Found things

I've just finished writing an application, and in the (incredibly long) application form, I had to define what it is that I do in my art practice. Weirdly, that isn't something you get asked a lot when you are an artist.

You are often explaining why you have done a particular thing, or what it is that you intend to do, but not what it is that you do. A general, rather than a specific question.

From what I wrote (it's all a blur right now, I've just pressed the send button...), and from the work that I submitted, I realise that a lot of my work is based on things that I find, rather than things that I create. Here is a little selection of my favorites. They are all from my website, but I haven't ever thought of them as similar before now.

 Eiffel Tower with Americans, colour photo, 2009

I saw these American tourists having a Segway tour in Paris. One of the group member's scooter wasn't working properly, and when they left she was left stranded in front of me.

 Martin Heidegger, Looking Suprised, scanned image, 2009

This is from a book on continental philosophy by Simon Critchley. The caption for the photo is sort of a philosophical joke. Well, I think it might be. I don't really understand Heidegger's philosophy, but I like the picture.

 Portrait of a Young Flying Tourist, colour photo, 2008

I saw this tourist staging this photo and managed to catch him as he jumped in the air. I was surprised at the good timing of my picture, I probably have a better photo than he does.

 Woman With Glasses (after Martin Creed), colour photo, 2008

I unloaded my bag on my bed, and realised that it had made a perfect little image.

 Fixed Shoes (Wooden Legs), colour photo, 2008

I was fixing my shoes (it didn't work) and had knocked up this informal arrangement to facilitate the (ultimately pointless) process.

 Pragmatic Sculpture, colour photo, 2007

I saw this bin arrangement in Tynemouth and thought it was both practical and ridiculous.

 Played by Gentlemen, colour photo, 2007

I don't know who kicked this football in to the sea, but I'm glad they did.

Spilled Lunchbox, colour photo, 2007

How many jam sandwiches can someone have about their person at any one time?

Builder's Merchant

I’ve been dreaming about it, or, it dreams me. A logo, three cylinders in a perpendicular projection. I’m not sure if this style of projection would ever be used for plans or designs. The front of the cylinders are circular and the lengths -the tubular parts of the cylinder - stick straight out sideways. It looks strange. Flat and depthless. Sort of impotent.

One day I’m walking past a builder’s merchant on the outskirts of the town in which I live. Next to the builder’s merchant, positioned over the pavement, but really aimed at the cars, is the sign that welcomes you in to the town - the official edge of the town is marked by this sign, and I’m thinking that I must have walked past this sign a lot, but not an incredible amount of times. Not like the amount of times that I’ve walked past, say, the road sign for the road that I live on. So maybe, one thousand times? A lot, building up over the years. But not regularly, but still a lot. Seven hundred to one thousand times? I think this every time I pass the sign.
I look to my right, towards the builder’s merchant, and I see the logo that I’ve been dreaming about, though it is only looking at the sign that alerts me to the dreams, if you see what I mean. I mean I haven’t ever remembered dreaming the logo, but as soon as I see the logo I know that I have been dreaming it.

The projection of the cylinders is more ridiculous than I remember, though I cannot be sure that I remember it clearly, seeing as I’ve only just realised that I’ve been dreaming this logo, and I suppose this image could have supplanted the image that I can’t quite recall but know that I have dreamt. But then how would it be more ridiculous than how I remember it? No. I must remember it, because it certainly does look more ridiculous. Laughable.

No matter. It must be of some importance so I decide to go inside. I go through the yard, past piles of timber and parked fork lift trucks. I go to the office and look inside. No one is around to speak to. I would ask them about the logo, who designed it maybe, or what it is meant to be. Probably just cement tubes, or scaffolding. The cylinders are too thick (in the logo) for them to be scaffolding. In one of the covered sheds (for really, a lot of the builder's merchant is just covered sheds, full of wood and metal and polystyrene sheeting and plastics) I can see some men talking, and I can vaguely hear a radio playing a song I can’t make out. I decide against approaching them. I look around to see if the logo is anywhere else in the builder’s merchant. It is not. It is only on the sign outside, next to the gate.

The whole idea of entering the builder’s merchant starts to feel pointless, there was never going to be anything of interest in here. I leave the yard and don’t even stop to look at the logo. I walk past here a lot. Not regularly, but a lot. I’ll come back another day.
I've been thinking about ideas for the artwork on the debut Dogtanion album, PSYCHOSES. The title and concept for the cover art is taken from a Buddy J. Finowicz novel I've read. The art work will be made up of pictures of me reading the book in a library.
  I was walking through Didsbury (a suburb of Manchester) and popped in to their library out of curiosity.

From the outside it looks like a tiny Neo-classical cathedral, but inside everything is 60s/70s utilitarian, with laminated A4 paper signs, tough wearing carpets and standard issue wooden chairs. This is how I remember libraries, full of plastic covered hardbacks and students and older men with shopping bags. This is the taste of nostalgia.

I want the pictures to look how reading a B.S Johnson novel feels: quiet rage, inadequate jumpers, thermos flasks and dissent. The overriding colour scheme is brown and no one speaks louder than a murmur. A time when public buildings were (begrudgingly) for everyone. Tramps escape the cold, drunks pretend to read the paper, the poor soak up free information and free heat. No more, libraries have changed in most places, especially London. Our new idea of inclusiveness is the internet and Idea Stores.

I can't afford to bring the photographer to Manchester, so I'll have to find an equivalent somewhere in London. Where should I begin?

Pineapple Chunks and Shoe Polish

I buy tinned pineapple chunks, and then I paint them black. Normally with shoe polish. Then, once the pineapple chunks are dry (which doesn't take as long as you'd think, as long as you follow the instructions on the polish i.e. dry the chunks before painting, in an airing cupboard or on a south facing windowsill, removed from juice), I put them back in the tin (sans-juice), reseal the tin and take them back to the shop.

I won't buy the shoe polish and the pineapple chunks in the same shop. No reason, really, but I do like to use new shoe polish each time, and it's best not to give them any way to establish a causal connection.

Once they are back on the shelf (it is actually quite easy to tell a resealed tin from a factory sealed tin, even though my equipment is catering grade) I tend to loiter around the tinned fruit section for a while, reposition my tin at the front of the stack, label first. I take a picture on my mobile phone, then email a copy to myself and erase the original photo. If no one has picked up my tin within the first half an hour, then I have to leave. I've established the amount of time you can stand in one section of a supermarket without the security starting to get suspicious; half an hour is definitely the upper limit. Normally, I'll take a walk around town, and pop in on my way back, just to check that it is still there. Often, if I've positioned it well, it will be gone. If so, I can go home and make a note of it on my Excel document. If it isn't, then I will return the next day, and on consecutive days, but only to check. I can loiter for half an hour, without the instantaneous appearance of a security guard, about every one and a half weeks (because of shift patterns, and security hand-over briefings and possible print outs from CCTV cameras of certain persons faces, and available space for said print outs on the security guard notice board in the little office with all the televisions).

I have only had a confirmed hit i.e. a viewed (by me) purchase, twice in the time that I have been doing this properly i.e. not just for a laugh, but seriously, with the spreadsheet and distribution pattern. Fairly early on, once in Morrison's and once in Waitrose. In Morrison's I found the resealed tin and stood there for two or three minutes max before someone came along and put it in their basket. I followed them to the tills, picked up some chewing gum and a copy of Take a Break (for Denise, but also by accident, and also because it had Tamzin Outhwaite on the cover, and I like Tamzin Outhwaite, always have.), and watched them pack the tin in to their bags. There was a problem at the tills once the lady had left, with the tin, and I had to wait for the girl behind the till so I didn't manage to follow the lady out of the shop. Once I had got to the exit, she had gone. Probably on the bus, or in a taxi. A lot of the poorer people get taxis from Morrison's, which I always find fascinating.

The other time, as I mentioned, was at Waitrose. I had loitered for my half an hour on the first day, come back for three days in a row for a check, and on the fourth day I arrived at the tinned fruit section (quite small in Waitrose) and thought the tin had gone. I moved a few tins around to look for mine (often it can be shuffled to the back by an overzealous assistant, rotating stock by sell by date) but it wasn't there. I looked down, and clocked the tin (the resealing is really quite obvious, if you know what you are looking for, but obviously, most people are looking at one tin at a time, and even if they are not, shop workers are either not bothered if they notice, or can't be bothered with the hassle of trying to remove stock from the shop floor and pointing out what is - once you take it up to middle management - quite an insignificant aesthetic problem) in the near empty basket of a man, about my height and build. He walked towards the checkout and I followed discreetly from behind. At the tills, I picked up some chewing gum and a paper (no Take a Breaks in Waitrose, well, not by the tills anyway) and put down a little plastic separator, to separate his shopping from my incidental purchases. I allowed myself a quick look at his face. He was looking about the shop, glancing at other customers and trying not to smile. I looked back down at the conveyor belt and saw three tins of pineapple chunks and a small round tin of black shoe polish.