICIA University of Bath, Artspace 1 is an odd experience. Postgraduate students and lecturers are constantly passing through, avidly looking at half hung work and passing comment. One woman (jokingly?) accused me of cheating as I traced a large image of the Antarctic on one wall. I liked that. I also met another man who had not been to the South Pole. His department had done some work there looking for meteorites but like Moses (sort of) he had stayed home. The show is progressing satisfactorily mainly due to the inestimable qualities of my technician Charles.

-- posted abroad
Hi Sue
How's things? This month is very busy with shows and travelling. I am on the plague train to Bath at the moment to set up said show. The train is packed I'm praying no one will sit on my bag which contains the whole show. If they do all may be in pieces. Not looking forward to the underground. As I travel I am listening to Dracula, the ship has just crashed into the harbour at Whitby. I've been thinking about things for the biennale and I'd like to make some films in the bingo hall there, do you think that would be possible? (I should ring them). Anyway that's one of the ideas at the moment, the other is to do with shadows in the Whitstable streets and another to do with secret performances by a lovely assistant and another using magic tricks and others too numerous to mention. I will start tapering soon.

Glad you are enjoying the blog, me too

All the best


-- posted abroad

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

I am all packed for my journey to Bath tomorrow. Well to be truthful I have packed and repacked the work for my show no less than 3 times. My own bag, which will contain my essentials for a two-day journey as yet, remains untroubled. I have also, and inevitably I feel been struck down by a foul infection of the respiratory passages. I am sneezing so violently that I am more than a little concerned that much of my show may be spattered with snot. In an attempt to rid myself of this contagion I ventured out this morning to obtain orange juice and chicken soup. I am travelling everywhere on what my companion calls "The Phantom" a 'fixie' which, although common in the capital is a little anomalous in the provinces. Because the rear wheel is fixed it is necessary to keep pedalling at all costs otherwise the unfortunate rider can be flung out of the saddle by the still rotating pedals. This and the lack of brakes can make it a little like being aboard a runaway horse. I have found that riding it into a wall stops it. I have also been wrestling with another machine, an old cabinet gramophone and a rather eclectic selection of 78s. There is great pleasure to be found in the changing of needles and the winding of handles. One record has especially attracted my attention 'The Haunted Ballroom' seems ideal for some purpose or other. However, I have not quite settled on how to use it so I have made several recordings of it onto my iPhone.

My companion has gone to some sort of retreat in a farmhouse in Cambridgeshire. Last night I received a message from her complaining that it was haunted by the phantom of a butler. One of her greatest fears is ghosts but she cannot leave until Thursday as she is without transport.

That message arrived several hours ago I have heard nothing since

While waiting, I have been darning my threadbare pockets and writing invoices for my recent exploits though as yet I have been too shy to send them. I must get over my feelings of guilt in requesting money for my services.

It is three o'clock

Monday, 26 October 2009

Recently I have seen many sunsets from trains

It has been a month of sudden invitations and travelling. I have spoken in Bedford, Cardiff and Bath (facts altered for narrative convenience) I have been invited to show work in Basel, Kansas, Southend, the Hague and Valencia. I have also met some very interesting people (especially in Cardiff). But recently it was at the private view of another artist that I met the most interesting person of all. Mariele Neudecker has just completed a residency at the nearby Snape Maltings in Suffolk. Last Saturday her video installation 'Stay Forever and Never Come Back' was unveiled in a small building that, apparently, had been lowered by helicopter into the ruined shell of an old dovecote. While trying not to drink the private view wine my companion and I were engaged in a conversation by a retired scientist who had specialised in the workings of the brain. Apparently he was able to show that experience changed the efficiency of synapses to transmit information suggesting that this change was a possible explanation of how memory was stored. He also described very clearly, though I fear I have failed to grasp it fully, how synapses responding to electrical stimuli fire chemical packets to each other across tiny gaps.

Friday, 23 October 2009

A confused post

A confused post

I arrived early at BCA gallery. This was mainly because in order to save money I had had to catch a train, which would arrive in London Liverpool street no later than four twenty nine. Bedford was much as I had remembered it, little seemed to have changed. At the gallery however things were afoot. Both Laura Pottinger and Katie Walton were on maternity leave, Sarah was moving on to a new job and Dawn Giles was the new power in the office. The office itself had been rearranged since my last visit seeming, as in fact it always did, in a state of flux. It wasn't long before I found myself helping Mira to fit spotlights and angle them in order to illuminate Dawn's desk. Then I was carrying a coffee machine down into the gallery slopping the contents of the overflow tray onto my trousers. Next I was arranging chairs and trying unsuccessfully to connect the laptop to a projector. I took on all these tasks willingly and largely unbidden. By seven the guests had arrived, taken their chairs and turned their faces expectantly towards the three speakers of which, unfortunately, I was one.

I had met Simon Munnery (our chair) before this 'in conversation' but I hadn't recognised who he was. He had seemed familiar and jocular but it was only as we seated ourselves to begin the 'in conversation' that realisation came upon me. I was on Simon's right hand and the extremely tall Chris Dobrowolski on his left. Both began by talking fluently, telling jokes, funny stories and looking extremely interested and interesting, while I, feeling my strength ebbing away, began to think about easing myself out of the audience's field of vision. I began to rehearse lines in my head while Chris embarked on a hilarious soliloquy about a very serious Russian researcher and a toy penguin. I noticed that Chris' work was very like mine, that we had similar experiences and responses to the Antarctic and that we both felt nervous, undermined even, about each others position. I was thinking that perhaps I should have travelled to those frozen wastes, he was thinking that maybe he shouldn't have. Then Mr Munnery swivelled his whole body around to face me, moved to speak and I remember no more.

The Antarctic is now a distant and rather romantic dream for me as is that evening's conversation.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Listening to radio four slip in and out of focus on my elderly radio has reminded me of the sound effects on my copy of Murnau’s Nosferatu. The Vampire is framed in the window of his dilapidated house using his powers to attract the attention of a young lady. While he waves at the window we hear the sound of radio waves go weeeoooooohweeee. In my youth I remember feeling that I completely believed that communicating with women would be equally unlikely. Many years wiser now I write exhausted following a gruelling visit to London. Truly I cannot conceive how anyone could actually live there! My companion and I spent the weekend in our Chelsea lodgings our intention to visit Zoo at our leisure. Unfortunately we made the mistake of first taking a tour of the new Saatchi Gallery. I have never felt quite so alienated in my life. The overwhelming brashness of the painting especially depressed me. We found Zoo much more pleasing and my companion met an old friend Paul who was running the Workplace stand. There was, as usual, much to see glitter balls seemed to the leitmotif du jour. So much so that I felt vindicated in my use of one in one of my recent films. Our favourite display was that of a Swedish artist named Jensen. Displayed in a faux wattle and daub interior his little creatures had quaint names but appeared rough fellows who haven’t perhaps lived as they should.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Today, after many years away, I returned to the place where I first began my lecturing career. The High Street Art School has been unused by art students for twelve years but now, because of the failure of the air conditioning in our (windowless) new building, we have returned. The airiness of the grand octagonal cavaedium stood in stark contrast to our new rooms whose opposing airlessness has induced fainting fits and nausea in staff and students alike. This was to be the site of a day's drawing and although the morning chill caused us to shuffle our feet and clap our hands together we were grateful. Once the students had settled to their task of drawing dead insects and birds I proceeded to make a thorough examination of the stairs and passages leading off the atrium. My intentions were partly nostalgic but also that of the scavenger on the lookout for choice items. One or two of the small rooms near the hall were open, but there was nothing to see in them except old furniture, stationary and electrical goods, dusty and discoloured with age. At last however I found an old door at the back of the building that, though it seemed locked, gave a little under pressure. With only gentle persuasion the door soon swung wide to reveal a leaky corridor from which three doors opened. I was now in an older wing of the college. Proceeding down the corridor, I noticed stacked against the left wall were four two metre square relief maps of the town revealing warehouses, domestic housing, a devilish one-way system and the gentle curve of the river. Moving on I entered each room in turn hoping to find equal delights and curiosities. The first had been put over to storage containing racks of boxes each holding paper records penned in a strange language. There was also an array of surveying equipment and rejected plans for the new building on the other side of town. To the right, piled haphazardly on the floor were a number of foot-long sharpened stakes. With increasing excitement I passed on to the second room however it contained little of interest being yet more storage for files. The third room however is much more interesting and here I am surrounded by furniture of all ages sitting at an old oak desk writing this journal. Next to me, propped carelessly against the fireplace, is a glass fronted key cabinet its double doors ajar, some of its contents spilled onto the floor. I shall compose a text to my companion she loves glass fronted cabinets...

Thursday, 15 October 2009

I write as I am awaiting delivery of 25 "Black Flag Game", compendia intended for my show in Bath. The work is nearly complete and packed in my large traveling trunk. My only remaining issue is whether to rerecord the sound on one piece and how to chain two telescopes to the walls of the gallery. I have been warned repeatedly that the intelligentsia of Bath are not to be trusted and will carry off anything that is not nailed down. As I wait I am reviewing some of my correspondence particularly rejection letters.

Commissions East recently invited me to apply for a residency at the HMS Ganges museum in Shotley, I was informed that I was part of a selected long-list and so I replied forthwith with a small packet of goods including a DVD, C.V., etc. It was a bit of a rush as the deadline was tight but buoyed with hopeful confidence; I had gone some way towards spending the £17500 budget (in my head).

Dear Alex

Please find attached a letter regarding the shortlisting for the HMS Ganges Museum residency. Unfortunately on this occasion you were not selected by the panel.

Any materials submitted will be returned to you shortly along with a hard copy of the letter for your files.

I hope another opportunity will come up for us to work together in the future.

With best wishes


I feel that telling me I have failed in an email, attaching a letter telling me I have failed and posting me another letter telling me I have failed is a little like being repeatedly pummelled by a wet pillow.

Nevertheless I am not downhearted though I was looking forward to recreating John Noakes' failed attempt to reach the 'button' on the top of HMS Ganges' infamous mast.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Jordi Lafon's performance and a nice little networking dinner beckoned as my companion and I set off for Bedford on Saturday. I was looking forward to catching up with old friends and meeting Dawn as we have spoken a number of times on the telephone. My companion had poured two litres of oil into her car, something she assured me that she always did. I offered to drive and we set off in reasonable time despite an unfortunate toilet stop due to a little overindulgence and a curry the night before. As I pulled onto the A14 and accelerated, the little car laid down a smoke screen that James Bond's Aston Martin would have been proud of and a loud screaming noise that would have made Moneypenny blush. The screaming may have been mine as I pulled shakily into a lay-by much to the amusement of an RAC man who was already waiting. My companion is outstanding in a crisis and soon inveigled the hapless mechanic into an impromptu oil change. He was much grubbier and less jolly (though he did pocket a little gratuity) by the time we pulled away. Judging that we would now be very late and that my nerves were delicate enough already we headed back to Ipswich to find a not so free lunch. We parked and began to walk back into the centre of town taking a short cut through the old college buildings. I was nervous of attempting such a brash act as they are officially closed while undergoing building work. My companion however laughed at my cowardice and led us onwards. After a while it became clear that the obvious routes through this rather dubious short cut were blocked. The uncertainty of our position was making me feel increasingly apprehensive we eventually exited the building through a fire exit that (in retrospect) closed behind us with the finality of a cell door. We were now outside but surrounded by twelve foot security fencing that was quite impregnable, there was no way out! Nor could we retrace our steps and re-enter the building. We were trapped! After some time, and some frantic pacing, a woman walking a small dog passed on the other side of the fence. Hailing her we explained our predicament and suggested she might raise the alarm or at least pass a note to our loved ones but to my dismay she seemed unwilling and hurried on. I have to admit by this time I was beginning to fear for my life. Despite the reassurances of my companion, I felt there was a dread of loneliness in the place which chilled my heart. We did another circuit of our cage looking for weaknesses or signs of life. I began to weigh up attempting the fence; it was topped with fearsome spikes and looked difficult to climb.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Someone in San Antonio googled 'ghosts, feeling touching chest in bed' and arrived at this blog. I am concerned that they may need help and will not find it here. For me, yet another conversation looms this time at BCA, Bedford. I am to talk to Chris Dobrowolski. Last year when I was not in Antarctica he was and we are to compare our experiences. I am assuming he was generally colder than me although I spent several dangerous hours at a bus stop in early March.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

My companion has taken to sleep walking, this morning her feet were covered in a fine grey dust.

Emails received 06/10/09

Hi Alex
did we decide on arrangements for when you will be here during installation and will you need accommodation on campus then or on the night of the preview? Normally for the in-discussion the artist and other person tend to meet up around lunchtime in order to look at the work and have a chat.

Hi Dan
No you are right, we didn't decide on dates. I've left from 25th-31st
October completely free, are any of those days ok? I would be happy to stay over also to get it done. For the opening and discussion, I would like to travel up early on the day and stay overnight. I am right that it is
Wednesday 4th November? My girlfriend has expressed a mild interest in joining me would there be room on campus for us both?
I have another telescope now, hooray for eBay.
All the best

Hi Alex
Why don't you stay over for two nights (28th and 29th October)?
Is there anything we can do ahead of time?
What screen ratio for the films 16:9 or 4:3?
Charles the technician will be there for you.
He could also finish bits off on the following Monday and Tuesday.
The talk is indeed on Wednesday 4th November.
I'll try to get a double room arranged for you and your girlfriend.
It would be good if you and JJ could meet up around lunchtime to spend the afternoon looking at your work.
I'll ask him what time he's thinking of arriving.
Best wishes

Hi Dan and CharlesThat's great I'll stay those two nights. The films are 4:3 except Cyclorama on the bigger tv which will be 16:9 but with a black border. I'll need a projector to use for the tracing. I think apart from that we should be ok. Oh and stepladders for the high pieces. I can get a train that gets in for just after midday so there should be time for JJ and me to get together.See you soon ishAlex
My correspondence needs to be wittier

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

No stranger to discomfort I have agreed to another appearance talking in front of an audience. Again it will be in Cardiff and I am beginning to think the city may harbour some sort of deep seated grudge against me. This time I will be speaking about blogging and social networking at "May you Live in Interesting Times". In addition to this the spectre of my 'in conversation' in Bath looms. On the 4th of November I am to present myself to a surly audience of academics (I imagine) my only hope is that JJ Charlesworth will protect me. I imagine him as man who knows what he is talking about better than any one else; a philosopher and a metaphysician, and one of the most advanced theorists of his day. He has, I hope, an absolutely open mind. This, with his iron nerve, temper of the ice-brook, and indomitable resolution and self-command should make the evening bearable. I think the show itself is ready although things keep coming to mind and slipping away before I can grasp them. Most importantly I promised to make a large tracing on one of the walls, I must attempt at least one practice session before November.

Monday, 5 October 2009

I have been slowly building up to making a new film. It is a continuation of my, so far, reasonably secret space films which, although he doesn’t know it yet, are intended for Michael Cousin’s online project Outcasting. They use various pieces of electronic paraphernalia to create satellites space ships and debris flying through vasty nothingness. A friend, whose husband died recently leaving her with a garage full of oddments donated these objects to me and along with many other things they take up a large part of one wall of my studio. To make this particular film I filled a large glass cylinder with four litres of cooking oil and dropped a satellite made from a small bulb and a resistor into it. I had hoped that the satellite would drift gracefully away from the camera into the gloom. Unfortunately it plummeted gracelessly to the bottom of the tube where it bounced once. A repeat of the experiment with engine oil may be more efficacious. However the grounded space debris engulfed in tiny golden bubbles looks pleasing so I have decided to call it “Phantom”. My main worry now is how to deal with the oil, which sits in my tiny kitchen looking like an enormous urine sample.

Friday, 2 October 2009

My companion is becoming increasingly obsessed with vampires and other blood sucking creatures. She finds it increasingly difficult to sleep as various new ideas come to her. It is as if they are being transmitted from an alien source. She now spends most of the day sleeping in order to recover from the night's febrile activity. Today I recieved a spell for trapping vampires it seems a bit confused and suggests that the bloodsucker will somehow be contained within a bottle, surely that is for genies?

Thursday, 1 October 2009

It has been a week since my last post. Tonight I head for London again to witness a screening of films in the car park of Cell Project Space. The opening last week was an interesting event with quite a healthy turnout. I met Milika who recalled seeing (and liking) a dvd of my work a couple of years ago. She commented that it was one of those things that ends up at the bottom of a pile. I thought at the time that although most of the information I send to galleries must end up as foundation material for more important paperwork that it must, in some small way, impinge on the consciousness of the gallerist. Perhaps I should correspond more often. I have received many other communications of late. Emails have been arriving from Basel, Bath and Bedford and I have been spending much time answering and sending packages by return post. Apart from such business work I have had time for little else though I have started plans for a new Space film using several litres of cooking oil and a few charity shop purchases.

Last week the highlight of the private view occurred when my companion was invited to 'swing' with one of the visitors. She declined to travel down with me today.

I have still not summoned the courage to go to Bingo, instead I have been happy spotting bingo scenes in cinematic history, this one is from "Get Carter"