The mysteries of the pyramids revealed! (What elephant?)

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From 29th October to 1st November, I will be spending four days in Access Space, Sheffield, UK as a kind of mini-residency, building a pyramid in their foyer.

The main body of it will be constructed from unwanted stuff, with a laser-cut, perspex donation box forming the top section. You can follow my progress on the New Bank of X’s website here. Also, here will be timelapse video at some point.

If you have any unwanted items, please bring them along for me to include in the construction, and I will transform your worthless junk into priceless art.

Below is a miniature prototype of the top section, designed and made by John Moseley (@_jo_mo), and fabricated in Access Space’s Refab Space.

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I am also working on the next New Bank of X bank note, the 3x, and this one will be accompanied by a series of short “making of” videos (see below).

I don’t follow anyone’s rules except my own rules…


…unless your rules are the same as my rules, and then I’ll follow your rules but claim that you are following my rules.

As I’ve said before, I don’t do manifestos and I am generally very distrustful of rules and over-analysis where it comes to art. However, and I know I may be rather late to this particular party, here is a set of rules that I identify with without a single exception. Often attributed to composer John Cage or choreographer Merce Cunningham, they were originally written in 1967/8 by Sister Corita Kent of the Immaculate Heart Convent in Los Angeles, US. In her rules she quotes Cage and both he and Cunningham went on to distribute these rules, hence the mis-attribution. I was introduced to this set of rules by and was struck by how similar (well, identical) they are to my own rules developed over the years and it suits me to quote them here in order to support my own well established prejudices.

Whereas I like much of what I see on Brain Pickings, I find the endless references to artists’ and writers’ rules and daily routines to be a little repetitive, although in this case I think they are genuinely useful.

Anyway, I find this set of rules so useful and inspiring that I am going to write a (short) blog post for each and say something about how they apply to my own philosophy and work.

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while. 

Many years ago, when Bloc Studios in Sheffield, UK moved to much larger premises, I took a rented artist’s studio of my own for the first time in my life. I hardly went and soon moved into a different shared space. I didn’t use that one either and realised it was just a rather expensive way of storing junk, so eventually I moved out. I am now an associate member of Bloc Projects but it became clear to me that I just don’t work in that way, going to a studio and isolating art work from home life, although it suits many artists.

I met my wife, Stella, in 2008 and each time she came to the flat that I was living in at the time, she said it was like Warhol’s Art Factory because there was always something being made there. Sometimes the floor would be covered with stenciled posters drying out, or the furniture had been moved in order to shoot a video. From this I developed the idea of Factory X, an indeterminate creative space that could represent anyone’s studio, home or simply their notebook. Factory X is wherever you are being creative.

Here is a single-day timelapse video of the place that I trusted as my workroom 2004 – 2012.

Friend and artist Susanne Palzer introduced me to the German word gesamtkunstwerk, meaning “total artwork” or “universal artwork”, and I think this concept better describes the way I am. Without being poncey about it, I do live and breathe my work and often get up in the middle of the night with an idea. This was one of the ideas behind the Factory X brand, a democratization of the Art Factory from an exclusive physical place, to a universal meta-theatre of creativity.

The “place” in rule one does not necessarily mean a physical place, but for me a work room at home is my Factory X and, apart from a while trusting a “proper” artist’s studio, the place I trust is my home.

Putting your money where your mouth is, and putting your mouth on the side of a building.


Richard Bolam presenting James Wallbank of Access Space Network with a fat cheque.

Or, as we say in South Yorkshire, UK, “put up or shut up”, more internationally interpretable as “you talk the talk, but do you walk the walk?”. What this all means in common parlance is that if you want something to happen, then you need to make it happen.

You may or may not be aware of Access Space, Sheffield, UK which is a charity that operates a free, open-access media / arts lab, with a rapid commercial prototyping lab attached. They offer lots of free services, as well as paid-for consultancy and training.

I have been a “Spacer” on and off for 12 years and am a big fan of what they do there.

To cut to the chase, the charity is desperately short of money, partly due to the contraction of  arts funding, but also the general commercial malaise in the UK. They have three fundraising schemes in operation and I have subscribed to two of them. One is a “Friends” scheme where individuals can commit a few pounds a month to supporting the organisation. I have been paying £10 per month for some time, but a small contribution scheme like this needs lots of sponsors.


My mouth was so big they had to take the front door off to get it in.

Another is the just-launched “Sponsor-a-day” scheme where you can “buy” a day for the amount in pounds sterling equal to the day number of the year. What that means is that January 1st costs £1, January 2nd costs £2 and so on. As soon as the scheme was announced I bagged 24th April 2013, day 114 ( my 49th birthday) and I designated it as the official launch of the beginning of the countdown to my retrospective year 24th April 2014 to 23rd April 2015.

The third scheme, which I can’t afford but other people may be able, is  “100×100” where they are looking for 100 sponsors per year who can afford £100 each per month.


Myself and sound artist Sunshine Gray in my purpose-built branding booth.

For my purposes I used the space and the outside of the building as a publicity stunt and satire on branding and promotion. I invited people to come and talk to me about my upcoming Retrospective project, and also provided old-school snacks, drinks and competitions. It was a huge success with so many people I didn’t get a break all day.

So, I’ve done my bit, and now it’s your turn.

Bolam Retrospective Official Launch – A date for your diary


All your Modern are belong to us.

Please join me on 24th April 2013 at Access Space, Sheffield, UK for the official launch of my Retrospective project.

Drop-in between 2-7pm for light refreshments, informal chats and a few giveaway goodies.

There is a Facebook event here, but you don’t need to RSVP, just turn up.

Free and all welcome.

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