Tomorrow, Saturday 28th February, marks the midway point in my six weeks here at Wooda. Time has flown by & we all know what that means – I have been fast asleep. Now, hold on a second, this is simply not true! I am well known for working all the hours God provides, as long as those hours start after 10am & strong black coffee is immediately on hand. I feel privileged that most days of my life do indeed start like this & it may in fact may turn out to have been my greatest achievement.
In relation to this, I’d like to thank Gary & Max for the fact that not even once have they chirped ‘Good Morning!’ in that self-satisfied way ‘jokers’ do when one emerges around noon, tousled from a night’s tustling with The Black Slotted Spoon. This proves my hosts to be civilised, kind & graceful. I can’t tell you how much that ‘joke’ irritates me, even when used with irony. There’s still the implication of fault. The Hulse family have a particularly bad track record in this respect, not least up-with-lark-&-making-sure-you-know-all-about-it Grandpa Eric Hulse. Night owls & early birds are genetically predetermined so get off my case, wise asses.
I was saddened to hear today of the death of Wendy Richard. This, from the Telegraph obituary, pretty much sums up what I like about her: ‘A convivial trouper who hugely enjoyed the trappings of soap stardom, Wendy Richard also believed that she was entitled to the same privacy as non-celebrities: in 1995, when she appeared on BBC Radio’s Desert Island Discs, she stopped an inquisitive Sue Lawley four times in the course of the recording after the presenter strayed from the pre-agreed, anodyne agenda; she was annoyed still further when she was not allowed to take her pet Cairn terrier to the mythical island as a luxury.’
I am tempted to spend hours writing a haiku in her honour – she’s a heart throb, after all – but let’s get down to it. I’ve been here 3 weeks now – a quick summation of what’s been achieved so far during this residency is called for.
Grandpa Eric loved inventories & taking stock, too. It’s good sometimes to know here you’re at.
1: Over 14 hours of video, film & audio material have been whittled down to around 120 minutes of porky prime cuts. Many darlings dispatched along the way. This I find a very satisfying process but has also involved sitting in a chair for many, many hours at a stretch which can be frustrating when you know there’s carrots just waiting to be fed to hungry four-legged beasts & countryside & coastline to explore.
2: Figuring out where the film might sit on an imaginary scale between these two extremes – the films of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky at one end & ITV’s crappy compendium of slapstick home videos You’ve Been Framed at the other. Yes, it is entirely possible for one person to maintain affection for & appreciation of both. (Watching them simultaneously would be quite fun, too). Those who know my work will not be surprised by the chosen extremes on my imaginary scale. If you don’t know my work – where have you been?
This positioning of Follow The Master is an ongoing process, aided & abetted by Nick Currey, Tribute & Old Father Time.
3: The setting up of this blog. Max & his mum Elspeth Owen (who established the Wooda Arts Award with a legacy from her mother) are keen to make sure that each year’s resident artist documents their experience. I don’t know if they expected such a full & in depth analysis of every passing moment but as it happens the documentation of art practice has always been of real interest to me – specifically the point at which the document becomes the art.
An example of this might be the films & videos of Bruce Nauman’s performances, the photographs of Christo & Jeanne-Claude’s wrapped buildings, Richard Serra’s film Hand Catching Lead or Vito Acconci’s conceptual / performance work Following Piece.
Try Following Piece for yourself & you’ll be making art!
It’s easy. These are Acconci’s rules. Pick a person on the street, at random. Follow that person until he or she disappears into a private place where you cannot enter. Simple as that. The trick though is to record the activity because unless you document your action, the questions arises as to whether there is any point in it at all – who knows that you even did it? Crucially, does the act of documenting the action somehow make it art? Is a rose red in a dark room if a tree falls over silently on a butterfly in a vacuum?
There was a joke doing the rounds when I was at art school which remains one of the most profound reflections on art practice I can recall. Humour is indeed a very rich form of communication.
Q: Why didn’t the artist look out of the window? A: Because if they did they’d have nothing to do for the rest of the day.
Vito Acconci’s Following Piece is one of my favourite pieces of art. Or at least the idea of it. Or do I mean the photographs? Here we go again! It’s profoundly daft, supremely political, good exercise & so New York.
This blog has been a very important part of the film making process for me: it has given me a place, or space, other than the film to explore & express my ideas. Consequently the blogging has in fact nudged the film closer to Tarkovsky because all this ↑ tangential chit-chat will be kept off the cinema screen – mercifully, I believe – although I can sense editor Nick eyeing me sceptically wondering quite how far I’ll be taking this Tarkovsky business.
5: Other achievements of this residency (so far) include: getting to know a horse & a mule & how to feed them without being obliged to join in a line dance; recording loads of different sounds at Wooda & in the surrounding countryside, for use in the film; writing this article (scroll down) for the IC:Innovative Craft website & finally managing to continue making my own bread, this time with organic spelt flour from the farm. I think a tune is required to go with the baking?
I decided it was only fair to leak some sneaky previews of what’s happening inside the film (as opposed to all the thinking & process & morbid kitchen utensils & frightening cream cheese that has been whirling around its creation).
However, I’m not arrogant or desperate enough to inflict bits of rough cut on the world yet, I hope you understand. Here instead is a collage of a few stills from the film. Film clips will follow (the master).