27 May 2009


For my studio project, I put up some posters around the art school:

I lied about the duration and opening times. Most people who came to check it out were confronted with this, as were the people in my crit (hence my being called irritating):

Here's what the lucky few who did manage to get inside saw:

Admittedly, that's not entirely true. On the main wall, Nihil est has replaced this one:

That's because Gestural painting was selected by the winner of the prize draw:

I was very scrupulous about the prize draw. The entire class (well, those who'd bothered to show up) witnessed it, and a tutor who wasn't in the draw pulled the winning number from my hat. Unfortunately, I forgot to document it.

Oh yeah, I did wonder whether it was quite cricket to include old paintings, but thought 'fuck it, I want to see how they go together'.

20 May 2009

Improper artist

At my crit yesterday, I got called manipulative (for the third or fourth time) and irritating. When I met with my assessor afterwards, I got told that was not 'a real painter'. Excellent.

I was pretty pleased with the overall outcome. It went pretty well. My only disappointment was that the crit wasn't antagonistic enough. I did manage to get some digs in, though I forgot to quote Kinski.

Oh well, I've got some ideas for the next one.

19 May 2009

NSRU1 on the radio

If you missed hearing Neoteric Sound Research Unit No. 0001's 'Dread the future' on Rose's radio show tonight, you can download the podcast from here.

18 May 2009

Time for some Kinski

I've got a crit tomorrow, you see. Got to be properly prepared!

17 May 2009

Neoteric Sound Research Unit No. 0001

neoteric Rare ~adj. 1. belonging to a new fashion or trend, modern: a neoteric genre. ~n. 2. a new writer or philosopher. [C16: via Late Latin from Greek neoterikos young, fresh, from neoteros younger, more recent, from neos new, recent] – neoterically adv.

Yesterday, we had a recording session in preparation for the final hand-in for our sound art course. You can see photos here and here, and read an objective assessment of the resulting recordings here. We swapped instruments around during the day, and I played the guitar (using a hessian bag and a drumstick), the violog (using a tennis ball and my fingernails), and the animal keyboard (using violence).

Our hand-in will take the form of playing the recording on Rose's radio show at 7pm on Tuesday.

12 May 2009

Futurist presentation

I did my presentation lying on my back on the floor:

I want to begin with a story. Like all stories, it is a simplified and artificial construction.

Once upon a time, you could reasonably expect to live the same sort of life as your grandparents, and indeed as your grandparents’ grandparents. Society changed – the 17th century was obviously different to the 7th century – but it changed slowly, not so as you’d notice during your lifetime.

Then, all of a sudden, there was the Industrial Revolution, and all these new things appeared that had never before been seen in the world and that fundamentally changed people’s relationship to the world. Steam engines meant that we had significantly more power available to us than provided by wind and water and muscles. Electric light abolished the distinction between night and day. Accurate clocks meant that the day and night could be regimented. Telegraphy meant communications could travel faster, much faster, than by horse or ship. For the first time ever, the world was transforming before people’s eyes. Some people deplored this, and others embraced it. But no-one embraced it more than the Futurists.

In a lot of ways, Futurism was the first proper avant-garde movement. It set the model for all future avant-garde manifestations. It had all four features that Renato Poggioli, in his book ‘The theory of the avant-garde’, identified as defining an avart-garde movement:

1. alienation from bourgeois capitalist society
2. activism and antagonism towards the public and public institutions, especially official and academic art
3. a fundamental break with the past in favour of revolutionary utopianism
4. self-consciousness as an elite vanguard of the future.

However, Futurism did not spring fully formed like Athena from Zeus’s brow. It was influenced by Symbolism and Decadence, and particularly by the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Here are a couple of quotes from ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’:

'And I bade them overthrow their old academic chairs and wherever the old conceit had sat; I bade them laugh at their great masters of virtue and saints and poets and world-redeemers. I bade them laugh at their gloomy sages and at whoever had at any time sat on the tree of life as a black scarecrow.'

'O my brothers, I dedicate and direct you to a new nobility: you shall become the procreators and cultivators and sowers of the future ... Not whence you come shall henceforth constitute your honour, but whither you are going!'

Let us compare this with Marinetti’s ‘The founding and manifesto of Futurism’:

‘It is from Italy that we launch through the world this violently upsetting incendiary manifesto of ours. With it, today, we establish Futurism, because we want to free this land from its smelly gangrene of professors, archaeologists, ciceroni and antiquarians. For too long has Italy been a dealer in second-hand clothes. We mean to free her from the numberless museums that cover her like so many graveyards.


‘So let them come, the gay incendiaries with charred fingers! Here they are! Here they are!... Come on! set fire to the library shelves! Turn aside the canals to flood the museums!... Oh, the joy of seeing the glorious old canvases bobbing adrift on those waters, discoloured and shredded!... Take up your pickaxes, your axes and hammers and wreck, wreck the venerable cities, pitilessly!

‘The oldest of us is thirty: so we have at least a decade for finishing our work. When we are forty, other younger and stronger men will probably throw us in the wastebasket like useless manuscripts—we want it to happen!’

This work, this assault on tradition and the past, was all-embracing. There was Futurist painting, Futurist sculpture, Futurist literature, Futurist architecture ... and, of course, Futurist music.

The first manifesto to deal with Futurist music was by the composer Balilla Pratella, who was by all accounts fairly conventional. In his manifesto, we come across the usual Futurist rhetoric, but nothing truly revolutionary.

It was (of course) a painter, Luigi Russolo, who came up with the truly revolutionary approach to music, one that is as valid today as it was then (incidentally, the form of musical notation Russolo developed for his compositions is apparently still used). As he put it:

‘I am not a musician, I have therefore no acoustical predilections, nor any works to defend. I am a Futurist painter using a much loved art to project my determination to renew everything. And so, bolder than a professional musician could be, unconcerned by my apparent incompetence and convinced that all rights and possibilities open up to daring, I have been able to initiate the great renewal of music by means of the Art of Noises.’

The name of his manifesto gives us a clue to his insight. He wanted to extend the concept of music from precisely ordered sounds produced by instruments to the noises of the modern city. He wrote:

‘Let us cross a great modern capital with our ears more alert than our eyes, and we will get enjoyment from distinguishing the eddying of water, air and gas in metal pipes, the grumbling of noises that breathe and pulse with indisputable animality, the palpitation of valves, the coming and going of pistons, the howl of mechanical saws, the jolting of a tram on its rails, the cracking of whips, the flapping of curtains and flags. We enjoy creating mental orchestrations of the crashing down of metal shop blinds, slamming doors, the hubbub and shuffling of crowds, the variety of din, from stations, railways, iron foundries, spinning wheels, printing works, electric power stations and underground railways.’

Russolo’s is not a simple concept. The idea is not to imitatively reproduce noises. Noises may take their inspiration from machines and the modern city, but they are to be new sounds in their own right:

‘The variety of noises is infinite. If today, when we have perhaps a thousand different machines, we can distinguish a thousand different noises, tomorrow, as new machines multiply, we will be able to distinguish ten, twenty, or thirty thousand different noises, not merely in a simply imitative way, but to combine them according to our imagination.’

The machines have multiplied, and it is up to us to combine them. We are the future! Future is now!

Then I played them some. That and some other selections from this.

10 May 2009

Futurism and Shriekback

I'm having trouble preparing for a presentation I'm to give on Tuesday on the Futurist manifesto 'The Art of Noises' by Luigi Russolo, famous for his noise machines:

For some reason, reading Futurist manifestos reminds me of Shriekback:

Shriekback are still going (though this appears to be a work in progress rather than a finished video):

07 May 2009

Quote of the day

My uncle's lapses into insobriety had no vice about them, they were purely therapeutic. The fact is he was following a new regime for perfect health, much in vogue at the time, he assured us, on the Continent.

'The aim is to warm up your glands with a series of jolts. The worst thing in the world for the body is to settle down and lead a quiet little life of regular habits; if you do that it soon resigns itself to old age and death. Shock your glands, force them to react, startle them back into youth, keep them on tip-toe so that they never know what to expect next, and they have to keep young and healthy to deal with all the surprises.'
– Nancy Mitford, Love in a cold climate
visitors since 29 March 2004.