In 1981 I made a video called ‘when was NOW’. All these years later I am making Version 2 of this video. My concerns were initially with the inherent contradiction of what we regard as the ‘here and now’ – a state which is implied but doesn’t really seem to exist. Version 2 features the younger me butted up against the me that is apparent NOW.
You have to hand it to him – two and a half hours or so of medium paced observations based on the guys later years…No obvious plot; a little artistic license with historical detail, and what have you got? A great movie that’s what. Of course I refer to Mr Turner, and my admiration goes out to Mike Leigh for the way he was able to pull it off without too much fuss and a poke of fun, but without transgressing a ‘national treasures’ collective memory.
Where I park my car most days for work is right next to the river Tyne in Newcastle. Looking out of the window this morning it was a miserable grey gloom no light kind of a day with little to recommend it. Drizzle, damp and wind funneling down the Tyne valley. There is a small boat club at the mouth of the Ouseburn (a tributary to the Tyne). The boats here are not worth a packet. In fact they no doubt cost more to maintain than their actual value in hard cash. They are mainly rough little tubs; a big kids dream, and not overly seaworthy. Mongrels of the sea. Stood on the quay, directly below me, was one of those pugs… a mast proudly flying the St. George cross and erm.. a skull and cross bones underneath. Says it all. I was reminded of the red buoy Turner famously painted into the foreground of his picture, to outsmart Constable, in their Royal Academy showdown of 1832. I recorded it with the only camera I had to hand. Yeah it’s shot on my mobile, but the look sort of seems to fit the overall murky day>>
Procrastination, procrastination. I have decided the best way forward is to go properly public with this project. As a piece that theoretically has no end, it is in danger of having no beginning, so my plan is to put it together sequence by sequence and then post it up here. It will be warts ‘n all but that’s the nature of the work so I’m ok with that.
So here I go. A combination of a recent trip to Berlin – heading into Poland and very much inspired by the East Berlin museum… that’s me erratically driving a real trabant round a virtual estate. I banged this little sequence together – went home and then thought – it needs a voice. Probably prefer it wasn’t mine, but as I’m the only one available at short notice, I pinched a bit of my own (very recent) verse and wove it in.
I am taking the attitude that a blank canvas is a scary thing and that to start making marks gives me something to work with.
Yes that is me in the red trousers… filmed in the Moulsecoomb tv studios in Brighton erm…33 years ago… eeeek!
Have decided that this project should (for now at least) become my ‘on going of all things’ posting. In reality the piece is actually about just that, and as I have thus far not managed to put anything tangible together for version 2 of ‘When was NOW’…this can be its presence in reality for the foreseeable future.
SO…quick recap on previous posting re list of random inventions:
11. Audio plates. Listen to the sound of the animal you might have been eating. Particularly good for vegetarians seeking an extra edge to their Quorn consumption experience
Cross trainer trundling on Saturday morning, I was watching a prog on the gym tele that I probably wouldn’t otherwise see called ‘Click’ . The prog reviews all the latest goings on in the digital world of cool inventions, gaming and future shock type issues. There was a piece about digi micro projectors that can project at extreme angles, thereby making them more useable in small spaces. They filmed some event where people were sat around a dining table enjoying a virtual meal which in reality was the sum total of various projections, with not a real carrot or sprout in evidence. I’m a bit sketchy on what the point of this was but it struck me that it fell squarely into the territory of my Audio Plate invention. I am not alone in my pursuit of flippancy in this serious world I thought.
I headed with this observation because I want to make a more serious one – one that is becoming the theme of When was NOW overall – and often crops up in my work, namely, the increasing polarisation of life. Day to day detail butting up against inevitable global awareness. The trivial against the depressingly profound.
A case in point… I returned from Tunisia a few days ago – the scene of initial unrest ( i.e. street rioting) that fuelled the so called ‘Arab spring’ and which has now continued in exponential complexity across such wide swathes of the middle east and beyond. (In 2012 thousands of Salafi Islamists rioted in Tunis provoked by an art show, one of whose artworks spelt out the name of ‘God’ using insects. I really don’t know what the work was about, and I wonder if the rioters did either, but one cannot help but be both impressed and appalled at the interest an artwork can generate when plugged into a higher voltage issue).
That aside – we went to Tunisia on holiday. The weather was lovely, the people friendly, the punters multi-ethnic and from a very wide catchment area that included France, Russia, Algeria, Scandinavia and Japan…oh and Wales. We lived pretty much in a bubble of tourism, tho we did venture out just a little to the local town of Sousse which is not exactly ‘pretty’ despite its claustrophobic Medina. We donned appropriate garb to visit the local mosque – but in reality had no meaningful contact with the locals. In one sense we could have been on a virtual reality set. There was a little non virtual background spookiness that we unconsciously tuned out most of the time, and of course you are not encouraged to journey into certain areas of the country if you value your life on this earth, but all in all I am not significantly wiser about the place.
Then again we were on holiday; a sun and sea holiday. We weren’t wanting to look too closely. If you gazed out to sea, towards the beautiful blue horizon, on any day you could see pirate ships. Not the Somalian ones that might immediately spring to mind from frequent media mentions, but fake Pirates of the Caribbean type ones for tourists. Whole armadas of the buggers. A fitting visual example of the polarity of representation in a single object I thought.
Troubles in neighbouring Libya are also bearing down on the Tunisian economy. Our coach driver actually thanked us happy returning holiday makers for supporting Tunisia ‘at this time’. We brought our culture with us and we returned with it and to it.
Once home more issues. If Syria and Iraq et al are on one side of the colour wheel then we are, in my opinion, privileged to be on the other. A week full of apples fallen from the tree in our garden. Such a waste but we never get round to doing anything with them. How prosaic. How very English. In the kitchen a recent envelope asking for donations to some relief agency whilst outside my window rotting fruit, naggingly pricks my conscience. My audio plate (if I had built it rather than just invented its notion) might make some cutting remark about squandering resources.
“Eat up boy – there’s starving children in Africa who don’t have that food.” The cheeky boy inside me wants to say “but sir, we need to work out the means of equal distribution rather than proposing stop gap solutions based on guilt.”
THE MOTHERS AND FATHERS OF INVENTION
ah it’s good to be back. Well passing through actually. My other project (the Rink Revival – see project blog on here) is erm.. somewhat taking all of my time at the moment. But they do say having a ‘spare’ is a good idea.
One good idea I’ve had I think is; when I do finally get the piece made it will end with a statement along the lines of:
THIS EDIT WAS FINISHED ON (insert date) AND WILL BE UPDATED THE SAME DATE NEXT YEAR.. AND FOR EVER MORE UNTIL I AM PHYSICALLY UNABLE.
I like the idea of that sort of commitment – after all it’s taken me almost 30years to get version 2 together, but now it can become the piece that never ends. Hmm the taste that never ends.. sounds like a cigarette commercial from the sixties. In that way I can overcome the usual problem of time base media.
It will be ‘my time on this earth’ based media.
I had previously wanted to end it with a long sequence of people recounting their dreams, with a caption saying THIS BIT GOES ON FOR QUITE A WHILE -YOU CAN LEAVE WHENEVER YOU WANT… but now i’m thinking – perhaps after I’m gone other people could add their dreams. Eventually send it into space…? who knows.
Another theme that has started to crop up is that of slightly ridiculous inventions. Some of them might actually be good inventions I don’t know. At the risk (in the great British tradition) of giving my ideas away to others to exploit in a global market… here are a few of them.
1. Gyms to be linked into the national grid. All the power generated by people on tread mills and rowing machines could be harnessed.
2. The Matter exchange. An exact amount of matter is traded for the same amount elsewhere. Nothing is made or destroyed in the universe so this theoretically should be possible. It would certainly cut down travel and transportation time. Just needs a switchboard inventing.
3. The image cleaner. Search and destroy (or amend) software that allows you to clean up your online image and replace it with stuff you would rather have represent you.
4. The nail clipper reminder AP. A small insignificant thing perhaps, but it is surprising how many people seem to neglect this personal routine.
5. The shower razor tidy. This simple sucker device allows you to stick your razor to the shower wall – thus eliminating the exceedingly tedious, ‘dropping through the wire basket’ occurrence that so often takes place.
6. The inflatable suit. This allows you to regulate your temperature without having to add or remove clothing. Tiny air pockets in the suit expand and contract depending on the wearers core body temperature.
7. The spooning shaped cushion for people who travel. This inflatable shape is a boon for those who find themselves alone in a hotel and want to replicate that ‘more secure’ feeling.
8. GPS holidays. Put this programme into your car’s sat nav and it takes you on a magical mystery tour of unexplored delights. A perfect gift.
9. The smokers door. A door with holes in it to allow smokers to pass their arms and head through in order to take a drag of their smoke, without having to stand outside in the cold and wet.
10. The virtual tourist. You sit in a darkened room and our virtual tour guide wanders around remote places to your instruction. This is projected back live into your room. Eliminates danger, plus the time consuming necessity to travel yourself.
11. Audio plates. Listen to the sound of the animal you might have been eating. Particularly good for vegetarians seeking an extra edge to their Quorn consumption experience.
12. Wheelchair seat raiser. Benefits both the person in the chair and the person stood up. The seat raises up on a central column to allow the seated person to make direct eye height contact with the person they are interacting with. Should get a Queen’s award that one.
Anyone wishing to develop these ideas please do get in touch. Remember – you heard it here first.
tooth animation and edit by me – fractals by Jock Cooper
Bought some Victor comics on ebay from 1966…
In 1966 I was 11 and couldn’t wait each week for that flop on the doormat. Inside there was all manner of boy friendly content, from Alf Tupper ‘Tough of the Track’ the fish and chip eating long distance runner, to Magnus the Muscle Man and Scrapper Grey the door to door log cutter salesman who was set to become lightweight boxing champion of Britain. The main event however was always on the full colour cover. I would scan this when it first arrived but leave it until last to devour the heroic and often gory details.
Basically, if you’re not of a certain age and familiar with this long gone publication, you might not know that each week it recounted some great deeds from one of the world wars. The missions and the actual events were obviously dramatised for effect, but what I’d forgotten (or not really noticed at the time) was the gung-ho style in which these events were told. Back then I thought the Victor was a very serious publication, the cover stories particularly profound, and I had the impression they were accurate and respectful.
I am struck by one in the pile I have acquired. Our lads discover a map on one of the ‘japs’ that shows the agreed Japanese rendezvous point in the jungle. It ends in what could pretty much these days be described as a massacre. It’s all jolly stuff and the comments from our gallant lads during battle are flippant and off the cuff in a way that I can’t imagine for a moment is anywhere near the actuality. At least I hope not, though admittedly I wasn’t there.
Initially I am surprised I swallowed all that hero stuff quite so completely and devoured this gore-fest each week – but maybe I’m just soft. I am forever thankful that I have never had to go to war and grateful I can’t talk with the authority of one who has been damaged by it.
…Then I watched the YouTube of Gaddafi’s capture and did have a bit of a flashback. The Victor on acid…a slo mo celebration of a despotic termination, low resolution video that looked like a party – lots of red…shouting, celebration… a festival of gore. Bit like a comic. Wow. Go history go…
In 1966 Americans had their Vietnam. With nothing comparable at the time this side of the Atlantic, we looked back to the ‘glory days’ of WW2. Americans also had superhero comics – we had the Victor – supermen in tin hats.