Sunday 12 December 2010

ruth£ess cu*ts

For RT video footage inside Parliament Square, see here

Tuesday 9 November 2010


Recently a British performance journal asked me to write a short text in response to the following question: 'What book or books have most influenced you in your career?' Leaving aside any questions and misgivings I might have about notions of a 'career', let alone the possibility of collapsing a life time of reading into what would inevitably be a reductive fiction, this was my response:

One of the most influential books for me in my early forays into performance making doesn’t actually exist. For it’s one of Prospero’s 24 volumes in Peter Greenaway’s film Prospero’s Books – ‘A Book of Motion’:

‘This is a book that at the most simple level describes how birds fly and waves roll, how clouds form and apples fall from trees. It describes how the eye changes its shape when looking at great distances, how hairs grow in a beard, why the heart flutters and the lungs inflate involuntarily and how laughter changes the face. At its most complex level, it explains how ideas chase one another in the memory and where thought goes when it is finished with … It drums against the bookcase shelf and has to be held down with a brass weight’ (Greenaway 1991: 24).

So, an imagined conflation of the complex systems of oceanography, aerodynamics, meteorology, gravity and biology, that also traces the unpredictable trajectories of the dance of remembering and forgetting in the processes of thought. The very notion of such a book excited me, drawing my attention to something of the infinite array of kinds of movement, phenomenal and ideational. It was a kind of wake up call into the dynamic motilities within which we are always already swimming.

In the first Addams Family film, Christopher Lloyd’s Fester lifts a related book from a shelf in the family’s gothic library, then opens it to unleash a storm that strikes him full in the face and fills the room. This magical volume contains a virtual tempest within its covers that can only be calmed by snap-shut closure, replacement on the shelf, return to the orderly and the contained.

All books, all writing should be tempest-machines. Vortices of energetic overflowings, generating new winds away from home. Why else would one write? Why else would one read?

Greenaway, Peter (1991). Prospero’s Books, London: Chatto and Windus

Friday 3 September 2010


More holiday reading, and another list - this time from a brilliant and acerbic essay by Chris Petit, in a fine new collection called Restless Cities, in which at one point he describes the effect of deregulated television as 'an audio-visual Allied Carpets':

'Proposed TV channels: the madness channel, animal disease channel, overheated old-aged homes channel, death's waiting room channel, oxygen mask channel, struggle for breath channel, rebellious body channel, irritable bowel channel, rogue headache channel, aches and pains channel, bad back channel; next month they're sticking a camera up my arse channel; the shocking facts of sex slavery channel; indigenous borders channel; lonely priests with wavering vocations channel; genocide channel; pointlessness of death channel; and channels devoted to denial, ritual and consumption compounding that denial (hang on, we've already got those)'.

Chris Petit, 'Bombing', in Matthew Beaumont and Gregory Dart (eds), Restless Cities, London: Verso, 2010, 36-7

Graffiti by Banksy

Monday 30 August 2010

made whole again (last judgment)

On holiday, reading an essay by Luc Sante, 'Our Friend The Cigarette':

'I picture a tableau from some secondary Last Judgment, when all the cigarettes I have smoked shall be made whole again, all of them piled up like cordwood in a space the size of a hangar. Let's see, thirty years approximately, an average of two packs a day, that would be four hundred thirty-eight thousand, give or take a few thousand. Nearly half a million, filtered and unfiltered, more than half of them hand-rolled, all but a handful white-papered.

All of them passed through my mouth, my throat, my lungs. Smoked in every possible circumstance and setting. All of them utterly eradicated by fire. But now they have returned, in their original form, with their biographies appended:

This Marlboro consumed outside the head shop in 1967 and immediately followed by a breath mint - I was barely adolescent.

This Gauloise with filter of tightly-rolled paper smoked while waiting to buy a ticket to 2001: A Space Odyssey, on its original release.

This Newport bummed from a friend, sucked in despair after the collapse of a crush that then seemed mountainous.

This hand-rolled Samson, wobbly and uncylindrical, representing an effort to learn to roll made in response to Scandinavian cigarette prices - so bumped up by taxes even thirty years ago that they cost four times what they did in America.

This nameless evil-smelling thing made by rolling up the contents of butts harvested from ashtrays the day after a wild party.

This Merit offered by a well-meaning friend but almost immediately stubbed out in horrified disgust - it tasted like burning fiberglass insulation.

This American Spirit, the last bit of recidivism after quitting'.

Luc Sante, Kill All Your Darlings: Pieces, 1990-2005, Portland, Oregon: Verse Chorus Press, 2007, 91-2. See also his brilliant essays on Bob Dylan's Chronicles, 'I Is Somebody Else', 142-64; and 'The Invention of the Blues', 177-206

Monday 9 August 2010

sky rip (harrier & jaguar)

'Years ago I remember going for a walk with my dad in the Welsh hills. I must have been seven or eight and it was so quiet and beautiful and suddenly, out of nowhere came this Harrier jump jet which completely ripped up the sky. It was a completely transformative moment but we were left, literally with words knocked out of us, wondering how something that was such a monster could be so beautiful' - Fiona Banner, from an interview in the Guardian (28 June 2010): see here

Fiona Banner's 'Harrier and Jaguar' is at Tate Britain until 3 January 2011

Sunday 8 August 2010

dad (5): normans

From a phone conversation today:

Dad: I’m getting a computer. A laptop.

Me: Oh great. At last! That’ll be good. I think you’ll get a lot of pleasure out of it.

Yes. I’ve got my eye on a Toshiba.

Okay. I’m a Mac man personally.

A what?

A Mac, Macintosh. Apple.

Is a Mac the same as an Apple?

Yes. Apple Macintosh. We just call them Macs.

They're bit too expensive for me, I think.

You’ll need broadband.

Yes, I’ve been told. And I’ve talked to BT about a package.

Oh good. Fantastic. Will Martin show you how to set it up and get it going?

Ooh yes, he’s very good. We’ve seen your website.

My what?

Martin found your website. He showed me a picture of a naked man with a big flag with a dog on his leg.

Oh. Blimey. Yes, okay: that’s Oleg Kulik.


Oleg Kulik. He’s a rather eccentric Russian performance artist. He used to do dog impersonations; he bit someone once, outside a gallery.

Oh. What’s he doing on your website?

It’s a blog. Oh, I don’t know, he’s quite funny. He’s a bit wild.

Is he? I’ve been watching ‘The Normans’ on television. There’s a new documentary.

Oh, have you?

They were a bit wild. Ooh, a rough old lot.

Are you in there? You being one of the Normans.

No, haven’t seen me yet.

Your name sort of means ‘Norman Norman’, doesn’t it. Norman Williams. Williams has Norman written all over it.

Does it?

Yes, it’s an old Norman word for helmet.

Is it?

I think so. Comes from Guillaume.

Oh yes, Guillaume.

Yes, Helmet. Do you know my name means ‘Beloved Helmet’. A combination of Hebrew and old Norman. David – beloved. And Williams – helmet. You named me Beloved Helmet.

Oh. That’s a good name.

Yes. David’s very Biblical.

Yes it is. By the time they got to me my family had exhausted the Biblical names so they turned to the Nordic names. Norman Eric.

But Norman’s Norman.

No, I’m not sure, I think it’s German or Scandinavian. A northerner. Maybe a viking.

Is it? Oh. So what were the other Biblical names in the family? Any good ones – an Ezekial, or a Leviticus? A Jehosaphat?

No no, James, and John, and Mary, that sort of thing. Although I think there was an Obadia …

No, really? Obadia? You're kidding.

No ...

Wow! Obadia Helmet. That’s a corker.

Although I’m not sure he was a Helmet …

Thursday 15 July 2010

city animals: pegasus

city animals: drift bestiary

The images in this and the next three posts come from a long drift in the area of the City and the Inns of Court in London. I didn't set out with animals on my mind, but I kept seeing them (or their representations) and photographing them; they are everywhere. Most of these animal forms relate to arcane bestiaries connected to the law, commerce, the monarchy, the state. A couple are from art nouveau lifts I chanced upon.

While some of these animal presences are innocuous, some are mysterious, like shadow daemons from another time, waiting and watching. When I looked back at a couple of them, they had moved. Like grandmother's footsteps.

I'll let you decide which ones you think they were.