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I took a walk across town yesterday, south to Kreuzberg. My friend Michael Schoenke had invited me over to watch the European Championship match between Germany and Portugal. The game didn’t start until 8.45pm so apart from that kick-off time I was free of a niggling deadline for what felt like the first time this year.

The pressurised state of affairs, prior to yesterday had been mounting since September 2011, when along with Katharine Eastman, Brigitte Schiller and Helen Schumann I had begun work on the PuppCast Project in the Schilling Schule Neukolln. It is impossible to give a quick summary of what this project was and why it became so stressful for everyone working on it, so I will simply say that the pressure came from setting ourselves the task of making a weekly broadcast with a different class from the school and trying to sustain this throughout the year.

On Friday we presented a 2 hour programme of the filmed broadcasts to the pupils, teachers and a representative from the Berlin Senate. With that, our work was finally done.

What follows is the introduction.

Hanno straightened up. He rubbed one hand over the piano’s polished surface, gave a shy look at the company, and somewhat emboldened by the Grandmamma and Aunt Tony, brought out, in a low, almost a hard voice: “ The Shepherd’s Sunday Hymn by Uhland.”

“Oh, my dear child, not like that,” called out the Senator. “Don’t stick there by the piano and cross your hands on your tummy like that! Stand up! Speak out! That’s the first thing. Here, stand here between the curtains. Now, hold your head up – let your arms hang down quietly at your sides.”………

……………………………………………… “ This is the day of our- “ he (Hanno) began very low. His father’s voice sounded loud by contrast when he interrupted: “One begins with a bow, my son. And then much louder. Begin again, please : Shepherd’s Sunday Hymn,” encouragingly, remorselessly.

But it was all up with Hanno……………..”I stand alone on the vacant plain,” he said but could get no further.

In this short extract from Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks we find a perfect example of what the PuppCast project is not.

The aim of the Puppcast project was to put learning at its core and this was possible through the wide range of different media used. We could only find out through doing what worked and what didn’t. Unlike Thomas Buddenbrooks chiding his son, the PuppCast project could only learn through collaboration and cooperation between everyone involved. We had no prescriptive answers and could only reach a broadcast with both each class and each pupil by a week or two of intense, challenging yet enjoyable work together.

So at the conclusion of the Project we wish to thank the Schilling Schule Leaders and …..

………. But most of all the pupils and especially those who were ready to grasp this opportunity and who now through their trust and openness are allowing others to share their unique view on the world.

Link: http://www.schillingschule.de/index.php/allgemein/puppcast

Two of our prints were selected for this year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

1) Austerity Measure

We knew our Credit Crunch edition was good, but we had no idea it would grace the pages of the Financial Times, be certified by a Central London accounting firm, and accepted by the Royal Academy.

Now the Summer Exhibition features its sibling; our Austerity Measure. This silkscreen print on 2mm greyboard was lasercut. It features unhinged economic phrases gleaned from Radio 4 over the last few years (thank you Robert Peston). When the financial system crashes it isn’t just the solid things; even language melts into thin air.

Austerity Measure
Henningham Family Press
2011
Edition 50
Screenprint and Lasercut on 2mm greyboard
46 x 35 cm
£180 (£320 framed)

Contact Summer Exhibition Sales Desk: 0207 300 5683


2) Kilnsea: In Obsolescence

“James Hobbs took two adjacent frames from a 16mm film that captures the turbulent tide at Kilnsea… and enlarged and reproduced them as a cyanotype. Two identical diagrams have been overlaid in a hot silver foil.” Art Review

James Hobbs
Kilnsea: In Obsolescence
Cyanotype with silver foil debossing on 400gsm Arches Aquarelle
Edition of 50
£120 (£230 framed)

Contact Summer Exhibition Sales Desk: 0207 300 5683

James’ print is one of three editions we commissioned and exhibited at Christie’s Auction House, to be available individually or as part of a 9 x 5in cloth-bound portfolio entitled ODDE. Find out more here.

Royal Poster (left aligned) by Henningham Family Press (below) was also shortlisted for this year’s hang.

Conlon Nancarrow at Purcell Room

April 22nd, 2012 | Posted by David in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Yesterday we took the rare opportunity to see and hear some of  Conlon Nancarrow’s studies for player-piano at the Southbank Centre. Nancarrow punched his own music rolls, writing music that suited the technology itself, rather than simply using it to approximate a professional pianist. The machine in action was something like a life-support machine with all its pistons, pneumatics and paper cylinders.  I hope it doesn’t get relegated to the basement now SBC own it. I hope we’ll see Nancarrow appearing in their general programming.

Here is an extract from a poem of mine that makes mention of Nancarrow. It will appear in a book we’ll be publishing next month. (It is his centenary year, so I’m sure we’ll be hearing more of him). The poem is a reported monologue from a fireworks display designer who has been commissioned to make a display set to Nancarrow’s avant-garde music.

Green Man Interchange

‘I am profoundly movedby the thought,’
says my companion,
‘That Belisha,
himself a Jewish émigré,
should be so concerned with the welfare of
British children as
they cross the roads
in the Mainland and
Her territories.

And is the zebra crossing not inextricably linked
with the safe passage of the Children of Israel through the Sea?
And is the pillar of fire not an antetype of our Belisha Beacon?
And have you noticed that each keeps its own time?
Is this not a mischevious rebellion
against the tyrranical regimes that girded the globe
at the time of their genesis?
A thaw in the Atomic Age?
And indeed; a defiant mien against the tyrrany of the stars!
The Atomic Clock is lax next
to the relentless pulsar.
All of deep space has synchronised like clocks that share a hallway.
But not so the Earth and Her Belisha Beacons.

These things call me to question my trade.
Do I serve the enemy? (I am speaking of physics).
Is it true that the titilating   jouissance of fireworks;
the golden spermatazoa of Zeus’ holy groin
spread liberally in the night sky with much fizzing;
it all seems to point to a joyful abandonment of time pieces.
But mark my words!
This is the closest point of contact
between warfare and the entertainment industry!
A barrage on the public!
A barrage on the public place!
A barrage on the public purse!
A circus purchased with bread!

All comedy belongs to the fifth column.
Comics occupy the column inches,
they make us laugh at things that are not funny.
At least the working man once mocked his Mother-in-Law
but stoked vengeance at the coalface.

But I am speaking of fireworks;
Since when was entropy fit for children’s parties?
They illuminate all discredited things!
In truth,’
says my companion,
‘I face a most arduous commission:
for the centenary of the birth of Nancarrow,
an American of the Avant Garde,
A display set to his music (of the most peculiar order,
it is not what I call melody.)
It has become clear as I plot this on my laptop computer
that my composition must be of his calibre, even.
There is guile in his manuscript that the 1812 Overture does not demand;
nobody requires that the fireworks be anything more than illustrative.
But with Nancarrow the silence is as much a part of the music as the notes.
And here the dark must be as competently arranged as the light.
And here we approach the paradox at the heart of fireworks:

The inequality between the speed of sound and light.

Let me explain,’
says my companion,
‘With what will the music synchronise?
The flash of light on your retina or
the tapping of the hammer and the stirrup and the drum?
This appears to be a small problem at first, I know,’
says my companion,
‘But it soon grows to occupy the whole mind
as a kind of anxiety
in my line of work.
It is the difference between sound and sense,
the myth of the mind in the body,
the heart of all dischord
Babel,
Quatre Bras,
Kursk
(Never forget;
the greatest gatherings of tongues have always been on the battlefields!)
and the problem of the individual in the State,
the child and the Motherland,
don’t ask me which is which,
I simply mean the impossibility of reconciling things.
Something has to give.
Some things will never suffer destruction.
And people ooh and aah at this?
It is no more surprising than the fact of the gladiatorial games
I suppose.
In its day, the tower of Babel was only two storeys high.

I feel a kinship,’
says my companion,
‘This being N’s dilemma;
An insignificant man, bereft of funding and column inches,
never young and foolish;
a threat between the buttering of toast and his bedtime toilet.
His arrangement of notes on the page raised questions
in the Department of State.
Friendless in Mexico
he turned to the player piano,
(they have more fingers anyway).
I can well imagine a dead planet, where
the missing pianists only remain as a tendency towards ten notes at a time.
He set out to increase the tempo of the revolutions of time,
tending towards the human hand.

I need a new firework for my arsenal,
one of refinement.
I am currently killing time,
but I will drive until evening,’
says my companion,
‘And arrive just after nightfall at the wholesaler.
They will greet me with a nod and
a cup of decaf tea
and they will collapse a neutron star for my benefit.
I am talking of a display, for one, of a single firework.
I will pass judgement on its melancholy embers.

Can we call time on this fiction tonight?

I would love to tell that old alchemist that base metals
indeed turn into gold.
But only in a dying star over an immense passage of time.

We should indeed preserve our Uranium.

Hello Friends,

Tomorrow we’ll be doing an opening spot with regular HFP collaboratee James Wilkes at a monthly event called POLYply.

We will be representing a project called Special Works School, revisiting the WW1 camouflage school that existed in Kensington Gardens, where Fine Artists trained in the aesthetics of subterfuge.

We will be road testing three pieces for three voices, woven as seamlessly together as a camouflage net,

  • SWS slides from the Imperial War Museum archives
  • Wilke’s ‘Runners and Risers’
  • extracts from HFP’s ‘An Unknown Soldier’

There won’t be any live printing in this show, so you don’t need to wear one of your Dad’s old shirts.

POLYply
Centre for Creative Collaboration
16 Acton Street
London WC1X 9NG

Nearest tube: King’s Cross
Buses: 17, 45 & 46

Thurs 19th April 2012
7pm
FREE

I lost an hour somewhere
But it’s that time of year

I once wrote a song in half an hour it was called Clocks.* I remember trying to write down everything I was thinking from quarter to until quarter past 12 on the night winter officially turned into spring. That was in 1981, upstairs in the small middle bedroom of my family home in Glenrothes, Scotland and 30 years on I have just gained an hour as I begin typing this text in the front room of a 4th floor flat in Mitte, Berlin.

The Clocks went back last night and I know at 5.30pm today it will be dark outside and shortly after I will have given up work for the day. I used to be really good at working through the night but over the past decade that has become increasingly rare for me. I can’t claim it has something to do with a technical or artistic need for daylight, it feels more like my head has filled up at a much earlier point in the day, too cluttered to try and build or say anything of use. Better to do something else and then see what I can offer the next stretch of daylight.

One of the last late night studio sessions I can remember was just before I moved to London in 2001. I was sorting through drawings and paintings to chuck out or store and keep, in a large attic studio in Stockbridge Edinburgh that I shared with 6 other painters. Around 1.30am I was stirred by the creaking sound of the heavy side door being opened and while trying to convince myself that there was nothing to be afraid of Graham suddenly appeared, standing between the plasterboard partitions to my space. Graham had had a studio in the building long before I had moved in, over the years there had been lengthy periods where he would not come in and when he did he would be argumentative, temperamental and erratic for a few weeks and then disappear again. We had always been on friendly terms though, maybe due to a mutual liking of German Lieder, particularly Schubert’s Winterreise. I had not seen him in the studio for months and entering my space he said how surprised he was to see me and then told about the singing he was doing at the time and how he had some free time coming up to get back into the studio. I told him what I was up to and he was genuinely thrilled. He then went into his own space and several hours passed with us both pushing paper and stuff around, now and again punctuating the night time with raised-voice, snippets of small-talk and songs thrown back and forth. I can’t fully remember how we parted. I know we wished each other success with future plans and I left first around 5am. Working through the night more or less stopped for me around then, the final clearing and moving out of the studio was done during the day and once in London my work and hours changed completely. Ten months after the move and just a few months before I began an MA at the Slade school of Art I received an email from a friend at the Edinburgh Studios. Graham was dead in broad day light he had run and vaulted from the Waverly Bridge.

A loud splash jolts me awake in the bath, for the umpteenth time the book I’m reading has slipped from my hands. I experienced two firsts this summer, listening to Test Match Special in Berlin and reading Marcel Proust.

I hardly ever read fiction and the decision to read a Marcel Proust book came from the countless references to him in the non-fiction I have read in recent years. I struggled through the first 60 pages of Swann’s way that are without a single chapter break but following that I felt myself simply travelling through the words as the pages continued to turn. I began to suspect that the drowsy wanderings, common to my reading, had been somehow anticipated by the author and carefully tailored into the pages; I am not sure how many others have experienced this with the book but on beginning to read a section I would slowly and progressively drift off while still being engaged with the text. After a while, I would never know how long, I would receive a jolt, the book falling from my hands, a bang or car screech, always at that point I would suddenly soar, all faculties flying back into the book at a crucial point of the narrative. I know that this sounds like a normal reaction whenever one reads a boring or difficult book but unlike the times I have dropped off and finally given up trying to read a book I have found dull, the drowsiness and distance I experienced reading Swan’s way always served to enrich and deepen my understanding of the book and I would argue, possibly more than if I had read it without the wanderings. I also noted an odd equation that would reckon with the number of pages read to the length of each session of reading, whether in the bath, lying on the Sofa or sitting at the bar on the corner. Although I would have consumed a dense sod of information and although I would have been reading for 2 or 3 hours I would have only moved on 3 to 5 pages.

Via the internet the late summer Test Match between England and India entered my summer and the peculiar time zone already set up by Marcel Proust. Since moving to Berlin I have tried to limit my listening of English speaking Radio, apart from not wishing to become a little Britain ex-pat I find it detrimental to learning German when I hear to too much English being spoken. This makes the audio monster that is Test Match special; 8 hours of air time per day, 5 days per match, 5 matches per summer, an obvious beast to avoid. I managed not to listen to it in my first two years in Berlin and I am not sure what changed this year, whether I relaxed, feeling I was hearing German a lot better or whether I just felt demoralised by it.

My relationship to cricket goes back to growing up in Lancashire. In summer everyone played cricket at a wicket chalked on a dustbin or wall. I could see a cricket ball well and had reasonably good timing to bat it and my mother showed me how to ball using the seam of the leather cricket ball. Sunday League cricket commentary droned from the telly once a week accompanied by the crowds late afternoon Thwaites’s slur version of the Chicory tip song, Son of my father. Oh Lanky Lanky LankyLankyLankyLanky Lankyshire.

When I moved to Scotland I moved away from cricket and it was almost 20 years later that I first heard test match special. My friend, fellow artist and at that time flat mate, Keith Grant had the broadcast mulching out of an old valve Roberts Radio in his room as he worked. That summer I was engulfed in a rich mix of oil paint and good coffee smells and entranced by Brian Johnston’s radio commentary and Keith’s enthusiasm for a young 5 foot 5 Indian batsman called Sachin Tendulkar. Over that summer I observed that every day of a test match a long wave audio hum would begin sounding at mid morning and suddenly stop around one o’clock, followed by Keith hurriedly leaving the flat still putting his jacket on. Returning shortly after he would hastily prepare his lunch and a fresh pot of coffee and take it directly to his room, seconds later the Radio hum would return and continue until early evening. I learned from this how Test match special provided an entertaining yet strict framework for an artist’s working day and some years on I would also use it as the perfect studio companion. On test match days I would do all the talking, reading and phoning I had to do that morning before 10.45am and then from start of play at 11 o’clock I would work while fixed at the radio in the studio until close of play at 6.30pm. Practically the match commentary allows for lunch and a couple of drink breaks but equally important it provides a conceptual echo to the visual job of the painter through the daily 8 hours of audio that works with and shapes time. Of course it keeps you informed of the match score but It would be no exaggeration to say that the game of cricket often becomes secondary to the TMS commentary particularly in the sections of play where nothing appears to be happening. This point was highlighted a few years back when they received an email from someone in New York who had been addicted to the programme for years but had no idea or interest of what sport was being played. Commentary of the winter tests can often take the notion of time to ever stranger heights as it links continents, Australia, India, Asia and the West Indies. Listening through a dark December night in northern Europe to the live buzz and business of a summer’s day’s play in Melbourne or Adelaide draws you magically into the warmth and light before having to re-live the same hours later that day in your cold dark land. On occasions I have longed for a test match to not just last for five days but to go on forever, I could see myself up there focussed and working, supported by the batsman Michael Atherton, stubbornly protecting his wicket day in and day out.

At the height of my test match special listening Michael Atherton was the England captain and opening batsman he was a great occupier of the crease and a big hero of mine, I loved the way he would diligently stick to the job in hand however boring that may have appeared to some TV viewers. At the tail end of his Test career England plummeted to be ranked as the lowest rated test nation. This summer things had turned full circle as 12 years on the voices of Jonathan Agnew, Phil Tufnell, Sunil Gavaskar and others filled the Berlin flat with news of consecutive English Test wins, which now ranked them number one. My summer listening slowly faded out with a 38 year old, 5 foot 5 Indian Batsman called Sachen Tandulka leaving the field in England probably for the last time.

I began writing this text as summer officially ended on Sunday 6th November 2011 so it is now taken a month to complete, a far cry from the days of my half hour ditty. Last weekend I visited my mother in hospital in Accrington. To do this and get back to Manchester Airport for a Sunday evening flight I travelled a loop of my childhood Lancashire towns, Blackburn, Rishton, Oswaldtwistle, Preston and Bolton. As the plane touched down in Berlin the passengers were informed of the local time prompting me and several others to put our watches forward an hour even though this is not meant to officially happen until Sunday the 11th of March 2012.

* recorded by Good and Gone in 1987. Click here to listen (track 3).

Click thumbnail to view image. All pictures taken by Julie Rafalski. Thank you Julie!

Wow, what started out as an experiment for Half-handed Cloud and the HFP became a totally SOLD OUT show! The email was ringing off the hook, there were people outside hoping to get in.. and those who did get in really made it a fantastic night for us by jumping in with both feet and braving a barrage of signs and music.

We began in the vestry, where punters passed through two halves of a covenant heifer to receive the first screenprint of the limited edition poster. A parade followed, through processional spaces to a brightly lit chapel. After this first set we emerged into a dark church where, behold, the poster was glowing in the dark! Lights on, and a picnic was laid out and the second print was done. More lights and the rest of the church was revealed, and our team of uniformed ushers transformed into a full band to play a set of new songs.

Thank you to all who came and made it a great night. And thank you to the band (L2R): Kerry Yong, Ping (hfp), Efe, John Ringhofer (HhC), Gavin Wright, Jon Haines, David (hfp) and Gaby Haines. More pictures and video will follow!

Leading art magazine Art Review has highlighted a stunning print we commissioned from James Hobbs in their January/February edition, in a section entitled “Now Buy This”.

James Hobbs took two adjacent frames from a 16mm film that captures the turbulent tide at Kilnsea… and enlarged and reproduced them as a cyanotype. Two identical diagrams have been overlaid in a hot silver foil. (Oliver Basciano)

James Hobbs
Kilnsea: In Obsolescence
Cyanotype with silver foil debossing on 400gsm Arches Aquarelle
Edition of 50
£120

James’ print is one of three editions we commissioned and exhibited at Christie’s Auction House. The prints are available individually or as part of a 9 x 5in cloth bound portfolio entitled ODDE.

Julie Rafalski’s screenprint series ‘Some People from the Encyclopaedia of Architecture’ crop out the grand projects and restore the humanity of the people who were intended only for scale. (note: There are five different images in Julie’s edition. Click here to view them all).

Lisa Peachey applied successive waves of screenprint, including portraits of her own eyes, in this meditation on truth and seeing.  The blind debossing ‘Look You, This is a True Story’ titles the print and adds a tongue-in-cheek stamp of authority.

The first 20 of all three editions are available as a set in this beautiful cloth bound portfolio for £276.

Last year we became involved with a number of artists and writers in the Special Works School project, founded by James Wilkes and Heather Ring. It’s a collaboration based on a camouflage school based in South Ken during WW1. The first publication (published by Special Works School) has been accepted by Kandinsky Library, Centre Pompidou through the efforts of member Manu Luksch. It includes a version of the Trench (Bold, Italic) print recast for offset litho and digital print, which is based on dazzle ship technology.

Two of our screenprints have just been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum for their permanent collection.

Royal Poster (left aligned) and Imperial Poster (fully justified), are both works from our An Unknown Soldier series, which mediatates on the meaning of a memorial to an unknown soldier in the age of DNA testing. Does he now embody our desire to ignore the past, rather than remember?

We used three bespoke fonts to evoke the anatomy of trench warfare and, using old-fashioned paper sizes, we alluded to call-up posters, papers, and martial instruction manuals. The block letters are topped with patterns redolent of security envelopes. Royal Poster (Left Aligned) is red and silver on turquoise paper and reads, ‘Thee must hebeas n corpus fur tet corps un see’, roughly translated, ‘you must have a body for this body of men, I see’. The fluorescent yellow, cyan and silver Imperial Poster (fully justified) reads ‘Let nuh great unborn pre-empt nuh dead’.

As well as the National Art Library, the V&A Museum has a wonderful study room where people can look at the extensive collection of prints and drawings without an appointment. You can tell as soon as you walk into the Sackler Centre that this is an institution engrossed in contemporary artistry and craftsmanship, with a thriving events programme.

Many of our prints and publications have been acquired by major collections:

Tate
University College London
Chelsea College of Art
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Winchester School of Art
De Bijloke, Ghent
Trykkeriet, Bergen

and now the Victoria and Albert Museum, ensuring that however poorly we maintain our toaster, our work will avoid destruction.