Roelof Bakker, “The Spots That Never Went”


Roelof Bakker
Cambridgeshire, Great Britain (artist’s website) (Negative Press website)

The Spots That Never Went
tabloid newspaper with Xerox insert, broadsheet print, polypropylene pocket
Pocket – contains all elements: 22cm x 30cm
Inside pocket: tabloid newspaper, 38cm x 28.9cm; broadsheet print, 50cm x 35cm

Artist Statement

The Spots That Never Went is a personal reflection on the devastation of AIDS and the lasting impact on a generation, presented as a tabloid newspaper with a broadsheet print collated in an archival pocket.

Remembering the lurid reporting about AIDS and gay men by UK tabloid newspapers in the 1980s, I set out to explore the tabloid newspaper form and subvert its code, forcing my own self-definition on both paper and form. Opposing the shouty, bold, cluttered tabloid design ethos, I devised an understated, minimal design with space to allow room for reflection.

In the newspaper, short sentences are personal memories about life during the AIDS crisis as a young man living in London. Each sentence starts with the words, ‘I remember a time’, for example: ‘I remember a time of coloured lights, naked flesh and thick clouds of cigarette smoke’ and ‘I remember a time when I was young and other young men got ill and soon after they died.’

The Spots That Never Went is also an investigation into the potential of a single photograph to illustrate an entire publication. Sentences face abstract mono images, halftoned fragments generated from one Polaroid print. The coarse black and white halftone dots explore notions of remembering and forgetting, of darkness and light, of hope and fear, of being HIV positive or HIV negative, of presence and absence, of life and death.

The centrefold functions as a visual break and shows a double page image, glued onto which is a reproduction at actual size of the original colour Polaroid photograph, introducing transparency to the approach of image making.

Presented in a polypropylene pocket, the tabloid newspaper comes with a broadsheet insert, a mono halftone reproduction of the entire Polaroid photograph reproduced larger than life, functioning as a paper memorial, a monument to attach to a wall. Unlike the friends and lovers who perished, the paper will age
and deteriorate.