Subject: Paris en Automne
Time: 2009 Oct 30 21:55:00
When my dad retired he went through a brief phase of living it up. Having worked his whole life, it was time he simply.. enjoyed. Life goes fast, he explained. When you're gone you're gone. Find the inner bon vivant. Take pleasure, take flight! Inevitably this involved conking out in an armchair after a bottle of Dingo Hill Riesling, coming to at 2.30am while an all-night shopping channel demonstrates the George Foreman rotisserie, and then tiptoeing up the stairs. When you want to live, really come alive in every fibre - what exactly does one.. do?
Paris feels like a southern city that has tiptoed north. The glass bistro doors seem designed to syphon in a breeze off the Mediterranean, instead of reflecting muddy rainclouds. Immediately noticeable, Paris has more beggars than London. I'm not sure where central London's train station flotsam have gone, or if it's a Good Thing. They're probably being vanned to Stratford, melted down inside a 40-storey Rem Koolhaas lava lamp in preparation for 2012. Boris will unveil it, Brian May will serenade a swirling smoothie of eyeballs and teeth and sneakers.
If I were very rich I'd buy a old Victorian prison, and live in it like Charles Foster Kane. A statement of sorts, mostly a head-on collision between special and not-special. The Paris Bastille is long gone, but this mixed, working class area is still one of the most densely populated spaces in Europe. I decide to limit myself to an exhibition a day, then draw gargoyles (broken) and Little Schoolboys (the biscuit) and otherwise stroll within the confines of the 11ème arrondissement. Here we have Rue de Lappe, once famous for its dancehalls and Latin bars. Nearby Rues de la Roquette and Charonne descended into fashionability a few years ago. Pause Café is heavy as a sunken ship with Agnès B media types. I'm being unfair, they look approachable. Snobbish about the right things, perhaps. Skater shops, gothic Lolita and graphic design stores. Boutique soups and off-the-wall patisseries. A bookstore called Chateau Cyborg, which is a good name for a band. Maybe I'll call my gaol Chateau Cyborg. In fact, everything should be called Chateau Cyborg. Off the boulevards, nudge through double doors and you will end up in leafy nooks like Passage de L'Homme, full of ateliers, small offices for one-man businesses, or sculpters at work.
A ticket for the opera is too much, and at a-quid-a-euro even 'doing Paris on a budget' is a challenge. I've done Europe on a budget thanks. I did Italy on a budget and lived on a bag of paprika Curlies per day. In a city famous for the quality of its fineries is anyone 'doing it' on a budget? Inspired by the Palais de Tokyo, where they are burning 500 euro notes, I snubbed the crunch with a few good dinners. Parisian waiters act like offish gatekeepers, but once you're on the inside they treat you like a lifetime member of the club. Dickens portrays Parisians as people who can make a little go a long way with their use of colour, detail and attitude. Maybe Paris is all in the head.
Watching Rue de Charonne on a Saturday night: a shouty African lady gets into a car, out of that car, flags down a second car, which she gets into while the first car drives off. Repeat for nearly an hour. Everyone is dressed to the nines and going in circles. A grey-faced, gargling man laughs at the uncouth things he says to car windows. A strolling woman has a terrier in her shopping bag. A pale man in a long leather coat looks like he collects out-there erotica. Two Jewish boys scramble from a people carrier and down the street. Second gen Algerian kids on scooters, obligatory Benetton sweater and wound scarves, park to pose and smoke, pretending it is a warmer evening than it is. Bars open at nine, and I find a tiny punker/lesbo grindhouse called Le Houla Oups agreeable, and the fiction-themed Machine à Ecrire inspires me to write for, oh, nearly fifteen minutes.
Unlike art fairs and the Palais de Tokyo, the women-only elles@ at the Pompidou (or Pompi-queue) Centre really felt curated, to the point where the wander through becomes more than a sum of. This is work that had to come out, and the best exhibition I attended. A naked, faceless woman on a beach spins a barbed wire hula-hoop until she bleeds. Sigalit Landau. Schneemann, Calle - women as raw, but the concerns are many: fabrics, families, interiors, the enclosed, the size-related, nature, delicacy, bodies, temporariness, sustainability, bio-architecture, grids, words, correspondence, artifice, testimony, confession. Rarely, directly, children. If I was a girl I'd come out of this exhibition very glad that I was one. Unconnected to such cosmic fabric, I buy a raspberry tart.
Elsewhere, after elles@, Manet's "Le déjeuner sur l'herbe" looks like a cheap shock, a gratuitous nude, another irrelevant spat to 'scandalise society'. Realism bleeding into Idealism. More internally driven, I find myself hooked by Chaim Soutine. At the height of Montmartre art prices, he locked himself into a room for a year, painting meat. Meat was not unknown as still life fare, but Soutine claimed that painting flesh dissections and missing skin was the only way a man could truly rid himself of anger. What was he angry about? Perhaps being in one piece, after the Great War. Outside, I sing 'Meat Is Murder' to an Autumn Festival monster.
I didn't realise how site-specific Monet's Nymphéas are. What could be a murky, circular suffocation becomes a welcome pool on an over-heated day. Eventually the greens and turquoises become freezing dark matter, where even the commonplace waterlily has a superpower, the miracle of life. A sweet-looking mother and daughter pause to examine it. You could well up, to blind yourself. Do we really want to come alive in every fibre? You can't walk around falling on your knees at the beauty of it all every day. I wonder if it's possible to get beauty fatigue, quality burn, in the same way a person can get inwardly sickened by hashish, porn and pick'n'mix in Amsterdam (eventually).
I wander back through Bastille. Uniquely French-looking women can have a Med tone, but a northerly bone structure - meaning that they look both fresh and warm, like pain au chocolate. I fall in love several times, although I don't really do sexuality any more. It's a gap, not a union, a demand or a capitulation, the threat or the bargain. The idea that man and woman melt together with golden parity - the ghost doesn't even haunt those suites any more. I return to the wine-coloured cell of Le Houla Oups, turning into my dad, and not minding much at all.
Subject: Agence Culturelle: And More Tate Blockbusters
Time: 2009 Oct 12 00:29:00
On they trudge, our two traditions, North and South, like snowblind tramps. The Northern tradition is Realism. You can see it in kitchen sink dramas, Shakers and Quakers. Not fancy. In painting we have the Dutch golden age, who wanted to see maids in the kitchen because it was real. Not in any way "special". Simple, and therefore sexy.The Southern tradition is Classicism, and a kind of Idealism. The sun-drenched south asks if life is all kitchens and drudgery. Aren't there fantasies too? Magic. Isn't the twang of a frilly garter smarter than old white cottons? "Begone, hoore!" The Northern tradition tended to the Protestant, the South Catholic.
The British Isles are a crossroads of traditions. They say that Turner was the first painter to master both, but he also emerges as a little tool you want to punch, and a man who invented modern art. Turner copied and homaged, Turner was jealous of everyone. Turner needed to outdo painters who'd been dead for two hundred years. Turner was utterly desperate to end up in art history, it hijacked his work. By a fluke, Turner also transformed paint into a bleed that tells us the truth, exposes the third place between the observer's world and the observed. The Fold, the Deconstruction, the higher truth born inside a lie.
What the kids wear to 'Turner' - half-untucked stripey Jermyn Street shirt, plump bum in high waist chinos, a Harrods bag, blazer. A very conservative crowd. The shape of things to come. I came away thinking that ambition doesn't need to be moral to draw something out of us, but being unselfconsciously aloof is best. Anti-capitalists and capitalists have the same baseline: the multitude are only useful as consumers. Is there a pop culture that wants the eyes and ears of the world but not their wallet? Pop is the paradox between perfection and edge. When Madonna had vocal training she left Detroit. We didn't love Streisand because she reached the high notes, but because she reached the high notes from Brooklyn
. Good pop is class war.
I thought "Pop Life" (formerly known as "Sold Out") would annoy me and it did. Art as business, very open about it. I quite liked Warhol's little seen "Gems" series - all phosphorescent paint and diamond dust. Even the room of "Bad Warhols", done-for-the-money, rushed and dull Warhols were fascinating en masse. There are posters for Kippenberger's cafe in one room, Keith Haring's Pop Shop recreated in another. Cosey Fanni Tutti's muff dominates the next, pointing to the remnants of Emin and Lucas' Hackney shop. Do these artists use ambition to unlock something else? Act the success, and soon you are. We can't be dismayed that Future Pacing works. But, tangentially, does it bring anything new to life?
So much of the work here looks aimless and ugly, overheated symbols to overwhelm us. You need to be highly camp or hit by a brick to enjoy diamante-covered sneakers and Pepsi cans, a video of Kirsten Dunst pretending to be an anime princess, dancing in Tokyo (to "Turning Japanese" by the Vapors. Um, original). Most of us see Japan as the eternal plastic prophet of landfill, where the infantile is king, and Takashi Murakami is very clear about his desire to 'break Otaku Japan into America'. I'm sure they'll be happy together. Cue some freak spinning nunchaku sticks around his chest in a bedroom. "Yeah, like, Japan is superadvanced. Inner peace kicks ass." Murakami is the author of Superflat, another philosophy stating that surface and sales are everything (ie he's a graphic designer stealing Fine Art kudos).
Deleuze said that the machine works by breaking down and repairing: hatred of capitalism is not corroding the engine, it is a leak, just spots of the fuel it thrives on. Outdo the engine, match its cynicism, take its money and scram. Another underdog graduates from bully school, and we all stand up and cheer. The endless smiley 'fresh' of Murakami is as much a gob of cynicism, the reek of stunted hearts. Innocence as the devil at a crossroads of tradition.
The death of Margaret Kilgallen at 33, of breast cancer, is depicted as a turning point in the US art scene in the 2008 film "Beautiful Losers". Kilgallen proposed that civic art was an escape from the cycle of impoverished non-materialism, bitching about friends selling out, selling out. Suddenly subversive graffiti slingers were decorating kids playgrounds. Hipsters were making Coney Island rollercoaster signs. Not in an ironic way. Just to brighten a day. A quirky, relaxed Noughties were born - less aggrandised, less sharky, less Frieze. Maybe I'm a bit North but getting uncool, swapping the Man, the Muse and the Market for, like, real people sounds the right direction to me.
Subject: Photoblog, September
Time: 2009 Sep 28 18:40:00
(1) Swamp Things. I hate houses. Windows. Doors. No time for Habitat, knick-knacks, décor. Houses are dumpy, often suffocating, spooky. Give me a skip. Give me kibbutzim. Give me the swamp. I take the Northern Line to High Barnet, a bus hop to rural Herts. Broad Colney is 45 mins door-to-swamp. Door-to-languid-heron, door-to-fussy-looking-coot. Otters allegedly. No Yoda. No croaking princess. They say that hedge funds are all heading to Lake Geneva. Even the City is done with cities. (2) The Thousandth Crash at my Window. A neat skid, a concentrated metallic burst which dilutes into an encore of other skidding, cries in Turkish. "Oh God no, Jesus no.” Boozy London Irish. Then a Junction Road quieter than Christmas. By the time I reach my curtains, the drinkers are stood. Straining, Endemol Heads. The motorcyclist is limp, nightmare-shaped. Moving or not. Is he.. gone? Cars are upturned, wrinkled in a shower of bits. I must have seen a thousand. (3) The Posh Have Quiet Wives. London's Open House weekend has expanded. Idiosyncratic architecture was the calling card, these days we pop through your home for a nosey. Who lives here? JA (name and face hidden) is a contemporary artist. A real one, with commissions. Warhol autographed his driving licence, while he partied with David Hockney. He has a Keith Haring on the wall and a letter from Dali. A jazz man. Analysing, serious. A demure wife/partner with a granny bun, the hefty tower of dark room equipment. A leather bed pushed against the window. Does he have sex there? I didn't ask, wading around his bathroom in wading boots. Issey Miyake toiletries studied me, primed like soldiers. Chaotic bookshelves undermined the air of 'made it'. It seemed a soupçon.. by the book. "What do you mean?" "This place. Every corner says Artist. By numbers. Are you a by-numbers artist?" "I.." "Your life is exactly how mine would be..if I was your age. Had your parents and education, partners and experiences." "Oh." (4) Feedback, a 12-String Burns and Death. Poncho had tickets for Cliff's 'Final Reunion' with The Shadows, which turned into Altamont meets Hi-de-Hi. Feedback ripped through us briefly, like a perma-smile showband playing Neubauten's "Headcleaner". The death came a few rows ahead. She was quickly attended to by wheelchair bearers, but kept slipping from the seat as she was carried along the aisle, her grey, papery face and lifeless eyes turned up at the Dome's height. "At least she went happy," someone nearby commented. I guess. (5) Comments on Duncan Campbell's "Bernadette", a convincing 'Marxist firebrand' for a 21-year-old psychology student, who never convinced my parents: Talk in simpler terms to draw in more people. Use grievances to seek emotional response. Love the cheer of the crowd. Talk territory. Use battleground analogies. Talk in male terms. I'm not sure that Marxism can breathe without atheism. (6) Oh Swamp Your Fucking Flats With Copper Sulphate. Drown these things we cling to. Roger Hiorns' "Seizure".
Subject: Songs at the End of the Road
Time: 2009 Sep 15 18:10:00
Anyone who grew up during the reign of postmodernism will be used to saying that the authentic and the fake have an equality. Both are all in your mind, the difference is conservativism, patriarchy. Musically pomo lead to the gormless: mash-ups, Beck, Cornelius. Clever clever sounded really dumb. These days, letting everything in is out. Homespun and hand-picked, Dorset's End of the Road festival feeds a select five thousand. The opposite of "a little bit of everything", one can be easily seduced to what it might be saying: diversity only happens when everyone is the same.
Youngsters with woodsmen beards? Check. Checked shirts. Check. Have I got a beard for the occasion? Check. And a checked shirt? Check. Are we in the Lumberjack Song? No, we're in the Larmer Tree Gardens, where King John hunted. There are peacocks over there, watching Fleet Foxes. Rather than fashionable you could claim that lo-fi acoustic folk, unprocessed blues et al never go out of fashion (REM and Violent Femmes' lost world Americana, the Unplugged fad, Nick Drake's rebirth, Bonnie Prince Low Smog, freak folk). It's always there - a reliable, muted river beside the plastic, whizzy and disposable.
Tag cloud of the EOTR monoculture: dark, floaty harmonies, lineage, Bella Union, loopy and hypnotic, masculine, organic, uncatchy, the opposite of camp, Ulster Scots, Delta, Cajun, VU, raw, backwater, whiskey-soaked. Sudden stops with a vocal overhang (that say so much). As well as young'uns, EOTR provides a chance to see the ultra-niche. Serious, serious
beards gather brownie points, as does being old, poor, undiscovered, having done time on a chain gang, presumed dead, lifelong illiterate, knarled of hand and foot. Obscure artist's obscure artists. Josh T Pearson releases a rough CD-R every ten years and about four hundred people fall down and pray to it.
Still, how many of today's dirtbowl poor can afford a vintage Gibson? The irony is that it tends to be Real Ale specialists who find a value in redneckery. Observer Music Magazine music, filtered through combs of taste like we're choosing a vase from Heals. Seasick Steve spotted in a restaurant in Manhattan? There goes the golden ticket, bud. Looks like all yer new friends were in the short-stay car park. Shouldn't have stayed for sushi, Mr Piss-a-Grammy. I worry that EOTR will be autistic-tasteful, so dry I'll be gagging for Lady Gaga. These days every radio dj wants to be John Peel. Novelty songs live in apartheid. Adverts don't have jingles we'll remember, just award-winning soundscapes by someone on Warp. The world is grey with taste. Corn used to loosen the atmosphere, bind a family, quite subversively. Without cheesy TV presenters in criminal jumpers - oh Britain, where art thou?
Like a classroom in uniform, diversity works best when everyone is the same. In limiting the palette we discover more. Depth, subtleties, nuances. Irony 2: despite emulating a world before the media urbanised everyone, ham-strung us with self-reference, made dipsy entertainers into gods, EOTR is full of movie cameras (Stephen Frears is filming here, Gemma Arterton is darting around). Miss X's flatmate also skips past, I think. A girl I've only ever seen on Flickr. Odd, the internet feels like a mindfuck that's all take and no give. Glad to be free from it. I realise that I haven't read rolling micro-news in three days.
This festival is the best quality
I've been to (and I'm no mad fan of vocal harmonies) in terms of curation. It feels loved. Made from love. I thank the Lord for The Dodos, Tiny Vipers and The Week That Was' version of "Fear Is A Man's Best Friend". I feel privileged to be here and meet these people. And if T-Model Ford can hobble the world at 90, there's hope for us all. And he's genuinely illiterate. Hurrah!
Subject: Sea Dreams (Brighton and Hove notes)
Time: 2009 Sep 06 18:54:00
the sea is sex. so they say, but why do we dream in symbols? why is a spade not a spade. why is it a bucket? i dream i get off the tube at willesden docks (?) by mistake and explore a tiny, dirty beach there, with large canal-style gates across a lock. i meet a blonde girl and we look at pictures of me in 1988, jumping on a bed with a striped duvet. her naked body, for we are now on the bed, has a simplicity. guiltess, shameless, simple. she seems to slip through life with no effort. Alistair Darling. Christine Lagarde. there are old flames on the train, they've just met at gatwick. open, flowing conversation. the man is german possibly. they reminisce about brighton in the 1970s. old lovers, perhaps, neither saying out loud. "why didn't we happen?" The Spy Who Enjoyed Everything. an MI6 agent who takes pleasure everywhere, laughing and gurgling as he is punched and shot. It Is Always George Lazenby's Birthday. any time i read the 'Whose Birthday Today?' lists, it is always George Lazenby's. how
does he do it? "in 2004 a had tha barn put up ta hold all tha presents. to be honest it's getting on ma tits." nearly there. the march of the nearly-there days. days you got up and did things, sure you did. but were you really..here? otherworlds, unmoored, adrift. My Old Mod Dad. leathery. fading Layer Cut. there's a week between a good haircut and a bad, see. week one it is too severe, week two is spot on, then suddenly you're a drop-kicked haystack again. The Walk. class is in the Walk. Cannonball Adderley. sex energy as attachment. sex as tone. mental posture. american pancakes with minted butter. lyrics like driftwood "some people got all the money / some people working for nothing at all" - Men of Good Fortune - six songs about economics. a comedy sketch - the massively overqualified job applicant "..and while I was finishing my masters I ran a charity start-up to recycle books and equipment" the interviewer hands him a bog brush and Dettol. or My Green Flatmate. hectoring, badgering. listening, watching. micro-managing. over and over and over and over and over. Warhol. Sedgwick. Bombs Not Ops. Bombs Not Ops. cod power ballad called "American Brains" "They're slicker and they're faster - and God knows they get it right. Cos God built .. American Brains. Oh ye-eah. American Brains" a grumpy disabled girl with pink fin hair ramming her wheelchair into people on the pier. the misery of disability. the sick-of-it-all. Barton Fink's postcard. stagnation-by-movement. the French revolution wouldn't have happened if everyone could have upped and left for Brazil. while Del Amitri were writing "Nothing Ever Happens" - their hit single describing a lack of eventfulness in the world - we watched the endgame of Communism and the Cold War. students protested in Tiananmen Square. Hillsborough danced with the Marchioness till a bomb exploded above Lockerbie, blowing 800 bodies all over their doorstep. what do Del Amitri
want to happen? what would be "Enough Happens, Ta"? if scientologists discredit psychiatry why do they entice us in with a free personality test? Lipsmack Lesbians. all they do together, if we're honest, is cook.
Bloody Widows - faux tv miniseries as novella - high class hen party turns sour after the murder of a young gigolo - Alberto Moravia's Crime At The Tennis Club, gender reversed. the massively overqualified job applicant is scrubbing a toilet. another one next door is doing the same. "I had to change my name by Deed Poll. An eye-catching name is the only way to get your CV noticed amongst thousands of others." "Me too. Sir Ranulph Spanners". "Chelsie Bunn." a fake tract called "Young People in Pain" - a plea for the nation's youth to stop drinking by a steel-haired old lady. a song called "Young People In Pain". the canal gates are closing over. splitting. coming undone. i look down ripples of vertebrae, the blonde girl's spine. she is very silent, the water still. Lady Gaga. comedy Argus headline - "Mirror thieves 'need to take a long hard look at themselves'". everyone telling me to reduce my carbon footprint has a footprint bigger than mine. life = talking to yourself by bouncing it off others. We'll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow.
Subject: High Land, Hard Electronica
Time: 2009 Aug 16 22:00:00
Whoever said that travel broadens the mind did so before Blue Peter. Abroad is a known quantity these days. Few places are test environments, or alien. Abroad is everywhere. If anything, Jasmine and Georgia return from their sponsored run up Machu Picchu a little bit flattened. Another box ticked, a mystery defined. Back to reality with unstraying solidity.
On the stay-here front, Don Tempi has surpassed me, taking a week in Leeds. To compete, I need two weeks in any random town. Say Bishop's Stortford. Go deep not wide. Unravel the tensions. Find out where it came from, where it is going, and what really makes the Bish tick.
The stay-here differs from the nineties fetish for banal spaces - glass atriums, airport lounges, mezzanines, airless identikit hotel rooms - Ballardian non-places that hint at some delirious truth about modernity. To be honest, I get that feeling in Leicester Square. Buzz, centrality, still feels like an annexe. To something.
Stay-here is active reassessment, not passive assessment. When in Morocco, I shared a desert tour with a very bronzed, outdoorsy Australian couple. They were so full of that easygoing monopersonality, I feared we'd be incompatible companions. As it turned out, the inverted Europeans proved the most game. "Wow, there's an incredible ravine over here." They preferred to chill back in the truck. "Yup. A big ravine. We get the idea." And this was their response to everything. "It's a big desert. We get the idea."
Getting the idea isn't the idea any more, hinted Situationists. Sensations, two-ways, interventions, thrown together moments - are the new ideas. Huysmans suggested that to anticipate was better than to arrive, because any destination of the imagination could surpass reality. Only in mode: passive, says the thrown together moment. Only if your vocation is to "get the idea", and then go.
The Scandinavian void of the Highlands, under high herringbone clouds, serves to remind any members of 2ManyMonkeys that the world is mostly empty. Here is a beautiful and dramatic place, cleared of people, who weren't as profitable as sheep. To tempt Victorian bankers to use the new-fangled train, to shoot at stags and become lairds, Scotland the brand was born.
The Belladrum festival is folk, freak folk, gruff woody Americana, rinsed-out rave, electro and MNML, Robert Burns poetry and a tent full of unsigned Glaswegian scenesters, the new Phantom Band or Sons and Daughters. Entertaining headliners keep everything this side of 'boutique'.
Festivals are thrown together moments, created by subcontractors. Everyone knows their role to perfection but nobody knows anything else. Even the people who orchestrate the subcontractors can be contracted in. It works though.
I've never been this far north. The dark waters have a sadness to them. Loch Ness is a fissure, gradually widening. One day the Highlands will be an island. Meanwhile the festival has enthusiasm on its side. Locals sell it out. Pan-class, fancy dress, wholemeal hippies, teens shouting surreal in-jokes, cash-in-hand ex-con types forever in wraparounds, Rangers tops and a fistful of Superkings.
I love the urban working class. I get bored with middle class attitudes sometimes. Oddly, the longer they camp the more laid back they get. No makeup, no blow dried hair, at ease, unhidden, au naturale. Striding amongst them is a young Alan Horne type, slicked hair and bow tie, twee as fuck trews and vintage spats. As working class as the Rangers fans but feeling very different, thank you very much, a Bowie-esque spaceman visitor thing. Where did he come from? Was I him? (I enter a portaloo directly after Young Alan and I swear that he has tidied it up! A row of used roll holders has been arranged, cologne hangs in the air).
When not working, I gravitate to the rinsed-out rave and MNML, keen on a change. Praxis is a school of learning that boils down to "you don't know until you do". I have a pact with a friend to get tattoos on our 70th birthday (let's face it, we won't sob regretfully "We have to live with this - for the rest of our lives"), just for the praxis.
One track (Project Bassline?) sounds like the vibrating straps on a dentist's chair, inside a spaceship changing gear, inside a giant's shortbread tin. The lid lifts, spilling up a platoon of Grade 8 mental patients. Sun blazing, we disappear into the beautiful inverse focus of dance. My nephew, resisting a career, spends much of his time taxiing djs from NI airports to seaside parties. Is that.. um, techno? I ask. He chuckles. It's called hardstyle. Oh. Dutch hardstyle. Ah. Hardstyle sounds like someone has injected a bison in the heart with a litre of Red Bull, and is now holding a microphone up its nostril while it struggles in zero gravity. Nevertheless dance music is subtly envied by sludgy rock for being both innovative and popular. It doesn't say much, but nothing does these days.
Elsewhere, who impressed me? Delicate as a web, Jo Hamilton has a shocking, sonorous voice when you're near it. Bronto Skylift do a byzantine kind of two man grunge (guess it's revival time already) like fighting snakes. Scary bearded snakes. Washington Irving sing folk pop from the oddball side of town, scripted by Flannery O'Connor. British Sea Power segued their set into a hynotizing workout just for the anecdote.
"People are fragile things, you should know by now." Prepared for deluge, I am unprepared for sun, and burn badly. I have my photograph taken with The Editors, and resemble a large, grumpy prawn. I try to avoid photographs of myself at the best of times, feeling that I look somehow hollow, while everyone else seems full. Later, a full moon arrives at the after-festival ho down, and the conversation deepens with the singer of the Saw Doctors. "When they discover the meaning behind the universe I think it'll look like music." I say. A kind of maths, but instinctive. We raise our drinks.
Subject: Photoblog, June-July
Time: 2009 Jul 22 17:57:00
(1-6) The markets near Camden Lock keep expanding. Another rigidly planned retail zone, like a new gaming level. The Horse Hospital, the original Stables (recently built) and so on. Neat units, tidy as the chimneys of Auschwitz, push exponential layers of tat. Identitat. Counterculture is replaced by fancy dress, burlesque and a kind of homeless world cuisine. Vacant retail opportunities are split in two by the yelps of Asian sales technique. "Please sir. Yes! Come try. Don't be shy." As if we pass your glutinous ruby gloop because we're too shy. God help the burgeoning century - landfill cuisine, humans in name only. I pause. Like a vigorous drug trip, the caller suddenly resembles a puppet of seething DNA, a nonhuman soup as off-putting as the one she is stirring. Her pointless skull is the skull of a dog, crushed into a dusty roadside. Upturned, lacking a jaw. I wander these meaningless labyrinths until can go no further, and then I sit.
Vodka arrives. The sun's effort struggles to pass a cloud. Recently it's been coming back, quicker than before - this midworld yawning fore and aft, into the very molecules. More art, more stuff passing in front of my eyes. I knock back half the glass. More internet dating. More flouncy, in-your-face go-getters. I find no joy in them. It occurs to me, and not for the first time, that there might be something wrong with me. Not the standard ticks and quirks that make each of us unique, and which we mistake for hang-ups, but a real halo of blind spots, the shadow of.. deeper damage.
My nib circles above my notebook, but words don't arrive. I place the cap back onto a seemingly eager pen, and eventually close those untouched pages.
"Stuck for.. words?" What now? A foreigner's voice rises up to my right, from another table. Words, even at their best, aren't enough, I explain.
He nods, and sweeps a thumb and forefinger down each side of his moustache. "There is one thing for it." I dare not ask, for an urgency takes to his eyes, and it makes me worry that he has a business opportunity to propose. His hand moves inside a belted hunting jacket, and then plucks out the corner of a revolver. "Violence. Proof in action. Wouldn' t the world be better without words? Wouldn't your lover kiss a.. lot sweeter?"
I have my hand on my satchel, collecting things. But he snorts and tips wine into his mouth, and angles an eye at me while he swallows. I am curious. This week, the past month, has been nothing to report. Same as the last, same as the next. "Again?" I point to his glass.
His name is Yuri. "I like it here. It's shit. Everyone looks like they just had their passports seized". I'd feel cleaner in a brothel, I tell him. I ask him if he is planning to silence anyone. "Yes. But not here. I used to enjoy it. The travel. Danger. I need something steadier. I have a wife in Uman, and a little girl."
He asks me what I do. Me? Sometimes I feel like I don't do anything. I'm an art critic, but then we're always learning. The loneliest job in the world. And all solitude is solitude in front of.. the Image. Yuri laughs, like I'm a crazy guy.
(7) Osama bin Laden's neice, Wafah Dufour, singing in London recently, as she refuses my camera. Don Tempi was on the brink of proposing a duet. She met her uncle only once but he turned his back on her because she was unveiled. What goes around comes around, I guess.
Subject: Photoblog, June: some student art shows
Time: 2009 Jun 21 21:13:00
Less shrubbery than last year but live birds, wandering tortoises and real people in glass cases or repeating endless facts and figures fed by an earpiece. Bright, prime 80s geometrics, New Order muddied and mucked up. Stunner textiles at the chromatically aggressive Goldsmiths; strong fashion at Saint Martins. By strong I mean already marketing themselves. Asked how easy it was to make a shoe (Don Tempi is considering cordwainery) one student replied, "It depends on your brand." Everyone had branded notepaper, boxes and bags. Women were strong all over. Everything I wanted to purchase was by a woman. Wish I was rich when hit by thoughts of a) a family I'll probably never have, b) buying art to keep people going. Fantasised that I was Art Buyer for a portfolio of celebrities. "Russell would love this." I'd wave a finger at a pencil drawing of a squirrel on a Singer sewing machine, and something by Leah Lovett etc.
Subject: Photoblog, April-May
Time: 2009 May 15 19:25:00
1. These Bricks Are Me. My layers. Icebox blue* keeping the lid on fiery red, all at the expense of carer people green. My company sent us on a Jungian typology course, Insights Discovery, the 'funky new cousin' of Myers Briggs. I'm slap in the middle of introversion (lively buzz is draining) and extraversion (energised by lively buzz). But there are no bads when it comes to personality, only frustrated goods. An überdetailed profile. Don't call David 'duckie' on Thursdays. David can take feedback badly. Fuck YOU, Insights Discovery. 2. Gobsmashed of Piccadilly writes, "Why oh why do TDK and Sanyo still reign over London's neon at midnight? These are firms the average Percy associates with a) C90 cassettes b) a VCR he bought when he couldn't afford the one he actually wanted. For Heaven's sake, someone. Wii Fit. Spotify. Something. Sort it out!" 3. Alexis Milne offers me his last can of dogfood. Terrible depending on the kindness of strangers. These days at art shows I feel like John Cleese. "Silly. Stop it. Stop it. This is getting silly." More silly than Paul McCarthy, Manzoni, Duchamp? A 'clown born of repressed anger', Milne wants his work to get "bigger, stronger, louder, darker" then.. 4. death. Accused of silly, art looks to death. Which is serious, until it becomes just another graphic. I reckon the death instinct is repressed sexual-emotional energy, but nobody listens. They cough and change trains. 5. Brennan came down from Edinburgh, where he bought a fleet of ecologically advanced street sweepers for £700k. Good to get antagonistes
as insiders, for they have a righteousness. 6. Libretto for Squeaky Wheel and One Soprano. A concert updating Russolo's Art Of Noises, and other Futurist music, on its 100th birthday. Never realised the future was that old. 7. "Hello. I'm Jeremy Irons. And I'll be your audio guide around Westminster Abbey." This year's birthday tourism took in 38 crownings, rivalry, rejected popery, re-embraced popery. For anyone of a plain-living Presbyterian persuasion the robes, incense and Holy Communion of the Anglican church can seem near-Catholic anyway, a half revolution (Catholicism being near Orthodox, and Orthodoxy being Middle Eastern - it's a spooky planet for outnumbered huns). The Abbey can feel choked - viscounts, people who aren't actually buried there, some dude. Like St Paul's, you can spend a day reeling through history, victory, Victoriana, empire, and even finish with a dash of Dandelion & Burdock commercialism, and see hide nor hair of Jesus. 8. Inflatable pigmen; nails banged up the nose; a doris in the buff, gyrating like a tuppence ha'penny fuckpuppet for the open joy of male gazery. It must be a Bizarre magazine party. The people were lovely, the music was baad. Corporate Events rock in zombie make-up. Silly. (*Handy in a pay freeze.)
Time: 2009 May 05 21:33:00
Subject: Innervation: Twitter ye not
Time: 2009 Apr 27 19:31:00
Another tendril reaches off the UO vascular axis: after much mocking, I tweet
, and I know not why. So far a jotter of anything cultural I've done, including the gastronomical. Not that I'm a foodie: I eat plums, a yoghurt, rarely a basin of spag bol 'to fill a hole', Empty Carbs in an Aspartame ragu. Is it British thing to push half a loaf into children to 'fill them up'? Also, a basic list of events is how my diary used to be, when I kept one. It can be interesting to cross-check. Did you know that while Gilles Deleuze was committing suicide I was watching Larry Clark's "Kids" at the London Film Festival? Amazing. Jean Piaget noted that children talking to adults use 'ego-centrist' speech patterns. Perhaps Twitter will maintain a unique child-to-child horizontality. No superego to impress = less ego. And less words. All academic, of course.
Subject: Photoblog, February-March
Time: 2009 Mar 22 17:27:00
1. Arse jokes, fart jokes, jokes about cocks. The father of English verse, illustrated. Canterbury is a working cathedral. Sit in for choir practice, Evensong. The crypt of Hubert Walter keeps the Black Prince company, up some stone steps from the murder scene. There must be more to life than dumb cruelty. 2. The Cocknbullkid's Tale. Her sidekick was a disconcerting male Grace Jones we christened Mace. Mace yawned and oo'd and ah'd with great theatre. On My Own is a nice pop song, and her new tunes sound like gritty Kate Bush remixes. Mace wears a snood by D&G, jacket by Josef Fritzl. 3. What is Exmoor? Exmoor is a herd of wild ponies; a stag hunt; Liberty and Livelihood (no solution to the paradox of personality. Quiet rock fans, hippies who are uptight and myopic, and those who wish to supervise the live eating of exhausted animals - welcoming, warm, generous to a fault). Teen shepherds ring Exmoor Horns by quad bike while the unemployed exist to poke fruit machines while 10% of homes are holiday homes. Beautiful, impossible homes. Hardware in a class war. Red Nose Day should be an occasion to shoot second home owners in the face, in very slow motion; waterfalls feed mossy steppes into Lorna Doone valleys; lazy dogs hog the whole pub floor; bats clip your ear in sudden graveyards. 4. A Peckham Wedding. Poncho and Fernanda tie the knot and host their own event at the Ivy House, a wonderful old community boozer with gold lamé drapes around the stage. 5. The Kids from Byam Shaw turn Archway's Brutalist underpasses into a roller disco. Think I prefer being mugged. It's only just spring and I sense mad summer nights ahead. The dole plus a heatwave spells crazee. 6. Death finally came for me. I was leaving for the office, and there it was, like. Now I blog with the Angels. Join me. Join me. 7. Jane and Louise Wilson gave a talk to the Architectural Association, while the BFI Southbank exhibits their piece based on an unmade Kubrick feature, The Aryan Papers, flanked by mirrors reflecting the seductive unfinished business to infinity. A powerful working intelligence in its rawest state = art.
Subject: Blogs de Blog: A Veteran Speaks
Time: 2009 Mar 22 17:20:00
I've been 'blogging' for almost a decade. Well, uploading a few photos every six months is hardly blogging, but you know what I mean. Still here. Much has changed in that time. I moved half way up my street. The phallic column form has been universally adopted. If anything the quality of the writing is better, attachment looser, energy scattered. Everything says "I'm a veteran". What advice would you give to the young blogger?
Ignore tales of chichi friends and free love. Put that out of your head. For most of us, blogging is a not-unthankful graft. The thanks come in knowing you’ve raised a few whirlwinds, maybe a conscience or two. Avoid clichés like the plague and make sure it comes from the gut. But I’m not really opinionated. And my daily life is less than riveting.
Ideal! God is a long-term tenant of the mundane. Do you think life is elsewhere? Only hangs around the European Commission or the White House? Paint your quantum pondlife. Your flow, your blocks. But the first rule is to be good company, a friend to the friendless. Always remember that. Imagine your reader as a bit like you, but older, bedbound and functionally incontinent. Any regrets?
Hell yeah. No thrills without spills. I haven't had Special Branch blowing the front door off at six in the morning. Yet. *Winks* Social networking is now used by corporations to make themselves look connected and listening. Relaxed, responsive staff are sacked and replaced by fear-whipped autobots given lessons in acting Relaxed and Responsive. How do we know that you or anybody else is not some prick paid to 'evangelise' a cash-strapped 'brand'?
Panda Pops. How do you keep the quality high?
Panda Pops. Panda Pops, drugs and honesty. Some see the blog as a daily ablution, a joust to keep cogs turning, something JH Kellogg would advocate. I see it as the Temporary Autonomous Zone, praxis in a playpen, schizoanalysis, soul makeover. Here we're anything we want to be, using those very tendencies we repress in 'real' 'life'. Guilt-crippled and cap-touching? Be even more so
! And when does one ‘outgrow’ blogging?
Subject: Parish Associates
Time: 2009 Mar 01 09:34:00Mao's - 7.10pm
"What the fuck is a Guerrilla Happening?" I look up from the events agenda and into Jenni's eyes.
'To Lurpak' is a verb we invented: meaning the involuntary expulsion of solids or liquids through the nose. Most often this will be caused by stand-up comedy or a held cough meeting an especially strident mouthful of chilli. Jenni's eyes have widened so far than I expect the latter has taken place but, suddenly, I remember that we have yet to be served our food.
I look around. Swearing in front of the Arabs, Jenni warned me, was a deal-breaker. Screw them, if they don't respect our culture of disrespect. And the hand has been dealt, a long time ago. They are the ones stepping in at the last minute. They are, in effect, the chancers. Actually, rewind: not respecting a culture of disrespect would be a good thing. Or at least an inevitable thing. It is how they go about it. Jesus. Smile. Neither of them has smiled since we arrived. They have talked to me, but it has been with a soft glistening glaze, raised 'oh, really?' eyebrows and an under whelmed inflection to their voice which suggests that they say would love to add 'and this is what I'll tell your boss when he arrives'. One of them, the fat one, looked at me taking my first mouthful of a Spanish red with, I imagine, the expression of someone tentatively watching animal pornography, for the purposes of research. He looks like he wants to reach over the table, to turn me off. The fact that I am as far up the food chain as they are going to rise disturbs them even more.
The fat one swivels his water around. He shakes his head. "Warfare? Like guerrilla warfare?"
Jenni shrieks and pulls the agenda from my hands. "It's art. Guerrilla Happenings is art. Something for the loucher magazines. Urban."
"Urban." The one who isn't the fat one looks concerned. He shakes his head once and looks at the ceiling. He checks his nails. Non-fat greeted Jenni's opening pleasantries with "Still we are a country of comedians." This could be a long night.
I am the architect, they are the owners. They were not the original owners, nor did they hire me as their architect. But they have had me now. Like it or not, they have had me. But Jenni is the one who is more, shall we say, on the make tonight.
Jenni Boon is an old housemate of mine (the moment of the precise origin of the cry 'Lurpak!' remains, unquestionably for the best, a disputed haze). The kind of party girl who wakes up one morning in her late twenties wondering what she is actually going to do with her life. No, really. Not hacking off and hunkering down and hushing up Something quite the opposite. Something she can pilot. Something that flies. And she looks through a stuffed black book and, with all the wisdom of gut instinct, begins to do what she has been doing all along. Parties. And as her business grows she finds that she doesn't mind the inevitable hunker and restrain, cap touch and set-aside. If it helps her garden grow. She is - almost - a different woman now.
"Urban?" She offers. "Um. Vibey. Now. Unless vibey was last year. In which case our subcontractors will take a contrary angle. These people are rarely off the ball." Thankfully a waiter arrives with the starters, so we don’t have to dig any further.
"Alicia Parish?" Which would be me. I turn in the direction of the voice. The waiter has paused, and backs up a step or two. "Parish Associates?" He is quite cute. "I was on the resident's consultation committee for the renovation? Roselawn Retirements."
"Oh yes." He is very cute. Young. I remember wanting to ask him out for a drink but he skipped the final meeting. Three years ago, that must be. "How is it panning out over there?"
He nods with impressive sincerity. "The sockets at waist height are inspired. The ramps through the back garden are a miracle. You fought so hard for us. My mother.. before.. she just sat around in the dark, frightened of the bell and feeling bad for herself. The staff are so kind but terribly busy. Now she can get across the lawn all by herself. And she loves it there." He passes his hand in an arc. "The sunlight on the cherry blossoms. She paints. And she has made a few friends. A little family of squirrels.. they come out and they.. sit on the solar panels. She named them all. I've never seen her so.. at one with life. Everyone agrees. Thank you. Thank you so much."
He is cute, and gone. And I am kind of silenced. I stare down at six rock oysters. Oh fuck. And what are you working on now, Ms Parish? Oh, just a casino. To ruin lives. And a row of stag bars. Sorry, leisure village. I twist some lemon and decline the hot sauce.
Suddenly the silence around the table, which I mistook for the contented sound of perusing and tasting, is broken. Non-fat is clutching the bridge of his nose, where his glasses hang to one side, sobbing. "Are you oka.." Jenni moves over to touch his shoulder.
"Don't touch me!" His sobbing gets louder. He is visibly shaking. "I am sorry." Eventually, he stands up and I look around, although we are in an alcove, as private a spot as one can reserve here. "I am sorry." He sits again. His larger partner shakes a rolled serviette and utters a few gruff-sounding notes in Arabic.
We decide to continue eating. Or at least I do. Eventually he raises his head, which was staring straight down and silently at his lap. "This is such a beautiful story. In my country, we have no squirrels." His associate looks at me, the barnyard antics sliding out of his eyes, now a grown adult caught stealing a child's bicycle, almost pulling off an explanation, then glancing to the middle distance, in a bleak disbelief at his own actions.
"My mother." Non-fat looks like he simply insists on going on. He runs the edge of one hand over the tablecloth. "She refused the residential home. We found a maid for her. She was very recommended but, mother, she.." He chuckles, casts both hands up in the air, causing Jenni to lean back. "Independent lady. She refuse anything the maid she cook." He looks at his lap again, for so long I wonder if his story is finished. Jenni looks at me. Larger Partner stares gravely at the centre of the table. As I reach for an oyster, he raises his face to the ceiling. "You're poisoning me!" He yelps. I look around the restaurant. It comes again, louder. "You're poisoning me!" Larger Partner just nods. "Mother she cry 'You're poisoning me!'"This was the loudest of them all. Someone is walking over. I lean out of my chair and try to give a universal signal for 'Everything spot on. No-one needs to come over to this table'. I immediately realise that I don't know what such a gesture is and what I do indicate (possibly 'Presidential flourish' meets 'blind boy's fondle') makes him drop an empty tray and break into a run.
Afterwards, Non-fat falls silent again, and Jenni, eager to keep the momentum up, says "Well, my mum just did a parachute jump. She's so keen to be vigorous, she's outdoing everyone else." She nods and picks at her salad.
Pursing his lips, Larger Partner looks gravely down his nose at nothing in particular and forces out a single sigh. "My mother.. she died. We were told she was the kindest, most beautiful woman." Non-fat straightens his glasses and looks with some concern at his associate. "Then, one day, when I was fifteen, sixteen years maybe, my family visited a good friend of my grandfather. Very rich man. Oil to his beard. We were in the garden. The sun was going down. And he say to me 'You are Shala's boy, no? It is terrible what happened to Shala. Really terrible.'"
He moves about on his chair, not uncomfortable telling this story. "I say 'What do you mean?' and he looked at me, a little shocked. But I realise my mistake. I say 'Oh you mean about the..' This man smiled. 'Yes. Yes. About her suicide.'"
The cutlery sounds come to an end. Jenni wants to say something but he continues. "I never asked. I have never.. investigated. I could not ask father. I could not do it. Perhaps this old man was mad. Perhaps father would be angry. But I could not speak to him. Nor could I ask anyone else. And to this day I know nothing. Nothing.." He waves his fingers as if to say whatever "..concrete."
I prepare my final oyster. "Well. I don’t think I can top that." Eventually I feel I should say something. I can't lie. "My mum was a right hippy in a way. Rejected everything. She came to London and it was rhinestone loons and free love and.." I smile at everyone. "Lots of things you really don't want to know about. Happenings. Minus guerrillas. Although I wouldn't be surprised. We lived all over. Morocco. California. Denmark. She didn't want me to go to school or anything. Didn't trust the curriculum." I decide to leave it there.
There is an air of seriousness as we finish our starters, but it seems to work in Jenni's favour. "So. Miss Jenni." Larger Partner slides the presentation pack, her tender, back across the table. "Your customs are not ours. This casino will never be Disneyland, but we put our name only to safe and honourable places."
"It'll be fantastic." Jenni closes her eyes to embolden the fact. This will easily be the plushest do she has stage-managed. I smile at her. They don't even want to go into the costing. She opens her eyes and puts the pack back into her briefcase and doesn't look at anyone for quite a while.
The dinner arrives and is pretty good (Jenni tries the cherry balti at my insistence), the boys from Dubai agree a timetable and tell us that they'll pass through their invitees and a signed contract. We talk football, mostly. But, without the lure of booze, they excuse themselves and leave as soon as the plates are clean (and kind of to our relief).
"Oh, wow." She flops back and wipes her face. "Piece of cheese. Cheers, Alicia." I didn't really do anything, but we knock glasses.
I reapply some Serrano NY, something called Mary V. "You know how everyone chooses the second cheapest wine, because nobody wants to look cheap. Pretty soon, you'll be choosing the second most expensive - to prove success hasn't turned you into a total arsehole. Gorkys for one? On your sly self." The Arabs have squared up. I wait till Jenni is fetching her coat before pulling a twenty out for under the wine bottle. Ah, sweet cherry blossom.
Inner Smile, Upper Street - 8.35pm
There is a heart on Upper Street. Tonight, it is warm and reasonably traffic free, for a summers evening. We leave Mao's through some home-and-changed males who dance around us. Girls in white emerge from the armour of ox-blood cabs and skip calmly over the steps to some cash points. Buggy couples shade one another's eyes against the windows of sleeping decor stores. At pavement tables, sucking coffee spoons, monochrome teenagers, still in sunglasses, stand up for a texted vigilance down the curvature, or across its boulevard's breadth.
Nice things, flesh and money, taste and statements. For who? One another! Why would we want to live anywhere else? Where men and women of fifty genuinely and effortlessly look better than their children? All said, walking on Upper Street itself can lead me to think thoughts I don't welcome. Tramps-eye stuff like 'at the end of the day, we’re all on our own' (tell it to the bruise) and 'do you ever really, genuinely, know someone?' (talk to the hand). Of course, these questions are apt on a level, but one that fails to do us good. And do any level questions, by themselves? Like the name itself, or the self as solitude, we need more than a mere answer. There is a heart, where levels meet, see themselves, find new questions and, eventually, peel apart. There are smiles. They don't come from money. They don't come from taste. And they don't come from kids (not on Upper Street, we assume kids are an inner smile). But they come. They divide to let us pass. They lift sequined drums from the backs of vans and catcall from high jeeps. They ask where you bought those boots. They sway and scratch, ghost-like, in bars.
I put my lucky arm through hers as we stroll (I tend to do this despite seeing myself as the senior, and my silent credentials for that are: Age - by a few months. Mouth - by a decibel, a semiquaver and a - whatever the unit of self-assurance is. A brass? A bottle? Moderately up the daunt-o-meter, by a few bottles. Money - recently, by a mile. Straight-ahead sense - rendering and blueprinting, turning calculus into concrete; beyond, four feet offer the stairs a so-methodical, light-heavy step; earplugs plumped and squeezed for tonight's abandon. The 'Ye-es'; the wall-scrape soft as swaying reeds before a storm; the "Aw, Jenni. Not half!" Not half? What has she reeled in? A comic book mid-fielder? I've never heard anything as dippy and uncomplicated as "Not half". Say what you like about "Not half", it cannot resonate like the dark blurt and navvies la-la deemed relevant to my inner ear. One day I'll get the guts to ask her. "Just how does one become - and stay - a Not half! girl? Go easy on the bottle? In every sense?")
"So what happened with.." Was it? Korry?
"Oh Jesus." She shakes her head. "Another internet cache scandal. It's either that or I'm catching them reading my texts. I was in Rome, he had the spare keys and was surfing somnophilia."
"Sleeping girls. Don't get me wrong - the photos were innocent. Some were fairly pretty. Just girls in candy striped pyjamas, fast asleep. But, the more I thought about it, the more it started to worry me. Mainly because I woke up each morning half wondering if he'd been.. watching me."
I try to decide if Korry's thing was sweet or sour, but Jenni never confronts, she just asks for the keys back and makes excuses. Say what you like about navvies la-la, at least men feel they can talk to me. Even when they always seemed to be confused about what they're asking for.
"Ladies." Raj opens the door. "Leave it as you found it." He winks.
"Guns and knives in the bucket?"
"That's the one." He claps his hands and looks back along Upper Street. "God said Let there be love." He spreads his arms, and nods to some passers-by. "And there was.. me!"
Subject: Agence Culturelle: Notes from Altermodern
Time: 2009 Feb 09 19:00:00
It's the end. Tate Britain's fourth triennial, and the goal is for 'global from scratch', beyond the multicultural. For those for whom postmodernism was better than the alternative, sometimes less interesting in the arts than other areas, any successor has an uphill task. A return to 'a truth out there' rather than a truth found in collective heads? Fixed not fluid, and back to clean lines? Fun won't seem to go away, a dark kind of Pop presides. Some return to the cool and poetic but many works are a maddening walk through psychogeography, the partial, the weird. Lots of zoology, anthropology, flags. Louis Theroux types with raccoons on their heads, doing a shaman chant. Less attempt to synthesise, say, a universal sense of what dystopia might look like, or a singular beauty. Maybe Altermodern is a meta-successor, not a Grand successor. Geography as difference is gone, the Congo was our own subconscious. Louis travels on. Travel travels on, a unique kind of stasis. What ya runnin from, Louis? When ya gonna feel like a man? Lookin for some sort of totality? The whole world in your hands.
If 'the same' is no different, after years of difference, do we need a different kind of difference, so radical it is imperceptible? Loris Gréaud's tremor art. The floor speaks through Louis' flapping toes. It's a weird world. That's a boy.
Lindsay Seers gets the ball rolling in 'Black Maria', a wood hut where fact and fiction cohabit. Blood photographed through a cheek is a tree. No metaphor. Any word can stand for any thing. Year Zero. Where ya goin now? Rest a while.. in lala land.
In 'All the Dead Stars', Katie Paterson's heavenscape suggests there is no 'global from scratch' without a consensus on wonderment, belief. "I've never been to me." Like the song says.
Louis can't decide whether Altermodern is in or out. In terms of his worldview. Maybe that's good. That's our problem. You an me. We've never been to We.
He fancies a Fair Trade, and cuts through Creolisation, where 'Billy The Krishna', a Hindu cowboy, confronts a saloon full of zombies. Louis chuckles. Tikka massala modern - altermodern diners vs absolute authenticists. Be seein ya.
In a way we've already reassessed the legacy culture in light of multiculturalism. Don't be a.. stranger.
Reggae heads hate UB40, but UB40 are loved in Jamaica. The authentic, gracious to the fake. Only the fake hates the fake. Everything authentic, everything loved. It's a start.
Subject: Photoblog, January-February
Time: 2009 Feb 09 19:50:00
1. Derek Jarman's cottage in Dungeness, a world's-end shingle headland I've meant to visit for years. Fat crows seem pleased with themselves as they perch on pre-war telegraph poles. The smell of wood fires hover over saltmarshes. A lighthouse; a light railway passes abandoned acoustic mirrors, for much of the area belongs to the Ministry of Defence. A long way past the electrified perimeters, you can make out fake towns built for fake combat. If the British film industry has 'all the talent, none of the investment' the features that do get made should be works of high art, and they rarely are. Jarman seemed to belong to that world where a rush of engaged naiveté and something to say beat the work of failure-proof professionals. In interviews, he said things like "I've always found sexuality terribly valuable." No straight man would ever describe sex like that. We tend to snigger, boast and crumble. Did I ever mention that I'm mentioned in 'Modern Nature'? 2. Christelle officially adopted an ex stray cat. Mostly, he hides behind the books on her bookshelves, wonky after his time on the streets, as if he'll never properly trust or engage. Unrewarding for the owner too, I imagine. Valerian is, they say, the equivalent of marijuana for cats, so maybe there's a hope in herbals. Failing this I guess it's a case of leave-him-be? 3. Digital wolves and fallen fixtures, ghost cars, bone cars, sad old trannies. No, reader, not the Holloway Road after midnight - this is modern art. 4. And Malice beget Violence, and Violence beget Schizophrenia. And Schizophrenia had two sons, Paranoia and Persecution. And it came to pass that Boredom had a son called Difference who bore no Malice, but kept a parakeet called Namecalling. And God saw that it was good. I went to protest against a military campaign and ended up in the thick of a Make Israel History jamboree, a ghetto of hard comparisons. Everyone accusing everyone else of being the de facto Nazi. By the end your head is reeling with allegation and, by the time you reach the pub, you'd be forgiven for ordering a pint of Final Solution and a packet of pork swastikas. Sometimes the Middle East feels like an opinion labyrinth - best not to enter. If I had recently suffered a Holocaust I'd get my ass back to the spiritual cradle too. But Herzl's safety-in-borders, in the nuclear age? The next Holocaust as a nuke, or next gen, in Jerusalem. Maybe not five years, fifty or five hundred. Binary options eventually put you off everything. Every pricky Empire, every pissy Ewok. 5. Vocal Octets are the new MacBook. Fingers curated an evening for Nonclassical at the trendy Macbeth pub in Hoxton. DJ Prokofiev (Sergei's grandson) mashed the domaine public, while tousled kids in dayglo sports clothes tore it up to Arvo Pärt. Get Orff your head if you think you're Rach-man-enough!