Sketchbook writing 2019 (2020 update)

I took a trip to ExCel London to participate in, and observe ICE 2019: a gambling, payments, and online gaming convention. Day 1 was a troubling experience, even consciously putting initial assumptions aside. 


I questioned whether I was being moral. Discovering an artistic format can be provocative and you have to be prepared for surprising amounts of pain. I wondered whether I was going to act on resentment towards the system and perform to this reflection. I’m thinking all the time about how to appropriate moments noticed; little things that made marks on my memory today.


An employee leaning on a fresh Cadillac. A plastic shotgun was in the front seat for passers-by to pose with for the camera. Behind her was a screen where she featured as her own cartoon graphic spinning off Grand Theft Auto. It was her very image, the entire set up of this stand had been created around this actor. Paper money was strewn all over the bonnet. As a ten year old I, never passed a level in Grand Theft Auto; I just learned from my older brother and his friends that it was fun to keep mowing down hookers after having sex with them in the car. 


From behind velvet ropes, I watched a black man wearing a suit and a lanyard press the gun straight into her chest, grinning without a pause. I noticed from the real glimmer of surprise in her face, a spectacle emerging immediately between her instinct to shy away from having a gun pulled on her, to being model bait for entertainment value. She just raised her hands in the air, pulled a shocked face on top of the authentic shock, and displayed her smile. Once the photo had been taken, I didn’t have the words in me to ask the man, ‘do you really want to shoot that woman because that’s how you feel about people?’  I asked her if that was a normal gesture, whether lots of the time the gun gets turned on her in tableaux of violence and assassination as if in a game without consequences. I wondered what story of representation he was enacting for the camera. Her answer was simply that he was the first one of the day and she hoped he was the last one too. 

I fear to become a disciplinarian— of being politically correct on the side of creative blocking. The constraints have got bolder the older I’ve got. It happens to most people. Skins are thin at the moment. That’s to do with all the packaging on top of what has hurt people— deep-set traumas no amount of distraction or social media can cure. When someone is off balance because their perception is blocking creative expression, then it is a delicate job to explain the offence taken through their desire to claim authority via a process of shaming.


There were numerous activities happening. Mainly between suits. Nations of men from Asia, Europe, USA. Whatever. Big handshake moments paused for documentation. I felt like I went for basic reasons which makes me a basic bitch but I wasn’t going for salacious, voyeuristic purposes. So when I was taking a photograph of a man taking a photograph of another man standing between two models wearing mini silver skirts with their cleavage to the sky, their botox puffy, I felt too embarrassed to take a photograph without that man there because otherwise, my reason would have been to fetishise them as well. So I fetishised what was being fetishised. To simplify that further, I was capturing the fetishistic act of taking an image of people that was non-consensual. Today I felt my work bordering on abuse and I didn’t feel good about it but mainly because my bag was heavy, I had no crew and a foggy brain because I’m pretty sure I have Candida - an invented illness. 

I saw my brother at the event. He works for a FinTech company. Whenever he ran into someone he knew amongst the swarm he became part of something, felt happier because he knew someone. A really good salesman is just themselves. The more you can be yourself, the more you can sell a product. You inject your truth into that superfluous vessel and form a relationship with an object that relies on you for existence. As a maker of objects, I know this feeling in the studio. When the product would never get made unless you motivated your own internal salesperson. You have to sell yourself a 'self' to get something done. To move on with temporary feelings that nourish but also drain. 


I left the arena with a few questions and thoughts.

How does society eroticise violence through monetary systems?


Freebies cost a fortune in the struggle, nothing is ever for free. We owe ourselves much more, we are in debt with ourselves. The real problem is our own personal format of coming to terms with what we owe ourselves first.

I pulled myself into action on the second day feeling incredibly depressed about what I’d seen the day before. I wore my, 


ments Team’ 



t-shirt instead of the Mickey Mouse one and placed the lanyard around my neck like some holy but hellish tradition. I had to find something that would give me hope amongst the sea of excess. I lay down a collection of studio-made objects on surfaces in the various fragmented Casino showrooms: poker tables, flooring samples, pool tables. I arranged a broken telephone wire made from clay with a shoelace in the middle, a series of photocopied images of cartoon magicians' hands, a glove puppet with huge lips. I also picked up a calendar full of bikini girls which they were handing out at the convention. I took it to the toilet and ripped out their faces to scatter them around the event like a confetti of missing people. I was still wearing my wig, carrying a holder and Dslr camera looking for fellow passengers of this transparent and exhibitionist journey to take 'my' photo. I trundled through the carpeted space with Michael Jackson and other Paedophile's singing in my ear. Salesmen and who knows who else was drinking free morning booze, pockets filled with cards from Vistaprint.



Just when I was going to leave I turned on my heels. The footfall for this event was 44,000 each day. There had to be something else to find here. It was like being in a mega-casino and I was gambling with time and energy. The longer I spent here, the more of my ignorance was pulled into the excess, draining me of past knowings and sensations of mass amnesia and identity. This hub was a very uncertain place. Now it is the critical care Covid-19 unit, the NHS Nightingale Hospital.


As I squatted on the floor with hundreds of drunk legs walking past in packs, I unpacked my artist kit:











A few people watched perplexed, but mainly because it was near their stand. They would ask me politely to leave without knowing what I was doing in the first place. I didn’t even really know what I was doing. I just wanted to interact with people beyond expectations and without a standard, because I was sure that the norm was what I was witnessing, that what was immersing my very spirit was not right at a core level and I had to understand its textures because this world affects me even if I was never there. It’s a broken system and only through communication of a sustainable kind can we hope for living which accepts nature without forcing it beyond the measure of perception and self-awareness. 

Quite suddenly a woman with brown hair noticed me. She delicately and inquisitively came over and bent down to look at the artifacts. She calmly asked me what I was doing. I told her I was an artist. She told me I should come over and take a look at her stall, she had an artist with her. So I gathered my things. What I found was a pinprick in my heart that could tear an entire universe of bad truths apart to reveal a priceless and alternative momentum in humanity. She was very surprised that so few people were interested in their company's free gift: hand-drawn book covers by their artistic director done there and then in the midst of the chaotic neon strip. However, as I had learned the day before in a queue to receive a free coffee,


“People want new. We want our clients to feel special. So instead of doing Christmas corporate gifts, we did a summer hamper with water bottles, umbrellas, and towels.”


Personally, I can’t see any competition between hand-drawn, personalised images on a free notebook with plastic, logo encrusted bottle of some company. But I guess one businessman’s beach is another tribe's cemetery.  

The artist had his pencil case, a wooden bow tie, and a smile. Zhivko Zhelev was his name and he creates cartoons and graphics for an online casino software provider, BetiXon. Naturally, by this stage I removed my wig, he offered me his pencil case and some paper and we spent some time together making drawings, magically creating walls within a shared place of creative comfort.

Poker Faces, 2019

screenshot from artist presentation 2019

acrylic, cardboard, string, glue, (contents vary)

work by Zhivko Zhelev

you can find more of his work here:

© 2019 Katie Lennard