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  • Writer's pictureBen Ponton

Introducing the Archipelago of the Microspheres

Fig. 1*


I am an artist and a curator, that questionable binary of the gamekeeper/poacher variety. My role here is that of curator, presenting and contextualising contributions from three correspondents I have invited to join me to form the Archipelago of the Microspheres (more of that in a minute). My role here is also as an artist, conjuring something more from not very much, pointing my finger at things I want you to see and hear, turning dust into devils, sound into music and paint into pictures. I've been doing that all of my adult life and earlier, switching from one to the other as the importance of one or the other rises and falls in the barometer of my interest and, inevitably, as the likelihood of a livelihood from one or the other, sometimes both, presents itself.

At the moment, I'm mostly an artist, mostly fashioning made and collected sound into forms that can only precariously be described as music. I sometimes do that by myself but more often in collaboration with others, in groups – a band called :zoviet*france: and another formation called the Black Glass Ensemble. Both are long term projects, :zoviet*france: the older and the Black Glass Ensemble the younger. More recently, I've been turning paint into pictures, coincident to but not because of the lockdown, which came about, as many of the best things do, almost by accident; aleatory is one of my favourite things. I recommend making as much room in your life for it as you can get away with.


In the beginnings of the Call Centre project, my original proposition to ACA, defining my prism of interest for it, was short and sweet:

Humankind, in retreating considerably from our dominant place on the planet and how we traverse and encounter it, has been a refocussing on the minutiae around us. In the absence of the big wide world, the small microworld of our homes and immediate surroundings receive more of our attention than is customary.

That's the microspheres bit.

Now the archipelago bit.

When I'm being a curator / producer, a device I like to use in conceiving how artists and their work can be presented collectively without diluting their individuality is, metaphorically, as an archipelago – a group of islands that can be perceived in the singular but each of which is distinct, with unique qualities and varying in their proximity to each other. (On a side note, we often don't realise it but here in the British Isles, we live in a real geographical archipelago).

I was very happy when the three people I invited to join me in this as correspondents reporting their perspectives, Michael Begg, Carla Santana and Mark Warren, all said yes. We all have a connection to each other somehow already and find ourselves at varying proximities to each other, literally, in distance and actively, in what we do – that archipelago thing. All of us, deliberately or otherwise, by circumstance or intent, have found like many in the world, our horizons diminished and our fascination drawn to intrinsic details of the otherwise mundane; the myth and magic of the mundane world, even.

Michael Begg is an award-winning composer and musician, alone and with the groups Fovea Hex and Human Greed, founder and director of the Black Glass Ensemble, and during lockdown onwards, painter of his family's home garden, one flower at a time. He stays in East Lothian, in a small village near medium-sized hills and a large estuary, close to the site of the battle where the saltire, the Scottish flag was dreamed up.

Carla Santana is a composer, musician, image maker and sound artist who, despite the extensive lockdown in Portugal, has been able to see further and wider than many of us from her apartment in Almada, with an unbroken view of the Tagus estuary.

Mark Warren was born in Newcastle upon Tyne during the height of the Cold War. He has lived in the north east of England most of his life, and now resides in north Northumberland, two fields away from the nearest village. He was unremarkable at school, had positively no ambition, spent 10 years as a social security playboy, and would like to be able to say that he trained as a cosmonaut. He has spent the last 25 years as part of the band, :zoviet*france:, and guised his solo work under several names, presently as Atom Earth Mother.

* One of the cigarette burns in the baize of the old card table from which this being typed – possible betrayal of the stakes being raised very high in its past.


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