Tuesday, January 15, 2019

City View Bus Photographic Journey

An air-conditioned minibus runs from Phu My Hung in District 7 to the Lucky Plaza on Dong Khoi in District 1 and is my regular way to travel into the centre of Saigon.

I thought I would like to record the journey as the bus travels from District 7 to the Saigon river-front section of District 1 before arriving at the Lucky Plaza.

Phu My Hung to Dong Khoi: Bus route

After considering several ways to record the journey (I didn't wish to simply record the entire journey on video as I wanted to adopt a particular strategy to the exercise) I thought I would take a photograph at intervals throughout the trip. I decided upon 5 minute intervals between each photograph as in this way the decision of what to photograph would be taken out of my hands. I would simply use my watch as a guide and take a photograph of whatever was outside at that time. Additionally I would not attempt to select or direct the photograph, but would try to minimise any shakiness due to the movement of the bus or the unevenness of the road surface (though this was not always so successful).

When I boarded the minibus I noticed that most of the windows were covered with an anti-glare dotted screen but I found one window in the rear of the bus that had been left clear. I sat on the left-hand side, facing forward, directly above the wheel. Although this was the only clear window, it was also unfortunate as each time the bus ran over a speed-bump (there are several in the initial part of the  trip) the entire bus bounced and threw me up out of my seat. This was not very comfortable but at least I had the opportunity to take the photographs I needed.

As the driver closed the minibus door and prepared to leave, I took the first photograph (in a square format) and then more photographs every 5 minutes until the bus had reached its destination. In all I took 7 photographs:

Photo taken: 10:30am

Photo taken: 10:35am

Photo taken: 10:40am

Photo taken: 10:45am

Photo taken: 10:50am

Photo taken: 10:55am

Photo taken: 11:00am

Video compilation of the bus trip

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Magazine d'Art De Saigon, Issue 4

I was very pleased to be included in the current issue of the Magazine d'Art De Saigon. In the issue I introduced myself and some of my personal history along with a brief summary of the recent digital print I made (District 7 Strata, 2018), which involved walking as part of the creative process.

A more in-depth account of the work was published in the 5th edition of the Living Maps Review.

It is great that I am able to use this forum to introduce my work and hope that it will be the start of a productive period for me here in Saigon, Vietnam where I have been living and working since May 2018.

The section focusing on my work can be read here:
or, below:

Hard copies of the issue can be ordered via Blurb here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The 10th Online Performance Art Festival

On the 6th December 2018 I was very happy to participate in the 10th Online Performance Art Festival, conducted solely online and broadcasting from my home in Saigon, Vietnam.

I chose my performance 'The Path to Enlightenment' as I had not performed it live before, only conducting a recorded version on 2nd July 2017 on Cheung Chau Island, Hong Kong.

This live-streamed version went out on the internet at 1:00pm UTC (8:00pm Vietnam time).

This 10th incarnation of the Festival, concept initiated by Sandra Bozic, took place from 6th - 9th December and my performance was the second piece to be presented on the first day following Yusuf Durodola who was streaming from Lagos, Nigeria.

Live performance is interesting as there is no guarantee that events will happen as planned, anything is possible and it is necessary to be prepared for that eventuality. In fact there was a surprise (for me) during my performance. At the beginning, I set up the framing of the candle and there was a minute or so before I began as I needed confirmation that the live-streaming was working properly. Once I received the go-ahead from Dragan Strunjas I switched off the lights and began the performance.

In the version I recorded last year, once I had lit the candle it burned until I blew out the flame and it instantly re-ignited itself. In this new, live version I discovered that the first time I blew out the candle it did not re-ignite as expected although this was not such a problem, of course, as I could easily light the candle again. Following the second lighting of the candle the performance then proceeded as expected until the candle had burnt itself out thereby ending the performance.

On reflection, the candle's failure to re-ignite itself actually reinforced the underlying meaning behind the performance. The struggle to extinguish the candle in the latter part of the performance, was combined with an earlier struggle to make the candle work the way it should! I was initially frustrated and disappointed that the candle didn't re-ignite, until I realised that this added to the uncertainty and loss of control felt by Sisyphus. I was forced to surrender control to the candle and it was necessary to accept whatever happened. These surprises and unexpected outcomes are what makes performance exciting for me. I have tried to embrace accidents and chance occurrences in my work overall but in performance the effects of these serendipitous events can be quite visceral.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Ways to Wander: Walk No. 49 - Waylaid Walking

Score No. 49 - Waylaid Walking in the book 'Ways to Wander' by Clare Qualmann and Claire Hind, currently being interpreted by Dr. Blake Morris, is 'Waylaid Walking' by Dr. Charlie Fox.
Blake is re-enacting all 54 walks to be found in the book.

This score is inspired by the practice of Walter Benjamin. As the score states: "Quotations in my works are like robbers by the roadside who make an armed attack and relieve an idler of his convictions." (Walter Benjamin from One Way Street).

Benjamin wandered around the shopping arcades of Paris, allowing the environment, people, objects to trigger thoughts, feelings and responses. As I am currently residing in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam, I chose Ben Thanh Market for my own personal dérive. The following images and thought fragments came out of that walk.

My walk aimed to coincide with the walks by Blake, Sandra Cowen and the Loiterer's Resistance Movement taking place in the UK.

For direction, the score advises: 'As you walk along alight on the poor objects that illuminate the use and embodied history of a place; arrested by the thoughts conjured out of that object, material or surface, record that idea or you thought-feeling as a fragment of words'.

Ben Thanh Market

1. Mid-afternoon, Ben Thanh Market is open and should be thriving though many units facing to the exterior remain unused. The shutters that provide a link between the exterior and interior of the market are padlocked creating a fixed though decorative wall, leaving the gates of the market as the only breaks in the facade.

2. The Terra-cotta decorative screens on the exterior of the market were perhaps ventilation screens to keep the market interior a little cooler. If so, the screens have now been blocked from the inside. Has the space behind the screens become occupied and do the new tenants wish to keep their goods more secure?

3. The market entrance was once marked by the combination of stepped arches and iron lattice work, both painted in an attractive, contrasting colours. Nowadays, this grand decorative solution has given way to gaudy, plastic banners stretched haphazardly across the portal. This is the way to attract today's customers.

4. Hidden away above the entrance is the secret office, the windows barred. Night and day the low-wattage light tube flickers but no movement within can be discerned. Is the market management meeting still in progress? or did it ever commence?

5. The market in full swing, the walls and arches that have witnessed many sights over the years slowly crumble through lack of maintenance. The sales staff cannot maintain their concentration as they daydream and think of other things.

6. As the morning transitions into lunchtime, the fresh food area becomes a hive of activity. Customers and market staff alike order cà phê, phở, and/or bánh mì. * 
The out-of-date cartoon plush toys will have to wait.

7. Over at the wet market section, there is a plentiful offering. Besides live crab, prawns and shellfish of every description, it is possible to buy fish either alive and struggling in the plastic bag or semi-dried and arranged in woven baskets. These milk-eyed fish lie still and do not stare back.

8. Very little is wasted and everything is presented without frills. As this is the final area to see, at the tail end of my visit (so to speak), I wonder if the market has shown me everything? I doubt it, I am sure there are many more tales to be told here...but that would be for another day.

*Vietnamese style coffee, soup noodles (usually with beef), sandwich made with crispy French style baguette.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Ways to Wander: Walk No. 48 - Walking With a Tennis Ball

The long-term interpretation of the 'Ways to Wander' book by Dr. Blake Morris continues and I was able to participate once more from my location in Vietnam.

This time the walk was No. 48 in the book, a score written by Tobias Grice that (as the book describes) 'engages in utilising a tourist mindset in a familiar environment, exploring issues held in plain sight'. 

Score by Tobias Grice in 'Ways to Wander'

When recreating one of these scores it is necessary to contextualise the score to fit the particular environment in which it is being enacted.

I walked from a housing development close to the Vivo City shopping centre (that was nearby the area I studied while working on the 'District 7 Strata' digital print) to the Crescent Mall further along Nguyen Van Linh - taking in the Ho Lake Park in Phu My Hung.

Walking Route - 28.11.2018

As I walked I bounced the lime green tennis ball across different surfaces, noticing the different sounds made as the ball bounced, how the different materials affected the bounce and, as the bounce was reduced to a roll, how the ball continued to move across this and other adjacent surfaces as well as how and where the ball came to rest.

Screen captures from video recordings taken during the walk

I conducted my walk on Wednesday 28th November 2018. Blake walked this score during the same week together with Phil Smith and Clare Bryden.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Collecting Colours in Saigon

I had previously written about my recent digital print 'District 7 Strata', and how the work led on to further divergent threads that I am now beginning to unpick one by one. In addition to this I would like to express my satisfaction at having the opportunity of writing about my working process in more detail.

I had the pleasure of having an article accepted into the Lines of Desire section of the online journal LivingMaps Review.

I tried to describe my working process during the creation of the digital print and the decisions I made throughout. The editors of the Lines of Desire section, Blake Morris and Clare Qualmann enabled me to complete this article, refine it for publication and also to clarify my own thoughts into a more coherent state and for that I am extremely grateful.

The article can be read here.


Maps are symbolic representations of chosen places, whether real or imagined and are constructed in ways that communicate specific information. Sometimes maps can be accurate geographic recreations of locations but often these relationships can be sacrificed if other information has been granted priority. The following article details the working process undertaken by Patrick S. Ford as he creates a digital print based upon a study of a district of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in Vietnam. A period of familiarization of the district involving extended walks resulted in a piece of work that is essentially a map of the area under study.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner - Alan Sillitoe

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe was published in 1959, winning the Hawthornden Prize the following year.

In this short story Sillitoe uses long distance running as a metaphor for an emotional and physical escape from society. The main character, Colin Smith, was caught by the Police for robbing a bakery and sentenced to Borstal (prison school) in Essex. His talent for running attracts the notice of the borstal's authorities and they offer him the prospect of a light workload for the remaining 6 months of his sentence if he can win a cross-c country race against a well known public school.

In the race, Smith easily outpaces the other runners and leads the race until the final meters of the race, at which point he stops and allows the other runners to overtake him, to the great anger of the Borstal authorities.
In revenge Smith receives a regime of hard, manual labour for the remaining time he has to serve, but Smith harbours no regret at all. The system could take away his freedom but nobody can force him to run, that is his alone.

The book was adapted into a film by Sillitoe and directed by Tony Richardson in 1962. Tom Courtenay starred as Smith and won the BAFTA for Best Newcomer and the Mar del Plata International Film Festival Award for Best Actor

It was a master-stroke to turn this short-story into a feature length film as, when it was first proposed as a film Tony Richardson estimated that the film's running time would have been around 17 minutes long. Sillitoe worked hard and the screenplay by expanding it into a film lasting an hour and twenty minutes.

During the time Sillitoe write the book, attitudes to sport, especially running was changing from the old concept of amateur sport in which athletes competed for the pure glory of excelling in the sport rather than monetary gain.

While conducting research for a planned book on aspects of performance art, I re-read the short story and found pertinent commentaries on the state of mind attained by runners during long distance races. I had experienced these same feeling myself whilst competing in hill races and ultra marathons. The pat-pat-pat cadence of his footsteps being very familiar to me as a way for a runner to monitor their condition during long races.

Short clips and commentaries on the film version can be found here, and here on YouTube.

Link to book on Amazon.co.uk.