In anticipation of the Tooth Fairy

As I work my way through this project I am becoming aware that my working process is evolving to be very sculptural. Initially I had a very fixed idea of where this piece was going – but now it has become much more open to evolution – in the way one might chip away at a block and try and reveal what lies hidden inside.

I was trying to explain to a lady I want to film for ‘when was NOW’ where exactly I was coming from . It goes like this:

“well when I was in Egypt there was a painting above the table where we used to have breakfast. Not a very good painting it has to be said, in the technical sense, but it was original and showed what appeared to be a Polynesian lady dancing in front of an ocean liner. It was meant to be a scene of joyous exuberance, but owing to the lack of painterly prowess on the part of the artist, the effect was much more of horror or distress – as if the ship was going to run her down. What i would like you to do is be an echo of that painting – but in your flat as the ships pass outside your window”…

Yes it does sound like a bizarre request, although, to be fair, said lady does actually own a flat which is situated directly opposite a fine view of a shipyard and various docks. She seems up for the challenge anyway – which requires that she makes an even more fatalistic leap than me in the overall scheme of things. I think I said something along the lines of “I’m not quite sure how it will work – but I know it will work”… can’t say fairer that that!

In the 80’s I did quite a lot of performance work. I remember doing a performance piece at Coventry events week where I had reduced the content down to a film projector with no film going through it, and used in as a blank frame of light which served as the entry point and focus of my performance. I had forced myself to omit content and to let whatever happened on the day take place. I sat on a high chair in front of the blank projector. It was probably the scariest piece I have ever made – and looking back one of the most successful. It certainly seemed to engage the audience. Maybe it was the danger of failure that gave it an edge.

I use that piece now as a mental yardstick when asking myself where I’m going with my work. Any time based medium, except unscripted live action, is relatively safe. You have the edit and/ or you have a script. I don’t currently have a solid script, but I do have the means to chip away and remodel what I shoot later – which is both a comfort and a safety net. So when I have my doubts about the sanity of my approach, I take myself back to Coventry with a wry smile.


26 years and counting

The thing about making a piece that both refers to time and also tries to circumvent it, is that you inevitably become caught up in it. It’s kind of amusing and also an ongoing source of frustration to me that I am unable to bring filming to an end. Each time I get to the point where I promised myself I would stop filming and start to draw the video together into a workable whole, I find some other avenue to explore. You cannot, for example, plan to use snippets of contemporary news in your work and not instantly become a victim of time itself. I sort of enjoy that fact and am also sometimes outflanked by the rapidity of the incoming news, and it’s equally rapid decline in either relevance or ability to shock (or do I mean entertain?).

I have an office/ studio in a lovely new building called the Toffee Factory. It has chic meeting rooms with glass doors and, owing to the fact that the building is not yet fully occupied, the large meeting room has not yet been used. I decided last Sunday that this state of affairs should be rectified. The vegetable rack at our house has been home for three years now to a bowl of 26 chocolate letters. Bizarre perhaps to have kept them for so long but there is a reason. The letters form a sentence – well a question in fact, and were the starting point for the original ‘when was now 2’ project. The plan had been to get 26 people of ascending years (0-26years) to pick a chocolate out of the bowl and then to answer the question that these letters posed when ranged together. Obviously the answer, if any, would be considered in an increasingly sophisticated way with the participants increase in age year by year. It had a certain completeness as a concept being that, at the time, it was 26 years since I had made the first version of this video.

Nice plan – but not one as you can now tell that I followed through, as there i was on Sunday with my 25 pieces still intact. Twenty five because one of them had been opened, the ship launched, the flags waved…. but I was so underwhelmed by the finality of the self perpetuating concept that I put the bowl away and went off on another tack.

A year or so later I knew all would be well. I would use that abortive beginning as the engine room for a new, more exciting approach, and these pieces, and an explanation similar to this one, would form it’s preface.

So there I was on Sunday afternoon – three years on now. A very long white table, a very ambient room, and just me, the camera and my chocolate letters.

We had fun. It will make sense in the context of the final piece even if it sounds a little fractured here.

I attended the funeral of a friend’s father yesterday, and today I learnt that a musician friend of mine died that same evening. These things seem to come in what statisticians might call a ‘lumpy’ form and it’s quite worrying. It’s like I was sat at the end of some last supper arrangement – but no one turned up.

And the question? – well – the question is also somewhat imponderable. You need to see the video.