Visual art exhibitions and events with a platform for critical writing
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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)
# 37 [11 March 2008]
Today I visited The Exchange Emporium, a shop on the Woodbridge road in Ipswich. The place is so full of stuff that entry is impossible. An enormous spoil pile of tools presses against one window and all manner of objects are stacked to an improbable height throughout. Luckily the brown overalled man who devotes his life to the shop is willing to climb out into the street and fulfil your every wish. I was looking for a high kitchen stool, a desk lamp, and some pictures of boats. He quickly found me a low table, a super-8 film editor, four aeroplane magazines and some wooden toys. Happy and twenty pounds poorer I said goodbye promising to return next week to look at his collection of trucking magazines. I was left thinking about my powerless in the face of an expert salesman and that maybe I should hire him as my agent.
# 36 [8 March 2008]
Making slow progress homeward. As planned I broke my journey in London by going to see Artfutures at the Bloomberg space. I met up with Lawrence and Anna without whom I would have been nervous entering the forbidding corporate space. Typically Lawrence immediately struck up a conversation with one of the Contemporary art society people while I wandered off feeling shy and inadequate. Things were literally being sold off the walls. Technicians were removing one piece and screwing a new one up as I walked through the first room. Although the emphasis was on the art object as commodity, not something I have anything against, there was still a range of rather unsaleable objects. What looked like a big stuffed Morris dancing suit by Juneau projects was nailed to the wall in one room and in another was a large carved twiggy thing screwed to a bit of chipboard. Apart from a few odd people: Michael Craig Martin, Julian Opie, art futures? I thought the selection was really interesting, all artists I have been staring jealously at over the last year or so and others I have shown with, though I fear I was the poor country cousin. Ruth Claxton, Rachel Goodyear, Sara Mckillop, Darren Banks, Marcus Coates. It was a shame I didn’t have longer or £1000 knocking round in my pocket. Later with Lawrence and Anna’s help we found Store in Hoxton. I was relieved to find it was behind an unmarked steel door with ‘store’ written in 1cm high letters at the bottom of a row of buzzers. To be honest the Bedwyr Williams show was a bit disappointing after all that effort. There was a cool distancing of the works from the wonderful ideas and stories that surrounded them.
# 35 [7 March 2008]
Nothing is working. Last night I set my flag-planting machine loose in the gallery. The first film was totally black as I had failed to set the cameras’ exposure back to automatic then the mechanical arm fell off and when I returned to my studio to fix it I managed to stand in my dinner. This was a microwave chicken curry, which exploded under my foot covering one camera in korma sauce. I scraped the remains up and stopped to eat what was left (I was hungry). Afterwards I filmed the machine again as it totally failed to plant any flags.
Today I sailed the Eva. She had a new keel and advanced waterproofing but after last night I was not confident. Happily she did not sink. However, neither did she glide gracefully downstream. In fact at one point she managed to sail upstream and against the wind. I’m thinking of patenting my physics defying boat design as I feel it must have some useful application. I will try again next week.
# 34 [6 March 2008]
All week I have been suffering the tyranny of people, so much so that as I arrived at Bedford station I took a deep breath and relaxed. I came by train this time because I am planning to go to London on Saturday to see the Artfutures at the Bloomberg space with Lawrence and Anna. David Kefford, who I’ve shown with in the past, will be exhibiting there with other rising art glitterati. It is a sort of black flag moment but it will be nice to see him. Lawrence & Anna have also promised to act as guides to the Bedwyr Williams show I couldn’t find on my last visit to London. Once in Bedford I dived straight into the charity shops in search of a suitable bit of furniture to mount a mechanical pitching and rolling ship, I wanted something domestic and kitcheny and eventually found some sort of convertible child’s play table, which seems ideal. I’ve also just received an email from the Artists and Writers Fellowship saying they are considering my proposal not to go to the Antarctic. While I recognise that it doesn’t matter at all if they say yes or no the email has brought my competitive instinct to the fore, I find that I really want to win the prize.
On Tuesday Tess invited me on board one of the challenger yachts which was anchored in Ipswich marina, I got seasick.
# 33 [2 March 2008]
The last two days have been spent doing Internet things and sitting on a tree stump, thinking. The Black Flag Game is fully up and running with forty-eight members who have between them invited another two hundred. Images have started to pop up on the website and I have made the first newsletter imaginatively titled “The Flag”. So far claims have been made in places as varied as New York and an alleged dogging site in Mardley Heath. I have also begun to publicise the residency by sending off information packs to any gallery that has shown even a vague interest in the past. I’ve found out that the show at Bedford is programmed for early 2009, which seems a long way away but it does take the pressure off. I’ve finished tracing images from “Antarctica- Exploring a Fragile Eden” and put them together into a small book.
# 32 [29 February 2008]
So far today has been the opposite of yesterday, it’s amazing how fast one’s fortunes can change. I bought a cheap fan from Argos, not as beautiful as my Pifco model, but much more reliable. I am now sitting in the wind and the rain eating a toastie at La Piazza and the boat has been floating on its tissue sea all morning. Similarly I fixed the scrolling animation machine by exercising patience and it is also powering along looking extremely reliable. On the downside I came into my studio this morning to find a black flag. Katie had snuck in and laid her claim. I am pleased to report I was upset. The Flag actually had the effect that I had hoped. I immediately took my revenge by claiming the tea area and later the fifth floor of Lurke street multi-storey car park. Now I will start packaging Black flags and tracing pictures from my new book.
# 31 [28 February 2008]
My wife has gone to sea again so for the first time I drove to Bedford. It was an uneventful journey punctuated only by bouts of road rage (other people’s) and my own lapses of concentration (probably causing the road rage). I tend to think about things when I drive but in an unproductive way, thoughts just cycle round my head and occasionally hypnotise me. Work today was a total disaster. I used an old ironing board to remake my scrolling animation machine and it worked perfectly until I decided to improve it and it stopped working. Then I set up tracing paper, fan and ship that floated beautifully for about ten minutes before the fan burnt out. I’m worried about my ability to make something that will actually survive the duration of a show. I did get a present today, a coffee table book about the Antarctic I think I’m going to make a book of drawings from it.
# 30 [26 February 2008]
Tuesday is usually my day off at the moment, though I did do a little work today. I have thoroughly settled into a routine now and there is only really a month to go. I like routines but they do stop me trying new things (or, because they stop me doing new things)
Monday, get up at 7 and cycle to work, teach drawing all day with varying degrees of success.
Tuesday, get up at 7.30, walk the dog, go to town to sort my finances out, wander around the charity shops, go to the studio, come home for lunch and then spend the rest of the day on the computer.
Wednesday, get up at 7 and cycle to work, teach painting in the morning (with varying degrees of success) and do a lecture and some tutorials in the afternoon.
Thursday, get up at 7 catch the bus to Ipswich have a coffee in Starbucks then catch the bus to Bedford. Get to the gallery and work until about 9. Go to my lodgings, have a chat with Christina. Go to bed and watch a dvd (Laurel & Hardy)
Friday, get up at 8 go to the greasy spoon and treat myself to single egg on toast. Work all day at the Gallery (Sometimes go to the pub)
Saturday, get up at 8 go to the greasy spoon and treat myself to beans on toast. Work at the gallery ‘til lunch, which I take at the piazza outdoor café. Work at the gallery ‘til 3 then catch the coach home
Sunday, get up at 8 slob around, walk the dog do house work.
There are other people involved but they seem peripheral to the routine.
Anyway today I’ve been working on how to exhibit some of my sculptures and have been playing with an old Pifco fan that I’m hoping will float a ship on some tracing paper. The fan is very beautiful but has only a minimal guard on it and threatens to hack the fingers off the inquisitive.
# 29 [26 February 2008]
While pushing people to join The Black Flag Game on Face Book I am contacted by my first girlfriend who I haven’t seen in over twenty years. I would say my first love but that would get me mercilessly ribbed by all and sundry. It is a communication from across the sea as she is now living in the US. The whole experience is a strange one and I am minded of romance, oceans and distances untravelled. Despite the fact we are separated by thousands of miles and many years communication is easy, instantaneous and fun, though I feel like we should be writing letters.
# 28 [24 February 2008]
I can still barely move for my injuries so I have been working online. I decided to launch the Black Flag Game on Face Book with the words:
“When Scott reached the South Pole the first thing he saw was Amundsen's Black flag. "Bugger" he said and headed home. The rest is history. This game revives that moment. The rules are simple. Take a black flack go somewhere and as long as there are no other flags in sight, plant it. Hang around and watch the disappointment of others when they arrive second. Admittedly at first the game will be easy but soon flags will cover the globe and things will get interesting.”
I’m not convinced that this is the first Face Book artwork but I am going to claim it as such until someone waves a black flag at me. Anyone can join by going to:
and either downloading the flag template, emailing me for a kit or merely making their own flag. Then if they want they can add photos comments invite their friends or whatever. I have high hopes for what the future holds.
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