May 27, 2016

8.30 am. A fast but thorough moderation of the Art in Wales projects was required. These scripts can now be sent to the External Examiner for her own scrutiny. Although, I’m unsure how our examiner will respond to the UCU’s call for all such to resign over the issue of pay.

What am I assiduously avoiding doing? (‘Do that first, John!’) Well, Postgraduate Research Monitoring forms are high on that list. So … . Then on to more palatable business: arranging tutorials and appointments with the postgraduates and others, for next week. Localisation, rationalisation, and compression are the watch words when it comes to teaching over the Summer.

My thoughts continue to gravitate to South Wales during the period from 1981 to 1982. I opened my box files of 35mm transparencies for those years and beyond. Transparencies, or slides, have the quality of miniatures. I’ve always preferred them unprojected. Those years were formative in respect to every dimension of my life. Large stones were cast into the pond back then, and the outward incremental effect is still on going. It was a time of completeness before dissolution, of uncertainty before definition, and of vacillation and unknowing interspersed with moments of extraordinary wellbeing:

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In the Summer of 1982, I walked the length of the Arael Mountain, photographing the town and conurbations of Abertillery, where I’d grown up. I used Agfa 200 ASA black and white slide film. It could render a very fine grain, reminiscent of an aquatint:

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Arael View housing estate viewed from the summit of the Arael Mountain, Abertillery (July 1982)

Whatever happened to the Williams twins? Mark (on the left. Or is it the right?) was my contemporary at art school. His brother, Phil, visited the studios often and, I suspect, probably substituted for Mark at some of his tutorials. It was rather like having a clone of himself. Someone with whom he could share his life, quite literally. The Falmer twins, who worked in the sculpture annex, certainly represented each other on occasions. Their resemblance was absolute; quite eerie:

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Mark’s Australian cousin, Mark, Phil, and Nigel at the abandoned pit workings, Arael Mountain, Abertillery (July 1981)

I discovered Mark Williams‘ website later on in the day. He’s still painting. Phil is now a poet.

Then, on to research admin — chiefly emails to remind others, higher and lower in the food chain of my projects, of their promised undertakings, roles, and the deadlines by which they need to respond to my incessant badgering. Late morning, I returned to the CD booklet text and continued on that course after lunch. Responses to the morning’s arrangements and proddings began to plop into my inbox. There was encouraging news on several fronts — small forward movements were being made, where before there was only stasis.

The [SteelWorks] (working title) sound and photography project, to which I’ll be moving tomorrow, still requires the green light from the folk at TATA Steel, Port Talbot. Clearly, they’ve weightier matters on their mind at the moment. Part of me wants to work with a collaborator: someone who would take charge of the visual element of the project. But until I begin working up the sonic response to the collection of glass-plate photograph, I wont know what the work requires. (The work is the boss.) The plates are deposited with the People’s Collection of Wales. There are some astonishing images among them:

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4.15 pm. Distant thunder rubbled, stereophonically. It was sublime: ‘full of sound and fury’. (Listen! Listen to it carefully, John.) Sometimes, it resembled a landslide or the churning of coal trucks on a railway track, and at other times — a gunshot. The sky darkened; clouds plumed and hung heavy, like an acrid industrial discharge. The torrent punished, unstoppable:

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Evening. The morning and afternoon sessions had been too dispersed and bitty from doing the necessary. So, I gave over the day’s final third to the CD booklet text again.

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