Saturday, 29 January 2011

Lifting A Lift

About 1.23 trillion bricks are manufactured world-wide every year, and that’s not counting Lego, who’s annual production is 19 billion (2.6 million per hour; that’s 36000 every minute - 600 bricks per second); and yet there are more photographs than bricks made every year.
I don’t know how many photographs are made every second, but I know a lot of them contain bricks (think of all the bricks in estate agents’ photographs alone): like dead-skin breeds dust, photographs breed bricks.
Armed with these brick-photo-facts, I set out to take a picture of bricks; the like of which didn’t exist: a unique brick photo (if such a thing were possible given the statistics). It was in the bygone days of ‘thumbing a lift’. I liked the idea of a ‘lift’ getting a lift. It was the 1980s, and the sight of a car balanced on bricks (after the wheels had been ‘lifted’ in the night) was a common sight at the time: remember, it was the ‘Thatcher years’. Then, as now, I suffered terribly from ergophobia. I had no job, no car, and no house: I’ve never had as little as then; but don’t confuse that with freedom. Bricks and mortar: it takes roughly 85,000 bricks to build the average house, and a few years later, when I bought my first house, it cost £85,000. Funny thing about house buying: it’s the most expensive thing you are ever going to purchase – one of the biggest decisions you’ll make - and yet you only look around it once or twice (three times if you are lucky), the average house-viewing lasts a mere 20 minutes.
I spent longer holding – lifting - a couple of house bricks, waiting for a lift, than I did looking at the house I paid a ransom for. Which action is odder: traveling light – with nothing but two bricks - for free, or paying £85,000 for 85,000 bricks (that I’d viewed for less than an hour) and staying put, inside them?

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Unconscious Lifting

‘Penis-Handed hitchhiker?’ I drew the picture (a self-portrait?) when I was seven, but have no memory of why I did it, or what the picture was about. It only came to light last year (via my parents - having a clean-out), and even though I hadn’t seen it since the day I drew it, I must – in my unconscious mind, somehow – have recalled it when I did my ‘Lifting’ performance (another self-portrait made on a self-timer), back in 1987.
Of course, I could equally have been drawing a ‘Penis-Handed Gun-Slinger’, in anticipation of my ‘Accidental Shooting’ (made in 1988; see my last blog of the same name): the arrow in my childhood drawing being the natural companion to the mysterious longbow laceration in the film.
But hold on, the drawing’s been torn in half: notice how the ear (my ear?) has been torn - at the exact same spot - I was to tare my own ear, years later. The drawing: did I rip it? The artist, then, anticipating the artist he is now? I don’t know – I’d never heard of Van Gogh and his ear - but I’d like to think so (see how I almost cut-off my ear, in, ‘I’m A Real Artist Now’, 16/1/2011). Here's my ear (now), complete with scar-tissue.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Accidental Shooting

Two rehearsals for another photograph that was never made. The first rehearsal (top set) turned out to be yet another case of ‘accident usurping intent’: the film somehow got bowed on the development spiral and the film was lacerated – punctured with weird, archer’s longbow-shaped cuts, ripping every frame - but in a different place each time.
Strange: the keys were standing-in for a gun, but a longbow cut in on the action (bizarrely: as if ‘drawn’, by a shoulder). And look, the wall had been scrapped  - hit – by turning lorries (or arrows?).
For a long time after the accident I found myself doodling bra-straps, pinging like longbows - breasts as arrows… thinking of William Tell; thinking of William Boroughs, who was a lousy shot (he shot his wife Joan, dead, whilst trying to shoot an apple, off the top of her head), but a great exponent of the cut-up technique. ‘Cut-up’ is an artistic process (of Dadaist origins) where a text is fragmented -with scissors -and then reassembled randomly. “Language is a virus” – claimed Burroughs, and suggested that the cut-up technique be used as a weapon to reveal the hidden structures of control. Old Bill, he had a point. In my practice shots (target practice? Shooting of a shooting?), accident assumed control, the keys found their hole; the shots were bowed and punctured: bowed and arrowed.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Rehearsals For An Unrealised Photograph

Rehearsals - two eve droppers, two glasses, two double beds, one coupling  – for a photograph that was never in the end realised.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

I'm A Real Artist Now

On Friday 13th of November 1987 I almost cut off my right ear. The accident happened on a golf course, but it had nothing to do with golf: it was the result of a climbing accident - on a golf course - but it was more about art; done in the name of Art. And as I was sitting in hospital - waiting to have my ear sewn on again – I thought: I’m a real artist now.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Pronounced Ear Surgery

This billboard’s confusing image/text pair is, ear (something that you cut off), and year (something that flies by). Pay attention to the beginning sound, ye, and the vowel combination, ear.
To say the word ear correctly, move your lips from a smile, to a rounded position.
To see the word ear correctly, place the torn-off ear over the letter Y, in year.
To say the word year correctly, think of these two things: (1) start with the ye sound, as in yes, and (2) move your lips from a smile, to a rounded position.
To see the word year correctly, leave the torn-off ear-of-paper on the pavement, beneath the billboard, where you found it.
Give it a try; people will notice the difference. Unless you come from South Wales (as half my family does), where ears are pronounced, ‘yeears’. If all else fails, you can undergo surgery against pronounced ears.  

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Foot And Mouth Picture

A foot and mouth picture, from my ‘wheelchair period’. Media: toothpaste on a black and white photograph. Method: using my toenails as nibs, I scratched away at the surface of the photograph, whilst at the same time, spitting toothpaste at the image.

Saturday, 8 January 2011


Two ‘found’ images: a postcard of a rock-face; Samson's Ribs, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, with the university student halls of residence in the foreground (circa 1975), and an illustration from a Boy Scouts Annual (1940). Both images are connected; the original intentions of both have been usurped. Usurper: a type of snake? If it isn’t it should be.
A Boy Scout appears to be pulling a girl – a Girl Guide: guiding a Girl Guide to her death? And a student bedroom ejaculates ectoplasm (in reality, an abrasion on the postcard’s surface) across ‘Samson’s Ribs’. 
It is also interesting to note the similarity between the slant of the ‘pulled Guide’ and the slant of the bedroom windows. But these snake-like usurpers - when considered side-by-side - are in turn usurped by the correspondence between the outlines of the cliffs (in backgrounds of both images).
Samson's Ribs
Girl Guided (pulling a girl?)

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

It Was My Leg I Broke

In hospital: the physiotherapists, they stretched me, but my dad - when he visited - he’d sketch me. Model patient? I don’t think so. He’s my dad, knows I'm a man - he made me, but look: he drew me (reproduced me?) as a woman. No – a transvestite: a trannie in traction with an erection: it was my leg, not my dick I broke.
This kind of mistake, it could happen by accident in a photograph – telegraph poles growing out of heads and so on - but it shouldn’t be going on in a drawing; where every mark is deliberately made, and can be erased if it looks wrong
Look. Consider this drawing: a military man on a camp bed, with a snake on his lap. Two things stand out: (1) The military man maybe on a camp bed, but he doesn’t look at all in any way, ‘camp’. (2) The said man has a snake on his lap, but the snake, it doesn’t signify a dick. Maybe I was a model patient after all? And the model patient’s situation was a frightful one. 

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Dress Rehearsal for an Undressed Photograph

Woman saying goodbye to her mandolin? A touching moment, it reminded me of a De Chirico; reminded me of La Jetee; reminded me of another photo - one of the first (and worst) black and white photos I ever took (for a project called, ‘People at Work’) – an Old man touching-up his Princess (an Austin Princess).
Both images were heavily criticised because they were faceless. It was at this point I adopted, what the critic A.D. Colman has termed, ‘the directorial mode’. But I wouldn’t invent a photograph (what an absurd idea); I’d take a photograph to record something I (we) already did – as a kind of ‘ladder to an idea’. 
Here’s the dress rehearsal for ‘Sex Mechanic’, a photograph - inspired by the embrace of a mandolin and the touching-up of a Princess - that required the actors to appear in a state of undress.