The Kick-About #25 ‘The Age Of Aquarius’


With its associations with protest and freedom of expression, this week’s prompt, courtesy of Kerfe Roig, returns us somewhat to the untaming of our last Kick-About together, but just like everyone else, I suspect, I’ve had the song from Hair going around and around my brain these past two weeks!


Tom Beg

“I apologise in advance to any students of colour-theory who might be seeing these images. While it was made in the spirit of peace and love, it might in fact be the colour equivalent an atomic bomb. Really I just wanted to make the animated tye dye t-shirts while listening to the Broadway cast recording of Hair.”



twitter.com/earthlystranger / vimeo.com/tombeg


Judy Watson

“I did go briefly down a rabbit hole to look up the meaning of the expression in astrological terms. It’s complex but predictably vague and controversial. The Age of Aquarius may have begun in 2600 BCE, or may have begun in the 20th Century or may be yet to begin. Having grown out of what limited interest I had in astrology years ago, this was not a direction that inspired art. It did lead me to quite an interesting little reading session about hippies, beatniks and the New Age movement of the 1960s and 1970s, but the complexity of this material reminded me of why I was never very good at history in school and why I admire people who are good at history!

But visually, the culture of the ’60s and ’70s is interesting. In fact I already had a digital collage with a psychedelic flavour that I made in November last year after watching the progress of the US elections with horror and dread. I had a powerful craving for the dawn of a new era, and for women to play an important role in it.”



“In Australia, that thirst for a change of culture, and a redistribution of power is even stronger now. If you’re interested, journalist Leigh Sales talks about it here, or there’s a briefer version on her Instagram page here. But what the heck. I had to make something new just for this prompt. So I decided that peace, love and harmony were the go, but sticking with the a secondary theme of female solidarity and friendship. And here’s the dawning of the Age of Aquarius being celebrated in a small way between two friends. The moon is definitely in the Seventh House. Need you even ask?” 


judywatson.net / Instagram.com/judywatsonart / facebook.com/judywatsonart


Phil Gomm

“So this is what I learned during my research into the ‘age of Aquarius’ – that in addition to all the immediate water-based imagery that associates with it, some scholars of all things astrological identify electricity as one of the keenest indications of the Aquarian age. Originally I had film in mind as my response to the prompt, something rather doomy and cynical juxtaposing the optimism given to the age of Aquarius with the lived reality of recent events and the rise of populism in politics… but, while good and worthwhile possibly, it was also going nowhere visually! Instead, I wondered how I might bring the Aquarian motifs of electricity and water together in a suitably cosmic way – without blowing myself up in the process! So it was I returned to the site of the scrying mirror, that small body of water so fascinating to me in its blackness (but which also makes it quite smelly!), and cracked out a few techniques familiar to me from previous photographic adventures in other dark places. It is certainly the dawning of something going on here…”



James Randall

I love Hair – it was one of the last shows before covid that we saw that I really enjoyed – just a small production that ran for a few nights at the Sydney Opera House. Yep our poor youngsters will have the same old concerns but worse, I suppose. After a few painted kick-about responses I went back to the computer for some clean lines. I hope it feels like there is some energy in it – it started off feeling that way to me but it always amazes me how much time you spend on a computer to get an image off the ground.



Charly Skilling

“This constellation was identified as “The Water Carrier” in the records of the Babylonians, some 6000 years BCE, and has been recognised as such by civilisations ever since. Different ideologies have ascribed different myths, but the common feature throughout has been the urn pouring water from the heavens. Regardless of the meanings ascribed to the constellation, the constellation itself is real and eternal, and humanity has gazed upon it since the first humanoid turned its face to the stars and wondered.

It is about 27,500 years since our solar system last moved through this sector of the sky, and will remain within this sector for approximately 2,150 years. When thinking about these vast periods of time, it is tempting to take comfort in the fact, that whatever the ups and downs of our own little lives, there is a never-changing constancy about the world and its place in the universe. But perhaps the true meaning of the constellation of Aquarius is not that water will always be available, but that all life needs water to survive. Maybe “The Age of Aquarius” is the time to recognize if we continue to use water, consume water, play with water, waste water and pollute water, as we have done over the last couple of centuries, we may have witnessed the “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius”, but there may be no one much around to witness the twilight.”




Kerfe Roig

“When Phil asked me to choose this week’s Kick-About prompt, I thought immediately of The Age of Aquarius, because I’ve been turning over in my mind the hope that it might be real, that humanity can change. I always loved the music posters of the “Hair” era, and used them as inspiration for my neon colored paintings… Back when the musical “Hair” came out, some astrologers grumbled that it wasn’t really the Age of Aquarius yet.  But what did we care?  We were tired of the world as it was, ready for Peace, Love and Understanding. Well…maybe not. During 2020 there were rumblings once again online about the REAL Age of Aquarius finally showing up.  I was skeptical to say the least.It seems we had the Age of Aquarius skewed, not only in time.  Yes, it’s a total tearing down and rebuilding.  But it’s going to require hard work.  Taking a lot of drugs and wearing tie-dye and listening to songs about love won’t do it. Can we change our entire approach to living together, not only with each other, but with the earth, its creatures, its landscape, its elements?  We need to if we want to survive.”


chaotic stillness
watching from the whorled center
for new beginnings

all those lost patterns –
I collect them in my mind,
in new rotations

all impermanence –
no matter which way you turn
the path continues

giving myself hope
inside my dark wanderings–
a world of wonder


kblog.blog / methodtwomadness.wordpress.com


Graeme Daly

“Firstly, I was gobsmacked by the age of Aquarius song from the musical Hair. It left the hairs standing on my arms with the booming lead singer’s voice being absolutely phenomenal. If this show ever returns to live audiences I would love to see it! The “hippie” people of this era wanted to show their respect and love for the earth and focus on the world around them, while doing it as a group effort to show a sense of community and togetherness. Aquarius is an air sign, and as a fellow air sign myself, they are known to be creative, free spirited, and always seek clarity.

The symbol for Aquarius being the ‘water bearer’, who eternally gives life and spiritual food to the world, while also washing away the past and making room for a fresh start is usually depicted as a mighty figure pouring water from a vessel onto the earth. When seeing the image of the water bearer, I wanted to focus on a previous experience surrounding water that ignited the Pools film from the Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez prompt, which gave me more respect for the earth and the little wonders that happen sporadically, if you are open enough to find them.

These photos show a snapshot of a spectacle that was for my eyes only, where a trickling of snow was melting and forming a mirage of colours in a shallow lagoon of water. It was a joyous occasion to just sit and watch this natural occurrence, and with its dancing display, it allowed me to stop worrying about everything and what the future holds and just be here in this moment. I think experiences like that are important for grounding you and bringing you back to your present reality, where worry has no place, as the hippies in Hair embodied this physicality here and now by dancing and moving their bodies like water…”


@graemedalyart / vimeo.com/graemedaly / linkedin.com/in/graeme-daly / twitter.com/Graeme_Daly / gentlegiant.blog


Marion Raper

“I was very lucky to be ‘sweet sixteen at the tail end of the 60s. Having worked hard to get my exams, it was time to enjoy myself and ‘let the sunshine in’, so I started a job in London.  It was alive and buzzing!  I worked in a large open plan office and every day was such fun – more often than not I just managed to catch the last train home!  It was all parties, pubs and shopping, and frankly one of the best times of my life!   Everyone was so happy!  Perhaps it was due to the great music of the time or the wonderful crazy clothes. I still have my beautiful purple velvet kaftan.   Unfortunately, I never got to see Hair the Musical as it was always booked solid but how I enjoyed the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”



Phil Cooper

When I read the prompt for this week’s Kick-About, my first port of call was that clip from the film Hair where the hippie kids are dancing in the park singing ‘let the sunshine in’. My research did go a bit deeper than watching 1960s musicals, into the realms of astrology and vernal equinoxes and suchlike, but I kept coming back to that catchy song. I was struck by how the song linked all the positive attributes of the new age of Aquarius to sunshine, relating feelings to the weather, as so many songs do. When the age of Aquarius does arrive, we’ll all be dancing under sunny skies, apparently. The film version looks very dated now, of course, and has a very American feel. If it’d been made in Britain it’d be less ‘let the sunshine in’ and more ‘take your washing in’. I’m not complaining, though, I really do like the gentle climate of the British Isles. It’s what helps make our landscapes and gardens so beautiful. It’s also become rather de rigueur to challenge such simple binaries as; sunny weather, good – rainy weather, bad. Nature writers seem to be falling over themselves in their enthusiasm to tell us about their new books where they did things like walk in the rain for a whole year, and how they found such experiences deeply revelatory and healing. Back in the 19th century, John Ruskin told us ‘there’s really no such things as bad weather, just different kinds of weather’. I do get it, I can enjoy rain, and storms, and snow, but given the choice, I’d rather be outside under a clear blue sky. I’ve made a little film about it for the Kick-About this week, splicing together two videos, taken exactly six months apart; one in high summer, one in midwinter. By making the film so binary, I hope it allows for the nuances to emerge and for this to generate more complex feelings about sun/rain, summer/winter, light/dark and life/death, ultimately, I suppose. Or maybe it just makes the sunny part of the film look all the more enticing and the winter part even more ‘ugh!’.

The soundtrack to the film is from a beautiful piece of music called Waterland (part IV) by The Rain Dogs. Check out their amazing work at the-rain-dogs.bandcamp.com

Ok, I’m looking out of the window as I write this and the sky is a delicate pale grey with a soft drizzle coming down; where are those hippie kids when you need them!?”



instagram.com/philcoops / hedgecrows.wordpress.com / phil-cooper.com


Vanessa Clegg

“This is my 1960s “Dolly Dress” – another treasure from a charity shop. It hangs on my wall as a reminder of all the good times and never fails to trigger a smile. Years ago. when working in Australia, friends at the studio invited me to a 60/70s party. Myself and another dressed accordingly. She was a dancer and had hoarded all original clothes from that ‘crossroad time’. We arrived clutching the soundtrack to “Hair” and more than ready to party, but sadly no one else had dressed up (chic black only), so we put on the music, revived the old moves, and soon were all swirling back to a time when change was the buzzword, freedom and fashion a shock, and art school the perfect place to explore this “New World”. May we all ‘ let the sun shine in’ when we gather once more to dance, drink and laugh with our friends….how fab will that be?!”


vanessaclegg.co.uk


Just a reminder then, that the Kick-About No.26 ‘52.1429’ is our anniversary edition to mark one year of shared creative endeavours. I think we’ve all earned a little break from fizzing fortnightly with new things to try and do, so I’m asking kick-abouters to get in touch and choose one of their own previous submissions for including in a ‘greatest hits’ edition. All you need do is point me at the piece of work you’d like me to include, but also send me a few lines on why you’ve chosen it; it might be because it represented some crazy creative detour into the unknown, or it might just be because you really really like it – and anything else you’d like to talk about too. I look forward to hearing from you in due course.



MFT #12 Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers (1956)


Don Siegel’s 1956 science-fiction film, Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers is one of my favourite things. Here’s why.

I can’t recall when I first saw Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers – most likely on BBC2, opposite the six o clock news, when I was nine or ten, which was where, and when, they always scheduled science-fiction b-movies, as a welcome refuge for boys like me; from the Falklands War, the miners’ strike, the spectre of nuclear annihilation, and Margaret fucking Thatcher.  

I wonder if, to begin with, I was a bit underwhelmed by Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, in that it lacked the giant slugs of It Came From Outer Space, the big-brained mutant of This Island Earth, and the tentacled-head-in-a-fishbowl from Invaders From Mars.  I’m going to say it probably did. I can also say with confidence that, unlike those showier movies, Invasion of the Body-Snatchers changed my relationship to cinema forever.

But it wasn’t the experience of watching Invasion of the Body-Snatchers that catalysed my transformation from consumer of images to avid cryptographist. It was the experience of reading about it.  As my interest in horror and science fiction films intensified, I started to spend my pocket money on books about them, principally because I could seek out glimpses of the many and various films I was otherwise too young to actually watch.  And while Invasion of the Body-Snatchers certainly lacked the rubbery bug-eyed delights and flying saucers I thought sure were the canonical stuff of all the most entertaining science-fiction movies, it was a film the people in my books liked to write about a lot.

This was what I learned: in addition to Invasion of the Body-Snatchers being a low budget black and white film about hive-minded pod people from another planet and their sinister bid for world domination, it was also a commentary on the anxiety felt by Americans in the face of communist ideology. Okay, so, I didn’t know what communism was, even less so ideology, except that it had to something to with Russian spies and the colour red. 

Confusingly, as I read more about Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, I learned the film might also have something to say, not about communism, but about McCarthyism, which was another word I didn’t know, but learned about soon after. Further readings, in different books, suggested the threat against mankind in Invasion of the Body-Snatchers wasn’t coming from the furthest flung regions of space, but from within the magazine pages of Homes & Garden; that the awful sameness spreading from person-to-person wasn’t communism, or the chilling effect on expressions of difference produced by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s pernicious witchhunts, but the homogenising effect on the human condition of jolly, post-war consumerism.

I’m reminded of the old joke: when is a door not a door? When it is a jar.  When is a film not a series of images projected at twenty-four frames a second onto a flat surface? When it is an expansive, dimensional vessel encompassing competing strains of sociological meaning.

Though I didn’t really understand everything I was reading about in relationship to Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, a lesson was learned, and it was two-fold; not only could black and white movies about imperialistic alien vegetables tell us something truthful about the emotional realities of individuals living in the real world, but also that interpretation was not the intellectual project of fixing meaning in place, but the art of enjoying competing truths.

As improbable as it sounds pretentious, I really can trace my intellectual awakening to Invasion of the Body-Snatchers; from here, the early beginnings of my understanding of politics, the scaffolding of our lived realities, largely invisible to children, but very far from irrelevant to them; from here, the beginning of an understanding about the various different ways our freedoms might be imperilled – from within and from without; from here, the idea a person’s difference could be considered precious, a characteristic to be protected; from here, the tingle of unease for any large group of people laying definitive claims to a single mode of existence. 

Invasion of the Body-Snatchers also taught me films were unavoidably articles of social history, that however future-looking or historical or interplanetary, movies are marinaded in the times of their production; that the surface of a film is a mirror, in which we find the values of the people who made it.

In this way, Invasion of the Body-Snatchers gave me the confidence and conviction to spit in the eye of various teachers and later, academics, who would have me and others believe there was no value in something as popular as genre, no truth-telling power, no insight; that the only culture with the power to cast light on the matrices of human behaviour are those within the realm of finer things.  


A boy runs from his mother, who is ‘not’ his mother.

Wilma is convinced Uncle Ira is ‘not’ Uncle Ira.

A doppelgänger is discovered as it assumes the form of its victim.

A doppelgänger transforms in the darkness of the cellar.


Invasion of the Body-Snatchers begins at the end; with our hero, Dr Miles Bennell, in custody in the emergency room of a hospital; wild-eyed, Bennell is trying to convince a psychiatrist he is not a lunatic, and so recounts the events leading up to his arrest.

And events begin simply enough: a boy running in mortal fear of his own mother. Soon after, we meet Wilma, cousin of Dr Bennell’s love interest, Becky Driscoll, who is convinced her Uncle Ira is ‘not’ her Uncle Ira.  Meanwhile, the sun shines, and Uncle Ira cuts the grass on his neat front lawn, and the town of Santa Mira looks as pretty-as-picture, with its neat, white wooden houses, neat, white picket fences, and neat, white families. Oh, how these first small pangs of wrongness delight me, the chiming of these minor chords in an otherwise happy-clappy melody; the way they say, ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’, like watching the filter on someone’s #Livingmybestlife Instagram feed glitch-out for a second to reveal a stray dog turd.

Maybe cinema has conditioned me to regard small, pretty towns inhabited by smiling people as inherently dishonest and keepers of secrets? Maybe I only think this way because Invasion of the Body-Snatchers taught me to think this way, or maybe Invasion of the Body-Snatchers is the just outward expression of something I’ve always known to be true? We think of myths as stories, but I wonder if myths are the stories we recognise as truth? Santa Mira is but one of many small towns whose inhabitants are actually conspirators or monsters or both.  I’m thinking of the leafy streets of Stepford, and the painted streets of Summerisle. I’m thinking about Seahaven Island, and the Village from The Prisoner, the ice-cream-coloured neighbourhood of Edward Scissorhands, and every other dystopic conurbation.

Anyway, we soon learn the boy’s teacher and Uncle Ira have been hollowed out by extra-terrestrials, who are making a tremendous effort to keep up appearances. I suppose this is what I’m talking about when I think about all those towns and villages that so inspire distrust in me, or the way another person’s exquisite manners give me reason to be wary of them; I think to myself ‘so much effort’ and then, ‘for what?’ and then, ‘why?’, and then ‘I think they doth protest too much’. I do know of people who ‘just want everything to be nice’ and they’re always the bloody worst of us, because in my experience ‘by nice’ what they really mean is ‘repressed’ and ‘silent’ and ‘servile’.


Dr Bennell and Becky look out at the ‘normal’ streets of Santa Mira.


Whenever I re-watch the unfolding horror of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, I’m reminded of a warm evening spent with old friends around a table on the scruffy candle-lit terrace of an old French house. We were playing a hypothetical game of Room 101, nominating our least favourite things to be cast into Orwell’s oubliette.  The conversation began lightly enough, and my suggestion for banishment was John Lennon’s Imagine. I loathe Imagine musically because it is a dirge, and also because, lyrically it is about as profound as a souvenir tea towel, as profound as The New Seeker’s I’d Like to Teach the World To Sing, only markedly less catchy.  My choice confused my companions, and as we wrestled with it, the tone darkened.  I railed against the glib utopianism Lennon offers, finding in it only the nascent trappings of fascism – and not Orwell’s dystopian hell hole of conspicuous boots brought down conspicuously on faces, but Huxley’s Brave New World of insensate, perfected bliss. Imagine is every pod person’s sing-a-long, a love-song to frontal lobotomies.


The discovery of the seed pods in the greenhouse.


I likewise relish Invasion of the Body-Snatchers for its hokier trappings, principally, its central premise that the human race might be victimised, then vanquished, by plants. Maybe like all small boys at one time or another, I had a venus-fly trap, having begged my mum to buy me one.  I was instantly disappointed by the diminutive size of my fly-trap, and also disappointed when I killed mine after feeding it a single strand of frozen mince. The idea of carnivorous plants fascinated me – still do, and while the alien pods in Invasion of the Body-Snatchers do not predate on the flesh of their victims, they feed on us nonetheless, absorbing the likenesses of their subjects while their subjects sleep. 

The film’s scenes in the greenhouse, in which our heroes witness the birthing of their dopplegangers from rubbery seed pods, remain gruesome all these years later, evoking a horrid fascination for prodigiousity familiar to any gardener.  Recently, I’ve been propogating spider plants by cutting off the scintillas of baby plants and poking them into water, where now there are white, worming roots, as these decapitated little off-shoots strive busily to survive; like the time, I was re-potting a large podophyllum, which, when at last liberated from its pot, trailed with it what looked like masses of white spaghetti.  Consider too the bamboo roots once growing under our garden path, resembling exactly the mad result of an experiment to splice a giant millipede with a human spine.  Let’s call this category of horticultural unease the ‘vegetal uncanny’. Anyone who has opened a kitchen cupboard, to find at the back of it a long-since forgotten potato, bristling with roots the translucent milky-yellow of an overly long toenail, knows what this is.  In Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, the bodies of the soon-to-be-replaced are found in darkness in the self-same way; down in cellars, secreted in the boots of cars, and inside them, the horribly busy pods.


The pods begin to hatch in the greenhouse.


From where I sit as I write this, I can see out of the window of our spare room and down into the narrow street below.  A few weeks ago, I was looking out and I saw a lone woman walking rather aimlessly in the street. I noticed her trainers and heavy brown coat.  She looked tired in an unremarkable way.   She’d just left one of the houses on the street and didn’t look like she knew what to do next.  I recognised the woman, having sat across from her in pubs on various occasions pre-pandemic, and then talking with her directly one day outside another pub in the summer of 2020, just after lock-down restrictions had been eased.  On this occasion, the woman wanted to talk about COVID. Specifically, she wanted myself and anyone else in earshot to join the ‘march against masks’ being organised in London.  Fascinated, I talked with the woman further, and it soon became clear the woman was ‘anti-mask’ because she was of the firm belief that COVID was an elaborate, precision-engineered Trojan horse, its insides crammed tightly with illustrious conspirators; Bill Gates, naturally, but also ‘the Rothchilds’, various media tycoons, including the chieftains of the BBC, and the World Health Organisation, and many more. I remained kind and curious during our exchange and continued to ask for clarifications on the specific goal of the beautiful conspiracy and what ‘success might look like’ for the sinister elite.  The woman couldn’t tell me. She just knew the end of the world was nigh, and like some Cassandra, all she could do was move from stranger to stranger, asking them to take a leaflet. 

Days later, another friend in the town told a story about meeting the same woman in the supermarket, their conversation largely mundane until she informed him the vaccine was part of plot to murder the human race. 

One of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers most chilling moments is when Dr Bennell returns to his hideout, after leaving Becky alone for a short time, to discover she too has succumbed to the alien conspiracy, and is now a replacement. The woman he once knew is gone, hollowed out by an alternate societal paradigm.


Dr Bennell’s moment of realisation, after kissing Becky Driscoll’s doppelgänger.

The seed pods are harvested and distributed.


This cuts to the knotty horror of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.  There I was, looking out of my window, watching the woman in the heavy brown coat walking down the middle of the street, and thinking to myself, ‘The pod people have got her.’ I even started wondering what she’d been doing in this other person’s house just moments before. I had a very clear image of the woman stowing big green seed pods under beds, in the shed, in the greenhouse, just as, in the film, the alien menace is seen growing, harvesting and distributing more pods throughout the land. The problem is, the woman in the heavy brown coat thinks the same about me. 

Let’s compare dehumanisations for a moment. I pity this individual because, it seems crystal clear to me, she’s surrendered her autonomy of thought and action to some injurious hive-mind existent between the nodes of social media. The woman pities me because it seems as clear to her I have surrendered my autonomy of thought and action to some injurious hive-mind broadcast by ‘the establishment’ and its media. 

In the final moments of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, just as it seems likely the psychiatrist is going to consign Dr Bennell to the nearest institution, another patient arrives at the hospital, who was involved in a collision with a truck – a truck carrying giant seed pods! Hurrah! In the nick of time, Bennell’s outlandish tale of alien conspiracy is authenticated by a third party and his sanity vouchsafed. Phew! This was not, however, the intended ending for the film, which instead concluded more grimly with the existing scene of Dr Bennell running into a road busy with traffic, screaming like a mad person, screaming, ‘They’re already here! You’re next! You’re next!’ The producers felt this ending was too dark, too depressing, too downbeat, not least because it first destabilises the world as we know it, and next withdraws the comfort of a happily definitive ending.

When I think about the woman in the old brown coat, I also see her running against the traffic, shrilling, ‘They’re already here!’ and everyone driving past, ignoring the crazy person.  But there have been many times this past year, when I’ve felt like running into the streets, gripped by fear and frustration, railing against the decadence of the COVID-is-a-Hoax brigade, against the baroque fantasy of the QAnoners and their tribes; against the likes of Trump and Johnson, against the maddening populism of the UK and elsewhere, against the hollowing out of facts over the primacy of people’s feelings‘The end of the world is nigh!’

And there it is, the creeping, perfect terror of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers – not alien invasions, not sentient vegetables from beyond the stars, but the more prosaic personal dread of being thought of as mad when you’re 100% certain you’re not.


‘They’re already here! You’re next! You’re next!’


Throwback Friday #46 Men-In-Motion (2001)


Okay, so this one is going to take a bit of explaining.

How was it, back in 2001, I ended up choreographing and compèring a male strip show? How was it the participants in the said strip show were also my students at the time? It all sounds rather unsavoury, even more so for actually writing it down these twenty years later!

The short version is we were raising funds for the student degree show for the undergraduate photography course on which I was teaching film and video – an extraordinary project undertaken by an extraordinary cohort of final year students.

Not content with just finishing their respective degrees, the students decided to turn a long-abandoned secondary school in Hackney Downs, London, into an exhibition space for their photography and video work. What ensued, for them, for the photography department’s staff, and for me, was a sometimes gruelling, but deeply satisfying adventure in collaboration. The damp, derelict classrooms and corridors of the school were transformed into clean, white exhibition spaces, the old, empty swimming pool into a venue for the aftershow party. I spent a whole lot of time sitting atop scaffolding towers and shovelling pigeon poo – and likewise everyone else. It took over one hundred days, and hours of hard physical work to prepare the exhibition space – and a lot of money, which is where the male strippers come in….



You have to remember, back in 2001, I was twenty-six years old, so not much older (and in some cases younger) than the students I was teaching in my professional capacity. I was also the licensee of the student campus bar, and so found myself in this rare halfway space between different roles, expectations and responsibilities. I’m happy now, but I was very happy back then, teaching film, talking film, running a very busy bar with all the banter and sauce and boisterousness you’d expect, and working with a team of dedicated educators, who were fearless when it came to fostering extraordinary student experiences.

I don’t think it struck anyone as particularly odd or left-field, or suspect, when I first came up with the suggestion we could ‘put on a show’ to raise funds for the In-Motion degree show big-build at the derelict Secondary School. The Full Monty (1997) must still have been looming large as a pop-cultural touchstone, because the idea of a group of ordinary-shaped students taking their clothes off in support of a good cause didn’t seem problematic in the slightest. I don’t recall a single objection or raised eye-brow.

Contrary perhaps to the associations that go with the objectification of male bodies, I look back at this unlikeliest of episodes as a moment of utter sweetness. As an openly gay member of staff, you might consider how my shifting role from ‘teacher’ to ‘choreographer’ was difficult for some of the young men involved, but apparently not, considering the ebullience and gusto and trust.

One of my fondest and enduring memories will always be, not the pectorals or inguinal creases of these photographers-come-strippers, but the joyousness of that raucous, perfect night; the roar of the crowd, who were in on the joke of it, and what was so charming about the pleasure these blithe young men were taking in their riotously ramshackle show.



Video footage was taken at the night of the performance, and one of my roles, as the resident videographer of the In-Motion project, was to put the content together for posterity. You’ll see straight away how long ago all of this was, on account of the 4:3 aspect ratio and less-than-broadcast quality. I was learning my trade as a video editor at the time, playing fast and loose with copyright and music soundtracks, so interpolating entire sections from the movies A Chorus Line and Cabaret to dial-up the show business accordingly. I appear in this film too – in a fabulously shiny silver shirt, and so young-looking and sleight, I can’t help but sigh.

I’ve only recently dredged up this film from an old DVD and haven’t thought about this particular night in years. To watch it again is to return immediately to that humid bar, which was crammed beyond its capacity with art students of all stripes, all of whom had paid their money to see their friends and classmates bare their bums in a bid to buy litres of white emulsion, hire a crane and scaffolding, buy lights and wire, to make something amazing happen. The film goes someway to conveying the noise in the bar that night, but not all the way. The roof was raised, and then some, by the delightful hooting of students, who couldn’t quite believe we were actually going through with it.

It will sound strange if I admit, that about this one night in the service of one huge transformative project, I feel a genuine sense of achievement and pride. Obviously I’m not talking about the choreography (talk about murder on the dancefloor). I’m talking instead about the directness of what we did that night; I’m talking about our lack of worry and the way we just decided to do an improbable, stupid thing, and then went ahead and did it. I’m talking too about all the people who allowed us do it, about the trust and safety we all felt, and I’m proud of it too, because in this film – on this night – I’m completely confident in all my identities.



The Kick-About #22 ‘Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez’


After the deep intellectual waters of our last Kick-About together, we find ourselves submerged once more, joining Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez in his submersible. It’s a bit of squeeze in there, not least because I’m happy to welcome two new kick-abouters into the mix: Jackie Hagan and Brian Noble. All aboard!


Phil Hosking

“This image started with a really quick thumbnail sketch that still contains the looseness in its final form, which I like. Thinking about Von Ransonnet-Villez’s contraption, and marvelling at the man’s ingenuity and dedication to explore for sake of art and science, I began to think about the experience of the sea life that was seeing this bizarre contraption in their domain. I switched the view to something where I could set the scene from a fish’s perspective, allowing me to look up into the submersible, and in the process give a bit of drama to what must have been quite a long and claustrophobic experience. Bit of artistic license used on the design of the submersible. I’m sure Eugen wouldn’t have minded.” 


instagram.com/eclecto2d linkedin.com/in/phill-hosking


Jackie Hagan

I was struck by the delicately populated reefs depicted in Ransonnet-Villez’s underwater paintings, which led me to wonder what he would have made of the shocking fact that, according to MEPA,  90% of the corals around Sri Lanka are now dead.  What would he see if he had been able to submerge in his diving bell today?  A sea full of plastic? Or maybe not, micro-plastics being the invisible killers that they are…

Falling into the rabbit-hole of research (yes, I should be working!) led me to discover scientists have set up an EU funded project called GoJelly, (https://gojelly.eu/about/) which is exploring scooping out blooms of jellyfish and using their slime to trap and remove micro-plastics from the oceans.  But what would happen if the jellyfish fought back?  Prehistoric creatures digesting the most modern of pollutants… And so I present, Scyphozoa plasticus.”



Francesca Maxwell

“I didn’t know about Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez artworks and I am glad of the introduction. Most of my work is about the sea in one way or another. I was born by it and miss not been near it, so I paint it instead. Here is a bit of fused glass I did of a jellyfish. Wonderful, translucent and clever things they are.” Fused Glass 30 x 28 cm.


www.FBM.me.uk


Phil Cooper

“I didn’t know the artist Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez before I read the kick about prompt, but a couple of clicks later and I was fully immersed in his underwater world and liking it a lot. The images conjure the excitement of exploration, and stepping out of the comfort of the shallows into stranger worlds.

The underwater paintings brought back memories of summer swimming for me. When the weather warms up we spend many afternoons in the lakes in and around Berlin. At the very best spots you can swim through crystal clear turquoise water amongst the water lilies with dragon flies buzzing about your head. It’s really lovely. A while back, I made a couple of studies based on my impressions of those swims and they seemed to fit the bill this week.”


instagram.com/philcoops / hedgecrows.wordpress.com / phil-cooper.com


Jan Blake

“Here are my thoughts on Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez and his underwater paintings. I love the murky otherworldliness. My only experience of looking under the water was a trip to Malta many years ago. Crystal clear water and no murkiness or pollution at that time. It was magical, and I don’t know why I’ve not taken up snorkling again. It seemed a natural progression from the last Kick-About, that I retrace the possible journey of my Sea-heart pod back to where it may have started in the Gulf of Mexico. There were such a lot of possibilities, from barren wastes left by oil spills, to underwater forests left from the ice-age, and then the most extraordinary plants that live on the coral reefs. This is one of the richest areas for unusual sea life anywhere in the world. So what a trip my pod had! Here are the first two images of the Gulf of Mexico, followed by imaginary images through the windows of a submarine, as a bit of an after thought / diversion / intrigue?” .


Getting going out of the swamps into choppy waters over the sunken forests.’

A slower rest in the shallows or the coral reef.’

A chance glimpse through the submarine port holes of my imagination.’

janblake.co.uk


Tom Beg

“Walking around the backstreets of Yokohama feels a lot like being underwater sometimes, so here it is imagined as a sunken, murky city with concrete coral reefs and caverns.”


twitter.com/earthlystranger / vimeo.com/tombeg


Phil Gomm

My original inspiration for tackling the latest Kick-About prompt was imagining what it must have been like for Ransonnet-Villez inside his submersible, looking through the thick greenish glass of his porthole and out onto the ocean floor. I guess I was more interested in thinking about the distortions produced by looking through the glass, and how they’d add a certain otherworldliness to the painter’s underwater subjects. There is a mundane secret at work behind the resulting photographs – a simple set-up reframing a collection of household objects and pushing them towards a sort of bubbly and aquatic abstraction. Producing these photographs proved immensely addictive – play by any other name.”



Brian Noble

“I started fly fishing 35 years ago, although it wasn’t until I started sketching and painting fish that I began to observe both the above water landscape and the underwater landscape while spending time on the water fishing. I soon discovered that examining the natural landscape of creeks and rivers caused me to pause and reflect upon the environment I had found myself so immersed in. Studying rocks, trees, water and fish became equally important as fishing itself. I found myself considering how objects appear both above and below the water, and how reflected light is such an important factor in how these objects are presented. I have recently started using an underwater camera to capture some of these images to use as a resource for my sketches. Personally, I find fish to be an intriguing life form – how they hold still, swim, secure food and seek shelter. The natural curves of a fish bring a sense of calm and beauty that I appreciate and strive to recreate in sketches and watercolor paintings.”


flowingwaterart.ca / linkedin.com/in/brian-noble


Marion Raper

“I had a fun time with this and decided to do an underwater collage.To start with I tried a bit of marbelling on Yupo paper and using acrylic inks.  It turned out so beautifully, I couldn’t bear to cut it up! It reminds me of the shapes and shadows on the ocean floor.  Next I tried making marks with water colours, using things such as bubble wrap and sponges, and scratching with a palette knife. This was also too special to chop up, even though it would be great as fish skin or scales. Lastly, I sketched a few fish and spent a very pleasant afternoon cutting and sticking my scene together. Can you spot the pepperoni pizza fish?”




Kevin Clarkson

“Not having come across Eugen Ransonnet-Villez before I was captivated by his underwater drawings and paintings, particularly since the diving bell was a new and quite dangerous piece of tech in the 1860s. He manages to capture the submarine luminescent qualities of light in his colours and textures in very convincing studies. The only quality I share with him is the desire to capture images of the sea, in my case above it, rather than under it. My association and motivation to paint the sea became the jumping off point for the Kick-about 22.

I grew up 60 miles from the sea in Yorkshire, and must have been close to 10 before I saw and splashed in it. My first interests were in the craft that sailed on it rather than the sea itself. I soon realised a drawing or painting of a boat looked less than convincing without being placed in a realistic sea, and from there my interest grew. A fascination developed with the fact the sea could change completely in the blink of an eye, colour, light and shape being constantly in motion. I was overwhelmed by the technical challenge, but as the years went by a number of “How to paint the sea” books arrived on the bookshelf. However, the process looked complicated, so the books remained on the shelf.

One day, whilst killing time between jobs, I pulled down a book that fell open at the beginning of an exercise. Almost without thinking I repeated the exercise – it worked, not a great piece of art, but it looked like the sea! I was hooked and devoured all the other exercises. It would be wrong to give the impression that technique is all you need, but it gives confidence, and if done in conjunction with careful study of the real thing, turns mere technique into art. Once bitten you never stop learning.

My images for the “Kick-About”are from a recent exercise I set with an art club I am a member of, to demonstrate technique and capture the swell of the open sea. It is certainly not the only way to paint the ocean, but I do get fairly consistent results and I have pdfs of the original exercises should anyone be interested.”


kevinclarkson.co.uk /artfinder.com/kevin-clarkson / kevinclarksonart.blogspot.com


Charly Skilling




James Randall

“I had high hopes for a bubbled person image but felt time and concept were getting away from me, so I switched direction to bits and pieces washed up on a beach – the original photo I had in the back of my mind from 2010 had always appealed. Thanks again for a bit of kick-about fun.”



Vanessa Clegg

“This got me thinking about the state of the sea in 2021 and how poor old Eugen would be turning in his grave at the changes since he sat in his box, scooting along the sand surrounded by as yet, untouched beauty. If he were to repeat this now with the addition of temperature rise (bleached coral), pollution from plastic and chemical dumping, agricultural run off and change in salinity from ice melt, he would be sadly disappointed.

I’ve approached this simply, addressing plastic and coral die off. Tempting, however, to tie Eugen in with The Flintstones, as his submersible reminded me of Barney Rubble using his feet through the car floor to ‘motor’ himself along!”


22” X 22” Charcoal on Fabriano paper. “Empty Shell with Ear Buds.”

20” X 15” “Dead Sea”.  Photo collage with bleached coral.

vanessaclegg.co.uk


Kerfe Roig

“I’ve been futzing around with this all week, inspired by Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez, and the earthweal challenge natural forces. The painting above, my first attempt, probably has 20 painted layers. Watercolor looks very different wet, and each time it dried I was dissatisfied with the result. Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez was an Austrian artist who designed a diving bell so he could paint the landscape that existed under the sea. This was in the 1860s – both crazy and fantastic. His paintings have an eerie green magic, which was what I was trying to capture, because what is the sea but the most elemental of magic? Like Ransonnet-Villez, I wished to immerse myself inside of it. Being at the moment concrete-bound, I could only try to conjure it with words and paint.”


tides entombed in unchanging light,
reflecting the absent sky,
shimmering with intangibles–
an ancient web woven with stories–

the stilled sea contemplates its origins–
heavy with the cadences of gravity
boundaried by the afterlife–
tides entombed in unchanging light–

surrounded and asunder, astonishment
becomes tinged with enigmatic clarity–
holding particles of stars as if enshrined,
reflecting the absent sky–

the fulcrum rests inside the echo
of what endures, arising
from an aqueous womb
shimmering with intangibles–

the circle continues, horizonless,
quivering in confluence–
who can refuse the voices of the sea?–
an ancient web woven with stories–


kblog.blog / methodtwomadness.wordpress.com


Graeme Daly

“When I returned to the forest this past winter, I happened to come upon a small trench-like lagoon deep within the caverns of the forest, where the snow above was melting and gently plopping into the lagoon. The lagoon was shallow, meaning I could see the dirt, grasses and flowers filtering about in the water with the slightest movement. The glare of the crispy winter sun, projecting shadows of the spruces and firs, lit certain areas of the undergrowth in vibrant red. The trees and shrubbery reflected upon the water caused a mandala of colours to be refracted and ripple, as snow drops fell from above. Watching this was one of most pleasurable tranquil experiences I have ever had. I sat and watched this private show for a long time, and felt as though time had frozen – along with my hands. I pressed record on my camera, although I didn’t have a tripod, which meant some shakiness. It was an absolute pleasure to edit this film, and with it I have attempted to capture that feeling of complete tranquility. The song by Kris Keogh, entitled “We Were Gone Further Than Forever”, transported me back to that tranquil meditative state again, with sections feeling like time moving, flowing and reversing.”


@graemedalyart / vimeo.com/graemedaly / linkedin.com/in/graeme-daly / twitter.com/Graeme_Daly / gentlegiant.blog


Of our brand new Kick-About prompt, it could be argued we’ve been producing work suitable for the shelves of the ‘Museum Wormianum’ week-after-week. Nonetheless, I cannot wait to see what curiosities we might produce with the Ole Worm’s collection of oddities as today’s jumping-off point.



Film: Lost In Fields Part 8 – Saxon Shore Scrub, February (2021)


An eighth film in the Getting Lost In Fields series, a marked departure from the impressionist fantasias of some of my other photographic expeditions into the ambience of particular patches of wild and ostensibly unremarkable local landscapes. The photographs comprising the roomy and doomy tableaux characterising this little moving image piece were taken during the short snap of very cold weather in early February. The snow had the effect of transforming a concave collection of unruly grasses, denuded shrubs and brambles into a near extra-terrestrial vista, with the surfeit of texture producing some excitingly illustrative images. While putting this film together, I kept seeing images of wearied polar explorers trudging across unforgiving tundra, or exhausted astronauts on inhospitable planets. It was bitterly cold while taking the original photographs, the wind coming straight off the sea, so I was very happy to walk only the few minutes home to sit beside the stove with a mug of tea.



Fox Quick (2021)


I wanted to engage with the most recent Kick-About prompt – the 5 Canons of Rhetoric – as it related to the idea of moving from an initial instinctive idea to something recognisably cogent and complete, and communicated successfully to others. I chose the pangram, ‘The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog’ because, in its use of every single letter in the alphabet, I thought I could argue it was a single sentence encompassing every other English language idea possible; every book, every song, every poem, every philosophical treatise, every argument, and so on. As the animation goes on, you see different ideas vying for representation and moments of indecision, flashes of inspiration – helpful and otherwise – and a final resolution of the phrase we recognise collectively as ‘right’.



(There is some pesky pixelation due to compression in this Vimeo version: with a bit of luck, you’ll find the original video to view hosted here).


Film: Getting Lost In Fields – Anthology 2020


On the cusp of the new year, I wanted to avoid any further musings on 2020 as they might relate to the pandemic, not least because I suspect the ‘new year’ is going to feel a lot like the old one – at least for a while. Instead, I’ve gathered together all seven ‘Lost In Fields’ films as my swansong to a strange, slow year that was not without its simple pleasures and rich in moments of beauty.



Film: Lost In Fields Part 7 – Oare, Late November (2020)


A seventh short little exercise in seeking to evoke a particular place and time through the simplest means of image, movement and sound. Our trip out to the nature reserve at Oare, Faversham, Kent coincided with a wonderful sunset and pellucid moonrise, our slow shamble among the tall feathered reeds and every-which-way grasses accompanied by the haunting trill of curlews. As the light faded further, the landscape just fell away into tawny softness. It was other-worldly out there. I hope this short film expresses some of that.