Casualty 14-18 – Christmas Truce #casualty1418 #WW1

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There is still so much to say about the legacy of World War One, the continuing lack of peace on Earth and the policy of endless war. But in the spirit of the enlisted men on the Western Front in 1914, I have decided to call a truce for the day.
casualty1418.net

Merry Christmas.

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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

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

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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.

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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.
http://namethatdystopia.wordpress.com/

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).
http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/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.