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About Me

‘But we were travellers, folk that had come far in quest of the adventurous; on the first sign of an adventure it would have been a singular inconsistency to have withdrawn;’
Robert Louis Stevenson In the South Seas Chapter IV
The Obsessive Observationist

A Bit About an Ageing Wastrel with an Elastic Nose

Looking back, I think I must be Grew up in working-class London. Working class? Aren’t all people who work working class? Yes and no. There are nuances. I was raised as one of the less well-washed varieties.
My working-class parents, along with many of their friends and relatives and neighbours, lived under the influence of authority. Those with power and influence told them what to do, and sometimes they did it and sometimes they found ways of avoiding it. What they did not have though, really, was self-determination. Their lives were not seen to be under their own control.
There are reminiscences of my life in the 50s and 60s, written with my friend Roj, on Newington Green 50s and 60s:
Our time as yoofs in them times there then
I passed the 11-plus exam (I remember finding it pretty easy) and got a place at the grammar school. My mother was pleased, not because it was the grammar school, but because it was the nearest school, she did not believe in going far to school. Grammar schools took the so-called brightest 25 per cent of the population at eleven years old.
In my year-group at the grammar school very few went on to university. I know of only one boy who did, his name was Vic. If there was anyone else would they please let me know so I can adjust this analysis. That’s pretty damning of the school isn’t it? Just a single one of the intake among the country’s 25 per cent brightest in the area going to a university? No it isn’t really. This was a working-class area and there was quite strong parental and family pressure not to follow-up further education. Not everyone, but certainly many, including my parents believed that.
Why would you not want your children to do well? You did. It’s just the definition of well. Many working-class people thought that education beyond what you had to do at school, beyond what the authorities required you to do by statute, was presumptuous and useless.
The World of Art aptly elucidated by Grayson Perry in his BBC Reith lectures in 2013. In the second of his lectures, that should still be available on, Grayson Perry set down ‘Boundary Markers’ for determining whether or not something is art:
1. Is it in a gallery or an art context?
2. Is it a boring version of something else? (art for the connoisseur is not pleasurable)
3. Is it made by an artist? (i.e. someone who is recognised by those in the art world as an ‘artist’)
4. Photography – Problematic (how do you tell if a photo is art? – when everyone fires away constantly on their iPhone)
5. Limited edition test, if something is made to be relatively rare
6. The handbag and hipster test (who are the people looking at the ‘art’ – if they are rich and educated then it is more likely to be so)
7. Theme Park + Suduko (Are people queuing to look at it?)
8. Rubbish dump test (Throw it on a rubbish dump and if people walking by notice it’s there and wonder why the ‘art’ is there) . . . except if the rubbish dump is itself the art!
9. The ‘Computer art’ test (frustrating our urgent need to double-click our way to satisfaction)
I like those definitions, but they are not determinants of whether something is art, they are determinants of whether something is considered by the cognoscenti to be art. Different thing!
I am what is described as an ‘outsider artist’. That is, I do not wish or need to make my living from Art (with a capital A). For me, art, the definition of art that has survived the centuries, is the dissemination of the science of looking.
I accept what Grayson Perry says in his fourth Reith lecture of 2013, that the most important role of an artist is ‘making meaning’, that the need to express yourself runs very deep in some people, that the artist is a pilgrim on the road to meaning. There must be elements of all that I suppose. But I would put art an intellectual notch above that. I still say it is a demonstration of the science of looking – though that of course is art, not Art.
Grayson Perry describes photography as ‘problematic!’ and I can see why, for if by my definition the main purpose of a visual artist is to expand people’s perception of looking, or even if by Grayson Perry’s to be a pilgrim on the road to meaning, can that not be done as well with a photograph as by any other medium? I believe it can, though not with every iPhone pic. Just some. If you look on Flickr there are lots of photos where the photographer has tried to get what he or she believes to be an ‘artistic’ result. Ah yes, but does it teach you something about looking? That would be my criterion for an artistic photo, or piece of art of any visual nature for that matter.
Nonetheless, I was one who did proceed to further education. At grammar school I was especially good at art and maths, it being one or the other and under the encouragement of a teacher I went off to art school. But in the evaluation at the end of the first year the work I submitted was such a mess that I was not accepted to carry on with the course. I had absolutely no idea how to submit work.
But I still consider myself an artist. It was disappointing at the time to be rejected, especially when other students were so complimentary about my output, but in many ways the disappointment at art school was a blessing in disguise, for I therefore never had to get involved in the business of Art, summed up so well by Grayson Perry as shown in the box to the right.
William Shakespeare has Jaques say that all the world is a stage and the men and women in it merely players, but I think that’s wrong, I think that all the world is a world, and the men and women in it are people, to compare a street to a stage is to devalue the wonders of the street. (I don’t much care for the theatre at the best of times.)
When I travel about I am not much interested in seeing the sights. Or rather I am, but they are different sights from what are generally regarded as such. In so much co-called travel writing there is an implied expectation that when you visit a place you will want to see ‘the sights’ and experience the events, the eating places and leisure activities that are set before you, which is a pity as so many travellers are missing so much, simply by looking at different things from those that I see. People in a setting, they are the sights. And they are what I write about.
There are all sorts of people in the world. Some like to lead, some follow, and some, like me, to stand on the edge and see them at it, without very much prejudice about what the outcome will be. That sounds more like a scientist than an artist. Perhaps it is.
Anyway, having failed with the art degree I had to get some work, which I did, and at a party in 1967, Stan, the friend of my friend, Douglas, offered me the chance to come for interview as a ‘computer operator’. Stan was a bit doubtful about me as I did not fit the normal application criteria, but he wanted to be accommodating to Douglas. Hence I became a computer operator.
And then at the earliest chance possible, switched to programming. I am unusual in following that road, none of my contemporaries so far as I am aware switched from operating computers to programming them.
I’ve used lots of different programming languages including the low-level assembler ones, which are the ones I like best overall. Now though it’s predominantly php and Javascript with an occasional bit of Java thrown in for effects.
I’ve worked all my life – no, not worked, been an installation in places. The actors in the workplace have not had audience participation from me, I just feel them with interest, and leave during the interval.
But I always had this cultural need to make some money and it is by great good fortune that I discovered how worthwhile it feels to write computer programs. That’s what I’ve done, and still do, though I have occasionally got sidetracked and been a systems analyst, business systems manager, company director of a plc and from 1993 to 2005 an an accidental hotelier. I also co-ran a specialist educational publishing company.
Area of academic study was at one time the interaction between people and computer screen displays, and I got a masters degree in that subject, after studying for some time in the psychology department of London Guildhall University, as it was then called.

I live most of the year in Sedbergh in North West England, and part of the year in Santa Vittoria in Matenano, in the Marche region of Italy.
Growing up in London I had lots of opportunity to wander the streets (ie there were more streets to wander than there would have been in, say, a village) and I’ve never tired of it. I would recommend it as a pastime, diversion and hobby – any of those – to anyone.
The Proudly Long Boring Manifesto of Dave Collier


Anonymous said...

your comments about legibility do not relate to contemporary views and research, as a typographic designer, lecturer and having worked in both private commercial and public sectors, my response is as follows:
there is a difference between legibility readability and functionality comparisons:
reading continuous text ie novel or newspaper or document
reading display text
reading non-conventional letterforms ie dot matrix displays, bus information leds
it is not always possible to select an appropriate letterform ie the default font range of pc and web protocols
its not just about clothing fashion
form follows function
academic writing and typographic conventions are not the same as other factors visibility etc.
the needs of technological or social needs
ie jock kinneir and motorway signage
letterforms have always been drawn according to the scribes tools available
fonts can be drawn by hand or by modular construction
technology is able to detect biochemical, physiological, behavioural, sensory inputs and output data ie emotions and actions can be predicted or forecast and responses analysed and
used to gain or clarify communications
text can now be interactive ie arduino website button hovering animated texts or titles
software code
data or word mining or text mining is also being developed to find affective norm responses by the reader to text ie the emotional weight or dominance of words
emphasis bold light regular italic etc

i am currently working on interactive textual poetry which responds to the readers input

manipulated as data

Anonymous said...

The previous "Anonymous" shows their expertise by the total absence of caps, punctuation and the general layout of their comments. I would hate to try reading anything they produced.

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