Who is the Laughter Man?

Kelano the Clown was the main character in the film “The Laughter Man” an early 1970s (Unreleased) Film by comedy performer Duke Kinsey.

Kinsey wrote, directed and starred in the film that remained unreleased at the time of his death (and still unreleased to this day). A recently discovered interview with the performer by journalist Celia West provided a very small insight into the making of the film and the reasons for its incompletion (funding being sited as the main barrier). Described in the interview by Kinsey as “Doing something for and about comedy that has never happened before.” the film is much sought after by fans, academics, comedy experts and film historians alike but at the time of writing has yet to be located. The Duke Kinsey Archive was founded in 2016 after a significant amount of material related to the performer was uncovered at the Birmingham and Midland Institute (believed to be the location of the film) and it is hoped that within the many files and boxes ascribed to Kinsey the film will one day come to light.

 

 

The remembrance of being a bird, the regret of no longer being one, the will to be one again.

My name is Duke Kinsey and soon I will be dead.

 

Once I was…

Was I once?

 

I was discovered by mistake after being mistakenly undiscovered…

 

Hidden and then exposed?

Exposed and then hidden?

 

Comedy is a long shot, tragedy is a close up.

 

Who is the Laughter Man?

 

DISGUISE GUISE

REVEAL CONCEAL

KNOWN UNKNOWN

PERFORMED PERFORMER

WHO IS THE LAUGHTER MAN?

 

Ho w   MA n   y     l a Y    er   S   ?

 

It’s not how far I can go. It’s about how far they (audience) can go.

The more I hand over, the more they gain…

 

Being alone is being funny.

 

“Life isn’t a gag anymore. I can’t see the joke.”

 

I believe I’m dying, I should know…I’ve died so many times.

How can you have real comedy if you don’t have real pain?

That’s all any of us are: amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.

 

Who is the Laughter Man?

 

I’ve given so many of my stories to my characters…

 

When is a mask not a mask? When it is a window.

 

Who is the Laughter Man?

He was like a modern day Sisyphus

Duke sat down in his usual spot in the studio satisfied with the responses to his last performance. In truth he’d been feeling used and taken for granted, always in the background while someone else gained credit. To hear his name and nobody else’s felt like vindication and he wanted to enjoy the moment…enjoy some acclaim. Looking over at the small group of people in the studio, Jack, Dr Connie and him as they deliberated over the meaning of some of the audience comments added to the sense of satisfaction…what did they know? They’re not the ones up on stage, vulnerable…exposed. Nor were they the ones that had the camera pointing at them in the quiet moments backstage. Duke knew what all this meant, pre-performance, performance, post-performance, whatever it was called, Duke knew the truth and it was amusing to watch someone else trying to make sense of it. SWITCH Duke walked into Dr Connie’s office…silent as usual. “Oh God!” Dr Connie jumped slightly at the sudden appearance of the figure she had been researching, “I wasn’t expecting this.” Duke sat down at the spare desk, since he had escaped from the studio and headed to Brighton he had been awoken to the idea that there was a world outside of the studio at the BMI and he now felt that he had licence to roam around the building at his leisure. He stared broodingly at Dr Connie as she gathered herself, and then some old papers, together and came over to sit with him. “So, I found this old interview that you did and just wanted to ask some further questions.” Duke said nothing. “I really like when you talk here about what the essence of real comedy is.” Dr Connie looked up, still nothing. “There’s reference to a film here that you made called ‘The Laughter Man’? What was that?” Duke instigated a slow ascent from his chair and then turned towards the door. He looked back for a moment and Dr Connie thought she could see the outline of tears forming in the base of his eyelids, but just as soon as he arrived Duke had gone. SWITCH Duke opened the sketchbook and selected a page with a space next to a live shot of him on stage. The image showed his figure from the waist up looking out to the audience whilst clutching his hat…it was almost like a shield he thought to himself as he gently placed a finger onto the surface of the page and ran it along the edge of the image. Duke picked up a purple pen from the desk and started writing. It was a message really…a message for him… SWITCH Duke hated T.Rex and he was extremely irritable after his quiet contemplation was broken by the sound of Marc Bolan’s voice filling the studio. Over at the desk in the studio he could see him typing. Duke smirked to himself with contempt, he struggled to understand why this whole process had to be put out there…he genuinely wondered who was reading anyway…to Duke this was a personal matter between him and him. Duke didn’t know the name of the song…why would he? Watching him singing along and earnestly trying to approximate the same vocal delivery as Bolan just added to Duke’s irritations. “Is it wrong to understand, the fear that dwells inside a man. What’s it like to be a loon, I liken it to a balloon.”  What a load of childish nonsense thought Duke. SWITCH A week had passed since the studio door had creaked open and let the light in from the quiet corridor outside. Duke glanced over from his spot in the studio and waited, hoping that he would be provided with a cup of tea or at least spoken to…sometimes they engaged with each other but other times they just co-existed in the studio without any form of mutual acknowledgement. Today he spoke as soon as the light switch clicked and light blinked into the space. “Morning Duke. Tea?” He walked over to the desk and deposited a number of bags before moving over to the kettle. “We’ll have some visitors in the next couple of days, so please behave. None of your games please.” Duke felt a sense of contempt rising again; he accepted the tea but refused to acknowledge the request for compliance in welcoming guests into his space. Duke sighed to himself, he wanted out of this, he didn’t ask to be discovered and he didn’t want all this snooping into his past to become something that was common knowledge. Duke felt exposed and vulnerable and he knew what that meant…he’d been here before and knew how things would go…either he was about to do something wonderful, the best work ever, or something that sabotaged everything that had been worked on here at the BMI. SWITCH “Ian wants to photograph both of us for his work…remember Ian, he was here earlier?” Duke didn’t respond, “well, I tried to convince him that you wouldn’t be up for it but he wants both of us…he’s going to confirm a date, I’ll let you know when he does.” Duke hated being spoken for and immediately took comfort in knowing that he would be able to steal the show when the photographer appeared, after all it was Duke Kinsey that people were interested in now…no-one else. SWITCH Duke had collected the key from reception and locked himself into the studio. The receptionist was new and didn’t know who was who in the building; Duke had exploited her nascent awareness and convinced her that he needed to collect the key. He managed to do this without saying a word, just a nod and a raised eyebrow at the right moment whilst he wrote the key number and scribbled an illegible signature on the sign-in sheet had secured him the key and Duke now listened from inside with amusement as he remained frustratingly barred from the studio, “Duke! Duke!? I know you’re in there…I can get the pass key from downstairs…Duke?” Duke sat down with some amusement as he heard the sound of agitated footsteps dissipate gradually, he coughed and spluttered awkwardly in his chair…he was tired and he knew that time was running out for him...it had been a long time, all this, and the inevitable was approaching. SWITCH Opening his sketchbook on the desk forcefully, he glanced over at Duke who was now dozing in the corner of the studio. Choosing not to disturb his tormentor he flicked through the pages, ready to start work. Something caught his eye as the pages flew by. Purple words…he hadn’t got a purple pen here? Flicking back through the pages at a slower pace he spied the purple words again. The remembrance of being a bird, the regret of no longer being one, the will to be one again.

 

 

He stood up and looked in the mirror above the mantelpiece. It’s just easier that way...

 

Duke sat in the studio, restlessly brooding…it seemed more so than ever that he was agitated and growing increasingly uncomfortable with everything that was going on around him. Duke was coming to the realisation that he would always be at the BMI, inextricably linked, bound by and woven into its histories…Duke didn’t know if that is what he wanted and the agitation was building through a sense that something was inevitably approaching, he wasn’t sure what that something was, but he felt that everything would be coming to a head soon. This next performance seemed to have risk, the stakes were raised somehow and he didn’t like the uncertainty…what was going to happen when he walked out on the stage in the John Lee Theatre? SWITCH Dinah Washington’s honeyed tones filled the studio, “Blue Gardenia” gently breezed its way out of the speakers and Duke sat watching as the text panels for the exhibition were being cut. The studio door slammed suddenly and the knife that was working in unison with the steel rule and the cutting mat suddenly deviated going straight across the rule and deep into his thumb…blood spurted out…Duke seemed quietly amused. SWITCH He looked in the mirror for Duke. It was 30 minutes before the performance and he needed to find Duke quickly. He couldn’t do this on his own; he risked getting hurt without Duke. With make-up applied he lifted his iPhone and selected the camera icon, he’d spent the last ten minutes staring into the mirror…searching…he pressed the button and looked down at the image that had been made. A sense of relief washed over him as he saw Duke’s features appear on the screen. Behind Duke he could see his own body. Now looking up into the mirror the relief was complete, there was Duke looking at him and now he was ready. SWITCH The lights went up…Duke looked into the depths of the audience…he could just about see the outline of the faces against the glare of the spotlights, he turned to look at the pillar and began…SWITCH “Are you OK? Are you hurt?” Cat Fuller asked as she sat with Duke in the control room shortly after the performance had finished. Duke didn’t answer but he looked with Cat Fuller through the control room window as the audience started to leave their seats. He had made a quick exit from the stage and into the control room as soon as the lights had gone down and he was intrigued to know what the audience had thought. Jack was interviewing them as they left so he knew he would find out what they had thought soon. Cat Fuller had kindly agreed to work on lighting and Duke wanted to thank her, they looked at each other in silence and although he didn’t speak Duke hoped that Cat Fuller could see the gratitude in his eyes. He repositioned his hat and walked out of the room. SWITCH “It was funny to begin with.” “Around the 10 minute mark I just wanted to it to end.” “He was very humble.” “He was like a mosquito bouncing against a window. Despite the obstacle in his way he kept going…he never gave up.” “It was really hard to watch and by the end I was hiding my face, I just couldn’t bare to see him hurt any more.” SWITCH Brighton had been a real tonic and the time away had been just what he needed. Having promised himself a new pair of trousers from the North Laines he found himself in the changing room of his favourite clothes shop, Jump The Gun. With the changing room curtain closed he reached up to the hook inside and placed the hanger over it. As he removed his trousers in preparation for the elegant pair of checked sta-prest that were folded neatly in front of him he caught a peripheral view of something on his leg. He hadn’t looked in a mirror since returning to the dressing room following the live performance; somehow he just couldn’t see anything in the reflections outside of the BMI, it seemed difficult to look because he didn’t know what he was looking at, or for, anymore. He now studied his leg and was confronted with a fierce blackened blue, purple, red stain that stretched down from his hip to his knee in a sprawling explosive pattern. He touched the skin gingerly and recoiled as the pain forced a short intake of breath. Duke never got hurt in performances, Duke always made sure that he didn’t get hurt either…why now was his body marked so severely by the performance…it never had been like this before? His hand moved away from his leg and his upper arm was suddenly exposed as his short sleeve rose to reveal a smaller yet similarly angry marking under the skin, again he touched the area and felt the tender shock of pain shooting through his arm. He felt a sting and he looked into the mirror…was Duke here in Brighton? “Are you OK in there? Are you trying the whole shop on?” Suzanne was standing outside impatiently. He hurriedly pulled the new trousers on and pulled the sleeve down over his arm before heading out of the changing room. Suzanne greeted him, she looked first at the trousers and then up at his face, “They’re lively…you ok? You look pale?” SWITCH It was late and he found himself restless and unable to sleep. He navigated his way out of bed and through the door of the spare room quietly so that he didn’t disturb Suzanne or Sonny. The creaking stairs were always going to emit sound but he did his best to supress the noise with a carefully orchestrated dance that enabled him to navigate his way down to the kitchen. Natalie and Ben’s house in Lewes was familiar to him, whenever they headed to Brighton for a break, their friends kindly offered the spare room and it had been great to catch up this week. He filled the kettle and prepared a mug, as he waited for the building sound to breath life into the early morning silence he rested a hand on his right hip and gently placed his left hand on the darkened splatter of bruising on his thigh. As he prodded the tender skin he winced as an agonising shot rocketed through the limb, he glanced up and caught sight of a reflection in the kitchen window, it’s a face he knew…Duke was here, Duke had taken the journey with him. He reached for the packet of Nurofen on the window ledge and popped a couple of capsules out of the packaging. Once the tea was made he took a seat at the dining table and thought through the last few days…weeks…he knew that Duke was here now and he felt threatened by that…this was his family time and he had been looking forward to being with them away from everything. Maybe he needed to find more about Duke so that he could understand what he wanted and why he was here. He looked over to the kitchen and saw the clock was showing 4.18am he finished his tea and rose from the seat. Now back in the kitchen he placed the freshly rinsed mug onto the drainer. Although he had the urge to look into the darkened window again he didn’t, simply turning around and switching the light off before heading back up the creaky stairs to bed. SWITCH The first day back in the studio had been slow during the morning, Jack was due in with the rough edit of the ‘live’ film and he had had been easing himself back in gradually by catching up with some sketchbook work. He hadn’t spoken to Duke and they had kept a healthy distance throughout, neither wanted to talk about Brighton and the tension was palpable. He selected Pino Donaggio’s “Don’t Look Now” Soundtrack to listen to and set about trying to get himself into action. SWITCH He’d sent a message to Tom Hicks, the best researcher he knew, simply asking if he could find anything out about Duke. As usual it had taken very little time for Tom to get on the case and uncover some facts. His phone signalled a new text and he read it to himself Looks like Duke Kinsey was from Aston. I’ll find out more as soon as I get chance to do some proper digging. Speak soon Tom. He looked over at Duke “You never told me you were born in Aston.” SWITCH He stood with Duke, Jack and Dr Connie as the recording of the live performance came to a close on the screen; they had all winced at one point or another but hadn’t verbalised their discomfort beyond a short gasp or in take of breath. Jack clicked onto another recording and the sound of the audience interviews filled the studio…he’d heard many of them on the night after the show but his ears perked up as he identified a voice he couldn’t recall. “What’s this one?” he enquired. Jack responded, “Oh yes, this is the last one I did, don’t think I played it to you on the night.” Dr Connie interjected, “I was sitting near her I think.” The girl seemed serious and closed her short analysis of the events she had just witnessed with a statement that seemed to spark a sense of satisfaction in Duke. “What did I think of Duke? I guess I’d say he was like a modern day Sisyphus.”

 

I was half a human. I looked into the clouds for war solution.

Had he heard Duke at all? That whispering/muttering was it Duke? Or was it all in his mind? The message had been sent to Charlotte about Mr Melia and he had received an immediate response “He taught me. He really inspired me. I messaged him to tell him.” He turned to Duke and spoke quietly, “Think I might have found a link to Kevin Melia.” Duke just stared menacingly forward and refused to answer. “I’ll get the kettle on. Tea?” SWITCH My make-up is dry and it cracks on my chin SWITCH “Morning!” The cleaners both looked at him and smiled as he ascended the steps to the studio. They responded in unison to his greeting, “Morning Duke!” He was already on his way in through the door and although he wanted to correct them he couldn’t be bothered to chase back down the stairs. Everyone seemed to be confusing him with Duke lately anyway, what was the point in fighting it. The light blinked into the room and there was Duke waiting as usual. “I need you today, I have something I want to try. It’s just an idea but might be a good way of rounding everything off before Flatpack.” Moving over to the kettle he flicked the switch and prepared the two mugs accordingly. He had his back to Duke but continued to chat, “The cleaners said to say hello by the way. They mixed us up again, I didn’t say anything…” He paused and turned to face the silent figure who was in his usual position on the other side of the studio, “sometimes Duke…sometimes I get mixed up myself…do you find that?” The whisper-muttering seemed to fill the room again but he couldn’t make out anything that would form the words to answer his question so he walked over to his desk to turn the music on. Pressing random play he was greeted by the sound of the new Temples album. He had only managed to listen to it once and so wasn’t familiar with the song titles yet, the sound was pleasing though and he responded by dancing his way back to the kettle to complete the preparation of the tea. Whilst he jigged with the teaspoon in his hand he picked up on a couple of the lyrics “We are laughter, nothing more to answer. From the depths of today we encounter, we shouldn’t care of what we see.”  He put Duke’s mug down next to him without a word and then sat down at his desk with his own mug held tightly to his chest. He scrolled to the song titles and read “(I want to be your) Mirror” SWITCH Working in silence he and Duke crafted a series of performance images that had a connection to some of the text he’d been reading on Bacon. “…never shown before is the disintegration of the social being which takes place when one is alone in a room which has no looking glass. We may feel at such times that the accepted hierarchy of our features is collapsing.” John Russell SWITCH It was the end of the day and he looked at his notes, two student groups were coming in to look at the work next week and he had to prepare for that tomorrow. After gathering his sketchbooks together and getting his bags sorted he looked at the desk and saw the images that he had printed off after the morning’s work. He selected a gap on the wall and taped the images into place, there was a red pen next to the tape and he quickly made a note underneath the images before grabbing his coat from the hook. “See you tomorrow.” Duke didn’t reply, turning the light out he left in silence. SWITCH He hadn’t seen the blue-eyed lady, the old man or the hipster for a good while now and Charlotte hadn’t got back to him about Mr Melia either, making his way from New Street Station he pondered the implications surrounding all these people that seemed to impact upon him so significantly and then disappear just as he was getting to see who Duke was, or might be, just when he needed them they slipped away. He arrived at Margaret Street and walked through the doors at the BMI before making his way towards the studio. “Morning June, how are you today?” June was cleaning on the main staircase and turned to acknowledge with a big smile. “I’m fine Duke. You?”  He continued his journey without stopping but responded to June cheerily “Good thanks, lots to do today.” Opening the door he hit the switch and looked into the studio. Duke had his back to him and the images that he had taped to the wall the day before had been torn down and lay on the floor in a crumpled mess. He tutted and walked over to pick up the prints, “What have you done that for?” SWITCH Yesterday’s student group had been really good and responded well to the film. Dr Connie had been on form with her enquiry during the Q&A and it had helped to draw some interesting ideas out from the group and he had a lot to think through from the responses. He was now walking through town with his colleagues, Maggie and Anna, on his way to the next talk for a second group of MA students. They chatted generally and as they approached Margaret Street he suddenly felt his footing slip and his right ankle buckled in a gap in the pavement. To Maggie and Anna’s horror he careered into the road and landed flat onto the hard surface with an ungainly clatter. He bounced up quickly, embarrassed but fine, Duke had made sure that he hadn’t hurt himself. “You must have hurt your hands, I heard them scrape on the road?” Anna’s concern was genuine but he was able to ease it immediately by showing his unblemished palms, “Look…fine…it’s ok, I know how to fall.” They carried on their journey to the BMI for the afternoon talk. SWITCH The responses were good from the second talk and the way in which the film had been interpreted really gave him confidence in it. He’d been honest about Duke and the students had asked questions about the figure he shared the studio with, “Is this Duke in front of us now?” and “How do we know when we are talking to you or Duke?” The discussion flowed and it lifted his spirits – he felt the work he’d undertaken was standing up. The two days of presenting and talking about what he had been doing had served to galvanise his thoughts and consolidate his belief in the work. SWITCH Shara Nelson’s voice filled the studio. Upon arrival he had gone straight to his playlist and selected Massive Attack’s ‘Blue Lines’ album. The opening track ‘Safe From Harm’ rhythmically pounded the air and as he moved over to the kettle to make his routine brew he felt the power of the sound penetrate his thoughts. He stood for some moments absorbing the sound. Initially he had lifted both mugs, but as he centred in on the secondary vocal line “I was lookin' back to see if you were lookin' back at me to see me lookin' back at you” things altered. In what felt like a small act of defiance he turned Duke’s mug over and prepared just the one drink. He knew Duke had seen him do it but he didn’t turn round to witness the response – he knew Duke wouldn’t utter a word anyway. SWITCH It had been a week since he’d presented the work to the MA students. They were still curious about it and he had spent the day in tutorials discussing their work but also, inevitably, answering further questions on Duke. “I don’t think you should kill him off…what’s he ever done to you?” “Killing him off would be a masterstroke.” “I can't stomach watching it.” SWITCH Zoe Lippett was due to visit the studio and he had arrived keen to get on with some more work. Suzanne had been in hospital…and he was running on nervous energy, the love of his life was fine and now at home recuperating but he hadn’t had a lot of sleep and he knew that he wanted to be sharp for Zoe. They had last worked together at New Art Gallery Walsall and, just like Dr Connie, Zoe had been an important part of developing the practice through review and discussion. He opened the door and threw himself into the studio, dropping his bags he headed for the kettle, “Sorry Duke, I’m not making you tea today. I want to keep the mug clean for Zoe.” Flicking the switch on the kettle he headed back to his desk and got the sketchbooks out. SWITCH The e-mail had come through in the early hours…”You’re big in Bahrain!” The attached image showed a vast space with huge screens floating like waves in a sea of projected films. There was Duke’s third film – it looked great and he knew that Jonathan had done the work a huge justice. SWITCH Zoe’s studio visit had been a welcome addition to a positive week of presenting and discussing Duke’s films. Following the end of the residency at New Art Gallery Walsall in 2013 he’d had to adjust to not having Zoe’s input, he’d missed their weekly meetings. Today though, they had both agreed that the reason that the dialogue had flowed so freely between them during this visit was exactly down to the time that had elapsed since they had last convened. “I can see how your practice has moved on and it feels really strong.” He felt delighted inside, that was what he had hoped Zoe would see and it was in line with Dr Connie’s assertions too…he’d take that all day long! SWITCH He was so tired he could barely keep his eyes open, the train journey home had been relatively uneventful and the rhythm of the carriage had gently rocked him in and out of blurry consciousness. He slumped into the chair and Sonny paused the game he was playing on his xBox and got up “Do you want a cup of tea?” he responded instantly “Please.”  As his eyes started to close again he suddenly pictured Duke in his mind, looking back at him from outside his dressing room. Frozen in a rare, intimate moment backstage. His eyes opened and he shouted through to the kitchen as the kettle burbled away. “Sonny? Can you make me two cups of tea please?” His son appeared in the doorway with a teaspoon in hand and a quizzical expression on his face, “Two cups…why do you want two cups?”  He stood up and looked in the mirror above the mantelpiece. “It’s just easier that way.”

Which One is Duke?

The door gently creaked; he rushed into the dark and hit the light switch with an accurate lash of his left arm and in doing so the studio burst into life. The switch clicked on the kettle as he quickly started to prepare a cup of tea. Noticing that there was an extra mug on the tray he sighed to himself, this was new and he hadn’t seen the mug before. Setting out the two mugs and placing teabags in both he turned to the corner and spoke quietly, “I take it you want a cup of tea then?” Duke didn’t answer…he just sat still, an imposing presence that seemed to silently dominate the room. Whilst the kettle sang its husky song he removed the sketchbooks from his bag and laid them out on the desk. “I don’t need you today…I’ve got a lot to do on these, OK?” Duke stayed silent and didn’t move; whatever was planned today Duke wouldn’t be going anywhere. SWITCH “The things you do with your face. I’m sitting here in front of you but you have a way of performing on screen that just doesn’t seem like the person that’s here.” He sipped from his teacup whilst the film played on the laptop. Jonathan smiled, “Yes, we’ll take this for the show in Bahrain.” HEADLINE NEWS…FLOATING WORLD EXHIBITION, BAHRAIN CONFIRMED…HEADLINE NEWS. SWITCH The door opened with a familiar sound; he ventured into the dark and flicked the light switch on slowly. As the light blinked into the studio space the sight of Duke in front of him…just waiting…confirmed the thought that he had carried all the way from the station. Namely that Duke might be pissed off with him after he left abruptly yesterday following a day’s work on the sketchbooks. “OK, I know…I wanted to get the 17.25 train and had to get off.” Duke ignored him, “Fine…stay silent for all I care, I’ve got work to do.” He threw down the bag with his sketchbooks in and headed for the kettle. Both mugs had been cleaned and sat ready. He glanced over at Duke but decided not to ask him whether he wanted tea, he just filled the kettle with water and clicked the switch on. The atmosphere seemed strained between them but he reasoned that it might defrost if he kept the dialogue going, “I meant to ask you, have you ever met an old guy on the train from Blake Street? There’s a woman as well, piercing blue eyes…I just thought you might know them? They both seem to know you.” Duke didn’t answer; the atmosphere would not be thawing just yet. SWITCH Sonny and Suzanne had dropped in to the studio to see how things were going, it was half term and they had been in town so decided to meet at the BMI for lunch. Sonny walked around the space looking at all the work on the walls. Noticing someone he thought was vaguely familiar Sonny then moved towards Duke, he hadn’t met Duke properly, he’d seen him but never met him first hand. The boy just stared waiting for a response…nothing…Duke just returned the gaze and the moment between them was tense…silent. Suddenly Sonny snapped out of his gaze and turned to a handwritten list on the wall. The list signalled some references to clowns and had been up there since the first day of the residency. CHAPLIN – LIMELIGHT, JERRY LEWIS – THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED, BUSTER KEATON – FILM – STEAMBOAT BILL JNR, GROCK, JONATHAN PRYCE – THE COMEDIANS, REECE SHEARSMITH – PYSCHOVILLE, ‘SAD CLOWNS’ (1961) BFI, TEARS OF A CLOWN – SMOKEY ROBINSON & THE MIRACLES. After reading it to himself Sonny turned to Duke, “You’ve missed something off the list.” The boy picked up a pen from the desk and wrote ‘Death of a Clown’ The Kinks. Duke looked blankly ahead, ignoring the action. Suzanne moved to the studio door, “Shall we go then?” SWITCH The light flickered and filled the studio, just as before Duke was waiting for him. This was their routine now and he was growing used to it. “Morning. Tea?” He could hear Duke muttering as he moved to the kettle and he took that as an affirmative. Preparing the drinks he pondered what was ahead for the day. “I’ve got a lot to get on with today and Jack might drop in to go over the film footage. I know you don’t like visitors but it’s tough I’m afraid, he’ll be here today or tomorrow.” Pouring the milk into Duke’s mug he turned and placed the hot drink down on the desk, he could here the muttering still, half whispered; “I’ll take that as a thank you.” SWITCH The morning had gone reasonably well, he’d e-mailed the catalogue info off to the gallery in Bahrain and started to edit through the images for Flatpack. Duke had kept himself occupied and not interrupted the work. After a short text to Jack to see if he would be making it in to the studio he turned the music on. The sound of Teenage Fanclub’s “Slow Fade” filled the studio and eased the palpable silence. A tri-tone sound peaked above the noise and the return text from Jack appeared on the phone screen – Hi – Sorry, yes we did talk about meeting this week. I forgot to confirm which day though. Would tomorrow afternoon be good for you? He responded immediately with a text to confirm and then turned to Duke who was still whisper-muttering to himself in the corner. “We’re on our own all day then. Jack’ll be in tomorrow now, Dr Connie is off too, so just you and I.” Walking back over to the kettle he clicked the switch and collected the two mugs together as he prepared another round of drinks. “I had a message from someone on twitter last night about Mr Melia…do you remember him? It turns out this person knows him, or at least knows he’s still with us. Do you think I should get back to her and ask for more information?” Duke’s whispering became louder; he seemed more vocal, more present than ever before. Sitting with Rina’s book on Frances Bacon open at a page that had an image of “Two Studies for a Self-Portrait” (1970) next to some text. It bore the typical signs of Bacon’s method…distorted…disfigured…blurred. Duke appeared to be preoccupied with the image and he seemed determined to draw attention it. “What do you want…you want me to look at this?” He took the book from where Duke was positioned and turned it around so that he could view it properly. Reaching for his sketchbook and a pen he transcribed the words that accompanied the image into his sketchbook…BODY IN ITS LIVING, NATURAL AND SPASMODIC STATE OF MOTION. The sound of Teenage Fanclub’s ‘Man-Made’ album was still audible in the space and he realised that the tracks had been on shuffle as what he knew as the opening song burst from the speaker “It’s All In My Mind” written by Norman Blake was one of his favourite songs from the album and the words now seemed to bore into his thoughts as he looked at the Bacon image again. “I was in the water, I was half a human. I looked into the clouds for war solution.”

Was Mr Melia Still Alive?

I AM INCOMPLETE! I AM INCOMPLETE! He sat hunched over the newly finalised sketchbook page and read the words that had flowed through his pen as he frantically dispensed his stream of thoughts onto the paper surface. The words were positioned aside images of his performance works – this was his process…work…evaluate…review…refine…work…evaluate…review…refine. It was his first day back in the studio and he knew that the festive break had served to refresh his thoughts and view of the work he was making. Having consciously put the sketchbooks to one side over the break his reinvigorated vision of what was going on with the work was palpable as he delivered idea after idea, thought after thought hurriedly onto the vacant pages. The notes sped so quickly that he hardly had time to comprehend the meaning and so…he forced a break in order to look back over them…I AM INCOMPLETE! I AM INCOMPLETE! SWITCH He typed into the search field K-e-v-i-n M-e-l-i-a e-n-g-l-i-s-h t-e-a-c-h-e-r and pressed enter…nothing came up that would match the teacher he was trying to find…he deleted the words and tried again with a different variation but after several combinations and unfruitful attempts he sat back with a sigh. It had been a month now since he had seen her and just as he was about to forget about that piercing gaze, consign her to a pile of lost memories the message in the Metro had appeared. He reached back to the keyboard and typed B-l-u-e e-y-e-d l-a-d-y t-r-a-i-n SWITCH He sat with Sonny and Suzanne transfixed by the latest BBC Documentary on Bowie, he could see out of the corner of his eye that Sonny was growing slightly uneasy with the ‘Lazarus’ video featuring ‘Button Eyes’ and chose to divert his son’s attentions with an enquiry about whether it was time for a cup of tea. Piercing through the moment of dialogue, Bowie’s voice suddenly uttered something that seemed important. He grabbed the remote control and rewound the section. “I need to write this down.” He grabbed his sketchbook and scribbled a transcription of Bowie’s words, “I think it’s terribly dangerous for an artist to fulfil other people’s expectations. If you feel safe in the area you are working in - you are not working in the right area.  Always go a little further into the water than you feel you are capable of being in, go a little bit out of your depth and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom you are just about in the right place to do something exciting.” His son looked over, “What does that mean? Why are you writing it down?” Putting the pen down he got up and walked over to join his son on the sofa. “It’s about taking risks...” SWITCH 2 C O  A   T H     AN G E    RS ? This hints at the presence of two identities, with the hangers empty the costumes are transposed onto the figure? SWITCH The train finally arrived. Just 30 minutes earlier a lorry driver had ignored the ‘Low Bridge - Warning’ signs and had sheared the back of his artic clean off with a collision that had sounded like a bomb had been detonated. The bridge in question lead directly to the station and therefore the trains had all been delayed to assess the potential damage to the line. Boarding the train he looked up and down (this was now his routine) to see if she was there. Opting for a middle carriage seat he slumped down and got his earphones out. Before he could put them in his ears to blank the world out with sound something occurred that perturbed him instantly. “Good Morning, how are you today?” The old gentleman who had uttered these words was now waving a hand towards his face and waiting expectantly for a response. “Erm…I’m sorry…do I know you?” The man looked slightly hurt but continued to converse, “I see you…every morning…I see you.” Thinking for a moment about whether this could be connected to the Blue-Eyed Lady he pondered his next words carefully. “I haven’t seen you I’m afraid. Tell me, do you know who I am?” The old man looked momentarily out of the window and almost seemed to be searching for something, maybe it was a reflection, either his own or his fellow traveller’s, when he re-centred his gaze the old man spoke more purposefully than before. “I’ve often thought that people don’t see me, that I was invisible, …but you, you’re not…you’re Duke.” SWITCH (RECENTLY DISCOVERED) (PREVIOUSLY UNSEEN) I just ain’t got the power anymore SWITCH The switch on the kettle clicked and the steam filled the corner of the studio where he made his drinks. He knew what he was going to do today, he’d written the list out as always and set about arranging his desk for the tasks ahead. A knock at the door broke the silence and Dr Connie walked in. “Hello! Kettle on?”  Dr Connie was always cheerful and he had grown fond of their tea breaks and the dialogue that arose from them. He relied on Dr Connie to give an honest opinion on the work and on this occasion he talked her through his plan. After the description of his aims for the next couple of days she responded with a cautious tone, “Okay…be careful though and I’m not sure I want to see that when it’s done.” SWITCH He sat at the studio desk and googled Kevin Melia English Teacher again…nothing different, nothing more…he googled Blue-Eyed Lady on Train again…nothing different, nothing more…he googled Invisible Old Man on Train…nothing…SWITCH Duke Practices His Smile…DUKE IS HERE DUKE WAS HERE…Which one is Duke?

 

To See the Blue-eyed Woman and the Hipster Again.

“Hmm…a very melancholic little piece that…” Sam turned slowly in his seat with more than a hint of reddening and moisture around his eyes. “We’d be happy to show this work at Flatpack.” Exchanging a triumphant glance with Dr Connie he stayed calm on the surface and responded to Sam with a controlled affirmative. He’d been hoping for one of the residency films he’d created to be included in the festival but the discussion had centred upon both films and the photographic stills taking a place…this was more than he could have hoped for. BREAKING NEWS…FLATPACK FESTIVAL CONFIRMED…APRIL 2017...SWITCH It had been a whole week since he had seen her, since those eyes had cut through him. SWITCH Sitting in AceFace was something he always enjoyed, Craig was one of the few people he would trust to cut his hair and it was his kind of place. The walls in the salon were adorned with artworks and music memorabilia, all the things that he knew. Once seated in the barber’s chair he realised that he was struggling to look at the reflection in the huge salon mirrors that sprawled the entire space in front him. Craig worked skilfully with the scissors on a bonafide mod crop whilst they talked, and this talking helped, he found it easier to look at Craig’s reflection rather than his own and the conversation flowed steadily as the two old friends caught up and discussed what each other had been up to since their last meeting. He hoped this haircut would recover something for him…that it would somehow return something that had been slipping away since the first moment that he had put that hat on and his head had connected with the concrete pillar in the John Lee Theatre. SWITCH The sketchbooks had been the primary focus for the day and he had maintained a rhythm and pace throughout that had completed the first volume and instigated the second. Starting a new sketchbook always provides a boost, the work is moving and has some depth to it when you close out one and open up another and he decided that a break for tea had been well earned. He reached for the switch on the kettle just as the ‘ping’ of a Whatsapp message arriving on his phone distracted him. It was from the Legendary John Brown in Dublin City and the message had a three-year old image attached. He studied it for a second, he was sure he recognised himself in the foreground but he couldn’t remember having a fringe as straight as that…was that how he looked?  Did he look like that now? He reached for a teabag, tea always had a calming effect and he needed to look away from the Whatsapp image and get back to the sketchbooks…SWITCH Kaye watched the screen as the “Act III” film neared its completion. He’d worked with her on the “About Town” show for Ikon and he trusted her judgement. “That’s really nice. I always say this to you, but it doesn’t look like you on screen. You’re not as old as that in real life, you just don’t look like that.” It wasn’t just him then…Kaye could see it too…or not see it too. SWITCH He looked long and hard up and down the carriage, once, twice, once more…he couldn’t see her. The sigh he emitted as he sat down betrayed a nagging series of questions that had been floating uncomfortably in the back of his mind following the incident on the night train home from Liverpool. Who did the blue-eyed woman think he was? Who was the blue-eyed woman? Was she even there or had he imagined her? If so, why? What part of his brain had invented her and why couldn’t he recognise his reflection any longer? What about the hipster? Where did he come from? Whilst these questions were drifting in and around his head he gazed out of the window at the external greys and greens, blurring in momentary line. He reasoned that if he had imagined her it would be easier to forget the whole thing and just move on. Surely that was the best way forward…just forget her…she was fiction…created by a tired mind to fill a gap forged by the work he had been making. Yes…that’s who you are…artist in residence…everything else, old blue eyes and the hipster, is imagined. His reflection in the glass suddenly sharpened and he couldn’t see any make-up…still vague but somehow he felt that a recovery was taking place, he was recovering…his hair, Craig had done a good job, the cut was sharp. Eased slightly he picked up the free Metro paper and leafed through it with cursory focus. Arriving at the pages near the centre he saw the purple banner of the box that often amused him. Rush-Hour Crush provided a space for commuters to play out some kind of virtual courtship as they bare their feelings and pledge love to strangers…strangers on a train…often desperate, often funny, often sad but always entertaining. He read down to see what the latest nascent romances looked like, signed off by figures such as ‘Bloke in Check Shirt or ‘Blond Guy, Glasgow’, ‘Man in Black’ or ‘Red-Haired Woman in Adidas Gazelles’. His eyes suddenly shot to the word ‘Parka’ and any feelings of recovery he may have been experiencing were dashed in an instant as he read and re-read the message. “To The Guy with the Fishtail Parka on the late train from New Street (Wednesday Night). I know who you are. - Blue-Eyed Lady.” SWITCH He thought about his old English teacher Kevin Melia. He didn’t know why, somehow the thought had jumped into his mind. Was Kevin Melia still alive? Mr. Melia had been one of those teachers that every pupil liked, he had a way of making seemingly irrelevant (difficult) material important…accessible. Often beginning the lessons by updating his class on the current state of his divorce proceedings followed by tales of the boredom he experienced incarcerated in the desperate one-roomed bedsit that he had found himself in following the breakdown of his marriage and then (seamlessly) gently manoeuvring his captivated pupils into the world of Shakespeare. Kevin Melia wasn’t quite John Keating from ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ but to the kids in his English classes at Great Barr School in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s he offered something that no other teacher seemed either capable of, or, inclined to. Was Kevin Melia still alive? With a little time on his hands during this Christmas break and with all shopping done, all presents wrapped, he stared out of the window from the back of the house and recalled a conversation he’d had with his old English teacher. “You like The Jam then?” The young lad recoiled slightly in surprise at the question from Mr Melia, “erm…I…” He faltered as he suddenly became visible in front of his classmates. They didn’t know him, he didn’t speak to them, he was new in the class and invisibility suited him fine. “It’s alright, don’t panic. I saw the drawing you did in the back of your book and the lyrics to ‘Standards’ that you wrote out.” Mr. Melia sat on the edge of the boy’s desk and the boy shifted uneasily in his chair…was he in trouble? What would the other kids in the class say to him now that they had some information on him? “’We’ll throw you out of your houses if you get too much. If we have to we’ll destroy your generation.’ I love those lines, the way Weller paints pictures with words, bit like Ray Davies before him.” The teacher was suddenly aware that the boy in front of him was blushing and paralysed by the attention he was receiving and acted to end the ordeal swiftly. “Right everyone I’m meant to prepare you for your essay on ‘Romeo and Juliet’ today. Anyone ever been in love?” The half smile and sarcastic expression on Mr Melia’s face elicited a few titters from around the room and the embarrassment for the boy was relieved with the lesson now underway. “Don’t talk to me about love. I got a phone call from the ex-mother-in-law last night…bleeding me dry…that’s where love got me!?” The winter’s day was bright outside the window; he smirked as he recalled his former teacher’s sardonic tones. Recalling the memory from his youth had motivated him to go to the shelves of records that he had painstakingly alphabetised over many years of collecting. He moved his fingers across the multi-coloured array of spines and stopped at ‘J’ pulling out “This Is The Modern World” by The Jam. He moved his hand over the front and then flipped the sleeve to the back. Finally he gently fed the inner sleeve from the cover and looked over the words and illustrations adorning the protective square that housed the vinyl itself. As he read the words to ‘Standards’ with older eyes his mind returned to the English lesson that had lead him back to them. The kids all rushed their books into their bags and poured out of the room as the sound of the lunchtime bell came to a close he found himself alone. This always was the case and he actually contrived it to be that way by slowly putting his books away and making sure that he was the last to leave the room. He reasoned that by doing this he wouldn’t have to speak to any of his classmates and could seclude himself away somewhere for lunch before heading for the afternoon lesson. Mr Melia looked over, “Could you imagine a day without listening to music?” Again the boy was slightly wrong-footed by his teacher’s question, “Well…no…no sir.” The words were delivered quietly and nervously but the boy felt compelled to respond. “I couldn’t either.” Said Melia walking over and fixing his reticent pupil with a look that seemed stern yet reassuring, “This essay you’ve got to write on Shakespeare…if Paul Weller is your Shakespeare then write it on him…OK?” The boy’s eyes betrayed a mixture of surprise and disbelief. “Words should mean something to us. English should mean something to you,” the teacher patted his chest to emphasise the point, “I guess Shakespeare doesn’t float your boat at the minute…maybe it will…just not yet. So give me your best essay on the works of Woking’s finest.” The boy smiled as he left the room, probably for the first time that year and the adult that the boy had become smiled also as he dextrously managed the vinyl onto the turntable and lifted the needle into place on the spinning disc…”Der-na-der-na-duh…This is the modern world… Der-na-der-na-duh…This is the modern world…” He spun around and started to jig across the room and as his spirit soared he thought again about his former teacher. Kevin Melia knew who he was…if he could talk with him once more then he knew that all of this uncertainty could be cleared…where would he be? Was Mr Melia still alive?

 

Not Charlie…Not Buster…Not Jerry…

He sat down on the chair, the London Midland clatter on the tracks reverberating in the background as the carriage pulled away from Blake Street Station. It was busy but he had been able to select a window seat, this was his habit…window seat first and if not then at least a seat that was forward facing. He placed his bags down by his feet and then started to select the playlist for his outward journey. Completing his task he looked up from his phone and was immediately met by the glare of a middle-aged woman with wide piercing blue eyes, just staring at him...just staring. She looked like she was about to speak but instead just averted her gaze by moving her head round so that she could view the outside world as it sped by in a blur. He could see that peripherally she was still taking notice of him and it was slightly unnerving. He didn’t know her, he was sure of it but he still wracked his brains for some semblance of a memory that might identify her. Why was she staring? Who did she think he was? At various moments throughout the journey he caught her gaze and when they finally reached New Street he alighted before her but couldn’t help looking over his shoulder and, as he had suspected, she was behind him…still just staring. SWITCH The door hollered out a familiar creak; he stepped into the dark and hit the light switch…the studio blinked with a verve that immediately settled him. It had seemed like a lifetime, he’d had a week off from the studio and, now returned, he reflected upon the series of images that were attached to the surrounding walls. He filled the kettle with fresh water and flicked the switch before quickly scribbling down the list of tasks he’d set himself for the day. The collection of clothes that made up the ‘slapstick’ costume hung on the hooks along the wall behind him. Moving across to the oversize trousers he ran his hand along the seems and tentatively felt the buckles on the braces, they had dug into his body through the shirt during filming and, although he hadn’t bothered at the time, the resulting welts that had appeared on his torso a day or so after shooting the film had been significant enough for him to want to check and confirm the cause. He now walked over to the desk and turned on the laptop, he had to sort through the stills from the filming that Jack had prepared for him. Selecting shuffle on his studio playlist he walked back to the kettle and started preparing tea in his Villa mug, Arthur Lee’s distinctive voice reached out from the speaker as Love’s “See Myself In You” burst into the room. SWITCH He sat prone in front of the screen in the studio, his tea was going cold and he felt an unsettling weight to the day, he considered where this temporary stasis might be coming from…he had every reason to be firing on all cylinders today. The film was being edited (and the rushes had looked really good), he was ahead of schedule with the residency work and his list of tasks for the day were set (with experimenting on a new idea highlighted)…maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the melancholic sound of “Rainy Changes” by Steve Marriott pouring from the speaker, maybe it was because Donald Trump was now the President elect of the USA, or maybe it was the disconcerting experience with the blue-eyed woman on the train…whatever it was he needed to shake himself free or the danger of an indolent and wasted day could ensue. He reached for his phone, looked at the picture of his wife that he had permanently as a screensaver and smiled, the ground under his feet was solid when he looked at her and it’s all he needed to break out of the gloom. He selected Syd Arthur’s “Sun Rays” on the playlist, rose from his seat and danced over to the kettle, the movements were somewhat forced but it shook him out of the stasis as he sang along, “There’s a trapdoor to my heart…” SWITCH Liverpool had been fantastic…but it had been a long day. The Open Eye show was really good and Matt Finn’s talk about his work ‘Mother’ had been a highlight. His bones ached now though and, almost falling, he slumped into the chair at New Street with a thud. The 21.35 to Lichfield City via Blake Street was due to depart and he couldn’t wait to be home now that he was safely seated in one of its carriages. He put his bag down by his feet and reached for his phone so that he could select an appropriate soundtrack for his homeward journey. The soothing tones of Marvin Gaye started to fill his head…”What’s happening brother?” He looked up and had to stop himself from gasping…it was her again…just staring at him with those wide piercing blue eyes. For the next few stops they observed the same ritual as the previous encounter…him unnerved and uncertain, her looking at him whenever she felt that he wasn’t aware of her gaze. “Hiya!” the impasse was broken, but not by the woman with the blue eyes, it was a twenty-something hipster. He bore all the hallmarks of the latest subculture trend, short hair…long beard…ill-fitting trousers and shoes without socks. “How are you doing? Haven’t seen you for ages.”   Now this was really confusing because he didn’t recognise this person either, “What is it with these trains?” he thought to himself. He felt compelled to remove his earphones as the guy, now seated next to him, was eagerly awaiting a response. “I’m sorry…do we know each other?” The hipster was quick to answer, “Wolverhampton, a couple of years ago now. Do you see anyone else, are you still in touch with anyone?” He looked across at the woman with the blue eyes; she was suddenly alert to the conversation as if hopeful that some precious information may be gleaned from it, and then he looked at his reflection in the window of the train before turning back to the guy. “I’m sorry…I’m not him.” The hipster smirked as if being part of a joke. He turned again to the reflection in the window and studied how pale he thought the face looking back at him seemed to be, he caught the gaze of the woman opposite one more time before gathering his bag and standing up. The hipster’s expression was now a quizzical one and the young man’s uncertainty was tested further by what he heard next. “I’m sorry, I’m not him…whoever you think I am…I’m not him… not him…not anymore.”  He stepped over the exposed legs of the guy and walked to another carriage. The rest of the journey was managed in the haven of the door space. As the journey came to an end he stood and examined his reflection again…pale…much paler than he remembered. SWITCH The door to the studio flung open and he hit the light switch without so much as a sideways glance, he’d greeted the cleaner on the way up the stairs and now felt guilty that he had not asked her name. They spoke about cups of tea briefly and if it had not been for the burning desire to get started this morning he would have stayed longer and acquainted himself properly. Throwing down his bag and sketchbook onto the desk he rushed to the kettle and clicked the switch before heading to the costume that hung on the opposite wall. Today would be the day that he confronted the face in the mirror, the day that he would remove the make-up and see it come off. SWITCH The figure stared back at him in the mirror as he rubbed with the cloth to remove the mask of make-up on his face…it wasn’t coming off…he rubbed again and then stopped, agitated, frustrated, why wouldn’t the mask come off? He rubbed more vigorously…but no…the make-up wouldn’t budge. He gently raised his arm and placed two fingers on his wrist to check for a pulse. SWITCH “Mirror is my best friend, because when I cry it never laughs.” - Chaplin SWITCH Dr. Connie had been really positive and really supportive in response to the film that he’d made just hours ago. They talked about the intensity in both making and watching. “Let me show you this. If you haven’t seen it, you’ll see the connections I think.” Quickly selecting YouTube he typed in three words…chaplin keaton limelight and then pressed play. In the next five minutes or so they watched the final scene together. He knew it inside out but revelled in introducing Dr. Connie to the climax of one of his favourite films. “Mmm…yeah, I get it,” she said. They sipped the last of their tea in silence. SWITCH He stood in the dressing room in front of the camera…he had reasoned that he needed a recording of the transformation into the slapstick character…for him…to see. If he could witness that transformation then he would be able to separate himself from the figure and just maybe work out who it was that the blue-eyed woman and the hipster had mistaken him for. He looked into the lens. He stood in nothing but his underwear with the costume hanging next to him. He had deliberately put Bowie’s “Who Can I Be Now?” on repeat as it seemed to provide a perfect soundtrack to the experiment. The camera shutter started to click and he looked sideways at the costume before slowly reaching for the trousers…SWITCH Print workshop…Mono Prints…draw yourself…blank space where the face should be…SWITCH “Yes, the blog is really a new territory. It’s such a wonderful thing. You can talk immediately to people you don’t know. You don’t know their background and they don’t know your background.” Ai Weiwei speaks. SWITCH Blake Street, 07.24am. It was cold...winter was moving in. Today more than ever he was vigilant on the platform, would the blue-eyed woman appear? Was she already on the train? What of the hipster? Who was he and whom had he mistaken him for? Would he see either of them today? The questions swirled uncontrollably in his head…he had work planned for the studio today and was genuinely excited about the possibilities ahead. He couldn’t get those staring eyes out of his head though…his internal voice regurgitated the same enquiry every time he thought of that piercing gaze, ”Who does she think I am?” He caught sight of his reflection in the glass as he waited for the amber light to signal that he could press the button to open the doors. Pale…still paler than he thought he was…he stepped onto the carriage and looked both ways, was he about to see the blue-eyed woman and the hipster again? 

About a man who's at loggerheads with his past all the time

The door gently creaked; he rushed into the dark and hit the light switch with an accurate whip of his right arm and in doing so the studio gently flickered into life. Slowly revealing the remains of his last visit, the walls seemed to speak with a calm reasoned tone as they reminded him of the work he had undertaken and the work still to do. The switch clicked on the kettle as he quickly started to prepare a cup of tea. Whilst the kettle hoarsely burbled away he picked up a pen and quickly noted down the list of tasks that he’d set for himself over the next two days. He turned on the music and half-smiled to himself as David Bowie’s “Who Can I Be Now?” burst forth from the speakers. His inward amusement came from the thought that he was now preparing to be someone else again, another mask, another character, who can I be now, he mentally toyed with those five words for a moment as the smile inside gave way to something deeper and more troubling…who can I be now? SWITCH The intense heat from the bath rose and he felt the temperature increase on the bottom of his foot as he dangled a leg ungainly above the water surface. He was home, it had been a long day in the studio and the stabbing pain in his shoulder was a reminder of just how productive the day had been. The first test film was complete and he now had to inspect and evaluate the footage. Before that though he needed to soak away the bruises that he had gained during the performance tests. Gently lowering himself into the bath he noticed a bruise on his forearm that seemed tenderer than he had expected. His head ached too; he’d misjudged one of the falls and had connected full on with the stone pillar at the side of the stage. At the time he thought it would look good on film but then realised that these were tests and rehearsals and wouldn’t see the light of day anyway. Nonetheless it had been a useful few hours at the BMI today and he settled into the red-hot bath with a calmness that came from the knowledge that the work was truly up and running now. SWITCH “I’m the one who apparently receives the bruises…the secret is in landing limp and breaking the fall with a foot or a hand. It’s a knack. Several times I’d have been killed if I hadn’t been able to land like a cat.” Buster Keaton SWITCH The house stood silent now, everyone was asleep but he couldn’t settle so he decided to watch ‘The General’ (1926). Even at this blurry hour it was in the simple things that he delighted and as fatigue gently took over and he slipped slowly into unconsciousness he thought about the way Keaton moved and the incredible timing that he employed in this performance. At some point in the early hours he stirred and realised that the television was still on. He forced himself up and turned it off before slumping back into his sleep. The last semi-conscious thought he had was of Johnnie Gray sitting on the coupling rod of a locomotive train undulating with a deadpan expression on his face…he drifted into slumber but the thought would not be wasted. SWITCH The door to the studio issued a familiar creak; he rushed into the dark and turned the light on, by now he was sure that even in the darkness he could make out the outline of the switch on the wall. As the light sputtered into the room, the walls once more offered a reminder of what had been done during the last visit. The switch clicked on the kettle and the routine cup of tea began. He reached for a pen and quickly noted down the list of tasks that he’d set for himself over the next two days. He turned on the music; Jimmy Cliff’s “Struggling Man” album resonated around the studio. SWITCH He looked in the mirror…suddenly he couldn’t see whether the make up was there anymore…he didn’t see himself, he didn’t see Charlie, Buster or Jerry either…his thick, heavy eyelashes seemed lighter all of a sudden, those dark eyelashes that had been the cause of so much good and so much bad in his life…who am I now? Who am I now? The pain in his shoulder and elbow reminded him this was all a performance…all an idea…just like the ideas he’d had before…he’d seen those through and he would see this one through the same, after all…it’s what he did. SWITCH “It’s the slippage between identities that’s interesting.” Rina commented as she gently manoeuvred the pages of the sketchbook through her fingers, “yes…the slippage.” SWITCH The studio door creaked open, the light switch flicked with familiar accuracy, the studio woke up as the light blinked into the space. He took the hat out from his bag and gently placed it on his head before moving over to the kettle. There was no list in mind today, with filming scheduled for the morning he only had one thing in his thoughts…getting used to this hat. He pressed shuffle on the play list and Poly Styrene’s voice echoed around the room…”When you look in the mirror - Do you see yourself - Do you see yourself - On the T.V. screen - Do you see yourself?” SWITCH He deftly removed the hat from his head as the camera shutter clicked repetitively. It was important that he could position the hat properly and also crucial for him to see if the hat did the job he wanted it to when building the character. Returning to the mirror he placed the hat on his desk and looked at the reflection before picking up a wipe and scrubbing vigorously at his face…he looked again and scrubbed again…he couldn’t see where the make-up was and where it wasn’t, he leaned closer and scrubbed again. SWITCH The sign at the end of the platform shone with an autumn morning fuzziness, the time was something-past-early and he waited in the damp for the train. He had arranged to meet Jack and Sev early at the BMI and had booked the John Lee theatre for the filming. He felt ready. SWITCH He staggered and fell to one knee as the impact of the pillar settled in his bones, he knew how to fall, he knew how to land without causing any damage…the decision he’d made though to actually connect properly with the pillar and experience pain as part of the performance was now starting to resonate in his body. Jack had been filming for over an hour now whilst Sev operated the spotlight, as the performance ended Sev rushed from the control room, “Are you ok? I couldn’t look anymore…you must have hurt yourself?” He smiled to himself at the response. Jack looked up from the monitor, “I’m happy with that. I think we’ve got it” SWITCH Watching the draft edits through for the first time had been an interesting process. Initially he had thought that the performance in the first version had been far superior but the overall look and feel of the second version seemed better. He moved a finger along his jawline as he watched the figure on screen…he still didn’t recognise himself. The face of the man staring back at him from the screen was someone he knew from his sketches, from his thoughts, not Charlie, not Buster, nor Jerry…he pondered for a moment over his struggle at recognition…that’s a good thing isn’t it? Remember what Rina said, it’s in the slippage. Jack had forwarded these two rough versions as something to consider before they started the task of editing proper, he had now watched them over and over and had gone blind to the subtleties and nuances that may or may not inform his decision on which version to work with. Sighing with frustration he called over to Alice, “Alice, sorry to bother you but could I ask you to look this over?” Alice was a fellow artist, he trusted her eyes and he trusted her instincts. After watching them through intently she responded, “It’s definitely the first version…yes it’s definitely that one.” His sketchbook lay open on the desk and at the top of the page he noticed a note he’d made next to the ‘backstage’ stills…NOT CHARLIE - NOT BUSTER - NOT JERRY.


 

Turn Again Geoff Tipps

He opened the door with key No.11 and looked into the impenetrable darkness of the studio. In the short time he had been Artist in Residence here he hadn't familiarised himself with the location of the light switch. After fumbling awkwardly around either side of the door he put down the bags that were positioned uncomfortably around his frame and reached into the inside pocket of his Merc Harrington for his phone. Leaning back into the corridor so that he could find the appropriate app on the screen he soon had some light shining into the space that would be his productive home for the next year. The studio smelt of age, the carpeted floor and blue walls betrayed the period in which the room was last decorated…but he felt a warm glow from this, he liked the age, he liked the smell, somehow it made him feel that whatever was achieved in this room would be part of the fabric of the place…it would be another layer in the history of the building...and at this early stage that really felt like something. The switch clicked on the kettle and he quickly prepared a cup of tea in his favourite Aston Villa mug. It was his habit to write a list of tasks for the day ahead and he had been compiling this list in his head during the journey in on the train. Rehearsing the list again he peeled of the seal on top of the skimmed milk and poured. The list was quickly written out on a loose piece of paper on the desk, having selected to listen to Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Superfly’ Soundtrack he now sat back in his chair and looked at the wall to the left of his desk. The high silky tones of Mayfield’s voice filled the room as he pondered the array of preparatory sketches and scrawled words that littered the wall. Every experiment, note and idea he had would find it’s way onto this surface and he reviewed the previous day’s efforts whilst sipping at the soothing hot tea. He focussed on the last sheet of paper that he’d taped up…a simple list of possible research references. The first word CLOWNS the last word, MIRACLES…SWITCH Now they're some sad things known to man/But ain't too much sadder than/The tears of a clown when there's no one around, uh/Just like Pagliacci did/I try to keep my surface hid/Smiling in the crowd I try/But in my lonely room I cry/The tears of a clown SWITCH He felt a sharp stabbing pain in his elbow. It had now been two hours in the John Lee theatre; he felt the heat of the stage lighting on his face and the crack of his knee as he slowly rose to his feet again. He must have fallen fifty times now…each time was slightly different and he hoped that when he looked at the images from the camera he had set up at the back of seating area they would reveal all he needed to get this new idea moving forward. The mustard carpet that he now fell backwards on had mutated from a soft cushioning surface to a seemingly hardened layer of jarring granite. He decided to investigate the pain in his elbow and lifted the sleeve of his shirt…reddened, slight nick betrayed by a speck of blood but overall nothing that need concern. The insignificant wound did however signal a thought that this next fall should be the last for the day. Reasoning internally that he must have enough recorded material to review by now he walked purposefully toward the pillar that marked the end of the stage, his face and hands felt the connection and he tumbled backwards, his legs shot out as his back rolled across the floor and he lay momentarily breathless but ready to look at the footage. SWITCH New people everywhere…meetings, meetings and more meetings – where has the week gone? The speed of the week has impinged upon studio time…frustrations abound, what was that sound? Something downstairs in the early hours? Can’t wait to get back to the studio…work to be done. Turn again Geoff Tipps, the character that can’t tell a joke. In the sleepless dead of night, reaching for the DVD and turning the sound down to virtually nothing, series three episode three, “…you’re all clever London people aren’t yer…” SWITCH He walked up the stairs with some relish, stair-climbing was not his favourite thing but on this day, at the end of the 6th flight was the studio door that he’d missed whilst he had been away. The door gently creaked; he rushed into the dark and this time approximated where the light switch was with comparative ease. The cleaners had visited and left the gift of a tray for the kettle and assorted tea-making paraphernalia. The switch clicked on the kettle and he quickly prepared a cup of tea in his favourite Aston Villa mug. It was his habit to write a list of tasks for the day ahead and he had been compiling this list in his head during the journey in on the train. Rehearsing the list again he peeled of the seal on top of the skimmed milk and poured. The list was quickly written out on a loose piece of paper on the desk, he reached into his bag and pulled out sixteen large contact sheets that had been prepared after the last day of rehearsals in the John Lee theatre. The sound of Lee Mavers’ soulful voice provided the background to the next few hours of review. Selecting and transposing some of the images into the sketchbook for further consideration, he felt the thrill of the chase starting again…chasing work through and out of the sketchbooks was something that had always provided a buzz and today was no different. He looked at the images again and again and made notes again and again…the comments, thoughts and observations poured out of him onto the pages through his black Faber Castell pen and he wrote and wrote, thought and thought. He had arranged to meet Dr. Connie for tea and a crochet lesson and knew that he would have to stop at some point. He looked up at the wall and started to think about pinning up the images that he’d worked on today. The speaker started to throw out a chopping acoustic sound Side 1, Track 1…”Son of a Gun” rang out and he listened intently to the words for what seemed like the millionth timehe got up and walked over to the kettle. As he flicked the switch he paused and looked over at the list of references on the wall. The word GROCK jumped out, “I must add Pagliacci” he thought. ”If you want I'll sell you a life story. About a man who's at loggerheads with his past all the time.”



 

I should be listening to Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’

Wir fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n auf der Autobahn SWITCH

W

h

o  

will fight the

b

e

a

r

?

No one?

T

h

e

n

the bear has won...

SWITCH Vor uns liegt ein weites tal SWITCH I knew Chaplin would be at the BMI somewhere...had to be in there somewhere SWITCH Comedy and Pain should surely be uneasy bedfellows. SWITCH Die sonne scheint mit glitzerstrahl SWITCH ‘Me and my mum had about a week just going through the garage – we just sat there crying. On the other hand it was lovely that we uncovered things.’ Nicky Weller SWITCH Die fahrbahn ist ein graues band SWITCH Scooters, scooters everywhere…Style Councillors and lots of great hair SWITCH The clown has great importance as part of the search for what is laughable and ridiculous in man. We should put the emphasis on the rediscovery of our own individual clown, the one that has grown up within us and which society does not allow us to express - Jacques LeCoq SWITCH Weisse streifen, gruener rand SWITCH 5.45am in Malaga…watching the clouds break and the intensity of the 39° sun pours into the day. Writing a story that I have had in mind for a while…part me…part you…part fiction…part truth. The villa is quiet and the peace drives me on. The tale of Brian Jones’s illegitimate son and his poor friend who loses one too many times and will always be the loser in the end. SWITCH What shall I put together for the Journal article? Think the sketchbook collages needs to take central role...SWITCH Jetzt schalten wir das radio an SWITCH Football matches played and missed SWITCH Been writing all day - article for the Journal, Philosophy of Photography, "I do not use the photograph as a document of the performance. I am interested in a dual process that arises from making photographs during the development of performance works. The opportunity to refine, rehearse, and inhabit characters through the constant appraisal of the photographic stills made during rehearsals is critical to the development of the works. However, alongside this, I am also interested in how the photographs function outside of the performance film and become ‘other’?" SWITCH Aus dem lautsprecher klingt es dann SWITCH Returned to an idea I once had for a short screenplay about a frustrated and accidental stand up comedian. One scene I wrote has slapstick undertones and may point the way forward for the first stages of the residency…SWITCH Wir fahr'n auf der Autobahn SWITCH Spoke to a great guy at the BBC about Jerry Lewis, Susannah Corbett and Benny Hill. He invited me down to the BBC Archives for a look at some rare Harry H Corbett footage and a bigger discussion about potential projects SWITCH League of Gentlemen Series Two, Anarchy in Royston Vasey – 'we’ll bury him so it looks like a wolf did it' SWITCH Geoff Tipps is perfect for the research on stand up...Turn Again Geoff Tipps

 

It’s Your Life of Sprinkled Bathsalts

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Decorating now for three days. Had some time owing at work and decided that I needed to get the (long overdue) wallpapering and painting of the landing and stairway sorted. Amazing how many coats of paint are needed to cover such a small space (especially when you start painting figures on the wall to evaluate performance ideas whilst working). Radiator issues…boiler issues…leaks and central heating problems…it was meant to be a smaller job than this and the whole time I’m thinking about the next stage of the ‘slapstick’ work. SWITCH Approached by one of the editors of ‘Philosophy of Photography’ off the back of the presentation I delivered last month on my practice at CSM the e-mail was positive and its good that the ideas came across in the presentation well enough for them to approach: I am getting in touch because I am an associate editor of the academic journal Philosophy of Photography - my role being to curate two sections we have per journal issue called Photoworks. Each section involves ten pages for images (colour or B & W) plus a text (anything from 300 to 1000 or more words), and I was wondering if you’d be interested to contribute for our next issue which will be out hopefully in the autumn? This would involve, as mentioned 10 images (or more if you want more than one per page) and a text, which could be straightforward on the work, by yourself or by somebody else, or experimental text that goes with the image pages. I was obviously very interested in your sketchbook format and also in how you presented the visuals in your presentation, so it could be any of that or in fact something new and made specifically for the journal format – entirely up to you! Thinking of replying and confirming something that is in the style of the presentation I gave…handwritten…pasted images…racing thoughts? SWITCH Caroline Aherne joins the list of fallen soldiers this year…watched first episode of ‘The Royle Family’ before going to sleep. SWITCH Working in the studio today and became distracted by David Schneider documentary on ‘The Day The Clown Cried’ – so interesting – shows stills of the set and scenes for the first time ever! The only print of the film in existence was held by Jerry Lewis himself who has always maintained that it would never be shown…apparently he has now released it to a film archive with the stipulation that it cannot be shown until 2025…the question is should it be though? Can you make a fictional comedy about the holocaust? Is it even a comedy? We just don’t know…Jerry has never said! SWITCH After watching the documentary I found myself in the main character Helmut Doork’s make-up in front of the mirror – testing out ideas – looking at Lewis it’s something in the eyes I think. SWITCH Started to think about the article for the journal – need to get something down as I have in my head a pretty clear idea of how I want to structure and present it. My plan is to simply apply my sketchbook aesthetic to a discussion on the role of photography in my practice, how it helps build a character and also how it is integral to the process of refinement, trial and error. SWITCH So hot today it’s unreal. All the studio windows and doors are open but it is still like an oven. SWITCH Message from artist Andy Jackson (been ages since we caught up) he’s been asked to show one of the images from the collaborative exhibition we did at the Light House Gallery at a forthcoming exhibition in Moseley – we get a joint credit so all good to go! Listening to Billie Holiday’s ‘Lady Sings The Blues’ as I work and whilst the golden fragile tones of Lady Day float through the room I thought back to when Andy and I used to meet in a café in the underpass (no longer there) on Corporation Street in Birmingham after we had graduated together in ‘97. We used to share pots of tea (you got an extra pot of water with your tea so you could ‘top-up’ and make the original pot last for ages between two) we could be pretty miserable at the time I guess but we’d always look forward and share our dreams and aspirations for what lay ahead – we hadn’t got a pot to piss in then and ended up doing two years together packing boxes at a factory just to pay the bills (which hadn’t been part of the dreams and plans). I tell you what though – if I could go back and tell the younger us what we ended up doing I reckon the younger me would have taken it then – can’t speak for Andy but we’ve both got lots going on and that’s no bad thing! Must work with Andy again if the chance arrives. SWITCH Off to London tomorrow for the PhD Graduation Ceremony at The Royal Festival Hall. Looking forward to wearing my new suit – if the weather is like this though I’m going to bake – early start and need to decide on pocket square or no pocket square? SWITCH Made it to London just in time to collect gowns. It was a long old ceremony but I felt part of something and as my name was called out I saw peripherally that Roger and Janet stood up for me which meant a lot (even if I couldn’t acknowledge by turning to look at them for fear of tripping up) the heat was unbearable but it as Laure Provoust and Jonathan Harvey collected their respective Fellowships I felt part of something, I really did. Sharing the day with Suzanne and Sonny was really special too…they lived it as well. As I deposited my robes after the event, although it might sound clichéd, I felt like it was all behind me now, like I was shedding the whole PhD right there and then, as scary as that might be it felt refreshing because I can absolutely look forward now…it’s all over now, baby blue! SWITCH We headed off in the afternoon heat to Carnaby Street where Sonny purchased himself a Style Council badge and a Lambretta bag. I bought myself a short sleeved crew neck polo shirt - just to change into - my shirt and tie had been increasing my temperature beyond acceptable and I had to give in! SWITCH New day and lots to do – e-mailed David Schneider (played the part of Tony Hayers in ‘I’m Alan Partridge’) about his documentary on ‘The Day The Clown Cried’ and he responded almost straight away – hoping to meet up with him at some point to discuss his work and ideas…fingers crossed SWITCH Posted an image of myself made up in the studio à la Doork and the Legendary John Brown left a comment in reference to Chaplin – ‘Limelight’…could be a thought SWITCH Got the funding for an extra day in the studio on the residency!!! Can’t wait now – really want to get going! SWITCH Sonny’s painting of me when I was young made it’s way to AceFace Barbers wall and has been received really positively…commended by Horace Panter of The Specials no less. SWITCH Been going back over my notes from the documentary on ‘The Day The Clown Cried’ and I made reference to an interview clip with Jerry Lewis where he is asked about comedy and the character of the failed clown Doork…”My definition of a comedian is a man in trouble.” SWITCH Great meeting at the BMI to discuss the residency with Dr Connie today. Started thinking about the way I could link the library with studio practice and as we discovered bags of old newspapers (mainly 1970’s) I started to form a hazy plan of what I could experiment with…”Chaplin’s in here somewhere” I kept saying (with Flatpack Festival in mind). As I boarded my return train from New Street to Blake Street after the meeting a tweet from Dr Connie appeared with an image of an old brown book cover upon which was a familiar figure with baggy trousers, oversized shoes and a walking cane. I messaged back ”I knew he was in there somewhere” SWITCH Heading to Brighton at the weekend as the summer kicks in proper…found a new record shop and also excited about visiting the guys in Jump The Gun. Shall I go suited and booted? SWITCH Listening to Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’ at the minute…still love ‘Where Are We Now?’ definitely in my Top 5 Bowie songs…1.The London Boys 2.Quicksand 3. Where Are We Now? 4.Afraid 5.Kooks (this Top 5 does change regularly but the dramatic tone of ‘Quicksand’ and the beautiful build up in ‘London Boys’ keeps them in there…always SWITCH Great couple of days in Brighton, caught up with old friends and spent time in The Laines. Bought a beautiful shirt from JTG and Sonny added to his George Harrison collection SWITCH Drove home late and as always the M25 was congested. While Suzanne and Sonny slept my mind meandered to the sound of the 60s Soul CD I had on in the car. As each white line (muted orange and grey in the night motorway light) arrived and disappeared through the windscreen I pondered that rather than Otis Redding’s ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ I should be listening to Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’. The rumble of the road beneath the wheels provided a mesmeric rhythm for my thoughts that inevitably clicked like a relay to and from the weekend behind me and the work ahead. Charlie Chaplin ‘The Great Dictator’ poster that I’d seen in the Vintage Comic Shop in the North Laines click click costume ideas for the slapstick work click click Sandie Shaw album Those whom the Gods love grow young Oscar Wilde click click Ageing performers…Jerry Lewis ‘The Day The Clown Cried’ Buster Keaton ‘Film’ click click You were there, so was I – sometimes we laugh, sometimes I cry click click Wilson Pickett’s ‘Land of a 1000 Dances’ ‘One, Two, Three…’ I should be listening to Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’

Oh Baby, I'm Dreaming of Monday...

New month…new month…meetings and meetings and work waiting to happen. Trying to lose weight and looking for a new suit. Three covered buttons, two and one on the jacket pockets with frogmouth opening on the trousers. Wish I could afford Jump The Gun in Brighton but Long Eaton Tailor will be cheaper. SWITCH Sarah Z needed work for the Wolverhampton Photofest and I wanted to support so quickly arranged a large print of the ‘backstage’ shots in a grid formation. Forwarded the text required I can trust Sarah Z to take what she needs from it. All work in progress but I’m not one for being worried about testing ideas in shows. Asylum Gallery is the venue and although I won’t make the opening it will be interesting to see how people respond to a very young idea SWITCH Sunny Moseley Record Fair with Sonny…it’s scorching today. The boy always gets good deals as traders can’t equate his age with his knowledge. Store one and a familiar face, Liam from The Diskery – a good, good man and he gives free album and free single to Sonny as part of a deal to bring Brian Jones Rolling Stones into the boy’s collection SWITCH Meeting my oldest friend in the world later to see The Stairs at the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath, Steve played the other Likely Lad in my early experiments for the 70’s sitcom work – guess he’s always been the other Likely Lad to me and my connection to that sitcom was certainly driven by associations and recollections from our younger days SWITCH The Stairs were as good as I wanted them to be (and that rarely happens) Edgar ‘Summertyme’ Jones and the boys were in great form. “…in a great big flying machine!” my friend and I enjoyed a catch up in between sets and despite the pain in our respective knees after three hours standing we had a skip in our step as we hit the dark grey orange pavement and made our way home with the sound of ‘Weed Bus’ ringing in our ears SWITCH Monday morning train and feeling the strain of a busy weekend. Chatted with one of my train acquaintances all the way to New Street station and then put in the headphones as I headed on to Wolves SWITCH Student show looking good finishing touches taking place. Paperwork ahead for the afternoon and then back on the train but not before I’ve stopped off at the library to collect new books that the mighty Tom Hicks has ordered for me. ‘Chance’ by Margaret Iversen looks to be the pick of the bunch…Bas Jan Ader on the cover…has to be a good sign! SWITCH Meeting Dr Connie at the Birmingham & Midland Institute tomorrow to discuss possible residency. Put the proposal in a while ago and believe it was received well by the Trust panel but I don’t know what will happen yet in terms of length of residency if and when it goes ahead. I am desperate to get working on the Slapstick/Pain performances. SWITCH Broken night sleep…hot…tired…amazing how many helicopters can be heard flying over when you keep your windows open all night SWITCH Dr Connie asked me to sit in on meeting with Flatpack festival directors – it was great to meet as I’ve always hoped to work with them. “Dean is going to be Artist in Residence for a year, at least, so can we fit him into the programme of events for Flatpack?” Pinch myself…far more than I could have expected from Dr Connie and the Flatpack guys agreed to look at the proposed work and see how we can collaborate. Ian from Flatpack says “Do you know about the latest Chaplin news?” I shake my head honestly because I don’t know. “Turns out he was born in a caravan in Smethwick!” After the meeting Dr Connie shows me the studio space I can use for the residency and I am already getting that buzz that I felt when Zoe showed me the studio at New Art Gallery Walsall prior to that purple patch in 2013. SWITCH After a massive thank you and farewell to Dr Connie I head to Swordfish in Dale End for a celebratory vinyl purchase…Public Service Broadcasting “The Race for Space” in the bag. NEWSFLASH…BREAKING NEWS…NEWSFLASH…BREAKING NEWS…One Year Artist in Residence secured at the Birmingham & Midland Institute…Scheduled to begin in September 2016! SWITCH Watching ‘Kinvig’ (ITV 1981) on DVD at the moment, a truly lost sitcom, one series and now pretty much forgotten. I used to watch this when I was 7 or 8 years old on a Sunday night on the old B&W portable with the coat-hanger aerial. Des Kinvig…another failed male figure that I rooted for when I was young! SWITCH Did some more work on the funding bid for the ‘Falling Slowly’ work, need to put together a plan of proposed activity and then get supporting statement. SWITCH Picked up a couple of things from the library on Valie Export and Gunter Brus. Looking at this idea of pain in performance for the residency and the Viennese Actionists seem a good place to start SWITCH Speaking at Central St Martins on the 22nd about my PhD – have put Friday aside to put the presentation together although I am pretty sure that it will focus on a ‘reverse’ narrative that leads back from the recent Tommy Cooper commission to the first time that the idea of using comedy within my practice first materialised with the very early Hancock performance at the statue in Old Square…the key difference between the two works? I guess I didn’t know what the work meant back then when I started…now…I guess I do SWITCH Met up with Susan, Robert Luzar and Pat Naldi prior to the talk, I’m on third…tough acts to follow. I did my best and talked with some passion about the opportunities that had come from undertaking the PhD. As planned I went for the ‘reverse’ narrative and focussed on the role of the sketchbook work in relationship to the research and practical resolutions. I always look for Susan’s approval and I think she was pleased with the way the presentations went and afterwards I showed her the Tommy Cooper film (which had been subject of a minor technical fault in the talk itself) and she gasped before describing it as ‘a really powerful piece’ and that will do for me…SWITCH Just met Roger and another lecturer/artist Simon Hollingworth in the CSM bar after the presentations and, following our introduction, got talking about The Jam (usual banter with Roger about the punk/non-punk debate) More importantly it turns out that this colleague of Roger’s is putting together a film festival exchange programme with a venue in Australia. ‘Did you know I have made a couple of performance films about Tony Hancock?’ I gently enquired ‘Yeah…and?’ responded Simon. ‘Well, Hancock did commit suicide in Australia.’ I replied. ‘Ahh…I really like that link…can you get me those films by tomorrow morning?’ SWITCH Woke up at five-twenty-something this morning with the forthcoming September residency rattling around inside my brain. I looked at the angular shaft of light all burning intensity across the wall outside the bedroom and pondered the work that I want to make there. The ideas have been in stasis whilst the sketchbooks have been on display in London and I desperately want to get working on the ‘fall’ performance. The light beam I had focussed on was now creating painful shapes behind my early morning eyes and I closed them for a moment - head still throwing ideas around. I then watched Suzanne sleep for a few minutes before heading downstairs for a cup of tea. Our cat ‘Marriott’ quickly stirred on the landing at the sound of my decent and followed. SWITCH Have ordered a Turquoise/Purple Tonic Mohair suit, it’s taken a while to save for it and I had to sell a few things on eBay to fund the final lap but you don’t half get a lift from a new suit and after a tough couple of weeks I thought it was time. SWITCH Just got home and the electricity and lighting has been installed in the studio…let the light get your sight back baby…brilliant news I can get more work done at night now. SWITCH Funding application all signed off and submitted. It’s fingers crossed now but the responses to the quality of the application have been positive. Marketing meeting this afternoon…my mind strayed badly towards the end and I started to consider how to set up the lighting at the BMI for the first tests of the ‘Chair-Fall’. Turned over the hand out we’d been provided with and whilst everybody competed to have their ideas heard I sketched out a plan for a couple of different set ups. SWITCH Met Cat Fuller today at Wolverhampton Art Gallery and discussed plans for an exhibition proposal on masculine representation…we immediately strayed toward the POP Gallery and stood instinctively in front of ‘Adonis in Y-Fronts’ by Richard Hamilton…could be a great exhibition but we have to get the proposal sorted to include a whole variety of external links…I trust Cat…she’ll know what to do SWITCH 1.12am can’t sleep and the laptop is near so I am typing… sketchbook work planned for tomorrow…I mean today…after I’ve slept and woke up. Got a few texts to work through as well. I’m thinking that there has to be something in the BMI library…something hidden…something very special that will trigger something very special or very ordinary but worth doing either way. Maybe I need to read now…maybe I don’t? Got an earworm - that new tune by Nathaniel Rateliff. One of those songs that just makes you move ‘I needed to try, Needed to fall…’ SWITCH Every now and again a car goes by outside and the wet surface of the road lifts the sound momentarily to a crispy crunchy crescendo and then gone - all quiet and silent again apart from the tapping sound of the laptop keys peppering these words out onto the screen. Now I’ve got the theme tune from ‘Taxi’ in my head, Andy Kauffman – alive or dead? Richard Beckinsale’s poetry book is next to the bed – page 50 ‘…but there’s no sense in failure, and not much use in fear, and there’s not much use in lying, when it’s only you who hears, it’s your life of sprinkled bathsalts.’ 

Fail...Fall...Fail Again...Fall Again

The month of May…Preparations for the show at CSM are underway and as I was asked to exhibit my sketchbooks as part of the installation I decided to sneak in some of the most recent additions to the growing number of pages. I've been preparing work for a residency later in the year related to Comedy and Pain with more than a passing interest in Slapstick. Centred around a 'fall' (repetition...routine...repetition) I have been thinking about two parallel pieces: - (1) On stage (2) Backstage...very early days but it is all part of the growing body of work so I'm willing to take a risk and test it now. SWITCH Found an article on a great exhibition ART FAILURE in Art Monthly (2007) - must remember to look up David Critchley's 'Pieces I Never Did' (1979) SWITCH Thinking about my favourite Chaplin film 'City Lights' might watch it later (final scene always strikes the tear ducts...Chaplin acts it superbly) but need to make notes on the physical routines more importantly. SWITCH Hotel booked for the opening tomorrow night Carlton on Birkenhead Street - really close to Kings Cross, so shouldn't get lost. SWITCH Roger Sabin e-mailed to arrange an early afternoon meet tomorrow before the evening event. I picked up a badge from the 'About The Young Idea' exhibition at Somerset House - remember to pack it and give it to him. Keep forgetting. Roger maintains The Jam were a punk band...I on the other hand will have none of it...punks in suits, tuning their guitars? I think not! It's a Mod Mod world brothers and sisters all the way SWITCH Must remember a pork pie hat is required for the next stage of the rehearsals. SWITCH Suzanne just reminded me that I have tickets to see The Stairs next weekend - make a note! SWITCH "Six years worth of sketchbooks laid out in front of me here" I uttered this thought out loud to Susan as we looked at the selected pages for display in the show. "Six years and the interesting thing when you compare them all is in the first one I just haven's got it at all. I'm just not there. Somehow though it needs to be here I think." Still thinking out loud I looked across at Susan, "Yes" she said "I think it does". SWITCH Opening night at CSM tonight, now at hotel after checking and making final alterations on the sketchbook pages - it's looking 'as planned' and I can do no more...on with the show! SWITCH Gustav Metzger...Grayson Perry and Jimmy Sommerville are here - it's very busy and the place is buzzing, buzzing and buzzing SWITCH Human cats relax on upscaled activity station. SWITCH Drinks with head of research and long conversations with various curators and connected people. SWITCH Introduced to an artist who states that he is 'aroused by the human cats' SWITCH Lights flash - people chat -performers perform - introductions, 'come and meet...' 'come and meet...' - painting, sculpture, video, installation, mixed media, painting, sculpture SWITCH "I've just read your interview on UAL news page. Really interesting work!" SWITCH In the hotel exhausted and desperate for tea. Jools Holland is on TV and I need to sleep - the sound of the Last Shadow Puppets sends me on my way SWITCH Kings Cross 5.13am the cool greys of the morning play out a muted scene as a handful of early morning pastel figures navigate their way through my eye-line from the hotel window...although it's quiet now the air is pregnant with the hurly burly that will shortly ensue. My head tingling with a combination of fatigue and excitement...I need tea SWITCH Journey home and spent time making notes about a new 'custard pie' idea...public space I think!? SWITCH Recalled a conversation from last night with Roger "This new piece on slapstick? You're not going to hurt yourself are you?" I responded instantly "Hopefully yes...and then I thought I'd do it again, and again, and again." SWITCH Wedding anniversary coming up 16 years and I just love the girl absolutely love the girl SWITCH Twitter followers are growing from the show in London. Been asked to present to MA and PhD students in June and thinking of presenting something that starts now and works backwards to the very first germ of an idea I had in relation to a project on comedy AS IS NOW! SWITCH Quiet night listening to “Lady in Satin” I get along without you very well of course, I do – except perhaps in spring but I shouldn’t think of spring because that would surely break my heart in two SWITCH e-mail from Rina about the funding bid for the new work - can’t believe how good she is – level of support amazing. Summary notes about our discussion. A list of journals that you could publish in - we should have a talk in the future about putting the article together and choosing journals etc. You work in at least two subject areas: comedy, and performance practice. But your primary interest in comedy seems to be in its performatics (the study of performance). Three papers of mine, listed in order of recommended reading. They do touch on aspects we talked about. The third article is about violence, which is related to pain. Let me know how you get on. Best wishes, Rina SWITCH Remembering the first time I met Rina we talked about Weller and Morrissey…List of the Lost…all those great lyrics SWITCH Still working on costume for the new performances and sketching ideas SWITCH Break in Wales before the new month…Lampeter…swimming in sub-zero sea and feeling normal - this is what people do SWITCH It’s June tomorrow got up early and got a message from Cat Fuller with link to The Guardian report that Tesco’s limited edition Pink Vinyl pressing of The Jam’s ‘Sound Affects’ for Father’s Day has caused a nationwide scramble amongst the Jam army…never underestimate a Jam Fan! One Fan travelled 200 miles at 2am to get hold of a copy. Take Sonny to our local Tesco without any hope of securing a copy…SWITCH No-one here knows what they are missing! Delighted to acquire my pink version of one of the greatest set of songs ever committed to vinyl…”Oh baby I’m dreaming of Monday” SWITCH