Archive for December, 2008


tactical changes

Tactics, tactics, tactics.  What shall I change next?

I think the thing is I have been relatively successful over the last couple of days by using writing as a mode of  active thinking.  Allowing my thoughts to form during the actual act of writing, boring and verbose at times but I get there in the end, and this is my exercise at the end of the day.

I find there to be something quite connecting when I write on certain keyboards for example, so much so that I have the same keyboard in both studios and at home.  It’s the feel of the keys under my fingers, it allows me to feel comfortable and I stop being so judgmental and critical during the actual writing itself.

Because it seems that I am a creature of habit I wanted to look at these aspects that allow me to make work in their unconscious manner, and it made me take a long look at my own practical process and what goes into the act of making.


Hmmmmm, so when I work on sound, how do I work?  Well, I spend a lot of time dicking around to be honest.  It’s not like total fucking off, but I spend a lot of time moving stuff around on the screen, but not always in Pro Tools.  Essentially in order to make work, aural or visual I need to feel some kind of pressure.  I need to know that time is expiring and if I don’t pull my shit together then I will be screwed.  Often I sort of conceptualise what it is I want to do months before I even think about doing it and that’s been one of those things on the PhD that hasn’t quite happened in the same way.  You would think with the ‘deadline’ of finishing this thing I would be working like mad.  Well I am, sort of. I do work, but when it comes to making work I often don’t feel the right kind of pressure and allow myself to slide. This particular factor has been one of the most important things for me to learn, that there is a huge difference between external and internal pressure.  I am not nearly as strident and disciplined when the pressure comes from within unless it’s coupled with external deadlines.  For example Record 1.  Dude, I am sure I could have had that shit in the can months before I did but because it’s coupled with an installation and that’s been slow to progress I never felt the pressure.

I work in these concentrated bursts, a week of non-stop to the death grinding away, and then two weeks off where I wank about not doing much.  But in a way it’s frustrating.  There are totally days where I would like to go in an approach my practice in a 9-5 kinda way, but life is just not that easy.

This is the thing, I have tons of ideas, scads of them in fact and it’s not that I am reluctant about making something, but I am petrified about making the first mark.

I mean let’s look at the way I am working with record 2.  I have an idea, and then I chase it out of my own head with criticism.  I seriously freak out as if my first line or sound will be the foundation for everything and if it’s even a bit off the house falls down before I even built it.  Dude!  That’s some kind of performance anxiety.  Jesus, but you begin to see why it’s all been a bit rut like and blue lately.  It’s the pressure of this extended period of time and maintaining your momentum throughout, whilst at the same time pushing forward and making work that both suits you as an artist and allows you to conduct your research.

Hmmm, in a way I kinda spoke about all the work I make. I mean there are some differences between something aural and something visual but in general my approach remains straight and true.  Conceptualise, dick around, dick around some more, get external deadline, work like hell, and swear to never do it this way again.  It’s so stupid but it’s like I can’t think in the way I need too in order to make work unless I feel that time is running out.

I know that this entry has a scattered feeling towards it and it might not make that much sense unless you know me and how I work, but this writing to potentially no one in particular is useful for me.  I sit here sometimes thinking about what a chore this is and how I wish the daily writing would just do itself, and then there are days where even though it’s scattered and discombobulated something comes out of it.  To understand the way you work allows for change, to work blindly with no sense of self doesn’t allow for change. I mean in order to change something you have to be aware of it in the first place.

But the real question for me within the timeframe of this PhD and within the context of my own artistic practice is: Is my current working methodology sustainable?  Without the benefit of a gallery and shows will I be able to continue to be viable and interesting, or am I doing what I should be doing?  Arm chair criticism that will eventually fit itself into some context that people absorb and then my days are spent thinking of all the stuff I could have made whilst casting a critical eye upon those who do make?

I know it seems stupid but if we extrapolate the want and desire to make, out from within the context of the PhD, then I need to know this is me, this who I am, this is what I do.  The only thing that causes me concern is this listless motivation without any external deadlines or pressure.  At this stage in my career I might be without an external deadline for a while but that’s no excuse for not making work.


the strategies of seduction

What’s sexier, sexy times or the anticipation of seeing someone new?  In my youth (ha ha) I would say that sexy times were sexier but as I have gotten older it’s not just about having sex but the anticipation of the anticipation, those first few dates, the phone calls, the first dance, the look in your eyes before the first kiss….  First she writes about football now she writes about sex, what’s happening?  Tactics kids, we’re changing our tactics.

In an email exchange with G earlier today we were talking about the blog and she referenced my reference to Irwin and Turrell and how part of what makes the experience of seeing their work so special is the idea of anticipation, so I can’t fully take credit – fuck I can’t take credit for the idea at all, so this entry is thanks to G.

Back to sex for a minute well not even sex, but think about what happens when you date someone.  When you first get together it’s not just about the amount of time you spend getting to know each other ‘physically’, but it’s also about the excitement you feel when you see their name pop up on your mobile when they ring, or when they send you an email.

I mean it still happens that way for me with the person I am dating.  I get this total sensation of butterflies and my fingers tingle when we exchange emails, and I get slightly nervous when I ring, will I be cool, witty, funny, sexy enough etc?  Dude it’s not like we just started dating either, it’s been more than enough time for that initial sensation to go away, but I am so glad that it hasn’t.  Part of what makes an experience special is all the aspects of it.  The more I write for this blog the more I am forced to explore and examine what all aspects of an experience might be, and I may have referenced foreplay in the past but what about the foreplay to foreplay or as G said to me in her email the ‘strategies of seduction’.

So back to the dating analogy, usually this sort of thing dissipates slightly over time, and it’s the age old question, how do you retain the magic, how do you keep it exciting, how do you keep the butterflies there when they walk in the room regardless of it being the 3rd time you ever hung out or the 300th time?  I suppose it can be argued that chemistry and connection have a lot to do with it and people connect, it’s what they do, so how do you bring that forth within an installation, the human element in something that isn’t human?

Well when this relationship began I remember wanting to know certain aspects but not know others.  You know, keeping it fresh.  Was I the seducer or was I seduced?  I suppose it’s not a matter of one or the other, I think it’s a matter of ebb and flow.  In order for something to sustain itself one does not seduce all the time, I mean I suppose you allow yourself to be seduced just as much as you go seducing.  But what are the components. Sure I worry about how my hair looks and what clothes I am wearing but at the end of the day you can give or get a look that goes miles beyond what’s on the surface.  You know you just look at someone in a certain way and it’s on.

The song Wonderful Life on the album Nocturama by Nick Cave has this line that to me sums up all there is to be said about that sort of magic of anticipation when it comes to dating someone in the beginning:

Speak our secret into your hands
And hold it in between
Plunge your hands into the water
And drown it in the sea
There will be nothing between us,
But the air that we breathe’

Dude, for reals!  You know it’s true.  I remember when that album came out and I heard that song, I was like ‘yeah, I get it now’.

I mean the whole break down on the strategies of seduction for me is this thing that’s so new and special and cool and all you want to do is keep it hidden but also shout it from the rooftops.  Like you’re so into someone that the only thing separating you is the air between you.

God, I had never really considered my love of Irwin and Turell in this way before. Like having a little romance with the work, well I suppose in a way I might have been abstractly.  But the issue is not how much I love their work, it’s a well-documented fact but how I can build that kind of anticipation into my own work.

Foremost it helps that people know who they are, it’s not like you go and think, now who is this Jim Turrell fellow and what’s he doing with light and space?  Most people within this context have some idea of who they are and they have at least seen one or the others work.  But dude, me?  I am just Alex Spaulding, untested in this area.  I know who I am and what I am capable of and so do some other people but not a majority.  What I am trying to do with this work is establish that context you know start to be someone who isn’t just big in Japan (ironically I am not even tall there).  What elements need to become components of the work?  In my mind I was just going to build the room, and tell people to go in there and put on the record, but why blow the one golden opportunity to really allow myself a context. How do I seduce?

I don’t have a whole bunch of answers waiting in my witty little mind, so I will leave some questions that I will come back to over the next couple of weeks.

What kind of pre-context do I want to establish about the work before people even enter it?

What is the personality of the work?

What makes it sexy?

What makes it not sexy?


everything is about football….

I have been really rubbish lately in keeping up with my writing, and it’s funny I start this way because every unsuccessful attempt at writing over the last couple of days has started with those fucking words.

With that in mind, I think it’s time for a change of tactics.  This afternoon I wrote a rather bleak blog entry, which I don’t regret in the least but it allowed me a little space.  For once a week’s worth of writing wasn’t sitting on top of my head, it’s still there but not as crushingly and it gave me the change to ask, what would Big Phil do?  Big Phil you ask?  Who the hell is that? Luis Filipe Scolari is the manager of my football (soccer) team, Chelsea FC.  He’s won World Cup with Brazil and while Chelsea have dipped in form over the last couple of weeks I still think he’s an ace manager, so I thought stop thinking about this as you, Alex Spaulding doing a PhD, but rather think like Big Phil and think of the PhD as a Chelsea playing a match.

So what would he do?

Well, we’ll look at last week as the first half and this week as the second half.  First half we sucked as a team.  No continuity in our passing, sloppy decision making, and we played to much as individuals not like a team, there wasn’t any support.  As a manger I would give a rousing halftime speech and then I would sit back and think who isn’t out there on the pitch, helping, what element is missing?  There must be something off with the chemistry, is it time to take off Anelka and bring on Drogba?  Yes we can still win with style, but we also need power and presence.

So this way of thinking got me thinking, as the player/manager of this PhD, what can I change tactically to get the team going again, put the ball in the back of the net and get back to winning ways?  Well I suppose the first thing I could do is not forget what was causing my writers block but shelve it for a couple of days and get back to just enjoying writing.  Happiness begets happiness.  So what would I be happy to write about?

Well football, sex, getting trollyed, yoga, and music.  Since we’re already in the football frame of mind let’s stay there.

But football and the ineffable, what do these two things have in common?  Well football when it’s played well is about as ineffable as it gets.  It’s not just a matter of the most skilled players out there and it being super beautiful.  Sometimes a team can be a bit unskilled but if their will to win is there, that is also beautiful. However, I suppose what I am talking about is the sublime skill of a player like Zidane, or I am loathe to admit this, but Ronaldo.  There is something absolutely breathtaking about watching someone chest down a ball, pivot ever so slightly, chest fake out the defender and then dance around them to deliver a beautiful pass or shot for a goal.

Sticking with Chelsea, cause they are my boys.  We used to play the game in such a way that we would grab 1 or 2 goals and then defend as if our lives defended upon it.  Sexy-no, effective- yes.  This year we’re playing wider, with the right and left backs streaking down the flanks passing the ball into the centre.  Our passing is more poetic and it has more shape, the runs have more potency and Deco and Lampard are marshalling our midfield with authority and grace.

But it’s not as if every game thus far has been a sublime act of beauty.  For every beautiful win, we’ve also won with grit and determination, but the important thing in all of the games has been the idea of the flashes of brilliance.  A sublime play in the 88th minute can make you forget that the previous 87 minutes had been a bit dull, and that got me to thinking about my work and time based immersive installation art.

Room 1, the bane of my existence thus far is time based.  The ideal listener/viewer is going to sit in the room for 38 minutes and listen to both sides of the record.  In a way with all the bullshit that I have had to endure over the last couple of months I wonder if I have overlooked something.  As a ‘manger’ have I been making changes in order to keep the game looking beautiful or have I been making changes to win?  I know more football analogies.

Within the context of my work what is the real purpose of this work? What do I want to happen for the viewer/listener within the room within those 38 minutes?  Is it going to be a situation where it’s just so boring that only a flash of brilliance in the dying seconds saves the work and makes it ineffable? Is it possible to actually structure ineffability in that way?  I mean I feel like I am taking the big leap in presuming that it is.

Last week when G was in Glasgow we spoke about the idea of context and how artists like Irwin and Turrell have the battle is won because of the context of who they are and what kind of work they make.  You know it’s going to be perceptual and it’s going to be magical.  Do I have the same reputation?  No, I mean maybe in my tiny little mind I do, but part of me wonders if within the context of research that the ‘context’ of my work isn’t so much given as forced and if this issue will work against me.  Like it’s the last minute of the game I need to score to win to stay in the competition and the only striker I have left has a broken toe.  Is this even going to work?  Chances are low, but I don’t have other choices.

What have I put into the work both aurally and visually to make this worth the while?  The thing is I made the album, which is for a space without being in that space physically; I have never been in the space physically.  I mean I have been inside the space that inspires the space, but not the space that I am building, as of right now it’s still of a figment of my imagination.  It’s ideas and lines on paper; it’s not anything tangible.  I just wonder if I got all my tactics wrong.

I know the self-doubt and the pity shit gets old, I fucking agree with you there, but I don’t have anything else to hang my hopes/worries on.  Until this thing kicks off in Feb I am living in a land of speculation and that’s by far the most frustrating aspect.  I can be a tactical genius on paper but until you play the game…

I’ll leave you with some YouTube footage of my boys being brilliant.

Deco’s scissor kick against Bolton

Drogba’s goals.  Some sort of highlight reel…

Frank Lampard


turn the lights out, say goodnight- the national

Hmmmm, hummmmm, ummmmm yeah so what is it that I have been up to lately?  Well, fuck all, if you want to be exact.  I have a word limit per day and it’s about 1000.  I used to think it was 500 but then I realised mathematically what I needed, and regardless of the bullshit was naturally just writing 1000 words.  The problem is last week, I didn’t write shit. I have over a dozen different unfinished word documents, and today I did the same the thing, started something and then just lost interest in it.

I wish I could say it’s because I am working fanatically on a other things, record 2, room 1, but the real reason I didn’t write anything last week: I just don’t give a fuck.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

Instead of putting my focus on finishing this colossal albatross and moving on with my life, I am happy to pretend it isn’t even there.  I would rather do anything else, and by anything else I mean I would prefer to sleep in a dark room fucked up on something (insert drug of choice here).  I mean I would rather just go out, have fun, get trollyed listen to tunes, anything but think about this crap.

It’s gotten to the point where every day in some way I float, and it’s this floating which is aimless.  Sometimes it feels as if my life is one giant sub-par episode of Grey’s Anatomy (no, not crap storylines and clichés, but rather voiced-over and guided, but it’s not my voice or me steering things). It’s as if I just do what I am told, or what I think should be done without understanding why.

I am not asking for pity or for someone to feel bad for me, I know that I am actually in a really privileged position and when all this is done in some way I will miss the hell out this experience.  Rather what this is depression; I am depressed and since my life is so intertwined with this research when it happens this happens to be the most adversely affected.

I have tried to pick apart what it is that is causing me to be glum, and it’s not like I am sitting around going ‘Eureka, kids!’  It was a slow build with no indicator that it was coming on. I never anticipated when I started this PhD was how much it would affect my personal life and vice versa.

But the whole point is that I don’t care, I don’t give a fuck, whatever dude.  I mean at the end of the day, I am trying to talk about the thing that can’t be put into words, nice one.  You know if your world exists in the ether then tangible aspects become so important and besides my record I have nothing tangible to hold on to or show for FOUR years of work already.  I am sure self-flagellation is a bit retarded as well, like if you stop bitchin and moaning then you might get some work done.  But I don’t even care about getting work done in fact I am not even sure I care about bitchin and moaning any longer.

If I could wave a white flag I would, but at this point I’ve come too far.  It’s like when a plane flies from Asia to NYC, there is a point before the North Pole where you can safely turn around and return to where you started from, but once you pass that point you have to keep moving, you have to go to NYC.  So I am past the point of turning around, but I still feel like I won’t have enough fuel to get to where I need to be.

I am going to call it a day on this and see if I can piece together some writings on other aspects and maybe I can forcibly push myself outta this funk.


i’m in a rut

it’s true.  there’s not a whole lot to say.  i will post something of value later this week, but until then you have to deal with my you tubes.

the video and the audio is out of sync on the fugazi one.  a bit like me at the moment… enjoy kids.


the magic position

(this was actually written for my other blog,

It’s been kind of manic lately and I’ve been ignoring this blog, like the proverbial redheaded stepchild or something.

Some background info:

Within the scope of my PhD I am creating three room installations, the first being modelled on the bedroom I had as a child at my parent’s house. Due to various situations beyond my control, finishing this work
is taking forever. Meaning that I have conceptually been sleeping and breathing this work for longer than I have ever had to do in the past. What strikes me the most about this is how boring one’s idea can be
over a long period of time: not your normal long period of a couple months, rather a couple years, but also how in denial I’ve been about the true nature of this work.

The impetus behind this work was to recreate the space where I had my first ineffable experience, hiding from the world, listening to music and bathing in the waning winter daylight. Yes, that all happened, and it
was fundamentally one of the most important experiences in my life. But what also happened was I used to retreat to my room, to that space, and listen to music because I was a miserable child. (This is where blog
writing gets tricky, how to tell the tale without telling you too much).

I have plenty of distance from the kid I was, and parts of that kid still live inside of me: I still listen to music with the same wonderment and I stilllook for the winter dusk to hide lines and corners and turn what I see into a living Uta Barth photograph, but all of this looking and thinking, and reconsidering also makes me realise in some way that that wasfundamentally one of the worst times in my life. Yet, here I am mining it for my own work, and essentially rewriting history by making it more than the sum of its parts.

The most challenging aspect that has come up for me is this unconscious way that I was going about re-writing my history, and denying that there had been anything even remotely negative about the memories or that particular time in general. More succinctly: can I take such a situation and make it ineffable for others, and do I even want to?

The first half of this question is important, the second references my exhaustion in fighting to make this project come to life, but it’s thatfight that the question comes from. Before ignorance was bliss, I wasn’t aware of how painful the past was, and in my mind every aspect of the work was ineffable. But now that I sense perhaps not all aspects were so great, why bother covering that up? There is no rule that says I must engage in full disclosure with my viewers and the real tale is mine to tell,so why do I feel as if I am betraying the child whose room that was, and to whom the experiences belong?

There are no neat answers, and I don’t have witty replies or retorts within which to wrap this up, and in some way this is the worst form of navel gazing and chin stroking. As this blog explores the idea of
commonality within music and art, and perhaps the real struggle I am having is what sort of balance needs to be achieved within this room project to reach a humanised commonality, a place where the real is
accessible so that the ineffable can just exist.