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.

Screen shot 2015-08-10 at 11.40.59

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…


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.

Screen shot 2015-05-02 at 09.00.42

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.

Screen shot 2015-05-02 at 08.58.01

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.

Screen shot 2015-05-02 at 08.57.42

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.

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.

Screen shot 2015-03-17 at 14.44.49

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)


Armistice Day 2014 – Casualty 14-18 #casualty1418 #WW1 #ArmisticeDay

Screen shot 2014-11-11 at 16.46.52

I have ambivalent feelings about wearing a poppy at this time of year. It’s not that I do not want to remember the dead, quite the opposite, and my work Casualty 14-18 is all about remembering the dead, but not just the British and Commonwealth dead and not in a way that might be associated with an establishment that still refuses to condemn war as political or commercial prudence.

I know some people wear a white poppy, although I also have mixed feelings about that.

However, ambiguity, ambivalence, conflict and contradiction are all potent effects in art, and the lack of resolution can be what keeps a work interesting, unlike much of the punchline-art that we see today.

Vote pleb graphics v2.128

Today is Armistice Day 2014 and my project has four more years to run. Each day it publishes 30 generatively created pages of 340 figures, one figure for each of the estimated 16 million dead – men, women and children – of all nationalities killed during the First World War. That is an average of 10,200 casualties per day for the duration of the war.

This is day 107 of 1,568.

Casualty 14-18 ~ The making of a generative artwork by Richard Bolam – Part 11 #bolamat50 #casualty1418 #WW1

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My project started on the 28th June 2014 and Armistice Day of the same year will be 107 days into it out of 1,568 in total. That’s 1,091,400 lives lost so far (as a daily average) and there is still more than four years to go.

I have started to organise the Bash script a bit more by separating some of it into functions that can be passed parameters and called in a proper structured manner. The code is still very dirty and will probably remain so for while as I experiment with other variations.

This function is used to either colourise or remove a few individual figures from the blocks.

function UNITSTAMP {
#add/remove some individual figures

for e in $( gseq $MAXCOUNT )
echo $e”/”$MAXCOUNT
convert casualtytiled.png  -region 20×38+$[($[RANDOM % 20]) * 20]+$[($[RANDOM % 17]) * 38] -fill  “rgba($UNITSTAMPCOL)” -colorize $COLORIZ$
convert casualtytiled.png -transparent white casualtytiled.png

It’s hardly a huge program but what has become very apparent about Bash is how irregular the syntax is. I guess this is a product of open source development, the commands and structures do not comply to a reliably reproducible structure, and this is where other programming regimes such as Python really come into their own.

On the plus side, it is very convenient to be able to call a load of add-on commands and functions, as and when I need them.

However, in the future I might rewrite the software to use something more structured, such as PHP or Python, if they can do the graphic manipulations.

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 11.45.15

To my eye, this has too many blanks.

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 11.47.26

This is much more satisfying.

The blanks seem to work best when they are only occasional and only one or a small number on the same page. Here is the call from the main program loop.

#remove a few figures
if [ $[RANDOM % 10] -eq 0 ] ; then

I included this because it adds an element of mystery about the individuality of the highlighted or removed figures. A friend asked me what the blanks mean. My reply was – exactly, what do the blanks mean?

Casualty 14-18 ~ The making of a generative artwork by Richard Bolam – Part 10 #bolamat50 #casualty1418 #WW1

Untitled 3

This time I have added a similar routine to fill from the bottom-right to top-left. The next iteration might be to create a contiguous group in the middle that could have a ragged edge on the top and on the bottom (see below).

Code fragment:


echo $”UNITCOUNT = “$UNITCOUNT#” – “$UNITROWS” rows, “$UNITCOLUMNS” columns”

UNITCOL1=”$[RANDOM % 255],$[RANDOM % 255],$[RANDOM % 255]”

# create top-left to bottom-right flow of figures using colourised blocks
echo “bottom “$[$UNITROWS * 38]
if [ $UNITROWS -ne 0 ] ; then
convert casualtytiled.png -region 400x$[$UNITROWS * 38]+0+0 -fill “rgba($UNITCOL1)” -colorize 30% casualtytiled.png
if [ $UNITCOLUMNS -ne 0 ] ; then
convert casualtytiled.png -region $[$UNITCOLUMNS * 20]x38+0+$[$UNITROWS * 38] -fill “rgba($UNITCOL1)” -colorize 30% casualtytiled.png

echo $”UNITCOUNT = “$UNITCOUNT#” – “$UNITROWS” rows, “$UNITCOLUMNS” columns”

UNITCOL1=”$[RANDOM % 255],$[RANDOM % 255],$[RANDOM % 255]”

# create bottom-right to top-left flow of figures using colourised blocks
echo “rows from bottom “$[$UNITROWS * 38]
if [ $UNITROWS -ne 0 ] ; then
convert casualtytiled.png -region 400x$[$UNITROWS * 38]+0+$[646 – $[$UNITROWS * 38]] -fill “rgba($UNITCOL1)” -colorize 30% casualtytiled.png
if [ $UNITCOLUMNS -ne 0 ] ; then
convert casualtytiled.png -region $[$UNITCOLUMNS * 20]x38+$[400 – $[$UNITCOLUMNS * 20]]+$[608 – $[$UNITROWS * 38]] -fill “rgba($UNITCOL1)” -colorize 30% casualtytiled.png

Untitled 2

I have started to organise the routines into functions so that I can call them in a more structured way. More soon…

Casualty 14-18 ~ The making of a generative artwork by Richard Bolam – Part 9 #bolamat50 #casualty1418 #WW1

Screen shot 2014-08-10 at 18.49.00

In the parlance of modern coders:


I have implemented the batch creation of images and the automated posting of multiple, scheduled blog posts. It’s spam technology, basically, and I am rather pleased with myself.

I hasten to add that the code, although reliable, is quite klunky so far, with no error-checking, no error-correction, no subroutines or functions and no audit-logging. The software echoes some info to the console for me to keep an eye on it, but am still checking each blog individually post for errors.

However, it’s only a development version of the software, but it works! The important part of this is that what I have done so far is a successful proof of concept of the workflow; creating the images, batch emailing them and automatically scheduling the posts over consecutive days. I am just doing batches of three days initially, but when I have checked the software more I will extend the period as there is no way I can attend this project every day for more than four years.

As I have said before, I am not an expert programmer, but I have done a lot of programming over the years, all the way back to 1980. However, I must say Bash is very odd, although it can do, well pretty much anything although some achievements with it require an almost religious devotion and a huge leap of faith. It’s not for the faint-hearted or the easily diverted.

Fortunately my heart is not faint and I am rediscovering something of the evangelical excitement I remember from those early days of programming.

Anyway, I think I might also start printing these out on actual paper. I had not intended to print this version of the work at all, but it might make a interesting adjunct to the online version.

Code fragment:

#casualty make script v14

for d in {1..3}
CURRENTDATE=$(date -v+$d’d’ +”%y_%m_%d”)
CURRENTLABELDATE=$(date -v+$d’d’ +”%d/%m/%y”)
SCHEDULEDATE=$(date -v+$d’d’ +”%Y-%m-%d”)

mkdir ‘Casualty1418-‘$CURRENTDATE

#image creation code here…

#email images to blog
FILENAMES2=’-a ‘`echo $FILENAMES | sed ‘s/ / -a /g’`

echo ‘[delay ‘$SCHEDULEDATE’ 07:00:00 GMT][tags #casualty1418,#bolamat50,#WW1,Casualty,Casualty 14-18,#firstworldwar,First World War,generative,algorithmic,computational,art,Richard Bolam,Bolam Retrospective,#bolamat50][nogallery]’ | mutt $FILENAMES2 -s ‘Casualty 14-18 ~ ‘$CURRENTLABELDATE’ #WW1 #casualty1418′
cd ..


The next stage of development might include rewriting the code to be a bit cleaner and structured. It would be better to attend to that now, rather than later when there is a lot more sauce on the spaghetti.

Stay tuned…