Tuesday, 29 June 2010


Dear readers,

My new blog Pearlville is underway. If you are interested in following my latest adventures as I undergo a gruelling residency and show in Manchester please follow this link .

Monday, 21 June 2010

Further dedications

And thank you to my dear mother and father for allowing me to call them elderly and for not criticising my punctuation in public


The Pearl Fisher is complete. Faithful readers will have noted that one phantom post from the setting up of the Whitstable Biennale disppeared it has been rediscovered in damaged form and is reprinted below.

A complete transcript with some bonus material will soon be published in novella form. (well, within a year)

I would like to take this opportunity to say thanks for reading and a special thankyou for everyone mentioned who put up with my exagerations slurs and downright lies. (apologies to anyone I have failed to mention)

Annabel Dover
Sue Jones
Kate Phillimore
Hayley (Mistress) Lock
David Bethell
Andrew Bracey
Dave Griffiths
Monika Bobinska
Rob Smith
Rebecca Birch
Emma Leach
JJ Charlesworth
Daniel Hinchcliffe
Paul Becker
Nadia Hebson

and of course Mr Gerry Bown and the ladies of Oxford Bingo Club, Whitstable.

The Phantom Post
We have just escaped a term of hard labour. Hoping to see Sue and then trip lightly off into the distance, my companion and I arrived at the Horsebridge centre to find a hive of frantic activity. As is usual, I offered our assistance and soon we were setting up blackout for ......... .......'s video showcase. Mr ........, had no problem telling us exactly what to do. He was kind enough not to embarrass me by treating me as a fĂȘted artist and allowed me to slip into a comfortable menial role. Later, due to my continuing chirpy helpfulness my companion found herself standing in wind and rain applying non sticky vinyl lettering to a dusty container. The "B" of Bienniale came off three times and I fully expect that passers-by may note it's absence tomorrow morn.

If you have enjoyed The Pearl Fisher you might be interested to know that a new shorter blog will be starting soon here:

http://pearlville.blogspot.com/ subscribe now to avoid disappointment.

Saturday, 19 June 2010


The sun was now right down over the rooftops and the red gleams fell on my face, so that it was bathed in rosy light. My ghosts slowly almost imperceptibly began to grow in clarity as I waited pressed against a wall for people to arrive. I had thought I would surreptitiously record the event on my new camera. However it soon became clear that my understanding of it's controls were somewhat beyond me. At first the flash refused to be silenced causing the occasional passer by to twist suddenly in my direction. Then when I had mastered this I found a torch had lit up shooting a piercing beam through the growing darkness. By now I began to fear that some people were looking at me more than the work (and with expressions that bordered on the hostile). I ran, wandering the streets restlessly, looking for flickering streetlamps amd bulbs that shone like the moon.

Now, seated on a bench facing the blackening sea, every trace of all that has been is blotted out. It is time to go home.

-- posted abroad

Whitstable Diary

Calamity! My companion has been taken ill. Whether it was bad shellfish or merely exhaustion I am not sure. We were forced to rush back to the hotel where I have tucked her in bed with as many precautions as I could muster. She asked that the window be left open to allow "the soft evening breeze" to sooth her. I saw no harm in it and complied. I wanted to stay with her but she turned to me and taking my face in her hands said: "Alex you must go I could not live with myself if you did not".

So I left her lying abed her breathing shallow her face pale and set forth into the early evening light.

I raised my pace and headed back into Whitstable desperate to reach the centre before sunset.

Whitstable Diary

Beaten back by the cold we have retired to our hotel for a restorative. The end is in sight though and we must venture forth one more time. As the sun sets tonight "Ghosts" will appear in the window of the Horsebridge and I will be cowering in the shadows. It is six thirty now, there are less than three hours to go.

-- posted abroad

Whitstable Diary

My companion has complained that neither she nor her sister (visiting from the north) have featured significantly in the Whistable diary. Much chided I have resolved to correct this omission.

Lucienne Cole's event at the bingo hall was like a little flash of jolly Lynch. It started before my companion and her delightful sister could avail themselves of the free teas and iced buns, but they were soon distracted and smiling at the raucous brass band's rendering of "Ride of The Valkyries" and the half accompanied half acapella tapdancer. Then it was over, my companion leading the charge to the bar.

Whitstable Diary

Loud music, bright lights. Crushed into the Oxford Bingo Hall for Lucienne Cole's performance. There are over a hundred people here. All, it seems, equipped with iPhones

-- posted abroad

Whitstable Diary

A sudden heavy shower from the sea struck us in the open. We sought shelter in a fish shop huddling with customers and other biennale visitors. It was a strange meeting I have noted across Whitstable. It would be a fitting image to characterise the biennale as a Dracula landing in an oblivious seaside town. A foreigner causing a brief unhomely uproar before moving on neither party being certain why he was there at all. So far I have visited a screening of work curated by Mr Dillon including a fascinating display of French machismo and a shooting. The gunfire was aimed at a drumkit emblazonned with the name "Pearl" I felt each bullet as if they were aimed at my heart.

As the gunfire ceased a shower arrived. The filmic rain more soothing than the real.

Next to the British Legion to see "Call" where a small group of art followers and regulars seemed equally confused.

Whitstable Diary

I was disappointed that the coffee at the reception was instant but we were late arriving. We had journeyed from our hotel in a frantic frightened zigzag. Darting down dark alleys and cut throughs avoiding thin black clad figures.

We were able to relax at last seated next to an ex naval diver at Ruth Beale, Karen Mirza's: "The voyage of Nonsuch" demi poetic film study of spatial archives. Afterwards while my companion corralled the diver I looked at the snapshots of Mr Cushing posing in the scenic spots of Whitstable and vowed to visit them before the sun sets tonight.

Whitstable Diary

My loose tongue, and looser wits, summoned a dark messenger in the night. I have offended a man and feel truly terribly about it. Within these pages even I have found it hard to untangle the real and unreal and a monster of the ID has risen to bite me.

The morning light has brought with it a cold tearful feeling behind my eyes. We are to travel first to a morning reception with the Mayor at Whitstable's eccentric and quite homely museum. There to drink coffee and eat cake and enjoy the show.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Whitstable Diary

-- posted abroad

Whitstable Diary

Whitstable Diareze

I have the travelling nerves. My companion is trying to soothe my nerves with calming words and gentle touches but I am wound to such a degree that it is as if she is attempting to smooth the sea with her tiny hands. My condition is not helped by the many stops and starts which entail a constant gathering and ungathering of bags, papers, food, and beverages. Then there is the fear of standing in the wrong place of missing the connection, every instant seems an age whilst we wait.

-- posted abroad

Whitstable Diaries

Our train is due to depart Ipswich at 1208 from thence we travel to Stratford, transfer to Stratford international where we will collect the fast train to Rochester and change for our final destination Whitstable, arriving around three in the afternoon. My companion still obsessed with her buboes has laid out a few things to make my weekend more pleasurable. She is the most kind and thoughtful person I have ever known.

Whitstable Diaries

The morning papers have brought to my attention the timely death of Mr Sebastian Horsley. A thoroughly louche artist of the basest tastes. My companion has fond memories of fending off his attentions at Sarah Lucas' petit hameau in Suffolk.

-- posted abroad
I am cold. Has it rained in the night? It is too early to rise. I am unwilling to draw the coverlet back and face the day so I lie here and write in a cave of my own making.

My companion awakes! Her pale skin ghostly in the grey light. I wish to write more about the coming day but like a morning cat she is in need of attention.

-- posted abroad

Thursday, 17 June 2010


As if joined by some sort of psychic connection. Sue just texted me to check if I would bring spare DVDs.

I have filled the day with petty distractions so that I would not brood on tomorrow's task. For a long time now I have been hamfistedly building a second bicycle a big sister for 'The Phantom' she is called 'Lucia'. It has not been a straight forward build involving a deal of swearing and expense. However, I decided this morning that enough was enough it was time to bring her to life. I pushed on. Front wheel regreased, clad in shiny black rubber, pedals fitted and bolts tightened and we went for a first ride. I returned to tighten the saddle which was pointing sideways and we went for our second ride. It is always a bit of a risk riding a bicycle built by an amateur as slipshod as myself but generally it went well.

Keen to fill more time I have since replaced the handlebars with narrow courier style ones which will allow me to squeeze between buses. This can only hasten my demise.

My companion has contacted me. I am to meet her at the station very soon. She has fainted on the Metropolitan line after drinking her bodyweight in Belgian chocolate milk. I must hurry.

-- posted abroad


I have received several positive replies to my rather belated invitational missives. It seems striking at the last minute is an effective approach. It always amazed me as a youth that those seeking to destroy the vampire would prevaricate to such an extent that just as their mallet would fall so would night.

I am considering packing for my journey to Whitstable. I will
bring my Laptop, and spare DVDs just in case. A disguise may also be useful if my work fails to impress. I have the fear again, a sort of creeping dread overwhelms me. My companion usually helpful in such matters ( largely it must be said by telling me to shut up) is away at a conference in Brighton. Her main preoccupation is with her bites which refuse to heal. One, on her hand, has taken on a crunchy consistency making a clearly audible noise on compression. She has just sent me this image of a staked hand.

The morning light can be an intensely painful experience at my new lodgings. As yet uncurtained the sun always manages to send a deadly shaft through a chink in the blinds directly into my right eye. It is always my right. This inevitably leads to rising at dawn or at least a cursing and rolling over. This morning the searing pain was heightened by my foolish nocturnal gambollings. Nevertheless I have risen and have been sending out reminder invitations to the Biennale. This was reasonably straight forward although because of changes in email providers and software I have found myself painstakingly rebuilding mailing lists. It was, however, a meditative process which allowed me to mull over my ridiculously ad hoc Internet provision. I am currently in the thrall of two btopenzone contracts both of which are entirely useless as btopenzone quite frankly doesn't work. They continue to draw money from me on a monthly basis, a galling irritation. I have since purchased an embarassing pink dongle (from another company) which refuses to let me on dangerous sites like Twitter and will not allow me to prove my age however hard I try. As a result of this I am aging at an accelerated rate and may soon be eligible for a senior discount. This is evident in the pile of hair on my living room floor. It has not fallen out but is significantly greyer than I remember. I had the idea that I would cut my hair and finish off the performative sideburns so that I, and they, would be at our best for the opening weekend. I have not been to a hairdressers for nearly twenty years mainly fearing that disapproving tsk tsk and the inevitable question "who cut this last?". On reflection perhaps I should have gone to a professional but it is too late all is lost. The sideburns are now too short and my hair patchy like a dog with mange.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


"Baudelaire did not come to Brussels until 1864, when he was already ruined, financially and physically. He was miserably poor. His work had failed to gain proper recognition... His publisher had gone bankrupt. He was slowly dying of syphilis." Christopher Isherwood, September, 1946

I have just finished reading "My Heart Laid Bare" Baudelaire's writings during his, seemingly miserable stay in Brussels. He reveals himself somewhat as a nineteenth century Jeremy Clarkson perhaps with a dash of Sean Connery thrown in. Quite often he admonishes himself for lack of work. It is in the throes of this sentiment that I feel more kinship with the man (rather than the women thrashing and Belgian hating). I really must apply myself more diligently. More than four films lie half done on camera or computer. Hundreds of little gold dying spacemen are yet to appear, and in truth may never appear. I am also as yet (still?) undecided what to show in Southend and I am barely beginning to think about my forthcoming residency in August. I fear I will not attain the crypt before sunset! Or is it sunrise?

(image of marauding undead on a kitchen table taken during a meeting between my companion and her phd supervisor)

Monday, 14 June 2010

In my bath

Lying in my bath, my companion washing my hair. I thought I would like to write something about having a thought at that moment, a sort of eureka. I thought it could form some sort of moment of realisation such as when Van Helsing's eyes fall on the closed curtains in Castle Dracula. However, lying in my bath, I soon realised I would not have such a thought and without the thought there was not much point in writing about the moment.

Back in Ipswich and the everyday toil of work. Chance to go through my emails and specifically to deal with a request from the redoubtable Mr Bracey who had sent me the following message clearly typed in haste.

"hi Alex,
hope all is well and Wynstable is all going well.
just thought i would say that i am really pleased you are all booked in for august, i am gettign really excited about you coming.
I was also wondering if you were planning on keeping one of your famous blogs when you are up. I ahve jsut had a meeting with AND festival adn they are keen on there being some form of 'viral' type things that lead up to the festival adn i thought of your blogs without mentioning it at the meeting of course!).
also i am not sure if you know but we have a definte title for the show it is now
UnSpooling - artists &cinema
best wishes,

I had, only a day before, been speaking to my companion of my desire to never write another blog again. I replied in the affirmative suggesting the title "Never Say Never Again"

-- posted abroad


A few days ago I was delighted to find this (below) in my inbox. Actually what I found was a jumble of images and words which I have painstakingly restored to what I hope was it's original state.


Photo: © Brian Dillon

You are invited to attend the opening of the 5TH WHITSTABLE BIENNALE 2010

The 5th Whitstable Biennale will open on Saturday 19 June 2010 on Whitstable's main beach at 12 noon. The Biennale has commissioned major new works, all of which explore different aspects of performance and film. For two weeks the seaside town of Whitstable will be transformed into a centre for contemporary art.

See the Whitstable Biennale 2010 calendar online for the main festival programme.
Special performances and talks on Saturday June 19 2010:


Main launch on the beach, with Whitstable Brewery Ale, at the Biennale HQ next to the Royal Native Oyster Stores, Horsebridge Rd CT5 1BU.


UR-NOW: The Ruins of the Contemporary
Talk at the Sea Cadets Hall by Brian Dillon with some of the
artists from the film programme he has curated for this year's festival


67 Made in Heaven
Luciennne Cole choreographs a performance at the Oxford Bingo Hall


Social History and Telling Tales
Karen Mirza & Ruth Beale host a screening of vintage films with local historian and collector Tony Blake at the Sea Cadets Hall

Whitstable Biennale full programme details : http://whitstablebiennale.com

Book a place on the Bus, for the Whitstable Biennale 2010 opening. Leaving from London in the morning of 19 June and returning to London the same evening
NB Seats are going very fast so BOOK NOW to avoid disappointment.

More information to follow on the Performance and Screening Programmes

-- posted abroad

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Brussels to Ipswich

Reflected glints skid across the ceiling of the carriage. Each signals presence of a mobile phone. As we cross borders they also chirrup or burp or honk warnings of the dangers of data usage abroad.

We have entered the tunnel. "no service" has been declared. Even two days without email, or Twitter has made me feel bereft and nostalgic as of a youthful love affair.

My companion is sleeping now, calmly and sweetly like a little child. Her lips are curved and her face beams with happiness. Thank god there are such moments still for her.

Twenty minutes before light.

My companion has awoken just before we arrived in England she said she felt we were exiting the tunnel. As she spoke the carriage grew light once again.

Antwerp to Brussels

On the train to Brussels Nadia points out street of women in windows. They sit or dance in their undress. My reflection in the window stops me seeing properly.

At a Market in Brussels

Horta's house is dead


Evening Antwerp - The lock keeper's house.

The resident artists are making presentations about their work. One, a driven obsessive is planning to travel home to America encased in a shipping container. Everyone thinks he will die. Paul reads a section from his new book. A tale of a nineteenth century painter which reads like a thoroughly reasearch biography. It is all a lie.

"Magic Moments" is being played by the DJ. All the Belgians have rushed to the dance floor and are gyrating furiously.

Second Day Antwerp City Centre

I have counted. I have fourteen bites all itching and weeping. Can hardly hold the pen due to large swelling on my fingers.

Sitting in large square listening to cathedral bells play "Candle in the Wind" next to me an intently bent old lady works feverishly at a sheaf of papers covered with strange symbols. Once completed each sheet is folded in half and placed in front of her.

Our waiter looks like Bela Lugosi.

A group of teenagers opposite poke fun at her age and concentration. They line up cigarettes to be smoked later.

Across the square is a photgraph of a missing woman.

-- posted abroad

Morning - Antwerp

In the kitchen, Nadia has made us a delightful breakfast, she too is bitten on the head. Introduced to other artists. All are wraith like, I feel out of place, Sophia has sharp white pointed canines protruding just a little too far. She is standing next to Nadia by the sink. I am reminded of Dracula's three ladies, smile nervously and look around hopefully.

My companion retells the story of the eminent artist who still pursues her succulent flesh, they all squeal with horror and delight.

Morning - Antwerp - the lock keeper's house.

Blood suckers at work in the night. I heard them and rolled over. In my delerium I thought they would take my companion and not me. She is a redhead and notoriously attractive to mosquitoes. I have two large lumps on my head, they itch intolerably. My companion is unbitten. She tells me I snored loudly all night.

-- posted abroad

Night -Antwerp

Dark water and rushing wind. I am woken again by a bell. A school bell, it sounds on the half hour. Something is in the room with us. My companion sleeps soundly.

-- posted abroad

Antwerp - later

Drinking wine mixed with pear juice. Paul Becker and Nadia Hebson have given us their studio to sleep in, a massive room overlooking a working industrial canal. At night 'AIR Antwerp' looks an exciting place to work. Nadia is slight and catlike with small sharp teeth, she is nervous about a talk tomorrow. Paul (my companion describes as "a black bear") appears full of humour and sadness. They are fine hosts.

-- posted abroad


The following posts are taken from notes made while travelling to and from Antwerp. They are edited only for sense and in some cases are merely impressions of fleeting thoughts and events.

Thursday night about 10 o'clock - Antwerp.

The taxi driver does not want to let us out. The address Mr Becker gave us drew his sat nav to a wasteland by the docks. There is no sign of life.

Suddenly a light in the distance! A large shadow in the distance coalesces into a large gothic manse. A man is waving in the window. We leave our reluctant driver and decide to head across the waste carrying our own cases.

(Photograph of the window at which Mr Becker stood. In daylight)

Thursday, 10 June 2010


My companion is prattling on about her dreams. One involved her shoes being full of miniature frogs another was concerning a room full of friendly cats. She has an interest bordering on obsession with the lower creatures. I had always interpreted it as a sign of her nuturing feminine side but I am beginning to doubt this assumption. Our train has been moved to platform nine. Apparently my companion informed me of this several minutes ago but I was oblivious in my musings.

-- posted abroad


The collonnaded waiting area at St Pancras International is not a peaceful place. Three parties of children, one sporting white baseball caps another maroon and the third red are waiting in excited groups their chatter echoing harshly across the unupholstered space. We are an hour and a half early, this only because we managed to waste considerable amounts of time wandering slowly between LK Bennett, WHSmiths, Paperchase, Accessorise.....and eating a barely acceptable Scotch egg and sausage role at the extortionately expensive Purdeys and Byrne. Check in and customs were relaxed experiences until I was forced to hurriedly empty my pockets at the metal detecting arch. I had not recently taken stock of how much it was possible to fit into a pair of reasonably generous trousers. I now know. My companion knits while I write. Only an hour and fifteen minutes to go.

-- posted abroad
The man in front smells odd his finger nails are long and dirty. He is reading a model train enthusiast's magazine but I am not sure these things are connected. We shall soon arrive at Liverpool street, the man in front is talking about his cross London plans in a northern accent. We are thinking about the same but while he has to get to Marylebone we do not.

-- posted abroad


Ipswich 10th June
Our train heads south through East Anglian farmland. The weather has turned again to overcast with a misting rain though the temperature is holding. We expect to arrive at St Pancras International at least three hours early but both my companion and I will remain in a restless state of agitation until we alight in Antwerp this evening. In truth we were both ready to travel by ten this morning and had to fill our time by sending work to open shows (my companion) and film festivals (myself). I have decided to enter "Call" into the Impakt film festival in Amsterdam where I hope it will make it's continental premiere.

-- posted abroad

Wednesday, 9 June 2010


Almost too tired to attend to this writing. A day helping students set up their first show has drained the vigour from my body. Mistress Lock is sending repeated messages urging me to take tomorrow off. In truth her urgings are more like threats and conjure in my mind age old fears both pleasurable and perturbing! I HAD intended to only put in a morning's work but now feel that this will draw down such approbation on my head as to make it unbearable.

This mundaniety aside we travel to Antwerp in the afternoon to visit My companion's dear friends Mrs Hebson and Mr Becker. They are part way through a residency in the city and have invited us to visit. Their lifestyle is an itinerant one, they seem to me to spend no longer than three months in any one location. It is an existence I would find intolerable but is, I believe, necessary if one wishes to be an artist and to avoid teaching. We are looking forward to the visit though I am a little nervous of a train that travels under the sea.

-- posted abroad

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Email received late Monday evening:

"Hi Alex
We will need DVD's of your work. At the moment we only have a Showreel which was great for showing to the British Legion but we need:

Caller (sic) on two DVD's, one of the Caller and one of the players, so we show it on two monitors from two DVD players
Ghost, the three pieces shown from 1 DVD consecutively

All three looped and in DVD PAL format"

Happily I was well prepared for this eventuallity and had only to package the DVDs in protective wrapping ready for the following day's post. The communication arrived while we were watching "Charade" a film I had seen previously but, like so many things, could not quite remember how it went. As such the experience was one of repeated mild revelations as twists came to me just before they were revlealed. As the title suggests there was a deal of pretence in the film, storytelling which the slightly blank Miss Hepburn always fell for. I most enjoyed the settings. The opening scene: a ski resort with snowy mountains (sometimes projected), Hepburn dressed head to toe in black masked with huge sunglasses seated in front of reflecting glass only partially concealing swimsuited blondes behind. The empty apartment: stripped by our heroine's now dead husband. The rooftop: site of the struggle with the claw handed man. It's giant lit sign smashed in the fight. Cary Grant's tiny office where all is revealed, a proposal is made and love declared in four parts.

Monday, 7 June 2010

A Shock

The storm has arrived all is grey blue. A thunderous cannonade sounds above. Some minutes ago I discovered a message from Sue Jones in my work email. I have transcribed a part of it below:

"We have had to change our plans with the Royal British Legion, due to
the extremely complicated licensing laws. We will only be able to show
the work on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 June. We could move the work -
but my view is that there isn't a suitably place and we'd end up
compromising the work by moving it around. I think the short showing
will work fine in the context of the Biennale, where works are anyway
shown for very different length of time."

"Call" has fast become my favourite piece made for Whitstable and while I agree it would be silly to turn it into an itinerant beggar, I am sad that it shall be so fleeting in it's appearance. Although maybe it is somehow in keeping with the sublunary nature of much of my work.

Sunday, 6 June 2010


The weather is closing in. Dark thunder clouds propelled by a sudden evil wind have darkened the sky over Ipswich. My companion is huddled nervously next to me fearful in the expectation lightning. Earlier she kindly acted as my portrait photographer. A profile shot was needed in order that I might match my sideburns with Mr Cushing's. I selected the Van Helsing incarnation from "Dracula 1972 AD" a crazy film which somehow struck a chord. My image looked so pale and bloated in comparison to the eminent actor I was forced to consider some exercise and to do some editing before it could be published here.

I marked up the position of Van Helsing's sideburns, noting as best I could their length width and angle. Then I superimposed my own image and marked the corresponding measurements on my face. Finally I removed Van Helsing to reveal my pasty visage.

I have just received a message from Miss Phillimore, the designers are happy with my resizing efforts, all is well.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

An Apology

Wracked with guilt I have written an apology to Miss Phillimore.

"Dear Miss Phillimore
I am writing to apologise for my somewhat grumpy reply earlier. My only excuse, and it is a poor one, is that I am suffering from a rare form of dysentery at the moment with concomitant sleeplessness. If the new image is no good I can borrow a friend's camera tonight and fake something suitable.
Yours sincerely
Mr Pearl esq"

As I was transcribing the above email a seagull cruised sharklike past the window. We are at such a height here as to be level with that bird's most common flightpath. It is disconcerting to be eye to yellow eye with such a beast.