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)
# 17 [3 February 2008]
The journey home did not go exactly as planned. After waiting for an hour for the 305 at Bedford bus station, a cold brutal place, I phoned the National Express emergency number. I wasn’t really sure it was an emergency but I was getting a little cold. A lovely young woman called Kay or Jay or something similar told me the coach had broken down in Birmingham but that a silver replacement bus was on its way and should arrive in another hour. She also told me that, as I would miss my change in Cambridge, she would arrange a free Taxi from Trumpington, park’n’ride to Ipswich. Reassured I went to find a Cornish pasty. For the next hour I attempted a number of keeping warm techniques. I tried: pacing, shivering, waving my arms about, dancing, an abortive moonwalk and even imagining warm places. By the time the coach arrived and the driver asked me my destination I couldn’t remember where I was going. An hour later in a warmish coach we were still circling Cambridge trying to find the way to Parker’s Piece. Unfortunately the driver, from Birmingham, had never been to Cambridge before and was finding the road layout a little troublesome. Eventually after much shouting we made our rendezvous with the second coach, which was to take me and a little old lady to meet the taxi. After waiting 20 minutes at the park & ride we persuaded the man on duty (Bob) to phone the National Express emergency number to find out where our taxi was. Again I’m not sure it was an emergency but the little old lady was quite elderly. Bob announced, proudly, that the taxi had indeed been booked but that it was waiting for us at Park-side not Park’n’ride. An easy mistake. Its times like these you realise how close death can be. I finally reached home after six hours.
# 16 [2 February 2008]
Eva’s maiden voyage was a bit of a flop. As I had feared the river was full of rowers rowing. However the weather was ideal so, after a little walk, I went to find a quietish spot to launch her. Once in the water I found myself so embarrassed by the whole debacle that I couldn’t film her and only watched as she immediately got tangled in some twigs and, once freed, slowly floated crabwise down stream sinking at quite an alarming rate. One success was the onboard camera that despite a soaking performed admirably in its little rubber suit.
Time for a redesign,
I’ve added a huge keel, which should make her straighten up, and little fins at the back which just look cool. I’ve also taken out the clockwork propeller as it only propelled backwards and sealed all the holes. Hopefully next week will be more of a success.
In other news I’m afraid I have to report that yet again I am working with a hangover. Yesterday BCA got its Arts Council funding for the next three years so Laura, Sean, James and Christina invited me to a champagne dinner (and beer and wine). There was much talk of: shiny shoes, running for councilor, and Katie’s lucky pants, which were widely thought to be behind the BCA’s recent success.
# 15 [1 February 2008]
Failed to launch boat but I wasn't thwarted by the weather rather the batteries for the receiver. They just took all day to charge up. Instead I spent the day wrestling with my magnum opus. It was really beginning to wind me up as different bits niggled and others irked. So much so that I have developed a grinding headache and my eyes are pointing in different directions. I did manage to film a whale surfacing in the sink and sorted out the sounds of mating seals that seem to have accidentally appeared in the aurora sequence (I made them louder). Perhaps it is time to stop.
Another thing I'm having trouble with is a title, nothing snappy is leaping to mind. I've got a quote from Scott's journals: "goodbye to all the day-dreams" but that seems far too romantic. "Impressions of Antarctica" is just naff. "Voyage under my desk"? "Alex Pearl's excellent adventure" it gets worse and worse.
# 14 [1 February 2008]
Last night I was filming late in the gallery. It was an important moment as an iceberg was being slowly dragged into position by an electric mule. I was reminded of Scott's boyish faith in the tracked snow machines that he was trialling on his way to the pole. The main failing of these machines, apart from the constant breaking down, was that you couldn't eat them when they did. My mule made it and I retired upstairs for a microwave curry.
# 13 [31 January 2008]
Today was windy and cold we were even struck by a sudden hailstorm as the driver wove the coach up the A428. This time I forgot my headphones a mistake I instantly regretted as a young man spent the whole journey into Ipswich explaining loudly how he didn't understand why he and his girlfriend had split up. I think I have a few ideas, probably she couldn't get a word in edgeways. I am hoping to launch my boat this week and spent some time making sure the camera's rubber suit was as watertight as possible before gluing it to the mast. If the wind dies down tomorrow I will rope Eva into giving me a hand launching it up by the railway bridge. I spent most of the rest of the day making little sculptures of accidents at sea. There's a woman trapped under the ice and a group of people caught in an avalanche (not very likely at sea I know). I also began to populate a broken glass ice flow with artists taking photos, drawing or just standing around. A friend sent me an email yesterday suggesting I apply to go to a symposium on space travel and the relationship between cultural practice and science (or something like that) He also sent an ad asking for contributions from artists who make work out of vegetables. I now cannot get images of carrot spaceships and cauliflower planets out of my head. Instead of this I should be thinking more about explaining what I am doing. I am getting interested in the relationship between scientific exploration and imagined narrative. Eva said something the other day while watching me film a ship on a bed sheet which I should have written down. It was something along the lines of the sculpture/film sets up an equivalence which allows the viewer to imagine themselves in that space/situation (I think)
# 12 [28 January 2008]
I have been ill. No doubt weakened by drink I succumbed to Catherine’s cold. Things are still not totally clear about the events of the night of the 25th. However I did find the map drawn for me by everyone in the pub (see picture) Luckily I didn’t have to use it and managed to navigate my way home using the river as a reference. Since then I have been using my convalescence to paint some Hornby people to look like artists/penguins and to think about possible cover images for this journal. I’m toying with the idea of taking some photos of the bus station before the council knock it down. When I return to Bedford on Thursday we will be launching a little scratch-built boat onto the river. I’ve fashioned a dry-suit for the camera that will be strapped to its deck but don’t hold out much hope that it will survive its maiden voyage.
# 11 [26 January 2008]
Morning – cold & clear
I have woken with a heavy cold and a painful hangover. I had planned to write a serious account of my work so far and hopes for the future. Maybe later. I crept out of my lodgings at about eight and went in search of a hearty breakfast, this mistake and a few others I have made recently have made me think more closely about what I eat. My eating habits on residencies bear no relation to my ‘real life’ diet. While not exactly hand to mouth, I eat in a much more opportunistic way. Yesterday my diet consisted of: Double egg on toast with a mug of tea; about 10 choc chip cookies; four cups of coffee, two cups of tea, water, eight mini haggises, two slices of bread, 5 pints of beer, a packet of crisps, and a lamb curry. This morning I had an ill judged (but very nice) vegetarian breakfast at the High Street Café and Restaurant. At least the breakfast had grilled tomatoes, my first real vegetable/fruit in 24 hours.
# 10 [25 January 2008]
It is my birthday, a fact I might gladly have forgotten, but Tess didn’t, she emailed Katie. At lunch a chocolate birthday cake appeared, Eva had found a penguin and placed it on top and Katie had fashioned a sign using a bit of card and a q-tip. This was coupled with a delightful selection of haggis canapés. Otherwise my day is filled with meetings. First Catherine arrived, full of cold, from Commissions East. We were to discuss the end of my experience on Escalator, and the progress of my Arts council grant. To be honest, and I know I shouldn’t be, I have not been giving the grant much thought as I have been so busy with other projects. However she seemed satisfied with my efforts and on the whole I have enjoyed the experience (see my other blog for the bits I didn’t enjoy). Later I will meet with Katie and Eva to revue my progress so far on the BCA residency. I am really apprehensive about the whole thing. How will they hide their disappointment? Will there be a silence? A shuffling of feet?… I may drink heavily tonight.
# 9 [24 January 2008]
The weather is mild and dry.
On the coach this morning I was making a list of all the processes involved with polar exploration. I had got as far as 'planning' and 'provisioning' when I realised I had left my camera bag at home. Admittedly my survival does not hang in the balance because of this, but I did feel a bit of an idiot. The only upside of the journey was that the driver looked a bit like a walrus.
The loss of the cameras has meant that I have spent more time than usual worrying about what I am doing, fiddling around and trying to look busy. I have completed the Aurora machine and I think it will work quite well. I have also started work on a number of pointless endeavors which I think may become videos in the near future.
Last week I joined in with a kids workshop for five minutes. They were making spiders. Mine was a rather feeble creature and one of the boys pulled its legs off. Coincidentally, spiders are one of my declared reasons for not going to certain countries /continents.
# 8 [20 January 2008]
Rain all day today. The river has burst its banks it is wide and brown and fast flowing. I spent a lot of time filming a piece of polystyrene with a face drawn on it as it sped downstream. I must have looked a bit odd charging along the bank trying to get ahead of jetsam while trying to shelter my camera from the rain. After a mile or so it washed ashore and I headed damply back to the studio. This isn’t really a piece for the Bedford residency. I’ve got a solo show, Little Deaths, at the Salt Gallery in May and I wanted a few more options when I come to hang.
The coach journey home was dull and wet .
Mother to son:
You're being very silly,
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