Monday, August 31, 2009

Consemble: EFGC2 Concluded

Midnight the 31st August 2009 sees the conclusion of the second round of Consemble licences:
Consemble E: 'soul electric'
Consemble F: 'washed up on your island'
Consemble G: 'sky writing'
and the continuation (second licence):
Consemble C2: 'the idea of voice'

Consemble has been a great success this year with an even wider range of contributors (particularly due to my networking through NetNewMusic and OPENFluxus). I'm very encouraged by this and am considering how to develop Consemble even further.

Over 43 contributors have taken part and although the licences are now closed to the general public I am going to invite participation from a few key people (with a deadline of Saturday 24th Oct.) - I will then issue a newsletter and another blog article.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Since I am on holiday with Teo, here's a stamp of our recent collaborative painting (blackberry, redcurrant, lime, melon).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Proposition (Cherry; Raspberry) v

Above is an edited snapshot of the painting, now dry. Not completely finished, as I am going to paint the edges, but nevertheless a version of the 'finished' work.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Proposition (Cherry; Raspberry) iv

A cherry vocano with a large raspberry seed prominence.

A serrated coastal edge boardering two large, deep red territories. To the South West, a paler ravine harbouring clearer crystal structures.

A weather of changes soon...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

On the Use and Abuse of Random

> How random are you?

Rowntrees recently released some sweets in the UK called 'Randoms' - part of the ad campaign runs: 'what makes them so unique is that contain four different textures, six fruit flavours and 258 different shape and colour combinations. With shapes as diverse as a monkey, cupcake, acorn, shuttlecock, palm tree and even a pair of y-fronts! This really is variety like never before'.

There seems to be the beginnings of a trend within manufacturing to drawn on the influence of generative systems to produce variety. Recently, faber and faber commissioned some book designs that
are unique for every copy: 'Faber Finds generative book covers'

Of course, I hope this trend continues.

However, what I really want to write about here is a recent linguistic development in the UK. I first noticed it amongst my students but you now hear it in advertising, on radio, even the BBC news: namely the use of random as an adjective. Previously, there have been legitimate occasions for this: you often hear something like 'I made a random decision' - although the alternative 'I made a decision at random' sounds more elegant to me. What I am highlighting though are phrases such as 'a random man came up to me' or 'wow, that experience was completely random'.

You can have fun with the first example: I imagine a 'random man' as one whose clothes magically keep changing - now he's wearing a deerstalker with a red suit, now a bowler with speedos etc. What is meant used to be said as 'a man came up to me at random'. The meaning of the second example is quite hard to capture exactly but runs something like 'I had a strange/unexpected/disorientating experience.'

Part of me (the grumpy old man part) deplores this use of 'random' -but I'm mindful of the kind of discussions in Stephen Pinker's book 'The Language Instinct' so perhaps the language is changing and I have to learn to live with it. One aspect I can challenge though is, perhaps, a philosophical one: the assumption that the notion of randomness is straightforward.

Let me give some examples of how it is not.

The first one is close to home: in Parallel Music, as a form of short-hand, I describe it as drawing on computer random number generation to provide the indeterminacy. In actual fact, computers use pseudo-random number generation, as there will always be a slight numerical bias in the output. Also, within this system, the possibilities of different versions are very large but not infinite: given enough time, one could hear all the possible permutations of a piece of PMusic.

Secondly, to what extent is the phrase 'I chose a colour at random' actually true? Ever since discussions of the unconscious mind, we have become aware of the possibility of mental events beyond our control (or at least, recognition) influencing our behaviour. And nowadays we are increasingly aware of the importance of our genetic heritage as a contributing factor in our lives. Therefore can we ever truly make a random decision? Did the man really come up to you at random?

What I really don't like in much of the recent use of the word random is the implication of a certain passivity, a lack of responsibility: 'Oh the world's all random so you can't get involved; this random man blew up a bus; politics is all totally random' etc.

Well this random man is telling you: it's not as random as you think.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Proposition (Cherry; Raspberry) iii

Another miserable day weather-wise, the complete opposite of the spirit of this painting, Summery and playful.

Added more layers today and attended to the edges of the colours, although I am waiting for the central stripe to dry (pink with blue) before I fill in the remaining white. Although not shown in this photo, I have now filled in the top left of this painting which unfortunately overlaid some delicate blue pink crystals - which is why I am being careful to preserve them in the centre, if possible.

Working in this way one is never fully in control so you have to be prepared to accept the changes as they occur. I've tried to adopt an improvisational frame of mind working on this piece to bridge the gap between experiment and control - not an easy balance but at the moment I think things are developing well: I get a certain charge when looking at this painting, showing some of the possibilities of cherry and raspberry in terms of colour and texture. The salt both preserves and crystalizes - in many senses of this word.

This is the first fruit painting I've made which fully draws on my previous fascination with geologic-type layering. I'm particularly interested in what happens at the edges of the layers, the connecting 'micro' layers with their small details - food for 'small looking' (more of which later).

Monday, August 03, 2009

Proposition (Cherry; Raspberry) ii

Typically uninspiring English weather this Monday; a constructive day nevertheless.

Spent the morning planning out the Fine Art stage 1 Critical Studies programme with my colleague Sarah. We are trying to get the balance right between covering what we believe to be important areas (politics, semiology, feminism, psychoanalysis etc.) while appreciating that many students are encountering these topics for pretty much the first time. Lectures therefore need to be broad and inspiring without compromising the complexities that arise. Not easy, but I believe we made some progress.

Especially in our discussion of Prog Rock*.

Added some more to the painting and noticed that crystals didn't begin to form until around 12.30pm i.e. about twenty four hours from initial making (see below) -which goes to show that even with central heating, these things can't be hurried.

Looking forward to adding more lines to complete the surface when the first ones have dried.

*BBC recently screened a program on so-called 'Prog Rock' which we both enjoyed but found rather contentious.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Proposition (Cherry; Raspberry)

Above is the prepared canvas, primed with a white emulsion/pva mix, with diagonal strips of faun matt paper, photo gloss paper and some yellow cartridge paper glued to the surface. The joins are unimportant as my intention is to eventually cover the entire canvas in fruit/salt solution.

Here are the initial stages of painting; I'm using dark cherry and two varieties of raspberry: one redish and one with a more pinkish hue (at least when wet). I'm going to allow these first applications to begin to dry before adding more material, this evening or tomorrow.

Culturally, cherries and raspberries are an unusual combination - not impossible to assemble, but like most fruits each having its own separate world.


Talking of unusual combinations here's 'Stardust' and 'Black Coffee' by the lovely Sarah Vaughan being stirred together in the cup of chance by Jim Andrews: Stardust & Black Coffee

Saturday, August 01, 2009


Well June (Joon) melted into July melting into August.

Teo arrives next week and I can't wait.

Been ill for a sustained period now -but thankfully feeling better even as I type. Going to do a Lightning Technique course soon, so will report on its effects. Have noticed good quality of sleep really makes a positive difference. This year has been a slog, though, so far.

Degree Show has been and gone, but with a group of students continuing to show their work at the gallery, 30 Vyner Street, London from 6th to 16th August. Go and see some beautiful work.

Have had many more submissions from Consemblers including Ted Houghtaling, Emma Payne from fedbybirds, Steve Moshier (excerpts from his 'Brief Encounters'), Cem Gurney, Jukka-Pekka Kervinen and Dave Dellafiora: 'Hi Paul, you should get the cd in a few days as it was sent last week. As I said before please feel free to cut the music up. The method used was one I copied from one of the autistic guys I work with, playing youtube with a number of windows open, all playing at once and rolling back the sound almost like scratching effect.'

-and more, with more sounds promised!

Painting has focussed on exploring the effect of using different papers (often to make birthday cards for family and friends). Have recently been using gloss printing papers and matt card with cherry, raspberry, blackberry and strawberry salt solutions. In fact, I'm all ready to go with a prepared canvas this evening. In fact, the reason I am writing this blog is to escape from the noise of kids outside my flat so I can pass the time until they disperse. In fact, they're gone now...
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