Friday, December 11, 2009

Romantic Proposal

My photographic/text piece 'i miss him' will be on display from 12th December until 18th April 2010 in the Romantic Proposal exhibition at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, along with 3 new text pieces, which are interspersed with video documentation of Emily Campbell's 'Love Ties' project, the large text based piece in Hanley Park. I assisted Emily on the Love Ties Project back in 2004 - talking to and working with members of the public in the park - generating texts about love. One of the ways that the texts were gathered was through a flower stall that was set up at the entrance to the park - people could select a flower and just had to say who they would give it to, and what they would say when they did.
I'm really pleased that my pieces are included in the exhibition, and I am looking forward to seeing how the work looks in the space.
Follow Up: On arrival at the museum there was a big sign outside advertising the exhibition. Once inside there was some beautiful romantic music to be heard, which attracted people towards the first floor gallery space - where a string quartet was playing. The walls of the gallery are painted a deep red colour. There are various approaches to the courtship of relationships, most of which celebrating the heart and flowers chocolate box stuff. I suppose the title of the exhibition 'Romantic Proposal' suggests this approach, but still I was surprised by the lack of balance.
My piece I think stands out as being one of the few pieces in the show to cover the darker side of romance; and what happens when it all goes wrong.
I believe that my piece talks of love and loss. My second piece 'Romantic Triptych' goes even further down the road of loss; being the birth, life and death of a relationship. This piece is shown on a video screen, and is interspersed within the video documentation from Emily Campbell's Love Ties project. Now that I have seen the way that it is displayed, I am not very happy with it; but it is an important learning curve. At the time that it was suggested I was unsure, but allowed myself to be swayed, I do now think that I should have had the strength of my convictions, and should have insisted that the work be shown as it was intended (printed and displayed as a linear triptych; birth, life and death) or not at all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Makers

From Friday night to Sunday night last weekend 9 artists from Stoke-on-Trent mounted a touching exhibition of arts and crafts at Artwaves, Burslem. Most of the artists exhibiting were actually craftmakers, showing a variety of lovely gifts and wares. There were some wall pieces made from wool collected from the Staffordshire Moorlands by Ruby Sufi, these peices Ruby described as 'questions' and related to Ruby's interests in biochemistry. Kate Lynch had some of her reclaimed wallpaper and recycled material products for sale, including sketchbooks and delicate wall hangings. Katie Shipley had some pieces made from recycled library books, and Deb Nicklin had a series of dolly portraits on show. The Makers was curated by Celine Siani Djiakoua, whose jewellery brightened the sapce. The lovely thing about the idea was that the individual makers started to leak into each others practices, with Ruby making some woollen beads for Celine's jewellery, Kate Lynch making some paper cases for Celine's Jewellery, and Ruby making some wolleen inserts for Kate's recycled wallets, making them into needle cases. My garden festival decoupage was also on display, fitting into the theme of reclamation and recycling.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pecha Kucha Night! - Volume One

Last night was the first ever Pecha Kucha night in the midlands!
Pecha Kucha means chit chat in Japanese, and is a creative presentation technique where the speaker gets 20 slides, and 20 seconds per slide to talk about whatever they want. Could be their passion, the things that bug them or anything at all really. I was compere for the evening - and did a lot of hand waving and gesturing.
There was a lovely variety of presentations last night.First up was Susan Clarke from B Arts, talking about the wide variety of places that she has performed, from band stands to brothels. We had a bit of a technical hitch, and the slides got stuck on one image, but Susan didn't let it upset her flow.Then Peter Graystone gave a wonderfully in depth look at Anglo Saxon window types, showing that Pecha Kucha works with any topic.Next up was Bernard Charnley with his unstable prose poem, this was made additionally great with Bitjam's responsive sound making, adding to the atmosphere.
Then everyone in the room joined in with a living pecha kucha speed meet, where each person had 3 questions and had to meet new people in the room and ask their questions - one professional question, a funny one and a wild card. The room descended into happy chaos, before we broke for beer.After much needed watering we were back on with Phil Rawle, telling us about all the people that had inspired him in his life, this was a touching and personal journey through Phil's world - and showed another side of Pecha Kucha - where surprising things are revealed about people that you know.
Next was Mark Brereton who took us on an insiders trip round the recently closed Spode factory. The images of a working factory, seemingly abandoned where poignant, and sad. The final image in the presentation showed a white vessel, that had been used as a plant holder, but the plant within it having long since died. Mark used this image as a symbol for possibility for the future of the city - the old life may have withered away, but the vessel itself is just waiting for a new use.Next a change of tone with Kris Lines instruction on how to become an Olympian - and what makes an Olympic sport.And our final presentation of the evening was from Michael Colley, who gave a great demonstration of his Hangue - a metal dome shaped percussion instrument, which makes a beautiful sound.Throughout the evening the gaps in between people and presentations were filled beautifully by the responsive sounds of Bitjam - Carl Plant and Ben Macmanus came along with their equipment and responded to the films which were on show. These included Anri Sala's haunting Dammi i Colori and the AirSpace boys' fantastic Denim and Leather. After the presentations Bitjam played us out along with Michael Colley and his Hangue, and we let the films role. People stuck around for quite a while for a chat and a beer, which I think showed us what a success the evening had been. We forgot to count how many people were actually there, but the room was full so we guess about 80. Lots of people expressed an interest in getting involved, and asked when the next one is - so that is a really fantastic sign.

The evening was documented by Inspired Film and Darren Washington, All photos on this blog are by Darren - more details at Iconic Images. Check back here later for a link to the film documentation.

But for now you can read the coverage provided by The Sentinel!

Leicester - Learning Journey

Monday, November 9, 2009

Speaking at Creative Industries and Creative Communities Conference

This Wednesday I am speaking at my first ever conference. I will be setting out an introduction to my practice, and the artist's role in the post-industrial world - using Interrogation: Walsall as a case study.
Click here for link

Should be exciting and scarey at the same time...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Interrogation Agent on the Fourth plinth!

Click on the link below to watch Agent Pitt on the Fourth plinth! So exciting! Interrogation project is already continueing its life.
also Interrogation was discussed in this months A-N magazine.
Click here to see (if you are a subscriber)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pic 'n' Mix

This week my Garden Festival Decoupage has been on display at the Burslem School of Art as part of the Pic n Mix exhibition, showing 6 women's photographs, organised by Stoke-on-Trent's Photographer's Collective. The show is on until 9th October, and so go and have a gander. There were limited edition postcard packs of the 6 pictures, with facts about the Garden Festival on the back. Not sure if there are any left now though, as they were very popular.
Thanks to Darren Washington for the documentary photos.

Friday, September 25, 2009


This week artists Emma Leach and Natasha Vicars have been sending me written assignments briefs to fulfil, for their project Reportage at KUBE, Poole.
It has been quite exciting. The first one came through on Wednesday and said write a report on a Pool in Stoke. The second one the next day said 'through online research, report on current health concerns in Poole.' and the last one which came through today said 'Report on the resolution of something, include water in your report.'
The artists have set up a temporary newsdesk in the gallery, and have recruited keen reporters to write quick response articles on unusual topics. I like the notion of these things being quick and off the cuff, and I have relaly enjoyed having someone set me something to do, especially as Interrogation has been taking up a lot of time, and has involved me setting things for other artists to feels like a good balance to have someone set me some assignments in exchange.
I wrote about verrucas in shelton pool...patients drinking alcohol gel in hospitals in Poole...a dying man and his gas bill...and poor dead Gilbert the whale. I enjoyed it. Here is the PDF.
Echoes of A_all Pages

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Free TV : Ustream
So tomorrow will be the first day of the Residency at the New Art Gallery Walsall, so myself (Agent Francis) along with Agent Greenwood, Agent Brown and Agent Stoker will take up residence in the Artist's Studio at the Gallery, in order to turn the room into 'The Interrogation Room.' The room will be the headquarters for the next month, where we will see groups of artists coming each Wednesday to carry out a series of missions. TOP SECRET: Agent Artists Identities will be revealed on a need to know basis...
In order to extedn the reach of the project a project blog has been set up, and technologies permitting a live stream and video will be transmitted during each Mission Day, and during the final Symposium Day, when we have some really interesting speakers lined up, who will deliver presentations on their particular areas of public realm arts practice, and at the end of that there will be a panel discussion, with the artists involved in the missions, the four speakers, myself and the public.
If you wish to book a place for the Symposium, then you can do so by emailing Agent Brown:
But if you can't make it, but would like to be involved in the project/debate, you can follow proceedings and have your say live online.
A twitter account and a special online tv channel have been set up for these purposes.
So go to for the twitter feed
or go to to watch live online during the mission days (which will be 9th/16th/23rd/30th September - 10am-5pm and the Symposium Day Friday, 2nd October 1-5pm).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Matchmaker

This weekend I will be performing the Matchmaker at a festival. I have just finished making 100 special matchboxes for the performance.
I will post images of what happens when I get back...
So, I went along to the Festival with the Matchmaker. I was the Matchmaker on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It actually worked very well, though there were a few surprises. First of all a lot of people seemed a bit suspicious when I approached them, thinking I was trying to sell them something. I wondered if I should announce immediately that what I had on offer was free, but I decided it slightly went against what I was trying to do, and I don't like the idea that people would only engage with me if they thought they would get something free out of it, I preferred to tell them at the end that the matchbox was free.I was also quite surprised about the popularity of some of the couples: Richard and Judy were the most popular, and went quite quickly, whereas Gilbert and George were the least popular, but perhaps that was because they were naked?I enjoyed doing the Matchmaker, and seeing people give me and each other a kiss was really heart warming. I hadn't reckoned on the weather though, and the packs kept on blowing away, and some of them got a bit wet in the rain.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rebirth needs rebooting...

Went over to the New maternity building of the North Staffs Hospital this week to check on the box and see if anyone had filled in the postcards, and replenish the stocks.
On arrival i was quite pleased to note that there was only one postcard left! out of 100! but then on opening the box I was not so pleased at the contents. There were a few blank screwed up ones, one that was blank and folded into a paper aeroplane, a number of indecipherable children's drawings and messages, and then three actual messages. So the project is currently running at a 3% success rate, which isn't bad I suppose. This meant that there were at least 80 postcards that were unaccounted who knows where they have ended up. It is not really a surprise, the image is actually quite intriguing and so perhaps people just want to stick them on their fridge. Also, I find participatory projects of this nature only really work with someone to drive them. Simply putting a box somewhere and waiting for responses seems to me like a pedestrian approach. This is the difficulty of a project like this, as I am not being paid, I cannot really afford to put too much time into it - and therefore it won't be as effective as it could have been, if I did have the time to put into it. Ideally, given the time I would strive to make some connections with the midwives at the hospital, who showed interest at the opening, and I would encourage them to take handfuls of the postcards to distribute to the mums they are working with. I would build a relationship wit them, and hope to find out a way for them to be more involved in the project, and see how they could develop it with me. I know this would be difficult, given how busy they are, but certainly worthwhile. This level of interaction is absolutely imperative for a project like this, and I wish I had the time to do it, but I don't.
At this rate, the project should have generated around 15 out of a possible 500 messages by its completion, which is a shame, but just goes to show - you get out of anything what you put in, or sadly you get (a little bit more than) you pay for. I will contact the head midwife to see if I can find an alternative site to move the box to on my next visit, and see if this encourages any extra participation. She was very encouraging and positive about the art projects in the new maternity wing last time we met, and so I hope this might spur the project on a bit.
Despite the disappointment - the three messages were worth a (long) walk to the hospital.

Friday, August 14, 2009


I am really excited about the new project that I am working on. It is called INTERЯOGATION: WALSALL and is organised by Longhouse and The New Art Gallery Walsall, and me. It involves bringing artists to Walsall for one of four days which explore the artist's role in the post-industrial world, and looking at the impact that one artist can make on one place on one day. Essentially these 4 days will be professional artist development opportunities for 5 or 6 artists per day. Each will be given a mission to carry out which engages with the public. The programme will then culminate in a symposium, where experts and practitioners in the four topic areas will deliver a 20 minute presentation each and then be involved in a panel discussion. The call for artists is below:

Longhouse is an annual programme of work carried out by community arts organisation, Multistory based in West Bromwich in the West Midlands. Longhouse is dedicated to the professional development of artists working in the public realm and provides knowledge, support and funding to artists to develop their practice.

Call to Artists:

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to become a secret agent for a day in order to interrogate the public spaces of Walsall.

Using the New Art Gallery Walsall as a base you will investigate the artist’s role in the post-industrial world through one of four methods:





INTERЯOGATION: WALSALL explores the impact that one artist (you) can make in one place, in one day.

The programme, organised by Longhouse and the New Art Gallery Walsall, working with lead artist Anna Francis, is designed to investigate the impact of short, sharp interventions within the public realm.

The programme questions how working quickly and responsively feels for the artist, and provides opportunities for artists to work together within public realm spaces.

How to Apply:

To express interest in this opportunity send:

· 100 words describing why you are right for this mission and

· state which of the four methods you are interested in interrogating (

· your C.V. and a maximum of 5 images of your current practice

Please send your expression of interest to:

Deadline for submissions:

12pm Friday 28 August 2009

Successful ‘agents’ will be notified on Wednesday 2 September 2009

(Please note that due to the timescale and nature of the project feedback will not be given to unsuccessful applicants)

Each agent will receive a fee of £100 towards travel, time and other expenses, plus £20 on the day of the mission to cover any immediate costs incurred.

Agents must be available for the full day of the mission (dates are stated next to the four interrogation methods above), and on a project symposium day (02/10/09), when the project findings will be disseminated.

Each mission will be documented photographically and with video.

Results will be displayed on the Longhouse website and in the Artists’ Studio at The New Art Gallery Walsall.

For more information go to

or to follow the dedicated project blog o to

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kim's Wedding Assignments

It was my friend Kim's wedding on Saturday, when she married Marcel. She asked me if I would mind setting assignments for all of the guests. So I did. Each assignment was printed out onto card and put in a pack with whatever materials the participant would need to carry out the task. The assignments were very varied, in order to allow those very 'up-for-it' people to get stuck in, and those not-so-up-for-it to be involved in a lesser way.
Assignment number two was carried out by Michael (below) and said draw blind contour drawings of ten of the wedding guests.
The assignment shown below said 'swap wedding outfits with someone,' and this was a very brave approach considering the two swappers were strangers.

The man with the hat below was tasked with writing a wedding speech and delivering it at the toasting and cake cutting section of the wedding.
And Lee, his Mum and his sister were assigned the task of creating a fascinator for the bride from wedding detritus. Which they did beautfiully.
The bride was really pleased with the buzz created by the assignements, and also with all of the souvenirs which she got to take home at the end of the evening. The guests also seemed to really enjoy being involved.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pecha Kucha Dummy Run - Stoke-on-Trent

Last night was the dummy run for the midlands first ever Pecha Kucha night hosted by Headtalk and Blurb. Pecha Kucha is a phenomenon started by some architects in Tokyo. They wanted a solution to the way architects tend to go on and on in presentations, squeezing the life out of the subject matter, and Pecha Kucha was the answer. The premise is that the speaker gets 20 slides, and has 20 seconds speaking time per slide, making a 6 minute 40 second presentation in total.
We decided to hold a dummy run to give us a chance to get to grips with the technology and also to start to stir up a bit of interest for the main event, which is set for Friday, November 13th.
Last night we were due to have 8 speakers in total, technical hitches involving PowerPoint discrepancies meant that Chris from Culturing Stuff's presentation could not go ahead in the end, which was a real shame...but we will see Chris's presentation on 13th.First up was Brian Holdcroft, who set a wonderful tone for the evening with his narrative presentation involving sending off to the Daily Star for a pill which turns you into 'an artist.' It was very funny.Next up was Tony Jones, who delivered a tour of his love of gloom...which sounds gloomy, but was actually very uplifting, and focused on the idea that atmospheric lighting conditions can produce wonderful results.Then Glen Stoker took us around Eastern European, focusing on the wealth of graffiti that can be found there. The presentation looked at the inaninity of tagging, figurative grafitti and messaging - where the 'artist' has been moved to comment in one way or another - the slide which said 'Fuck the New Slayer Video!' raised a laugh.I was next. I had actually planned 3 different presentations, due to the fact that I kept changing my mind what I wanted to focus on, the first presentation I planned was about the day my Grandad died. The second one, which I actually worked quite hard on, was an a to z of the city. I decided over the weekend that I always talk about the city, and must be getting boring now, so changed my mind and planned a presentation which focused on 'Things which inspire me and make me feel happy.' Like cake for example: which I gave out at the end of my presentation.Then we had a beer break, it was at this point that we had hoped to be able to load up Chris' images - but for some reason we had image compatibility problems. This was precisely the sort of thing that led us to stage a dummy run - so that we could ensure that the 13th goes as well as possible. It was a real shame for Chris who had been up really late getting his presentation together, but a massive learning curve for us. We now know that we need all the media delivered to us, at least the week before in order for us to properly iron out any issues, and also we want Jpegs - rather than PowerPoint presentations, as problems occur when we put presentations together. This was really invaluable for us, and will go a long way to ensure the success of the main event.
After the break Mark Brereton kicked of with a presentation about one off art works that he has done in the past. My favourite was a text piece which said 'Are You Fucking Blind' in Braille.
Paul Bishop delivered our second presentation of the evening on Grafitti. This worked really well as a counter point of view from the previous presentation, and looked at the historic origins of tagging, and aimed to set out the artistic merits of grafitti.
Then our final presentation of the evening saw Bernard Charnley delivering a prose poem, with drummed accompaniment. The poem explored notions of identity, thought, gender and happy accidents. It was fantastic, and everyone cheered. It was a wonderful end to the evening and left us all looking forward to the next Pecha Kucha in November.

A massive thank you to all the presenters, and everyone that came along to watch - and a particular thanks to Mark Brereton for bringing the phenomenon to Stoke.

We will be putting out a call for presenters for the first official Pecha Kucha night in the Midlands, this will mean we can ensure the most interesting and innovative presentations possible...we are really excited to see what the creative people of the Midlands will come up with.
Go to our facebook page for more details, or check us out on the Blurb or HeadTalk pages.

In case you missed it and are interested; here is what I talked about for my presentation:
First I introduced myself and talked about the difficulty of choosing what to do my presentation about, but that eventually I just thought I would do it about things that inspire me and make me feel good.The first of which was the website started by Miranda July called Learning to Love You More. There are 70 assignments on the website that you can do, including 'take a photo of your parents kissing,' or 'reenact a scene from a movie that made someone else cry.' I love the participatory nature of the site, and I have the book too.
I also like the fact that on their website they have a section on things that they love and that inspire them: one of which is this video.I am often inspired by the books I read. I am reading Nabeel Hamdi's 'Small Change' at the moment, which is all about how ordinary people can do something amazing in their communities, it's about being active rather than passive, doing rather than saying, and getting on with it, rather than moaning about it.
I love talking to other artists about their processes, this is Fred Martin, who I met on a trip to Lille. I like the way he goes all around the world and works with people in their localities, using clay dug from the earth there to talk to them about their lives.I like it when artists intervene in public spaces, making interesting things happen in a small way, like with the delicate situations project.Or artists making a difference in a bigger way, for example the 2006 Berlin Biennial, which saw artists inhabiting all sorts of spaces on August Straβe, in Mitte. Spaces like this beautiful ballroom.
Artist Tino Sehgal had set up a performance piece on the floor of the ballroom - two lovers entwined in an endless embrace. It was so beautiful. Tino Sehgal does not allow his work to be documented, preferring it to live on in the minds of the people that see it, or talk about. Legendary.Artists taking over disused spaces against all the odds and bringing them to life really inspire me. The Fishmarket in Northampton is a particularly good example of this, it's wonderful.
Skateboarders -because they create their own urban landscape and are not constrained by urban planners. They could be seen as frustrated surfers where there is no sea, but they truly make sense of the old saying; beneath the pavement - the beach. This is my friend Matt, when he was little.I love the way the Emo kids are using the site of the ABC cinema as a space to hang out, they've turned it into their very own place to be, and I love the fact that teenagers today are using this site which was traditionally frequented by teenagers through time, who used to visit the cinema. I find the Emo kids unpredictable, and I like that.The way the plants take over sites of dereliction around the city so quickly is amazing. Sites which could be ugly, very quickly become havens for wildlife.This is helped along by people like the guy my mum told me about - a recovering alcoholic, who also suffers with mental health issues, he has started to take control of his life and his surroundings by noticing areas of the city that look dreary or sad and throwing a waterbomb full of seeds at the site - soon the plants and flowers grow up where there was dereliction and depression.I like food for free - picking field mushrooms or bilberries. There is something so satisfying about a self-picked breakfast.The Cat Cafe that Wendy told me about in Vienna. This woman loves her cat so much she dedicated the entire cafe to her, tht cats name is Mini mini, and is allowed free reign of the place. There are cat hairs everywhere, ornaments and pictures of cats. That is real love.I love 'Love' familial love, love of friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, pets - all sorts of love. Other artists being inspired by love and making work about it. The word LOVE. Am I sounding like a hippy?I like old ladies buttons. This is part of a collection that I bought on ebay - an old lady died and her daughter sold the entire contents of her sewing box. You could tell alot about a person by what they have intheir sewing box - this speaks of a different time, the make do and mend generation.I love folk singers, and in particular this one: Beirut. I love the video he did for the song Nantes. The Youtube video explains exactly what is wonderful about him.
I enjoy my collection of Shelley tea plates, somehow my toast and jam tastes so much better when eaten off one of these. I like 1920's fact anything from that time.
And finally I love love love cake. All sorts of cake, chocolate cake, lemon cake, strawberry shortcake. All types of cake for all sorts of moods. And I finished with a question: If you were a cake, what sort of cake would you be?