Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Glimmercage Urists: A New Book by DS Blake

 My first book under the name of DS Blake, my sobriquet for fantasy illustration, is now available for purchase via lulu.com.
The Glimmercage Urists

Friday, 6 December 2013

Speak of the Devil (essay)

This essay is written in the same 'academic stream of consciousness' style that will be familiar to anyone who's read my previous books (particularly Utopia/Dystopia), and should be read with that in mind. It forms the first section of a small book that has suddenly come to me (and been half-completed) over the last few days. This book is entitled 'Speak of the Devil', and will be on the subject of the relationship between celebrity, mass media, the society of the spectacle and serious crime. The second section, that completes the book, consists of portraits of 23 of the most infamous and iconic criminals in British history.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Revolution Will Not be Tweeted

I found this sorting through some old files on old external hard drives and found this. It dates from about five years ago (Keyboard cat was current and stumbleupon worth mentioning, so I would guess 2008), and predates the stealing of the title by other, minor authors. Grr. Given that, many of the references in this are already woefully and painfully out of date, if they were even in-date in the first place. I present it as a curio.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Next Major Book: Conspiracy Protocols

Things have been very quiet on the Idle Toil front over the past month or so. There are reasons for this; I've been engaged in a lot of personal and job-related matters, and I'm re-modelling my bedroom, which has cut off my access to books, art materials and my main desktop computer. All this has left me in something of a creative rut.

I have though, finally, decided on the topic and title of my next major artist's book. Finally, without the artificial deadline of a submission date, I hope to be able to really get every detail of this work absolutely perfect; I suspect it may end up taking a year or more to complete to my satisfaction. It's title (for the moment) is: CONSPIRACY PROTOCOLS.

This will be a book about conspiracism, a topic of deep and perennial fascination to me. It will explore conspiracism not just as a political, social or historical phenomenon, but also as a body of literature, as a belief system, and as an aesthetic. Particularly, it will explore the emergence, in the internet age, of a culture of conspiracy that transcends certain traditional political boundaries. It will explore the fascinating connections between conspiracism and western esotericism, and the concept of conspiracism as a branch of occultism. 

It has become apparent in recent years that previous attempts at understanding conspiracism are becoming inadequate in the 21st century. It now seems inadequate to view conspiracism as a 'paranoid style' applied to other political movements; increasingly conspiracism is becoming an end unto itself; a total ideology with common features that unite adherents on the far left and the far right, creating a world of political slippage where Noam Chomsky and Francis Yockey can be quoted side by side. A shadowy world of con-artists, entryists, manipulators, demagogues, visionaries, cultists, rogue academics, double-crossers and esotericists more murky and fascinating than the shadowy conspiracies that obsess its adherents. Central to it all is an occult belief system that combines elements of new age philosophies, psychoanalysis, gnosticism and apocalyptic christianity: a system of secret powers, secret symbols, rituals, mind-control and technological magic. It shall be an interesting ride.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Letters to the Editor: Veganism not the Answer

Sent to the I's 'Voices' section, in response to a letter suggesting that 'switching to a vegan diet would help stop global warming'.

Mark Richards' suggestion in his letter published on the 30th September that we should switch to a vegan diet to save the environment demonstrates a marked ignorance of basic principles of agriculture.  Here’s two experiments: first, try living on grass. You can’t, because your body is not adapted to gain enough nutrition from it. Next, try growing food crops on land normally used for pasture. This may be possible…with the use of increased levels of agricultural industrialisation, massive quantities of nitrate fertiliser (having liberated our manure-producing animals, commercially viable organic farming becomes nearly impossible) and the wholesale destruction of ancient hedgerows…oh wait, weren’t we supposed to be saving the environment?

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Personal Project: The Wasp Factory

I have decided to embark on a personal project, the form of which I have been considering for some time. I am going to test my skills by designing and illustrating a book written by someone else, for my own personal enjoyment, and as a learning experience. At the end, perhaps, I will have a handsome product for my personal library, though, as I have not chosen a book that is out of copyright, I will almost certainly not be able to do anything commercial with the result.

The book I have chosen for this project is Iain Banks' debut novel The Wasp Factory. This is a book that has a lot of personal meaning to me, perhaps more so since Iain Bank's recent untimely death, which affected me quite a bit. Banks has been one of my favourite authors for a long time, since my early teens, when I fell in love with his science fiction novels. Since then, I have read almost everything that he ever wrote, and though I still love the science fiction work (and not just those that deal with the post-human, anarchist Culture) some of his non-genre works are the ones that stick with me. Of these, the one I always keep coming back to is The Wasp Factory.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Pedagogy (A poem)

The buses pull up, at opposite stops
The passengers alight, headed into college
The educators and those to be educated
With textbooks, guitars, laptop computers
Cases of knives, hairdresser’s uniforms, medication
Sketchbooks, dictaphones, packets of cigarettes
And trainers picked to match dyed hair

And my mind draws connections
The tunnel leading into the stadium
Or into the gladiator’s arena
The passage tomb
The Anderson shelter
Subterranean vision rituals
Of the ancient Nazca

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Flânerie and Rambling

In my psychogeographical researches, which I am now beginning to re-engage with, I have used two particular key-words from the literature to describe the individual engaged in psychogeographical practice; the flâneur and the robinsonneur, along with associated terms such as flânerie and robinsonnage. Since I completed Vectis I have had time to critically assess my use of these terms, and I have come to see some faults, particularly in the use of the word flâneur.

The flâneur, which translates literally as something like 'stroller' or 'lounger' (implying simultaneously in the original both movement and idleness) comes to the modern psychogeographer from the writings of Charles Baudelaire, via Walter Benjamin. Baudelaire's flâneur was a man (always a man) of leisure, who observed the dramas of the city (always the city) whilst not participating in them directly. In Benjamin's Marxist critique, the alienation of the flâneur was dealt with, and Baudelaire's essentially romantic figure was seen as symbolic of an urban condition that had been destroyed by consumer capitalism. Since then, the flâneur has come to take on a broader meaning in terms of psychogeography, reborn as a post-modern observer and urban wanderer.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

A break in the clouds

The vote by the house of commons last week to unilaterally reject British intervention in Syria was one of the first rays of light since the 2010 election. Even for someone who has almost no faith in the political system, it does at least provide some indication that the juggernaut can be stopped. For a nation reeling under repeated blows to public services, higher education, benefits, environmental policy and the arts, all directed by a sinister neoliberal agenda that seeks to shift the blame for the hideous human results of its disastrous policies on to the most marginalised members of society, it seems like there may, at last, have been a break in the dark clouds that have been enveloping us. Of course, it is only a small thing, and unlikely to make much of an impact on the lives of ordinary folk (except, perhaps, the families of soldiers who will not die quite as quickly in the inevitable escalation) but it does throw up some interesting possibilities. The optimum outcome, of course, is that this sets off a chain of political consequences that cause the Con-Dem coalition to collapse, forcing an early election in which the right wing vote is splintered between the Tories and an ascendant UKIP and the Lib Dems implode, leaving the country in the hands of Labour. Of course, given the current state of the Labour leadership, this would create its own problems, but it could hardly be worse than what we have now. The optimum state of the UK parliament (A Labour/Green/Plaid Cymru coalition with Diane Abbot, Caroline Lucas and Leanne Wood as equal co-prime ministers) remains a distant dream. Of course, it might all be a dream; I am not convinced that Cameron will not find some way to force new votes until he gets the result his withered, imperialist little heart craves,

The most interesting fallout, for those outside the UK, is the impact on the so-called 'Special Relationship' between the US and the UK, the possible demise of which has caused much hand-wringing amongst the right-wing press. I personally think that rumours of such a death are greatly exaggerated, but how glorious would it be if it were true? What is the special relationship, after all? Despite the adoration with which it is viewed by Westminster politicians (who like to imagine that it forms some part of Britain's laughably outdated status as a 'world power') the 'Special Relationship' is little more than a symbol of our enslavement to US foreign policy, forced to act as pawns of one of the world's dominant imperial powers. In the past, the special relationship meant that, due to the placement of US missile bases in this country, we would be incinerated first in any nuclear exchange. Nowadays, it means that we pass intelligence information and extradite British citizens into the arms of our personal big brother, whilst getting approximately nothing in return except for a slight warmth in the groin of politicians. Alan Mendozam, a member of the Henry Jackson Society (a think tank described by some media outlets as a 'human rights' organisation, but actually a neoconservative talking-point generator named after a US senator whose anti-communist 'defence hawk' views have inspired such luminaries as Paul Wolfowitz) sums up the angst neatly:

“If not reversed, this vote means the UK will join the rank of third-rate nations, ­condemned to be the prisoner of events with no power to shape them."
What a pity it will be for our nation to be forced to join the ranks of the 'third-rate', impoverished and brutalised nations such as Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands and Iceland, where the citizens weep and wail and gnash their teeth daily at their lack of 'power' over events. It is my view, and has been for some time, that just about the best thing that could happen for this country is for us to give up our pathetic pretensions at retaining the last vestiges of our imperial power. We should scrap the navy, sell our nukes to the Americans and use the money to fund things that the British people (not just the loudly shouting, red-faced, spittle-frothed portion of same) actually want and need. Free higher education, more and better hospitals, public libraries, green energy and all that wishy-washy lefty crap. More generally, as someone who is intensely opposed to the concept of the state, yet is realistic about the prospects of its imminent removal, anything that diminishes the power of Great Britain plc. is of interest to me. It's why I'm so hopeful for the Scottish independence referendum next year. May it give a resounding 'Yes!'. May the Welsh follow suit, and the Northern Irish, and the Cornish for that matter. Maybe then we can start to focus on the things that really matter.

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Procession of the Avant-Gardes, In Terms of Shit

Romanticism: I feel shit.
Pre-Raphaelites: Shit was better in the 15th century.
Impressionism: Loose shit.
Aestheticism: Pretty shit.
Art Nouveau: The prettiest shit.
Post-impressionism: Very loose shit.
Cubism: Shit from every angle.
Abstraction: Less shit.
Suprematism: Perfectly shit.
Constructivism: Building on shit.
Futurism: Thoroughly modern shit.
Expressionism: SHIT! SHIT! SHIIIIIIIT!
Rayonism: Lines of shit.
Vorticism: Whirls of shit.
Dada: Shit on the Mona Lisa.
Surrealism: Weird shit.
Art Deco: Pretty shit again.
Concrete art: Solid shit.
Abstract expressionism: Flinging shit around.
Kinetic art: Moving shit.
Outsider art: Crazy shit.
Op art: This shit hurts my eyes.
Minimalist art: Shit all shit.
Conceptual Art: Shit ideas.
Pop art: Mass produced shit.
Photorealism: Looks just like shit.
Post-modern art: You don't understand this shit.
Performance art: Doing shit.
Process art: Doing shit every day.
Installation art: Putting shit in its place.
Feminist art: Women's shit.
Land art: Outdoors shit.
Body art: Rolling around in shit.
Relational art: What do you think of this shit?
Appropriational art: I'm stealing your shit.
Sound art: Hear this shit?
Young British Artists: Shit sells.
Metamodernism: No one understands this shit.
Virtual art: Virtually shit.
Stuckism: Fuck this shit.
Remodernism: No, really, fuck this shit.
Superflat: Smooth shit.
Transgressive art: Cunt.

Thought this up in a few hours of idle boredom. Might make a good poster (may have to tweak the last one for commercial reasons? A pity though, as it is the punchline)

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Letters to the Editor: More Disrespect for Chelsea

  Sent to the I's 'Voices' section, in response to continued misgendering of Chelsea Manning.

I was pleased to note that you decided, in today's edition of the paper, to print a letter, similar to the one I myself sent in yesterday, condemning your own editorial choices with regards to reporting on Chelsea Manning's decision to live as a woman. I was significantly less pleased to see this letter printed across from an article that consistently referred to Pvt. Manning as 'He' and 'Bradley'. Clearly, myself and other correspondents have bought this matter to your attention, and you have acknowledged your faults, yet you continue to do nothing to correct them. Let me offer a possible course of action. Presumably your writers, editors, layout staff and so on use computer text editors to produce your paper? As any of the 16 year old children who attained a passing grade in GCSE IT last week might be able to tell you, the normal shortcut for 'find and replace' is ctrl+h in Windows or Linux and cmd+f in Mac OS.  Changing 'He' for 'She', 'His' for 'Her', 'Bradley' for 'Chelsea' etc. would take you less than a minute and cost nothing, whilst putting your paper on an ethical level above the one it currently occupies, next to such august publications as The Sun and the Daily Express.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Solent Sketches [VPRA]

I have decided to cross-post everything I post on the VPRA blog to this blog in order to make things easier to follow, and in order to make the VPRA more of, well, an archive. Here is the link to VPRA:


and here is the original article after the cut:

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Letters to the Editor: Respect for Chelsea

 Sent to the I's 'Voices' section, in response to an article misgendering Chelsea Manning.

I was disappointed, though, I must confess, not particularly surprised to read the i's take on Chelsea Manning's recent public declaration of her decision to live as a woman. This is not something that comes as a surprise to anyone following the case, particularly what has been reported outside the mainstream media. What is disappointing is your paper's decision to disrespect the wishes of Pvt. Manning by referring to her as 'He' and using the name 'Bradley'. Pvt. Manning is a young person who has been treated extremely harshly by her own government for doing something many people consider heroic, and has taken a courageous decision in coming out as transgendered. The least the i, an ostensibly liberal newspaper, could do is respect her wishes and refer to her by her preferred name and pronoun.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Utopia/Dystopia is available for purchase

 Buy it from lulu.com here

Getting it ready was a complete pain. I started the process on Saturday, deciding to make a few alterations to the cover, correct a couple of typos and add an ISBN number and barcode. These simple tweaks rapidly lead to what divers call an incident pit, a spiralling and ever-increasing number of problems that have taken two days to rectify. First, InDesign decided that, despite my computer having 10gb less data on it than it did two weeks ago, it was now going to consider the amount of virtual memory available to it completely inadequate and promptly began to crash. Constantly. Somewhere amidst the 9 or so crashes, the document bleed settings disappeared, so that when I finally managed to make the changes I want it, export a new PDF (which failed several times, each failure costing half an hour during which little else of relevance could be done) and upload it to lulu.com (a similarly lengthy process that also failed, more times than I want to consider) and make a print-ready file, the file (sans bleeds) resulted in a print-ready file which was the wrong size. This necessitated the whole process to be completed again. It has been terribly stressful.

Computers do make our lives easier; I wouldn't want to have to make my books with letraset and mimeograph machines and photo-typesetting and so on. But bloody hell.

I shall work on a section for the main website in which I list all of the books I have available for purchase (including their ISBN's and Idle Toil serial numbers) over the next few days. But for the moment, my author page on lulu is here.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Vectis Psychogeographical Research Archive

Over the course of my MA, one of my most successful pieces of work, and the piece of work I most enjoyed working on, was the Artist's Book Vectis, the creation of which is documented online here. Vectis is a work that I have very much come to view not so much as a finished body of work, but rather as the opening of a more prolonged investigation. Vectis was constrained by the fact that, as an MA project, there was a very definite deadline for the production of the book, and also the end form of the work had to be decided fairly early on. Although I think Vectis was a strong piece of work, there were a lot of areas that were left unexplored for these reasons.

Thus, with a view towards developing the groundwork I have already laid down, I am beginning a new project, the Vectis Psychogeographical Research Archive. This will involve the creation of a body of primary and secondary research into the history, geography, sociology and so forth of the Isle of Wight, with no particular end-goal in mind. It will also involve the creation of a diverse body of work reacting to and building off this research; again, there will be no particular end-goal in mind. Further books, exhibitions or other works will emerge in a more organic way. This methodology will allow me to be a lot more experimental with the work I produce, and I am expecting to return to neglected areas of my practice such as sound art, physical print-making and handmade books, as well as continuing to develop my skills in digital painting, book design and so on.
Click on the image below for the link to this new project.

Friday, 23 August 2013

A New General-Purpose Blog

Greetings all.

This is to be my new general purpose blog, for sharing finished artworks, sketches, works-in-progress, thoughts, observations and information related to my practice as an artist and, perhaps, to other things as well.

Updates will follow, for the moment, no particular pattern or schedule.