March of Silence
In 2006 my project proposal ‘The March of Silence’ was shortlisted for the Artangel/Jerwood commissions. I was one of a small number of artists interviewed for the commissions.
My project proposal for consideration is for a specially commissioned Balloon to be produced. A preliminary thought on the shape and form of the balloon envelope is for an iconic head. I Referenced the floating ‘Zardoz’ stone head from the film ‘Zardoz’ and the sculptured head of Karl Marx, in London’s Highgate Cemetery as two examples that illustrated my thinking. I was not suggesting that a celebrated or infamous bust should be used for the final modelling of the balloon. The examples used were to illustrate the idea; however the essence of these images I envisaged would have been reflected in the final balloon design. The balloon would have been created using composite images. I considered that the finished balloon could be a synthesis, using different face parts to form the balloon shape.
By means of the balloon, I proposed that ‘propaganda’ leaflets were to be dropped across strategic sites. The identified sites were to be reliant on a number of issues being discussed and resolved. These matters related to access; the availability to fly over the designated sites and the right to operate (dropping leaflets) using UK airspace. I believed that if this work were to be possible, it would be achieved through a period of consultation with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and The Directorate of Airspace Policy (DAP) as well as other (and un-identified) bodies.
The choice of sites under consideration could be lost villages (DMV’s), Key Villages from the period of the English civil war. Villages separated by natural barriers, rivers or roads and villages divided by re-drawn county or electoral boundaries. There is the possibility that the leaflets to be dropped on two different locations purely create ‘divisionism’. To mark these locations a series of grid references could be obtained by the audience, which in turn draws them to specific sites, abandoned airfields or empty spaces for example. It is possible that the balloon may naturally attract a following as it seemingly drifts peacefully over our landscape; recognised by ‘Character Marketing’ aimed toward the public gaze.
Dependent on what is granted by the authorities involved in the planning for the event, the scope for exploration as to the content of the leaflets is considerable. The design of the leaflets will be vital; from the image or text, to the shape of the leaflet (Circular, leaf like etc) through to the type of paper used. The distinct images that befall one location could be of a very different nature in another location. An image of a bomb, a bacteria or a chemical symbol would send out one kind of message. In another location an image with a more passive and optimistic message could be dropped. Whilst disaster may occur in one place, so life inevitably carries on unaffected in another location.
What I proposed to accompany the balloon drop was the production of a book. This would have document the event and included all the information relating to the ‘drops’. I considered that the book could have been added to as the project developed. It will contain information relating to time of drops and locations; it will incorporate maps, grid references and additional information about the projects history as it unfolded. Spaces remained blank in the book also for the public to stick the material dropped by the balloon into it. Images could have continued to be created as the project went live, so that images of the balloon visiting the sites could have been printed and stuck into the book.
The Envelope - The head
The key focus is the balloon head. What the head delivers are characteristics of the adult male human face. My head is derived from classically influenced sculptures, scientific drawings and anatomical models. The source material must be stone in order to pick up the surface qualities during design and reproduction.
The head conveys human attributes and aspects through both visual recognition and abstracted psychological, philosophical and emotional experience. The work is above all a visual encounter with accompanying aural incident, ‘The voice of the burner’. The public through participatory involvement can experience the march of Silence or through ‘passive’ encounters.
The head design is to be a composite and the images are generated from original source material (busts). The images shall be assembled from our National collections.
In essence the head betrays a genuine authentic likeness to an individual identity. In the sculpting of the head (in the manner of ‘composite articulation’) it shall bare all the features that make up the human face. The Balloon shall be required to look and to feel unlike conventional leisure balloons in both design and shape.
The balloon shall look different and authentic. It is to be viewed as an artwork, as sculpture. As an artwork it is anticipated that it can also act differently by being given ‘artistic license’ to undertake actions during public engagements that are not permitted at any other time.
The Balloon is for all intent and purpose shall be composed of graphic tones of black and white. (Monochrome)The sizable re-scaling and the qualities of stone are preserved in the graphic qualities through the re-interpretation of form & texture.
From afar the balloon appears passive. It is poetic and artful, maybe sublime - upon closer inspection and exposure it can deliver an all-together different experience. The sheer gigantic scale offers greater emotional experience for the individual.
The balloon stone head delivers contradiction and it toys with the materials. It occupies the ‘free space’ where man contemplates the void and faces his fears and where man can fantasize about freedom and how to explore that freedom. The union between materials - Fabric and Stone - lightness and heaviness in contradiction. The head symbolises the possibility of defying gravity through a ‘superhuman’ endeavour. Maintaining a strong physical and visual presence.
Head Image references - Historical/contemporary
Erected statues and busts - Origins of the ‘classical’ bust
Reference - the commissioning of statues/busts by Roman Emperors, Hadrian had commissioned statues of Antinous as well as himself. Julius Caesar & Nero for example had commissioned (standard practice) for every town and city across the Roman Empire a statue in honor and in dedication to them selves. How else other than in the stamping and the minting of coins could the Emperors image been seen by the populace. Thereafter any ennobled Roman seeking political influence would commission with right (by giving money/tribute to the Emperor) a coin that depicts himself or herself as provincial governor. The process of marketing and the power of image and spin continue.
Developing the Theatre - an Act in 3 parts
The First Encounter - ‘The vivacity of life‘
The launch activity - The preparation for launch - pre launch.
An expectant audience - Directly participating in an event.
Audience both invited and drawn to the event through publicity.
The Second Encounter - The escape of ‘The tethered moment’
The unexpected audience - encounters with the balloon during its flight. Working with silence - The ‘surprise’ of the balloon (The bursts of energy through burns) - whilst drifting - waiting to come into view / following the balloon / an object of curiosity / questioning - what is it? - Why is it?
The Third Encounter - ‘The fall’
The force of nature and the pull of the earth, the exhausted fuel - ‘the food’ of the head … so imminent collapse approaches. A private quiet and dignified finale or caught floundering in full public display? A head separated from a body - mindful / unconnected / removed – an act of tragedy and sorrow or of joy and elation.
Site as Target
People as Target
Congregation of the people
‘X’ as Target of affection - the visiting of the sites.
Indirect/direct Adoration - Followers & supporters - the inquisitive
Rally - The gathering of people assembled for the event.
Head as benefactor - as bringer - as carrier - (Relate to the dropping of paper images etc)
Ÿ Giver and provider - of wisdom - direction - (moment of blind faith)
Ÿ The illuminated Head
Material related to the location only - undertaking research on locality
The project explores the Political & Social parameters both through the balloons flight and by the material dropped.
The balloon as messenger
Types of Leaflet - ‘Weird Rain’
With particular reference to chosen locations.
‘Weird Rain’ - The language of the text is easy to understand - helpful for the young to comprehend the meaning - visual and text based graphic. Suggesting of Plague.
Frog species - local specific
Developing interest in project, locality and the historic connections that are unique to each site.
Other images that hold a place within the work is relating to ‘Virus’ transference- I am interested to explore the possibility of a virus than becomes airborne like the common cold. It is within our air space that life holds and knows no bounds. The delivery though a balloon drop of a man made virus or an emblemic chemical symbol suggests attack. This threat is keenly prevalent with our current state of uneasiness. How our Skies can be used for either sinister motive or something seemingly mundane, for example a product advertisement flyer would severely test our defences and question our reasoning over privacy and personal security and national security.
I propose that any material dropped would have reference to the local. By using airfields as the launch site, so the connection between location and transportation means become clear. One element is in service of the other; it is no different than the servicing of an aircraft at any airport. Embarkation and departure - The ghosts of service men and aircraft echo across these often forgotten sites.
The Head as ‘preserver of memory’ / ‘The bringer of history’
Nickels, paper bullets, falling leaves, and bullshit bombs. These are some of the nicknames given to war propaganda, delivered by air in the form of printed flyers. In modern warfare and in peacetime, world economies continue to invest vast physical resources, organisation and understanding toward the dropping of paper ordnance.
‘Nickels’ was a term used by the allied forces during WWII for propaganda leaflets; it was an apt description for a ‘cheap’ form of incendiary. I imagine the bomber crews who were asked to fly over enemy territory to drop leaflets, would perhaps feel that their lives would have been of greater value in the service of king and country, if they were asked to drop five hundred pound bombs upon their adversaries. However these ‘two-bit incendiaries’ have continued to be used in the purpose of military ‘practice’ but in peaceful operations also.
In July 2006 as Congo was preparing for the most ambitious and expensive election in African history (£246m), more than 25 million people were expected to vote in the first democratic elections following years of violent civil war. Congo is a country the size of Western Europe and in order to reach the populous, helicopters dropped (by hand) thousands of election information leaflets upon remote villages. At the same moment in time, Israeli aircraft flew over South Lebanon dumping (by bomb) untold millions of Propaganda leaflets upon cities, towns and villages and banana plantations.
Balloon Manufacturers. The largest manufactures of hot air balloons in the world are ‘Cameron Balloons’ of Bristol, UK. They are a major producer of ‘Special shaped’ balloons. (See example by Cameron Balloons) ‘Shaped’ balloons are usually made for commercial advertising but on occasions private individuals do have balloons manufactured. (See www.cameronballoons.co.uk)
Zaroz plot outline: In the far future 2293, an exterminator trained only to kill for his god, a giant stone head named Zardoz discovers a community populated by bored immortals who alone preserves humanity's achievements; eventually the savage beast learns the truth about Zardoz.
Adhering to all Legal requirements and the Code of Practice for flying hot air balloons. At all times keep a safe distance from persons, vessels, vehicles and structures. Only fly in suitable weather. Always fly with regard for other conditions such as local bylaws. Always fly with due consideration for other people and property.
Propaganda This generic term has many constituent sub-headings known as ‘techniques’ and is used to influence opinions and it is said to avoid the truth. Terms used to describe the techniques include, Bandwagon, Double Speak, Euphemisms, Fear, Glittering Generalities, Name Calling, Agent Provocateur, Bad Science and Confusopoly!
Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) The CAA is the UK's independent aviation regulator, with all civil aviation regulatory functions (economic regulation, airspace policy, safety regulation and consumer protection) integrated within a single specialist body.
The Directorate of Airspace Policy (DAP) The DAP is responsible for the planning and regulation of all UK airspace including the navigation and communications infrastructure to support safe and efficient operations. DAP is staffed by civilian and military experts with experience of commercial, business, recreational and military aviation. The needs of all users are accommodated, as far as possible, with regard for safety as well as environmental, economic and national security considerations.
(DMVs) Deserted Medieval Villages. It is theorized by scholars that there are more than 2000 deserted villages in Britain. For example, Widford, Silverley, Glendon and Bittesby. ‘The Lost Villages of England’ (1954), M.W. Beresford. 0-7509-1848-9 Stroud-Sutton Publishing. Maurice Warwick Beresford, economic historian, born February 6th 1920; died December 15th 2005. The most recent examples of (NDV’s) New Deserted Villages were still occupied within living memory. For example, some villages were taken over by the armed forces during the Second World War – such as Tyneham in Dorset & Oldton (See www.oldton.com)
Historians date the start of the civil war at 22 August 1642, when the Royal standard was raised at Nottingham.
Examples are Chipping Norton, Oxon, Tollerton in Notts , Finn mere - Buck and Wheaton Aston Airfield II in Staffordshire. Apparently photographs taken of Wheaton Aston airfield often come back from the photographic developers with strange ‘mist’ shapes on the prints!
In the 1930’s 900,000 books entitled ‘The Life of the Fuhrer’ were published with the text printed but the places for the pictures had been left blank. In the case of the aforementioned book the pictures were sold separately for each of the chapters for the people to attach the images themselves.
The March of Silence January 1st 2003 some 20 - 25,000 of Mexico's indigenous people (Zapatistas) broke nearly two years of self-imposed silence with an enormous march through San Cristobal, Chiapas. This historic march went virtually unremarked in the US media. In 1994 the Zapatistas declared a cease-fire after a 12-day take over of San Cristobal. Within 24 hours the army kill At least 145 indigenous people.