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

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See this post for the intro to this series of posts about rules.

HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything — it might come in handy later.

It’s invaluable to look at what other people are doing, listen to advice and not try to re-invent the wheel every day.

It’s interesting that in the “hints” appendix to her 10 rules, Sister Corita mentions movies specifically. I am an advocate of taking in popular cultural references as well as the influences that are more precious to your work. This helps to avoid the masturbatory, navel-gazing of monocultural practice and can often introduce you to ideas outside of your normal sphere.

I don’t blame school for not telling me about Gandhi, because they could only teach us so much. I learned about him from Richard Attenborough’s 1982 feature film.

A lesson in filmmaking that I recommend to anyone, is the audio commentary by Ridley Scott for “Alien” (1979). His matter-of-fact delivery and leaps of imaginative faith are inspiring.

Having said all that, it’s best not to pick up all of your philosophical outlook from films such as “Porky’s” (1982), although having recently re-watched “The Breakfast Club” (1985) after a gap of about 20 years, it’s a much better and more subtley nuanced movie than I was aware of the first time around.

Conversely, some movies, that are closer to the centre of the art world, are lessons in how not to make films. A tedious chore that I would prefer not to repeat is Matthew Barney’s “Cremaster” cycle (2003), and my less-than-complimentary opinion of Lars Von Trier is widely known.

As far as saving everything goes, I would not be able to celebrate my upcoming retrospective if I had not saved everything way back from the 1970s.

I have six months to go until the beginning of my Bolam Retrospective year, and preparations are underway for a launch event on 24th April 2014. Stay tuned…

This is the last post in the series about Sister Corita Kent’s 10 rules (with a little help from John Cage), so thanks to Brain Pickings for reminding me that not everything is about me. Sometimes it’s important to listen to what other people think about me.



I don’t follow anyone’s rules except my own rules… RULE TEN – The X Factor


One of my rules broken: don’t over-process photographs.

See this post for the intro to this series of posts about rules.

RULE TEN: “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” (John Cage)

Everyone knows that if you put “X” at the end of a brand name, it automatically makes it sound enigmatic and cool. From now on, I shall be known as Bolam X.

Not working? Okay, never mind. It is also used to denote an unknown quantity or quality.

I think what John Cage was referring to what is also called the “happy accident”. As I said in my previous post, I had the idea for No Glove Lost a few years ago, and although similar things have been done before, it feels like a bit of unfinished business. So, I decided to get back on Horse X and complete Project X. And now I’m waiting for Accident X.

I saw a television interview with film director David Lynch where he discusses the breaking of one of the golden rules of filmmaking.

I’m going to have to paraphrase because I can’t find a clip of the actual interview, but it goes like this: (David Lynch has a very distinctive voice and it helps if you hear it in his tone.)

“[Director’s Name] asked me ‘David, can you really not cross the line?’. I said of course you can. You’re the director, you can do anything you like. You can’t cut it together, though.”

I was introduced to the concept of crossing-the-line in a video workshop given by Jason Budge in 2001. Briefly, it can be illustrated by the idea of filming someone walking along a road. You can shoot them from one side, the front or the back. However, you can’t shoot them from the other side of the road as it will confuse the audience seeing them walking in the opposite direction.

This supports what I always say, which is you can break any of the rules, but don’t do it for the sake of it. Rules and guidelines exist for one very good reason, they work. At least most of the time.

One of my own rules is don’t repeat what someone else has done.

No Glove Lost title

I really don’t know what I’m doing with this project, but I conceived it and what I do know is that I’m doing it. However, unlike the bland emulsion of homogenised mediocrity that is ITV’s the X Factor, I will be taking my lead from John Cage and Sister Corita Kent, breaking my own rules and leaving plenty of room for X quantities.

As I keep saying, I don’t like rules or manifestos, so here are some un-rules for my No Glove Lost project:

Un-rule #1 – It’s not a daily project. Or it might be.
Un-rule #2 – Only gather gloves on normal routes required by work or social commitments. Or not.
Un-rule #3 – Don’t go purposefully looking for them. Or do.
Un-rule #4 – Don’t try to out-do any of the other glovespotters. It’s not a competition. Or maybe it is.
Un-rule #X – Break any of the un-rules if you feel like it. Or not.

I hope that’s clear.

Between 22nd September 2013 and 20th March 2014 (winter in the northern hemisphere), I will be photographing the gloves in-situ, and collecting them for the currently unknown Purpose X.

So, in X Factor parlance, I’m raising my game, taking it to the next level and giving it 110%.

Until I’ve nailed it. Stay tuned…


No Glove Lost – Now is the winter of our missed garments

No Glove Lost title

As part of my retrospective I am attempting to finish off some stalled, abandoned or otherwise delayed projects.

No Glove Lost is a project I conceived back in 2007. I had become fascinated by lost gloves and began photographing them in-situ whenever I found them. One of the people I was studying with at the time pointed out to me, with rather poisonous glee, that someone had already created a blog recording lost gloves, and I must admit this stopped me in my tracks. At least it stopped me at that time.

Regular readers will know that I attempt to resist the preciousness of trying to own an idea. This partly stems back to my first visit to the Centre Georges Pompidou (circa 2001) when I was particularly struck how pretty much everything has already been done, often 100 years ago.

For example, in the late 1990s, I was creating mock packages of imagined medications and I only found out later that Damien Hirst had been doing the same thing, and doing it better, at about the same time. I have had many “brilliant” ideas, only to be disappointed that someone else was being more brilliant than me, and earlier.



Let’s face it, it’s a bit late to be re-inventing cubism, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add something to its gamut.

Although I can’t actually remember which was the first of the glove collections that I saw, I think it might have been this one that dates back to 2005. This is maintained by photographer Sarah Cole who is also based in Sheffield, and she includes a list of links to other glove-spotters.

This café in Berlin has an exhibition of lost gloves, waiting to be reunited with their owners.

And here is a Google map of lost gloves in Copenhagen.

Artist Stuart Brisley made a sculpture in 1983 called “1=66,666” which features a rather fetishy re-filling of (I believe to be discarded) gloves hanging in a cage, and I wish I had done that.

Anyway, it turns out I am not the only one to find these soiled and potentially intimate items of clothing to be car-crash fascinating. This universal phenomenon has been observed numerous times all over the world.



At the time I first had the idea, I was studying an MA in Contemporary Fine Art (never completed) at Sheffield Hallam University and my tutor was Nick Stewart, now Programme Leader & Reader in Fine Art at Winchester School of Art. In a tutorial with him, he suggested creating video that showed me examining the gloves, but at the time, I was resistant to making video as I had already made so much, although I took his point.

I also had a tutorial with artist Doris Frohnapfel, a visiting lecturer, and I showed her the photographs. She told me that, had it been her, she would have taken the gloves away and made something out of them. That had never occurred to me before. But it has now.

Anyway, I have decided to resurrect the idea and finish off what I started. I had the original idea independently and I still like it, so I will be photographing and collecting gloves over the coming winter months, between the autumn and spring equinoxes.

But what can I do to add something? Well, maybe I should swallow my pride and take the advice of artists more mature than myself and take it further than just the photographs. There is a blog where each glove will be recorded with a new entry. It’s not a daily project and is very open.

It will rely upon wherever I go and whatever I find, so stay tuned…


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

Retrospective graphics.056

See this post for the intro to this series of posts about rules.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

Abstract erotic art… It’s the shape of things to come. – anon via

This one follows on very conveniently from RULE EIGHT.

Recenty, I made a conscious decision to stop going to discussions about art. Why? Because they’re all so fucking boring.

I am not talking about lectures or artists’ talks, which can be fascinating. I mean conferences, salons and symposia, those talking shops for middle-class liberals, agonising about stuff that really doesn’t matter.

Let’s face it, you don’t get many laughs at an art symposium. There is a kind of studied emptiness in most discussions about art, a chasing of tails that normally leaves you none the wiser at the end of it, only shorter of life.

For me, the problem is the lack of humour. There is a poisonous, masturbatory guilt at the heart of contemporary fine art that thinks joy and beauty are somehow trivial, unless defined in an ironic, post-modern, knowing way. A kind of professional cynicism favoured by the David Shrigley apologists.

One way I can allow myself to be happy whenever I can manage it is by avoiding making myself unhappy whenever I can manage it.

Soon after starting the review of my life’s work, I realised that humour in the form of satire, is a strong, enduring thread in my art. That realisation was liberating, and these days I am allowing myself to have some fun even if it seems from the outside like I am just playing with myself.

That was a joke.

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

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See this post for the intro to this series of posts about rules.

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

Another one of my favourites. I am a vocal critic of artists who over-think things. It’s a surefire way to either talk yourself out of doing something at all, or else reducing what you do to an apology, and this explains why so much contemporary fine art looks like a random collection of shit kicked through a gallery door. Some artists are so afraid of not being received well, or seriously, that they reduce their work to a smokescreen of nonsense, supported by the mighty arms of Artspeak

Analysis, critique and review are all important, but give yourself a break and have some fun.

REVEALED: Margaret Thatcher and the Space Monkey LOL


Jim didn’t fix it for me.

I had a brilliant idea. As the UK government saw fit to honour Margaret Thatcher with a minute’s silence on the occasion of her funeral, I would commemorate her legacy in a similar way on August Bank Holiday 2013 as a piece of performance art. This is the day proposed by the swivel-eyed loons of the UK Conservative Party to be renamed Margaret Thatcher Day, and my idea was to observe a minute’s silence for each of the 323 casualties caused by the sinking of the Argentinian cruiser General Belgrano on 2nd May 1982, during The Falklands War.

I told a few people about the idea and received a very mixed bag of responses, some very positive, some apathetic and some extremely negative. Any artist will tell you that negative responses are not necessarily a bad thing. It’s great to be loved, but it’s much better to be hated than ignored, but what dissuaded me in the end was the fog of war.

It’s a highly emotive event and was the cause of much controversy at the time. Much was made of the fact that the cruiser was sailing away from the islands, but I accept the argument that its direction was irrelevant. A warship can change direction at any time and its heading does not mean it was not a threat. However, what remains so controversial is that the rules of engagement of the British Navy were changed specifically in order to allow the submarine HMS Conqueror to attack the ship. Even so, the most fundamental flaw in my own reasoning is that reports now show that the Argentinian navy accept the sinking as a legal engagement, and this is where it all falls apart.

Although the current government of Argentina still likes to accuse the British of aggression and cowardice over the attack, it seems more like politics than ethics and is not something I would want to identify with. Also, by the time I had looked at more references and re-interpreted the mired spin of The Daily Mail and John Pilger amongst others, it did not seem like the iconic war crime that I had thought. This by no means lets Maggie off the hook as I still consider the war to be an unnecessary loss of 907 lives in total and she used it for political purpose.

However, what motivated me most was disgust. Disgust at the London-centric, whitewashed reporting of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) who failed to cover the strength of very negative feeling around the country.

Tony Benn puts it better than I ever could. I first saw this video posted on Facebook a couple of years ago and I thought it was recent because it seemed like he was talking about Cameron’s cabinet. I was puzzled at first because I thought I remembered Tony Benn retiring from parliament “to spend more time on politics” and was also surprised how well he’d worn. However, it’s just another example of history repeating itself and what he says is just as relevant now.

One thing both Tony Benn and Margaret Thatcher would agree about is that some battles need fighting more than once and it is important to remember what a misguided, divisive and ignorant person Margaret Thatcher was. People admire her for being a strong leader as if that in itself is any excuse, but there are many other strong leaders that those same people would not like to be identified with.

She damned herself with her own praise and the most telling act of her own misguided self-confidence was what she said on her first arrival at Downing Street as Prime Minister. We should have seen it coming. With hindsight it’s easy to understand the irony but here is that notorious moment.

Currently showing on BBC television is “Thatcher: The Downing Street Years” where she reinforces this self-beatification by condemning consensual politics as if she was the only politician in history to recognise this and hence justify her autocracy. Thatcher looked in the mirror and mistook herself for an inspired statesman rather than the opinionated philistine that she was.

The only brief moment I saw of the BBC’s multi-hour eulogy that constituted their coverage of her funeral, was her post-PM driver describing her as “entirely humourless”. Channel 4 News did little better, indulging themselves with a bit of poverty tourism involving provoking a predictable response by interviewing a Conservative politician in a working men’s club in Consett of all places.

Whilst I still think the sinking of the General Belgrano was a deplorable and unnecessary act, it was just one of many in the jingoist warmongering that was the Falklands War. But as far as my proposed performance is concerned, I began to question the credibility of my own reasoning and I started to ask myself do I really want to associate myself with this singular and confused act in a much wider sea of prejudice, hypocrisy and misanthropy?

And the answer is not really, so here is a picture of a space monkey. LOL

Space Monkey small

Full story here.

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

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See this post for the intro to this series of posts about rules.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

At some point in my pre-teens I remember working out how old I would be in the year 2000. Thirty-six seemed ancient to me at that time, and then whoosh! it’s been and gone. At that age, the thought of approaching 50 was just too far in the future to even contemplate, but now it’s imminent.

Despite the terrifying acceleration of the passing of time, there are some fantastic compensations in maturity. Although I can no longer vault a brick wall without risking a hip-replacement, I have the experience and perspective to understand the risks and enjoy the knowledge that I did that kind of thing at the age when I could bounce off the pavement without it leading to a course of physiotherapy.

What I have to my advantage is that I have done a lot of stuff already, but only because I kept working. I am a bit of a hoarder and still have art that I made at primary / elementary school. What is also working in my favour is that I have been alive long enough to know that I have long creative cycles. Sometimes I can be highly productive in one medium or theme for several years, and then it just stops. Again, this can be for several years, but I know it will come back.

Rule seven is probably the most important rule. Everyone has periods of failure or low productivity, but also everyone has periods of high achievement. The most important thing is to keep working, and whoosh! you will have 40 years of work to look back on.

In the meantime, keeping making stuff and jump those walls before it’s too late.