Sunday, October 05, 2008

Home Made, Hand Made

I just watched Be Kind, Rewind - and enjoyed it. It may not be a classy film, it has a low budget look to it (stars and all) but the idea behind it seems cool.

Sweding - making your own stuff. In the world of Internet and YouTube almost everyone can get their hands on tools and stuff for their own creativity - you don't have to always buy 'corporate'. We all like quality, of course, but the 'punk' aesthetic of do-it-yerself has a lot going for it.
Panto at EPA Not that I consider the idea new. My dad made and used puppets throughout his life, with any old raw materials. A shortage of stuff after WWII made him ingenious about using anything that came to hand. His 'den' (where he ran workshops) had dozens of shoe boxes lining the shelves, with anything anyone chose to give him - cotton reels, toilet roll tubes, scraps of fabric, buttons, ping-pong balls, springs, etc.

He had a treasure trove of stuff. Like many artists he would sometimes seek out something to fit, but as often as not would allow the object itself to suggest a use.

The whole 'tv for kids' thing of making puppets with bits and pieces emerged from that work. After our extravagant and affluent wave, we have returned to the idea of recycling and reusing stuff - and getting creative on a budget.

I have nothing against people improving the quality of their product if the feedback of their creativity finds a big audience throwing money in the hat. I worked with Jim Henson at his peak, and that green sock and half ping-pongs that made Kermit had ended up with him able to employ whole teams of creatives, with access to the best tools and materials in the world. State-of-the-art experimentation. No problem. Employment for other creatives. Excellent!
35 years ago - living in a shed in someone's garden
I couldn't wait to get discovered, or pass an audition though - so I had started performing in the streets with what I had. It worked for me - through the thin times of the 70s - as punk emerged as yet another wave of 'homemade'. It doesn't have to look cheap - you can create style with attitude. I ended up in the movies for a while!

The NoFit State crew came out of a workshop I ran when on the dole (that £15 a week raised my income by a third!) No-one had any money. After 20 years of sweding, they now tour an award-winning show - tabĂș, with about 40 people on the road - getting reviews like this:

'Cirque Du Soleil without the Disney and the disinfectant… this is the future of British Circus.’- The Guardian

Uploaded by nofitstate

Gee, gosh - it makes me proud - but they did it with whatever came to hand, lots of attitude and enthusiasm - and getting other people involved. Arts Councils didn't think of 'circus' as an 'art'. It's a lot of work, putting up and taking down your own theatre...

So - I have started making books for the same reason - because I can. Because anyone can get pen and paper (or access to a word processor). Because I don't have a video camera to make YouTube movies for my friends' amusement, (although I have put tiny clips up, I like to try everything). And because Lulu offer me the chance to actually make hard copies - like a book mocked up for a movie - see my Lulu storefront.
Cover by Bobby Campbell
I am sweding books right now. My mate Mick had only just started into computers when he died (in 1994) and he would have loved it. I started tidying the house, and really have to throw out all the books and papers of his that I hoarded...what I haven't made digital has to go. I already made up short runs of some of his writing back in the days of photocopying .

I now edited a final (?) version of 'the book that nobody could write' - Another Kinda Time by Mick Swain - (I leave you to decide if that is 'kinder' or 'kind of') - as one last tribute. He got me writing in the first place, and he might have loved the creative outlets in the modern world. You do this stuff for your own pleasure. If others take it up, amplify it, or put you in the spotlight, fine - but you should have fun, just in case you fail to give up the day job. Fun seems infectious, and gives you the best shot.

Oh, and just for a synchronicity (Mick's favourite model) the DVD extras include a 'mosaic of Passaic' (where they shot the movie with the help of local people). Just last night I used his own phrase to describe his method of turning diary writing into fiction - a mosaic of the prosaic. Spooky, huh?

And we now have hard copies of the Maybe Quarterly in circulation, too.

Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind on Director's File

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