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  • Writer's pictureBen Fearnside

The Last Breath. An artistic expiry date.

If you Google ‘Abstract Artist Ben Fearnside’ you may find I’m already dead. But don’t be alarmed. It isn’t tragic. It’s just concept art.

In 2012 I co-created a radio play with writer Anita Sullivan, called The Last Breath.

The documentary-style drama is about an artist called Ben Fearnside. It follows the creation of his ultimate piece of concept art: the capture and display of a person’s dying breath.

It was produced by Karen Rose of Sweet Talk productions for Radio 4.

Confused? We haven’t even started.

The recording starred real friends, family and professional associates including my mum and dad, my theological mentor Dr Mark Gretason, my closest friend Ben Fletcher, my promoter Anthony ‘Choppa’ White and Edinburgh artist Kenny Watson. They played themselves very convincingly, in an improvised fictional version of reality. Original music was provided by Nick Tettersell.

There is a twist, of course.

Now this is exactly the sort of thing that gives the BBC Compliance department cold sweats. What if some old friend of mine heard the radio broadcast and thought it was a real documentary and I’d offed myself? At best, very poor taste. At worst, complete trauma. So to get around this we very clearly date-stamped the documentary in the future. In 2012, 2018 seemed fairly futuristic.

But my fictional time is running out. I only have one year of possible repeats left before my play has to die for good and the fictional me with it.

And the weirdest thing?

My fictional expiry month is May 14th. The closing date of my 2017 Brighton Festival exhibition.

So I don’t know if this is cosmic coincidence, a good story, concept art or reality TV (on the radio). But one thing I can say for sure… I’m still very much alive. No, really I am.

There are no art photos with this blog because it was a radio play about an invisible exhibit. As real art prompter Mr Choppa White says in the play.

'Difficult thing to draw attention to, air. That’s where I earn my 60%’

The Last Breath was first broadcast on July 6th 2012 and has had several repeats.


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