Saturday, November 9, 2019

'All Animals are Equal #2' - A.Farm, Saigon

On Saturday 2nd November A.Farm held it's second artist extravaganza entitled 'All Animals are Equal #2' out in District 12 of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

In the main building there was an exhibition of work by artists who have been part of the residence project, collectively showing the results of their investigations. The rest of the A. Farm complex was opened up to local artists to showcase their work both indoors and outdoors.

I submitted two of my filmed performances to be included in the collective artist film screening that took place during the day.
After discussion with the organisers the two chosen films presented my performance 'One Step Forward, Two Steps Back' that had been filmed in East Yorkshire, UK and District 7 in Ho Chi. Minh City respectively.

Unfortunately I could not attend the event in person as I had previously arranged to be in Hanoi for the opening of the Vietnam Festival of Media and Design: Hanoi 2019. However, it was a great opportunity for me to show my work locally for the first time since moving here in May 2018. I really hope there will be more opportunities in the future.

'One Step Forward, Two Steps Back', Sewerby Steps, Bridlington, UK

'One Step Forward, Two Steps Back', District 7, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

'British Summer Time: Sunrise Walk 7'

On Saturday 26th October, I had the good fortune to take part in another distance walk organised by Dr. Blake Morris who is currently based in the UK.

Blake initiated the series of walks (entitled British Summer Time) in response to the approaching change of clocks in the UK and how activity experienced each day at the same time undergoes an immediate and dramatic change as the clocks suddenly change back to Greenwich Mean Time (UTC).

The walk for us in Vietnam allowed us to experience the sunrise in Saigon, which was scheduled for 05:43am. I took photographs 15 minutes before sunrise (05:28 am), at the time of the sunrise (05:43 am) and then 15 minutes after sunrise (05:58 am). Of course, there is no daylight saving arrangement in place and the sunrise / sunset does not fluctuate very much throughout the year here.

Blake walked in the UK, in the vicinity of Northampton while other participants walked in a variety of locations.
On 26th October walkers strode out in the early morning in Northampton, Cork, St. Ives and Bournville. Due to the time difference, in Saigon, we walked out 6 hours ahead of everyone else and experienced a wonderful walk. The usual bustling city, verging on the chaotic, was slowly awakening. The environment was therefore much quieter than usual, with far fewer people out on the street. The air was also less humid.
A few meters from where we walked, bats and swallows competed for insects above the local river and as we continued along the road, watching the sunrise, the latter gradually replaced the former.

This was another great opportunity to see our surroundings from a new perspective, a very enjoyable walk.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

'No holiday', Birrarung Marr, Melbourne, Australia

This is the second recorded walk I made during my recent visit to Australia, beginning in Melbourne with me exiting the Flinders Street Railway Station, crossing the road close to St. Paul's Cathedral and then across to Federation Square.

From Federation Square I walked along the Yarra Riverbank to Birrarung Marr where I discovered the large outdoor sculpture 'Angel' by Deborah Halpern standing alone in the midday sun. Not far away, up some steps I found the intriguing Federation Bells, which play music at intervals during the day.

Walking on the William Barak Bridge I made my way toward the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the largest stadium in the Southern Hemisphere.  In 2005 this bridge was enhanced by the addition of the permanent sound installation 'Proximities', created by Sonia Leber and David Chesworth, that features a welcome song sung in Woiwurrung by Wurundjeri Elder Joy Murphy Wandin, who is a descendent of William Barak. The installation also broadcasts the voices of people representing people of the 53 commonwealth countries now living in Australia.

The first thing I saw when I arrived at the cricket ground was the statue of Dennis Lillee - the legendary Australian fast bowler. I remember this amazing cricket player terrorising batsmen during Ashes matches when I was a youngster at school in the UK. There are further statues of Australian cricketing legends around the exterior of the ground.

The film concludes as I continue on my way crossing Yarra Park.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

'One Step Forward, Two Steps Back' - 28.9.2019

During my research into the cityscape of Sydney prior to my recent visit looking for suitable locations for walking, filming or other activities, I discovered a very interesting set of steps close to Sydney Harbour Bridge. Later, when I arrived at the foot of the steps, I immediately felt that I had made an excellent choice.

The steps were built during 1912-14 and formed part of the redevelopment of the area which included construction of the wharves at Walsh Bay, a layout of new roads, and the steps themselves (named after civil engineer Robert Hickson, the first president of the Sydney Harbour Trust).

The steps (which formed part of the route from Hickson Road to the Harbour Bridge walkway deck) had so much character I was drawn to responding to them in some way and the natural way for me seemed to be in enacting a new version of my performance 'One Step Forward, Two Steps Back'.

The individual details of this performance are always governed by the specifics of each particular location and in this instance I stayed close to the right hand side (when facing uphill). This allowed me to employ the beautiful and powerful wall as a backdrop and also enabled the use of the handrail. The central rail and cast iron fence that ran down the opposite side of the steps contrasted nicely with the sandstone steps.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

'No holiday', Farm Cove, Sydney, Australia

Last month I had the great fortune to be able to visit Australia and what was even more fortunate was that during my visit I had enough time to contemplate creating three new performative works. One of them was a 'step' piece, which I shall post about soon, while the other two became episodes of the 'No holiday' saga.

The first walk, in Sydney, was particularly enjoyable for me. Since being a child I had been familiar with the landmarks in this beautiful city for example, the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and the stunning harbour itself and wondered if I would ever actually see them. To finally gaze upon these sights with my own eyes, feel the wind on my face and take in the full scope of the landscape as I moved through the city was indeed a realisation of these, once fanciful, memories.

The route I finally decided upon for my walk began at Mrs. Macquarie's Point, which is more correctly known as Yurong Point by the indigenous Gadigal inhabitants. Here, in 1810, was a large seat or bench hand carved by convicts for the benefit of Elizabeth Macquarie, the wife of major General Lachlan Macquarie, governor of New South Wales.

From there I walked around Farm Cove, which forms the coastline of the Royal Botanic Gardens. originally known as Woccanmagully, it was the site of a farm to sustain Government House and the first Governor, Arthur Phillip.

The filming ceased close to the iconic Sydney Opera House, designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon.  
I gazed across Sydney Cove to 'The Rocks' before continuing towards Circular Quay and it was at this point that the current film ends.

Details of the second walk will be posted soon.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

10th International Conference on The Image

For the 10th International Conference on The Image, this year held at the Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK on 5-6th September, I decided to submit a conference poster for inclusion.

Being preoccupied by performative walking in recent years, I thought it would be good to compile a collection of working methods that could be engaged in and at the same time to present examples of these methods that I had personally experienced.

I titled my poster 'Strategies for Performative Walks', created in collaboration with Nina, Yiu Lai Lei (with whom I have collaborated on several recent projects) and set out to present these strategies. To fully illustrate each method I presented a representative image, short description and a QR code that would direct people to a more in-depth blog post. 

The strategies I outlined were as follows: a) Photography, b) Videography, c) Live-stream Broadcast, d) Sound recording, e) Social Media posts and f) Colour Collection.

The strategies were introduced in isolation but, of course, they could be combined to create multi-faceted projects. 

The abstract for the poster read as follows: 

Walking can be thought of as a medium just like painting, printmaking or sculpture so the crucial question is: What happens once the walk commences? There would usually be a strategy employed when approaching the walk unless the plan is to deliberately dispense with strategies. The strategy can involve observations and responses to the location the walk takes place within or, alternatively, can relate to discussions with fellow walkers or even communication with other participants walking simultaneously in remote locations. Thesis communications, along with observations of the locale, can be transmitted and/or recorded to form an archive or even the basis for a future, related piece of work. This poster outlines six strategies for approaching performative walks.

Conference banner

Conference Poster

Sunday, September 8, 2019

4th World Congress of Psychogeography, 2019

The 4th World Congress of Psychogeography was held on the first weekend in September 2019 at the following venues in West Yorkshire: Huddersfield on Friday 6th, Dewsbury on Saturday 7th and Marsden on Sunday 8th.

I have never classed myself as a true psychogeographer but it has occurred to me that many of the activities associated with psychogeography do have connections to the methods I have been drawn to in my performance work and, with walking as a primary element in my work, it seems to be the closest approach that has been defined as an area of study.

With this in mind I have been actively seeking opportunities for me to present my work whenever such appropriate opportunities arise. The Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography was immediately attractive to me for a couple of reasons. First, the venues were located in my home county of Yorkshire in the UK, and secondly I noticed that a number of notable figures within the field of psychogeography were either presenting work or initiating events and activities.

I secured a time-slot between 12:00-12:30pm on Friday 6th September to present a live-stream performance to an assembled audience of around 60 people who had gathered in the Oastler Building of Huddersfield University. This was an opportunity for me to enact a new episode of my on-going saga 'No holiday', this time conducted in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Vietnam, on the wide 'walking street' Nguyễn Huệ.

Originally the Kinh Lon canal that allowed goods to be brought from the Saigon River, into the heart of the city, it was renamed the Charter Canal from around 1861. The canal was subsequently filled in in 1887 and turned into a boulevard in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The boulevard grew increasingly busy until April 2015, when it was converted into a pedestrian street.

An introduction was made to the assembled audience at Huddersfield University before the live-stream broadcast commenced and I began my walk.

Beginning at 6:00pm (Vietnam time) my walk took me down the northwestern edge of the street, walking towards the river until I reached the busy Đường Tôn Đức Thắng road at which point I turned and made my way up the centre of Nguyễn Huệ, past the joggers, the students, young couples, hawkers, tourists and street performers.

During the walk dusk arrived and the lighting on the street changed dramatically. Early in the walk it began raining but luckily despite the forecast of heavy rain, it lifted and allowed me to continue walking unencumbered by the umbrella.

The performance went well and, according to the organisers, was well received back in the UK. I always hope that audiences can relax, suspend their expectations and enjoy the meditative walk with me, wherever I happen to be in the world.

It was a great honour for me to be a participant of the Congress and I thank the organisers for allowing me to showcase my work in this way.

The Congress website can be found here.

The full conference programme can be viewed here.

A recording of the live-stream performance can be viewed here on my YouTube Channel.

A full playlist of 'No holiday' performances can be viewed here.

One-page Congress Programme

Recording of live-stream performance

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Layer Drawing Project

The development of work can be a logical process, progressing in a methodical linear way as ideas are unraveled and understood. This would continue in a similar fashion if attention is focused on the journey and what the direction of the next step should be.

My own experience, however, is a lot more chaotic, messy and unruly but no less enjoyable or, importantly, productive.

I have developed an approach in which, at almost every stage, there are multiple possibilities, possible directions, appropriate decisions and therefore solutions. There is, of course, a central element that does progress, develop and arrive a resolution but in addition to these multiple starting points or as I see them, possible 'threads' that can be returned to in the future and then investigated more thoroughly.

The most efficient way to keep track of all these possible threads is to have notebooks around in which to record the alternative ideas so that they may be taken up later. Without these notes many of the additional ideas may be forgotten and never taken up. What waste that is.

When initiating a series of drawings as participation in the Drawing Dialogue 2 project, I started 4 drawings by covering part of a sheet off paper in marks that resembled either 'scribbles' or unknown calligraphic characters, depending on one's attitude. Theses drawings of mine were then worked on by two other partners in the project until a final resolution was reached.

Later, I thought back to these initiatory drawings as I wished to investigate the method a little further than I had at the time. I began laying down these proto calligraphic marks using a light HB pencil and then worked on top of them with a darker pencil, B or perhaps 2B. I was attracted to the effect of having multiple layers of marks of varying intensity and boldness. The resulting image resembled a kind of palimpsest in which marks from the different layers could be read intermittently through the various layers. I tried making some drawings in one of my notebooks, initially as a solid block of marks but then trying leave part of the drawing with some of the marks but with not all the layers superimposed one on another. With each drawing the section that was not covered by all the layers was laid out formally so the number of layers put down could be easily detected simply by counting them as they were revealed in the more open section. For convenience, and for want of a better term I simply called these works 'Layer Drawings'.

It is important to remember that this was not my primary project and so the work on the drawings was done sporadically, whenever I had some free time and whenever I remembered to return to the drawings. I was also working on a journal article, a conference poster, several performances, a photographic project and a sculpture. I juggled these projects according to relevant deadlines and so some of these projects are still unfinished (especially the ones without a firm deadline).

Up to this moment (17 August 2019) there are 5 configurations of the 'Layer Drawing' approach recorded in my notebooks and one that has been realised on a slightly larger sheet of paper that was made to investigate how the drawn marks, and the experience of making them, change as the scale is increased.

In future I shall post further updates to this project which runs in the background to my other work.

First, the 5 A5 notebook images:

July 2018

August 2018

September 2018

September 2018

August 2019

...and here is the slightly larger (43cm(h) x 32.5cm(w)) experiment:

October 2018

Saturday, July 20, 2019

International Drawing Dialogue Phase 3 - 2019-20

The third episode of the International Drawing Dialogue begins and this time I have been partnered with two artists who are based in the UK: Skye Williams and Andrea Thoma.

As with previous episodes, each artist initiates four A2 size drawings before sending them to the next artist to work on. These drawings are then forwarded to the final artist, ending up with 12 drawings that each display contributions by all 3 three artists.

For the four drawings I initiated, I looked to some of the work I have previously been working on. In preparation for 3 of my previous 'No holiday' walking performances I had created maps as I explored the possible routes for the walk. These maps became the basis for the current set of drawings, two relating to the walk in the Dorsoduro district of Venice, Italy, one relating to the walk on Cheung Chau Island in Hong Kong and the fourth relating to the recent walk conducted in District 7 of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The configuration of the maps were modified slightly as they 'found' their position within the paper surface and therefore took the first step towards their new life, existing independently of the original reference. I also only took the images far enough to make a start without finalising anything or rendering anything too difficult to modify. It can be tricky finding the balance with this, initiating some kind of image without determining the direction too much so the next contributor has fewer options when working. I tried to ensure that if the subsequent contributors wanted to render some of the marks more concrete, they could, but if they decided to erase any part of the image, then this could be achieved without too much trouble.

Now, I wait in anticipation of the first set of drawings arriving here in Saigon. 

Below are some of the original references used, followed by the 4 drawings I made:

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The 12th Online Performance Art Festival

For the 12th edition of the Online Performance Art Festival I decided to conduct a second version of my recent performance piece 'One Step Forward, Two Steps Back', which I had created and recorded at Sewerby, Bridlington in the UK. I have already written about the motivation for the piece here.

For this performance I needed to find a suitable stretch of steps and this proved to be quite difficult in Ho Chi Minh City. I eventually found an appropriate location, quite close to where I had filmed the District 7 version of 'No holiday'. The height of the steps was much shallower than the steps in Sewerby but the environment was particularly engaging, with a background forming a geometric concrete grid and an overall pale beige aspect.
In Sewerby the focus seemed to be on the distance travelled from the top to the bottom and the inexorable journey away from the intended destination. Here in Ho Chi Minh City, as the run of steps was much shallower, I found the focus shifted more towards the thought process and the decision to take a step up each time even after this action had resulted in moving two steps further down. The performance lasted just under 8 minutes.

Initially there were some problems with 'Cameleon' - the chosen app for the live-streaming. These issues delayed the performance for around 10-15 minutes and was only resolved by restarting the iPhone I was using. Once filming commenced everything fell into place and I was very pleased with the end result.

Dragan Strunjas handled communications and monitored the streaming. His calm manner helped Nina and I to steer through the technical problems and contributed to the successful performance.

Once again it was a wonderful experience to have the opportunity to participate in this Festival. The only way to develop performative work is to perform it and the Festival provides this crucial platform for me to develop my work from concept to realisation.

The recording of the performance can be viewed on the Festival website here.

...or on my YouTube Channel here.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

'No holiday' - York, UK

A recent visit back to the UK to see my parents gave me an opportunity to take my 'No holiday' performance on a further episode, this time in the historic city of York.

The trip to York spanned two days, which didn't give me much flexibility if the weather was not favourable and up to that point on my trip it had not been too good. In fact the first day in York was marred by heavy rain and so filming was postponed until the following day. If the rain persisted, then it would be necessary to film with the aid of umbrellas etc. Luckily, however, the next day opened to bright sunshine and blue sky.

The performance followed the route of the old walls of the city beginning on Lendal Bridge and passing close to the Multi-angular Tower and Yorkshire Museum before mounting the walls themselves at Bootham Bar. The walk then continued clockwise via Monk Bar, Jewbury, The Red Tower, Walmgate Barbican and Fishergate Bar to the Fishergate Postern Tower after which both the Foss and Ouse rivers were crossed before the walls were remounted at Skeldergate.
The route then continued via Victoria Bar and Micklegate Bar before crossing over the roads near to the railway station and descending to the gardens on Station Road where the walk began at Lendal Bridge.

The weather was magnificent for most of the walk and only became cloudy, threatening rain, towards the end. Passing behind York Minster, just after Bootham Bar, I was fortunate enough to be greeted by the Sunday morning peal of bells which enlivened the walk somewhat on this bright Sunday morning.

Besides the expected groups of students on field trips it was also great to see many people out walking the walls and even 4 or 5 energetic runners circumnavigating the old city at a brisk pace.

The recording of the walk can be viewed via the embedded video below or by visiting my YouTube link here.

Friday, June 21, 2019

'One Step Forward, Two Steps Back' - 6.6.2019

I had been considering the potential elements for a new performance within the pages of one of my notebooks and it was earlier this month during a trip to see my parents in the UK that the opportunity came to bring this piece to completion.

The world today seems to be fraught with so many problems that appear to have no current answer. Since the Second World War there had been a vague but nevertheless inexorable move in support of what we could for convenience sake call 'progress'. This development has been hardly ideal but for sure things were improving and we could have been confident that at some time in the future the world would be a fairer and safer place.

However, in more recent years, many of the positive gains made since the war have begun to evaporate or to be more accurate, have begun to be deliberately unravelled. Hatred and conflict have increased in intensity and hurtful intentions towards certain sectors of our societies have reemerged from their hiding places. These hiding places, it seems, were not so deep or remote after all.

On a more personal level, everyone faces challenges and usually we can face those challenges and in many cases overcome them, or if not overcome then at least come to terms with them. Sometimes though the challenges seem to arrive quicker than we can deal with them.

In this new performance I take on the role of another Sisyphean character attempting to scale a flight of stairs. Unfortunately, and frustratingly for him, with each step he takes towards the summit he must take two further steps away leaving him further back than when he made the initial progress. Sisyphus was not a man to give up easily so this new character persists with the task again and again until finally arriving against his wishes at the bottom of the flight of stairs.

Sisyphus was able to enjoy a brief respite from his labours during the short period as the rock rolled back down the hill and he was able to walk down unencumbered by the load, and so our new character takes some time out at the bottom of the stairs to look out at the ocean, finding a moment of calm before possibly beginning again.

The performance was conducted on the steps between the cliff tops and the beach at Sewerby near Bridlington in East Yorkshire, UK on 6th June 2019.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Flashback #1 - BA (Hons) Fine Art Degree show 1984

I recently had the idea to spend a few minutes every so often looking back at selected exhibitions in order to review what my ideas were at the time, which materials I was engaged with and what techniques or processes I was employing.

The natural starting point seemed to be my Fine Art degree show. Although this wasn't the first exhibition I had been involved with (in my first year I had participated in a show of art student work at the Callerton gallery in Ponteland, Northumbria as well as a show of work by second year Fine Art students, held in the Polytechnic foyer), it was the first time I had worked on a body of work that would be shown together as a group.

Following my Foundation years at Jacob Kramer College of Art, Leeds, UK in 1977-78 & again in 1980-81, I studied for a BA (Hons) Fine Art degree at Newcastle upon Tyne Polytechnic from 1981-84.
Since those days Jacob Kramer has been renamed first Leeds College of Art and then finally Leeds Arts University. Similarly, Newcastle upon Tyne Polytechnic has been renamed Northumbria University.

I mainly studied sculpture as a student although I did develop a healthy interest in printmaking, which grew from a desire to find a way to make more physical, drawn images. In sculpture I was very interested in the language of immortality and that took the form of memorials or funerary architecture - realised or imaginary. Through my research I encountered the work of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Etienne-Louis Boullee, Claude Nicolas Ledoux, Edwin Lutyens, Charles Sergeant Jagger, Alfred Stevens, Alfred Gilbert, George Frampton, Jacob Epstein and especially Michael Sandle who I had the great pleasure of meeting at the opening of his solo retrospective exhibition at The Whitechapel Gallery in 1988.

In order to investigate this language I set myself the task of creating a series of works that may be regarded as memorials for chosen persons from history. The choice of subject was very personal and for each subject I attempted to create a suitable memorial that would draw upon certain aspects of their life story. Visual aspects of their life story were crucial for this project and I was not intending to fully represent their entire life or even to pass judgement upon them as individuals. This was an exercise to enable me to explore this language of immortality.

My Fine Art degree show was held in 1984 and I took photographs of the pieces using my old Pentax K1000 (a fantastic camera, fully manual). The photographs were all taken on slide film and the following images are what I have managed to rescue from the slides I could find from those days 35 years ago. Here I must apologise for the quality of the images. If I subsequently discover better quality photographs or photographs of pieces not included here, I will add them to this article as soon as they are unearthed.

Initially I have chosen the following pieces to discuss as they share a common theme:


The first piece, 'Outlaw' considered the film mogul Howard Hughes and the visual elements I manipulated were an art-deco period cinema, the 'Spruce Goose' flying boat, ceramic tiles and a polished wood plinth.

The model cinema was made by combining the found part of a bakelite vacuum cleaner with a wooden structure and transformed to resemble an Art Deco style building seen in a magazine. The cinema faced the colossal flying boat, which Howard Hughes created but which, due to its great size, never saw production and only flew once for a few hundred metres. To reflect this failure I cast the model flying boat in solid lead. 

Instead of a runway I set the flying boat onto a field of ceramic tiles, which were a powerful memory of the two years I had spent working in the operating department of the St. James Hospital in Leeds, UK. Somehow I had the feeling that setting the aeroplane in this white, ceramic environment created the metaphor for 'investigative research' that was at the heart of the work conducted in the operating theatre. The white ceramic tiles subsequently became an important motif for me in later work.
The bakelite cinema and the polished wooden podium referred to the materials and design of Art Deco buildings and furniture of the time.
The name 'Outlaw' was borrowed from the film produced by Howard Hughes, starring Jane Russell, and which seemed a particularly apt name for a piece about Howard Hughes. 

'Monument to Glenn Miller'

This piece was made after I became fascinated by both Glenn Miller's music and by his mysterious disappearance. The best selling recording artist between 1939-43, he had more number one's and top ten hits than Elvis Presley or The Beatles during their careers. Miller created a unique sound by having clarinets and saxophones playing the same melody to the accompaniment of 3 other saxophones harmonising within the same octave.
Glenn Miller was arranging for his band to move to Paris in order to play for the troops stationed there when his plane disappeared over the English Channel.

I created the piece in the form of a small, private auditorium. On the bandstand (made from layers of wood coated with a mixture of grey acrylic mixed with sawdust for texture) I placed a smaller podium that had been cast in bronze and coloured black. On this small podium, besides the music stand (copied from one seen in an old photograph of Miller's band playing) there is a microphone and a stylised saxophone. Both of these these elements have been made by modifying the shape of a G-clef in thick, metal wire.
The audience section of the piece features a surface covered in small glass tiles that had been found in a damaged pedestrian subway in Newcastle late one night and two classically-shaped seats. The enigmatic part of this arrangement is the question as to whether the seats are human scale and the bandstand podium is smaller than life-size or whether the bandstand podium is life-sized and the seats are too large for the audience. I was attracted to this contradiction as it introduced a disturbing, disorienting element to the piece. These elements were all attached to a thick key-hole shaped plinth made of wood (coloured black using shoe polish) and resting on a larger, rectangular plate clad with blue-grey roof slates. 
All of the materials had been chosen to be sympathetic with one another and because I felt that they possessed a certain melancholic atmosphere that was appropriate for this piece.

'Monument to Amy Johnson'

Amy Johnson had always fascinated me after having read about her amazing flying exploits. As she was born in the East Riding of Yorkshire,  a permanent exhibition had been established in Sewerby Hall near Bridlington on the best coast of Yorkshire and I enjoyed looking through the artefacts and photographs.
She was the first aviatrix to fly single-handed from England to Australia in 1930. Unfortunately while flying in bad weather in January 1941, she bailed out just before her plane crashed into the Thames Estuary. A unsuccessful rescue attempt was made and her body was never found.

I created a cast cement-fondu globe to represent the world, resting on a stepped plinth cast in bronze and around this I wrapped a copper tube showing the trajectory of her flight to Australia, On the copper tube I mounted a small cast bronze aeroplane that been coated in a green patina to represent the colour of her famous plane - 'Jason', which now hangs in the Science Museum in London. This structure was placed inside a ring-like base fabricated from interlocking layers of wood, polished to refer to the furniture and decoration of the period (similar to the 'Outlaw' piece).

The theme that connects these 3 pieces of work is relatively straight forward. Both Glenn Miller and Amy Johnson disappeared in mysterious circumstances and their bodies were never recovered. Howard Hughes on the other hand mysteriously disappeared while he was still alive, becoming a successful recluse due to his seemingly inexhaustible wealth.

I felt quite satisfied with these pieces of work and realised that these were merely the first steps in my working life. Unfortunately, however, my tutors didn't feel the same way. For the degree show I was allocated what was effectively a corridor in which to display my work. Added to this, two nearby displays of work by my classmates employed arrangements of similar materials, bronze, polished wood etc. albeit for very different reasons but I felt that the visual impact of this work had an adverse effect on mine due to this proximity.

On top of this I was unlucky with the choice of the assessment panel. One of the panel was a stone carver who believed that carving was the primary language for creating sculpture, assemblage therefore became a much lesser form of expression. This was a bad start and things went rapidly downhill as the next member of the assessment panel turned out to be a political media artist. In his eyes my work was seen as superficial because I had not devoted my time to investigating the political aspects of my chosen topics, such as the alleged involvement of the Hughes corporation in the Vietnam War and the assassination of Robert Kennedy. It didn't go well in the assessment and I received  a very disappointing grade from the panel. To be honest I still feel the pain of this disappointment even after all these years.

I hope to be able to add to this account as more photographs are found.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

'Cine Concert: Hem City' at Salon Saigon - 23.4.2019

On Tuesday 23rd April Salon Saigon presented 'Cine Concert: Hem City' by Thierry Bernard-Gotteland and Andrew Stiff, both Lecturers at RMIT University here in Saigon.
The 'Hem' in question are the ones to be found in District 4 (Hem being the local term for the narrow, often meandering alley-ways to be found all over the city).

District 4 is an interesting phenomenon, delineated by rivers that separate it on all sides from other districts thereby effectively creating an island. The rapid development of the city that has been witnessed across Saigon has previously by-passed this area creating a pocket of residential and commercial buildings that looked back over its shoulder to the past. The district was a little down-at-heel, insalubrious, frequented by shady characters.

However, more recently there has been modern encroachment around the fringes as apartment complexes sprout up, especially along the riverfront facing District 1.

Andrew Stiff has been focusing on the Hem of District 4 as he 'investigates the process of collecting, archiving and (re) producing physical and ephemeral data from the urban realm' *

Thierry, on the other hand, specialises in experimental design and audio production. He is 'investigating through the lens of context/content about audio driven experience in installation and performance art'. *

For 'Hem City' these two researchers came together to create a live performance in which both the visual and audio aspects of the work would be manipulated in an improvised way for the audience using advanced software.

Luckily I had visited District 4 in the past and had spent an interesting morning wandering around, and temporarily getting lost in, the fascinating and seemingly semi-private spaces of the Hem. This meant I was able to use my personal experience as a point of reference for what I subsequently witnessed in the performance.

Thierry and Andrew sat on the right-hand side of the room, each with their Mac laptop as the film unfolded on the screen. The film itself unfolded with an initial shot of a table set up in the street, possibly as a makeshift drinks store for passersby. As the shot pulled back, away from the table, motorcyclists rode past across the frame, interrupting our line of sight. At first the motorcyclists were solid and well-defined but very soon others rode past and these were less distinct, semitransparent, diaphanous in nature.

Throughout the film this transformation recurred, people working or walking in the Hem appeared at first as well-defined figures but almost immediately began to lose their definition and sense of form, becoming shadows or ill-defined reflections. As figures passed through each scene they appeared to leave a trail of their own presence behind them as boats leave a wake in the water they pass through.

As I recalled my own visit to the District 4 Hem, the activity I had seen there formed similar impressions in my memory. The images and details of the things I had seen were now reassembled in my imagination but lacked chronological order or appropriate relationships to each other. In a sense, the film I was watching could easily have been an attempt to recreate the multilayered, yet slightly disorganised images constructed in my own recollections.

Similarly, the sounds played around with the senses. At first, sounds retained a relationship to the situation which created them but as the film progressed, this connection faded and from then onward a similar deconstruction took place (as had occurred with the images). Sounds were heard after or before the points of origin could be seen or the location of the sounds' origins exchanged their positions, approaching towards us (becoming louder) or receding (becoming quieter). Eventually, many of the sounds were gradually transformed further and lost their connection to any recognisable activity. These new sounds spoke to the chaotic nature of the district, the hustle and bustle created by this intense concentration of people going about their business on a daily (and nightly) business.

The performance was challenging and that made it enjoyable for me. Too often I see exhibitions of 'safe' work, or 'safe' performances in which no risks were taken. As an artist I try to work out of my comfort zone as often as I am able and I enjoy seeing the work of others when I sense that the artist who created it has taken a similar approach. I like to see this also in performance art. In the theatre we are used to seeing 'professionals' who have conducted exhaustive rehearsals in order to remove the unexpected but for me unpredictability is one of the important characteristics of performance art.

By working without a script Thierry and Andrew took risks, relying on their intuition and judgement. Sometimes there are repercussions to this approach. At one point the huge files being manipulated by Andrew crashed on his laptop. For me this was no disaster, it merely underlined exactly what was occurring live in front of me, and how he and Thierry were working without a safety net.

For art to develop, first you need to do something. Most ideas emerge not fully formed (at least the best ideas do in my opinion) and they need to be worked on. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen pieces that would have benefitted from a little more development. However, for performance, the only way to develop it is to do it. What happens, happens and this is the crucial feedback that begins the development.
As the great artist Joan Jonas said "You don't know what you're doing sometimes. You just begin". **

I thank Andrew and Thierry for providing an opportunity for me to witness the development of their work.

* Text taken from:

** Text taken from:

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Contemporary Performance Almanac 2018

The Contemporary Performance Almanac is an annual overview of Contemporary Performance created within the previous 3 years and the 2018 edition was the 5th volume of the almanac since it was initiated in 2013.

For the 2018 edition I submitted details of my ongoing performance series 'No holiday', with the accompanying photographic image focusing on the Venice episode of the series that was filmed in the Dorsoduro district of the city in August 2017, during the Venice Biennale.

It was great to receive the e-version of the almanac and see the work listed among the other engaging work performed by performers / performance artists from around the world.

Cover of the 2018 Almanac

Artist page covering the 'No holiday' performance

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The 11th Online Performance Art Festival

On the 30th March 2019 I had an opportunity to participate in the 11th Online Performance Art Festival, the second time I have joined this event (the previous time being last December 2018).

The online festival concept was initiated by Sandra Bozic, and this 11th episode took place between 27th - 30th March 2019. My 'No holiday' performance was presented on the final day of the festival.

On this occasion I decided to conduct another episode in my ongoing performance series 'No holiday', this time enacting it in District 7 of Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam, not far from where I had previously created a digital print entitled 'District 7 Strata'. I had also written about this print in the online Journal 'Living Maps Review' and the local publication 'Magazine d'Art De Saigon'.

The live-stream performance was broadcast between 10:00am - 10:30am UTC (5:00pm - 5:30pm Vietnam time).

Once again, the pre-performance arrangements and checks were conducted with Dragan Strunjas, and  once again his prompt and detailed communications removed any confusion and allowed me to focus on my performance.

The camera and live-stream was controlled by Nina Yiu Lai Lei, who walked with me unseen, apart from certain moments when her shadow can be seen. The audience are only able to join me on my walk due to Nina's work with the camera which serves to emphasise how important her work is to the project.

During the performance I walked from Crescent Mall, around the Crescent Lake, across the Anh Sao Bridge and into Half Moon Park. In the late afternoon, as the sun begins to set and lose some of its intensity combined with the refreshing breeze across the river and the lake, the environment is very pleasant. Many families come with their children and take full advantage of the park with its grass-covered, shallow, sloping hills, decorative lilly ponds and tree shade.

The walk in total lasted around 30 minutes and as usual with this performance series, the watching online audience are invited to join me in my unhurried, meditative walk, allowing the ambient sounds of people, the wind, birds calling, dogs barking and the wheels of my red suitcase gently trundling along on the varied surfaces.

Also as usual, the broadcast ended suddenly,  there is no arrival, no end point. The journey is everything. The emphasis is on the experience of the moment, focusing on every observation as if for the first time, and perhaps the last time - who knows? Nothing is taken for granted, nothing is assumed. The forward momentum is maintained, the journey continues...the destination, if there is one, can wait.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Work Update - March 2019

Following on from my previous post 'Open-ended Work' of August 2018, I have now worked my way round to pushing forward the wall relief sculpture derived from the 'District 7' print.

I had set aside this piece for a while to attend to other projects and at that stage I had built up several stacks of square plates based upon a system I had devised to determine the heights of each block (determined by the direction of the drawn, hatched lines in my preparatory drawing).

9 square wooden plates of plywood were obtained and these shall form the baseplates onto which the blocks shall be attached. The resulting 9 elements will then be worked on, perhaps using gesso to create an appropriate ground to paint onto and a further surface for drawing. Each of the nine elements need to be integrated so that they read and a unified object.

Once I have achieved this I will need to determine the distance between each block so that they sit comfortably together, creating a field. I will update more once I have begun painting the blocks.

The blocks during the process of stacking them to appropriate heights

Laying out the blocks onto the new baseplates

Final intended viewing angle once the plates have been fully resolved

Thursday, February 28, 2019

10 Mars Bars

Recently I received the sad news that an old college friend of mine (Mick - Michael Dean) had passed away. Although those days were now 35 years in the past, the memories remain as vivid as ever and probably will remain so unless I suffer a lapse of memory brought on by old age.

At times like these there is often an exchange of memories and photographs between friends and, though we feel have a clear picture of events, there are also surprises or 'blasts from the past'. I received one of these 'blasts' in the form of a tangible record of something that occurred within the first few weeks of arriving at college.

In the Autumn of 1981 I arrived at Newcastle Upon Tyne Polytechnic (Later to become Northumbria University) to study on the BA (Hons) Fine Art degree course and initially stayed at the Lovaine B Halls of Residence. There I met a group of friends, most of whom I am still in contact with to this day. Within the first 2 months we collectively decided that life in the Halls of Residence was horrendous and so 7 of us rented a house in the Benwell area of Gateshead, just across the river from Newcastle. However before we moved out an event occurred one Wednesday evening the memory of which has now been brought to the fore.

During a casual and mundane conversation, mention was made of Mars bars and how filling they were. I personally liked them and declared that I found them so tasty that eating one would be as easy as anything, in fact I could probably eat more than one. I'm not sure how this happened or what exactly was said but within a short time I had stated that I could eat 10 Mars bars without problem.

Consequently, on Wednesday evening on the 21st October 1981 a group of friends gathered in the Lovaine B Halls of Residence, primarily to eat dinner but also to witness me eat 10 Mars bars. As 8 of my friends sat down to eat a perfectly normal meal, I lined up the 10 Mars bars in front of me on the table. At 7:00pm I began eating the first one and by 7:40pm I had consumed all 10. Surprisingly, after dinner I accompanied the others into the city to have a few drinks and didn't feel worse for wear. In those days, it is worth noting, Mars bars were considerably larger than they are today.

In recent weeks, following Mick's sad passing, among many truly nostalgic photographs there was one of a page in a notebook. It turned out that this page, in one of Andrew Brown's notebooks, commemorated the Mars bar event in the form of a declaration, stating:

'Between 7:00pm and 7:40pm on Wednesday the 21st of October Patrick S. Ford at 10 Mars bars in quick succession without any break longer than a minute and without throwing up. We the undersigned are witness to this event.

Andrew Brown
Jane Watmough
Mark Dunn
D. Todd
Alan Laffey
Nigel Roberts
Michael Dean
Heather Craig (I took some pictures)'

I could only marvel at this document, seeing it now after so many years. It is a terrible tragedy that this news only surfaced due to Mick's untimely passing, but this is often how the world works. Mick was a hard-working, kind man and deserved to live out many more years with his family. It just doesn't seem fair at all.

Despite the event being the result of a silly, playful wager among friends, it is also quite prescient as it seems to point towards performance as an activity to be explored. This is quite possibly my first performance piece. If only I could track down those photographs taken by Heather Craig!

I would need to check the dates but the event may possibly have been inspired by visits to The Basement in Newcastle where, as a first year Fine Art student I saw artists such as Alastair Maclennan performing a 24 hour walking performance. Seeing him perform was such a privilege and I feel grateful that I had such an experience and I feel exactly the same way about attending a lecture by the great Joseph Beuys at Leeds Art Gallery (Henry Moore Institute) back in my Foundation Course days, wonderful experiences that should be treasured. 

The page in Andrew Brown's notebook

Since this account was posted I have been contacted by Alan Laffey, one of the signatories to the 10 Mars Bars event. He made two pertinent comments that are worth adding here:

A) He felt sure that the event occurred not in the Lovaine B Halls of Residence, but in the house we subsequently moved to in Rectory Road, Benwell, Gateshead. He remembered that the wrappers from the 10 Mars Bars were attached to the wall in Rectory Road as a memento of the event. I remember this but cannot recall if the event happened there, or if the wrappers were brought from the Halls of Residence when we moved. I need to find my now misplaced diaries to check as I'm sure there would have been an entry to record exactly where the event took place.

B) He also reminded me that following the 10 Mars Bars event there was talk of a follow-up project, namely the eating of 25 Cadbury's Cream Eggs. I can remember this now and I wonder why it was never followed up. Perhaps I gained some sense?

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Saigon Citadel Walk - Terminalia, Festival of Psychogeography

Following on from the previous post: Saigon Citadel Walk - Planning, 25 January 2019.

On the morning of Saturday 23rd February, I travelled to District 1 of Saigon accompanied by Nina, Yiu Lai Lei to mark the occasion of the Terminalia Festival 2019.

This one-day Festival of Psychogeography has been held every year on the 23rd of February since 2011 and brings together individuals and groups who mark the Festival of Terminus, the Roman god of boundaries and landmarks.

To participate in the festival Nina and I chose the location of the old citadel of Saigon, which I had plotted from evidence gathered from old maps. As is often the case, different maps indicate slightly different configurations added to which is the fact that there were more than one citadel. I had chosen the first and largest as the focus for our walk. The larger incarnation of the citadel presented more opportunities for exploring the city and I also felt it was the most attractive in terms of design, however dubious the actual precise details of the design may be.

Map of District 1 showing location of the original citadel

Nina and I began our walk at the junction of Dong Khoi and Le Thanh Ton and walked north-east to Hai Ba Trung which is approximately where the centre point of the south-eastern facing wall of the citadel would have been.

The corner directly opposite the Vincom Centre on Dong Khoi

Start Point: Junction of Dong Khoi and Le Thanh Ton

Light vehicles and cyclo riders are banned from this street

Beautiful typography on this retro building facade

Flexible modular blocks allow the tree roots to rise without cracking the pavement

This face of the citadel wall would have continued until Ton Duc Thang and then turned a 90 degree angle to run directly north-west.

The East Corner of the Citadel Wall, junction of Le Thanh Ton and Ton Duc Thang

Reinforced concrete slab masquerading as an ancient architectural wall plaque

Street sign: two typefaces plus graffiti

Carmelite Monastery of Saigon

Potted tree dancing in the wind

Hem 45, not particularly inviting

Christmas bells hiding away until next year

A sign indicating the location of a street-side motorcycle repairman

Inverted motorcycle helmet becomes an artefact

This north-east facing wall would have crossed what is now Le Duan and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai before reaching Nguyen Dinh Chieu and the citadel wall's most northerly point. It then turned 90 degrees to head south west.

The North Corner of the Citadel Wall, junction of Ton Duc Thang and Nguyen Dinh Chieu

Gold and cream wall with bottle green accent

Navigating the fractured pavement

The bewildering spaghetti of cables

Misaligned pastel coloured pavement patterns

Reaching the western corner of the citadel (with local cooperation)

The north-west facing wall ran across what is now Hai Ba trunk (again) and Pham Ngoc Thach before reaching Nam Ky Khoi Nghai and the most westerly corner.

The West Corner of the Citadel Wall, junction of Nguyen Dinh Chieu and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia

New year celebratory gateways still in place after the Tet holiday

2019, Year of the Pig

Flaking stucco reveals pastel green sublayer, works well with the small sculpture

Supreme People's Court

The path of the south-west facing wall ran across what is now Vo Van Tan, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai (again), Le Duan (with the Reunification Palace on the right) and continued until it reached the most southerly corner at the junction with Le Thanh Ton.

One street before the South Corner (Ly Tu Trong) we found a small park dedicated to Quach Thi Trang, a student protester who was killed by the Police during demonstrations against the South Vietnamese Government in August 1963. The wall around the park featured decorative spheres that closely resembled cannon balls. Could we have stumbled across remnants of the defensive power of the old citadel?

Cannon balls used as decoration? 

The South Corner of the Citadel Wall, junction of Nam Ky Khoi Nghia and Le Thanh Ton

From here the walk took us back along Le Thanh Ton (with the People's Committee Hall on the left) to the junction of Dong Khoi, where we started.

The People's Committee Hall

Colours collected with the 'City Palette' App at intervals during the walk 

Our walk allowed us to gain a better feel for the city, and instilled in us a sense of how large the original citadel must have been and how much of the central area of the city it occupied.