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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.