ALAN KERR (aka ALAN TRASHMOUTH RECORDS)

PROPOSAL

I like to make videos that explore the surroundings in which I find myself. My videos contain childlike curiosity and play mixed with humour, a lot of the time adult humour. (Think Limmy meets Paul McCarthy.) The main goal in my practice is to get people interested in art that normally feel removed from the modern art world, and I find humour and my upbringing in the infamous town of Cumbernauld helps me make that connection with people.

I do love to build things and I have been concentrating on more sculptural works in the past few months so I feel this residency is a chance for me to work on some video work that I have neglected in the months running up to my degree show. It is a really great chance to make artwork in a place in which I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to.

I plan to explore the surrounding countryside and local town and meet local people and take in some culture, digesting everything I see hear and feel and regurgitate it to make work that will truly be unique within my portfolio of past works. In the end I hope to produce some thought-provoking, funny little videos about a place I have never been from the point of view of a central-belt boy, born and bred.

IN RESIDENCE

Alan has been exploring Blairgowrie, video camera in hand, and now he is back in the living quarters of the bcca.

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Kate, Claire and I are curious to know what he's made of Blairgowrie so far, so I ask if he might come up to the house and let us see what he's been filming. Alan is fine with this suggestion.

Ten minutes later:

Alan: "Are you ready for this guys?"

Claire: "Oh, I don't know if we are, Alan? I mean you're from that concrete jungle - that modernist nightmare - known as Cumbernauld, aren't you?"


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Alan: "I was. But I'm now living in Leicester, to which I came via dead-end jobs as a debt collector, breadmaker and security guard, not forgetting a life-saving degree in sculpture from Edinburgh College of Art."

Kate: "Hit us with the stark reality that lurks outside these four walls, lad, while you've got our attention."

First hit. (Click on the link.)

Kate: "Yeah, the BCCA hates Tesco. Every time I'm in there they've got rid of another decent product. Last week it was venison. Leaving yet more space for processed meals and crisps."

Claire: "There are proper shops on the High Street. A butcher, a fruit and veg shop and a fish shop. They're the places the bcca supports when it can afford to."

Kate: "Hit us with your next nugget of reality, Alan."

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Alan: "I call this one 'Taste of China'."

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Second hit.

Kate: "Great. At the beginning of that you could see the church next door to the bcca."

Claire: "Oh, yeah. It's the Chinese just along the road. Have you two ever eaten there?"

Duncan: "No."

Kate: "I haven't eaten from any of the takeaways in Blair in seven years. Salty, processed food that's full of fat and preservatives. Not a good idea."

Claire: "What did the window taste like, Alan? A bit too Blairy?"

Alan: "No. It was awright."

Duncan: "How many of these clips have you got?"

Alan: "About 20."

Duncan: "Maybe I could choose a few and put them on the BCCA website?"

Alan: "Aye, that would be fine."

Third hit.

Duncan: "I know you're trying to be sarcastic. But Abba, Johnny Cash, The Corries. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tartan Tops, etc. In my opinion, that shop window proves that Blair
is up to date with modern music. After all, Blair ditched vinyl years ago. We're hanging on to the CD because we don't believe in downloading music straight into our computers, it's unethical."

Claire: "By the way, what's this about your name being Alan Trashmouth Records?"

Alan: "I put my name up for sale. Trashmouth Records paid me top dollar to drop my original surname - Kerr - and replace it with their name. The idea being that I'm a living, walking promoter of that transgressive record label."

Kate: "You should have gone into the shop and asked them if they'd got anything by Trashmouth Records."

Alan: "People usually ask for music by artist, not record label."

Duncan: "Here in Blair we like to break all the rules."

Fourth hit.

Claire: "The river sounds really loud."

Duncan: "Not loud enough to drown out Alan's Cumbernauld whine."

Kate:
"Ave dropped ma hammer. Ma inflatable hammer. Somebody grab that inflatable hammer fir me. A dropped it. Ma granny gave me that hammer."

Duncan: "I recognise that attitude to life from my time living in Hamilton, which is about the same distance from Glasgow as Cumbernauld is. It was an area of deprivation close to steel works and coal mines where folk had worked for generations. Guns and swords and hammers really were what a lot of people talked about. And some people expected others to do things for them using a sentimental vocabulary and a whiney voice. It was weirdly immature."

Kate: "Let's not get into your anti-working class thing."

Duncan: "I have no anti-working class thing. Anyway, it's something else I want to say. Alan, you spotted the can of coke all right, but did you see the heron?"

Alan: "No. At the end was it? Let me freeze the frame."

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Duncan: "Just before that. When you were using a wider shot."

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Duncan: "The grey bird standing on a stone in a pool near the top of the frame. That is a heron, which is both very large and quite a shy bird: you were lucky to catch a glimpse of one from the bridge in the centre of town."

Kate: "Except you didn't see it. You only had eyes for your granny's hammer."

Claire: "And for the can of coke you bought from Tesco and dropped into the Ericht. With no regard for the splendours of nature that are all around."

Alan: "You can take the boy out of Cumbernauld. But you can't take Cumbernauld out of the boy."



POST-RESIDENCE

It's November. Alan has just sent us a link to a video he's made about his time in Blair. As we drive towards Perth so that Kate can catch a train to Edinburgh, I've seen the video and she hasn't. But that's all right, I can describe it to her.

"Alan points the camera at a street name or shop sign in Blair and says 'Imagine if that said... ' and then he makes a change to the words. Sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious, sometimes obscene."

"For instance?"

"For instance, he's looking at the window of the jewellers, which says: 'Victor and Sons'. And he says: 'Imagine if that said, "Victor and Daughters"'."

"I like that. It's a reminder that we still live in a patriarchy."

"It's an outsider's view of Blair. I don't think Alan talked to anyone who lives in the town apart from us. But it allows an insider to get a different take on his or her own territory. In another clip, he's looking at a sign that says Brown Street, with the gaelic equivalent written in small letters underneath. And he says: 'Imagine if that said, "
Sraid Bhruin".' In other words, imagine if Gaelic was the dominant language and culture in Blairgowrie. Which is deeply ironic in that the culture around here couldn't be more westernised, the majority of the population having bought into what one might call a 'car, TV and supermarket' lifestyle.

"However, I'm not sure we're going to be comfortable providing a link to the video because several of the shops Alan focuses on get their signage changed to something rude or insulting. For instance, the Something Special Flowers shop becomes: 'Imagine if that said, "Not Very Special Flowers"'." The video is very distinctly paced. I mean it's slow. The camera lingers and then Alan repeats his few words: 'Not Very Special Flowers'."

"I know the people who work in that shop. They're enterprising and I get on with them. Actually, that's a thing we need to learn from the operation of Deveron Arts in Huntly. Claudia makes sure that her artists never criticise local people or institutions."

"Deveron published a book by one artist that criticises the impact of Tesco on Huntly."

"Tesco is not a local institution, it's a global corporation which aims to maximise the financial return to its shareholders at everybody else's expense. Not everybody in Huntly likes what Deveron Arts does. But it would have a really hard time if it was seen to be negative about local individuals or organisations. You don't influence people's attitudes by insulting them. You make it possible to understand where you're coming from and you might allude to a way forward."

"I don't think you're going to like the scene that the video finishes with."

"Oh, dear. How does it go?"

"The sign of The Wee Coffee Shop is focussed on, and Alan says: 'Imagine if that said, "The Wee C*** of a Shop"..."The Wee C*** of a Shop"'."

"MIsogynist. Sexist. Totally unacceptable."

"I know what you mean. But I suspect that in the town that Alan grew up in, just as in the town that I grew up in, that word was used, along with other sexual words, indiscriminately and all the time."

"Why was that?"

"I don't know exactly. Perhaps generations of working in heavy industry had brutalised some of the people to such an extent that - under extreme psychological pressure - they'd turned on themselves, constantly referring to mutual aggression, the sex act and private parts. I wonder if it happened anywhere else in the world to the extent that it happened in northern Britain."

"That's where the industrial revolution hit hardest."

"The issue is explored in the work of James Kelman. Especially when his book
How Late it Was, How Late, won the Booker Prize. Many critics found the limited vocabulary and the violence and booze-ridden lifestyle of the book's protagonist to be an affront to their sense of civilisation."

"So what are we going to do about Alan?"

"I'm not sure. We can't ask him to change his work. We don't want to censor what an artist does when doing a residency at the BCCA. And a kind of obscenity is deeply embedded in his practise."

"But we don't have to promote it."

"We don't have to provide a link to this video, no. I do like it, on some levels. It's just not for an audience of Blairgowrie shopkeepers. And we don't want people in Blairgowrie to think we like it on levels that we certainly don't. Let's hope he hooks up with some sophisticated gallery which likes the way he brings attention to the grotesque, whether it's in our society at large or in the mind of the beholder. Amongst the gallery-going public there is certainly an appetite for deriding the traditional and the sentimental. There is certainly an appetite for experimenting with what some people would call 'filth'."

"I begin to see why Trashmouth Records sponsor Alan."

"He'll be looking to sell his name to someone else next year. How does Alan BCCA sound?"

"Inappropiate."

"Ah, you don't get it. The next time Alan points his camera at The Wee Coffee Shop, he could be saying, 'Imagine if that said, "The Starship Enterprise"... Imagine if that said, "The Starship Enterprise".'"