Saturday, 24 June 2017

Project 333

Project 333 is the minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months.

I learned about it when watching Minimalism: A Documentary about the important things

The Rules

  • When: Every three months (It’s never too late to start so join in anytime!)
  • What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewellery, outerwear and shoes.
  • What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewellery that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear, and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout)
  • How: Choose your 33 items, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of sight.
  • What else: consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. Remember that this is not a project in suffering. If your clothes don’t fit or are in poor condition, replace them.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Minimalists

The more I think about hearing voices, the more I think about being overwhelmed and experiencing stress from too much 'stuff' going on.

A friend recommended that I watch Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.

This asks the question, How might your life be better with less?

The documentary "examines the many flavors of minimalism by taking the audience inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life—families, entrepreneurs, architects, artists, journalists, scientists, and even a former Wall Street broker—all of whom are striving to live a meaningful life with less."

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus are the Minimalists. They were successful, attractive, high achievers with all the mod-cons and in their late twenties who, by all accounts, had everything they needed to be happy. Yet they were not; they were dissatisfied and unhappy.

"In 2011, we left our corporate careers at age 30. After publishing our first book, Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, we went on an international book tour and eventually began contributing to people through our online writing classes and private mentoring sessions.

We’ve been fortunate enough to establish an audience of more than 20 million people, and we’ve been featured all over the media. We have spoken at Harvard Business School, Apple, and several large conferences (SXSW, TEDx, World Domination Summit), as well as many smaller venues, including churches, colleges, corporate groups, libraries, soup kitchens, and various nonprofit organizations.

Toward the end of 2012, we moved from our hometown, Dayton, Ohio, to a cabin near Philipsburg, Montana, as a four-month experiment, followed by a move to beautiful Missoula in 2013, where we cofounded Asymmetrical Press, a publishing house for the indie at heart.

In 2014, we published a new book, Everything That Remains, and embarked on a 100-city Everything That Remains Tour.

In 2015, we published our third book, Essential: Essays by The Minimalists, which presents a minimalist’s perspective on twelve different areas of life—from decluttering, gift-giving, and finances, to passion, health, and relationships. We also hit the road with five other authors and one musician for Asymmetrical Press’s first-ever WordTasting Tour.

In January 2016, we launched The Minimalists Podcast, where we discuss living a meaningful life with less and answer questions from our listeners."

The documentary is fascinating, and introduced me to some exercises that I think will be useful to me (and to anyone wishing to declutter).


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Climate Symphony Lab in Newcastle at Culture Lab, Newcastle University on Saturday 8th July

I have been invited to participate in Climate Symphony a forthcoming event to be held at Culture Lab, Newcastle University in July. Each organiser comes from a different background and their skills and interests have shaped what looks to be a fascinating and pertinent event. Katharine Round works primarily in film, Leah Borromeo is an artist and journalist and Jamie Perera is a composer. Tonight I talked to Katharine about the event and my involvement. 

"Climate Symphony is a creative lab that turns hard data on climate change into a symphony to tell the story of what climate change means through sound.

Journalists, climate scientists, data analysts and sound artists will spend the day collaboratively exploring and discovering how we can change climate change research data into a sound and music composition.

Datasets related to different areas of climate change will be used - issues like air quality & asthma, glacial erosion, flooding, migration patterns and food choices etc.

The days run from 11-6pm. There will be an overview to the data and the scientific principles around its collection and analysis, followed by a longer workshop exploring how data can be translated into sound and the outcomes. Later there will be a discussion between all participants as to the findings of the day.

The event will culminate in a live illustrated performance by leading sound artist Jez Riley French who uses field recordings in the composition of his work, often from places affected by climate change."

If you would like to reserve a place at the event, please contact Philippa Barr on by July 1st.

Limited capacity so please book early.

Climate Symphony is supported by the Digital Cultures Research Group, Culture Lab, Newcastle University Climate Symphony is devised by Disobedient in collaboration with Jamie Perera and co-produced with Forma.

For more information please visit

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Delighted to see my publication in NewBridge Books' new location at BALTIC 39

On my recent visit to the MFA exhibition at Northumbria University degree show, I was delighted to see my publication in NewBridge Books' new location at BALTIC 39

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Talking to ourselves

I recently discovered the BBC World Service podcast called 'The Why Factor' in which "Mike Williams searches for the extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions to inform us about the way we live in the 21st Century and questions why we do the things we do". Through my research into 'the voice', I was directed to the episode titled 'Talking to ourselves'.

There are a number of reasons why people talk to themselves, for instance

- to provide some company

- as a tool of survival

- to make us feel comfortable

- to help organise thoughts

- to go through instructions out aloud

- as a way of making us feel calmer

- as a form of therapy

- to be a source of reassurrance

- to process feelings and thoughts by speaking out loud

- to help us when we need to concentrate

- to aid memory

- as a way to drown out the chatter of the various other parts of the brain

Talking to ourselves does not mean that we have a mental illness!

When we remember something in public and make a sound e.g. "oops!", it may be a way of trying to demonstrate to others around that one is sane, but have just forgotten something.

In the 1970s, the American psychologist Julian Jaynes proposed that humans stored information in the right side of the brain. He thought that the left and right side of the brain were more independent than we now think, and that the information in the right side of the brain needed to be transferred to the left side of the brain via the bundle of nerves called the corpus callosum.

According to Jaynes, the message was transmitted in the form of language, and people tended to perceive this as a voice coming from outside of themselves, as an auditory hallucination. These external voices were often attributed to leaders, the monarchy or the gods.

Jaynes later acknowledged that the voices were not always from outside of the self, but could come from within ones self in the form of an inner critic.

When we are young, the people around us give us lots of rules to follow and they influence our perception of who we are and who we think we ought to be.

When someone is traumatised, they may try to protect themselves by disassociating themselves from their inner critic or internal voice, and instead believe that it is the voice of an other. This is otherwise known as an auditory hallucination. The difference between someone who experiences inner speech and someone who is mentally ill and has auditory hallucinations is that those with mental health issues believe the voices they hear are outside of themselves as opposed to from within. To complicate matters, not all inner critics are heard as though they are coming from the head. There are some people who hear their inner voice from their stomachs or elsewhere in the body.

I remember most what never happened - BxNU MFA Graduate Exhibition, Baltic 39

"I Remember Most What Never Happened is currently on display at BALTIC 39 and brings together work by 10 artists graduating from Northumbria this summer. The BxNU MFA is a unique two-year course, run by Northumbria in partnership with BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and based in the vibrant studio culture at BALTIC 39 on High Bridge, Newcastle.

This year, the graduating artists have made work that ranges and shifts across performance, video, photography, sculpture, installation and intervention. The exhibition utilises the project space on the top floor of BALTIC 39, which provides an ideal platform for their ideas to unfold, with artwork also spilling out into the public spaces of the building.

Northumbria Senior Lecturer in Fine Art, Sandra Johnston, who teaches on the BxNU MFA, said: “Throughout the programme, the artists are encouraged to self-direct a rich spectrum of experimentation, guided by their own curiosity and interests. A distinctive feature of the course is how these individual trajectories then also coalesce into collective exhibition making – a process that is simultaneously demanding, enlivening and revealing.

“I Remember Most What Never Happened, conceived by the third graduating cohort of the BxNU MFA, proposes a zeitgeist born of indulgence, suggestion, and invention.”

Meanwhile on the first floor at BALTIC 39, the mid-point exhibition by the first year BxNU MFA students is also on display. In Games We Create Worlds highlights the choreography of objects, and the ways in which control is suggested through the construction of space."

The exhibition featured a performance by Sister Shrill, who spent an ambitious 5.5 hours attempting to converse with each other while their mouths were full of water. Their struggle, perseverance and determinism perhaps comments on their experience of completing the 2 year MFA programme.

The installation of the work is, as ever, professional, and the exhibition seems rather coherent given that the work has originated from a collection of students who share the experience of being on the MFA programme as opposed to a thematic connection.

Friday, 16 June 2017

A lot can happen in a day

Reading Group, Spoken Word Workshop and Performance with Helen Shaddock

Saturday 22nd July 2017

11am - 8pm

TURF Projects

Gallery, Workspace & Studios

Keeley Road




Booking required


READING GROUP (1.5 – 2 hours approx.) 11am-1:00pm

The reading group will focus on the publication, ‘A lot can happen in fifteen minutes’, and will include a question and answer session with artist Helen Shaddock.


Participants will engage in writing and spoken word exercises, and develop a text in relation to some of the themes discussed in the reading group. Working individually or in groups, participants will develop a spoken word performance based on their own writing or using a text from the ‘A lot can happen in fifteen minutes’ publication.


In the evening, members of the Spoken Word workshop will present individual and/or group spoken word performances that were developed during the day’s workshop.

To register for the event (ideally all day, but the different aspects can be attended separately), visit

For more information please contact Helen Shaddock

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Gillian Dickinson North East Young Sculptor Award 2017 - winner announced for installation at Cheeseburn Sculpture

I recently exhibited at Cheeseburn Sculpture at the same time that the shortlist of artists for the Gillian Dickinson North East Young Sculptor Award 2017 were exhibiting their submissions. Visitors were invited to vote on their favourite, and the winner has just been announced as Northumberland-born artist Peter Hanmer. He receives £6,500 to develop develop his proposal, The Cave, into an installation which will be unveiled in spring 2018.

The work will feature sculpture and sound, filling the Potting Shed at Cheeseburn Sculpture Gardens in Stamfordham, Northumberland with over 50 miniature figures. Hanmer’s previous work has involved the creation of figurative models inhabited by miniature animal bone characters.

Hanmer, who is currently studying for his Masters in Fine Art at Newcastle University, said: “I am delighted to have been chosen as winner of this prestigious award out of some really stiff competition. I can’t wait to get to work building my piece.”

Matthew Jarratt, curator at Cheeseburn Sculpture, added: “We are really excited to commission Peter’s installation within the Walled Garden Potting Shed at Cheeseburn. His ideas of creating a ‘sculptural world’ of miniature figures amongst the flowerpots and lawnmowers fascinated the judges.”

In addition to financial support in creating the work, Hanmer will also receive mentoring and support in the run up to his exhibition next year.

The selection panel for the award were Joseph Hillier, artist; Joanna Riddell, founder and owner of Cheeseburn Sculpture; Matthew Jarratt, curator at Cheeseburn Sculpture; and Alexander Dickinson, trustee for The Gillian Dickinson Trust and Partner at Bond Dickinson LLP.

Over 30 artists aged 18-25 applied from across the north east region. The final shortlist of 12 included a number of representatives from the area’s universities, including Newcastle University, Sunderland University and Northumbria University.

The judges also took into account votes from visitors to the gallery and online votes through Facebook.

Started by Riddell in 2015, the first recipient of the award was Sunderland University graduate Dan Gough last summer. His installation Scurry is currently on view at Cheeseburn Sculpture on designated opening weekends. The work features 2,000 red and grey ceramic squirrels sited within the Victorian Walled Garden at Cheeseburn.

For more information visit

Friday, 9 June 2017


Shame is a film directed by Steve McQueen about Brandon (played by Michael Fassbender) a successful, single, attractive executive in New York who is addicted to sex, prostitutes and porn. When his unpredictable and difficult sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), moves into his apartment, his stability is compromised and it all becomes too much for him. The relationship between Brandon and Sissy is multilayered and incredibly well portrayed by Fassbender and Mulligan. The cause of their individual struggles are never revealed, but a tough childhood is suggested.

Rather than describing the plot of the film, I want to focus on the issues at the heart of the film. Particular scenes reveal the loneliness of the two siblings. A single shot of Brandon running through the streets of New York at night in an attempt to flee from his sister's activities in his flat, is a beautiful portrayal of a man's quest for escapism. 

The film demonstrates how modern life and the technological advances that are central to how we live, inevitably have an impact on how people interact with each other and the relationships we have with one another. Brandon seems unable to trust and is unable commit to a meaningful relationship. He is desperately in need of satisfaction, a quick release, but isn't able to manage anything more.

One of the extras on the DVD is an interview with Michael Fassbender in which he talks about how he researched the character and met with sex addicts to get an insight into their situation. Fassbender comments that there was one particular addict that he learned a lot from. He remarked that rather than probe with questions in an order to be able to 'use' the material for his own gain, he tried to encourage the addict simply to tell his story. I have also found that once people are invited to tell stories, they are more open and relaxed, giving more honest and genuine responses.

There is an argument that one cannot understand how it feels to be in a particular situation e.g. be an addict, until one has a direct experience of the situation. Although I tend to agree with this, I do think it is important to have access to artforms (films, literature, art, theatre etc) that portray such situations and conditions. It is through films like Shame that people are given an insight into the complexities of things they may not otherwise witness or experience.

Artists' Moving Image: Insights into Production & Exhibition

Northern Film & Media is the North East's creative agency, nurturing talent, supporting media businesses and driving commercial film and television production within the region.

They regularly arrange events to enable practitioners to gain critical information on the latest commercial and creative trends, and to connect with industry leading experts and commissioners.

I attended the Artists' Moving Image: Insights into Production & Exhibition event in which Marie Logie (Auguste Orts) and Peter Taylor (Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival) shared some of their invaluable insights about producing and exhibiting artists’ moving image.

Marie discussed the history and approach of Brussels-based moving image production and distribution platform Auguste Orts, where she is currently Director.

She explained that, when in an artist moving image context, the role of a producer includes
  • seeing the project through from start to finish 
  • writing contracts 
  • arranging legal aspects 
  • organising insurance 
  • co-managing the budget 
  • organising fundraising 
  • finding locations
  • working on post production
  • planning distribution

Peter talked about his approach to film festival programming, drawing on his experiences as Director at Berwick as well as at Rotterdam International Film Festival.

It was interesting to hear him discuss how changes in technology have impacted on his role. For example, now that submissions are often done via vimeo, he doesn't need to physically move as much as there is no need to handle DVD cases, transfer DVDs into players and so on. He commented that vimeo helps judges share their own opinions with each other as they can each make comments about a submission in a way that the other panel members are able to view.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Performances at Newcastle University Fine Art Undergraduate Degree Show

I have learned from previous experience that it is not possible to see much of the artwork at the opening of the UG Degree Show as it simply is too busy. I'm also aware that there are a number of performances that happen on the preview night, some of which will not be repeated again.

I therefore set out with the aim to see each of the performances at the preview, and I will visit again over the duration of the exhibition in order to see the rest of the work.

The first performance took place in the life room in which there were a number of cast sculptures occupying the floorspace along with piles of the skins of garlic cloves. Heather Bonnie Reid, dressed in casual clothes, entered the space, walked to one of the cast sculptures and began manipulating a slab of clay as she delivered a spoken word piece that was a cross between a poem and a story. Her actions complemented the text, and the sculptural props further added to the performance. Her soothing Irish voice made the words all the more pleasant to listen to, and her relaxed and comfortable pace and tone contributed to my feeling that she was talking to me as opposed to a crowded room. Personal yet relatable, the text was poignant and beautifully constructed.

Moving on to the seminar room, stood Cathy Garner at a lecturn with a projection behind and told the story of her nightmare of a week. In the final few days leading up to the exhibition that marks the completion of the 4 year Fine Art Degree, her external harddrive, the device on which all of her Degree Show work was stored, packed in and all of her data and work was lost. Remarkably, she delivered a immensely powerful performance that took me through a journey of emotions and left me feeling upmost respect for the courageous and resiliant artist. Told with REM's 'Everybody Hurts' as the soundtrack, her story was sad and humorous, her delivery composed and genuine. She carried the audience with her. Yes, I felt sorry for her, but she was not asking for pity or making excuses. Her positivity is honourable. Unfortunately hers is a situation that has happened before and will probably happen again, yet not every artist would be able to seize the opportunity to make a new piece of work from the experience. It spoke to me on so many levels, the expectations we have of ourselves, the pressure of deadlines and having to fit creativity into a predefined calendar, the problems we face as artists to produce, but also the experience of being a helpless human in this increasingly electronic culture. Hats off to you Cathy!

Friday, 2 June 2017

Newcastle University Undergraduate Fine Art Degree Show - Preview Friday 2nd June, 6-9pm

I'm looking forward to attending the preview of the Newcastle University Undergraduate Fine Art Degree Show tonight.

"The Newcastle University Fine Art BA Degree Show brings together the work of over fifty young artists at the culmination of four-year study on the BA in Fine Art. The exhibition displays a diverse set of practices and media including painting, new media, film, video, sculpture, photography, print, sound, performance and installation.

The Newcastle Show will take place in the Fine Art Department of Newcastle University and nearby in the Great North Museum: Hancock from Saturday 3rd June to Saturday 17th June with a Preview from 6pm on Friday 2nd June.

The exhibition will then transfer to London where it will be exhibited in the Hoxton Arches from the Wednesday 22ND June to Monday 26th June with a Preview from 7pm on Friday 23rd June."

I've had the pleasure of working with some of the students in various capacities over the last two years, and I am excited to see how their work has developed.

For more information about the artists involved, visit

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Everything Will Be Alright in the Stables at Cheeseburn

Thank you to all who visited the Cheeseburn Open Weekends in May and saw my audio installation 'Everything Will Be Alright' in the Stables.

As well as setting up and closing down my installation, I spent both weekends assisting the small team involved in making the event happen. My duties included greeting visitors, giving directions to all the different places to explore within the grounds, providing information about the artworks and artists, handing out maps, offering marbles to visitors to use to vote for the artist they wanted to win the The Gillian Dickinson North East Young Sculptor of The Year award, and generally facilitating the visitor experience. 

We had a remarkable number of people through the gates, and the record for the highest visitor number to Cheeseburn per day was exceeded by a significant amount. Arguably more important was the incredibly positive feedback that we received. 

Visitors commented that the friendly and informative welcome that we offered contributed greatly to their experience of Cheeseburn, and this personal approach echoed Joanna's generosity in permitting the public into her living quarters.

I had some great interactions with people who thoroughly enjoyed my installation. Some had experienced it when it was previously exhibited in Newcastle University as part of my MFA Summer exhibition, and for others it was their first encounter with the work. For me, as well as for others, the work changed with its new surroundings of the Stables. Some found it more relaxing because it was no longer in a black space, but others thought the metal dividers in the stables that cast the shadows on the wall added to the unsettling nature of the work. I was concerned that the situation may detract from the audio and confuse the audience, but this was not the case.

There will be a different sound installation "Lost Voices" happening in the stable yard on the next two open weekends on July 1st/2nd and 8th/9th. There will also be a different exhibition in the gallery. It is well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

At Cheeseburn with the squirrels

I spent the weekend at Cheeseburn Sculpture, near Stamfordham, in the company of 2000 squirrels courtesy of artist Dan Gough. Last year Dan won the Gillian Dickinson North East Young Sculptor of the Year competition, and so was supported to realise his proposal and install it in the Cheeseburn Grange grounds.

This year there are 11 more artists shortlisted for the prize, and once again, the public have been asked to cast their votes to decide the winner. 

Anthony Hensman

Anthony Hensman

Anthony Hensman

Lucien Anderson

Their proposals are exhibited at Cheeseburn in the Gallery and there are numerous other artworks exhibited around the grounds in the gardens and outhouses. 

My sound installation Everything Will Be Alright is situated in the Stables gallery.

Alexander Devereux

Alexander Devereux

Alexander Devereux

Alexander Devereux

There were a record-breaking 530 visitors on Sunday, and the feedback was excellent.

Why not do something different this Bank Holiday weekend and take a trip to Cheeseburn for a cultural adventure. Opening hours are 11am-4pm. There is a cafe on-site. For more information visit the website: