It’s complicated (part 3) – crossing thresholds and the scrapheap challenge – #BolamAt60 #BolamProspective

On the scapheap.

Here’s the game plan. This might sound coherently planned but that is not the way I work at all. I use the full-body immersion technique; I throw myself into whatever it is I think that I’m doing at the time and then thrash about in the murk for however long it takes me to work out what I am doing, allow myself to float up to the surface and skim off whatever scum has accumulated on the surface.

Sounds random but it works for me. Kinda.

I was talking to a friend / fellow artist recently and she described how she makes a plan of how she is going to edit a video. I have never done that, not once, I throw everything on the timeline and watch it (usually whilst listening to random music) until something happens. I’ve never been short of ideas but it never starts with much of a plan.

This is something I won’t miss. The only bit I’m tempted to keep is the foam spacer.

Anyway, after a rather extended period of utter confusion, I have decided what I am going to do next. I’m going to take Bolam TV to the next level.
https://bolamtv.wordpress.com/

I have always been a hoarder although I try to fight it, but a few things have happened recently that have pushed me over more than one threshold. On my 50th birthday, I started getting targeted advertising via Facebook for funeral services. No really, that very day. Once I passed the 55 year threshold I received, with no prior warning, an NHS appointment to have an anal endoscopy as part of their routine bowel cancer screening programme. Less than a week ago, when I was picking up my car from the repair garage, I had one of my first experiences of a smiley young woman talking to me as if I was some sort of imbecile, simply because my beard is grey (the text does not convey the pity in her voice):
“It’s in bay 3, on the left. Do you want me to walk you out there?”
“No, thank you.”

How quaint!

I’m not sure what is coming next but an impending major threshold will be when I’m 60 and I have no doubt it will be accompanied by a new raft of reminders of my diminishing responsibility, accelerating mortality and sutability for nothing more than the scrapheap. It’s a sobering experience to know that some people now view you as unnecessary simply due to your age. I am sure I have done it too, but smehow I never thought it would happen to me.

The only appropriate response is to say fuck that.

Despite my own grumpiness about the progressive failure embodied by the human condition, I have decided to board the party boat, celebrate and vapourise, and this is when I get back to the point.

Despite being a lifelong hoarder, the shared approaching mortality of the vintage Macs that I have been saving for years has precipitated a decision to get rid of them, and having crossed that bridge it seems I have opened a floodgate whilst simultaneously mixing metaphors. Lots more stuff is being dumped. When I say dumped, I mean donated to good causes or else responsibly recycled.

90 reams of A4 paper donated to a primary school.

A great pile of stuff. the biggest clearout I’ve had in years.

I have decided to partially clear my studio in order to make into a more functional television studio / impromptu discoteque. The Bolam TV broadcasts I made during Open Up Sheffield 2019 were a major success (as an experiment) despite being very clunky. I’m okay with the clunkiness and I like the reveal of being able to see exactly how everything is done, but at the same time I want to execute it as well as I can within the limits of my budget and ability.

Day two is in two parts because the laptop crapped out on me.

Day three is still not available because it was blocked due to a copyright violation. I played a couple of Madonna videos but they were the ones published by the record company so I effectively ripped them off when the broadcast was finished and published as an archive. I been trying to trim the offending material out and re-publish it but keep coming across a strange error that I have been unable to solve. There’s some good stuff on day three so stand by.

I will also be resurrecting a long-stalled project by the name of Flying Monkey TV which has changed shape a number of times but will resurface as a much more automated timelapse capture system in the studio.
https://flyingmonkeytv.wordpress.com

After a rather long gestation, I am under way towards a regular Bolam TV broadcast – don’t expect anything immdiately but imagine a surreal version of Blue Peter for adults with elements of The Muppets Show, Max Headroom, Top of the Pops, After Dark and early Eurotrash, and sometimes not safe for work.

You will be witnesses.

It’s complicated (part 2) – everything must go #BolamAt60 #BolamProspective

Doorstop, anyone?

Not everything. Not nearly everything, actually, but I am having a major clear out.

After many years of largely fruitless hoarding, I have decided to get rid of some things and abandon some projects. Life is short and every day it gets a little shorter and I have to be realistic about what I can achieve with whatever life the good Lord has left for me.

After several years of soul-searching, I have decided to abandon the old Macintosh computers. I have written a bit more about this here.

Mac SE running System 6.0.8 – starts up in a few seconds.

512k of memory.

Oh.

I can’t deny a certain degree of nostalgia (which I try to resist) for the old Macs, but they are starting to compare very badly with newer, faster and more energy efficient technologies. What’s more, they take up loads of room and a lot of them are starting to fail.

I will be keeping a few, more for reference than anything else, and I have had a few expressions of interest in using the enclosures for non-Mac projects but I will be moving them all on soon, either to other artists or other recycling destinations.

I also have 90+ reams of A4 paper from my Casualty 14-18 installation in 2014 and a load of school poster paint from Rick’s Fast Art Takeaway, which I am going to donate to a local school. Also, I have crates full of electronics components that I was planning to use for various things but these can be donated to an educational charity. Realistically, I don’t have enough years left on this planet to get everything done that I wanted and so I’m going to let some of it go and concentrate on a smaller number of skills and projects.

Abstractagraph – a blast from the past and a peak into the future #BolamProspective #BolamAt60 #RichardBolam

Back in the 1980s, I had access to a ZX Spectrum home computer. It’s difficult to communicate the excitement we felt at the time, especially given the limited nature of home computer hardware back then, but the exhilaration of its potential was palpable.

I kind of discovered algorithmic / generative / computational art for myself because my main interest was in using computers for creating on-screen graphics, starting with the obvious string patterns, but moving on to other algorithmically created graphics. I still have that same ZX Spectrum but I haven’t tried to boot it up for years, never mind try to run the programs I wrote, loaded from (yes, really) cassette tapes.

There are many technologies that I will not miss and magnetic tape is one of them.

I had an idea to create a program that would create on-screen graphics using a number of algorithmic routines and would assemble and combine created images into new images, all of which would be informed by the rules of classical composition. Here is a program that was published in a magazine entitled “Your Spectrum” in 1985 that I actually typed in, line by line, and this is the kind of thing that I found interesting in those days. It was written by Colin Barnsley and called “The Squirler” and you can actually run this program under emulation here:
https://zxart.ee/eng/software/tool/graphics/the-squirler/

I came up with the name Abstractagraph, although these days I would have come up with something much cleverer. What’s more, it’s not really abstraction but whatever, for historical / conceptual reasons I am going to stick with that name. My intention for Abstractagraph is somewhat less formal than what The Squirler produced, although it might include some of this kind of geometry.

As I remember it, everything was a struggle, and that went on for me until the 1990s when I was writing commercial software for Macs and PCs and, after the crushing depression of my own software business failing in 1998, followed by a very brief stint in corporate IT, I was enormously relieved to get out of software development all together, at that time.
The rest of the story is very complicated and not particularly interesting but, suffice to say, the world of computing has completely transformed in the last 20 years. Throughout the 2000s, I accumulated various Macs as they started to become obsolete and businesses upgraded. I made some installation works and screen-based generative works using this obsolete-but-still-functioning technology, including HyperScape (2004).
https://rhizome.org/editorial/2007/feb/12/hyperscape-1-5/

The world turns and many years pass.

With hindsight, I think I wasted a lot of time thinking about which software tool to use to achieve this and other projects. However, I never lost interest in Abstractagraph and thought about how to achieve it many times. These days, SOHO computers are amazingly cheap and reliable and the choice of software (much of it free and open-source) is quite overwhelming. Back in the 80s, there were other languages that you could load and use, but mostly you were limited to whatever was built in to the computer you chose to use. In the 1990s and 2000s, I got really interesting in the very-high-level programming environments such as HyperCard and SuperCard, both on the Macintosh platform and it seemed to me for a long while that these highly-accessible, application development environments would solve all our software development problems. But they didn’t.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HyperCard
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SuperCard

I also wasted a lot of time on AppleScript and Automator, both of which promised much but delivered pretty much fuck all. I loved HyperCard but Apple abandoned it decades ago. I loved SuperCard (HyperCard on steroids) but Adobe bought it and abandoned that too. SuperCard has been rescued, although I think it’s too late for me and to my thinking it is still not nearly complete and mature enough, and this is where I get to the point.
https://www.supercard.us/index.html

Despite being loyal to the MacOS platform for many years, because of the way the world has changed and not least the planned obsolescence of Apple Computer Inc, I have decided to move away from Mac and towards Linux. Although I still have many working Macs, and still use a great number of packages of favoured, platform-specific software, many of the older computers are starting to fail, and this left with a dilemma when I was testing them before Sheffield’s Open Up open studios event in May 2018. The video shows a close up of HyperScape 1 running on a rather battered SE/30.

I have shelves full of old Mac hardware, mostly obtained free, but a lot of it is starting to fail and I have the choice of spending a significant amount of time repairing and refurbishing these machines, or not.

In the meantime, LED TVs have got very big and very good, and single board computers like the Raspberry Pis have got very small and very fast, and they consume a fraction of the energy. Other factors include the maturing of open-source software and the establishment of new standards, and so I have decided to get rid of all the old Macs and standardise the development of the many conceived-but-unimplemented projects that I have in mind, with rock solid linux-based Raspberry Pis and big, beautiful, flat, lightweight non-CRT screens that are are sold on the high street and can be lifted with one hand.

The cathode ray tube is another technology that I will not miss.

So far, I have only dabbled to varying degrees, but I will be developing any technology-based projects using a mixture of Python, Bash, Processing, HTML, CSS & Javascript, none of which have that friendly Mac look-and-feel that I used to be so enamoured of, but which actually deliver the goods. I am not exactly sure how this is going to work out, but I think the Abstractagraph project will diverge into a number of smaller projects, each with a more refined and individual visual vocabulary. At least some of the iterations of Abstractagraph will be written in HTML, CSS & Javascript and delivered purely client-side, in a browser, but some might use image manipulation available in ImageMagick & Bash, server-side, and broadcast to web pages. “Scribble” (above) will be one of the first functions I want to implement.

HyperScape X at Access Space, Sheffield in 2014:

I have no timescale or deadline for this project, well, other than between 24th April 2024 and 23rd April 2025, the duration of my major retrospective Richard Bolam at 60, but seeing as I had the original idea in the 1980s, it’s already late, so whatever. Updates will be posted on its own blog site:
abstractagraph.wordpress.com

Sheffield Zine Fest 2019 Saturday 18th May at the Workstation @sheffzinefest #sheffzinefest

Please come and see me, along with many others, at Sheffield Zine Fest 2019. As well as past publications, I will be attempting to crowd-source material for an improvised metazine. I know that doesn’t real mean anything, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

Happy New Year (where do we go now?) #NewYearsDay #BOLAM #BolamProspective

I seem to have stumbled into a cliché. I am just about finished moving into my new studio and, as my NYE hangover fades, it genuinely feels like a new beginning. Having taken some time off from obsessing about art every day, I feel like it is time to restart some of the numerous projects that I suspended the year before last.

Still life with portable stereo and tea mugs.

It’s a very long story but, don’t worry, I’m going to give you the short version. In Spring of 2016, for complicated reasons, I decided to take some time off from the self-imposed pressure of producing something every day. Partly for financial reasons as nothing was producing any income. Partly for practical reasons as there were other pressing domestic tasks that I needed to achieve. And partly for conceptual reasons as I became disillusioned with what I perceived as unproductive work that was not having enough effect on the world outside my own home office. It’s a lot more complicated than that, but I doubt anyone would want to read about every nuance. I decided to take five months off to concentrate on other things, but it turned into 18 months, until Rick’s Fast Art Takeaway at the end of last year.
http://ricksfastarttakeaway.wordpress.com/

A friend told me that the hook line from from Guns & Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” was just a placeholder for a missing lyric when they were writing the song, but it made it into the finished version. I feel like that every day, with every project that I start and every thing I do.

Where do we go now? The short version is that I don’t know but I can’t help asking myself that question over and over in a voice mocking the characteristic shrieking of Axl Rose.

New Year’s Day is normally just another day, but today I feel reinvigorated and already had a few new ideas about shooting timelapse inside and out of the windows out of my studio.

Stand by, and in the meantime, happy new year.

Where next, Columbus? #BolamProspective #BolamAt50+3 #Bolam123

It’s a long story, but I took some time off from making and posting stuff everyday. It started as a partially enforced hiatus of five months but became 18 months before Rick’s Fast Art Takeaway in Orchard Square, Sheffield. There’s lot’s more to say and much of my thinking has changed in the last year and a half, but fear not, nothing has gone away. There will be more Playbolams and Bolam101s and Bolam365s and #NUNK etc. I will report on these development at some length, so stay tuned…

In the meantime, Rick’s Fast Art Takeaway is about to end in Orchard Square, and there will be a couple of dates for it at Cupola Gallery in Hillsborough, Sheffield.
https://ricksfastarttakeaway.wordpress.com/

More soon.

Playbolam™ Fresh Hell™ coming to a soul-crushing shopping mall near you! #Playbolam #BritishValues

IMG_7425

After a short hiatus, I am reconfiguring the Playbolam™ studio for a new range dystopian play sets. Expect a fresh set of toys for your children that will normalise financial aspiration, respect for inherited authority, the inevitability of debt & the appreciation of added-value, real soon now.
http://playbolam.wordpress.com