The town of my birth, Stoke on Trent, is busily turning itself into a giant demolition site, under the auspices of what the City Council like to call "regeneration". Everywhere you turn a new fenced-in empty space has appeared overnight. I suppose I should take an optomistic view and believe that change is a good thing - the city is certainly a lot cleaner than it was when I was a child - but somehow I can't help but look at these urban deserts and hear the distant voices of the of my ancestors, who gave their lives to make the creative, exploitative, desease-ridden, hell-hole that was "The Potteries" famous the world over and make a few men and their families very rich.
All the video footage for this project was filmed during the spring of 2006 on the sites upon which stood the factories ("Potbanks" as we call them around here) of the greatest names in the pottery industry. But, you may say, these companies still exist - you can still go into the finest stores in the world and spend a fortune on their wares - what has happened?
While Stoke on Trent is constantly recognised as one of the poorest, most deprived areas of the country, the big names - the companies made rich by the endless toil of "potters" over centuries - have packed up and gone East, in search of an even cheaper labour force to exploit. But never fear! Those demigods who make the decisions for us mere mortals have the answer - Executive Apartments! - or possibly Retail Parks! - in the words of a famous time traveller - Fantastic! We can now rest easier in our beds in the knowledge that a few lucky David Brents will have nice places to live and a great choice of cloned chain-stores from which to buy their plasma screen TVs while the rest of us struggle to get by in a one of the poorest cities in the country.
I was very pleased to receive assistance from the Spode china company, who kindly allowed me to record much of the audio content of "Outsourced" in their 200 year old factory in Stoke. Sadly even this site has been sold to developers and soon another major part of our cultural heritage will fall prey to the bulldozers.
This video is dedicated to all those men, women and children who made "The Potteries" a unique place - a city with a soot-blackened pride in its existence - a place you were proud to come from.# vimeo.com/1270194 Uploaded 634 Plays 3 Likes 2 Comments
Apart from death and taxes little in this life can be more certain than change. For better or worse, very little is constant, especially in the ever evolving entity that we call the city. As time ticks by with relentless inevitability, so things fall out of use, are demolished and are replaced with the latest bright and shiny objects of desire, only for these in turn to have their day as the unrelenting cycle repeats. This endless circle-game is however a particularly human trait, left alone nature changes very slowly. It is mankind who, in the pursuit of wealth and power, pushes for the newest, the tallest, the unusual and frequently the most outrageous.
But a city is far more than its edifices, or the moneyed men who built them. A city is about people. Ordinary people who will never have a street named after them and extraordinary people who from cradle to grave form the living pulsing lifeblood of the city. Millions of individuals, who en masse make the city come to life, give it purpose and meaning, without them the city is as empty as a desert.
“Time & Tide”, the latest audiovisual composition from multimedia artist Steve Bird, seeks to evoke the essence of a city with images of what was, what is and what is yet to be. Set in Liverpool, the European Capital of Culture 2008, a city of diggers, cranes and wrecking balls, frantically toiling to prove to the world how “Cultured” it is, “Time & Tide” questions our changing values, the very nature of ‘culture’ and wonders what has happened to the dockers, the bakers, the sailors and the factory workers who made up the real culture of the city. Where are they, now that the places where they earned their daily bread have been demolished to make way for chain stores selling the products of British companies manufactured for pennies in the Far East, or for high rent steel and glass apartments that they could never afford if they saved every penny that they earned in a lifetime? Times change – for better or worse - whether we like it or not - times change.
This is my first upload to Vimeo and I am very excited by the prospect of uploading more of my work in HD format. You can find out more at my website soundmangler.co.uk
The original of this work is in 5.1 surround sound - does anyone know if this is streamable in HD?# vimeo.com/1237979 Uploaded 560 Plays 4 Likes 0 Comments
This video was one of my early works, before they became more narrative in content. It was made almost exclusively in "Artmatic" on a Mac using as its starting point three still photographs of flowers.
Here is the original programme note:
“Where have all the flowers gone?”
In 2005 we still justify wholesale slaughter in the name of our favourite cause. In 2005 savages, whether they wear linen robes or grey flannel suits, still murder the innocent in the name of various gods. In 2005 as democracy is enforced in far off lands by men with guns more and more citizens of so-called free countries are incarcerated without trial. In 2005 eighty percent of violence is perpetuated upon civilians.
“When will they ever learn”# vimeo.com/1244199 Uploaded 242 Plays 3 Likes 0 Comments
The inspiration for this video work comes from the numerous, extremely strange radio stations which broadcast at the high end of the shortwave band. Generally considered to be in some way associated with international espionage, these stations transmit from secret locations around the globe in many different languages. The broadcasts share common traits. Usually a station identifier will be played continuously for two or three minutes, followed by a voice reading out strings of numbers, usually in groups of five digits. These numbers are, it is believed, then translated by secret agents out in the field. There is much speculation as to the true nature of these broadcasts, as no one will admit to transmitting them. An internet search for “number stations” brings up in excess of 27,800 hits, many to websites authored by people who have dedicated years of their lives to recording and investigating this extraordinary phenomenon!
In this work I have utilised recordings of three number stations “The Lincolnshire Poacher”, so called because its station identifier is the first line of the English folk song of the same name; The East German “Gongs” station, which mysteriously went off air with the fall of the Berlin wall; and a station know as “The Spanish Lady”.
This is basically an exercise in using After Effects - It was meant to be the opening sequence to a longer work, but as yet this is all there is.# vimeo.com/1247262 Uploaded 313 Plays 1 Like 0 Comments
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