Saturday, 29 March 2008


Weather cold, clear and painfully bright.

I drank too much, talked too loudly about Katie’s lucky pants and received a Bedford memorial mug. Later I stayed up until half past three talking to my friend in America, but that is another story.

I am packed up and waiting to make the journey back home it is more than 11 months until the show. It’s a pity, but I don’t think I should write any more.

Friday, 28 March 2008

One day to go


Cold and Wet.

Today has been dedicated to packing and making an inventory of works for the show. At this point I have more or less decided the pieces I will exhibit next April and I have been forced to reject a number of the videos because I’m not sure how they will fit in. The show inventory is as follows:

First Ice, dvd, 09’09 – displayed on a small screen
Cyclorama, dvd, 15’37 – back projected
Arrival, split screen dvd, 02’00 – tft monitor
Eva, dvd, 01’45 – tft monitor

Incidents at Sea
A selection of small scale sculptures shown in rotation on a small table and an upturned plastic cup.
Incident at sea – man menaced by penguin

Cyclorama machine
Float, fan, tissue paper, found illustration
Pitch and Roll, automaton
Circumnavigation, glitter ball motor, found illustration

Drawings/ Collage/ Photographs
Untitled, record sleeve & found illustration collages.
Untitled, collaged envelope.
Self Portrait, digital photograph

Journal, full colour paperback book
Tracings, limited edition book of drawings.

The time here has passed incredibly quickly; everyone has made me feel really welcome. I have had the time and encouragement to put together, what is for me, a very coherent body of work. Special memories for me are: Katie driving me to Wysing, Laura typing ever so quietly when I had a headache. Eva’s unstinting support throughout the residency and Sarah’s almost violent enthusiasm for the Black Flag Game. A strange thing did happen to me today. I took a break form packing, went out for a coffee and read the last few entries of Scott’s journal. After the last entry were a series of letters he wrote as he was dying. I was suddenly overcome with emotion, which may have disturbed a few of my fellow drinkers. To be honest this is not an unusual occurrence, I cried at the end of “Princess Diaries” but I did feel embarrassed for my lack artistic detachment – failed again.

Tonight we go drinking.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Two days to go


Wet weather soon cleared to warm sunshine.

I’m so aware of the end now that I am finding it difficult to write. I have spent time faffing about and thinking about packing things away. I did take a leap of faith this morning and took one of the twenty or so self-portraits I have photographed to be printed. I have developed a strange and unhealthy fascination with images of myself over the past few weeks constantly thumbing through the horrors captured over the last fifteen years. This photo is a conscious attempt to create the sort of image that in itself is nothing. But if I were to achieve something great, discover something wonderful, or die heroically, then it would stand as a record Alex Pearl, the man. I don’t intend to do any of the above. In the afternoon I had a very useful chat with Eva about how the exhibition might take shape, or not.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008


Today I made a brief foray to my studio in Rendlesham. It’s looking a bit disused so I spread stuff all over the floor. I’m beginning to put together some little scuttling machines for Airspace. I made two but one fell apart immediately, this is normal. I also started work on finishing a piece for Bedford. It’s a broken glass ice flow, which was originally laid out, on a piece of black velvet. I couldn’t see how this would work in a gallery so I decided to use the table I ‘accidentally’ bought from the Exchange Emporium. I’ve spilt some ink on it and added a small sixties lamp from Germany.

Monday, 24 March 2008

22/03/08 – 24/03/08

I have lost track of the exact dates of the following events. The journey north was hampered by strong wind and hail. On several occasions we were pushed sideways by prodigious gusts. Once we had finally arrived, tense and exhausted from the effort of keeping the car on the road my mother began the task of shovelling as much food into me as she could. Normally I wouldn’t mind, but the lack of exercise and prodigious amount of processed food I have consumed over the last few months has already made me a stone overweight. Then it snowed! I have been longing for snow since I began this journal back in January and it was everything I hoped for. I could even describe it as flocculent. Unfortunately I hadn’t brought any filming equipment with me so except for personal pleasure I was unable to take advantage of this late fillip. Undeterred I clambered to one of the highest points in the area and planted a small black flag.

Thursday, 20 March 2008


Heavy rain and strong northerly wind.

I can’t travel to Bedford this week, Easter has fallen and family duties call. Despite this I have been working hard on the sorts of things I do better at home. I have been working on finished edits of the various films that I hope to show next April. I’ve changed “Arrival” into a split screen video and added titles to “First Ice”, which I want to be understood as a sort of failed narrative film. I nipped to my studio in Rendlesham on the same disused airbase where BBC3’s Dog Borstal was filmed. I tried “First Ice” on a small domestic TV in a darkened room and I actually liked it for the first time in weeks. Tomorrow, I will travel north to Macclesfield to visit my parents, snow is forecast.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

I had a bit of a meltdown today as I tried to work out the logistics for: removing all my work from BCA; making and transporting automata to and making a film at Airspace in Stoke on Trent; and transporting my Little Death show to the Salt Gallery in Cornwall. The only way I could calm myself was by making a very long list and having a hot bath. I have nearly finished Scott’s Antarctic diary. His writing is getting shorter and more repetetive as he approaches the end. I am in step now and only reading one entry per day. In true spoiling fashion though I have already skipped to the last page and realised something I had not noticed before. His final entry coincides with the last day of my residency, 29th March.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Day Twenty Six


Last night I managed to set James and Christina’s toaster on fire filling the kitchen with toast smoke. I had finished work at about nine and I was in the front room deciding whether to watch “Aliens” or “Dawn of the Dead”. Little did I know the timer on the toaster had jammed and was determinedly incinerating the toast. I tried to air the house but I am afraid the smell will linger until their return on Monday. Hoping that lightning would not strike twice I set of for a bike ride this morning attempting to cover a similar route to our fateful ride of the 22nd. I started well but soon found myself on unfamiliar roads. The surface was just as greasy as before so I approached all corners at a toad’s pace with a nervous wobble. Two hours later I was back, sweaty and tired but miraculously ungrazed. Later in the market I tried to use a passing Sikh parade to cover a bit of covert flag planting. While everyone was distracted I tried to push a flag into a box topping a large pile. Unfortunately the box was too tough and the stick snapped. As I turned round I met one of the stall holders who was staring at me. I smiled and hurried away.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Day Twenty Five


Yesterday I received some interesting news; apparently my application not to go to the Antarctic has passed onto the second round. Now I’m going to be disappointed if I don’t get it.

After a good night’s rest I returned to the studio this morning ready to sort out my problems with “First Ice”. I tried everything; projecting it large and small, back projecting it through every material in the studio, through circular masks, into boxes and onto strange objects. I even looked at it through a long cardboard tube. Eventually I found it worked best if I didn’t look at it at all. I think the only answer will be to put it on a small TV and not even a flat screen one, but rather a crappy little portable. I fancy doing this and placing it in a darkened space with either an armchair or cinema seats facing it. After everyone had gone I cheered myself up with a raid on the gallery space putting some of the sculptures out to see how they look.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Day Twenty Four


Bright and Sunny

Its getting closer to the end now, time seems to be running rapidly and lots of things are happening but I don’t feel like I’m moving forward. The following is really just a list of things that seem to be happening to me. The first draft of “Journal” arrived from the printers two days ago and I have spent a while going through it pencilling in corrections and adjusting the pictures. Otherwise I am reasonably happy with it. Although I have noticed that I use the same sentence construction over and over which is very annoying. My other book of tracings was also delivered, slightly crumpled by our overzealous postman, but otherwise quite satisfactory. The “Black Flag Game” goes on, there are now 85 players although some are more active than others. I have produced two photocopied newsletters available online and as a limited edition in BCA gallery (both free). I have also been invited to make an automatic film at Airspace in Stoke on Trent in a few weeks time. I got a lovely email from David saying “can’t wait to see your robots”. My immediate thought was "neither can I, where are they?”

Today was mainly spent playing with projectors in the gallery with Jane Edden (the other resident artist) and Eva. There was a certain amount of projector envy going around the room as we tried various things out. My most important discovery was that “First Ice”, the supposed main film of the residency looks awful projected and only slightly better back projected, I felt like stepping out of the front door and not looking back. Luckily the line drawn scrolling animation (which I’ve decided to call Cyclorama) looked ok. Jane’s video, of course, was fabulous especially when back projected.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


Today I visited The Exchange Emporium, a shop on the Woodbridge road in Ipswich. The place is so full of stuff that entry is impossible. An enormous spoil pile of tools presses against one window and all manner of objects are stacked to an improbable height throughout. Luckily the brown overalled man who devotes his life to the shop is willing to climb out into the street and fulfil your every wish. I was looking for a high kitchen stool, a desk lamp, and some pictures of boats. He quickly found me a low table, a super-8 film editor, four aeroplane magazines and some wooden toys. Happy and twenty pounds poorer I said goodbye promising to return next week to look at his collection of trucking magazines. I was left thinking about my powerless in the face of an expert salesman and that maybe I should hire him as my agent.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Day Twenty Three


Making slow progress homeward. As planned I broke my journey in London by going to see Artfutures at the Bloomberg space. I met up with Lawrence and Anna without whom I would have been nervous entering the forbidding corporate space. Typically Lawrence immediately struck up a conversation with one of the Contemporary art society people while I wandered off feeling shy and inadequate. Things were literally being sold off the walls. Technicians were removing one piece and screwing a new one up as I walked through the first room. Although the emphasis was on the art object as commodity, not something I have anything against, there was still a range of rather unsaleable objects. What looked like a big stuffed Morris dancing suit by Juneau projects was nailed to the wall in one room and in another was a large carved twiggy thing screwed to a bit of chipboard. Apart from a few odd people: Michael Craig Martin, Julian Opie, art futures? I thought the selection was really interesting, all artists I have been staring jealously at over the last year or so and others I have shown with, though I fear I was the poor country cousin. Ruth Claxton, Rachel Goodyear, Sara Mckillop, Darren Banks, Marcus Coates. It was a shame I didn’t have longer or £1000 knocking round in my pocket. Later with Lawrence and Anna’s help we found Store in Hoxton. I was relieved to find it was behind an unmarked steel door with ‘store’ written in 1cm high letters at the bottom of a row of buzzers. To be honest the Bedwyr Williams show was a bit disappointing after all that effort. There was a cool distancing of the works from the wonderful ideas and stories that surrounded them.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Day Twenty two

Nothing is working. Last night I set my flag-planting machine loose in the gallery. The first film was totally black as I had failed to set the cameras’ exposure back to automatic then the mechanical arm fell off and when I returned to my studio to fix it I managed to stand in my dinner. This was a microwave chicken curry, which exploded under my foot covering one camera in korma sauce. I scraped the remains up and stopped to eat what was left (I was hungry). Afterwards I filmed the machine again as it totally failed to plant any flags.

Today I sailed the Eva. She had a new keel and advanced waterproofing but after last night I was not confident. Happily she did not sink. However, neither did she glide gracefully downstream. In fact at one point she managed to sail upstream and against the wind. I’m thinking of patenting my physics defying boat design as I feel it must have some useful application. I will try again next week.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Day Twenty one

All week I have been suffering the tyranny of people, so much so that as I arrived at Bedford station I took a deep breath and relaxed. I came by train this time because I am planning to go to London on Saturday to see the Artfutures at the Bloomberg space with Lawrence and Anna. David Kefford, who I’ve shown with in the past, will be exhibiting there with other rising art glitterati. It is a sort of black flag moment but it will be nice to see him. Lawrence & Anna have also promised to act as guides to the Bedwyr Williams show I couldn’t find on my last visit to London. Once in Bedford I dived straight into
the charity shops in search of a suitable bit of furniture to mount a mechanical pitching and rolling ship, I wanted something domestic and kitcheny and eventually found some sort of convertible child’s play table, which seems ideal. I’ve also just received an email from the Artists and Writers Fellowship saying they are considering my proposal not to go to the Antarctic. While I recognise that it doesn’t matter at all if they say yes or no the email has brought my competitive instinct to the fore, I find that I really want to win the prize.

On Tuesday Tess invited me on board one of the challenger yachts which was anchored in Ipswich marina, I got seasick.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

The Flag

The last two days have been spent doing Internet things and sitting on a tree stump, thinking. The Black Flag Game is fully up and running with forty-eight members who have between them invited another two hundred. Images have started to pop up on the website and I have made the first newsletter imaginatively titled “The Flag”. So far claims have been made in places as varied as New York and an alleged dogging site in Mardley Heath. I have also begun to publicise the residency by sending off information packs to any gallery that has shown even a vague interest in the past. I’ve found out that the show at Bedford is programmed for early 2009, which seems a long way away but it does take the pressure off. I’ve finished tracing images from “Antarctica- Exploring a Fragile Eden” and put them together into a small book.

Friday, 29 February 2008

Day Twenty

So far today has been the opposite of yesterday, it’s amazing how fast one’s fortunes can change. I bought a cheap fan from Argos, not as beautiful as my Pifco model, but much more reliable. I am now sitting in the wind and the rain eating a toastie at La Piazza and the boat has been floating on its tissue sea all morning. Similarly I fixed the scrolling animation machine by exercising patience and it is also powering along looking extremely reliable. On the downside I came into my studio this morning to find a black flag. Katie had snuck in and laid her claim. I am pleased to report I was upset. The Flag actually had the effect that I had hoped. I immediately took my revenge by claiming the tea area and later the fifth floor of Lurke street multi-storey car park. Now I am packaging Black flags and tracing pictures from my new book.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Day Nineteen

My wife has gone to sea again so for the first time I drove to Bedford. It was an uneventful journey punctuated only by bouts of road rage (other people’s) and my own lapses of concentration (probably causing the road rage). I tend to think about things when I drive but in an unproductive way, thoughts just cycle round my head and occasionally hypnotise me. Work today was a total disaster. I used an old ironing board to remake my scrolling animation machine and it worked perfectly until I decided to improve it and it stopped working. Then I set up tracing paper, fan and ship that floated beautifully for about ten minutes before the fan burnt out. I’m worried about my ability to make something that will actually survive the duration of a show. I did get a present today, a coffee table book about the Antarctic I think I’m going to make a book of drawings from it.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008


While pushing people to join The Black Flag Game on Face Book I am contacted by my first girlfriend who I haven’t seen in over twenty years. I would say my first love but that would get me mercilessly ribbed by all and sundry. It is a communication from across the sea as she is now living in the US. The whole experience is a strange one and I am minded of romance, oceans and distances untravelled. Despite the fact we are separated by thousands of miles and many years communication is easy, instantaneous and fun, though I feel like we should be writing letters.

Tuesday is usually my day off at the moment, though I did do a little work today. I have thoroughly settled into a routine now and there is only really a month to go. I like routines but they do stop me trying new things (or, because they stop me doing new things)

Monday, get up at 7 and cycle to work, teach drawing all day with varying degrees of success.

Tuesday, get up at 7.30, walk the dog, go to town to sort my finances out, wander around the charity shops, go to the studio, come home for lunch and then spend the rest of the day on the computer.

Wednesday, get up at 7 and cycle to work, teach painting in the morning (with varying degrees of success) and do a lecture and some tutorials in the afternoon.

Thursday, get up at 7 catch the bus to Ipswich have a coffee in Starbucks then catch the bus to Bedford. Get to the gallery and work until about 9. Go to my lodgings, have a chat with Christina. Go to bed and watch a dvd (Laurel & Hardy)

Friday, get up at 8 go to the greasy spoon and treat myself to single egg on toast. Work all day at the Gallery (Sometimes go to the pub)

Saturday, get up at 8 go to the greasy spoon and treat myself to beans on toast. Work at the gallery ‘til lunch, which I take at the piazza outdoor café. Work at the gallery ‘til 3 then catch the coach home

Sunday, get up at 8 slob around, walk the dog do house work.

There are other people involved but they seem peripheral to the routine.

Anyway today I’ve been working on how to exhibit some of my sculptures and have been playing with an old Pifco fan that I’m hoping will float a ship on some tracing paper. The fan is very beautiful but has only a minimal guard on it and threatens to hack the fingers off the inquisitive.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Black Flag Day

I can still barely move for my injuries so I have been working online. I decided to launch the Black Flag Game on Face Book with the words:

“When Scott reached the South Pole the first thing he saw was Amundsen's Black flag. "Bugger" he said and headed home. The rest is history. This game revives that moment. The rules are simple. Take a black flack go somewhere and as long as there are no other flags in sight, plant it. Hang around and watch the disappointment of others when they arrive second. Admittedly at first the game will be easy but soon flags will cover the globe and things will get interesting.”

I’m not convinced that this is the first Face Book artwork but I am going to claim it as such until someone waves a black flag at me. Anyone can join by going to:

and either downloading the flag template, emailing me for a kit or merely making their own flag. Then if they want they can add photos comments invite their friends or whatever. I have high hopes for what the future holds.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Day Eighteen

Today I woke stiff down one side but otherwise surprisingly fresh. I rode off to the gallery to show off my wounds. Sarah and Eva seemed keen to see my thigh but I decided that the arm was enough. I started to package up my black flags and gave Sarah a pack to test. Basically the idea is that you can use the flag to claim territory/discovery as long as no other black flags are in sight. I would love it to become some sort of extravagant team game with gangs of people trying to lay claim to parts of Bedford and being disappointed when others get there first. On the way home I started to read a book about the Italian cyclist Marco Pantani. He too came back from many serious crashes to have a glittering career (although he did die in a hotel room from a massive cocaine overdose) He created one of my most enduring memories. During the Tour de France he dropped his main rival on a mountain called the Col du Telegraph it was cold and raining. He crossed the line alone with his arms stretched out wide as if he was about to take flight. I’m off to have a bath now, there may be some screaming.

Black Flag in Bedford Market

Day Seventeen

It is mild and dull again; the threat of rain is coupled with the threat of a cycle ride with James. Cycling with someone new is always risky. James could be a tyrant of the road, laying down a draconian pace solidly for three hours. I spend the morning working with my scrolling animation machine and I’m really happy with the results, I seem to have struck lucky. I also make a flag-planting machine, which follows a black line and suddenly hammers a small flag into the ground. Eva comes for a chat just before lunch and we discuss the show. As it stands I have made enough stuff for two shows so we may have some tough decisions to make to avoid the jumble sale look. At two I rush off for the ride having totally failed to get anything to eat. There is a good chance I may black out on the first hill. We leave Bedford in a flash of lycra and it soon becomes clear we are going to have a lovely ride hammering up the hills like kings of the road (nearly, there is a strong tailwind). After a couple of hours we head home. Rounding a downhill bend my back wheel slips out from under me leaving me sliding across the road into the verge with a little less skin than I would like. Behind me James fares worse, he brakes when he sees me go, skids on the same bit of road and is dumped head first onto the only bit of kerb for a mile. James looks bad and decides to lie down for twenty minutes. We try riding off but he is too dizzy and falls off again so we call for help. Later we are chatting while waiting for Christina and then while showing off our wounds. It turns out that James has had many and varied crashes, I wish he had mentioned this before.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Day Sixteen

Weather mild and dull, it starts to rain as we approach Bedford. The journey to Bedford is beginning to feel a little dull; I may vary my approach from now on. The driver was in a bad mood; he gave us all a lecture about not using mobile phones as one of his earlier passengers had shouted loudly into his from Nottingham to Cambridge. Throughout the journey my fellow passengers could be heard whispering fearfully to their loved ones. Next to me a woman began to knit, her needles ticking and scraping a counterpoint to the squeak of the windscreen wipers. I’ve brought my bicycle this time (more grumbling from the driver) with the promise that I might go out for a ride with James. As I’ve only just recovered from my chest infection I might not last long. While I was on the coach I did hatch a plan to make a sort of animation from a long scrolling drawing. I went straight into a charity shop and bought some old LPs with which to construct my contraption. Big Ben Banjo Band, Popular music that will live forever, and Nat King Cole 20 Golden Greats served me well and unlike most of the things I make, it actually worked first time. Even better though was the discovery that the inner sleeves make excellent portholes.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

I don't understand how I'm at your command

Last night I travelled to Colchester to see Franko B’s baroque performance Don’t leave me this way at the arts centre. Lawrence had suggested we go and, although to be honest it’s the sort of thing I would usually avoid at all costs, I said yes. I am usually uncomfortable with performance; especially the theatrical/ritualistic sort which, I find, demands more of me than I am willing to give. Anyway we met at the entrance in good time and had a fortifying pint before filing into the performance space which was set out like a traditional theatre with a single spot lit chair on a podium facing raked seating. Like a couple of schoolboys we headed right for the back. I did sit dead centre, which meant I had a direct unobstructed view of the chair.

The performance itself was not as scary as I was expecting, although the incredibly loud, discordant soundtrack made me blink and wince. The body itself (theatrically appearing on the chair in total darkness) was unmoving and barely visible throughout. One moment of aggressive light shone directly into our eyes punctuating the darkness and then it was over. Overall my main response was “ow!” Afterwards Franko and his light vj collaborator came out to answer questions, or rather to make statements. Mainly Franko B wanted to state that he had finished bleeding and he wasn’t going to do it again, and if that was what we came to see, tough. I wanted to say that if blood had been involved I wouldn’t have come. But I thought that might be stealing his thunder. Franko obviously loves performing; he kept grabbing the mike to tell us stuff. One thing stuck in my mind, he said that the body means so much, has so many associations that it gives his performances richness. But I left feeling that the body means nothing. Not necessarily in a bad way.

Afterwards Lawrence and I wandered around Colchester, surrounded by semi-naked clubbers, looking for a hostelry with a quiet soundtrack. Eventually we stopped at a “hotel”, a sort of Formica oasis with a single moustachioed guest eating shepherd’s pie.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Stayed in all day today feeling low, my snotty cough persists. To raise my mood I spent an hour or so painting flag picks black. I think they are going to be used in some sort of pointless game where the players seek to stake claim to a discovered location. They can only place their flag if there is no other within view. Later I started work on a sort of comic mainly to get my ideas in some sort of order.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Flag Day

Weather cold and dull

I’ve decided to have a week off from Bedford in an attempt to recover my health. The cough persists and seems totally unshiftable. Tess is spending the week doing a fire fighting and sea rescue course, which seems very exciting in a smelly, dirty and wet way. So I am at home ready to hand cash out to the daughter and walk the dog. Today, to break the monotony of Internet gallery hunting and application writing I decided to make a quick visit to London to see the Bedwyr Williams show at Store and Limoncello, which has replaced Associates on Hoxton Street. The train journey was very productive. I managed to have a mild nervous breakdown about the aesthetic of my work, recover, have some new ideas about flag planting and a good think about how to lay out an exhibition. London itself, yet again, was a total debacle. So much so that I have vowed never to go again without a trained sherpa. When it comes to finding things I seem to be a disaster. I did managed to locate Limoncello but, despite being open, I could not get through the door, nor could I attract the attention of the shadowy figures in the back. Surely they must have seen the frantic figure in a Homer Simpson hat trying to gain entry to their gallery? Luckily I could see most of the show through the window, though I probably smeared the glass a bit in my attempt to view the stuff at the back. Store was next on my itinerary but despite being on the right road and knowing the address could I find it? I’m beginning to identify with Scott’s disappointment when he saw Amundsen’s black flag, though I didn’t even see that.

I plan to make a black flag kit so people can go and claim discovery of places and others can be disappointed that someone got there first.

Monday, 11 February 2008

I had a dream..

I arrived home to find that my daughter was having a sleep over and my wife had moved one of her sailing friends in. Steve seems very nice any way. Today I’ve been working on an application for the British Antarctic Survey’s Artists and Writers programme. Of course I am proposing not to go and I’m not quite sure how they are going to take it (probably straight to the bin). At the moment it’s a bit rough and looks like this:


I am making a proposal not to go to the Antarctic.

I have an interest in the inconvenience of adventure and its subsequent demystification of place. My previous practice has also become involved in fiction, imagined narrative and grand plans. A recent commission at The Foundling Museum saw me working in the shadow of Hogarth and Handel attempting a portrait, an act of charity and an opera. I am currently working on a residency for BCA gallery in Bedford where in the footsteps of Scott and Shackleton I am working on a diary and series of films and sculptures based on an imagined journey to Antarctica. The works are deliberately made without research and constructed entirely in the studio above the gallery and mostly under my table. The residency is also inspired by Raymond Roussel’s Impressions of Africa. A surrealist novel allegedly written after Roussel had briefly glimpsed the coast of Africa through a telescope. The films, sculptures and books were tied up with the more mundane narrative of my constant journeying back and forth between Ipswich and Bedford. The writing of this proposal forms an integral part of the residency.

More specifically I propose to spend the time of this programme making a body of work that reflects my absence from the Antarctic. This will include an online component, which will be developed into a series of books, sculptural works and films. I am especially interested in entering into correspondence with artists/writers in the Antarctic. I also want to deal with the idea of the contemporary media based concept adventurer as self-publicist.

Although I do not hold strong political views I believe it will also be an interesting statement to divert funding to a proposal which would have zero environmental impact on the Antarctic and would save money in terms of transport, training etc. I would like to propose that any moneys saved be donated back to the Natural Environment Research Council.


Not Applicable


I will probably remain in the UK for the duration of the programme. I may go to the seaside (somewhere relatively warm and mundane)




I propose to produce a range of outcomes including films, sculpture and book works
The main outcome will be an online blog and at least one book stemming from my time not in the Antarctic. Current ideas for books include:
A correspondence between myself and an Antarctic adventurer
A sort of vox pop imagining of the Antarctic using a range of contributors.
A series of posters advertising my non-adventure.

I did have a dream last night in which all those TV explorers Griff Rhys Jones, Ray Mears, Ben Fogle, those twin doctors etc all accidentally meet up and ruin their programmes by having a big argument.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Day Fifteen


Frosty and clear this morning. It looks unlikely that I will see any snow, flocculent or otherwise. Also I still don’t know what sastrugi are though I’m imagining some sort of corn snack. I woke this morning with a trachea full of snot that I had been unsuccessfully trying to cough up all night. I began work feeling so ill that I started to try to make an iceberg out of a wine rack that Katie had been trying to throw out. It seems an exercise in futility beyond all others. I’ve noticed that there is whispering in the office regarding my fitness to continue. But I am by no means worn out. Actually, I seem to have been quite busy. Last night I think I finished a suite of films I have been making in secret after everyone has gone home. They involve an iceberg being dragged into the gallery and then hoisted upstairs and a clockwork explorer exploring the first floor. Today (apart from the wine rack debacle) I’ve managed to make a sort of snow globe out of a cocktail stick holder bought at Wilkinsons. It has gone part way to dealing with my disappointment with the weather. Suzanne Mooney’s show also opened today; there was wine and the interesting game of watching elderly passer’s-by spotting their souvenirs in the window. I’m typing this on the coach, not an easy task, as I have to pin the laptop with my elbow. At least this week we are more or less on time and I should get home before long.
View one of the videos here

Friday, 8 February 2008

Day Fourteen

Last night I was late at the studio filming an iceberg being hauled up the stairs the plan is that this rather pointless endeavour will be glimpsed in another film of an explorer wandering around the gallery offices.

Today started cool and clear. I woke with a headache, which steadily worsened through the morning until my vision was blurred, and I felt sick. Eventually I was forced to lie down in the studio with my hood pulled over my head. Sleep helped but I still felt weak and shaken. I’m still struggling for ideas for the 3D view-master. Part of my problem is that I don’t want to risk outlaying a load of cash unless I’m sure it’s going to work. Later I did go out to a café and drew my surroundings with little flags claiming my discovery.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Day Thirteen

Weather mild, journey uneventful. My health is going steadily downhill. I now have a phlegmy , hacking cough and a headache, which just won’t go away. The work is going ok though. I’m just beginning to take a series of images for a 3d view master I want the images to be neither from one of the films nor of any of the existing sculptures but beyond that I’m not exactly sure what they will be yet. I have made a little series of flags, which I imagine would mark the pole but I’m not sure about them either. BCA is a lot busier of late. Jane, the other artist in residence is back hiding behind a camouflage sheet at the back of the studio, she’s making a beautiful looking film about flight and trying to sort out her car insurance. Downstairs Suzanne Mooney is preparing her show The Secret Life of Things. The first piece is a narrowing aisle of plinths leading into the gallery each topped with second-hand souvenirs. Suzanne was slightly miffed that she couldn’t place the plinths even closer together but her artistic will was defeated by health and safety regulations. Then to the left is a large print of photography manuals. The books are arranged as if on a shelf with pieces of paper sticking out of their tops marking unseen pages. They are photographed over life size and create a pleasing abstract pattern but I am still fooled into turning my head sideways as if browsing the shelf of a charity bookshop. Towards the back of the gallery are a series of photographic postcards each depicting one of the souvenirs and two digital photo frames playing a series of images of photographers found in books and magazines. One has only images of women, the other of men. It’s fun to flick your eyes from one to the other to spot the differences. Everything is carefully arranged to draw you into the space and the show manages to be simultaneously engaging, coherent and cool in a way that makes me want to hide under my table. I’ve always struggled with my lack of coolness, which is the only word I can think of to describe that sense of ironic detachment coupled with an intense aesthetic control that is totally lacking in my haphazard approach to making. Suzanne did come up to the studio and said “you are a messy man” which sums it up really.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

An incident in Birmingham


The journey home did not go exactly as planned. After waiting for an hour for the 305 at Bedford bus station, a cold brutal place, I phoned the National Express emergency number. I wasn’t really sure it was an emergency but I was getting a little cold. A lovely young woman called Kay or Jay or something similar told me the coach had broken down in Birmingham but that a silver replacement bus was on its way and should arrive in another hour. She also told me that, as I would miss my change in Cambridge, she would arrange a free Taxi from Trumpington, park’n’ride to Ipswich. Reassured I went to find a Cornish pasty. For the next hour I attempted a number of keeping warm techniques. I tried: pacing, shivering, waving my arms about, dancing, an abortive moonwalk and even imagining warm places. By the time the coach arrived and the driver asked me my destination I couldn’t remember where I was going. An hour later in a warmish coach we were still circling Cambridge trying to find the way to Parker’s Piece. Unfortunately the driver, from Birmingham, had never been to Cambridge before and was finding the road layout a little troublesome. Eventually after much shouting we made our rendezvous with the second coach, which was to take me and a little old lady to meet the taxi. After waiting 20 minutes at the park & ride we persuaded the man on duty (Bob) to phone the National Express emergency number to find out where our taxi was. Again I’m not sure it was an emergency but the little old lady was quite elderly. Bob announced, proudly, that the taxi had indeed been booked but that it was waiting for us at Park-side not Park’n’ride. An easy mistake. Its times like these you realise how close death can be. I finally reached home after six hours.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Day Twelve

Eva’s maiden voyage was a bit of a flop. As I had feared the river was full of rowers rowing. However the weather was ideal so, after a little walk, I went to find a quietish spot to launch her. Once in the water I found myself so embarrassed by the whole debacle that I couldn’t film her and only watched as she immediately got tangled in some twigs and, once freed, slowly floated crabwise down stream sinking at quite an alarming rate. One success was the onboard camera that despite a soaking performed admirably in its little rubber suit.

Time for a redesign,

I’ve added a huge keel, which should make her straighten up, and little fins at the back which just look cool. I’ve also taken out the clockwork propeller as it only propelled backwards and sealed all the holes. Hopefully next week will be more of a success.

In other news I’m afraid I have to report that yet again I am working with a hangover. Yesterday BCA got its Arts Council funding for the next three years so Laura, Sean, James and Christina invited me to a champagne dinner (and beer and wine). There was much talk of: shiny shoes, running for councillor, and Katie’s lucky pants, which were widely thought to be behind the BCA’s recent success.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Day Eleven

Last night I was filming late in the gallery. It was an important moment as an iceberg was being slowly dragged into position by an electric mule. I was reminded of Scott's boyish faith in the tracked snow machines that he was trialling on his way to the pole. The main failing of these machines, apart from the constant breaking down, was that you couldn't eat them when they did. My mule made it and I retired upstairs for a microwave curry.

Failed to launch boat but I wasn't thwarted by the weather rather the batteries for the receiver. they just took all day to charge up. Instead I spent the day wrestling with my magnum opus. It was really beginning to wind me up as different bits niggled and irked. So much so that I have developed a grinding headache and my eyes are pointing in different directions. I did manage to film a whale surfacing in the sink and sorted out the sounds of mating seals that seem to have accidentally appeared in the aurora sequence (I made them louder). Perhaps it is time to stop.

Whale about to surface?

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Day Ten

Today was windy and cold we were even struck by a sudden hailstorm as the driver wove the coach up the A428. This time I forgot my headphones a mistake I instantly regretted as a young man spent the whole journey into Ipswich explaining loudly how he didn't understand why he and his girlfriend had split up. I think I have a few ideas, probably she couldn't get a word in edgeways. I am hoping to launch my boat this week and spent some time making sure the camera's rubber suit was as watertight as possible before gluing it to the mast. If the wind dies down tomorrow I will rope Eva into giving me a hand launching it up by the railway bridge. I spent most of the rest of the day making little sculptures of accidents at sea. There's a woman trapped under the ice and a group of people caught in an avalanche (not very likely at sea I know). I also began to populate a broken glass ice flow with artists taking photos, drawing or just standing around. A friend sent me an email yesterday suggesting I apply to go to a symposium on space travel and the relationship between cultural practice and science (or something like that) He also sent an ad asking for contributions from artists who make work out of vegetables. I now cannot get images of carrot spaceships and cauliflower planets out of my head. Instead of this I should be thinking more about explaining what I am doing. I am getting interested in the relationship between scientific exploration and imagined narrative. Eva said something the other day while watching me film a ship on a bed sheet which I should have written down. It was something along the lines of the sculpture/film sets up an equivalence which allows the viewer to imagine themselves in that space/situation (I think)

Monday, 28 January 2008


I have been ill. No doubt weakened by drink I succumbed to Catherine’s cold. Things are still not totally clear about the events of the night of the 25th. However I did find the map drawn for me by everyone in the pub (see picture) Luckily I didn’t have to use it and managed to navigate my way home using the river as a reference. Since then I have been using my convalescence to paint some Hornby people to look like artists/penguins and to think about possible cover images for this journal. I’m toying with the idea of taking some photos of the bus station before the council knock it down. When I return to Bedford on Thursday we will be launching a little scratch-built boat onto the river. I’ve fashioned a dry-suit for the camera that will be strapped to its deck but don’t hold out much hope that it will survive its maiden voyage.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Day Nine

Morning – cold & clear

I have woken with a heavy cold and a painful hangover. I had planned to write a serious account of my work so far and hopes for the future. Maybe later. I crept out of my lodgings at about eight and went in search of a hearty breakfast, this mistake and a few others I have made recently have made me think more closely about what I eat. My eating habits on residencies bear no relation to my ‘real life’ diet. While not exactly hand to mouth, I eat in a much more opportunistic way. Yesterday my diet consisted of: Double egg on toast with a mug of tea; about 10 choc chip cookies; four cups of coffee, two cups of tea, water, eight mini haggises, two slices of bread, 5 pints of beer, a packet of crisps, and a lamb curry. This morning I had an ill judged (but very nice) vegetarian breakfast at the High Street Café and Restaurant. At least the breakfast had grilled tomatoes, my first real vegetable/fruit in 24 hours.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Day Eight


It is my birthday, a fact I might gladly have forgotten, but Tess didn’t, she emailed Katie. At lunch a chocolate birthday cake appeared, Eva had found a penguin and placed it on top and Katie had fashioned a sign using a bit of card and a q-tip. This was coupled with a delightful selection of haggis canapés. Otherwise my day is filled with meetings. First Catherine arrived, full of cold, from Commissions East. We were to discuss the end of my experience on Escalator, and the progress of my Arts council grant. To be honest, and I know I shouldn’t be, I have not been giving the grant much thought as I have been so busy with other projects. However she seemed satisfied with my efforts and on the whole I have enjoyed the experience (see my other blog for the bits I didn’t enjoy). Later I will meet with Katie and Eva to review my progress so far on the BCA residency. I am really apprehensive about the whole thing. How will they hide their disappointment? Will there be a silence? A shuffling of feet?… I may drink heavily tonight.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Day Seven


The weather is mild and dry.

On the coach this morning I was making a list of all the processes involved with polar exploration. I had got as far as 'planning' and 'provisioning' when I realised I had left my camera bag at home. Admittedly my survival does not hang in the balance because of this, but I did feel a bit of an idiot. The only upside of the journey was that the driver looked a bit like a walrus.

The loss of the cameras has meant that I have spent more time than usual worrying about what I am doing, fiddling around and trying to look busy. I have completed the Aurora machine and I think it will work quite well. I have also started work on a number of pointless endeavors which I think may become videos in the near future.

Last week I joined in with a kids workshop for five minutes. They were making spiders. Mine was a rather feeble creature and one of the boys pulled its legs off. Coincidentally, spiders are one of my declared reasons for not going to certain countries /continents.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Day Six

Rain all day today. The river has burst its banks it is wide and brown and fast flowing. I spent a lot of time filming a piece of polystyrene with a face drawn on it as it sped downstream. I must have looked a bit odd charging along the bank trying to get ahead of jetsam while trying to shelter my camera from the rain. After a mile or so it washed ashore and I headed damply back to the studio. This isn’t really a piece for the Bedford residency. I’ve got a solo show, Little Deaths, at the Salt Gallery in May and I wanted a few more options when I come to hang.

The coach journey home was dull and wet.

Mother to son:
"Stop it
Stop it
Stop it
You’re being very silly
Stop it."