Polaroider

going to a lecture on narrative and typesetting

So, in Oxford, lectures (public access) can sometimes appear in odd places. They can be part of the outreach programme of a department, part of a study programme by a visiting academic, or, as here, part of the programme of work of a visiting artist, in this case Red Plate Press/David Arme, who was Printer in Residence at the Bodleian. This was the wrap-up talk after while creating work including a text landscape of Oxford (on display at the talk and through the link, along with press and process images). The title, Accumulating Narrative at the Weston Library, suggested a good break after my working day.

Here's the official description:

This lecture will be delivered from an artist research perspective, drawing on David Armes's own practice and that of the artists whose work he will explore. It looks at the links between the 1960s concrete poetry work of Hansjörg Mayer and the graphic typographical works of Wolfgang Weingart, drawing a line through the later 20th century work of Ken Campbell to reach the 21st century work of contemporary artists Vida Sačić, Aaron Cohick, Marianne Dages and Dimitri Runkkari. The lecture will pose questions on subjects such as how meaning can mutate through the process of production, what impact the physicality of materials has and how we can read narratives created through improvisational production techniques.

Here's pretty much what things looked like from where I was sitting, except that you can see some curious colour fringing. I'll come back to the colour fringing later.

Accumulating Narrative - moire fringing

I was late and had to be walked in. I was snuck into the very back of the lecture theatre, right up in the gods. It was dark, but not so dark I couldn't take notes. My notes are not always very edifying, however:

Material makes reading
Modification is generation
A cursory initial series finds repetition becomes generation
Ock/google translate/ - newlyn/newland/neylyn
exitblurring
engulph >> deplete
"THE MYSTIC WRITING PAD"

Thank you, lecture brain. Although I know why I got so excited about Google. It was because I'd used Google, in its early days, as a story-telling device, feeding the results of one search into another to create tangled little stories. I have the results somewhere. I wrote it in longhand, using different ink colours for the different browser windows. No idea why.

This wasn't how Google was being used here. It was being used to blur meaning through translating text back and forth between different languages. Not just the recommended one-two-three, but continuing translation tennis until the meaning blunted, drifted or sprouted in unexpected directions. This was just a side-sprout of the lecture however, which was actually about letterpress artists books, and how they reveal and obscure meaning.

Accumulating Narrative - photography layer

So, coming back to the colour fringing. One of the themes in the lecture was the ways in which typography (and by extension, book design, or even spoken language) could reveal meaning that wasn't there. Partway through this discussion I grabbed my camera to try and take a note of a slide and the autofocus stuttered and the auto-exposure delayed the shutter and stretched the shot and I took the picture above instead, which does show the slide (or possibly another slide, as he kept flickering back and forth between slides (I'll come back to that) jumping forward, backward) but also artefacts that were not there, but which through the act of photographing them become design elements.

After that I started taking notes with my camera, as well as my pen. Trying to capture what wasn't there.

Accumulating Narrative - rainbows in grey

Consider this image, for example. How much is the moiré messing up our vision, how much is the camera extracting slices of projected image that were meant to be viewed together? Arme's presentation was jerky and staccato, with many runs forward and backward. Enactment of nervous anxiety, but also exploitation of persistence of vision, visual overprinting, rhythmic counterpoint to the discussion. Back to my notes:

Slowing down readers by adding layers of noise - Aaron Cohick
Books written and printed simultaneously (an emergent |book|)
De-intervention of books reducing interpretation layers
Rainbows shimmer through my processors and are discarded
Oscillation between seeing and reading

The deliberate slowing down of the reader through placing design elements (in some cases) directly between them and the narrative recurred again and again and seemed to have parallels with my place in the room, where the impatient shift of a head or hand repeatedly occluded my view of the projection. My favourite description of this was the idea of printing with the backs of the type, which was presented as almost a bit of a cliché of typeset book art, the sort of idea that occurs to everyone. However, the understanding that a typesetter can read text from the blank censorious rectangles of type backs, decoding meaning from spacing and size, makes it something rather different; a secret text, created only for those in the know.

Accumulating Narrative - motion

This book is by Ken Campbell (not that Ken Campbell) whose website is a bit of treasure trove of curious books. Other names from my notes include Lucio Paserini, David Maurissen, Marianne Dages and Hansjörg Mayer, along with someone I have recorded as Petra SchlzleWallgast, whose name clearly became blurred within my own narrative. Back to my notes:

Moire moiré moirée
Starsettergraph
Nothing Can go wrong - one must simply leave it to chance (Riverine Swerves)
Use black & white to create the illusion of colour
Ball bearings mounted at lettering height
Improvised press with magnets holding letters (what if this then what?)

Accumulating Narrative - ceiling moment

The scatter of light in the dim room was being recorded accurately by a professional camera person next to me. I found myself wondering if the noise of my note-taking was interfering with the recording of the lecture, my dark brown felt-tip pen (very visible in low light) creating one of those blurring layers obscuring meaning and narrative. Books establish a way for a moment in time or narrative to travel through time to another place, another reader; but some of the pieces discussed were very narrow windows of travel; fifteen sheets printed before the press auto-destructed, a single copy made (plus process photographs, of course). Back to my notes:

Better your squills
Contentious & unconventional reading (action)
Fighting what the press wants to do
He broke his apprenticeship
Our father's juice flows everywhere
Multiples that are individuals

My attempts to photograph was what wasn't there in the lecture on accumulating narrative was abruptly cut off by a dead battery. Low light is ruinous on processing power. The lecture came to an end and we were allowed down front to observe at close range the beautiful artefacts, the subtle colours of print and the delicate effects of the layering, shading, self-obstructing type.

Accumulating Narrative - the door in the image Accumulating Narrative - patch abstract
Accumulating Narrative - stairs downward Accumulating Narrative - the world opens
olafur eliasson

a man walking his tiny digger down Oxford Street

November is dark space. We swim through layers of brown leaves, grey skies, falling rain, year after year of bad things happening at this time of year. But in the winter, we walk after dark, we walk in the wet, we walk in the murk and the twilight and the fog and the failing light. I was up at the allotment this week, pretending it was light for long enough to put in the winter peas, the winter beans, while allotment cat jingled through the tumbledown weeds in my wild borders, her white fur luminous in the dirty dusk.

But here and there comes a moment of unalloyed absolute joy:

the workmen and the digger

close up of the happy couple

I love tiny diggers and I cannot lie....
RUFF

build it up, tear it down...... the

Paging cleanskies, motodraconis, timscience, t__m__i, bibliogirl and emperor, and anyone else who might be participating, I'm finally publishing my #tenovertwelve compilation this morning. I was reluctant to publish it online because although it does match the theme ("build it up, tear it down") and in fact that was the theme I suggested, the subject matter is one of those that brings things knocking, not just from the anonytrolls hand helpfulstrangers but also from reasonable I've-never-experienced-that friends and surely-that-never-happens acquaintances.

heshelping.jpg

Thanks one and all! Lots of the comp is from comps people gave me, so thanks for the help too. You should be able click through to read the sleeve notes in full, but in case anything is unclear, I copy it again here:

This compilation, on the theme of build it up, tear it down, was inspired by the Ryan Adams approach to mentoring female talent. For those who this story passed by, musician Ryan Adams rhapsodised in an interview about how much he loved mentoring female musicians. In the wake of this, various women described how the experience had felt from their end; pursued sexually, mocked, belittled, work dangled and then withdrawn, cut off from other contacts, held back, thwarted, blocked, some exasperated into exiting the music industry altogether. Adams hit back, calling them embittered and mediocre, low in talent and high in resentment, frivolous cultural lightweights, irrelevant. Baby’s on Fire, track 2 on this compilation, takes a visceral run through this minefield, rolling in racism as well as sexism on the way. Other tracks explore insecurity, double standards, sexual pressure, toxic relationships and male privilege. Some of the lyrics are deeply queasy. But with those reservations I love every track, even as I feel the ambiguity - he’s helping. Yes. No. Not.



As ever, if anyone wants to discuss my interpretation of Brian Eno, wonder why on earth The Emperor of Oranges is on my playlist (Steve Whitaker gave me a copy of a mix CD he made for someone else, and it was on that), get a link, share another appropriate song or say why "numberwang" would have been a much better theme - head to the comments!
Na Vecne Casy!

It's time for the next mix CD for tenovertwelve

But what will the title be? After the massive success of last month*'s theme, Garden Pests, I've decided to go for the traditional poll solution. Sadly, Facebook appears to have taken this moment to remove "Post a poll" from my available post options. I'm doubtless in an experimental group of some sort where they're reducing choice to see if it results in boiling anger a smoother user experience. However, I want to this now rather than wait for when FB decide to switch me from the B list to the A list. So - welcome to tenovertwelve May (I know there's only a few days left in May, but it is still May!)

You can vote for more than one, and the most popular shall win. Not sure you have time to take part (answer: you probably don't)? You can still vote. Not taking part? You can still vote. Not sure you want to take part? You can still vote. Not even sure what's going on here? You can still vote.

Poll #2093072 Tenovertwelve

What should be the title of the next tenovertwelve mix CD?

Go Dog Planet!
2(16.7%)
When the madness has died down
0(0.0%)
Tiny Audibles of Love
1(8.3%)
Spring is in the air (bee emoji) (flower emoji)
0(0.0%)
Running, Jumping, Standing Still
1(8.3%)
All Covered up
1(8.3%)
Little moths
1(8.3%)
Numberwang!
3(25.0%)
Build it up, tear it down
3(25.0%)
More panic than anything else
0(0.0%)


*May have happened more than a month ago.
hoodie

The James Kochalka Puppet Theatre

Oh. My. Gosh. Rich from the James Kochalka Puppet Theatre has put up a micromentary about these chaotic cardboard performance stalwarts of many a small press comics convention/day festival/happening. Many a time I enjoyed the explosions of cardboard violence, donated monkeys/robots to the fray, etc. I may even have some bits somwhere, though they normally ended up quite trampled and beery. Very pleased to see that the video also features me in one of my best-loved roles: woman with blue hair sitting on floor surrounded by a chaotic mess of artwork(s). Back in the day!

Neon bitch

this month's compilation : Do you think this world is yours?

It's actually February's compilation, of course, as it was selected on the way into work/on various bus journeys during February. The theme (Garden Pests) was suggested by compilator in the other other place. Improbably, several of the tracks I'd selected had an insectile or greenish theme, so having started by thinking I'd need to add a few things, I ended up thinking - no, that's fine as is. Of course, YMMV. Here's the tracklist:



Protextor & Brother Bear (the openers) probably turned up in the context of CupcaKKe (she helpfully gives a pronunciation guide in the (explicit lyric) track on the comp) and make up the contemporary contribution here. Other than that there is not a lot new on this mix, as I'm still digitising the mix CDs from the compilations shelf. So this is a compilation of compilation tracks, tracks that meant enough to someone else to put them on a comp, and then enough to me to include them on this one.

Here's your Youtube Mix:



Of the videos, the Eels track has a nice we-just-sprayed-ideas-at-a-wall vibe, the Lesbo Pig track (Where it's At is subbing in for Bed Bugs, which is less appropriate for the theme but a lovely slice of history) is sweet and sparkly and Dinosaur Egg explores the extreme lo-fi zone. The Robbie Williams track has a pretty good video too, of course. It's from his purple phase, and borrows heavily from the Pet Shop Boys, including bringing in their dancers, though they don't stick around - most of the video is not so much moody as in a colossal foul mood. The other really significant substitution is for a track called "The theme from The Bean" by a band called "Lovely Andy Roberts". It was off an old comp from the right era and it sounds like the guitar might be my dear departed friend Andy Roberts, but I think the lead vocalist is not him, probably the band only briefly existed and the name was a joke (Andy was lovely of course). I couldn't find it on Youtube so I dropped in a disreputable track called Charlie by an urban country artiste of the same name. Sorry about that -- if you want to hear the original just drop me a line.
Belleh

messing around with my selfie - February compilation

I'd normally draw a picture for the month's compilation, but I didn't this month as the image that occurred when I was listening to it was a selfie. It's a fantastically self-absorbed selection, from John Grant's me/not me of He's got his mother's hips (good video - watch the video) to the the performative angst of Kate Tempest to the adolescent poutings and writhings and screechings of Chai, the Overload, Robbie Williams..... The inclusion of a lot of the tracks (Robbie included) come down to personal history - from the lost seafront of teenaged boredom (hello Kim Wilde, Suzanne Vega) to dirty grungey parties (Transglobal Underground, Chemical Brothers) to walking in circles in muddy festivals big and small (from openers like Day of Grace and Shady Bard to headliners like Chemical Brothers and of course, Robbie). So I knocked out a five-minute spoof of a famous cover, why not:



The glasses look bigger than they are through tricks. This playlist managed to pull in everything (including some crazy obscure local bands so well done them (or possibly Youtube for their attempts to make anything you look for three times appear, like some form of data-fountaining genie) bar the play-out track where you have the rather more polished Gate Away instead of the slightly uncertain but absolutely ravishing Neighbor from Joy/Disaster. It's still a good track. Video-wise you should make time for John Grant, Chai, Circles (Kate Tempest) and probably Janelle Monae too. You might fancy revisiting the Chemical Brothers video too - I remembered it from the first time round. The rest of it can play in the background.



As ever, leave a comment if you want any details. I've had interest from a few people in the other places wanting to do comp-swapping, so we've restarted the #tenovertwelve comp-swap so anyone fancies doing their own compilation, this month's theme was "All is calm, all is bright" (as you can see, I adapted the theme a bit) and all entries welcome - post with the hashtag and tag in myself ( @cleanskies @mrsjeremyday ) or @oxfordhacker. We'll be announcing a new theme soon.
grinnybird

January with the Longbridges Crows

I'm worried about Gil. Gil is the youngest of the tow-path crows, a sqab from last year, with flight feathers still pale and sparse. When I glance back to see their slightly crooked imitation of the parents' expert solicitation flights, bits of wings turn translucent, the bitter white light of winter mornings shining through. Gil is Dave and Sal's first squab, and he (or she - it's hard to tell with crows) is small. I've seen them feeding Gil, wings a-flurry with frantic begging. But is that happening enough? I worry that they might be making rookie errors like "he's small, he doesn't need much food" or "not feeding her will motivate her better to find food". Dave and Sal, the Horse Paddock pair, were the only couple to breed last year. Harry and Em (the original Longbridges crows, an established couple and parents to Dave) didn't breed last year. I don't know why. 2018 is the first year they've not had at least one squab, in the years since I started feeding them.

Solicitation Flight: A curved flight made around a food source (in this case, me and my box of nuts) a bit above head height. They'll normally follow up by sitting on a prominent branch and cawing loudly. Once in a blue moon they'll shuffle their wings a bit, too, but that's really a squab move, and adults crows like to keep food transactions on the level.

When I first started feeding Harry, I had a feeling that I wasn't the first. This January I'm definitely not the crow's one and only. Someone is feeding them chopped nuts, millet, and what looks like mixed seed for larger cage birds. I wonder if my co-feeder is a bereaved parrot owner. A wandering parrot turned up on Nextdoor about a month ago, but the story went silent, as it often does when things don't end well. Crows are smart, sociable, garrulous and happy to interact with humans. They're the closest things we have to a parrot in this country, and while the Longbridges Crows aren't tame, they're comprehensively habituated. You could come to them to remember what it was like, having a bird of your own.

Habituated: Accustomed to human presence, will not flee when humans approach. Crows are discriminating enough that they can be habituated for some humans, or decide how habituated they are depending on what the human is carrying. One day I walked along the tow-path carrying a pull-up banner slung over my shoulder in a black carry tube. The crows would not approach and hid from me, presumably because Harry or Em knew what a gun looked like.

The Longbridges territory has four crows in residence at the moment; Harry, the patriarch and/or matriarch (it's hard to tell with crows) and their mate, Em, who regards me with suspicion. Max, their squab from two years ago, now a handsome, healthy, glossy sub-adult, and one of the twin squabs from the year before that make up the four. Arbritrarily I'll decide it's Leia and that Luke's the one that's turned up at the Cricket Field territory down the tow-path, but it could be the other way round. There was a fifth, who turned up late last summer when Harry was having a hard moult and disappeared for a fortnight, but they weren't popular with me or the family (I called him/her "bad smell" because of they way they kept hanging around) and they finally flew off in early January. The remaining four are harmonious and healthy enough that I have high hopes for this breeding season, though it's too early for them yet to be sprucing up the nest site (a tree in the nature reserve opposite Long Bridges).

Moult: All birds shed their feathers and replace them, usually annually, in late summer or early autumn. This is a pretty hard time for a bird; there are periods of being unable to fly, poor insulation and waterproofing, it's absolutely knackering, and they're very vulnerable to predators. When Harry disappeared for so long I worried that the moult had done them in, one way or another. Harry's no spring chicken, after all. When Harry came back I cheered and punched the air.

The Horse Paddock pair, Dave and Sal (again, I'm making assumptions - I first met one of them as Harry and Em's subadult helpers, Dave and Sue, and I'm assuming that it's Dave I'm still seeing, and that Sue has moved on) also nest in the Nature reserve, in another tree on the riverbank, but they're still having to give a lot of care to Max. I'm almost hoping they don't decide to breed this year, to give Max the best chance, but given that they managed a squab last year, with such terrible weather, maybe I'm underestimating them.

Subadult: Crows, like many intelligent animals, take several years to reach breeding age. During these years they will hang out with older relatives, helping with foraging, nest-building, cacheing food, mobbing predators and feeding any squabs. Subadults are little more slender than full adults, as well as being substantially dafter.

Down at the modernist boat-house, Luke (or possibly Leia, or possibly even Sue or Dave) has re-surfaced with a new partner. An adolescent crow gang hangs out in the cricket field beyond the boat house, and initially I saw them as a gang, but as January went on it became a couple, albeit not a very secure one, yet. I'm spotting a third bird, sneaking around the trees, curious about me, interested in the couple. I wonder if unrelated adolescents might join couples sometimes to become a helper/additional mate. You can easily see where the value might be for a young couple uncertain that they're successfully pair bonded.

Pair Bonded: Crows mate for life, with the usual provisos - some pair bonded couples will split up, if one dies they will (sometimes, not always) seek another mate, there will sometimes be swaps, changes, break-ups.

The Cricket Field Crow Gang has a mirror crow gang across the river, in university parks. One of them knows me, and drifts across the river for a chat and some nuts from time to time. That's probably the last of my original habituates - Luke? Sue? I'm not great at telling them apart.

Crows. They're handsome birds, but look very similar. A few of them have behavioural tics that help - Dave, for example, likes to rock on dead branches, and ocassionally breaks them off, and seems to find this funny. Harry is very big and has a human-pleasing strut, which I suspect he cultivates. Max does an odd little hop-dance when I glance back to look at them feeding, a little nervousness perhaps going back to their squab year, when they were kept strictly away from me, bar a single introductory visit.

I do wonder sometimes what they make of me. A food source, semi-reliable, garrulous and chatty? Walks, talks, throws nuts? A little too tolerant of the magpies? If they have a name for me (and why not, I have names for them) it's probably something like Bright-headed messy eater. Or maybe just nuts.
princess rosalind

hourly comics day : meet snow day

So, hourly comics day came, and so did the snow. I started off trying to go a bit more up-class than last year, with a stylish chiaroscuro image of myself being woken up with by an alarm clock, drawn in smart Sharpie shadows. But it wasn't right for the stuck-at-home, still-at-work, nothing-working, everything snowed-in nature of the day. I ended up screwing it up and chucking it away. And then retrieving it from the bin to look at it (all the while picking up my emails, running the checks on the websites, getting ready for Safer Internet Day, etc.) I went upstairs and pulled out all my half-used notepads. I found an AVG "Be Yourself" notepad I'd got free at a tech conference and a black bic biro. Ready to work the day. And what a day it was. Here, in a highlight scene, I am riding a giant grasshopper as part of a Brexit metaphor:

oh-grasshopper-colour.jpg

Read on for snowpeople, amazing cold weather fashion choices, the most amazing Eggs Benedict in Oxford right now, fancy tea, mysterious raptors, e-learning, experimental cocktails, macaroni cheese, and a child feeding a deer in a housing estate. Also, a lot of pictures of Scribble. Collapse )