After having done so much work on my retrospective already, I’m relieved the world didn’t end in 2012. Strictly speaking, there is no end to the project, no end to a life’s work other than death itself, but it is highly productive to set boundaries and deadlines.
In case you missed it, I am cataloguing my life’s work in art, and will be celebrating my entire fiftieth year, from 24th Apri 2014 to 23rd April 2015. This will not be the end of my work, of course, but it seems like a sensible milestone. Having talked to a number of people about this, some said they wanted to “steal” the idea for themselves. I tell them it’s not my idea, I already stole it from someone else.
The artist’s major retrospective is nothing new, but the unique element of mine is me. No matter how conventional it might turn out to be, no-one else made what I made, regardless of how recognisable its influences, and this is already such an important realisation. No matter how easily identified are my influences, my work is still my own, so let’s not get hung up on the similarities in practice. There is no such thing as a blank slate. Above is an experiment from sometime in the late 70s using absorbant newsprint and the cores out of spent felt-tip pens. The spirit of DIY, using what I had.
I have been very productive for many years, but most of my work has never been seen. I got the idea for mounting my own retrospective in 2004 when I saw “Paolozzi at 80” at the Dene Gallery in Edinburgh. I remember the BBC doing a “David Bowie at 50” retrospective, and Tate Modern has just had a major retrospective of Damien Hirst’s work. However, Tate cheated. Hirst is a year younger than me, but they were obviously worried that my own 50th would overshadow his.
I was very much influenced by the do-it-yourself culture of the punk era and see that as a fundamentally formative time, although I don’t miss the 70s and 80s. I hate nostalgia and do not bear the past into the present with any fondness, although I do value my experience. When I was young I wanted to live in “The Future” although I only knew this place as a vague and idealised utopia based on the science fiction I read as a teenager. Now I am living in the future, at least in terms of technology, and I much prefer it to the past, despite the dystopian backdrop of global warming, potential pandemic biological catastrophe, greed-motivated warfare and the continuing threat of nuclear disaster.
Actually, we had all those things back in the 70s and 80s, but we didn’t have two of my favourite technologies of the future; the World Wide Web and print-on-demand.
And this is where I get to the point. If I haven’t already achieved it by now, I really don’t have much prospect of suddenly becoming a celebrated international artist between now and April 2014, or having any high-profile gallery shows. But what I can do these days is publish anything on the internt, available to the whole (online) planet, and I can print what I like, within the limits of my available technology, and without anyone else’s approval.
And this is what I’m doing, little by little. Realistically, the retrospective will primarily be online and in print; media that I can control myself. I am publishing texts, poems and catalogue entries as-and-when on Issuu here.
Some or all of these will also be available as physical print at some point, and I will be adding to this library continually.
Also keep an eye on Black Daffodil Press, my fantasy publishing house. This blog-site is a resource for links and resources relating to self-publishing, print-on-demand and DIY printing.
See you in the future…