Dana Bubulj: Sculpture, Film, Shadows, Art

Their work, words and wonder

Category: Words

2016 Charity Centurion – Summary

Goodness, it’s over, this year’s Charity Centurion with James Webster –  100 pieces of art and poetry in roughly 30 hours, uploaded to an album on Facebook (I’ll try and find a more easily shareable link soon).

We’re planning on selling these to raise more for Macmillan, along with last year’s for Shelter – so we’ll figure out a decent way to show them online. Thank you so much to all those who supported us with prompts across social media and donations (here’s that link to the Charity Centurion Just Giving page). We couldn’t have done it without you.

Things I learned throughout this process:

  • High chairs and low tables do not a happy back make, and by Sunday night I had even more sympathy for copy-monks than I had already.
  • I finally managed to get a handle on the Chinese ink stones I’ve had since uni and not managed to use to my satisfaction.
  • The J. Herbin ink bought from Cult Pens way back when is still lovely and I need to supplement the reds/pinks I have with more blue/green/browns.
    • On that note, I still adore that site’s “Deep Dark Red”, which is the colour of blood.
  • Other stationery note, Papermate’s Ink Joy Minis, bought in a pack from Ryman for a few quid, are amazing.
  • In keeping the initial prompts more hidden than last time, the works were more related to each side as autonomous entities away from their source. Which actually worked out quite well because it allowed them to flourish a lot more.
  • We had a lot more Classical prompts this time around. Which was interesting (and often involved research!)
  • When sleep deprived, Webster’s poetry is fabulous.

Did something fun to the prompt ‘You’ve got it all backwards’ – claiming it and writing a short text piece, forcing Webster to do art (~meta~). Ended up with a four panel cartoon from him, and a nice way to approach the suggestions with a different perspective.

Speaking of doing things with a bit more background prep, there were one or two homages – to old art deco posters, old postcards, and reference books. Should do more of that, I think – as publishing itself is such an interesting and varied visual medium.

I also used one or two pages from a job-lot of old learning-to-read books I bought for this weekend, but didn’t end up using much from. It’s always more satisfying keeping pages removed to a minimum and seeing what you can make from the text in the discarded edges.

Three more favourites under the cut:-

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Charity centurion

Well, we’re doing it -The Charity Centurion for Macmillan. And it’s quite different to last year.
First impressions after a full first day is that we’ve grown as creators. Knowing the drill, as it were, the room was set up in due time, the tea made. We also had  a benchmark of last year to base our output on. And remembered how hectic the second day was. The second day that’s ahead of us now!
But enough of that, what you want to see are finished pieces. I think both James and myself can say we’re more satisfied with a greater majority of our sides in execution – (to the expense of time taken!) Clearer themes less distracted, more coherent images.
We will be selling these to fundraise further, and go back to the Shelter ones too.
They’ll all be put up later, but 2 of my favourites so far have been:-

“It is 100 years since our children left.”


We have counted the days
We have clung to life through hope
And stubbornness
We have kept their rooms exactly as they left them
But for the stains of tears
And the scratches where we clawed at the walls.

When they came back they had not aged a day
But our eyes
So wide with love
Saw the subtle differences
The beady eyes
The jagged nails
Their teeth like tiny knives
We had thought the rats which plagued our village were just that
But now we know better.

And they looked at us like we were monsters
Perhaps we were
The years had not been kind
Sun and worry had worn our skin to leather
But we knew
Despite their pleadings
That when we tore them apart
It was for love.

After so long waiting
We would not allow our children to do this to another town.



They really were supposed to be a pair
The scabbard that shielded from all harm
The sword that won all battles
Since losing one, I have become more wound than man
I have forgotten what it was to live without pain
I wonder sometimes what I looked like when I had skin
The days before I carried this hunched agony around
I assume now I must have imagined.
And still Excalibur will not let me die.
But my battle is never done
And I am so tired.
Perhaps I will have a short rest
And when I wake
They will have forgotten who I am
And that I was ever king
That sounds nice.

If you like these and want to support us, please do at our just giving page

Poetry-Art Charity Centurion

In lieu of dusting this blog off, I’ve instead got some news to paraphrase from the lovely James Webster:-

With Britain in the grips of a housing crisis (not enough homes being built, ever-increasing numbers of homeless households, both house and rent prices spiralling up out of reach) and with a government promising further cuts to vital services, we wanted to do something to help.

As an artist and writer who’ve collaborated before on projects (including a work published in Issue 1 of Verse Kraken), we knew we wanted that help to involve putting our creative output to some concrete use.

So, inspired by the efforts of previous poets who’ve completed the ‘100 poems in a day challenge’, we are setting ourselves the task of creating 100 pieces of poetry/prose infused art in the space of a single day: Saturday 16 May.

If you’re able to spare anything at all to sponsor our efforts, we would be incredibly grateful. If not, then tweeting us some support during what promises to be a very long day would also be fantastic.

1. Sponsor us! The Justgiving page is here. All support would go to Shelter.

2. Share us! The more people you tell, the more support we get and the more people will see the creations on the day.

3. Inspire us! That is a lot to create, so we need prompts and things to base the pieces off! We can be contacted both on our blogs and elsewhere on the wires (@websterpoet and@pinstripeowl).

We’ll most likely be blogging about the work as well, so do keep an eye out for developments.

Moonrise Kingdom and Voyeurism (some thoughts)

When last up in the ford of Oxen, I finally got to see a film at the Ultimate Picture Palace, a lovely small cinema that I’ve got to explore more, as it is warm, friendly and seems to key into a more antiquated film experience, which in some ways was appropriate given that the film, Wes Anderson‘s Moonrise Kingdomwas set in 1965 in a remote New England island.


The colours were beautiful: vivid and pure saturation, and of course it was shot excellently. I had initially been wary of seeing it, mainly due to being bored during The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, also my enduring feelings about hipsters (which are to hit them with sticks). But this aside, it was good to see at not-exorbitant prices, *though* some of the interactions between the central child actors made me want to die while watching them.

I understand Anderson’s attraction to making adults act like children and children grown up and serious, and the inherent whimsy and true-to-life-ness that this often has, but I don’t feel the need to watch two twelve year olds undress and awkwardly snog. I kept seeing them (perhaps unfairly) as Sally and Glen from Mad Men in my head was another jarring aside, but this seems to be a personal association. But yeah, their love story: of initial attraction of two children who don’t seem to fit in with their peers/siblings and decide to run away together is something the audience watching can key into as nostalgic escapism. But, as is so often, it is the gaze in which lies the problem. Can a film do justice to early sexuality? Is the medium so inherently based on voyeurism that it is impossible to explore without being so bodily removed from the play of the characters?

“Leave it to Wes Anderson to turn… half-naked children groping at each other, bleeding, talking about hard-ons—into something that feels at once playful, tasteful, and bracingly real.” – Asawin Suebsaeng @ Mother Jones.

No one is doubting the truth of the scene. Truly, the interest in one another’s bodies and the awkward exploration is ‘honest’, and true to their respective ages.

When reading around for this post, I came across a comment on a review that also keyed into some of my thoughts on the film:

“I totally agree that it was a relatively “honest” depiction of that kind of thing, but the question becomes whether or not we need a visual depiction of it… if it’s a movie for adults, then it is (actual…) children pushing boners into each other for adult eyes… This isn’t a particularly subversive paragraph in Bridge to Tarabithia or whatever. This is fetishized childhood for people who haven’t been children in decades.”

The first part, I’m not going to address. If things were only made due to need, then where would we be? Well, function and form would become more intrinsically linked which may please the more Marxist of artist craftspeople and that could be interesting, but beside the point! The audience of a Wes Anderson film is never going to be a young audience seeing their own lives: it is an audience of escapists, of those after the Peanuts-esque childhood with adults that have their foibles exaggerated like a caricatured chin.

“Didn’t you ever snog a boy or girl at that age?” a friend asked, after the film. Beside the point.

The film is made to key into our, the viewers’, childhoods, using characters as avatars. However, unlike book characters, where relating to character experiences can be easier due to not being so bodily excluded from the scene, Moonrise Kingdom just felt voyeuristic. The awkwardness of the character interactions, much like in Life Aquatic, is made more so because of the inherent voyeurism of the camera, which is unrepentant and cold in its pans. Perhaps I would have felt less like an intruder in their world if the camera had been more sentient. Perhaps that’s the point. I certainly am not arguing for cinema not to make you uncomfortable, but there are things perhaps to be unpacked further.

I said earlier that perhaps film was a bad medium to access such things. Maybe given the business surrounding it, it’s harder. Television is a better way to talk to younger audiences, and I think Skins is probably a good example. It caused such havoc when it started, as a brash, youthful take on sex, drugs and youth. But it spoke to the teens that age, so much so that I’d argue that with each iteration and new cast, it loses its older audience to gain a new one, reaching that point and having its own, current issues.

Final thought, which is in no way a conclusion, but a petering out of time before the wrong side of dawn

“The film… has a rapt quality, as if we are viewing the events through Suzy’s binoculars or reading the story under the covers by a flashlight.” –  Kristin M Jones @ Film Comment

I quote this because I like the idea of the ubiquitous binoculars serving as a focus. It could have been more awkward, if the adults searching for the runaways had character internal character development, or at least, a less shallow one: some of the adults do identify with the children – notably the policeman, played well by Bruce Willis, who is having a messy affair with Suzy’s mother. The un-comfort of the adults finding the children in flagrante (ish) could have worked to counterpoint the natural desires of the children. But the audience, I feel, is meant to relate to the mature (and yet inexperienced) children, laughing at the folly of adults. Which I can get behind, but still, thoughts. Hm.

I’d definitely be happy to discuss it more and this post is mainly a way for me to gather thoughts together. If you’ve opinions, feel free to share in the comments below.

Suzy Bishop & her binoculars.

Console dreams

Sometimes, I dream video games.

I play them fully immersed, aware of game principles yet conscious within the game avatar who, typically, is a little like me, a little like Link. The worlds have a Nintendo-esque feel to them, sometimes, owing to both Zelda and a bit to Banjo Kazooie, I’m sure. Sometimes I see through the character, sometimes I can take in the whole scene, craning my eyes as the camera does its best to make me die or miss a handy if easily overlooked plot point. Sometimes I die, respawn, spend a whole night trying to get past a dungeon. Not necessarily successfully.

There are puzzles I wake up from wishing for a pen and pads of paper, to trace out their intricacies. Other times I get lost mapping out large caverns of water complete with an almost insurmountable enemy to evade, my paper renderings never able to fully render the dimensions, or the sheer, terrifying drop from the ledge.

I find these dreams interesting: how are they differentiated from the more standard Indiana Jones-esque fantasy? The roving perspective, the concept of task/quest, the multiple lives – Why are these in any way relevant to talk about here? Well, mainly because they’re food for thought for gamification of narration, which is just another way of saying, accessing and choosing a path from a plurality of perspective. (Plurality for all!)

I’m currently working on a beta for a game that uses the Story Nexus platform. The Failbetter team are doing something rather fab at letting the engine loose on the world and the possibilities for new ways of experiencing stories are rather exciting. My world is based on Jean Arp’s Sculpture à être perdue dans la forêt, because it’s beautiful in name, concept and execution. If successful, the player will experience a forest through its fallen leaves. But we’ll see. I’ve much to be getting on with!

Jean Arp - Sculpture to be lost in a forest

Jean Arp – Sculpture to be Lost in a Forest, 1932

Edinburgh Fringe / Sabotage

I’ve been up in Edinburgh and St Andrews this week, reviewing the Fringe with James Webster for Sabotage Reviews. In an exciting twist, we noticed that three of our reviews had been printed and put on the wall of the Underbelly. Probably only right and proper, as it seems we saw a disproportionate amount of shows there. I’m not going to reproduce the reviews here, but I’ll link to them, may note things in more detail later:

Day One: Dirty Great Love Story and Helen Keen: The Robot Woman of Tomorrow
Day Two: Life or Something Like It, The Static, Dating George Orwell, Mark Grist: Rogue Teacher, A Real Man’s Guide to Sainthood and Superbard Starts to Save the World
Day Three: Dream/Life, One Hour Only and The Last Fairytale
Day Four Part 1: Phill Jupitus: Porky the Poet in 27 Years On, Anthropoetry and Lucy Ayrton: Lullabies to Make Your Children Cry
Day Four Part 2: They Came With Outer Script, Other Voices: Alternative Spoken Word and Flea Circus Open Slam
Day Five: Jack and Nikki: Killing Machines, Love in the Key of Britpop, Once Upon a Time in Space, Alternative Sex Education and Jack Heal: Murderthon
Day Six Part 1: Harry Baker: Proper Pop-up Purple Paper People, Letter to the Man (from the Boy), The Man Who
Day Six Part 2: Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard Tyrone Jones Has a Big Heart, Flea Circus Open Slam
Day Seven Part 1: Oddlie, Charlie Dupré Presents the Tales of Shakey P, Perle, Other Voices: Alternative Spoken Word
Day Seven Part 2: The Girl with No Heart, Evie and the Perfect Cupcake, Ash Dickinson @ the Inky Fingers Minifest

Tea Fuelled Edinburgh Previews – which we then saw and re-reviewed in Edinburgh. Much had changed, with things smoother.
Lullabies to Make Your Children Cry / Evie and the Perfect Cupcake*
Guardian Reader, Jack and Nikki: Killing Machines, Murderthon, Superbard Starts to Save the World, Rogue Teacher

More later, but a bit review-frazzled. Here’s Justice the Dinosaur, who joined us on our travels:

Justice the Dinosaur enjoying the view

“Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner…”

“That’s an interesting accent, where’re you from?” – every stranger who talks to me on the train, ever.

I’ve always found the question far too complicated, in that I don’t feel great ties to either the land of my passport or my surname. The closest thing to nationality that I have ever felt is a fealty to London. It is the city in which I was born, where I grew up in an interstitial suburb of nowhere in particular and taught to commute at an early age in search of interesting things.

What I like about the city comes out whenever I’m talking with people from other parts of the UK: London’s a patchwork marvel where should its inhabitants want something new or different, they could go to the other end of town. Or even the next borough over, if that. Hell, there’s that road off Liverpool street where the sheer glass literally gives way to smoggy bricks. So much variation in its pockets of people and buildings. Cultures meshing together and going about their day to day, or not, as the case may be.

A while back I read Kate Griffin‘s Matthew Swift books. They’re one of the best pieces of ‘urban fantasy’ that I’ve read for many reasons, most mainly because it engages its setting. It’s been a while that I’ve read a book that truly, deeply, cared about London. Yes, books are set here, but they don’t breathe its geography. There are many books more developed at its denizens and communities, but for sheer personality of the city’s nooks and crannies itself, Griffin is unparalleled. It’s funny, actually, because I read them after Ben Aaronovich‘s recent detective series, which amused me mainly because it was specific in its name-checking of streets that I knew (down to a chase down Richmond’s George Street). But it doesn’t necessarily engage to the extent of the Swift books, which understand the city better (as they should, given the central character derives their power from it).

But the city is troubling too. The spectre of upcoming events that seem to have trademarked every possible word from their SEO (which will be horrific to enforce and quite frankly seems idiotic), its stranglehold on transport and business and oh, I don’t think I can deal with Johnson’s voice on the Tube. It does make me despair a little.

Map of the London postal district in 1857,
from Illustrated London News, 17 January 1857 p.46
(nicked off Wikipedia, for my shame.)

Sunrise from the other side

There’s a certain something to watching the world wake up: the slow creep of sun through the blinds making the lamplight look strangely hollow; outside waking and making the alarms seem so much harsher without the dampeners of sleep.

I often wonder where time went, when it got so late as to be early, whether I’d been busying myself with anything useful. I also notice, at times like these, if a date has snuck up on me, stealth mostly through my inattention.

Time to put the kettle on.

The Lightbulbs were hatching, light spilling from their centres like poached eggs.

Knight at the Circus – Exhibited film (& discussion)

Knight at the Circus [exhibited 2012]

Goodness. It’s finally here. Meant to upload this last week, but time did its thing. This was shown at the Kingston Fine Art Degree Show in a darkened room with a bench to encourage people to sit and watch it in its entirety. It could have done with not being near something with flickering lights, but when space is at a premium, I think I fared well. (Note on audio: music is by a band called Minotaur Shock.)

In contrast to the text only version, this also has sound and visuals, which I had great fun with. In typical style much was done rather last minute and I’d have liked to have a few days extra to poke about with it when seeing what the tv screen had done to both the colour and the sound (by the end of the fortnight, the colours had ramped up, burned and highly saturated. Similarly, the volume balance didn’t seem to come across well, with the humming at the end far louder than the rest of the piece (unlike the file!) so that I had to turn it down and thus lost nuance. Which is a little annoying, but possibly brought on by myself.

Where can I go from here? I want to play with it some more. See if I can perhaps do a text with effects version (as I was happy with those portions of the film and wanted to experiment). I also want to consider working on making an illustrated book. Which in itself holds challenges as I do not want one of my goals to be constrained and thus destroyed by the medium: I want things to look fragmentary, I want people to fill in the rest of the world and want to know the rest of the story. Perhaps large swathes of blank might do it? With eroded text. It would certainly fit with some of my earlier work.

Which reminds me, I want to go through this site and put up some of the old work I am still proud of. So little of it still exists so it’d be nice to get a relatively decent online portfolio.

Also, have sorted out going to the Fringe this year, which should be great fun. Will I review there? I’m not actually sure, but I’ve some previews I saw last week that I’ve got to write up. Initial picks to rec are definitely: Lucy Ayrton’s Lullabies to Make Your Children Cry and Superbard Starts to Save the World. If you’re up there, definitely pop in (they’re free!).

When I Grow Up

“Where am I going? I don’t quite know” (A.A. Milne, ‘Spring Morning’)

My degree has nearly concluded, the fruits of this year’s work are being exhibited rather successfully. While this assuages the guilt I had been feeling whilst messing on the internet rather than working, it brings with it a reinforced Damocles sword with its steely whisper: “So, what do you want to do when you’ve finished Uni?”

It’s a good question, one I have to consider rather seriously now. Short term plans involve getting some more reading done, get into the habit of sketching regularly, of updating this, etc.. But those aren’t what that question is getting at: that question wants to talk about job prospects.

It’s tempting to answer glibly, to recall childhood games where I was a witch detective spy (a magic spy detective? detective spy witch? I can’t remember the order on the bespoke (obvs) business cards.) I had set up an agency in the back garden and took cases that I’d technically fabricated (clues and all), conveniently forgetting their resolutions (or leaving them to the conclusions of the clues – an early example of Death of the Author?). I’m not as enamoured of these avenues of employment as I once was, but it’s nice to hear other people’s childhood combined dream-jobs: in ‘Fuck you, Corporate-land’, Lucy Ayrton has the amazing: “You’re disappointed? I was going to be the first ever brain surgeon/rock star!”

I need to be a bit more focussed with applications, which will in turn help me figure out what sort of things to pursue. Thankfully, despite the feeling of funnelling children to vocations, it is less unusual not to have a path on which you spend your entire life. It’s a process, after all.

“So, how do you see yourself in five years?”