And so, making full use of the strange, empty room in the middle of our small, cold house, I set about recreating another semblance of the Christmas tree for our room-without-one. A few little lights tied to a long drop of black thread later, and I set about manifesting this Fritz Lang-meets-James Whale-style Christmas tree (in response to The Kick-About No.69) and enjoyed all the old-school sci-fi spook of it. In some of them, there’s even the ghost of some mid-20th century Americana in-the-mix, in large part due to those masking-tape atom-age snowflakes I stuck to the wall on a whim.
At the outset of 2022, I began teaching a small cohort of postgraduate students at The Margate School on the Visual Communication: Design, Society, Nature one year, part-time programme. I had the pleasure of working alongside a lovely group of individuals and, in celebration of their achievements, and likewise yesterday’s launch of Margate’s inaugural Festival of Design, I was invited to work with them again to produce a short film.
Entitled Palimpsest, the film originates from the students’ initial sketches, doodles, writings and iterations, layered together, and expressed as the restless flicker of the creative mind.
As of yesterday evening, the film is now installed in The Margate School as a projection-mapped work, animating the large wall above the independent art school’s ground floor staircase. The Margate School operates out of a former department store on Margate high street – with all the quirk and atmosphere you might expect.
Many thanks to Claire-Beth Gibson, Claudine Derksen, Emma Self, Ian Jones, Grace King, Georgia Dack, Susanne Hakuba and Zoe Artingstall for helping me put this together, and for your creative company over this last year. Congratulations on your recent graduation (at the Turner Contemporary no less!) and best of luck for the future. May your brains continue to flicker!
I’m not above admitting that, just sometimes, I’ve thought to myself, “Not another Kick-About?”
Sometimes, it has felt as if my brain is too old or too stupid or simply too preoccupied with other more important things to even think about undertaking another creative brief ‘for the sake of it’. If I’m thinking this, the guy who sets the Kick-About prompts each fortnight, I’m pretty sure some of the regular kick-abouters have thought it too. Lives get busy. Lives get glum. Interest and energy wanes. The mood passes. Art is fart.
And yet, all that being true, now I’ve gathered here together a year’s worth of new work in a single place, I am reminded of the intrinsic value of ‘making stuff’ and of the power of community. There is little doubt, were it not for the examples set by all the other artists in The Kick-About, I wouldn’t have followed through on these various creative enquiries of my own. It’s quite unlikely I would have started them, and I certainly wouldn’t have finished them, finding a bunch of reasonable excuses to get on with more pressing stuff, or stuff I didn’t need to think about quite as much, or the stuff of watching television and eating bars of cheap chocolate on the sofa. But as it happens, I’ve inflated latex gloves with water to produce wobbling horrors, made moonscapes out of bags of flour, photographed tin-toy chickens obsessively, made short films, written a story about a woman with nasturtium seed for a head, encased a bunch of stuff in ice, and the list goes on – and largely because I wasn’t alone in my endeavours. Somewhere in New York, Kerfe was suspending paper fish inside a litter bin, and somewhere out in Brisbane, James was populating a primordial forest with bare chested brutes; meanwhile, Charly was crocheting a hat of fantastical proportions, Tom was configuring Saul Bass-inspired spirals out of code in Yokohama, and Gary was fashioning a Christmas tree out of hand-foraged willow and meticulous strips of calligraphic paper!
What I particularly enjoy, it seems, is the license to shape-shift in terms of creative work; the Kick-About encourages me to diversify, to jump about a bit. That said, there are obvious preoccupations – a love of in-camera transformations, what we might call ‘analogue magic’, and a preoccupation with the darker side of the human imagination. I blame the Pan Book of Horror and all those brave, strange, mean films of the 1970s.
‘Jumping about a bit’ can be confusing, so I decided to get my ‘art-house’ in order a bit by re-organising my personal website. It might not make a scrap of sense thematically, but at least it’s nice and tidy, right?
Thanks again to all the Kick-Abouters: we’ve been living through some strange rootless times, and your company and creativity has done much to keep my feet on the ground and my imagination a good deal higher up! Onwards…
You can read a PDF version here
Nasturtiums – Read by Catherine Bradley
You’ll find a PDF version here
You can find a PDF version here
Back when I was teaching an undergraduate course, one of my yearly highlights was a screening for students of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho on the big screen. There are many showier reasons for enjoying this film, but I always loved the Saul Bass-designed opening titles – those simple horizontal lines sliding in across the frame with such urgency, while Bernard Herrmann’s score propelled them along. Working with a few simple elements – dots and dashes, lines and ellipses – I set about producing an affectionate fantasia on some Bass-inspired themes for my response to The Kick-About No.49.
Thanks to The Kick-About No.40, I went shooting off on another short-lived, if intense, trajectory inspired by these beautiful and poetic illustrations of fireworks. I’ve been sharing images resulting from my photography of soap bubbles, which was the safest way I could think of – in a short time – to work with colourful displays as fleeting as fireworks. I really enjoyed some of imagery, finding in it some of the explosive qualities we associated with pyrotechnics. What these experiments couldn’t express was the kineticism and noise of a good firework display, so I was further tempted to have a bash at using the photographs to produce some moving-image. Whizz Bang Ooh Aah is the result, my intention being to get close to that moment at the end of a big organised show when the sights and sounds become almost over-whelming, before the abrupt outbreak of darkness, silence – and applause!
“Back in the early Summer of 2019, I was invited by friend and filmmaker, Jordan Buckner, to produce his short animated film, When The Tides Went Down, for Screen South and the BBC. Jordan and I have worked together previously on the live-synchronisation animations La creation du monde (2013) and Red & The Kingdom Of Sound (2017) and Jordan’s //_sleeper for the BFI…”
… and tonight, Jordan’s film is featuring on the BBC homepage, where it is listed as one of ‘ten amazing artworks inspired by climate change’. Congratulations, Jordan! When The Tides Went Down was a timely film in 2019, and more so now.
Artist Tereza Stehlikova’s Tangible Territory is ‘a platform that offers a space for various voices to meet and discuss themes relating to the role of the body, the importance of place and embodied experience, in giving meaning to our every day experience of life and art. By extension, it also reflects on some of the transformations initiated by technology, globalisation and now also the pandemic and to it related questions of embodiment versus disembodiment, being simultaneously here and elsewhere, present and absent in our bodies and our surroundings.’ The Tangible Territory Journal is a ‘celebration of power of creative process and as such, is an ongoing project of collective learning and improving, of sharing, collaboration, curiosity and open mindedness.’
Tereza Stehlikova works as ‘an artist, filmmaker and a senior lecturer. She holds a PhD from the Royal College of Art, where she researched the tactile language of moving image. She is currently engaged in a cross-disciplinary research, investigating how moving image can be used to communicate embodied experience. Stehlikova is a senior lecturer in still and moving image theory and practice, at the University of Westminster and also supervises PhD students at the Royal College of Art. She is a founder of Sensory Sites, an international collective based in London, generating collaborative exhibitions, installations and research projects that explore multi-sensory perception and bodily experience. She also co-founded Artesian, a journal for committed creativity, featuring the writings of John Berger, Don DeLillo amongst many others. Stehlikova has presented her research at a number of international conferences and her films and performances have been shown at a variety of film and music festivals around the world. More about her projects here: cinestheticfeasts.com‘.
Responding to Tereza’s call for submissions for the third edition of her Tangible Territory Journal, I shared Fundus, the short film made in response to The Kick-About No.30, and likewise wrote a short accompanying piece about lock-down, The Kick-About and of ‘making directly’ and ‘doing quickly:
“A few weeks back, the prompt for the Kick-About was ‘Fundus Photography’, with fundus pertaining to categories of retinal photography. Challenged to respond to imagery that was both ‘of the human body’, but also suggestive of more galaxial realms, I set about inflating a latex glove with water and floating it in a goldfish bowl filled with water coloured with some old black ink cartridges I found at the back of a drawer. As I was assembling these ad-hoc components (only let’s call it ‘playing’, for that is what it was), I had no idea I would soon be making a short experimental film in collaboration with another artist, Deanna Crisbacher. As I was holding the latex glove under the tap, I had no guarantee (or indeed much hope), that my idea would come to anything at all. Importantly, I suppose, I didn’t care. I didn’t know then, as I turned the water black with squirrelled ink, that I was in the early stages of making a strange little film offering up expansive, cosmic impressions born from a combination of domestic objects. I didn’t know then I might be writing about this project, even going as far as drawing out from it some final conclusion about the transformative and transportive power of creativity, of making directly, of doing quickly, and the value of community.”
Fundus was a collaboration between myself and Deanna Crisbacher, a short abstract film comprising images I’d produced for The Kick-About No. 30. Fundus has been selected for Motus Imago, a new film festival going by the subtitle, a ‘Showcase of Shapes, Puppets & Moving Things’ – which I’m very happy about. Fundus is indeed a ‘moving thing’, but what sort of a moving thing I’m not sure! This is from the festival organisers: “Motus Imago – Showcase of Shapes, Puppets and Things in Motion, operates in the scope of programming artistic projects that operate in a vast interdisciplinary field, in the scope of multiformat manipulation, from puppet theatre to moving image. Through works that move between current and traditional techniques, dramaturgies and animated forms and animation cinema. It values the experimental nature of artistic works for adults and children and is presented with a set of educational actions that will take place from October 2021 in Aveiro.” Sounds like fun! Thanks again to Dee for the wizardry, and to The Kick-About community for giving me the get-up and go to keep doing stuff and sharing it.
I’m happy to report When I Was A Boy, I Collected Pebbles From The Beach (2021) has been selected for the Crossings Poetic International Film Festival 2021. Thanks very much!