100 reams of A4 paper needed for an artwork commemorating the 16 million dead of the First World War #Casualty1418 #WW1 #EndlessWar

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Photo: Sage Ross (Creative Commons).

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” – Edmund Burke (1729 – 1726).

Casualty 14-18” is an artwork that commemorates the 16 million people of all nationalities killed in the First World War. It is an unfunded project and currently only exists online.
http://casualty1418.net

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Each day, from 28th June 2014 to 11th November 2018, a series of 30 A4-sized images are published online, representing the average number of 10,200 deaths per day for the duration of the war. Each sheet is unique and represents 340 humanoid figures, created by a generative computer program.

Access Space, Sheffield, UK has sponsored the work in-kind by hosting a physical installation from 17th April to 14th May 2015 (dates tbc). For this version of the work, I need 100 reams of A4 paper to create a temporary monument:- 94 for the 16 million of the First World War and the remaining six for the approximately one million killed in the recent “War on Terror” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen and other countries as a symbol of the principal of Endless War.

“Casualty 14-18” is an unapologetically anti-political, anti-war work of art. I thought it up in 2001 and in 2014 I decided to make it happen because of the 100-year anniversary of the First World War, regardless of funding. However, a physical installation involves at least some cost. The paper does not need to be unused, it can be recycled or unused printed matter, but it does need to be A4 in size and uncreased.

If you know of a printer, office or any other organization that has 50,000 sheets of uncreased A4 paper surplus to requirements, either free or at a small cost, please get in touch.

What becomes of the broken-hearted? – or – The Ballad of Richard Bolam – Valentine’s Day 2015

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What becomes of the broken-hearted? They go shopping, get drunk and have unprotected, meaningless sex. I have done all of those things at one time or another, and many other acts of lust, self-loathing and despair. But, like, whatever.

I believe it to be a common thing that bitterness, loneliness and hate are far more effective motivators of artistic expression than contentment, love and tolerance. Perverse but true.

Years ago I went with a friend to see a theatrical performance which was little more than a ball of fluff. Afterwards my friend said “Well, that was not written by an unhappy man” and I know what she meant. We met the cast afterwards and one of their friends immediately said to us “Wasn’t that just the loveliest thing, ever?”.

Although I was polite, I declined to agree, and he took me to task on what I thought was wrong with it. There was nothing wrong with it, I guess, but I just do not find smug, self-satisfaction to be a moving artistic experience in the least. I talked to the director later and he looked down his nose at me, in both senses, and I recognized that quality in him that Willard observes about Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now” (1979 Francis Ford Coppola).

“He was just one of those guys with that weird light around him. He just knew he wasn’t gonna get so much as a scratch here.”

I’ve met people like that before and since: young, good-looking, talented people who just know they are going to succeed. But why? Because they always have done. They make comfortable middle-class art that is enjoyed by comfortable, middle-class people and, most importantly, selected for funding by other comfortable, middle-class people.

But I’m not bitter.

In 2003, after being in a relationship for 15 years, 10 of which were mostly happy, one thing led to another, and I betrayed my partner with another woman. At first emotionally, and then sexually. Those are the facts, but it took several years to pass before I realised that I had been the unfaithful one. It felt like the relationship was over years before, and so it took almost no effort for me to cross what seemed to be an inevitable bridge. And so I guess it wasn’t my fault?

The next few years were very chaotic, emotionally, and I went out with more women in two years than I had in the previous twenty. However, despite all the problems, there is only one woman that I got involved with that I wish I had never met, although several of those liaisons were unhappy and inevitably doomed.

But what I have come to realise is that some people do not invest what people like me invest in a relationship, because for them it’s just a transaction, or maybe they have that weird light around them.

I remember that time as very productive, creatively, if not emotionally.

Anyway (getting back to the misery and self-loathing), I had one of my “brilliant” ideas; I would collect the poetry I have written into a small volume and call it “That bitch broke my heart (and other stories)” and self-publish it. I know I have a small collection of poems about relationships that were written at a very particular time in my life (the that bitch bit) and, although it is not going to amount to a collected works, it might make a slim volume worth publishing, along with the other stories.

However, when I came to look at what I have from that period (the stuff that is worth publishing), there is nowhere near as much good material as I thought.

It turns out I’m not really a poet, but I did have a few moments.

The upshot of all this navel-gazing is that the emotional upheaval was highly motivational, creatively, and I miss it in that sense. However, I do not miss the loneliness, frustration and years of low self-esteem. I met my wife in 2008 and I haven’t written a poem since.

I will be publishing “That bitch broke my heart (and other stories)” in some form. Online initially, with a low production value printed version available soon after.

Via Black Daffodil Press.

Why I will not be walking out of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” – The Aesthetics of Boredom

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The reason is simple, I will not be walking in. I have been bored on many occasions and boredom has a particular aesthetic, a sort of endless falling but without the adrenalin rush of potential sudden death, and it’s an experience that I value as part of my extensive canon.

However, I’ve ticked that box more than once and life is only getting shorter.

I skimmed an article in The Guardian which suggests that people are walking out in droves, not necessarily out of boredom, possibly confusion and frustration. Again, these are experiences with which I am already truly blessed.

I had arranged to see it tonight with my wife and a friend, in order to pop our Sheffield Curzon cherries, but I have decided to meet them afterwards.

Many years ago, my girlfriend of the time was really into theatre and went to see most productions in nearby Sheffield and Rotherham. I like theatre but not to the same degree and was much more choosy about what I wanted to see. However, she used to work on me and try to persuade me to see things that I really didn’t want to. After a particularly tedious production of “A Winter’s Tale” at the Sheffield Lyceum in 2000-and-something, I said “No more fucking Shakespeare!”.

I am not a fan, although I have seen a few good productions, including an excellent “Richard III” with Kenneth Branagh at The Crucible in Sheffield. I also saw “The Tempest” with Derek Jacobi which has a fantastic opening, but the play (not the production) is a dud.

I have also seen contemporary theatre companies who use boredom as an effect, but it only works once, and after that first fall down the well of despair, boredom is just boring.

Back in the world of film, I have cut Paul Thomas Anderson a lot of slack because I liked “Magnolia” (1999) so much, but “The Master” (2012) was very long and boring, and it is not rescued by either the immense screen presence of Philip Seymour Hoffman or the startling transformation from over-fed pretty boy to lean Icarus that was Joaquin Phoenix.

I am afraid I have lost patience with sitting through boring films no matter how critically acclaimed, worthy or artistic they might be. I have stopped watching plenty of films at home, but the last film I actually walked out of was an art film by Yinka Shonibare. As I get older, I value my time more and more and I would rather be in The Rutland Arms drinking Duff.

However, I think it is time to put PTA on the naughty step with Woody Allen (for “Crimes and Misdemeanors”(1989)) and Jane Campion (for “Holy Smoke” (1999)) until he has learned his lesson.

Beyond the naughty step, there is also a ditch of pooh, but that is reserved for Lars Von Trier and Gaspar Noé.

Less is more, but more is better – The Eye and the Sky (Retrospective Redux) on #BolamTV #bolamat50 #timelapse #video

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Who needs Minions when you have Bolams?

Here is a body of work from 2008 that I made with one of my very rare commissions. It was funded by the (now defunct) Seagate Creative Fund which was a funding scheme aimed at digital media producers that use Seagate products as a promotional activity for the company.
http://seagate.com

I was and am one of those and I proposed to make a single two-minute, timelapse video of multiple shots of the sun moving through a space. However, the process was very stimulating and I ended up making six experimental videos from the material I captured.

I would be the first to admit that they are all quite subtle pleasures and, if you are prepared to watch them all, they require a degree of patience in order to get the pay-off. But I was, and still am, pleased with the results.

The first one, which was the subject of the commission, is “The Eye and the Sky” and was an attempt at capturing three synchronised views of a space with the sun moving through it. At the time, the first floor of the HUBS (Hallam Union Building of Sheffield) was called “The Eye” and I had noticed the striking shadow created by the skylight.
http://www.hallamstudentsunion.com/

The equipment used included some obsolete Macintosh blue-and-white G3s, donated by Lovebytes digital arts organization.
http://lovebytes.org.uk/

The other five videos were experiments that I made using some of the same a material that was leftover from the main shoot. They are all appealing in a minimalist way, and we all know that less is more, but why do less when more is better?

Stillness – An exhibition of new work by Sean Williams, Rita Kaisen, Richard Stott, Helen Stokes, Janie Moore, Iris Harris, and Andy Cropper. At Bloc studios, Sheffield.

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This blog site is primarily for promoting my own work, but here is a forthcoming show that I am really looking forward to. I know three of the exhibiting artists and am familiar with their work. I can’t speak for the other four, but Andy Cropper, Rita Kaisen and Sean Williams are all exceptional artists (and you can buy their work).

Interestingly, I do no think of any of these three people I know as particularly “still”, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with.

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“Lies About Nothing”, 2014 Sean Wiliams

Sean’s work is in the “photorealistic” stable, although I don’t know if he would use that word. This image is a painting, not a photograph. Much of the work I’ve seen before is definitely pointillism, but this has a distinct filmic fuzziness. His work is very often of bland scenes such as domestic building sites or neglected corners of suburban landscapes, but the quality of the painting gives them a serene calmness that is at odds with the detailing. I strongly recommend you see them in the flesh.
http://swseanwilliams.wordpress.com/

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A page from “Life”, 2014 Rita Kaisen.

Rita’s work has a number of distinct styles, all excellent including a stylised realism, surrealism and expressionism. But the stand-out work for me is her surrealistic graphic novel style. This image (not in the show) is from a work-in-progress called “Life”, and I wish I could draw like this. I am a major fan of her cross-hatching. It reminds me a little of Ian Miller but not as as obsessive or phantasmagorical.
http://ritakaisen.blogspot.co.uk/

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I’ve written about Andy’s work before and I have a huge respect for his range, from the almost jarringly photorealistic, through bland street scenes that have a tiny touch of the naive, breathtaking portraits and graphic design too. However, he has warned me that the work in this show will be very different.
http://www.artbyandyonline.com/

I don’t know the other four artists or their work, but I will tomorrow.

There is a “private” view (free and open to everyone) on Thursday 9th January 19.00 – 21.00, and the show runs from 10th – 28th January, Wednesday to Saturday, 12.00 – 18.00 at Bloc Projects, 71 Eyre Lane, S1 4RB Sheffield, free entry.
http://www.blocprojects.co.uk/ (Bloc’s website is a bit out of date on 8/1/14)

BolamTV XmsX Midwinter Special 2013+1 Director’s Cut & Special Making of Feature #BolamTV #BolamOD #XmsX

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Still from BolamTV XmsX Midwinter Special 2013+1 Director’s Cut (video at the end of this post)

As is traditional at this time of year, BolamTV is featuring a little bit of comfort viewing, comprising some familiar family programming and a few festive extras.

Seeing as it was so popular last year, here is a special “Director’s Cut” of the BolamTV XmsX Midwinter Special 2013, a shorter version with a little extra seasonal branding.

This blog post is the equivalent of the DVD extras or a “Making of” documentary.

Last year I wanted to do something that was not exactly anti-Christmas but un-Christmas, something that acknowledged what the celebration at this time of year was originally about, and something that was a satire without being an attack on the Christian festival. Whilst I am not a Christian (because I do not believe that Jesus of Nazareth was divine) I am more than happy to take part in a celebration that has become a time to see family and friends.

Feel free to correct me if you know better, but I believe that the birth of Christ is celebrated at this time to coincide with the pagan ritual of celebrating Midwinter on the shortest day of the year. I do not know just how consciously planned it was, but several of the pre-Christian festivals have been subsumed in this way. Easter was a celebration of fertility, hence the bunnies and eggs.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_and_Paganism

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XmsX logo evolution.

I love and hate branding in equal measures. I love satirising it and making pastiches, but I despise the insane world that I have grown up in. I wonder what the world must look like to people 20 years younger than me who do not remember a time without dickheads walking down the street with “Bench” across their arses or “YSL” printed on cheap t-shirts. I remember a time before ubiquitous branding and, although I don’t object to a discreet logo on my clothing, it still appalls me when I see how people are willing to be walking advertising billboards for companies that have just ripped them off.

Anyway, if you can’t beat them, join them. Here is the incarnation of Stalky Ringbits I imagined for XmsX.

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The final logo design.

It’s a memento mori (natch) who is a bit worse for wear. The ‘x” is a kiss on the right cheek and the hole in the head is symbolic of damage that can be about self-destructive “self-medication” or the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The eye-patch is an occlusion over the left eye and the right eye has a red glint. In tradition, the left is the passive side and in palmistry symbolises what you are born with, and the right side is the active and what you make of your life. The red symbolises passion, blood and sex, and the left eye is hidden as a contradictory symbol of either loss or introversion. The two bones are there to reference piracy and they are different lengths and informally arranged, again to reference the randomness of life. The halo is a provocative symbol of universal divinity and the lettering is red and green to symbolise the active (red) and the hopeful (green) and double up as bit of Christmassy garnish. The nose and mouth are just a bit lopsided due to possibly a few too many mulled wines at a crashed office party. The contraction of “XmsX” is a subtle dig at Marks and Spencer and the other traditional cost centres for middle-class people at Christmas. The bracketing “X” is both as in “ex” and the indeterminate value x and, of course, a play on the word “xmas”.

It is intended to be mildly provocative and tick boxes in the pagan, Christian and secular worlds.

I might deconstruct this a bit more later, but the video uses a single shot in a derelict building, now gone, and it was actually snowing through the roof onto the tree that was growing there. I wanted to do something that was possibly religious and possibly not. The music used is three different versions of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”, all sourced from archive.org and used (as far as I can tell) within the terms of their licenses.

The video was shot in a hurry at 720p and was actually out-of-focus. It’s a great shot, or should have been, and I still wanted to use it so I decided to move the emphasis away from the image by giving it designed sound rather than just music.

Once I had sourced the music, the idea for the sound design was from a distantly recalled track by Mark Stewart and the Mafia of a version of the traditional hymn “Jerusalem”. Before I recalled it as an influence, I had only heard it once before, sometime in the 1980s, on the John Peel radio show.

I would be the first to agree that my own work is a rather subtle pleasure, and watching it a year later it felt too long so I’ve attenuated it a bit. If you can bear to watch it, please make sure you watch the credits. It’s only a small thing but I am quite pleased with the animation.

Whether you’re a believer or not, Emmanuel may still come, o come. FYI Emmanuel is the name used in the Old Testament of The Bible of the prophesied messiah that turned out to be Jesus of Nazareth in the Christian faith. He is prophesied to return, and just because he hasn’t turned up yet doesn’t mean he (or she) never will.

My own view on religion and divinity is a little more complex, nuanced and contradictory than the all-or-nothing atheistic sledgehammer, but I think I might leave that to another post. Or maybe a PhD. Or maybe my own church. Now there’s an idea…

In the meantime, I will leave you to pick the bones out of BolamTV XmsX Midwinter Special 2013+1 Director’s Cut.
http://bolam.tv