LABOURS OF LOVE

At Bris­tol’s first Some­thing Good fes­ti­val, Nick Car­son finds a rekin­dled joy for craft

Computer Arts - - Culture -

After build­ing mo­men­tum with its thread events se­ries, Bris­tol agency Fi­asco launched its first two-day fes­ti­val, Some­thing Good.

The di­verse line-up ranged from the in­fec­tious en­thu­si­asm of lo­cal suc­cess story Gavin Strange to the anti-es­tab­lish­ment sur­re­al­ism of Swedish su­per­stars Snask, with their leather-clad band Väg in tow.

Per­haps the most mem­o­rable take­away from Strange’s talk was the pie chart that re­vealed how he splits his time to ac­com­mo­date a day job at Aard­man, his pas­sion projects un­der the JamFac­tory alias, and fam­ily life – a packed sched­ule that in­cludes tak­ing ad­van­tage of be­ing awake at 5am (for baby-sooth­ing du­ties) to crack on with some per­sonal work.

“I want to do all the things that ex­cite me. Be­cause, why not?” shrugged Strange. “Op­por­tu­ni­ties are born from pas­sions. But I pride my­self on be­ing a re­al­is­tic ide­al­ist. We all love to be floaty-floaty, but we still have bills to pay.”

An­other speaker to make use of graphic charts to make their point was Karin Langeveld, co-founder of Trapped In Sub­ur­bia, whose anal­y­sis of work­ing on cre­ative projects with clients plot­ted a line from ‘pure magic’ to ‘pure tragic’. Un­like Strange, the Dutch stu­dio has a firm be­lief in keep­ing to 9-5 hours and mak­ing the most of ‘off’ time to recharge the bat­ter­ies.

She also em­ployed pie charts to de­ter­mine how she de­cides what projects to take on, based on three ‘P’s: press ap­peal, pay, and play value. An equal three-way split, or ide­ally a big­ger weight­ing to­wards ‘play’, and she does the job. Any­thing else is a no.

Both Strange and Langeveld also dis­cussed the hands-on, phys­i­cal na­ture of some of their work – from build­ing phys­i­cal masks for video shoots to play­ing with in­no­va­tive ma­te­ri­als, such as ‘bake to re­veal’

type – and this was a theme echoed through­out the day.

Satir­i­cal sculp­tor Wil­frid Wood, who cut his teeth on caus­tic 1980s pup­petry show Spit­ting Im­age, dis­cussed ev­ery­thing from craft­ing celebrity like­nesses to re­cruit­ing life­draw­ing mod­els via Grindr, while Morag My­er­scough shared the labour of love in­volved in paint­ing her gi­ant in­stal­la­tions.

“It’s 30 min­utes be­tween coats, which lim­its what I can do in a day,” she said. “I have peo­ple to help, but I of­ten paint all night on my own. It’s OK though, I only live up­stairs.”

Bren­dan Dawes cel­e­brated the “beau­ti­ful in­con­ve­nience in phys­i­cal ob­jects”, and how data can trans­late into some­thing much more tan­gi­ble and ac­ces­si­ble. “Ma­chines don’t un­der­stand it, it’s not log­i­cal, but it makes us hu­man,” he in­sisted.

“When you speak in a uni­ver­sal lan­guage, peo­ple latch onto it,” he con­tin­ued, giv­ing the ex­am­ple of an in­stal­la­tion of his Hap­pi­ness Ma­chine – an in­ter­net-con­nected printer that ran­domly dis­penses happy thoughts – in Ger­many, where some el­derly ladies spent 10 min­utes glued to the win­dow in the rain watch­ing it. “They didn’t care about the tech, they just cared about the mes­sages,” he smiled.

An­thony Bur­rill was very frank about the group ef­fort in­volved in his iconic let­ter­pressed poster, ‘Work Hard and Be Nice to Peo­ple’, and had his own story of el­derly in­spi­ra­tion: the phrase it­self was over­head from an old lady on Clapham High Street, and his print­ers, Ian and Der­rick, set the type with fairly min­i­mal di­rec­tion.

“I made a few hun­dred to send to friends, and then it was my wife who had the idea of sell­ing it,” he ad­mit­ted. “40,000 copies later… thanks, Ian and Der­rick.”

Clock­wise from far left: An­thony Bur­rill dis­cusses the power of ideas; the en­rap­tured crowd in Bris­tol, and en­joy­ing a drink af­ter­wards; sev­eral speak­ers ran hands-on work­shops on the Satur­day; Karin Langeveld from Trapped In Sub­ur­bia.

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