Saturday

Today was brilliant, but long and tiring and I’ll write about it later anyway on the Bham Obscura blog. But yes, what a day!

Friday

Very tired. A long day, for me anyway. Up at 7:30 to drive the camera obscura-laden car to Digbeth where it was a camera obscura dominated day.

In the morning I spoke at How To Play Knowledge, a paid speaking gig for an academic conference about new ways to communicate research where myself and Nikki Pugh were, I guess, inspirational edge cases doing stuff outside the structures of academia. I spoke about the Birmingham Obscura project which turned out to be a really good fit for the conference, with the added bonus of forcing me to go through the last 18 months and seriously think it through. The main discovery was that we haven’t actually started yet. We’re still laying the ground and probably won’t start the proper work before 2016. And that’s fine. In fact it’s essential. The long game is the right game.

Then I hotfooted it to The Bond where Many & Varied was happening, a salon for art/tech/other folks who don’t fit into the usual categories. It’s co-run by Nikki, again, and I see it as the culmination of her decade long effort to build a community around herself. Another long game, and it’s slowly coming together. Jenny and I set up the camera in the venue and Jenny presented it to the group. It was also the camera’s dress rehearsal before CoCoMad tomorrow, which was quite exciting.

Lots of other things were going on at M&V and the main theme was DIY-Bio, something that’s been on my radar but which I’d never gotten a hook into. The hook turns out to be pretty simple – home brewing is DIY-Bio, as is baking your own bread. Yeast, bacteria, micro-organisms, and then it’s just a few steps before you’re mucking around with DNA. I don’t know if I’m about to make biology a core part of my practice, but I’m certainly going to much around with it a bit.

At the end we did a silly group exercise where we came up with ideas which might fit a DIY-Bio project. I came up with the Literal Fish-Eye Lens, being a photographic lens made out of a real fish eye. Apparently, to withstand water pressure, deep sea fish have thick, solid lenses on their eyes. I want to see how these would affect the optics of a camera. You can buy fish-heads and whole octopi at the BullRing markets, which is just over the road from BOM, so what the hell, eh? My group went with it and we presented to the group. And it’s wasn’t event the most absurd idea.

By the end my 4 hours sleep was catching up (I finishing preparing my morning talk at 2am and was pretty wired for a bit after) so after checking some of the Digbeth First Friday stuff I drove the camera home. Fi, bless her, went and got fish and chips and we watched some more Once Upon A Time. And now I’m going to bed for I’ll be driving that camera around from 8am again tomorrow.

A good day.

Thursday

Very much a did-nothing-day. I was feeling a little under the weather and the prospect of two heavy camera obscura days was looming, so my body kinda forced me to slow down, which was nice of it. I treated the day as a Sunday, mooched around and did very little. And then, once I’d left it until the last possible moment, I started preparing my talk for the next morning.

Wednesday

Fairly productive day. Went into BOM for 12 to cover Leon for a couple of hours. Did some paid work for Karen tweaking the BOM website, basically undoing fripperies that WordPress theme designer thought were a good idea but which look idiotic when you actually put content in. The Custom CSS plugin on that site is full of statements like “none !important”. Still, it’s easier than building something from scratch. I guess.

Cycled in, which I thought would be a nightmare in this heat, but actually wasn’t too bad. My fitness levels continue to improve and I didn’t even sweat too much. Until, of course, I stopped and then the drenching occurred. We joke about how we need a shower at BOM but it would actually be a good idea sometimes. Maybe we could make one using a paddling pool… Hmm…

Jenny came by after work to see what I’d done with the camera obscura this week. She’s tied up with her paying gig so I’ve been taking the strain this month. It’ll be her turn next.

When getting my lunch there was a fire alarm at New St Station so all the workmen had to evacuate and gather on John Bright St. I often see bunches of them outside BOM waiting to march off to work (their offices are above us) but this was ALL of them, all in orange hi-viz. It’s quite the sight. I took a few photos and wasn’t the only one. Really pleased with how this came out.

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Tuesday

The annual heatwave is with us, so things are a bit melty. I decided not to bike into the city centre, where things are maginally hotter, and to instead work in the garden under a shade. It was perfect. There’s a whole thing where people stuck in offices moan about freelancers working in gardens, but fuck that shit. When I worked in a shop I had to be in one place because that’s where the customers and the stock were. Most people in offices don’t actually need to be in that specific location. They could be outside with a laptop but for some reason their employers won’t allow that. Which is fucked. And also not my problem.

I think I actually got more done than usual, being on a beanbag in the garden. Go figure.

Watched a bit of Wimbledon. I do like watching lawn tennis but I could do without the idiot commentators and the idiot spectators, especially the ones who think they’re funny.

Adendum

I forgot to mention we bought the new car today, which is an odd thing to forget. Though to be honest once we bought it (at lunchtime) it just sat outside the house. I didn’t feel the urge to take it for a spin, or explore the controls. There’ll be plenty of time for that and while it’s a good car and we’re very happy with it, it’s still just a car.

Monday

Worked at home, as I tend to do most Mondays. Did a good chunk of work for Fiona on the client’s new site. We hired Seb to build it but there are still some tech niggles that she needs me to work on that don’t require Seb’s much more valuable time.

The other priority was getting the copy for the camera obscura banner completed. It went through the usual editors and was finally ready by the afternoon. I took it over to Gareth to do the layout edits and had two 530mb PDFs on a thumb drive by 8pm.

It looks like this:

Bham Obscura Banner

It’s going to be three metres wide, so the text is actually 1.5cm high and perfectly legible close-up. But from a distance it looks like a shape. Is the idea. We’ll see if it works!

Built a sandpit for the bunnies. They liked dust-bathing in the soil last year but we’ve turfed everything now so hopefully they’ll like this too.

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So far plenty of digging but no evidence of rolling.

Watched Jupiter Ascending. Liked it in the sense that it’s a big movie for teenagers that isn’t idiotic.

Am playing a new phone game for the first time in months, if not a year. I’d gotten utterly disillusioned with the games market but Furdemption £2.25 (or so) little puzzler is lovely. Also, rabbits.

Sunday

The morning was a nice, long, hangover-related lie-in. Mmm.

Fi had some Ukulele business in the afternoon / evening so, knowing I was in danger of just crashing in front of some bad TV, and with Friday’s deadline hovering in front of my worry-cortex, I trundled into BOM to do some work on the camera, specifically finishing the curtain.

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Getting that completed was a good feeling. Just need to polish up the wiring and get the banner made, which Gareth is finishing tonight. Then we’ll be ready for Many & Varied on Friday and CoCoMad on Saturday.

Working in the BOM gallery on a Sunday, with no-one else in the building, was kinda nice. It’s a big space and it was all mine. I imagine this is what having your own studio is like. Loads of space to spread out and no-one to bother you. Not that being bothered by people is a bad thing. Leon came by with a couple of people who’d been DJ/VJing with him last night. Talking to them about the camera, etc was delightful. But so was having “my own” production space.

Home for a late dinner and we watched Whiplash. It’s very good.

Then remembered I needed to write four paragraphs of text for the camera obscura banner, all exactly the same word count. Writing, as you know, comes fairly easy to me, especially about things I know about, but writing to an exacting spec is bloody hard work and one of the reasons I don’t do well at academia. So that took a while.

And then to bed.

Saturday

Drunk-blogging tonight but I’ll keep it short.

Early morning start with a shift at Loaf from 8-10am, something I do occasionally as a return-favour for using the cookery school for Photo School on Sundays. Not too bad but did involve getting up at 7.30, which is a bit of a deal when I tend to get to sleep around 1-2am most nights. Plus that whole waking-up-at-6-for-a-bit thing of late which also happened today, meaning when I got home at 10.30 I was ready to drop and pretty much slept through til 3. Still, a good rest was had.

Spent the afternoon shuffling stuff up from the old ground floor home office to the new upstairs home office. Mostly Fi’s stuff onto the shelves I’ve vacated in the last fortnight to Oxfam.

Then, after some rabbit time, it was off to Jon Bounds‘ 40th birthday do at the Station in Kings Heath. A lovely time spent with mutual friends drinking beer and talking nonsense and, at the end, dancing to the Wonder Stuff like teenagers with dodgy knees. Oh, 1991.

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Friday

Camera Obscura day today, like every Friday. This was our last Friday working together before the grand public launch of the thing next weekend. Made a good stab on the curtain but still a disconcerting amount to be done. Might be some late nights next week. Showed it off to a few people and got consistently good feedback. Feeling confident.

Chloe, the BCU Visual Communications student I was mentoring through her final degree show, and who has now finished her degree, won an award at the end of degree awards shindig which gives her a residency at BOM for, I think, a year. She came in today bubbling with enthusiasm and just wouldn’t stop talking, which given we’re mostly a fairly taciturn bunch at BOM was a little disconcerting at first. But I think it’ll be good for us.

Oh, I see Chloe has put some photos of the installation she did for her degree show on her site! I was dead proud of her for this. Blew us all away.

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Cycled in today. Have been cycling at least twice a week recently usually more, and it’s definitely improving. I don’t need to stop and have a rest and I’m not quite so shattered when I arrive. Sweaty, for sure, but not shattered. It’s working.

Thursday

For some reason I’ve been waking up early, like 6 or 7am. And not in an “oh my bladder is full, I’ll go have a wee and then go back to sleep” kinda way, but actual waking up and lying there being awake. Which, as anyone who knows my sleeping patterns will know, never happens. Eventually I do fall asleep again, after an hour or so, but then when my actual alarm goes off at 10 I’m all groggy and rubbish. Which is not unusual, I’ll admit. But this waking up at 6 or 7 thing is really weird.

Being in your 40s is very much like being a teenager, it seems. Your body starts changing and it’s a bit confusing. (Less mood swings and angst, though, which is nice.)

Went in to BOM intending to do a load of art-related admin, but felt a little swamped by it all and didn’t get much done. I think I’ve had a bit of project-creep and can’t hold it all in my head. Need to break out the whiteboard.

Met Jenny after her work at Custard Factory to jointly feedback on Gareth‘s designs for a camera obscura banner. Went surprisingly smoothly considering I have no idea how to design stuff like this. Resisted the temptation to say “can you make it pop?”

Finally, went to the launch of Stealth, a show of art inspired by and critiquing surveillance culture, curated by my good friend Antonio, his first as Associate Producer at Vivid. It’s a great show, but I would say that because it’s exactly the sort of thing I’d put on if asked to curate something about surveillance culture. I might have chosen different works, but the vibe was spot on. And, of course, there’s a James Bridle Drone Shadow in the car park.

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Stealth is open Thurs to Sat, 12-5pm, til 11th July. Go see it.