I say dystopia, you say utopia, let’s call the whole thing a prestigious conference venue #mysdystopia #yoursytopia #ourdystopia #namethatdystopia


M1 Stargate.

It’s that time of year again. For several years now, I have been employed to work a series of events in various venues in the North of England and Midlands. I am not going to mention the client or the venues, not because it’s a secret, but because I don’t want to be in any way critical of them. It’s a steady and reliable job that I get every year because I (and my colleagues who do the other venues) do it well and the client appreciates what we do.

However, in an ideal world I would not work conferences for a living. It’s better than a lot of people’s jobs, and I am not complaining, but if I never worked another conference, I would not miss it.

Only the money.

I am purely mercenary about it, and here is the crux. I don’t mind the work but I don’t love it either. However, I have a big brain and it needs stimulating during long and often boring events. Over the years, I have developed a number of strategies of keeping myself occupied and I have found a way of getting more than a day’s pay from my work and that is by using it as creative and conceptual material for my art.

Easily said.

I can’t remember when I did the first of these events but this year, and the last two, I have captured timelapse video of the journeys to and from the venue, and because of the time of year, the event length and the distances travelled, much of it is in the dark, dawn or dusk. Consequently, I have captured a substantial amount of material in interesting and challenging lighting conditions, but of some of the most mediocre landscapes in the British Isles.


Somewhere at sometime.

What’s more, many of the venues, in spite of how good they are, are located in places that you would not normally go to, unless you want a convenient destination for people travelling for the purpose of meeting for a conference. Consequently, many of them are close to motorways and located in those out-of-town non-spaces that are like Stepford new towns but solely occupied by brands. It’s the world of McDonald’s drive-thrus, KFCs, Brewer’s Fayre gastro pubs and “express” hotels. The land that culture forgot.

I also have a little side project entitled “Name That Dystopia”, although I am not sure just how serious I think that is, but I post occasional, particularly dystopian scenes.

Name That Dystopia v2.007

Leicester Forest East Services. “Relax” (2014)

These places exist for a reason, and that reason is the motor car. I remember holidays in the 1970s with my family when we used to sit in a layby next to the A1 (before they added the “M”) with the lorries hurtling past as we ate our sandwiches.

These days we have the relief of motorways and service stations, which are both a qualified blessing, and I can’t deny a certain cynical entertainment at the sheer dystopian splendour of the M1 motorway and Leicester Forest East services.

Leicester Forest

In-car still capture at Leicester Forest East Services on the M1.

Anyway, here is a selection of stills from a timelapse camera mounted on the passenger side of the car. I used a Canon Powershot A560, hacked with the Canon Hack Development Kit (CHDK).

The camera is shooting as fast as it is able, but is only a consumer-level compact and cannot capture fast enough to produce a stable image in such low-light conditions. However, the resulting smeariness is extremely pleasing and blurs all the locations into a satisfyingly bland, dystopian continuity whilst also being quite beautiful.

In the pipe graphics layout

A draft layout for one section of “In the Pipe”.

I am developing this into a gallery show entitled “In the Pipe”, which will be composed of photographic layouts, video and audio.

You will be witnesses.

Armistice Day 2014 – Casualty 14-18 #casualty1418 #WW1 #ArmisticeDay

Screen shot 2014-11-11 at 16.46.52

I have ambivalent feelings about wearing a poppy at this time of year. It’s not that I do not want to remember the dead, quite the opposite, and my work Casualty 14-18 is all about remembering the dead, but not just the British and Commonwealth dead and not in a way that might be associated with an establishment that still refuses to condemn war as political or commercial prudence.

I know some people wear a white poppy, although I also have mixed feelings about that.

However, ambiguity, ambivalence, conflict and contradiction are all potent effects in art, and the lack of resolution can be what keeps a work interesting, unlike much of the punchline-art that we see today.

Vote pleb graphics v2.128

Today is Armistice Day 2014 and my project has four more years to run. Each day it publishes 30 generatively created pages of 340 figures, one figure for each of the estimated 16 million dead – men, women and children – of all nationalities killed during the First World War. That is an average of 10,200 casualties per day for the duration of the war.

This is day 107 of 1,568.


Remembrance Day 2014 – Casualty 14-18 #casualty1418 #WW1 #RemembranceSunday

Screen shot 2014-11-09 at 14.48.01

It seems typical of the British establishment to sponsor such a grotesquely inward-looking and inappropriate work of art as “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” as part of the commemoration of the First World War. I have not been to see it in the flesh, and when I first saw photographs I assumed they were real poppies, temporarily planted in the moat of the Tower of London. But it turns out that the work consists of 888,246 ceramic poppies, one each for the British and Commonwealth servicemen’s deaths during World War One, spewing out of the Tower of London into its dry moat.

I realise that the artist, Paul Cummins, may well have had a prescriptive brief, but my own take on the tragedy of WW1 does not only include the British and Commonwealth soldiers, who may or may not have been willing, but every person of any age or nationality or allegiance, who was shot or stabbed or blown up or crushed or starved as a result of the the First World War.

The estimated total deaths for WW1 is between 15 and 16 million but Cummins’ work commemorates less than a million, as if civilians and foreigners are of no value. We would do well to remember that any war is a tragedy for humanity, and a world war is merely a proliferation of the same.

I have mixed feelings about wearing a poppy at this time of year. Similarly about the white poppy, worn as an anti-war symbol. I am not against supporting ex-servicemen, quite the opposite, but the continued glorification by our establishment cannot be justified, and there are those such as our government that attempt to use this symbol to represent views not compatible with my own.

I have an entirely unfunded artwork that commemorates the estimated 16 million deaths of the First World War. It is called Casualty 14-18 and makes no distinction between combatants, civilians, men, women or children. It is a generative work that publishes a representation of each casualty, as a daily average, of every life lost in the First World War.

Not just the British and Commonwealth servicemen. Everyone.

Screen shot 2014-11-09 at 14.53.47

The average is 10,200 deaths per day for the 1,568 days of the First World War, from the day the first shots were fired on the 28th of July 1914 until Armistice Day on the 11th of November 1918. We are at day 105 of 1,568.


No Glove Lost: Resurrection #noglovelost #bolamat50

No Glove Lost graphics.005

After a hiatus of a whole year, I have decided to resume the No Glove Lost project. The reason I postponed it was because it had become too much of a commitment in terms of making and media production.

At the time, I was preparing stuff for the launch of the Bolam at 50 year and it was taking up too much of my time. Ironically, no-one was interested in the Stained by Dead Inkjets, which is what I was spending my time on then, but No Glove Lost actually gathered a few fans.



Casualty 14-18 ~ The making of a generative artwork by Richard Bolam – Part 11 #bolamat50 #casualty1418 #WW1

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 11.35.19

My project started on the 28th June 2014 and Armistice Day of the same year will be 107 days into it out of 1,568 in total. That’s 1,091,400 lives lost so far (as a daily average) and there is still more than four years to go.

I have started to organise the Bash script a bit more by separating some of it into functions that can be passed parameters and called in a proper structured manner. The code is still very dirty and will probably remain so for while as I experiment with other variations.

This function is used to either colourise or remove a few individual figures from the blocks.

function UNITSTAMP {
#add/remove some individual figures

for e in $( gseq $MAXCOUNT )
echo $e”/”$MAXCOUNT
convert casualtytiled.png  -region 20×38+$[($[RANDOM % 20]) * 20]+$[($[RANDOM % 17]) * 38] -fill  “rgba($UNITSTAMPCOL)” -colorize $COLORIZ$
convert casualtytiled.png -transparent white casualtytiled.png

It’s hardly a huge program but what has become very apparent about Bash is how irregular the syntax is. I guess this is a product of open source development, the commands and structures do not comply to a reliably reproducible structure, and this is where other programming regimes such as Python really come into their own.

On the plus side, it is very convenient to be able to call a load of add-on commands and functions, as and when I need them.

However, in the future I might rewrite the software to use something more structured, such as PHP or Python, if they can do the graphic manipulations.

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 11.45.15

To my eye, this has too many blanks.

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 11.47.26

This is much more satisfying.

The blanks seem to work best when they are only occasional and only one or a small number on the same page. Here is the call from the main program loop.

#remove a few figures
if [ $[RANDOM % 10] -eq 0 ] ; then

I included this because it adds an element of mystery about the individuality of the highlighted or removed figures. A friend asked me what the blanks mean. My reply was – exactly, what do the blanks mean?


National Poetry Day 2014 – The Rules of Disengagement – @PoetryDayUK #NationalPoetryDay

Screen shot 2014-10-02 at 22.28.38

Silly me, I almost missed National Poetry Day. Here is something I wrote about 10 years ago.

TRIGGER WARNING: This poem contains strong language and sexual references, but no flash photography.

The Rules Of Disengagement
Guidelines For The Re-establishment Of Post-Coital Platonic Relations*

No holding hands, no wedding bands
No dinners for two, no “I love you”
No looking, no longing
No pining, no whining
No resentment, discontentment
No unwanted presentment
No affection, no rejection
No returning of confection
No arguing, no fighting
And absolutely no unrequiting

No sitting on knees, no swapping of keys
No tumbling, fumbling, fondling or fooling
No pressing, caressing, cuddling or canoodling.

No hugging, no kissing
No moping, no missing
No teasing, no pleasing
No seizing, no squeezing
No stretching, no stroking
No grasping, no groping
No patting, no pawing
No scratching, no clawing
No groaning, no moaning
No humping, no boning
No biting, no chewing
No nailing, no screwing
No shagging, no gagging
No bonking, no banging

No suicide pacts, no unnatural acts
No making of trysts, no slitting of wrists
No moving of earth, no giving of birth

No hands up dresses, no hands down shirts
No dropping of trousers, no raising of skirts
No plumbing of depths, no scaling of heights
No delving in y-fronts, no ripping of tights
No tweaking of nipples, no stroking of thighs
No plunging in troughs and no soaring to highs
No sexual acts either legal or criminal
Involving nothing animal, vegetable or mineral
Not exotic, erotic or ecstatic
Not organic. botanic or volcanic

No phone sex, no video sex
No postal sex, no semaphore sex
No email sex, no morse code sex
No message-in-a-bottle sex
No radio sex, no radiohead (and no surprises)
And absolutely no paper clip sex

No sharing of beds, no giving of head
No licking of feet, no injection of meat
No sucking of toes and no staining of clothes
No licking of fingers and no cunnilingus

No foreplay, no replay
No one, two or three play
No puppy love, no pussy love
No unconditional love and no tough love
No baby love, no brotherly love
No motherfucking and no how’s-your-father

No fucking, no sucking
No wanking, no spanking
No hetero and no homo
No quickies and no slomo

No finger fucks, no fist fucks
No in-up-to-your-wrist fucks

No insertion of fruit, rear or fore
Peeled or unpeeled, ripe or raw

No tangerines, no aubergines
No clementines and no nectarines

No squeezing of melons,
No punching through cherries
No biting of apples, no licking of berries
No stroking of peaches, no feeling of plums

No tit jobs, no blow jobs
No foot jobs, no toe jobs
No fur hat and coat jobs
No ear, nose or throat jobs.
No back seat of car, plane or boat jobs

No expansions or contractions
No injections of erections

No anal, no oral
No plain and no floral
No sucking, no blowing
No coming, no going
And absolutely no exchanging of bodily fluids

No spattering, no scattering
No smudging, no smearing
No spitting nor swallowing
No poking, no choking
No flirting, no squirting
No flattering, no splattering
No felching, no belching
No slurping, no burping

No amazing orgasms either real or imaginary
And no stimulation either penile or vaginary
No masturbating, penetrating, fornicating and ejaculating
And absolutely no falling in love.

*All terms and conditions are subject to change without notice.

© Richard Bolam