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Sofa Portraits now available for pre-order

  1.          Sofa Portraits is now available for pre-order from my website (orders will deliver in October/November)   The pric...

Friday, 22 June 2012

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow...

And when it does, I will be out there enjoying it. Have a lovely summer and don't forget to smell the Cosmos.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

TV Personalities: An Al Mutannabi Inventory

These are some early spreads from the TV Personalities book I'm making for An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street. Al Mutanabbi Street was where the booksellers of Baghdad used to gather, a street that came under increasing threat after the downfall of Saddam Hussein. Then in 2007 it was bombed, its shopkeepers and customers targeted in a celebration of brutality and ignorance. 

The pictures are from British Television, and refer to events between 2000 and 2006. The texts are fragments of books I read from 2008 to the present day, little slivers of clarity that provide a narrative to events where there are no heroes, only victims of violence, opportunism and still more ignorance.

It seemed fitting to me that these words, sentences and paragraphs should keep an integrity and provide a context for the TV images - a context that is somehow more perspicacious and truthful than that provided by the original broadcasters at the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. You can blow a book to bits, but still the truth will out. That's what I like to think anyway.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Ray Bradbury: All in a Summer Day

I remember reading a lot of the late Ray Bradbury when I was younger, but the stories that really stuck with me were The Illustrated Man and All in a Summer Day, both of which I saw on TV.

I watched The Illustrated Man when I was quite young. It elevated Rod Steiger to superstardom in my young eyes and gave me a deep-seated fear of men with that Rod Steiger look in their eyes.

All in a Summer Day was made in 1982. It is about a class of schoolkids who live on Venus, a place it is always raining, where  the sun only comes out for a few hours every seven years; and what happens to one girl when the school class is let out for that one sunny afternoon - and she misses out.

I told my daughter and wife the basic story this morning (without giving away the ending) and they were traumatised. You want to know what it's like living in England. Watch All in a Summer Day.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Al Mutanabbi Street: Bombing the Booksellers

I'm looking forward to sending off my copies of the books I'm still making for An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street exhibition. It's been a long and tiring process but for a great cause. This is the background to the event.

"On March 5th 2007, a car bomb was exploded on al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad. Al-Mutanabbi Street is in a mixed Shia-Sunni area. More than 30 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded. Al-Mutanabbi Street, the historic center of Baghdad bookselling, holds bookstores and outdoor bookstalls, cafes, stationery shops, and even tea and tobacco shops. It has been the heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community.

The coalition asked each Book Artist who joined the project to complete three books (or other paper material) over the course of a year, books that reflected both the strength and fragility of books, but also showed the endurance of the ideas within them. We asked for work that reflected both the targeted attack on this “street of the booksellers” as well as the ultimate futility of those who try to erase thought."

And here are some more of the books that have been made so farThere is some fantastic work out there, out on the artists' books end of the spectrum, so creativity is the word.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Walking in the Woods

 From Life on Mars

I enjoyed reading the this article,  Why is walking in the woods so good for you?, the essence of which is that walking in the woods lowers heart rate, increases concentration, improves the immune system and develops one's inner core of human decency.

The piece also ties in with how we attend to the world, and the way in which a natural forest environment doesn't overwhelm our senses with man-made shapes, noises and smells. Instead a fine mist of woodland oils, fragrances and the sound of birdsong meet the calming needs of our lizard brains.

And as we look up at the trees and wonder at the shifting patterns of leaves, so we take in the colours and fractal patterns that have a calming anti-depressant effect (in contrast to the hard edges and synthetic tones of high-end urban architecture).

Research shows something similar is true of photography, and that landscapes elicit an emotional response from viewers in much the same way that pictures of bananas do in baboons.

Another story that captured my attention was this one on the Quietest place in the world.

This was a place where the room is so quiet that almost nobody can stand the quiet for more than a few minutes, the ideas being that an artificial emptiness is unnerving, unnatural and somehow poses a threatto us.

I wonder if this is related to the sense of disorientation we feel in white cube  art galleries (my daughter told me the other day, "I like museums where you can run around and make noise but not galleries. Everyone's quiet. It's like a church. It's creepy."). And if that disorientation and sensory deprivation affects our judgement in some way.

The extract below is from the story - the writer liked the extreme quiet in the end, but I think he's an exception.

I had heard being in an anechoic chamber for longer than 15 minutes can cause extreme symptoms, from claustrophobia and nausea to panic attacks and aural hallucinations – you literally start hearing things. A violinist tried it and hammered on the door after a few seconds, demanding to be let out because he was so disturbed by the silence.

I booked a 45-minute session – no one had managed to stay in for that long before. I felt apprehensive for two reasons: would I go stark, staring mad and tear off my clothes? Or would I simply be disappointed it wasn't as enjoyable as I'd hoped?

When the heavy door shut behind me, I was plunged into darkness (lights can make a noise). For the first few seconds, being in such a quiet place felt like nirvana, a balm for my jangled nerves. I strained to hear something and heard… nothing.

Then, after a minute or two, I became aware of the sound of my breathing, so I held my breath. The dull thump of my heartbeat became apparent – nothing I could do about that. As the minutes ticked by, I started to hear the blood rushing in my veins. Your ears become more sensitive as a place gets quieter, and mine were going overtime. I frowned and heard my scalp moving over my skull, which was eerie, and a strange, metallic scraping noise I couldn't explain. Was I hallucinating? The feeling of peace was spoiled by a tinge of disappointment – this place wasn't quiet at all. You'd have to be dead for absolute silence.