Less is more, but more is better – The Eye and the Sky (Retrospective Redux) on #BolamTV #bolamat50 #timelapse #video

Eye and the sky graphics v1.001

Who needs Minions when you have Bolams?

Here is a body of work from 2008 that I made with one of my very rare commissions. It was funded by the (now defunct) Seagate Creative Fund which was a funding scheme aimed at digital media producers that use Seagate products as a promotional activity for the company.
http://seagate.com

I was and am one of those and I proposed to make a single two-minute, timelapse video of multiple shots of the sun moving through a space. However, the process was very stimulating and I ended up making six experimental videos from the material I captured.

I would be the first to admit that they are all quite subtle pleasures and, if you are prepared to watch them all, they require a degree of patience in order to get the pay-off. But I was, and still am, pleased with the results.

The first one, which was the subject of the commission, is “The Eye and the Sky” and was an attempt at capturing three synchronised views of a space with the sun moving through it. At the time, the first floor of the HUBS (Hallam Union Building of Sheffield) was called “The Eye” and I had noticed the striking shadow created by the skylight.
http://www.hallamstudentsunion.com/

The equipment used included some obsolete Macintosh blue-and-white G3s, donated by Lovebytes digital arts organization.
http://lovebytes.org.uk/

The other five videos were experiments that I made using some of the same a material that was leftover from the main shoot. They are all appealing in a minimalist way, and we all know that less is more, but why do less when more is better?

BolamTV XmsX Midwinter Special 2013+1 Director’s Cut & Special Making of Feature #BolamTV #BolamOD #XmsX

XmsX v7 2013+1

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

XmasX graphics.001

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.

Screen shot 2014-12-21 at 08.48.20

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.

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.

http://casualty1418.net

No Glove Lost: Resurrection #noglovelost #bolamat50

No Glove Lost graphics.005

After a hiatus of a whole year, I have decided to resume the No Glove Lost project. The reason I postponed it was because it had become too much of a commitment in terms of making and media production.

At the time, I was preparing stuff for the launch of the Bolam at 50 year and it was taking up too much of my time. Ironically, no-one was interested in the Stained by Dead Inkjets, which is what I was spending my time on then, but No Glove Lost actually gathered a few fans.

http://noglovelost.wordpress.com

 

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

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 11.35.19

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

echo $MAXCOUNT
for e in $( gseq $MAXCOUNT )
do
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
done
}

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 [ $[RANDOM % 10] -eq 0 ] ; then
MAXCOUNT=$[RANDOM % 5]
UNITSTAMPCOL=”255,255,255″
COLORIZE3=’100%’
echo ‘COLORIZE3 = ‘$COLORIZE3
UNITSTAMP
fi

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?

http://casualty1418.net

The 20 days of 20×20 Day 19 – 19th September 2014 @AccessSpace #20×202014

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Access Space’s annual 20×20 open art exhibition 2014 opens TODAY! 19th September 5.30 – 8pm and the show is open to the public from Saturday 20th. Access Space’s opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday 11am – 7pm. Free entry.

http://access-space.org

The 20 days of 20×20 Day 18 – 18th September 2014 @AccessSpace #20×202014

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Access Space’s annual 20×20 open art exhibition 2014 opens on the evening of the 19th September 5.30 – 8pm and the show is open to the public from Saturday 20th. Access Space’s opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday 11am – 7pm. Free entry.

http://access-space.org

The 20 days of 20×20 Day 11 – 11th September 2014 @AccessSpace #20×202014

Screen shot 2014-09-02 at 13.28.48

The deadline for the annual Access Space 20×20 open art exhibition 2014 is 17th September (TODAY!). It’s free to enter and you can submit work in any medium on any subject as long as it’s 20 inches square.

You can buy a ready-made box construction “canvas” for £3.75 or you can construct your own.

There will be an opening on the evening of the 19th September 5.30 – 8pm and the show is open to the public from Saturday 20th. Access Space’s opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday 11am – 7pm. Free entry.

http://access-space.org