Monday, June 15, 2009


Thursday, March 26, 2009

occult leeds: tenancy / the dark room

sequence of images from short film exploring theories of occult architecture across and under leeds' civic quarter; writing on and of the landscape

Videos here and here

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Sunday, November 16, 2008


Language Scraps: Mark E. Smith’s handwriting and the Typography of The Fall

This paper attempts to situate Mark E. Smith – and The Fall – not in a history of music or of sound (or in a history of the visual arts and / or painting) but rather in terms of a broad coalition of visual communicators and of typographers: those whose creative and critical focus is upon an expressive visualisation and articulation of writing and the written word.

I aim to attempt to define and locate a Fall aesthetic or identity within this grouping; tracing direct and indirect links between certain practitioners and particular examples of Fall cover art. The typography of The Fall is a term which can be used to denote Mark E. Smith’s handwriting (as featured on numerous covers) and is useful when attempting to rationalise and discuss particular visual and conceptual qualities which appear to have become synonymous with The Fall’s public image: authenticity; the wilfully crude; chaos and abstraction, for instance.

The essay defines a ‘Fall aesthetic’ by noting two key conceptual techniques: non-linearity and juxtaposition or collage. These are initially contextualised through a discussion of John Cage’s use of the I Ching, the montage techniques of Kurt Schwitters, Paul Elliman’s typographic design and through an analysis of Smith’s own use of studio techniques to embrace the uncontrived collision of seemingly arbitrary elements within the sound.

The paper is divided into two sections, covering two sets of overarching themes. Within each section the discussion is illustrated and contextualised with reference to a selection of Fall cover images.1

Part one: Authenticity, branding and the trap of scription
Mark E. Smith’s handwriting has become a typographic signifier of and for the Fall, communicating qualities of ‘Fallness’; carrying an authoritive voice, and rejecting the standardisation implicit in much handwriting education. It can be regarded as an attempt to visualise the sound of his spoken / sung voice. Reprocessing sound into words, Smith relies upon a series of graphic conventions and makes use of a number of effects and techniques to attempt to examine the gap between the two. His use of language tools such as the ballpoint pen and the typewriter investigate typography’s potential for imbuing text with authority and formality and establishes a visual brand for himself and the group. He also seems to be exploring the relationship between hand skills and the physical, material qualities of visible language.

Part two: Professionalism, contradiction and the ordinary
Mark E. Smith’s antipathy towards the formalities, technologies and professional status of graphic design and designers is apparent within The Fall’s visible language, as is a fondness for the mundane and everyday: expressed through subjects such as parking tickets, housing rates and British tourists abroad. Smith’s transformation and articulation of the urban and the ‘found’ has parallels with Paul Auster’s doomed author-as-walker in ‘City of Glass’ and in the painstakingly constructed collages of Czech artist Jiri Kolar. Paul Elliman’s ‘Bits’ typeface collects shards broken away from the city’s surface and reconstitutes them as alphabetic elements in a process similar to Smith’s channelling of his city’s streets and character. Smith’s deliberate strategies for confusing and twisting the materiality of language – whether as lyric or inscribed – illustrates a tendency towards abstraction, a notional ‘primitive’ and a rejection of notions of formality-for-its-own-sake.

Smith’s handwriting is a visual touchstone within the Fall’s recorded history, seemingly called into use at points of change or transition, reintroducing an authentic Fall sensibility when needed. Outside of this environment it, interestingly, seems to continually re-appear in a variety of contexts and for a variety of reasons: upon items other than Fall covers and for perhaps the same reasons. Like a form of self-referential shorthand, it appears to bestow authority via association all the while unhooked from its maker and adrift in the wider cultural landscape.

Presented at 'Messing Up The Paintwork' conference. University of Salford. May 9th 2008.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Coventry W.M.C.

Thought to be the oldest working men's club in the country, Coventry WMC closed on August 2nd 2008 with £26,000 debt.

Ruth Cherrington has written an obituary of the club at her site clubhistorians

More images of Coventry WMC here

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Passing through Alnwick (en-route to Barter Books). Parked on the outskirts of the town, I found this place.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

everyday life

‘The potential strains of early M-O were held in creative tension by a fluid tripartite structure in which Madge was responsible for national-day surveys and directives, Harrisson responsible for the Worktown study and Jennings responsible for the presentation of results. This particular organisation was enabled by the collective decision to treat ‘images’ as the social facts of the investigation. The concept of the ‘image’ in the 1930s had a particular Modernist resonance that entailed something more specific than a mere pictorial impression. Ezra Pound had defined the Image as ‘that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time’ (Jones 2001:39) and the aim of the Imagist poets had been to make the image rather than the word into the unit of signification so that their poems generated their own meanings separate from dominant narrative associations...the appeal of these concepts to M-O lay in the twin ideas of variable significance and escape from externally imposed associations.’ 

Nick Hubble. 2006. Mass Observation and Everyday Life: Culture, History, Theory. Palgrave Macmillan. (6-7)