There is ‘a sun’ in anus. The brown star is solar. TOTALLER identifies this galaxy’s star as sun-A. Therefore lifeforms in other galaxies shit through the Bnus, Cnus, Dnus etc., according to the name of their star (sun-B, sun-C etc.). We at Totaller operate like a butt raised to the sky, showering tree-canopies with spectacular displays of shitty beauty. Never talking art, always eating shit, we feast and excrete luminosity. We are the sun shining through burning stars, intercommunicating in madrigals and pizza, hand in hand, with you, against you - shitting art. There is a you and there is an us: We are Totaller.
When walking around a field on a windy September afternoon looking for liberty caps you are reminded of (the joys of) ignorance. You feel like there is something out there, your field guide gives you a few tips but it is hard to know how to tackle this foraging mission; you either have to look at every inch of ground or develop a system. You remember that you can only get into Narnia if you don’t know that you are doing it so you soften your eyes and stop looking - allow yourself to BE. You try a divining stick, one that looks like a withered or skeletal hand, the kind that might know these things. You throw it and follow the direction of the pointed finger. Nothing.
Maybe the field knows what you need, you know that because you’ve taken the mushrooms here before, that was the one time you felt like you understood the true nature of the field. Nothing came between you and it. There it was in all it’s shining throbbing living fieldness. You took them and went back out to find more, hoping that like would attract like. The Default Mode Network in your brain shut down, forcing new connections to get made in there. You lost your sense of being an individual as the blood flowed into new neural networks, and there you were in the naked reality of being - there - in - that - field - with - everything - and - you - understood.
In his Lives of the Artists Vasari talks about the Dark Age. He loved the classical times - he loved the times he was in and disregarded the bit between because he thought that nobody understood perspective and their drawings looked rubbish. This was a destructive age - Goths burned Rome and left all that was civilised and great buried under the rubble - later to be rediscovered in grottoes. These Grotesques would form the basis of a new age but the Dark Age must be left behind.
TOTALLER dwells in this Dark Age and emerges through historical reconstruction anachronistic re-mythologising and archaic hyperbole. Obsessed by the dialectical image, the writings of Bataille, the real, the obscene, the fanatical and fantastic exposure of the real. No magic but magical thinking. TOTALLER skips over the renaissance. No, it rehabilitates the skipped over dark age. No, it celebrates the skipping over of the dark age. It does not want to shed light on the misrepresentation of the dark age. It is easy to fill in the gaps Vasari left - everyone knows the truth but TOTALLER says this dark place can be dwelt in and that ignorance is bliss. We can re-evaluate ignorance and ask, is non-knowing a static place? An ecstatic place? Can you be suspended in darkness? A shaman sits in a dark cave - so dark that lights flash inside his eyes - and he sees something. A kind of knowing. Mythos, a way of knowing that intuitive and basic - felt, like piss or shit coming out - but not seen.
ER activates. It is a suffix that creates action - agency. With ER at the end you DO things. Get things done. What does TOTALLER do? ER is also a hesitation - you are unsure what to say, how to respond, how to proceed. ER accompanies inaction, runs alongside it.. ER is repetitive. An utterance, an expression of stuckness made active like the sound of an engine. Over and over. ER! Say it loudly. ER! What is the function of this word? It is cryptic and hard to know. TOTALLER used it accidentally, or rather unwittingly - it just slipped out when we were concentrating to the point of preoccupation. There it was on the page, in the painting, TOTALLER-ER-ER.
The Mandrake root is the most famous and the most feared of all the flesh veg. It is well documented in its use in voodoo rituals, by witches to hex a pregnancy or by doctors to accelerate the death of a dying man. All and more fuel this. The root of the Chinese knotweed is visually similar to the Mandrake but is of the register of hilarity. This is due to its person likeness being rendered comedic through the growth of what appear to be cock like appendages, fleshy rumps and huge mammary glands. See also; Ginseng, Ginger and Fleeceflower roots.
The squash family is the flesh veg that most fires the erotic imagination most readily. From penile courgettes, to breast like melons, to the pinkish pallor of the hermaphroditic Tromboli (-cino) – with a tit at one end and a cock at the other, the anal hole at the top of the bluey grey skin of a Crown Prince or the suggestive image created by the name of a Farmers Long, through to the emoji symbol of an aubergine standing in as a wanger in sexting messages. Villainous faces carved into pumpkins are, the very action of digging out the flesh and the sinuous webs holding its seeds is disgraceful.
(see also; the porn sub-genres of Veg Porn, Allotment Porn and Supermarket Porn)
The Fried Egg is one of the most ancient forms of human sustenance. Some cave paintings in Lancashire dating from pre-neolithic hunter gatherer societies show clearly the frying of eggs. It is right to say that fried eggs have been a staple also in the art of world cultures. A google search for ‘fried eggs in art’ will prove this assertion beyond doubt.
The dwelling place of Pork Lord Pig God (etc.) behind BARR’S DIAGRAMATICRECLININGMONOLITHICCIRCUITADE (TOTALLER'S WALL).
Shangri La. Shambala. Blessed place. Guilt. Moral Codec/compass. Be - Longing. Ancestral Spiritual Planet. Home. Bones. Tears. Ancestral relationships. Like Ginen. The forested island at The Bottom of the Cosmic Waters. Power Source. Sovereignty. Exile.
The habitat of the grotto milieu is Density. Uncanny layers. Immersion. Maximalism. Control. Comedy Rock Aesthetics. Deep Time. The Eerie. Underground mythology. Tommyknockers. Klints and Grikes. Mine.
(see Dark Age)
How Dare They?
It being well understood that no one accepts such a title as Sad and Lonely Artist, it must, however, be understood that it has been overused and devalued to the same extent and in the same way as any other cliche. When it comes down to it, these words have the power to disturb and to nauseate: after fifteen years, one finds the diary of a dead artist at the bottom of a cupboard; one throws it in the rubbish bin. There is a cynical pleasure in considering attitudes which take something of us with them to the dustbin.
Moreover, the automatic protest against an obsolete character type is by now a more or less transparent dodge. It helped TOTALLER to get started, gave them a figure to mock in disgust. This cliche was as much disgusted with them as they were with it, moaning at the sound of their antics ‘How Dare They? How Fucking Dare They?’, the sound of his sobs coming through the thin studio walls spurring them on into even louder forms of artistic delight.
The unfortunate who says that art no longer works, because that way one remains disengaged from the ‘dangers of action’, says something deserving of the same attention as the dead artist’s diary. Although it may be quite disgusting to look at, a cliche is as much subject to conditions of obsolescence as a mobile phone or hot new style. Everything in the emotional order which responds to an allowable need is condemned to a process of improvement, which, from another viewpoint, one is obliged to regard with the same disquieted (or cynical) curiosity which some artistic meltdown might attract. TOTALLER destroyed this cliche for his own sake as well as their own, but allow themselves to conjure him up when the season calls for it, as a pack of wolves might howl at the moon.
(After Georges Bataille)
Always excessive, always exaggerated and always combative. Hyperbole is your best weapon in linguistic relations. It allows for wild lies and fabrications that are both unbelievable and unassailable all at once. It is THE weapon in the artists arsenal – TOTALLER is testament to this fact. They can be crap at everything they turn their attention to, but if they are a master of hyperbole, they can conquer that world.
The stainless steel of nineteen-eighties playground slides still exists - remoulded into new, or not so new, objects. But what happens to the graffitied messages such objects bear?
(I put my arm around your shoulders, reached down. A park bench teenage encounter. Trainer divots in the bowling green surface. Mound of flesh. Did you look to me? Ecstasy signs everywhere (the eyed and arrowed lowercase ‘e’s). Discarded White Lightning bottles, chuddy stuck to trees. Who loved who? Who remembers? Does anyone care?)
When a statement is made with IDST behind it, for example ‘Shelley luvs Matty IDST’, the meaning of that statement cannot be undone. If the statement is inscribed onto a substrate like a wall, bus stop or a school table, the declaration remains fact even after the object’s destruction.
IDST is used by TOTALLER as a portal to a former now, as punctuation, as an icon, and as part of our lexicon. Like TOTALLER, IDST is total –
If Destroyed Still True.
If we are comforted by the sunny side up of a fried egg, we are equally impressed by its darker other, the pickled egg. Preserving eggs has a tradition that stretches back millenia, indeed the Chinese have a delicacy called ‘a thousand-year old egg’ or ‘century eggs’ which are tumescent in colour with gangerous green and putrid black flecks. Pickled in brine fluid and left to preserve they are delicious -but hold your nose when eating.
A huge jar of white egg flesh crammed indelicately into a jar of cider vinegar was once a regular sight in the pubs of Britain. Through the ‘middleclassification’ of british culture started by Thatcher and accelerated by Blair the pickled egg fell from favour like its maligned food siblings, margarine and luncheon meat. Pickled Eggs were off the bar. Recently they have returned with force, through a revival of ‘man culture’ in which bearded blokes in lumber jack shirts sip craft ale and munch pickled eggs, ironically.
1. First sterilise a jar large enough to hold all six eggs. ...
2. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, then gently lower in the eggs. ...
3. Put the cider vinegar in a saucepan with 150ml/5fl oz water, salt and sugar. ...
4. Pack the eggs into the jar, then pour over the vinegar mixture.
According to Wikipedia the ‘S’ is called the ‘cool S’, ‘graffiti S’, ‘pointy S’ or ‘TOTALLER S’. In the 1990s everybody wrote the S. Well not everyone. But everyone in the 1990s knew someone who wrote the S. A line this way, a line that way. A few verticals. Clever. A school-mate of TOTALLER named Si wrote the S. It was the first letter of his name.
When the Romans built Hadrian’s Wall, they stopped at Segedunum, which means ‘strong fort’. At Segedunum they created a visitor centre, and left donations of fragments of helmet and faceplate to a new museum. Inside, sections of wattle and daub wall were constructed for future generations to inspect and admire. The Romans knew this would be of interest to people in the very distant murky future. Segedunum has the form of a large motorless carpark or bleakly un-verdant landscape garden. Concrete coping stones abound around fixed-in-place pebbles and the foundations of a large u-shaped towerblock the Romans were unable to complete.
Segedunum is equipped with a substantial viewing tower. Built in the style of an air-traffic control tower, or like the elevated bridge of an unmanned nuclear-powered cargo ship, the tower with its lecture-hall seating provides an excellent viewpoint from which to study the Segedunum site. As the sun beats in through the glass, moisture often beads on the foreheads of visitors trying to envisage the concrete mega structure the Romans had planned. Elsewhere the Roman wall stretched to curious locations. In Fenham, for example, it pierced the block-paved forecourt of a prehistoric petrol station. Further West it skirted the four lanes of the busy A189 road – repointed to the max. The 1990s film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves was radical in demonstrating how Hadrian’s Wall can be used as a portal for space-time travel. When the wall is mounted near the famous sycamore tree, sites as distant as the white cliffs of Dover and Sherwood Forest become but a brief canter from the Northumbrian countryside. This phenomenon is attributed to the secret workings of Totaller.
Will there be a Segedunum at the end of the Mexico/ USA wall, perhaps at Las Palomas Wildlife Area? Is Matamoros to be the new Wallsend? Will the gift shop sell ‘I Walked the Wall’ t-shirts, and out-dated postcards printed from excavated j-pegs? Looking carefully, you may find Donald Trump’s head in gaudy mosaic, staring dustily from under the trees, beside the railings to an industrial estate.
Segedunum is an artwork created by TOTALLER from the summer of 2017 to the summer of 2018. It takes as its primary material the site of the Roman Fort in Wallsend on the banks of the river Tyne, the museum and surrounding area, including the view, as a found object. Segedunum is a Roman word meaning powerful place. The work was reviewed by Transient Machine, September 2018. Here is a quote ‘Totaller puts itself within new settings and contexts. It strives to retain agency always - shifting, unsettled. Held together by its core - a 6 sided obelisk - that gets new plaques attached as the project expands. Covered in keystones, Segedunum is a montage in time and space and material.’
The Naming of TOTALLER
Totilla, Totaller, Tlazolteotler, Mithras, Myth-Ray-Er, Mumrah, Ya Mutha, Cthulhu, Turtler, Hadrian, Boudica, Tortiller, Thor.
A destroying Goth, a totalising force, a filth sucking mother Goddess, the unconquered sun god, a mole in a hole, the everliving, the ancient one, the ninja turtles, the power of Rome, a guerilla barbarian, a tank formation, an electrical hammer, a brick wall, a black hole.
The testudo is an ancient military formation of a phalanx formed by the heavy infantry. Its strength comes from the mass of overlapping shields presented to all sides. There is nothing to hit or stick to on this defensive barrier so although you sacrifice both the speed and agility of your phalanx the testudo, or tortoise, formation provides excellent protection as even torches and arrows slide off the surface. The ancient military technique of the testudo is still in use and has been seen used by the Israeli police in the riots of Temple Mount (2014), in Kiev during the clashes between pro-europeans and government forces in 2014, in the 2005 budget riots in Belmopan in Belize between the demonstrators and the police. It is comparable to the scrum in rugby where the two teams set in formation interlock with each other reset and play for dominance of the ball with the force of all players in the interlocking, overlapping formation of the tortoise head to head.
In 1986 the scrum or testudo was used by Hirotake Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nokana in a product development context for software. In this context the scrum, or testudo, brings decision making authority to the level of team operations and was developed using empiricism, frequent inspection and adaptation, as software products based on assumptions were doomed to fail as conditions inevitably change. The scrum here consist of both business and the engineers, or developers, so closing the gap between team players in the operation and providing a self-organising structure that is ‘bullet proof’ in terms of continued product development.
A more simple explanation might be: it is a morning meeting where everyone involved chips in to move the thing forward. We like to imagine the snacks at these meetings: flakey, buttery Danish pastries with remonce and toasted hazelnut flakes accompanied by the delicious strong, black, tangy and fruity flavour of good coffee, fresh fruits like succulent melon and smoothies named Mint and Mango, Green Dream or The Passionista.
The testudo, or turtle, formation moves toward a wall. Three distracted warriors stand poised on top. Under the testudo is an indeterminate number of men. Five left legs stand bare-calved in a row, casting shadows to the right. The shields, emblazoned with lightning bolt-like arrows, overlap to form a solid flexible barrier. The testudo is, in fact, less like the shell of a turtle than the interlocking scales of an armadillo, or the curling cuticle of a woodlouse. Where is this place, this stage-set fortification built of beaten zinc and studwork in a watertank or silo type construction? The red-robed men came by Metro from the university– from the history department. Are we on the banks of the Tyne, near the end of Hadrian’s Wall, at Segedunum, where street signs are written in Latin, and plumbers’ merchants and reconstructed Roman baths stand side by side?
The sandalled-warriors, the red-robed ones – they fight a slow-mo battle, choreographed and observed by the engraver, Robert von Spalart. His work is in front of you now, tomato-splattered on the studio floor. The testudo shields face away from the defenders, toward the artist’s viewpoint, leaving the attackers open for onslaught. Red Two, the central character on the wall, has been distracted by happenings to stage left. The testudo formation is a single entity; an eleven-legged mutant woodlouse beast. See how many clods of earth have deflected off the testudo - they form a significant mound at the image’s bottom left.
The louvre formation.
The balletic pose.
The buffs V the boffs.
The tomato splatters.
(The missing right legs).
One spear and two clods of earth as weapons.
The plurality of shields,
The Totality of the image.
THE CLAMORING TESTUDO
All those faceless warriors within the testudo - we, the friends of TOTALLER, must be them now. Stand shoulder to shoulder under these shields of plywood, hold onto them the best we can. We the people of the shields, the shieldmaidens and -men and those who identify beyond binary constraints, let us barricade and disrupt, let us move forth into the street, into the Intu centre, into Eldon Square. Let us smash the Xmas market into splinters of burst bratwurst. Under lorries, let us stand up and with combined strength overturn that vehicle, sending bottles of Shloer and Appletizer rolling down the tarmac past the old fire station, in a loud clatter. Let us rise up standing in each others’ palms and form a vertical wall six shields high - and block the view of Fenwicks’ Christmas window display. Under a single half-shell, we charge Northumberland Street, teenage heroes!, sending buskers and JD Sport gawkers flying, like a bulldozer. The engraver Robert Von Spalart is there to witness it all, he stands elevated on a glass canopy, air-con blowing warm air up his eighteenth-century britches. With notepad and chalk stick in hand, he sketches this historic occasion for future postcards.
TOTALLER’s pet tortoise, Shelley, has just gone into hibernation. For several weeks she has forsaken all food and spent much of her time detoxing in a plastic basin of water in preparation for her winter sleep. Alone now, in a box in a shed she lies in stillness as her heart rate slowly drops to one beat per minute and her breath reduces to a frigid wisp. We envy this journey into solitude and death-like rest but we wish her well and look forward to her return to society in the spring.
THE SEED OF TOTALLER
Sometimes known as the Seed O’TOTALLER, the seed or The THING. It is both the vessel from which TOTALLER hatched and the result of the very first TOTALLER collaboration...a form of collaboragenesis where more substance of Totaller could be created and so on..creating an avatar for shared activity. A fertile seed. A manifestation of an imagined seed that had been travelling for millennia through the chaosmos looking for us in that moment. An egg that we could emerge, monkey-like from. An object of affection, attention, worship, and exhibition. A locus of congealed energy.
When two or more people come together to create an artwork agreements and decisions are made between them that ultimately result in the exclusion of the viewer. Together we decide that this or that should be done. Let’s make it orange...OK...fuck it. We might say. We like it this way and so no-one else matters in this moment. In the most simple way imaginable a thing has been made. It needs no outside validation, no approval from some imaginary potential viewer. The Thing pleases us. Full stop.The Thing is made. We present it but we don’t care what anyone thinks. Our awkward and deformed child is as ugly as sin. It makes us laugh, it makes us proud. Our seed is a grenade that has destroyed the audience and made the road ahead clear for creative adventures.
Legend has it that one hot July Dale and Lesley wordlessly set out to create a THING together. Part of the ORIGIN SAGA, see the Field Guide future edition.
Here’s what happened. Both artists were rosy red and sweating in the heat. As soon as they decided to make a thing they went to the communal store cupboard of their studios and found a bunch of stuff to work with. A black bin liner, a bungee cord, newspapers and a bag of fluorescent pink pebbles from a brand new, unwanted aquarium set. The bag was inflated (our sour summer breath still dwells within), hung from an iron beam. We blended paper with hot water and blue paint and chucked it on. Sometimes Dale would position bits of card to form angles...sometimes lesley would press the fluoro pebbles into the soft surface. It dried slowly allowing the asteroidical surface to be built up over a number of days. Bowie played on repeat - plans were made to create a blue blue room with pale blinds to store it in, we span it around on its cord..’boys keep swinging’ we sang!
It is sometimes to be found enthroned upon THE PUCKERED COLLAR - see the entry in the Field Guide for TPC
THE SEED OF TOTALLER
When TOTALLER comes together to create an artwork, agreements and decisions are made… for our own pleasure. In the most simple way imaginable, a Thing has been made. The Thing pleases us.
Electrical Currents. Ley lines. Trembling. Excitement. Earthly Horrors. Crack Dweller. Shakes. Aftershocks. Afterglow. Tensions. Transmissions. Convulsions. Spasms. Warning Systems. Eroticism. Sex Magik. Offerings. Excess. Hysteria. Epilepsya. Volcanic. Vulvanic. Shambolic. Orgasmic. Echoes.
The arsenal structure of TOTALALAZOLA! was a wall, bent and folded in on itself. A wall tied in a knot. TOTALLER’s wall is not a barrier as much as a portal - it allows things to pass through like a filter. It could be a barrier to all things CIVILISED. A barrier to isolation…
TOTALLER’s Walls are Hadrian's Wall in reverse - they are built to repel the constraints of civilization and defend the liberating forces of ignorance and barbarism! These are walls that give birth…The walls of TOTALALAZOLA! were displays of power. Decorated in honour of the mystery they were constructed to protect. Look upon them and weep. They are the most powerful weapon in the arsenal.
TOTALLER builds walls and then knocks them down.
What does a wall do for you? Is it a site of display? Your studio Walls protect you but where are your boundaries? Where do you say NO ENTRY? When do you smash these boundaries down?
At Arbeia in South Shields located in a reconstruction of an ancient Roman Gatehouse is an armoury - fake, windowed cut off from reality, occupied by lifeless mannequins and dumb wooden weapons. Dumb as in voiceless, silent behind a sheet of glass, or is it perspex? Glass might be too dangerous and the museum must always be safe. When an artwork is a weapon, or a weapon an artwork it must always be Gratuitous, Hyperbolic and Excessive. Something that works through you, that carries the force of you out into another body. This is not a safe engagement.
(See Hyperbolic hyperbole)