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By: Alex Pearl
I am about to begin a 3 month residency at Bedford Art Gallery. I intend to use this blog as a record of the time I spend there and as a basis for a new book about adventure and a fictive proposal not to go to the antarctic (Bedford seems to be as good a place to begin as any)
# 47 [29 March 2008]
Weather cold, clear and painfully bright.
I drank too much, talked too loudly about Katie’s lucky pants and received a Bedford memorial mug. Later I stayed up until half past three talking to my friend in America, but that is another story.
I am packed up and waiting to make the journey back home it is more than 11 months until the show. It’s a pity, but I don’t think I should write any more.
# 46 [28 March 2008]
Today has been dedicated to packing and making an inventory of works for the show. At this point I have more or less decided the pieces I will exhibit next April and I have been forced to reject a number of the videos because I’m not sure how they will fit in. The show inventory is as follows:
First Ice, dvd, 09’09 – displayed on a small screen
Cyclorama, dvd, 15’37 – back projected
Arrival, split screen dvd, 02’00 – tft monitor
Eva, dvd, 01’45 – tft monitor
Incidents at Sea –
A selection of small scale sculptures shown in rotation on a small table and an upturned plastic cup.
Incident at sea – man menaced by penguin
Float, fan, tissue paper, found illustration
Pitch and Roll, automaton
Circumnavigation, glitter ball motor, found illustration
Drawings/ Collage/ Photographs
Untitled, record sleeve & found illustration collages.
Untitled, collaged envelope.
Self Portrait, digital photograph
Journal, full colour paperback book
Tracings, limited edition book of drawings.
The time here has passed incredibly quickly; everyone has made me feel really welcome. I have had the time and encouragement to put together, what is for me, a very coherent body of work. Special memories for me are: Katie driving me to Wysing, Laura typing ever so quietly when I had a headache. Eva’s unstinting support throughout the residency and Sarah’s almost violent enthusiasm for the Black Flag Game. A strange thing did happen to me today. I took a break form packing, went out for a coffee and read the last few entries of Scott’s journal. After the last entry were a series of letters he wrote as he was dying. I was suddenly overcome with emotion, which may have disturbed a few of my fellow drinkers. To be honest this is not an unusual occurrence, I cried at the end of “Princess Diaries” but I did feel embarrassed for my lack artistic detachment – failed again.
Tonight we go drinking.
# 45 [27 March 2008]
Wet weather soon cleared to warm sunshine.
I’m so aware of the end now that I am finding it difficult to write. I have spent time faffing about and thinking about packing things away. I did take a leap of faith this morning and took one of the twenty or so self-portraits I have photographed to be printed. I have developed a strange and unhealthy fascination with images of myself over the past few weeks constantly thumbing through the horrors captured over the last fifteen years. This photo is a conscious attempt to create the sort of image that in itself is nothing. But if I were to achieve something great, discover something wonderful, or die heroically, then it would stand as a record Alex Pearl, the man. I don’t intend to do any of the above. In the afternoon I had a very useful chat with Eva about how the exhibition might take shape, or not.
# 44 [25 March 2008]
Today I made a brief foray to my studio in Rendlesham. It’s looking a bit disused so I spread stuff all over the floor. I’m beginning to put together some little scuttling machines for Airspace. I made two but one fell apart immediately, this is normal. I also started work on finishing a piece for Bedford. It’s a broken glass ice flow, which was originally laid out, on a piece of black velvet. I couldn’t see how this would work in a gallery so I decided to use the table I ‘accidentally’ bought from the Exchange Emporium. I’ve spilt some ink on it and added a small sixties lamp from Germany.
# 43 [24 March 2008]
22/03/08 – 24/03/08 I have lost track of the exact dates of the following events. The journey north was hampered by strong wind and hail. On several occasions we were pushed sideways by prodigious gusts. Once we had finally arrived, tense and exhausted from the effort of keeping the car on the road my mother began the task of shovelling as much food into me as she could. Normally I wouldn’t mind, but the lack of exercise and prodigious amount of processed food I have consumed over the last few months has already made me a stone overweight. Then it snowed! I have been longing for snow since I began this journal back in January and it was everything I hoped for. I could even describe it as flocculent. Unfortunately I hadn’t brought any filming equipment with me so except for personal pleasure I was unable to take advantage of this late fillip. Undeterred I clambered to one of the highest points in the area and planted a small black flag.
# 42 [20 March 2008]
Heavy rain and strong northerly wind.
I can’t travel to Bedford this week, Easter has fallen and family duties call. Despite this I have been working hard on the sorts of things I do better at home. I have been working on finished edits of the various films that I hope to show next April. I’ve changed “Arrival” into a split screen video and added titles to “First Ice”, which I want to be understood as a sort of failed narrative film. I nipped to my studio in Rendlesham on the same disused airbase where BBC3’s Dog Borstal was filmed. I tried “First Ice” on a small domestic TV in a darkened room and I actually liked it for the first time in weeks. Tomorrow, I will travel north to Macclesfield to visit my parents, snow is forecast.
# 41 [16 March 2008]
I had a bit of a meltdown today as I tried to work out the logistics for: removing all my work from BCA; making and transporting automata to and making a film at Airspace in Stoke on Trent; and transporting my Little Death show to the Salt Gallery in Cornwall. The only way I could calm myself was by making a very long list and having a hot bath. I have nearly finished Scott’s Antarctic diary. His writing is getting shorter and more repetetive as he approaches the end. I am in step now and only reading one entry per day. In true spoiling fashion though I have already skipped to the last page and realised something I had not noticed before. His final entry coincides with the last day of my residency, 29th March.
# 40 [15 March 2008]
Last night I managed to set James and Christina’s toaster on fire filling the kitchen with toast smoke. I had finished work at about nine and I was in the front room deciding whether to watch “Aliens” or “Dawn of the Dead”. Little did I know the timer on the toaster had jammed and was determinedly incinerating the toast. I tried to air the house but I am afraid the smell will linger until their return on Monday. Hoping that lightning would not strike twice I set of for a bike ride this morning attempting to cover a similar route to our fateful ride of the 22nd. I started well but soon found myself on unfamiliar roads. The surface was just as greasy as before so I approached all corners at a toad’s pace with a nervous wobble. Two hours later I was back, sweaty and tired but miraculously ungrazed. Later in the market I tried to use a passing Sikh parade to cover a bit of covert flag planting. While everyone was distracted I tried to push a flag into a box topping a large pile. Unfortunately the box was too tough and the stick snapped. As I turned round I met one of the stall holders who was staring at me. I smiled and hurried away.
# 39 [14 March 2008]
Yesterday I received some interesting news; apparently my application not to go to the Antarctic has passed onto the second round. Now I’m going to be disappointed if I don’t get it.
After a good night’s rest I returned to the studio this morning ready to sort out my problems with “First Ice”. I tried everything; projecting it large and small, back projecting it through every material in the studio, through circular masks, into boxes and onto strange objects. I even looked at it through a long cardboard tube. Eventually I found it worked best if I didn’t look at it at all. I think the only answer will be to put it on a small TV and not even a flat screen one, but rather a crappy little portable. I fancy doing this and placing it in a darkened space with either an armchair or cinema seats facing it. After everyone had gone I cheered myself up with a raid on the gallery space putting some of the sculptures out to see how they look.
# 38 [13 March 2008]
Bright and Sunny
Its getting closer to the end now, time seems to be running rapidly and lots of things are happening but I don’t feel like I’m moving forward. The following is really just a list of things that seem to be happening to me. The first draft of “Journal” arrived from the printers two days ago and I have spent a while going through it pencilling in corrections and adjusting the pictures. Otherwise I am reasonably happy with it. Although I have noticed that I use the same sentence construction over and over which is very annoying. My other book of tracings was also delivered, slightly crumpled by our overzealous postman, but otherwise quite satisfactory. The “Black Flag Game” goes on, there are now 85 players although some are more active than others. I have produced two photocopied newsletters available online and as a limited edition in BCA gallery (both free). I have also been invited to make an automatic film at Airspace in Stoke on Trent in a few weeks time. I got a lovely email from David saying “can’t wait to see your robots”. My immediate thought was: "neither can I, where are they?”
Today was mainly spent playing with projectors in the gallery with Jane Edden (the other resident artist) and Eva. There was a certain amount of projector envy going around the room as we tried various things out. My most important discovery was that “First Ice”, the supposed main film of the residency looks awful projected and only slightly better back projected, I felt like stepping out of the front door and not looking back. Luckily the line drawn scrolling animation (which I’ve decided to call Cyclorama) looked ok. Jane’s video, of course, was fabulous especially when back projected.