Visual art exhibitions and events with a platform for critical writing
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By: Alex Pearl
A blog detailing my time not spent in the Antarctic.
# 69 [28 June 2009]
Well it didn’t get in. Why they didn’t want a pencil drawing of a space station from a 70s sci fi series I can’t imagine. The whole disappointing debacle will cost me about £200 (entry, framing, cost of two days in London) so I think I will now stick to my previous resolution never to do that sort of show again. Though I have to admit it was exciting checking the website for the winning numbers was exciting (Next time I might buy 200 lottery tickets instead). I discovered this disappointing news in Victoria station trying to find the slow train to Whitstable. I found it, with help, and the resulting adventures will be revealed in a blog coming soon to this site. But for now my non-journey to the Antarctic has come to an abrupt and suitably disappointing end.
# 68 [25 June 2009]
BATH & LONDON
Oh dear another long gap between posts. The days just seem to be slipping away from me. I never made it to the Hunterian, a domestic plague of frogs descended upon me and I was still finding the little buggers in my pants for days. I have been to Bath since then to see the space at ICIA. its a sort of foyer leading up to the University's postgraduate lounge. Dan and Owen have given me a 3D virtual model of the space so I can plan out my ideas. So far I have managed to accidentally turn it inside out and somehow got stuck in one of the walls. I have a rough plan of what I want to do which mostly involves sticking up the tracings I made from the Antarctic survey website and making people use toy telescopes to find my tiny sculptures. On the way home I was starving but didn't want to ask the woman next to me to move. So I made a deal with myself that I would wait until she had finished her soup before going to the buffet car. She turned out to be one of those people who takes tiny, tiny sips interspersed with long pauses and even stops to do the crossword. The soup level didn't drop significantly in an hour. But once made, a deal can't be broken.
On Monday we went to London, (me and Annabel) to do something I haven't done in a while. We were dropping off work for one of those open competitions you have to pay for the privilege of entering. We know one of the selectors (well Annabel does) so I was hoping that it wouldn't be as much of a lottery as these things usually are. Mounted in a hurry using masking tape (not a good idea) one of the drawings slipped repeatedly to the bottom of the frame and we had to make two emergency repair stops. The second in a diy shop full of bemused looking men in overalls. Firmly glued in place with carpet tape the never to be moved again drawing made it to the handing in depot on time.
"remove you wrapping first"
"where is your second form?"
"if you get in this number will be posted on the website on Friday"
Later we went to the Royal Academy to pick up a friend's rejected work. Down a urine-scented ramp we found several disdainful students and a few faux cheerful artists negotiating more paperwork. We sneaked a look at the list of rejects.
# 67 [4 June 2009]
I have not been at the Antarctic for over a year now and tonight I will probably meet Simon Faithfull at his book launch at the Hunterian. The book being launched is about all the accidents he has ever had and is a sort of follow up to LOST. If I do talk to him I will try not to mention the Antarctic. I've also planned my first visit to Whitstable and started to think about possible ideas for the commission. I've booked into a Guest House called The Pearl Fisher which I liked for obvious reasons but also because I imagine pearl fishing in Whitstable to be a rather unromantic and thankless task. My current ideas are a plan to make a military invasion of Whitstable or to put a friend on the stage (secretly) She sings, dances and can play wine glasses. Pearl fishing might be more fruitful. I heard yesterday that Jon Ronson couldn't make the conversation with me in Bath, which is frankly a relief, but Dan is doggedly looking for someone else. I will take any suggestions (alive or dead) I've always like Pam Ayres.
The photograph today is a black flagging in Mexico at the height of the swine flu panic, some people are very brave.
# 66 [24 May 2009]
Well I've been commissioned to make something for next year's Whitstable Biennale. That's it really, the brief that is. Make anything I want. I have a few ideas but as usual nothing firm. I quite like the idea of not doing performances and documenting them meticulously and was partly wondering if I could wangle some funded long weekend breaks. I'm really looking forward to taking the, apparently very, slow train to the coast before it is upgraded. I was watching Schlesinger's Terminus last night and having fun spotting the actors, they always touched their nose a real giveaway. Afterwards part of the dvd extras was a really boring but lovely hand tinted (I think) film about trains going from Stockton to Darlington. I think it was called Great Trains a title that was definitely trying too hard. Anyway I was also asked to write a biennale blog so when Alex Pearl is not in the Antarctic grinds to a stop I will leap once more into action. At the moment my possible titles are: Alex Pearl's 100 dirty weekends in Whitstable, or Performances I didn't do hopefully I'll come up with something pithier. Speaking of which, the publicity for the next incarnation of Goodbye to most of the daydreams in Bath, suggests that on the opening night I will be found in conversation with John Ronson. It has the proviso 'TBC' which probably covers the likelihood that I will run screaming from the room leaving Mr Ronson in conversation with himself (far more interesting)
# 65 [21 May 2009]
On the way to London I saw the wife of a friend at Ipswich station. I had a sudden horror of having to make conversation all the way to London, of there being signal failure and being stuck for hours in a stifling carriage. The horror wasn't born out of a worry that she was boring but more that I was boring and I would be embarrassed by my lack of social grace. Suffering from severe performance anxiety I ducked my head rapidly and scooted along the platform.
My plans for the day involved meeting Sue Jones in a Cafe and then going on to Cell Project Space to catch "Look! no Hands" a group show involving: Athanasios Argianas, Kim Coleman & Jenny Hogarth and Simon Faithfull. The premise of the exhibition was that each artist used video to mediate performance.
I arrived way too early for my meeting, but not early enough to go somewhere else or do anything useful. Undeterred I filled my time drinking coffee and checking my emails until I realised that most London cafés don't seem to have toilets. After that I moved on to tea. I had texted Sue and, although we had met before, I thought it best to use the blind date technique of telling her I would be wearing a red jumper. The cafe we had arranged our rendezvous was blisteringly hot and by the time she arrived I was sheeting sweat and attracting worried glances from the waiters. I was now suffering from imminent bladder failure coupled with severe dehydration but I don't think she noticed. My biggest fear (apart from wetting myself) was that Sue would ask me to develop some sort of performance for Whitstable but she didn't.
After the meeting I set off for Cell swankily using my iPhone to guide me. I had checked the website but had been unable to ind out if it would be open. I won't go on but it wasn't and I turned away with a small smile.
I've posted a review on Reviews unedited
As I left the area I popped into a little Gordon Dalton show at Keith Talent and was disappointed, not with the work but, rather because it was not what I had set out to see. I felt instantly guilty about the disappointment and went round four times (it was a small show) reading the press release. Apparently disappointment is an integral part of his sculpture, suddenly the central image of a shark costume swallowing the artist's legs made me feel better about things.
Later in the new Whitechapel café I saw Sue again talking to two friends. Feeling embarrassed and not wanting to interrupt, I sidled around the tables pretending not to see her.
# 64 [21 May 2009]
I'm on the London train getting ready for my meeting with Sue Jones. I met her ages ago at a Tea party (no joke) in Ipswich and only have a vague recollection of what she looks like. Luckily I was able to look at her profile picture on Facebook and as long as she is wearing a straw hat and sunglasses I will be able to pick her out in the cafe. She want to talk to me about being in the next Whitstable Biennale but I'm not sure in what capacity, light sweeping up duties maybe. The fear of being asked to do something live is lurking in the back of my mind and I am quivering slightly as I type. She said to bring some images of recent shows so I have prepared a two hour Powerpoint presentation complete with handouts and other visual aids detailing my life's work. Cleverly I haven't told her this as I think I would be sitting alone in the cafe my carnation wilting in my lapel. I am glad to announce that I have also been able to move my office from Burger King to a civilised little vegetarian cafe in Museum street. They don't have wifi but someone nearby has been kind enough not to secure their network. The main advantage of this cafe is not the quality of its nut roast but that its clientele doesn't heave itself out of its pushchair onto ones table screaming "food food" until the mother arrives to ladle meat products into its gullet. Actually I miss it a little.
I've made a little itinerary for today using my new iPhone. I'm hoping to get to Vyner Street and Cell project space. The phone has plotted a route, identified various hazards and will play James Bond theme tunes should I falter.
# 63 [14 May 2009]
My new office is a Burger King down the road from my flat. For the price of a regular tea I can surf and email to my heart's content, though I have to admit the ambiance isn't exactly relaxing and I'm having a little trouble getting my emails to send. I've just had my first confirmed direct opportunity that has definitely come about via the power of blogging. Daniel Hinchcliffe emailed me from ICIA Bath university to offer me a show at their gallery. Apparently he'd seen a review I'd done of Lucy Harrison's show at Outpost, read my blog and decided to contact me. The show isn't until November and will hopefully be a new version of Goodbye to most of the daydreams with an emphasis on the hundreds of tracings I have done and the Black Flag game. Anyway this will only happen if I get the damn email of.
Other things in my inbox include a great picture of Stargazer 5 that was projected in a window in a tower block in Belfast as part of Residence's Windows festival and Coline Milliard has written a lovely essay about the show.
Josie Faure Walker's Hit and Miss issue two has also gone live with my sentimental piece about teenage death and the power of three.
# 62 [11 May 2009]
I'm travelling on an impromptu visit up to Stoke-on-Trent. I'm back on the train again and thinking about nothing much at all. I've got the talk ready, to be honest I didn't realise it was a formal talk until I received and email flyer from Airspace mentioning my name. Anyway it should be ok and I'm rather proud I've managed to set Powerpoint to move rather seamlessly between my presentation and its accompanying dvd. I was playing with my twitter and Facebook accounts on the first train down to London and wondering about what Coline said when I met her. I might be misquoting, but I believe she asked me if I thought I was truly an artist of the internet age (saying that she didn't) after opening and closing my mouth a few times umming and ahhing, blushing and bluffing I made some sort of very vague reply which I can't remember. I have a feeling most of the interview may have gone that way. I probably agreed with her at the time because, as she said (I think), I was very low-tech in my approach. Now I'm not so sure maybe an artist of the internet age is someone who isn't necessarily very techy (my spell checker wants me to say tetchy, it detects my mood)) but uses it easily, without worry. And indeed is able to splurge unfettered pretentious rubbish at will and disseminate it to a huge and largely unwilling audience. I'm still trying to be detached and cynical about Twitter but I did get hugely excited when I saw Monster Truck was following my tweets.
Andrew has sent me another email asking how the AN blog has affected my career, clearly he hasn't read my last post or maybe it was too vague.
Here's a list of direct things:
Ian Brown read it and asked me to write something for the publication for Trying to Cope with Things that aren't Human
There is increased traffic to my website.
Certain people in the Arts Council seem slightly nervous of me (though I think they are joking)
Occasionally someone says something nice which cheers me up
I have had some things published online and in magazines which have raised my profile above the parapet.
Reviewers and curators have used it for information.
The Foundling blog helped me decide on how the project should evolve and encouraged me to write more (this contradicts what I said in the last blog)
# 61 [4 May 2009]
A few days ago Andrew asked me to think about the value of blogging to my work and career, (he's doing a conference). I was immediately unsure. Much of it has become so entwined with what I do that it has been hard to think about it as a separate activity. The barely mediated nature of the way I blog has meant that I don't think much while I write (obviously) and barely edit even when it is being transferred to print.
It seems almost impossible to quantify the value of blogging in general (I only have a vague idea how many people look at my blogs, even less idea about who they are and no idea at all whether they become interested in my work through doing so, I'll ask Coline on Tuesday.) I have become aware I use brackets far too much. I am braver or care less or am careless about how my writing is received. Somehow blogging still feels anonymous and this delusion protects me. I don't think it has made me think about my work more.
Despite these vagaries there have certainly been direct benefits from doing the AN blog. I have been asked to have writing published, had my work reviewed and been featured both online and in the magazine. I've had my website and shows linked on the Artist's Talking page, something I'm pretty sure wouldn't have happened to the same degree if I hadn't involved myself so thoroughly. It has sometimes felt like being in some sort of relationship with an easy give and take. Hopefully things won't sour in the future.
I've mentioned this a few times over the last few months but my blogging has become more infrequent. Alex Pearl is Not in The Antarctic is petering out with a suitable feeling of disappointment and failure. There will be a few more posts; my meeting with Coline tomorrow, the wrapping up of the show in Bedford and a workshop special. But after that I think I will rest until something new comes along. I am planning something on Twitter, which seems like a supremely curtailed form of blogging and I might write about it soon but who knows.
# 60 [1 May 2009]
Sarah emailed me from BCA this morning a little boat has disappeared off one of my sculptures, perhaps it was sick of going round and round and just sailed away. Anyway I'll have to make a replacement tonight and bring it up when I do the workshop tomorrow. Coline Milliard also emailed me saying she had been reading all my blogs. Amazingly she said she still looking forward to meeting me on Tuesday. Yesterday I spent three hours putting together a proposal for a commission in Leeds and then foolishly reread the criteria, saw I'd done it all wrong and realised they wouldn't be interested in what I had suggested. I tweeted my foolishness.
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