Stained by Dead Inkjets – the soundtrack of my life

Stained by Dead Inkjets - collage #3 (title tbc)

Stained by Dead Inkjets – collage #3 (title tbc)

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but the title of the collection of collages I am making for this show is a paraphrase of a track by Throbbing Gristle (TG) on their album “Funeral in Berlin” (1981, Zensor). The original track is called “Stained by Dead Horses” and it sticks in my mind as one of those incredibly emotive phrases that seems to have a life of its own, far beyond the music itself. Other titles that stick in my mind are “Mission of Dead Souls”, “Maggot Death” and “You Don’t No”.

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“Funeral in Berlin” Throbbing Gristle (1981, Zensor)

Cover art by Val Denham, 1981.
http://www.valdenham.com/

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Similarly, TG’s name, as well as band names such as New Order, Joy Division and Theatre of Hate were extremely evocative, because they embodied such enigma.

My retrospective has already been fantastically productive, but one of the things I realised only very recently is that music has played a influential part in my creative development that I was only unconsciously aware of before. Although I do make music, I do not consider myself to be a musician. I use machines to do all the hard work. I just don’t have that particular talent.

What I do have though, is synesthesia. I wrote about this recently and, although I think I only have it mildly. By way of disambiguation, synesthesia is not a mystical state, it is a subtle neurological connection between the senses, and for me music and sound are strongly associated with visual image or impressions.

Strangely perfect. “Rebel Without a Brain” Theatre of Hate (1981, Burning Rome Records)

What I have come to realise is that, despite being only a mediocre sound artist, music and “organised sound” has been a fundamental influence on my work, even when it does not express itself audibly.

I’m not a fan of the minimalist “Untitled #1”, “Untitled #2”, “Untitled #3” titling strategy, and this is an opportunity to acknowledge my influences, even though the work is visual art rather than music.

As a result, I have decided to title all the “Stained by Dead Inkjets” collages after track names from albums or artists that have been influential to me. It’s a risky strategy. On one of the very few occasions when I have sold work, I lost a sale once I revealed the title because the buyer didn’t like it.

Stay tuned…

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The tyranny of the blank page (with timelapse camera)

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My timelapse set-up for capturing the making of “Stained by Dead inkjets”

It’s a scary prospect to embark upon a project where you are committed to a deadline, but without knowing the outcome, and documenting it at the same time.

Any failures are immediately apparent to the rest of the world. But also the successes. I’ve done this kind of thing before and know that something will happen in the process, but not sure exactly what.

I decided to make new, A3-sized paper collages from old test prints and spoiled prints, but a lot of that material is A4, which left me with a compositional challenge if the works were not going to look like something plonked in the middle of a larger sheet.

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Work in progress

Also, a lot of the earlier work was very minimal and hard-edged digital graphics, but I wanted this work to be much more organic and dense. I always try to consider the audience and the venue, and these works are going to be shown in a traditionally decorated pub. Minimalism works well in a blank space, but on the busy walls of a public house, something more human and playful seems appropriate.

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“Stained by Dead Inkjets” #1 (title tbc)

When I was younger, I suffered greatly from the tyranny of the blank page. You know that paralysis when you can’t start because you are terrified of imminent failure. It’s not originally my wisdom, but I employ the strategy of spoiling the work in the first place. Many painters will smear a blank canvas with a random wash of paint to solve the problem, and I have found that this technique works for me. In the videos, you can seem me playing around with various simple techniques to distress the original material in order to spoil the canvas and break to paralysis.

The other strategy I employ is just starting. It’s no true to say I don’t think about what I’m going to do, but I believe in just doing something and being open to the opportunities presented by happy accidents.

When I write, I don’t plan, I just start writing. I write in fragments, and eventually, one fragment seems to go with another and so on until a thread appears. Once a logical thread appears, some of the fragments don’t seem to belong and so they get thrown away and might end up in something else. It’s the same with this work, after the first three collages appear to be finished, I have a visual theme emerging. I want the show to be a coherent whole, and these first “finished” works seem to have set the tone. It might all change before we get to the 24th of April, but it’s a good start.

There is a Vimeo album of the making of videos here:

Free events this week at 35 Chapel Walk, Sheffield – organised by Access Space

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Taking down the 20×20 show at Access Space ready to show at 35 Chapel Walk.

This week, Access Space is taking last year’s 20×20 Exhibition to the gallery at 35 Chapel Walk, Sheffield. It will be open 10.30am – 5.30pm from Wed 5th though to Sat 8th Feb. Also, there will be free events each day.

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The relaxation station at 35 Chapel Walk

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#CHDK-enabled timelapse camera ready to shoot the installation of 20×20 at 35 Chapel Walk.

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35 Chapel Walk, already equipped with picture hangers.

On Wednesday between 1pm and 3pm they will be showing how to build computers and install ethical open source software.

Thursday sees a demonstration of 3D printing and a presentation about Refab Space, our DIY FabLab and hack space, by our resident technology guru and hardware hacker, John Moseley, 1pm-3pm

On Friday James Wallbank will talk about crowd-funding and the possibilities of successfully raising money for your project or enterprise through Kickstarter, 1pm-2pm.

Saturday sees our Grand Tea Party between 2pm and 4pm, and performer Paul Newman (not the pasta sauce person!) will be in the the gallery all day engaging people with what he calls “life gamification”.

All events are free and there is no need to book.

Stained by Dead Inkjets / Tabula Rasa

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What’s it going to be then, eh? The tyranny of the blank canvas.

Some people never learn. After a partial failure with the New Bank of X Get Rich Rich Quick Scheme (see here), and the enforced postponement of No Glove Lost, I immediately decided to initiate two new projects for the Retrospective.

Well, they are new and old at the same time, and both are remixes of old work into new work.

From 24 April to 5 June, I will be showing some collages made from test prints and spoiled inkjet prints. So the work is not made, but it being made.

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Old, semi-generative printed work.

I am also programming a new generative work to show at Access Space over the same period. This will be using a library of existing images, some of which will appear in the collages. It’s a complementary double-header art clash.

As I go along, I have decided to timelapse capture the making of the collages. See below for the first four segments, showing me reviewing the old stuff and experimenting, in an attempt to establish what Paolozzi would have called a “vocabulary” for the work so that it has a coherence as a show.

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A “vocabulary” begins to appear.

The work is explicitly influenced by the work of Paolozzi, Robert Rauschenberg and Peter Schmidt.

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“Art Without Boundaries 1950 – 1970” (The World of Art Library) Gerald Woods, Philip Thompson & John Williams (Editors)

Showing artwork in pubs is notoriously difficult for a number of reasons. The Rutland Arms is a great pub, but there is hardly a square foot of wall that is not interrupted by a window, a wall-light or screw holes.

My strategy for dealing with such an informal space is to make all the work the same size, mounted in identical frames and mounted at the same height throughout. Hopefully, this will give the work a visual coherence.

All the works will be A3 in size although I haven’t decided on the mounting and framing yet. Stay tuned to BolamTV for regular updates…

The first 40 years in the wilderness are the hardest – Bolam Retrospective T-90

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The next 40 years will be a piece of cake.

Today marks the beginning of my press campaign and it’s only 90 days to go until the beginning of my year-long Bolam Retrospective.

The launch event will be held at Access Space and The Rutland Arms, Sheffield UK on 24th April 2014.

At Access Space I will be showing a new version of some old work that was never exhibited fully. It will be a screen-based, generative work entitled “HyperScape X”, and there will also be a display of documentary material. The show will be on from 24th April to 5th of June 2014. Free entry during opening hours, Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 7pm.

At The Rutland Arms, I will be showing a series of collages made from old work and spoiled prints, remixed into new work for sale. The exhibition will be called “Stained by Dead Inkjets” and will be open during pub hours from 24th April to 5th June 2014.

The launch event will be at Access Space 5.30pm – 7.30pm and then across the road to the Rutland Arms 7.30pm – 11pm.

Other exhibitions and events are planned but no dates confirmed. Later in the year, I will be showing some work at The Closed Shop pub in Walkley and also some moving image work along with an education project at Red Tape Central.

Also, look out for the High Street X Roadshow which will be appearing at art, craft and book fairs throughout the year, and BolamTV.

The project has no external funding but is sponsored in-kind by various organisations and individuals. If you would like to sponsor, contribute or host an event, please get in touch. As I keep saying:

“Flaunt it now, because you can’t take it with you.”

Contact details
Website https://richardbolamat50.wordpress.com
Email richard@richardbolam.net
Twitter http://twitter.com/RBDigiMedia
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/RichardBolamArtist
#bolamat50

Sponsors (so far)
Access Space is an open-access media & arts lab in Sheffield, UK.
http://access-space.org/
The Rutland Arms, 86 Brown Street S1 2BS.
http://rutlandarmspeople.co.uk/
The Closed Shop, 52-54 Commonside S10 1GG.
http://www.theclosedshopsheffield.co.uk/
Red Tape Central is training centre for music technology, information technology and business administration at 50 Shoreham Street S1 4SP.
http://www.redtapecentral.org/

Blue Monday? No. I mean yes. Well, yes and no (receiving the gift of sound and vision).

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Blue Monday – New Order (1983) – sleeve design by Peter Saville

If you are not familiar with the word synaesthesia, wikipedia defines it thus:

Synesthesia (also spelled synæsthesia or synaesthesia, from the ancient Greek σύν [syn], “together”, and αἴσθησις [aisthēsis], “sensation”) is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synaesthesia

Well, I am a synesthete, and in me it manifests itself as associating colours with words and concepts, and also strongly associating visual images with music and sound. It’s no accident I ended up making music videos.

Anyway, according to some rather laboured logic, January 20th is officially “Blue Monday”, again defined by wikepedia:

Blue Monday is a name given to a date in January stated, as part of a publicity campaign by Sky Travel, to be the most depressing day of the year. However, the whole concept is considered pseudoscience, with its formula derided by scientists as nonsense.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Monday_(date)

I have only just become aware there is an actual mathematical formula to calculate which is blue monday, although it never occurred to me that this concept was even considered pseudoscience, never mind anything more. I just thought it was a media-invented conceit on which to hang some “and finally” story.

However, speaking as a synesthete, monday really is blue, tuesday is a kind of nondescript, transparent grey, wednesday is grass green, thursday is terracotta brown, friday is black (really), saturday is red and sunday is orange. Maybe this explains why I never really got the hang of tuesdays.

Anyway, I remember the first time New Order’s “Blue Monday” was played on John Peel’s radio show and it spoke to me in a way that I have experienced only rarely. There is something about that track that is so strangely and perfectly realised that it still occupies a truly seminal and nostalgic place in my musical education. I never get bored of it.

Even now it sounds fresh.

Having already been somehow fundamentally changed by the experience of listening to this record, it never occurred to me that the sleeve would also be an experience. I could hardly believe it. To me, the sleeve looked exactly how the music sounded, a deep, oily black punctuated sparsely by hard and warm, primary and secondary colours. OMFG. It’s a synesthete’s wet dream.

I may have written about this before, I know I’ve talked about it a lot, but I’m not a nostalgic person. I hated the 1970s and I remember late childhood and early adolescence as a time of endless frustration. Not because my sister or I were denied anything reasonable (our parents were very liberal with us), but because youth itself was a frustration to me. Having no money and having to go to school were major obstacles to my ambitions.

These days I am not so frustrated, and I am beginning to appreciate my state education more, although the most valuable lessons for me were later on, out in the real world. But that’s another story.

One thing I do miss about the days before the internet, or I should say the days before the world-wide-web, is the enigma of music and musicians. The Human League were only a few years older than me and lived no more than 15 miles away from where I grew up, but they might as well have been on Mars. They were entirely unavailable to me, except through their recordings.

Back in the day, I was a bit of a nerd when it came to electronic music, and a lot of bands used to publish a list of instruments used on the record sleeve. New Order provided no information whatsoever, which was simultaneously frustrating and fascinating.

I don’t miss vinyl but I do miss the mystery and fetish of record buying. By the time I bought it, “Blue Monday” no longer had a perforated sleeve, but this was only a disappointment at the time. In the end even less is even more.

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“You look like I feel” Richard Bolam, 199x

For a synesthete (or at least this synesthete), in those days electronic music was like taking drugs. That phased clicking sound on Sparks’ “Number 1 Song in Heaven”, or that vast, lazy hand-clap on the Human League’s “Zero as a Limit”, or that vocal ah sound on “Blue Monday”. These never fail to satisfy and I can still hear them and see them in my mind’s eye.

In my later years, although I have learned to live with it, my greatest disappointment is that I am not a musician, although I do make music. I am able to make music thanks to various technology corporations including Korg, Behringer and Yamaha, but not so much thanks to Bösendorfer, Stradivarius or Fender.

Even so I can’t complain. I have many blessings, including synesthesia. Despite the fact that I can’t sing like David Bowie, and I can’t compose like Arvo Part, and I can’t perform that beautifully discordant virtuosity of Three Trapped Tigers, at least I can hear it, feel it and sometimes even see it.

I never liked Happy Mondays. My mondays will always be blue. But in the good way.

2014: Happy New Year of the Bolam

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Okay, the silly season is over so it’s time to get back to work. It’s less than four months to go to the beginning of my self-curated retrospective of my entire life’s work. There will be a range of exhibitions, live events and online media for a whole year from 24 April 2014 to 23 April 2015. Some venues are confirmed but I am open to offers.

Please keep an eye out for forthcoming events on the “Events” page of this blog.

Email me at richard[at]richardbolam.net if you want to be added to my occasional email updates. This list will not be shared with anyone else.

Please save the date of 24 April 2014, my actual 50th birthday, for a double-header exhibition opening event at Access Space and the Rutland Arms, Sheffield UK.

Also, please follow my Bolam365 blog which will have a post every day for the duration of the retrospective with links, news and examples of my work from the last 40 years.

In the meantime, have a happy new year