Here are the photos of my performance The Water Mill at the Draw to Perform event curated by Ram Samocha, December 2013 at Performance Space London. The 'Draw to Perform' symposium explored the connection between performance and drawing and the relevance of drawing as a modern medium. The aim was to promote the growing stream of live drawing, to distinguish it as a unique entity and allow it to rise from the eclectic, wider definition of 'performance'.
now that I have finished my film TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND everybody is asking me what I am doing next
I am working on a book about visual art and cinema
I am in development for a new film about politics, memory, capitalism, communism, art, teenage angst, food and hallucinogenics. It’s a documentary.
Let the games begin …
Ok I just had my first screening of my 23 min film TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND, at the funky venue Dalston Social in East London. It was a kind of cast and crew screening though since it was a doc there was not a cast as such, but many of the folks who were involved in the film came and also friends and colleagues. It was good fun and I got great honest feedback on the film. My good friend Rodney Victor Williams brought his band Lion Tribe and they played a blistering set of exactly the kind of music I like – which was a huge bonus!
I’m now in the not quite so enjoyable or enviable position of getting the film out there to a wider audience. Aside from a few more London screenings that are being set up, this normally means festivals. There are literally millions of festivals! You really have to do your research. I have had films in festivals a lot but in the past these were fairly experimental kinds of films, something more like video art – atmospheric silent documentaries using experimental visual or sonic forms. TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND is a much more traditional form doc, though people did tell me it’s immediately recognizable as my style which is good – I was not after a whole career change into a total other person!
So I am seeking festivals which take docs and are genuinely interested in docs (instead of just shoving them off to a wan screening on a toilet door or something). At the same time, I’m very aware that my film – which in the end is about the power of art to transform the world (ok, tall order) - does not fit with the ethnographic or sociological direction that docs usually go in. So, not an easy fit. Still with the help of the wonderful Tracy Miller-Robbins and her blog http://noentryfeefestivals.com/ I am slowly but surely finding directions.
However I am also signed up to several other film submission and festival info sites, which tell you what deadlines are coming up and some of them have direct entry facilities, like Withoutabox and Reelport. However, it’s become clear that – despite my film being in English and probably a good cultural fit - I will not be submitting my film to many US based festivals. There are billions of them, some in big cities like LA some in hamlets, but one thing they have i common is astronomical submission fees. While a European festival might charge ten euros at most, a UK one up to £20, the US fees are routinely $60 to $100 a pop. This is really expensive! Aside from the fact that i cannot possibly afford to roll out fees like that, I do wonder why it is so expensive. So I did a bit of research.
One thing I found was that a huge number of US festivals with massive fees listed on the submission sites, are so obscure that it’s not clear what the benefit of being i the festival actually is. May of them have opaque websites with no details of previous films, winners or anything. Some are calling for films, but with no venue booked. It’s difficult to see who is behind the festivals and therefore to know their credentials. In short, there is a distinct whiff of dodginess about the enterprise.
It’s not just the US though – I even found listings for festivals in the UK – where I live and practice as a film make and film lecturer – festivals IN LONDON that I have never heard of, charging upwards of £50 to submit. With no venue specified. Now., I am not saying these “festivals” don’t take place but to be honest it would be very easy for me to shell out a few hundred quid, to book a screening room for the night and to mount a so-called festival and take £50 a pop from about 100 people – suddenly I have £5000 in my hand.
I HAVE created screening events and selected for festivals before, and i can attest that huge numbers of submissions arrive. In my case I didn’t charge a fee. Now, I am not against fees per se, if they reflect the true requirements of the festival. But I thinking too many cases it’s just a gig for people to make some easy £ from film makers dying to get their work out there.
So, I’m soldiering on, seeking screenings and festival opps that don’t rip me off and all i hope really is that this little film will find its audience – an audience that cares about art, cares about human relationships and wants to see something a bit different and – not my words, but those of one of the attendees at the last screening – something ‘inspirational.’
today i have just trawled my photo archive for something beautiful and atmospheric to counter-act they grey November day when I am stuck inside, writing. And so, these images of Paris, romantic, a bit cliche but very much enjoyed in the moment they were taken. Beauty and atmosphere in one’s surroundings really does make a difference.
By the way I’ll just say one thing – people in Paris, yes even in “touristy” areas, are uniformly pleasant, polite and friendly.
I am not really good at drawing. I used to be considered to be good at it, at school and I did well at Art and as a kid I drew a lot. But I stopped.
However, it’s clear that Drawing is one of the first and most deeply embedded human acts. The first time the tiny hand takes some kind of stylus and makes a mark. It happens to everyone, everywhere, across history. We do that.
And we all draw. We call it doodling. At work, while listening to a lecture, on the phone. Even tablets and smartphones have drawing programmes (not very good ones: a Biro and an old receipt is more satisfying to draw with).
If you Google “drawing” the images you get tend to be realistic. Using the pen or pencil to recreate the real, often a person. As well, I’m familiar with the great drawings of the past, just as you are. Raphael’s glorious heads (his drawings much better than his paintings); Da Vinci’s wondrous machines and astonishing anatomy; detailed and intricate botanical drawings, weirdly more fascinating than the actual plants; the sensual monsters of Aubrey Beardsley and the harrowing experiences depicted by Kathe Kollwitz.
But drawing as contemporary art is really a puzzle to me. Scanning and invitation sent to me by a London gallery, I saw a photograph of some weak, faint pencil on paper, totally undistinguishable, accompanied by the following passage (an excerpt):
“This most recent series of drawings takes as its starting point, the axonometric grid. Through a process of division and sub-division, [the artist] dismantles the axonometric grid to reveal a series of equally diminishing equilateral triangles. These triangles are employed in a subversive manner by [the artist] to shift the grid away from its original intention – understanding three-dimensional space through a linear form of projection – and instead layers and overlaps the grid to reveal dimensional arrangements constructed from perceived tonal shifts brought about by the relative proximity of one shape to another.”
I am sorry, but I am not going to cross town for this. I am not interested in “dismantling the axonometric grid.” THAT is what I used to do every day in Math class confronted by the gridded notebook, I’d skip to the back pages and demolish the grid by drawing over it, forcing the lines into curves and often sticking a pair of confrontational eyes on top of the whole.
This is a kind of curator’s-wet-dream art, boring and intellectual*. Unengaging. Yes, of course I’d rather go play on my smart phone.
* And I am what would pass in most circles for an intellectual.
This what I think of as a good drawing:
First, read the article, by James Furlong:
The CBC issued an apology for the”language used in the article” http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/cbc-apologizes-1.1930366
Well I for one welcome the article. It is brutal, yes, but what it describes is even more brutal. Unless brutal language is employed, with no holds barred, who is going to pay attention? The author is rightly incandescent angry about what he has seen in this remote and forsaken place. The article drips with anger and despair. I can’t see any other way to describe this terrible situation. Why whitewash it? A whole community of people is living in degradation and nobody – clearly – knows how to cope with that, not them, not the government, not their so-called leaders, and not the mass of Canadians who have never and will never set foot in these remote Northern locations.
I didn’t find the article “racist” or “prejudiced.” Racist would be saying the people deserve to live like that or that they are just made that way. The contentious bit I guess is the section where the writer says “It’s not the way we are. It’s just the way they are. And because they are that way, they are barely tolerated by most of the white community” – clearly this is addressed to the white community, and points up to the way that the lines of “us” and “them” are drawn. The writer questions this whole presumption of patronization, that “they ” can tolerate living like this while “we” would not. I found this polemic startling and a big wake up call.
One of Canada’s worst “secrets” is its handling of the aboriginal peoples. We are fortunate in that we still do have a sizeable Aboriginal community across the country, small as the population may be. In recent decades prejudice has been reduced and so we do see Aboriginal people taking on visible roles within the wider community. But to often they are hidden, and the stereotype I grew up with of the “drunken Indian” has yet to disappear. The feeling of “that is they way they are” still exists and it is this comforting thought that we in the south live by, that the author is throwing back in our faces.
Yes, the situation is complicated. But the fact remains that huge sums are spent on Aboriginal affairs yet there seems to be problems with the way these sums are spent and who actually benefits. Anyway, it’s not about the money; more money than that is wasted on worse things. But it’s blood money. When we pay it (via our taxes) it comforts us that “the Indian problem” has gone away. Because “we” give “them” a bunch of money. And then we get to see them as ungrateful, incompetent. “What I could do with all that free money! I would not be like them!” and so on.
Ironically, if the CBC had not issued this apology I would not have been aware of the article. It would have been, like the Aboriginal communities in the far North, buried and invisible to the rest of us. But since I’ve seen it, I feel the same burning anger that the writer clearly felt. It’s just not good enough. And what are we going to do? What ARE we going to do?