An Advocation of Cultural Shock and Awe only

Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade authored the USA’s militaristic programme of “Shock and Awe” as a way of using“spectacular displays of power” to “paralyze” an adversary’s perception of the battlefield and destroy his will to fight.

And yet the shock and awe of artworks only stimulates response (except maybe the case of the red tops. If only the Mail were fully paralyzed for weeks on end by the “spectacular displays” of conceptualism which het them up on such a regular basis. Imagine the history of the twentieth century reformulated so that every time modern art had shocked the world, the right wing response was quantifiabl in a bed count.

Fountain, Marcel Duchamp, 1917

 

Imagine the power at Mr Duchamp’s finger tips c.1917!). It is the nature of one’s arsenal that dictates perception. Violence begets violence, and a rose is a rose is a rose. Artworks have always had incredible potential for affecting the way of things.

For me, the shock and awe experienced in front of great artworks is a wonderful, mobilizing, empowering force of good. To be overwhelmed by another’s talent is a selfless act, it is a spectacular and egoless admittance of one’s fallibility, a eulogistic clarion call exclaiming humanity’s potential outside of oneself. 

Guernica, Pablo Picasso, 1937

To be angered, to be dumbfounded, to be doubtful, to be refuted. Power might well lie in the communality of awe and respect paid, and the admittance of the imperfection of one’s own convictions.

The National Gallery’s re-cleaning of, and re-finding, of Mr da Vinci’s Virgin on the Rocks might well attest to the importance of challenging conventions. 

Leonardo – The Virgin of the Rocks, 1491-1508

At first horrified by the thought of touching this priceless masterpiece, it is only a result of the decision to clean and conserve this masterpiece that its beauty has again been revealed for our eyes. Even a reprinted, pixellated version of the work in a broadsheet left me mesmerized. Awestruck. It felt like an opening into another world; one where the infinity of potential lay in the ambitions of an artist and his vision of the ethereal.

To be paralysed by the actions of an adversary is an act of humiliation. To be paralysed by the endeavour of a peer is an act of humility.

As Ghandi once said, I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.

It is hard to retrace one’s steps if you’ve pulverised the opposition.

Groundhog Day in the Unhomely Home

To live is to pass from one space to another, while doing your very best not to bump yourself – Georges Perec

Try as I might, I have come to accept bumping myself – or being bumped – as an inevitability, and art is the worst culprit, it bumps me like no other.

Like birthday-bumps on Groundhog Day, exhibitions bump me no end.

Phil! Phil Connors! I thought that was you!

And like Ned’s indomitable reoccurrence in that marvellous treatise on the insipidity of reoccurences, some bumps are more welcome than others.

Exhibitions confuse my orientation. Artworks muddle my memories, make of them something “wildly coherent” (in the words of Grizzly Bear).

In museums and galleries, time fluctuates, and in The Surreal House (a gallery by any other name?) ­I find myself stuck between “one space” and “another”: my art-o-biography continues to remain unfixed. Such was my experience of and reaction to the Barbican’s current exhibition of the same name, where artworks and ideas displaced my temporality.

(Attentive to the centrality of the uncanny in all this, might we consider the surreal house in those terms, Das Unheimliche-Heim… an unhomely home. For all the comfort I take in looking at and thinking about art, it is nothing compared to reality. My partner reminded me of this last night, as we sat looking out to sea, away from the imposition of architecture and urbanism).

And so, an oppressively small room of Giacometti’s works at the Barbican recalls every word I’ve read or written about the man, and every exhibition I’ve seen. I’m visiting my brother in Norwich almost ten years ago where an exhibition at the Sainsbury’s Centre stops my breath. Or I’m waltzing around the Tate looking for my favourite works. Or I’m in awe at the Pompidou, exploring his studio works and imagining myself there: I even find myself walking through Montparnasse following the man’s footsteps. Now both of our histories have mingled.

Alberto Giacometti, Palace at 4am

Similarly, finding Rebecca Horn’s Concert for Anarchy places me simultaneously back at Tate and at the Barbican, and all of a sudden my mind is rambling duplicitously. Numerous exhibitions overlap and inform one another. My own chronology is propped up by and props up the art history I know. I’m at the centre of my own canon. The same with Berlinde de Bruyckere’s works, which place me squarely on Piccadilly at Hauser and Wirth where things get more confused: Subobh Gupta, Hans Josephson, Iza Genzken etc all muscle in. Le Corbusier redoubles at the Barbican and washes me back to Paris and the visiting the Villa la Roche. Everything is concurrent.

Berlinde de Bruyckere, Wezen

Le Corbusier, Villa la Roche

Things get more confusing still when Joseph Cornell’s beautiful assemblages blossom out of a dingy corner, alongside one of Duchamp’s green boxes.

Joseph Cornell, Untitled (Aviary with Parrot and Drawers), 1949

Now, my dreamy memories of exploring Cornell’s boxes at Chicago’s Art Institute and the alchemical enthusiasm they enthused in me doubles with the poetic and beautiful responses to his work collected in Jonathan Safran Foer’s amazing compendium A Convergence of Birds, which itself enables my mind to wander off in awe and tribute to Jonathan Safran Foer, whose magnificence was captured in a text to me by my friend Laurence just last night having finished Everything is Illuminated.

“Strange and wonderful. I’m amazed that someone so young could write like that. I’m left a little baffled.”

Baffled is the word. I remember reading many years ago that Jonathan Safran Foer writes to his favourite authors and novelists he respects asking for the next blank page they would have written on. These sat framed on his walls, like empty vessels dripping with an imminent potential for greatness. I liked this idea, and I found something of it again in Edward Kienholz’s The Wait.

Edward Kienholz, The Wait, 1964-65, The Whitney Museum of American Art

Here, an antiquated living room dwindles through time and consciousness. A skeleton sits propped in an arm chair, cluttered with vessels and surrounded by photographs. Memories and past experiences, caged expressions of everything before and beyond. What at first appears spectral and haunting, however, becomes somehow soothing. It’s a rendition of hope painting in remindful colours. Don’t let memories haunt you. Don’t burden yourself with the past; rather, let it swim into the now of your most vivid experience. Its title appears to revisit Bill Murray’s experience of Groundhog Day. Don’t lust after the momentous. Rather, celebrate the minutiae.

I have learnt to live with those bumps Perec warned against, to appreciate them even. Memories go hand in hand with lessons.  I’ve learnt to lean towards those moments when one grabs repetition by the hand and revels in its translucence. It is only in the minute changes of pace day to day that life really happens.

Life Out of Balance

Scenes of demolition are everywhere in Our Nation’s Capital.

London is systematically and expensively being dismantled in the hope of a band aid being applied before the Olympics start in 2 years, architectural projects reach desperately out of cavernous pits of concrete, waiting for more funding to be applied to their ungainly, insipid frames, and the unknown future of the England team as we know makes itself apparent on the back of every discarded morning paper; literally thousands of them, sweeping across the city like a flock of BP-sullied origami seagulls.

In my life, however, renewal raises its brave head, resurrected from the ashes of my-life-in-London’s demolition like a phoenix: a vital, grinning, slightly smug phoenix.

I now find myself looking upon such images of demolition with hope rather than despondency as I lie – and wake up – away from this destruction, away from the filth and degradation offered by ONC. And where, for the past few years, I found myself obsessed with the decaying, fractured works of Anselm Kiefer, or the collaged detritus of Kurt Schwitters, suddenly Monet’s most blissful paintings of Giverny, or Morris Louis’s joyously colourful canvas stains seem to replicate my disposition.

Claude Monet, Les arceaux de roses, Giverny (Les arceaux fleuris), 1913, Private Collection.

Morris Louis, Alpha-Phi, 1960, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

(The England football team’s current disposition, on the other hand, might be encapsulated in a nightmarish Otto Dix war etching…

Otto Dix, etching from Der Krieg, 1924

…Maybe a bit of beach time would help all involved?)

And so my discovery of the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle from the window of my commute – a Brutalist modern social project built in 1974 and awaiting its imminent destruction – has left me with an incongruous feeling of hopefulness both artistic and political.

c/o London SE1 @ flickr

c/o Gavin Humphries @ flickr

 This beastly pack of buildings didn’t live up to the utopian promises of communal living, instead falling into a dilapidated state riddled with crime and poverty. It is now all but derelict, and set for a good ol’ regeneration. Yet there is beauty to be found in its current state. It’s barren soviet austerity reminds me of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles, 

Or the Sony Bravia adverts from a few years back,

and I wonder what a bit of colour might do for these lifeless concrete piles of shame. A nice spring clean…

..no of course that’s not what makes me hopeful.

What makes me hopeful is a scene from the epic Godfrey Reggio movie Koyaanisqatsi, which formed an amazing, prescient moment in my life as I watched it recently in Brighton with my partner, accompanied by a live rendition of the incredible Philip Glass score by the great man himself and his ensemble.

courtesy Matthew Andrews

In one of the most memorable, astonishing, heart-wrenching and awesome scenes in a film abound with much of the aforementioned, the detonation of the Pruitt Igoe flats in St. Louis Missouri appears a telling rendition of the 20th centuries legacy to come…

This scene’s story is one of lessons-to-be-learnt, it is of changing our ways, it is of the unsustainability of the sort of grandiose architectural projects that mar our cities and make life insufferable.

The film’s raison d’être is best illuminated in the film’s endnote and the title’s meaning:

The day to day experience of London is thoroughly unpleasant, and the disturbance caused by transport failures, architectural revisioning and, yes, regeneration, is untold in terms of quality of life.

This all calls for another way of living.

Ladies and Gentlemen, No We Ain’t Fuckin’ Jon Bon Jovi

When Jon Bon Jovi first advocated Livin’ on a Prayer in 1986, he seemed to be resigning himself to the gods of fate. I don’t subscribe to this view, nor the rock star sentiments of JBJ and his ilk.

Whilst it is true that it doesn’t really matter if we make it or not, if “making it” means fame and fortune, especially when the sentiment we’ve got each other, and that’s a lot encapsulates the very root of my approach to attaining happiness, I am certainly not content to await the lap of the gods, nor to do it wearing leather and hairspray.

And when in Romain Polland’s 1927 letter to Sigmund Freud he spoke of the sensational of the eternal – an oceanic sensation – which might explain religious sensations and feelings as opposed to hardened beliefs, he captured effectively the joyous impenetrability of the seas even for someone without religion.

I am happy to let the ocean fill me with oceanic feelings, staring out at borderless imponderables.

Iona by FCB Cadell

I am also certain that, in lieu of religion, moving towards the ocean is the most efficient way of improving one’s lot and taking fate into one’s own hands, so last weekend I moved with my partner to Brighton, away from the London monster which has had us ensnared for the last four years, and towards a future full of sensations of the eternal… 

courtesy of Ben and Carol @flickr

 ..and on the way home from London on my first commute, I listened to the Dirty Three’s Ocean Songs – a reverential and majestic album – which in my opinion is able to recreate and inspire such oceanic feelings in the way only art is truly able.

And so as Mr, MR Warren Ellis says at the start of this beautiful clip of the Dirty Three playing The Restless Waves at Roma’s Circolo Degli Artisti,

Ladies and Gentlemen, No We Ain’t Fuckin’ Jon Bon Jovi

Cleggeron

Dick Cleggeron

As Clegg and Cameron merged into one another this morning outside 10 Downing Street (see above), an awful feeling in my gut gurgled upwards. Remember the lesson of Harvey Dent, former District Attorney of Gotham City and all round nice guy, besmirched and left evil and vindictive when half of his face was burned with acid. Remember the way he decided between good and evil on the toss of a coin following the destruction of half of his known self. 

Two-Face on the cover of Batman Annual #14 (1990), artwork by Neal Adams.

It felt to me at times over the last two days that all three main parties were toying between two sides of an elaborately woven coin, desperately trying to keep their right and left sides happy. “Don’t cut your nose off to spite your face” goes the saying. What sort of an alliance has Clegg signed up to in his quest for Deputy PMship and power? Which parts of his face has he spited? How will the many sides of this larger argument – one crying out for fair and proportional representation – be managed by this Cerberus-like beast of centre right proportions. 

Bust of Janus, Vatican Museum, Rome

Now the two-headed Roman God Janus; God of doorways, of beginnings and ends, is perhaps a more fair description of their entente than the hound at the gates of Hades. We might even be tempted to surmise that the Cleggeron sits at this pivot in British history, a doorway ooking both backwards and forwards, both left and right. Their political multidimensionality might make them open and expansive, democratic even. Able to consider many directions of intent and interest which were voted for in our election. But I can’t help but imbue them with the panoramic views of Bertelli’s famous sculpture Continuous Profile, with all of the obvious connotations. 

Renato Giuseppe Bertelli, Continuous Profile (Head of Mussolini), 1933

Of course, the other most obvious comparison to plum-mouthed, privately educated little TweedleDuo is those “blasphemers, perverts and pederasts” known as Gilbert and George. 

Gilbert and George, Here, 1987

This work from the Met in New York, in which the eccentric old queens react with ambivalence and blameslessness to the crisis unfolding in London’s desolated streets behind them, might do well to encapsulate the other silver-spooning pair’s true understanding of the people suffering in what Cameron previously identified as Broken Britain. Will the Cleggeron react with similar disdain?

It looks like it’s about to get more broken. Not that Middle England will notice.

Start Wearing Purple

On the days that Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown both appear to be – or have been insinuated to be – wearing purple ties in support of the www.takebackparliament.com movement,

Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown wearing purple

Take Back Parliament protest

I am full to bursting with hope for this countries future, and yet thoroughly overwhelmed with a pessimistic feeling that the two old parties will somehow negotiate the prolonging of this dreadful system. This Saturday’s demo in Parliament Square hopes to counter the status quo with vocal proclamations of the rotten core of our parliamentary system.

I am heartily and enthusiastically socialist in my political outlook, but the sound bites from both left and right sound solidly like the backtracking of party’s fearful of never again having total power thrust upon them by a cheated electorate. It seems to me that this election has managed to negotiate the pitfalls of First Past the Post, and announced our countries readiness for fair representation: democracy. I would rather see a country run representatively of its constituents than pandering to 30% of it for four years at a time.

As such, let me enthusiastically back the purple campaign with a few purple highlights from my cultural outlook.

Rothko Chapel, Houston, TX

1. Mark Rothko’s Chapel at the Menil Foundation in Houston sets itself as “a sacred space open to all, dedicated to art, spirituality and human rights” without pandering to specified religions, political agendas, grand narratives or personalised manifestos contained within the binaries of good and bad. Here, abstract art possesses a significance removed from things and ideas, and the monotone purple swathes appear calming, understanding, all consuming and beautiful.

2. Avey Tare of Animal Collective uses purple in this beautiful analogical reading of the power love. Colour stands in for and represents emotion where words fall short. Emotive response to sensory stimulation appears a more vital way of capturing the spirit that mundane linguistic failings. “I’ve got a coat of feelings and they are loud”, he sings, and might we all sit back and let that sink in joyously.

3. His Purple Majesty’s devotion to the colour is seemingly mysterious and unexplained, as are the actions of the great little man himself, but in this his signature piece, the colour’s ambivalence could mean just about anything and wonderfully so.

http://smokelessfuels.blogspot.com/2008/12/joker-purple-wow-sound-mix.html

4. Joker is the new dubstep king, a kid from Bristol following in his southwestern forefathers footsteps by stepping out of clichés and producing incredibly stirring and exciting noises. In this mix, the Purple Wow Mix (best name ever) every good noise in the dance canon is employed to its full potential. Essential listening.

Untitled (Black on Grey)

Not much to say, when images speak for me.

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Black on Grey)

 I have had a card with this image on in my posession for well over a year. It seems to comprehend and commiserate every possible adversity, and I bought it to express myself in a way words so often fail me whenever such need arose.

That (Metal) Bird Has Flown

With the (disappointing) news that planes are back in the air today, I would like to salute a wonderful article by Stuart Jeffries from yesterday’ guardian, where he enthusiastically imagines a world without planes. It is well worth a read.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/20/iceland-volcano-world-without-planes

Following on from the fallout of Eyjafjallajokull’s eruption in Iceland, such considerations seem entirely apt, but also increasingly pertinent. What are the implications in the longer term for our apparent dependence on air travel. How will such events change out attitudes to flying, and is a more simple and local experience of life on the horizon.

The guys at www.PlaneStupid.com put it succinctly thus:

Life’s full of blissful little ironies. We’ve plotted and plotted and plotted to ground the aviation industry, only to be pipped to the post by nature. Which is funny when our understanding was that aviation was supposed to wreck the environment, not the environment wreck aviation.

http://www.planestupid.com/blogs/2010/04/19/volcano-reminds-us-all-theres-life-after-aviation

My response, rather, was to delve through art historical interpretations of flight, and of nature’s supremacy to explore the issue at hand.

Eyjafjallajokull

1. This wonderful image of the erupting Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland has appeared in any number of papers. Taken on the first day of the eruption – before the untold chaos to come had become apparent – the image has a magical quality, enhanced by the small Icelandic village sitting peacefully below the billowing clouds of ash. The usually fearful imagery of spitting lava synonymous with volcanoes is replaced here by an ethereal evocation of nature’s might, the epitome of the word awesome used correctly.

Thomas Hoepker

2. The above image reminds me of this incredible photo from Magnum’s Thomas Hoepker of 9/11. Branded disrespectful upon its publication five years after the event, the work illustrates, for me, a wildly changing world beyond the imaginations of even those most closely exposed. Hoepker himself said of the work, asking all the appropriate questions:

How could disaster descend on such a beautiful day? How could this group of cool-looking young people sit there so relaxed and seemingly untouched by the mother of all catastrophes which unfolded in the background? Was this the callousness of a generation, which had seen too much CNN and too many horror movies? Or was it just the devious lie of a snapshot, which ignored the seconds before and after I had clicked the shutter? Maybe this group had just gone through agony and catharsis or a long-concerned discussion? Was everyone supposed to run around with a worried look on that day or the weeks after 9/11? How would I have looked on that day to a distanced observer? Probably like a coldhearted reporter, geared to shoot the pictures of his life. I just remember that I was in shock, confused, scared, disoriented, and emotional, but trying hard to stay focused on getting my snaps. From http://www.slate.com/id/2149675

An exhibition of 2005 at the Estorick entitled Futurist Skies, roundly criticized at the time for its apparent salutation to Fascism, was for me an important lesson in art historical myth making and the power of images.

Tullio Crali – Nose-diving on the city, 1939,

3. This work particularly was and is an incredible illustration of the power of the plane, and the divisive history of 20th technological advances most prominently illustrated by artists associated with the Futurist group. The terror created by the formal tenor of the work overrides the actual details, and even there the brutish black contours of the plane seem to hold the fate of hundreds in their grasp. All wars, all bombings, all so-called collateral damage, all nuclear atrocities and such images as the above might be simplified down to the message which resonates from this image. The exhibition in question was a marvellous rendition of fear and human potential – not something to ignore.  

John Martin – The Great Day of His Wrath, 1853, Tate

 

4. Similarly, this image is unignorable. Every human disaster draws my mind to this image which burned itself onto my brain in an early trip to Tate with my father. The depiction is fearful in a way even Bosch and Goya fail to be, to my mind. Much more specifically, right now, the sheer power of nature’s wrath – nature being the He that I find in this image, if not the one originally intended – might be related to Eyjafjallajokull. The reported possibility that this first eruption could trigger the eruption of the much larger volcano Katla fills me with childish excitement and childish terror – behind the sofa, hands covering eyes, jumping up and down about to wee oneself.

Anselm Kiefer - Shevirath Ha Kelim, 2009, The White Cube

5. Kiefer’s works humble me in much the same way that Martin’s do. I have written of this before on this blog. This image from his exhibition last year at the White Cube takes my mind to something approaching the end of civilizations, be they past or present. The crumbling foundations of life as we know it. The disintegration of power. Other works remind of a scorched earth, ravaged by a power bigger than man. That’s how I feel about the Volcano, and it reminds me that humbleness should be mankind’s overriding sense of self – not the arrogance which we seem overtaken by, especially here in the privileged West.

Paul Nash, We Are Making a New World, 1918, Imperial War Museum

6. This glorious image enables me to consider a world which recovers from disasters and comes together in communities, and with the aforementioned humbleness. I keep thinking that major disaster’s are the best way to re-imagine our take on existence. The shining sun here is a manifestation of nature agreeing to let us continue, for it is at her whim that we exist, and not the other way around.

Labour manifesto cover 2010

7. As such, it shocks me that the Labour party have abused this idea as part of their manifesto. I’m not sure which of the above and below images is more appropriate. I feel empowered but disillusioned by the imminent election. I am struggling to grasp what might happen next depending on various outcomes, and I have no particular sense of hope in any direction. I am, however, terrifically interested, because as the skies fall silent, and newspaper’s attempt to catch up with real life, and a few wise people wax ideological about the future, I can’t help but feel that change – non political change – is around the corner.

William Holman Hunt – Our English Coasts, 1852

8. I want an England as envisaged by Holman Hunt and other such 19th century idealists, but free of the religious metaphors. There are no planes in the skies of the greatest English landscapes. I want to live in a Great English Landscape once more.

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s lonesome desert blues

As my brother and I sped through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada on the Amtrak from San Francisco towards Colorado, we trialled the idea given to us by a friend that the band Grandaddy’s washed-out indie rock made complete sense when listened to the Californian countryside. It seems a trite idea to me as we plugged into the ipod, but as the wasted, sun scorched desert usurped the horizon, and civilization faded away in the distance, songs from 2000’s The Sophtware Slump took on a new resonance. 

 

I am sure that the album’s tales of post-industrial fall out help its cosy partnership with a land recognisable as the final resting ground of LA and Las Vegas’ criminal unfortunates: the forgotten and fallow land of rattle snakes and circling ravens. And yet it seems to me that it is their sound that most approximately resembles these barren lands. Something about Jason Lyttle’s strained whisper, and the sparse, atmospheric guitars gleams across the sand and the tumbleweeds. 

Similarly, though with very different affects, the drawn out riffs of Southern Californian luminaries Kyuss, as well as every other band ever connected with Josh Homme resonate in this landscape. The music of both these bands seem to sweep across the desert plains; their subdued undertow, the lethargic smoky ambience. 

 

Ry Cooder’s slide guitar on the soundtrack of Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas is, finally, for me the most successful exemplar of what I am talking about, removed from the shadow of cities. 

Harry Dean Stanton in Paris, Texas

 

In the opening scene where Harry Dean Stanton’s Travis wanders through a sublime American desert landscape, Cooder’s gliding, fragile guitar exclaims the desert’s secrets: death, longing and a world bigger than man. It sets the tone for Wender’s stunning portrayal or rekindled memories, and retraced steps. The history of America seeps through Travis’ journey. 

In the novel Generation X by Douglas Coupland, one of the characters, Claire, exclaims exactly this wilderness to be the land she would find her one true love in, found by way of a dowsing rod. This analogy seems appropriately aware of the degree to which the desert might stand in for another world, removed from everything civilisation has made us think we are, or want. 

*** 

And so I was surprised to find all of the above feelings and emotions stirred in a modestly sized and disproportionately shaped room in the city of London, where a charm of finches graced by and plucked a sea of Gibson Les Pauls in Céleste Boursier-Mougenot new exhibition in the Barbican’s Curve gallery space. 

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, From Here to Ear, 2007

 

c/o Jeni Rodger @ flickr

 

The exhibition has two parts, and they complement each other wonderfully. The first, darkened half of the curve space takes the viewer down a slatted wooden path through what appears to the expanding pupil to be a dusky desert scene, all sand and small scrub plants. Huge inverted silhouette projections of fingers sliding up and down guitar necks grace the walls which loom over you accompanied by an uncomfortable hum (an amplification of the sound created in the processing of the video signal itself, apparently). The darkness is foreboding, and yet the spidery hand movements appear operatic in their graceful meanderings. 

c/o barbican_centre @ flickr

 

Following the wooden path further around the curve, the viewer breaks out of the darkness into a bright, too bright at first, and pleasant beach scene. The desert scene instead becomes habitable – or maybe playful –as the white walls exclaim abstraction: the homeliness and knownness of the gallery space which both allows and encourages an interaction with the space in which the aforementioned finches exist. In which they seem to have always existed. This is an axe-god’s private garden, the post-industrial oasis which will replace Soho’s Tin Pan Alley. 

c/o barbican_centre @ flickr

 

And yet it is here that the guitars, reverb up to 11, echo the traces of the birds’ path with a sombreness and disquiet evocative of the darkness from whence one came. 

The hum of video processing links into the misrecorded, awkward capturing of the birds’ fleeting footsteps. Evaporated moments resonate through the gallery, and machines whirl into action clunkily, desperate to catch up with the real moment they rely upon as their raison d’être

The exhibition’s two halves resist and pull at one another. The dark and light appear both distrustful and somehow understanding of each other, and only in the light abstraction do we find solace. The mechanical, electronic, over processed world remains thoroughly unwanted. The oasis appears to blossom out of the dark before. 

The birds appear a very simplistic but evocative rendering of life in control, and aware of technology, yet somehow blissfully seperate from the beast which attempted to become it.

The birds appear as us after tools have lost their functionality. We are left to enjoy the scraps in serenity.

*** 

Seeing the desert in California, I felt drawn to its mysteries. 

Watching Paris, Texas, I feel kinship with Travis’ loss of self, and the aptness of his surroundings as a way of losing touch. 

Harry Dean Stanton in Paris, Texas

 

Reading Generation X, I wondered where Britain’s desert might be, awaiting me with open arms.

Listening to Kyuss or Grandaddy now, I dream of these open spaces. 

At night, and in incomprehension, I can only shudder at what lies around us, and dream again, of that which might lie beyond.

Notes from the (London) Underground

At rush hour, the London transport system is a beast; a pulsating mass of divorced limbs, trashy paperbacks, rotten armpits and faceless faces. An apathetic, endless automaton drip-fed bigotry and buggered nationalistically by the in-house Evening sub-Standard. HORROrR!

Sheep, by lucas.mccomb @ flickr

Georg Grosz - Republic automatons, 1920

Jake and Dinos Chapman, Zygotic acceleration, Biogenetic de-sublimated libidinal model, 1995

It needs SAVING from itself!!!.

But where does the problem lie??!? In its inefficiency?, rooted in the Thatcherite privatisation of industry which separated out all the contracts for its maintenance, thus confusing and effectively disabling the possibility of ever again being able to use the tube line you need of a weekend.

Boris Johnson, Conservative mayor of London, might have an answer. “I… have some Trotskyite ambition to take back… the private sector” he kind of said in a recent interview.

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23801847-we-deserve-better-than-this-tube-lines-farce.do

“You would have thought we had learned our lesson by now…

…It is as though the city was in the grip of a bunch of rogue builders who have been given a vast fee to spend three months doing up the bathroom. For a whole month your family has been prevented from using the bath at critical times of the day, even though it sounds as if not much work is actually being done on the bath. And at the end of the month you not only find you are now being banned from the shower and the sink — before the bath is remotely ready — but that you will have to pay for the cost of the delay.

But it gets worse. How would you feel if the various senior plumbers were not being paid the normal rate for your bathoom? They were being “seconded” in exchange for “secondment fees” that were double the normal rate…

…It is time to bring an end to this demented system.

Quite right BoJo. Let’s reassess this mess.

Do we sate the beast’s relentless appetite for gourmands of contemporaneity; the epitomy of 21st century aspirational waste, or do we lash the foul creature for its insolence?

Do we treat it mean, or do we keen it sweenos?

The OverHound between Richmond and Stratford has had its coat washed.  

Formerly known to me as the CrossFAIL, OR the chokeamotive – I suffered the ignominy of entering the beast at Dalston regularly for a short time a while back to my immense displeasure – this particular dragon’s den has recently been given a face lift and sustainability. Now the CommuterBeast might enter the sleek, spacious and inviting womb below, reminiscent of the French underground trains which – revolutionarily – actually allow, nay prioritise room for commuters. CraZZIYy!!

The British Rail Class 378

But a few Christmases back, 2007, a few rogue elements had other ideas than the gentrification of these ogres’ layers. Rather, a few aficionados of urban tastes spent their holy break decimating/decorating the walls with jAUNnnty urban décor, akin to the ‘Street Art” of the New York Subway, whilst one rogue adventurer road the beast’s spine at Angel in a scene reminiscent of when Perseus slew Cetus!!!?!

Mile End, by Alvin Ross Carpio @ flickr

Angel, by Alvin Ross Carpio @ flickr

New York

New York

A more disturbing prescient of the answer to the question WHAT NEXT?, however, has been appearing throughout London with alarming regularity of late. The beast falling apart at its seams!!

Kings Cross

Kings Cross

Marble Arch, by markhillary @ flickr

by mallingering @ flickr

Will the monster fall out of itself, like the spilt guts of a fished fish, or is this tear in the fabric of the panoptical beast just a shedding of skin/asexual reproduction. Is it fishin’ or fission?

Has the fiend seen what is happening through his countless eyes – computer enhanced black boxes of its fabled final days – or will a tabloid hack expose the beast’s cheated expenses? WHO KNOWS?!

Some say it is preparing for the hallow’d Olympiad, the feast of all feasts, when tourists will pack into eastbound cattle wagons heading for the day of reckoning!

But remember BoJo’s harsh warning…

Trotyskities ARM yourselves!!!

The brave soldier of Angel will be avenged!

We will take back the tube for when we want to go to Hampstead Heath at the weekend.

We will walk or cycle to work if we have to, to remove ourselves from the slithergadee’s grasp, or at least we will if we’re not in a hurry, or it’s a bit wet outside.

Are you prepared!

This fella is!!!

Henry's Day Out