Richard Bolam at 60: T-minus 3,180 #BolamProspective #bolamat60 #bolamat50+1

Launch event postcard v3

Like much of my work, that title is half a joke and half deadly serious. I achieved much in the run-up to, and the year of Richard Bolam at 50, but there was so much more that I either failed to achieve, postponed, or simply did not complete. This is due to a number of life factors, not least more than a little mismanagement.

However, after much thought, I have decided to just continue the project and tag each subsequent year as #bolamat50+1, #bolamat50+2 etc, until I get to #bolamat60 (if I make it) and just see what happens on the way.

Partly inspired by Eduardo Paolozzi, Robert Rauschenberg & Jamie Reid (amongst many others), and referencing the Principia Discordia, Newton’s Principia Mathematica and the post-punk zine scene, I decided to assimilate some of the old material into a new publication (or publications) with a working title of “Principia Bolamatica”. This is a composite of leftover scraps from the “Stained by Dead Inkjets” sessions and scans from my notebooks and scrapbooks.

Principia mathematica page 2

Principia Bolamatica page x of x

I was introduced to the the Principia Discordia when I read Robert Anton Wilson’s book “Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati” when I was a teenager. Cosmic Trigger (volume 1 as it is now) is a load of new-age hokum and conspiracy theory bullshit, but is fascinating as a jumping off point for various weird shit that I have subsequently found interesting at times. The Principia Discordia is the gospel of a pseudo-religion called Discordianism. I am not a believer but I am drawn to the playfulness and non-literal interpretation of things like this, along with the cut-ups technique used by other artists I admire such as William Burroughs and David Bowie.

But that’s another story…

I have established an online backbone for this phase of the project as a group of WordPress blogs that will contain various media, but it is an ongoing project with no manifesto attached to it other than trying to finish the Richard Bolam at 50 project in a way that I am satisfied with it. As I have written before, the only element I consider a major failure is not getting the 12 issues of “Catalogue” finished within the Richard Bolam at 50 year but, although it’s too late to meet that deadline, I will be completing them over the next year or two. Issue two will be out soon.

The Principia Bolamatica will be hosted, one page at a time, on BolamABC and published bit by bit as one or more PDFs, but also look out for Bolam000, Bolam101, Bolam123, BolamA2Z, Bolam365, Bolam24/7, Bolam360, Bolam5x5, BolamXXX and BolamXYZ.

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Each of these blog sites will be used to host appropriate elements of various projects, some of which I have planned and some not. I will probably move over to as a main site but will remain live and I might add more content if that is the appropriate place for it.

Stand by…


If at first you don’t succeed, extend the deadline. #bolamat50+1

Bolam101 graphics v1.026

I have very mixed feelings after the end of my 50th retrospective year. As I have already said, some aspects were highly successful and some were dismal failures, and I left a lot of things that I planned to do unfinished.

So, if you don’t achieve everything that you wanted to achieve in only one year, what do you do? Easy, take ten years and claim that’s what you intended to do all along.

With hindsight (and brutal honesty) I never really expected to achieve everything I wanted within the one year when I was 50 years old. Counter-intuitively, the anti-climax was not at the end, but at the beginning. Having already spent nearly two years preparing, I suffered an energy dip after the launch event and didn’t attack the project as I had intended during the year itself.

A few months after the end of the project, it seems obvious what to do next. Instead of finishing the project after the 50th year, I will just continue. After all, I am still “at 50”. Or more accurately, “at 50s”.

There has been so much spin off from the project I have decided to just continue the project until I am 60 (if I make it) as there is more than enough existing material and new stuff to fill the next nine-and-a-half years.

I knew I would not do everything I had planned but the only thing I consider to be a real failure is not making the 12 issues of “Catalogue,” which was the most important publication of the entire project. It’s too late for me to get that done on time so I am still going to publish the whole 12 issues (plus one) over the next year (or so).

Stand by, there is much more to come…

Bolam365 / Bolam360 / Bolam247 / BolamXYZ #bolamat50+1 #bolam365+1

Bolaminions 1024x768.028

To quote, again, the famous 10 rules by Sister Corita Kent, from the art department at the Immaculate Heart Convent School in Los Angeles (c1968).

They are all good, but these are the ones most important to me:

RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

RULE TEN: “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” (John Cage)

Helpful hint: Save everything — it might come in handy later.

Strange how a convent school, not generally known for their liberality, has some of the most broad-minded and helpful guidelines for creatives.

For me, one of the most helpful is rule eight about not trying to create and analyze at the same time. I know artists who are paralyzed into inaction by over-thinking what they do, and so I try not to bother thinking about it at all.

Until afterwards. Or later. Or maybe never.

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I made some of these composite images from stills where I have accidentally captured myself during timelapse shoots. My photoshop skills are not great, but I’m getting better, and some of them are a bit rough. But I really like them.

I don’t know if I can manage 365+1 for the whole year (it’s a leap year) but I don’t see why not, and I might start staging more of them like the one shown at the top.

Bolaminions 1024x768.002

I don’t know what they are, or what they mean. But what I do know is that they are something, and that I am making them, and that I have not allow any thinking to get in the way.

I’ll leave the analysis until later, and wait for the X quantities to kick in.

Retrospective: Richard Bolam at 50. It’s all over bar the shouting. #bolamat50

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I was 50 in real life and the passport photo was taken when I was 19 or 20.

However, it feels as though there is still a lot of shouting yet to do. Here are a few photos from the closing event at Access Space and the Rutland Arms.

My year of being 50 is over and the project has been an extremely varied and qualified success.

With hindsight, it was a mistake to start the project so much earlier than the year itself – after the launch event in April 2014, I was so burned out that I couldn’t maintain the energy levels that I had done for the previous two years. As a result, the middle few months of the actual 2014/15 fiftieth year was when the anti-climax hit. It was no surprise to me to have a dip, but the timing could not have been worse.

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Making Bolam masks for the free goodie bags that I gave out at the closing event.

However, I never really thought I would be able to achieve everything that I had planned, but the biggest failure is not getting the 12 issues of “Catalogue” finished within the year. This part-work magazine is the central piece of the project but I got distracted with other things. What’s more, I spent far too much time making new work, rather than cataloguing and presenting existing work.

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Wife #2 and backup wife #2 at the Rutland Arms, with “HYPE!” in the background.

None of those failures matter, of course, and the project has been a huge success in many ways, but not in terms of global fame, obscene wealth or critical adulation.

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One rather perverse pay-off is, thanks to the almost universal indifference to my work, I now feel completely disenfranchised from the art “world”. Not from art, but from the world of art, or the establishment at least.

This is not a good thing if you want to be successful in that world, but I have little respect for it because I refuse to do the artspeak and do not base my work upon the theoretical conceits that seem to be de rigeur these days.

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That’s me on the left.

Anyway, I currently have two exhibitions open, “Casualty” at Access Space (limited opening times) and “HYPE!” & BOLM•ART™ at the Rutland Arms, both in Sheffield, UK.

I will aim to get the remaining 11 issues of “Catalogue” finished over the coming year, and I will be continuing the project as Bolamat50+1.

Last Exit to Bolam – Retrospective Grand Finale exhibitions and closing event

Bolam Retrospective Exit Strategy graphics v1.006

The end of my Bolam at 50 year approaches. I will be 51 on the 24th of April 2015 and, as a celebratory finale, I am showing some art at Access Space and the Rutland Arms, across the road from each other in Sheffield, like I did for the launch.

At Access Space, I am showing an exhibit entitled “Casualty”, which is a small collection of war-themed work, including an installation version of Casualty 14-18 which a commemoration of the approximately 16 million people killed in the First World War. The exhibition is open from 21st April to 22nd May.

Confirmed opening times so far:
Tuesday 21st April 3pm – 7pm
Wednesday 22nd April 4pm – 6pm
Thursday 23rd April 4pm – 8pm
Friday 24th April – closed
Saturday 25th April – closed
Sunday 26th April – closed
Monday 27th April – closed
More times to be confirmed.

There is also an online version:

At the Rutland Arms, there is a wall-based exhibition of the covers from my monthly HYPE! Bolam Celebrity Magazine. The Exhibition is running from 15th April to at least the 22nd May. Free entry during normal pub opening times.

There will also be a closing event on 23rd of April, starting at Access Space from 17.30 to 20.00, and then moving over to the Rutland Arms for the rest of the evening. There will be goodie bags for the first 50 lucky guests.

FONBAG (the fear of not being a genius) LOL #TonyBenn #GE2015 #TT84 #Satyagraha

Retrospective cartoons v1

The looming UK General Election and the just-passed first anniversary of the death of Tony Benn give me a highly rationalised excuse to re-visit this.

In 2013 I helped out with shooting some behind-the-scenes timelapse video of the shooting of a promo for Two Tribes – The Miners’ Strike Musical (TT84). I was not present for the shoot but I have seen the promo and it’s very abstract.

I’ve seen the promo and I think it’s really good, but I got the impression that they were not happy with it. At the time of this blog post, I can’t find it online and the last tweet from their account was 14th March 2014 so I guess the project is on the back-burner at the moment.

Although included in the main edit, I said I would do a separate edit of the timelapse alone but really struggled to make anything of it. If you look at what was happening in the temporary studio you can see why. It doesn’t tell any kind of story that can be made sense of. Previously, I had sought permission to remix the track “Network” by DJ and musician Cy Tukay aka Cy Humphries and I thought the two things would go together as there was a strong socialist element to both.

Here is his original:

In the end, though, I couldn’t make an edit of the timelapse work so I just used a single shot as a holder for the audio

I released the video on or just after the death of Tony Benn on 14th March 2014 and as of 17th March 2015 the video had accumulated a whopping global total of 26 views. 21 on Vimeo and a plump 5 on the more populous but less discerning YouTube.

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Here is my remix on Vimeo and YouTube (please play both so that I can double my hits).

Not every musician can be Elvis Costello or Cy Tukay, and not every video editor can be Chris Cunningham or Bill Viola, but I can’t help feeling a little cheated that it was just ignored. I am particularly pleased with the way I shoe-horned a bit of Philip Glass’s “Satyagraha” in there, prompted by the way the Occupy movement had referenced it.

Strictly speaking, it’s not actually a remix because I just laid additional audio over the top of Cy’s track, and I am under no illusion that the strength lies in his original mix and the dialogue from the movie. However, coming to listen to it again (after figuratively burying it for a year), my additions sound a lot better than I remember.

I would say that, of course.

Cy never acknowledged it once it was published and I know what that means. It’s a polite way of saying he doesn’t like it, but at least he didn’t hate it enough to ask me to take it down. As I’ve said before, it’s great to be loved, but even being hated is better than being ignored.

I guess FONBAG is my bag, although I can ameliorate the disappointment with a few new acronyms that I will be using from now on.

AOMT (ahead of my time)
IKIGHS (I know it’s gonna happen someday)
FEE (Fuck everyone else)
ITL (It’s their loss)
YJDGI (you just don’t get it)


We all wish the magic of Christmas could start earlier. And now it does. #bolamat50 #SheffZineFest


Brand loyalty: Dan Sumption, one of my most regular customers.

To quote this advert for Disneyland Paris from the end of last year, “We all wish the magic of Christmas could start earlier”.

I am sure many parents would disagree, but Disney are not really talking about magic any more than Marks and Spencer are talking about magic and sparkle. Or any more than Sainsbury’s are talking about sharing or any more than John Lewis are talking about real love.

What they really mean is that they wish the income stream of Christmas could start earlier.


High Street X. The same stuff I normally sell, but with added Christmas “magic”.

Anyway, I say if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em and here are a few photos of me, starting the magic of Christmas earlier at the Sheffield Zine Fest on 14th March. I was accompanied by my sister, Catherine, as a Christmas fairy (or Merchandising Operative) and my wife, Stella, as an Elf (or Fulfilment Centre Manager).


Fulfilment Centre Manager and Merchandising Operative.

Some people were clearly non-plussed by the costumes and would not even make eye contact. However, I did get some customers who took it to the next level by revisiting their traumatised childhoods at the hands of shopping-centre Santas.

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Stuart Faulkner and the crew from Footprints Co-Operative Print getting favours from Santa.

Big thanks go to Chella Quint and Bettie Walker for organising the Sheffield Zine Fest.