TWO FUNERALS, A BRIDGE, AND A DAY IN TEESSIDE
What it is to be human. Life is such a weird thing and I am aware that my own personal creative drive has been fuelled by the need to make sense of it; coupled with a need to confront the absurd nature of life itself.
It may be no use to you when you leave this planet, but that isn’t the point. Art makes life worth living. Art galleries to me are spiritual places. Art is the nearest I get to understanding religion. I don’t say that for effect, and it’s not a manifesto statement; for me it’s just a fact. It’s quite apt that my show next year will be in a former church.
That said, my namesake passing away gave me cause to consider my mortality. You have to say he was one hell of an understated achiever and regardless of whether you think it was a waste of time landing on that lump of cheese, it still stands out as one giant something or other. I think of it a bit like public sculpture… a hopeful statement, overshadowed by the enormity of the surroundings.
Another recent demise, that of the film director Tony Scott, had me doing a double take. I’m guessing he jumped off the Los Angeles bridge in a disturbed state of mind and it’s probably not worth trying to find too much logic in that one.
Spookily though, the day before he jumped I was watching his brother Ridley’s first film ‘Boy and Bicycle’. Shot with a 16mm Bolex in black and white, it features his younger brother Tony riding along the coast and through Hartlepool on his bike. The landscape is 1965 industrial down-at-heel chic. Factories, sweeping vistas of industrial desert, offset by the poetry of the north east seaside coastline and the backdrop of billowing factories across the bay in Middleborough. Evocative stuff and chic tho it may be now, it was the reality of Hartlepool in the sixties.
Tony on his bicycle… so much to come for the two Scott brothers who first studied at the local college and went on to such fame. It’s a great film, helped enormously by the soundtrack by John Barry. Scott apparently wanted to use a track by the composer called “Onward Christian Spacemen”, which Barry re-recorded for the film. Weird link I thought… all things considered.
I had to pick up a photo of the Rink in Seaton Carew, which is where some of Boy and Bicycle was filmed, and had arranged to go to the Northern Film archives in Teesside University on Tuesday so took a detour off the A19 and along the coast to pick up the photo. From there it is an ‘interesting’ run to Middleborough through a landscape reminiscent of Blade Runner and, if you are of a mind, you can traverse the river Tees at its widest point by taking the transporter bridge. It’s a massive statement on the horizon, but also a little mad, because you are actually suspended on a cradle (or pagoda) under this huge structure, and hover not far above the river itself. I’m thinking it made more sense when lots more people would have been crossing to get to and from work with their bicycles. As it is, you don’t get many cars on it for all that superstructure. We drove down for a historic bridge experience.
Oh well… ‘sorry’ the sign said, ‘the bridge isn’t open today.’
The nice people at the archive questioned me about my project. I think they finally came to an understanding of what I am doing and why a two year license to use their archive material wouldn’t be any use to me. Apparently they’ve had a Turner prize nominee with just the same problem. No nomination for me (I’m too old anyway ha ha) but we shared that problem, so now the problem is halved.
I had a very pleasant few hours winding film backwards and forwards through the gate and it took me back to the days when I too used a Bolex cine camera. I still have it actually. Real film really is quite something.