The Kick-About #9 ‘Short Ride In A Fast Machine’

In marked contrast to our last creative prompt, which encouraged us to reflect on the slow, attenuated life-cycles of the cicada, this week’s jumping-off point invites adventures in velocity. As per, the range of responses is a delight. My advice? Slow down and have a really good look!

Francesca Maxwell

“A great prompt. Most of my work aims to capture movement – action, transformation, development, energy, colour, sound… This time it brought back into life an idea I have been circling around for a long time, which turns into a sketch I did on a plane back from Mexico; great places to sketch, planes and trains. Some of my best ideas happen there; the myth of Icarus. While imprisoned in a tower, his father Daedalus, famous for having built the Labyrinth, made wings for Icarus, taught him to fly and warned him not to go too high or the heat of the sun will melt the wax used to make the wings – with the well known result. A great tragic story. It inspired so many paintings and art works showing all the stages of the story. I particularly love Bruegel’s one with just a pair of legs in the sea while life goes on. I decided to show the aftermath of the fall itself without the object, the gravity force pulling down breaking from the clouds through the air into the water; of course using my usual “control impulse” technique starting from the light in the foreground and stepping backward inside the painting with subsequent layers of ink washes getting deeper and deeper into the background and then out again. I hope Icarus enjoyed the time he had in the air, if short.”

Phil Cooper

“When I first started visiting Berlin, over ten years ago now, there were a great many abandoned buildings, ruins and left-overs from the second world war and the cold war dotted all around the city. Many of these have since been demolished, refurbished and turned into overpriced flats, or repackaged as museums etc, but quite a few still remain.

A few years ago I came across this strange place just south of the city at Adlershof. It was a site developed to test jet engines towards the end of the second world war. I think the doodlebugs were tested here. It is very eerie and peculiar. Even then, the city authorities had cottoned on to the fact that people were visiting the place and that it might have some mileage as a tourist trail curio. There were new signs and noticeboards about and they’d installed little pods around the buildings which, when you approached, started emitting B-movie sci-fi sounds like wailing theremins. It was all rather cheesy and funny, but it worked, strangely, and you wandered around feeling like you were in a 1970s Dr. Who episode or one of these series telling unsettling stories of the uncanny.

This buildings and structures were built to develop the fastest machines in the world, but they had a pretty short life. They soon became obsolete as other technologies came along.

It’s a bit like the concrete ‘sound mirrors’ near Dungeness, or the nuclear research site on Orford Ness; it has a nostalgic retro-futurist vibe that’s intriguing and a little bit melancholy. These places are relics, echoes of a past, and they have no use any more, they’re like ghosts.” / /

Phil Gomm

“Courtesy of my good friend and long-time collaborator, Ethan Shilling, I was able to transcribe John Adams’ Short Ride In A Fast Machine into a spectrogram, a visual representation of the music showing the frequencies comprising the sound. The black and white image below is what the sound of this fast machine looks like as it accelerates from start to finish. With more than a nod to Kubrick’s 2001, the exhilarating opening titles to the original 1978 Superman, and a quick steal from Luigi Rossolo’s The Revolt, I took the resulting spectrogram, colourised it for heat, fizz and vibrancy, and pushed it into perspective for maximum velocity!”

Vanessa Clegg

“Two things stood out whilst listening to this piece…the steady tap, tap, tap in the background (like a leaking pipe or aid to meditation) and the abstract cacophony surrounding it. So I drew my friend Andy as a calm oblivious centre whilst a maelstrom of instruments, clothes (mask and gloves of course!) and detritus flew about his head.” Pen and ink on Fabriano. 22” X  22”

Gary Thorne

“Kicked-off with A1 drawing in elaborate-freeform. Day-2 was elaborate-freeform using a crude-mix of thinned oils. Day-3, after taking a dislike to it, chopped it into 12 squares with disregard for things I might have liked and scattered them beneath the work desk. Day-4, one week later, each square found its own right-way-up and the conclusion of the set was reached just beyond 4 hours 40 minutes. To avoid curating, they are presented in the order they were painted and no telling how they fit back into A1.” Oil on primed paper, set of 12, 16x16cm

Kerfe Roig

“I was thinking of the kind of collage I’d do for this piece of music–a layered mandala with everything I could find inside it, and realized I had one like that already.”

faster and faster
the wheel spins, gathering all
into one huge dance /

Tom Beg

“I’ve always imagined this piece of music as beams of light and geometric shapes so here’s a quickly rustled up 3D sketch to try and capture that feeling.” /

Marion Raper

“Although I have never heard this piece of music before I found it very inspirational and to me it could not have meant anything other than Drag Racing. My other half is a fanatical follower of the sport and has even been down the track himself a few times, whilst I have watched on the start line. It’s quite an experience! The lights count down, then there’s a sharp roar of engines (Don’t forget to cover your ears) and then the 2 cars launch down the track. Believe me the ground can actually shake! No way are my artistic skills up to capturing this moment, but it’s fun to remember the sensation and thrill of such amazing speed as you gaze into the distance and the parachutes come open to slow the cars down. Then the time comes up – 0 to 220mph in 6 seconds – now that’s moving!”

Marcy Erb

“When Phil announced the theme for Kick-About #9 was a musical composition by John Adams entitled a “Short Ride in a Fast Machine,” oh, I had ideas. Because there is an incredibly fast machine operating inside of you – countless times a day, taking you on a too short ride from the moment of conception until the day you die: your DNA replication machinery. This complex machine, made up of dozens of components, makes an exact copy of your DNA in preparation for your cells to divide.”

Judy Watson

“Here are two updated images with the little drawings completed, such as they are. Rough. But intentionally so. I made them to turn into an animation of sorts… I thought it might be fun to make them into a fake Muybridge photographic sequence. I made my grid. Very good fun.” / /

Kevin Clarkson

“Kind of you to add a late entry! I loved the piece of music, not heard that before. It would be a great soundtrack to a video of an X-15 in flight. I painted a view of an X-15 some years ago as part of a short series on the early American space programme. It has been a source of fascination from my early years. I think it is because it was cutting edge – they were writing the rule book for those who would follow.” / /

Wow – we’re on prompt number ten already! Courtesy of regular kick-abouter, Vanessa Clegg, we’ve got one of Joseph Cornell’s evocative boxes to inspire us. Have fun – and if you know someone who you think might enjoy a rush-around with the rest of us, do please extend the invitation.

Romantic Museum, 1946, Joseph Cornell

12 thoughts on “The Kick-About #9 ‘Short Ride In A Fast Machine’

  1. Francesca’s painting is an interesting encapsulation. It has admitted Icarian features, but it also reminds me of a Galician latifundium I went to once as a kid. It had this turriferous structure in the middle of a pondish lake. The fragmentary meridional point where the body punctures its aquatic counterpart seems, simultaneously, to be a mirroring, which is almost purposefully expressed in how the tone of the sky matches that of the basin of the painting. Perhaps that’s it: more than the movement or the motion of dissolution, there’s one of perforation and reinstallation, as if the painting is, in a sense, its own stylistic exit-wound. I could make diametrics of it. Perhaps tether it to grief, but not to grieving. Motion requires time, but upon visual art, the absence of that element seems to require less suspension and more extension. It’s not a lack of time, but a lack of sense of time, the Zeitgefühl.

    Speaking of German composites, aptly, there’s Phil. I had said in another Kick-About that I’m a sucker for liminal spaces, but I’m also a sufferer from temporal centrality, which means I do not have the “I’m reminded of” feeling regarding periods. In my teenage years, I thought I was too dumb and hadn’t read enough or seen enough or visited enough. Much of my cultural development came from this comparatist inadequacy. I’m still not quite as knowledgeable as I’d like to be, but by now, I should be able to position concepts in their times. Those liminal spaces captured by Phil remind me of the photography projects created in recent years regarding abandoned Soviet architectural structures; the monuments of social exuberance and, almost, smallness, even. This German space has a similar whiff to it. It’s a place that was already terribly lonely even before it became empty. It has not a debossing of life to it, and it just that, the artifice of being, the artifice of presence. I love things like these; they are rather poetic.

    Your spectogram is beautiful, but I must wonder, if one makes many of these, can one read the spectrum as one would a sheet, thus listening to the song in a visual manner? To me, the original, without the fizz and heat and colour, looks a bit like an old moonlit Seine, maybe the same of Milosz:

    “How enduring, how we need durability.
The sky before sunrise is soaked with light.

    Rosy color tints buildings, bridges, and the Seine.

    I was here when she, with whom I walk, wasn’t born yet
    And the cities on a distant plain stood intact
Before they rose in the air with the dust of sepulchral brick
    And the people who lived there didn’t know.

    Only this moment at dawn is real to me.

    The bygone lives are like my own past life, uncertain.

    I cast a spell on the city asking it to last.”

    Interestingly, Vanessa’s drawing also reminds me a bit of Milosz towards the end of his life. Andy certainly has the echo of poets in his facial geometries. I envy so folks that can do shading with a pen; I lack either the gut or the patience. Perhaps I lack both.

    I love Kerfe’s collage and it is probably very similar to what my mind would conjure with such a prompt. Noise and the fustian visual maximalism. When one equals movement to excess, doesn’t that say something about the state of ones personal health? I ought to jog a bit more.

    Marcy Erb’s work is fascinatingly interesting. There are many semiotic layers to it that I’d like to explore in text, but I’m afraid this comment won’t fit soon enough. I loved this Kick-About to bits. I love all of them immensely. You’ve gotten marvellous creators to participate each time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now that you’ve keyed my eye into the idea of the b/w spectrogram being a reflected view in a river, it’s all I can see now – the lights of some harbour city or port reflected on the water.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Doesn’t it, though? Harbour, that’s it. When I was a kid, we’d go for icecream near the boardwalks in Algarve and that’s precisely what it looked like, with the white summer lights and all.
        It reminds me of how much I hate marzipan.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry I missed this one Phil, as a late 1950s boy there could only be one subject for this.

    The US X-15 rocket powered aircraft, designed to explore hypersonic flight at ultra high altitude before the first US rocket flights of Al Shepherd and John Glenn. Dropped from under the wing of a B-52 bomber the X-15 reached Mach 6 (4,520 mph at 102,000 feet.

    I learned many years later that despite all the cutting edge tech of the X-15 the pilot’s pressure suit rubber lining was glued together by little old ladies with pots of latex and small sable brushes!

    I had a ready made painting for this, done a few years ago, you would find it on my website.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey Kevin – very happy to insert into the mix! If you’re up for it, just direct me to the requisite painting and I’ll drop it in and include your comment here as preface! 😀


  3. Music takes us to so many places. And these are all well worth visiting! More great work.
    I really like how each new prompt takes a different direction. Cornell is good inspiration, let’s see where he leads…(K)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been smiling my way through this. Such a glorious variety of visions. I love the choice of music as a prompt and to see how it has been translated. It reminds me of synesthesia.


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