UNICORN/PHOTOSHOP/SEXIST/FEMINIST/OSCARS/SUPERTUESDAY

So, I went to the shops and a bought a courgette, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach lasagne sheets, beef mince (reduced!), mushroom pate, oatmeal, avocados, bread, cranberry juice and chocolate (reduced!). Im going to make a lasagne this evening, I already have cheese. I was in the supermarket and I thought this is so TYPICAL. I felt like a WOMAN. I looked around the supermarket, there was a mix of men and women and children, and the staff were also men and women, but not children.

Yesterday I was listening to You and Yours on Radio 4 and a young WOMAN vlogger was being interviewed by an older MALE presenter/journalist. He couldn’t understand why she wanted to share so much of herself, so publicly. They debated GENERATIONAL expectations. You could hear he was won around by her very confident and honest tone, a crystal clear considered voice with a slight northern accent. The YOUNG WOMAN was like the lead in the school play, who despite being NOT-QUITE-TALENTED got through on gusto, eye contact and posture. I didn’t agree with much that she said but I also didn’t vehemently disagree either.

She had been an au-pair in France, with nothing to do in her evenings the YOUNG WOMAN found friends on YOUTUBE through her vlogging. Her interviewer mentioned that she was around the same age as his daughter, and that he wouldn’t want his daughter to make a vlog about MASTURBATION. Her parents didn’t mind apparently, they were liberal and were into it. How long does that naive charm last for, projecting in blind confidence knowing that no one will expect you to really know what you are talking about, or to really back up your arguments? I actually need to know the answer to this if anyone does know. The journalist said that his profession was based on CONFRONTATION, and that that had become unfashionable with YOUNG PEOPLE that were obsessed with being achingly inclusive.

Last week I was in a hotel in Amsterdam where I got to watch live BBC TV for the first time since christmas. The feature was about the ISSUE of FREE SPEECH on university campuses in the UK. A young WOMAN journalist walked around the campus towards the camera with flashing HASHTAGS over the screen. Not, I noted, unlike BLURRED LINES. So, from half watching this piece, It seems that student unions have been busily implementing SAFE SPACES and banning speakers expressing any view a student raises as making them feel UNSAFE. As a backlash some well spoken YOUNG MAN at LSE had set up the Free Speech Society, in response to the banning of SEXIST t-shirts that the rugby club was wearing. All the students interviewed had public school accents and looked younger than I remember ever looking.

If I continue with this train of thought, then I’m lead by the hand down a path of references I’ve half checked out from social media, related only by my passive absorption. I follow Lena Dunham on Instagram and receive her Lenny Letter email so I have her editorial line and voice resonating through me. Oh, and some Washington Post article I read about Valentines Day being BULLSHIT, and the possibilities for FEMALE empowerment being found outside of committed hetro-normative relationships, but also ultimately in the case of the writer; within them. It seemed to have legit references and I pretty much agreed with its content, but there was a bit that really niggled me. Amongst the well constructed argument there was one word that stuck out, It sticking out I think provides fair game for me to launch at it. The word was used in the context of describing a good man and the word was UNICORN. A good man is a unicorn.  A UNICORN. A MAN.

Men deemed unicorns by women. So, now there is another quality to uphold. I have to find a UNICORN. I also couldn’t help but think ‘Im a fucking unicorn!’ Pretty much everyone I know is a fucking unicorn. Unicorns are the fucking MAJORITY. Why would anyone go out with someone, male, female or otherwise that they didn’t think was a unicorn? Should we be grateful for finding these male unicorns? Or should UNICORN be the fucking SEARCH CRITERIA. WLTM male unicorn to spout half formed opinions at in public and private.

That vlogger would identify as a unicorn. She admitted to narcissism and said that she felt being narcissistic was socially acceptable. But then, even though I am crippled by self doubt, depression and anxiety, the scars of failed relationships, I probably identify as a fucking unicorn. Everyone demanding their safe spaces on campus identifies as UNICORN. Identity politics are dominated by autobiography, the personal anecdotal voice of experience, and I get that autobiography is an important part of queer, anti-racist and feminist writing, but I’m more interested in things that draw together a variety or community of voices somehow. In an ideal world, where I knew how to CREATE spaces rather than regurgitate and accumulate and cover over ideas by shoveling more and more words on top of them – then yeh, Id try that. Instead I’ll say, Show me one single female journalist under 30 on twitter that doesn’t explicitly list FEMINISM in their bio. Its MARKETING.  So here is my twee internet think-piece soundbite style ramble, that adds nothing to anyones day. I am a UNICORN and a WOMAN that is why I started a blog, and my dream is to be a Guardian columnist.

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UNICORN/PHOTOSHOP/SEXIST/FEMINIST/OSCARS/SUPERTUESDAY

Times I Didn’t

Times I didn’t

Getting change out of your wallet, not hoovering, copied speech patterns and online clothes shopping.

I  l e f t  a  w o m a n   w a i t i n g  – Never getting the whole story. Its hard not to wonder, once brandished a compulsive liar – I  m e t   h e r   s o m e t i m e  l a t e r- Small details stick out, like the tongue and the Dr Pepper and you knowing her pin code. Naked selfies.  S h e  s a i d,  I  s e e   y o u r   e y e s   a r e   d e a d – I was phoned from a train platform; a call throughout which her whole packet of cigarettes was smoked.

W h a t   h a p p e n e d   t o   y o u, ( m y   l o v e r ?)

W h a t   h a p p e n e d   t o  y o u, ( l o v e r ?)

W h a t   h a p p e n e d   t o   y o u?  Our rampant nasturtium – flowers on everything we ate all summer. Cornflowers, non-edible. Borage, Edible but not eaten; antidepressant. Marimekko cups at twenty quid a pop. Scout-green enamel camping plates and loading the dishwasher as A Gesture.

The kind of lonely emptiness you feel instantly after receiving bad news – signalled in a film by a cup or phone dropping to, and smashing on the floor – Signalled in music videos by a cheaters keys getting thrown in a swimming pool or fire,  J-Lo’s butterfly keyring at LL-Cool J – signalled in writing through close description appealing to the senses;    

                                                           hearing/fingertips.

Pub ceiling coloured upholstery on the Knoll studio chair, really soft, really comfortable and in rotation with a straddle of the electric heater. A photo of Warhol pinned next to fabric samples.

Warhol’s regimented studio hours; 10am – 10pm. 

On repeat listening, until your magic wains

A n d   s i n c e   s h e   s p o k e   t h e   t r u t h   t o   m e

I   t r i e d   t o   a n s w e r   t r u t h f u l l y

W h a t e v e r   h a p p e n e d   t o   m y   e y e s

H a p p e n e d   t o   y o u r   b e a u t y

H a p p e n e d   t o   y o u r   b e a u t y

W h a t   h a p p e n e d   t o   y o u r   b e a u t y

H a p p e n e d   t o   m e

 

I thought smoking was banned on train platforms

Times I Didn’t

Ok, bathrooms!

 

Getting a cleaner had been on my mind for a while. The usual reasons, the place was bigger than I could manage, I was busy as always and really wanted to invest in creating my ideal home. Asking around, a new good friend recommended the cleaner too me, so I asked the cleaner round for an informal coffee to see if we were a good fit. I did wonder if we should meet first on neutral ground but with the reference from my new friend and the nature of the work, it seemed best to just invite her straight round to my house this first time.

To be honest I’d wanted a cleaner since I’d bought my house. It was such fun doing the place up, my own little Victorian London terrace with space to stretch out in, all my equipment, a couple of spare rooms I could rent out for additional income, or just use as storage or even wardrobe. A space to make plans in and base my life. I’d done it all properly, saying to myself if you buy quality, you buy once. Some things were imported and others picked up here and there at auction or department stores. I really do have some beautiful items; guilty chintz to sleek mid century. Feeling like the place was kind of done, or as much as it could be, it made sense at this stage to build in some maintenance to what I had already.

It’s just what you have to do, to build in these maintenance routines. You do it with your career by keeping your social media and website fresh, you do it with your body with gym membership, hair, nails, products; you do it with your clothes and of course with your food. I envision I’ll get a gardener at some point – but it’s about valuing yourself, your labour and insisting of self respect in that sense. Jerry Hall never leaves the house without red lipstick and a new pair of stockings in her handbag, she is so retro but I love that old school glamour. Preparation and maintenance. When you work in or adjacent to the creative industries there’s a lot to consider in terms of personal branding. I have so many potential prospects that really appreciate detail, and so many close personal connections to retail, this really informs how I visualise and realise projects like my house.

I instantly connected with the cleaner, we were about the same age and she was sweet enough. I wanted to kind of talk her through my vision, help her understand where I was coming from and the kind of home I was trying to create. When I moved in the R&D really started. Pintrest accounts, mood boards and fabric and paint samples sent over so I could tie it all together conceptually, and with the decorators. The whole process was kind of documented on Instagram and just folders of digital photos I’ve kept. It’s good to keep these to revisit, seeing the process again gives me a sense of achievement. A driving visualisation was of me in white dungarees, with maybe just a black bra on underneath, half way up a step ladder with a roller in one hand, paint on my bare arms and maybe in my hair; looking back over my shoulder straight into the lense. That moment, in a house I had bought by myself, for myself. Sure I’m lucky, but I’ve also worked hard to get to this point, and I think if people are jealous – then it’s probably because they are intimidated by a woman who is independently financially secure.

I told the cleaner what I wanted:

I want to see the bare floorboards of the entrance hall flooded with the blue and green light at dusk through the stained glass front door, and be hit when I walk through it with the scent of fresh flowers and ecological floor cleaner. The carpet of the stairs ahead of me will be spotless and fresh. All my coats and shoes will be arranged in the storage under the staircase into allotted cubbie holes and onto hangers, except for any leather or fur jackets or coats which should be returned to the appropriate wardrobe upstairs. All glass in framed artworks, photos and mirrors will gleam and bounce the light around. Room perfumes will be replaced weekly with energising seasonal scents. My houseplants will be dusted lively bright greens, the Orchids thriving from weekly steams in the bathroom and fresh cut flowers will be delivered and replaced in the living room and my bedroom regularly, roses and irises being my favorites, and selections including tulips and daffodils in spring months.

In my living room I need the sofa cushions to be completely removed, hoovered, fluffed up and replaced so it looks as close as possible to how it did on the shop floor when I bought it. Same with the arm chair and extra scatter cushions. I envisage that the cleaning will be thorough, to the level of a good hotel or a boutique retail environment. This means totally removing objects and furniture to clean under and around them, and using specialist products designed for each individual surface where possible, wiping down the skirting boards and dusting and hoovering cornices and the tops of the curtain rails. I’m hoping that by having this base level of upkeep, and from a skilled cleaner, I can then focus on arrangement and display at a new level; for example organising my record collection and book collection by the colour of the spines or alphabetically. I’d like to get some face out shelving too to showcase new or favourite books and records. I want to have a pile of laundered and pressed wool blankets in an oversized wicker basket ready for snuggly movie nights. I want it ready for a photoshoot at any moment. I want it like that washed out out light in Air BnB interior shots, and the fish eye lense, such a sense of space, no clutter, just key items. When I Instagram interior shots from my house I admit I do tend to use a filter, something like Nashville or Lomo-fi and that’s not because its dark in my house, it’s to create coherence across my photos because most of them are taken in direct sunshine when I’m travelling.

The kitchen is quite simple, it’s just got to be totally clean. Everything completely spotless and everything with its place, I don’t use it so much so it’s more just surfaces and block colours.

What’s really important to me here is my bedroom and my bathrooms. I want to feel like I live in my own personal boutique design hotel, I don’t think I’m quite there yet; I follow quite a few inspirational hotels and spaces which are giving me ideas. Huge hand woven antique Mexican textiles as wall coverings, a statement bedframe, an Arco free standing lamp or even a repro Breuer, at the moment I’m into these kitschy pastel dyed sheepskins. My bed would need to be made up professionally, everything square and perfect to show off the bedding, linen and bedspreads, ideally the cleaner, ..you.., will get a feel for the linen I have and also the flair to put things together, or we could talk through some combinations. Clothes all need to be put away in the appropriate place, hung or folded as they are in the shop – simple really, just a case of learning how to fold items and paying attention to the way they are hung and hanger design, etc.

Ok, bathrooms! I got the roll top bath because it’s such a focal point, and always gets a WOW, but otherwise I’ve just kept the room incredibly simple. I have a few self-contained houseplants, simple good quality fittings, dimmer switch, good storage to avoid clutter and key items on display. Only by best, most beautifully contained products, perfumes and lipsticks styled on a spindly dresser. I want to feel really glam in this space; candles. I’ve been known to hand wash and hang my silk lingerie in here, like Carrie in SATC, but I love that kind of soft focus white enamel/ballet pump pink blush silk/candle light/Chanel in glass bottle atmosphere. Do you remember Holly Golightly’s roll top bath sofa? Or take it further, Vasaline on the lense, Carlo Molino’s Polaroid’s, almost trashy, I guess that whole Lana Del Rey/Pricilla Presley, sixties chiffon baby-doll, but without the air thick with hairspray and cigarettes, the shagpile or wood paneling. I’m looking for one of those theatrical oversized No5 bottles set on the side, probably Ebay.

So my house is kind of my hobby and hobbies can be expensive, but then it’s also an investment at the same time.  I feel like you ..get it.., which is great because I’m very sensitive to people’s energies especially if they are in my home and I’d never assume someone has any less of a rich and complex interior life than I have.

 

Ok, bathrooms!

If You Got the Notion; Storage and Emotion

I have absolutely no idea what would have possessed me to take Generation X ; Tales for an Accelerated Culture out of Cosham Library aged sixteen. I think it was because it was in the Art section/shelf which struck me as odd because it loked out of place nestled between faded catalogues, books on old masters and How to Draw. I quite regularly borrowed CD’s completely based on the cover artwork, and books just on the design on the cover, so I was probably just attracted by the neon pink and navy cover graphics. Maybe not so much has changed. (If you can’t be pretentious/completely clueless in your library book lendings at sixteen when can you be? Id encourage any sixteen year old wandering into a public library, which must occasionally still happen, to be as pretentious and over ambitious as possible.) I was probably also hooked by the blurb on the back which sounded edgy, grown up and exciting, a bit like the plot of an american indie film I’d rent from Blockbuster video based on the VHS sleve. I thought it might flesh out the glamorous world of apathetic creative grown ups that crossed over into my mainstream awareness of Brit Pop and Cool Britannia as TV presenters or commentators, I was already aware Id missed out on – and I guess in a way it did.

Ten years later, working as a bookseller, Coupland’s 2013 Shopping in Jail published by Sternberg was a continuous top seller for a year. It helped that it looked great, designed by Bezzarri Rodriguez, so loads of designers were buying it simply to geek out over and copy its formal properties. It featured a prominent barcode on the cover in the same way Generation X had. During this period I also read Girlfriend in a Coma, not his best but some of the images have stayed with me. It surprises me that nobody tried to make it into a film, it would have made a great b-movie. Actually I think it aspired to the TV film or serial format. Everyone in the book works in the special effects department of the X-files and the subsequent falling asleep virus apocalypse is written for the screen, its proto Black Mirror. Coupland currently has a solo show at Bit Rot at Witte de With in Rotterdam. It’s a difficult show, and not one I enjoyed, mainly because Im a fan and the visual art doesn’t stand up to the interior world and logic of his writing; maybe thats the price for such fluency in one field.

When once asked the question ‘what is the biggest problem facing sculpture today?’ Louise Bourgeous contentiously replied ‘Storage.’ This came to mind when encountering 50 Books I Have Read More Than Once, a Jenga like construction made from painted wood, in the stretched plank-like forms of books. Prints of the covers and back covers of the books are attached to each plank and the length between painted in the color of the pages, to appear as a grossly stretched book form. At first glance and having read the title I thought, god, what a narcissistic object. My experience selling books drew me in, this sculpture is basically everyones fantasy when browsing a bookshop, that your book collection tells a story about you, that you can perform and edit through selection and display. That you collect books as a mounting physicalisation of your knowledge and an extension of your experience and creation of self, its a huge great useless bibliography framed as a formal piece of art art art. Personally, however much I love reading, I’m turned off by art that requires a reading list.

The alphabet is a storage system, a technology for outsourcing information. Its a code we put into codex form, which has now logically been usurped, in technological terms, by code. Literacy is a colonising influence because it has cultural primacy, the transmission of knowledge through publishing has been the prime form, with TV and now the internet being to two major sea changes in recent memory. There is alot of anxiety around storage and memory. Can we remember everything we read? In fact do we even know how to read anymore, Does it help to read something more than once? Is Coupland implying that reading something more than once is becoming less usual/more difficult? Most of the books in the sculpture were not published in the last ten years, for example. Maybe the work is a memorial to a lost form of reading. Punk picked a battle with TV in the 70’s, but who is taking public issue with the mind altering, neurological effects of living our lives online? The screenplay of the recent End of the Tour set in 1996 has Jason Segal as David Foster Wallace confide his TV addiction, he gives a short monologue describes an imagined future where information is so easy to access and so abundant that for him it would be so addictive, that he would rather not live.

‘Reading is an activity that fosters a strong sense of individualism and it created the 20th century’ confidently states Coupland’s book Age of Earthquakes published this year with Shumon Baser and Hans Ulrich Obrist. The project is supposedly the millennial update to Macluhans Medium is the Massage and I – I guess cynically – think its the project that Obrist’s 89plus was gleaning information from young ‘digital native’ artists for, unpaid. (This book also, quite possibly, WAS the ‘Matrix Bible’, that Kanye reference in his impromptu speech at Oxford university earlier this year. Just saying.)

I jotted down all the titles from the sculpture, which created a reading list, and then of course started to cross off which ones I had already read, or ones that surprised me. for example I was quite surprised at first, that there would be three books by Joan Didion. Im not sure why that surprised me, maybe because she is the kind of writer that makes you feel their writing is just between you and them. The three Didion titles are presented here simultaneously with – To mention some – Morrisey, John Wyndham, Margret Drabble, Nancy Mitford, Tom Wolfe, Thomas Pynchon and the Andy Warhol Diaries. Joan Didion deals so well with ideas of acceleration, memory and who and why gets the space to record events. Its the difference between reportage and documentary in editing, but somehow at once and on the page.

Things take time to build meaning, we take time, as individuals and on a collective level to build meaning into our experience, certain people take it upon themselves more than others to mediate that. We live in a moment when everyone has the means to instantly publish on an immediate public platform, like I am right now. Coupland reflects in Shopping in Jail that art movements in the 20th century are would now be memes swallowed up online in a day. There is alot more to sift through, it seems almost quaint to think of the Gen-xers seeing the 90’s as a time of marked acceleration.

In his 2014 Transmediale Marshall McLuhan Lecture Douglas Coupland states that books and writing operate in time, same as film. And that art, operates in space. What does that mean for a sculpture like 50 Books I Have Read More Than Once? Possibly that there is always an urge for our experience (time) to take up space, to solidify the ephemeral; even if that poses a problem for storage.

 

N.b (After writing this I heard Bit Rot, made up of his personal collection, presented without the artists credited, contained work by only one woman. This led me to think about how such show could be put together, why the artists work wasn’t credited… more importantly it also made me think twice about why I should be spending my unpaid time and energy assessing and reflecting on work in this show. Why would I not write about my own work, the work of my contemporaries, my direct experience or use my writing as a space to understand the communities I am part of, or would like to cultivate and strengthen instead of looking out to the bigger institutions and the work of established artists.)

 

If You Got the Notion; Storage and Emotion

Limited Vocabulary

I’m coming through the revolving doors and it takes eight steps, onto a marble floor with two mats, a shelf for flyers for events in and around the city organised by different headings; Rotterdam, Diversen, Culture, Culture, Discotheque, Bibliotheque. Culture’s got exhibitions, gigs, festivals, leaflets. Diversen basically has the same but other things as well. Discotheque seems to be a selection of leaflets published by the library, by the Musicweb which is part of the library, about different types of music for example, Arabic, African, the Blues, Electronic music, Gospel, Hip hop in the Netherlands, Prog, Dutch songwriters, Musicals, Motown, music for children, Ballet, Minimal music, composers from the Netherlands. Theres a security camera, then we go through the security gates, there’s a selection on my right which I assume would be new books. Looking up there are about – I dunno – a hundred massive lampshades, kind of domestic looking lampshades; oversized. And then as you see where the escalator goes up (similar to a shopping centre) you get a view up into the other floor of which there are four, (two, three, four,) four more, so five altogether? Some kind of design exhibition in the middle, something about the city. Photos of inhabitants with little quotes that are displayed on a kind of temporary scaffolding type structure with tensile wire and bulldog clips, Ikea clip on desk lamps….

On my left there is some seating with an oversized chess game. There’s about, (two, three, four) five men sitting around, two men standing up. The massive chess pieces come up to their thighs.

Now I’m standing in front of a pillar that has a display case next to it, cantilevered so it appears to be hovering. Inside there is – some kind of – etching of some stormy sea, and some people by a windmill. On the other side, a street scene which is  almost like a Hogarth but less debauched… lots of people out and about living their lives in a very… dramatised way. Thats a cafe. I’ll go in later. Public toilet. Large open space with six benches, a grand piano; covered over.

Heading back over to my right theres – some kind of – red counter with two women, name badges and suits sitting behind three Dell computers. Looks like somewhere that you might purchase something or make a query? Then there the RotterdamPass area which is yellow and green, a big communal desk with a computer protruding through it, a screen on either side and key board on either side. Lots of face out shelving for leaflets which I think look like they are for – things like – care homes for the elderly; programmes for the elderly. Its quite a big space and its very empty, its about.. maybe you’d fit about twenty double beds in that space. There’s also a ticket machine like you get when you go for a blood test, two one step up Ikea stools and twenty yellow Ikea metal chairs. The extractor fans and pipes are all visible when you look up but they are painted black. A counter called Retour which I guess means Return. And the glass is tinted red. Behind there are, there’s a kind of trolly system like you get at the airport for your baggage, or a sushi restaurant, and then about forty trollies with returned books on. Just by the escalator.

Gonna go round here first and go towards the Musicweb. There’s a yellow display object, which is designed around a pillar, which has – kind of – padded protrusions you can sit on and a screen coming out, and (like) an arm, which at the end, has earphones attached and looks as though – looking at the screen – you can listen to music. On this page we’ve got Adele, Enya, erm Peter and the Wolf, Baby Metal, Queen, Boots, Greenday, Eric Clapton and some other things I’m not sure, the Wrainwright Sisters. Its very quiet. There’s a screen on my left with lots of small pictures of album covers making up the face of Bob Marley. Pixelated. The music library has two booths, three booths, set into the wall, two computers, bit like a diner, but a cylindrical protrusion; again with earphones so you can listen to the collection. Theres a rental collection of vinyl, which you can search through on the screens and then request for the vinyl to be taken out of the stores – which you can the take away, and bring back. Seems to be predominantly men in here. There’s moving targets on the floor, so there’s obviously a lightbulb with a transparency pattern on some kind of timer to move around slowly, I guess to make it seem like a music venue? There’s also massive oversized lightbulbs. Lampshades which inside have three huge bulbs. Yellow plastic sixties type lampshades as well. A water dispenser. (Im going to just look through the door). Lots of shelves. Cd’s, dvd’s, I cant see vinyl. Maybe there isn’t vinyl. There’s pictures of vinyl everywhere but that doesn’t nesascarily mean they actually have it. I feel like they – somehow – want this to feel like the record shop in Clockwork Orange, but I’m not quite sure how it does – but somehow it does. I think its the booths. Limited palate which is; yellow, black, white and orange. Stylized. Everything else is white.

Gonna go up the escalator. Just seen a map for the building which shows that it has in fact, (one, two, three, four, five,) six floors, as well as the ground floor. I might not make it around the whole building. Going up this escalator is giving me a bit of a view of the tiles which are extremely reflective, on the floor below. K, on this floor there seems to be alot of communal study areas, again theres a huge overpowering light, some display cases, kind of modular display cases – which are actually quite nice – with some photocopies of books, and some old slightly antiquated looking books under glass. The title, W-e-r-e-l-d-k-r-o-n-i-e-k from the year 1915, there’s a sign that says 100 jaar so it must be one hundred years since something?….maybe just the publication of that particular book? Um.. theres an enormous screen. It’s about two metres by a metre. It’s on wheels. It’s got some kind of interactive display.

Ok I’m walking into a section now which is carpeted with a blue/purple/pink/orange/brown/navy mottled pattern – again this seems to be some kind of information point. The huge lampshades here have telephone numbers on them, some say Information and some say Rotterdam, Werken, so maybe this is where you go for – kind of – civil information. There’s three massive desks with fake Gerberas in orange glass vases in the middle, six plastic chairs around each of them – in a kind of lurid yellowy green and and coral. I can see a photocopier. Seems to be some furniture which looks like its been designed specially as opposed to being bought from Ikea or some design store. Made out of OSB and metal and ply. Almost sort of like Donald judd-like shelving. Modular. There’s black/orange veneer and paint on some of the wood and then there’s cut outs on some of the metal plates – like – like a digital display, square tiny holes that spell out the letter four/the number four, and then U !

Loads of screens, screens everywhere. I can see right now, (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen,) fifteen screens – within view. There’s some ply.. there’s loads of ply furniture. There are five – kind of – lamps, that look like – kind of – occasional tables with exposed bulbs attached. And then above each one there’s a screen, hovering, attached from the ceiling. One of the TV’s is playing F.r.i.e.n.d.s silently with Dutch subtitles. it’s the episode.. I don’t know.. we’ve got Ross and Rachel in shot. Rachel is reading a letter, Ross is looking upset… they both seem to be really shocked by the contents of the letter. Rachel puts her head in her hands. Phoebe, Monica, Chandler and Joey all come in together out of, Monica’s bedroom? now they’re all comforting Rachel.

Theres some very strange furniture in here. Between two massive columns theres a whole load of – like – industrial sized cling film wrapped around two columns. And then on that there seems to have been – some kind of – commissioned mural/spray painted – graffiti style; of a white guy and a black guy. I cant really talk about every individual piece of furniture because there is so much. Its everywhere. It all seems very – well – if it was all being used, there would be hundreds of people in here. The tables are quite high so they have high stools to reach them, it all looks a bit scuffed like its been really used but it seems new; odd angles; trendy veneers.

This escalator is half the size, you could only fit one person on here. Oh my god. It just goes on and on. Well, stretching off, way into the the distance, there’s shelves of books – but the shelves only come up to shoulder height, so you can see straight across the whole space. I can see James Joyce I can see Kafka, … I’m not recognising… Marion Keyes. I guess its alphabetical. Graphic novels. Five massive shelves of graphic novels. Huge purple rug (with) a purple table (with) eight white chairs around it. Everything is – very kind of – Poppy. One flat colour per surface. Not any plants. I’ve just seen one plant and its made me realise that’s the first one I’ve seen.

Again loads of computers. There’s a little area here with eight. Special collection of children’s books/special children’s area over there. (Some kind of) Velvet/grandiose/Poppy/fake/Louis-the-fourteenth-style armchairs with a small boy reading a graphic novel. There’s a kind of Chinese dragon suspended from the ceiling – made out of a rag rug.

I’m going up one more. There’s cabinets set into the floor that have the Sinterklaus sweets and little pictures of Black Peter. Ooh, the escalators have stopped or they’ve slowed down. Maybe they slow down when people aren’t on them? Yeah. I’ve – I’ve just stepped onto it and now its going twice as fast. There’s a soft play area with a baby crawling around. Oh my god this is enormous. I’m just going to keep going up the escalator.. this whole floor is um… bookshelves. People working at desks on their laptops and smartphones, see through orange plastic chairs. Two plants as I come up onto this floor – floor four. I’m just going to go – go up to the last one quickly. There’s so many lampshades, I reckon theres about fifty on each floor, times six? seems – like – pretty extravagant. Leather chairs – kinda look like – Franz West, but obviously not. Welded frame. magazine subscriptions, some of the titles; Motorbike, TopGear magazine… these are all dutch… One World magazine, Kiddo magazine, The Optimist, Pension Pro. There’s an extrapolated map here; the colours correspond to the carpets on each floor, so grey for the tiles on the ground floor/blue for second/red for third/yellow/orange/red/purple.

Limited Vocabulary

I Don’t Know How To Share

Nowhere feels comfortable online. Surfing the web is like being trapped in a labyrinthine  house party where every room you go in has a strange atmosphere, when the group is ‘off’ somehow, the dynamic is wrong, someone lurking in the room is a wildcard just about to start a fight or piss everyone off by sticking on some techno, turn on the lights or persistently inappropriately hit on someone. This is how I’ve started to see everything, its disorienting and I cant remember how it was before.

Talking with colleagues at the bookshop in January about Charlie Hebdo, we agreed we felt the publications take on satire was culturally very ‘French’ and not one that we identified with. I was against stocking to next issue in the shop. I’d probably still say its true that it’s particular type of satire is not mine, but I’d now wonder if we were trying to excuse ourselves from the events, and any interaction with it; to ‘opt out’. Ive been thinking about ‘opting out’ today. I feel like its happening all around me, and that I constantly do it. This makes me feel powerless and isolated. It makes me feel confused and angry at my impotence. I realise I am completely ignorant and living in a bubble of privilege that allows me to choose to what extent I engage with world events.

‘Opting out’ comes in different forms. Social media allows us to opt out of action, by trying to say the right thing at the right time. To send condolences, to share links that point out that there have been attacks in other cities outside our bubble that have had less coverage. Its a way of informing others how informed you are. There is no right way to react when you are in shock. Am I just a terrible cynic? I think I am, and I want to work on it. The fact is that platforms like Facebook and Twitter are far from neutral, they are spaces we use to carefully sculpt our identity to a hybrid group of friends/family/colleagues and prospective employers or collaborators. We want to show how informed and political we are. We want to share and connect. I do it, we all do it and we all behave differently in these ‘public’ and ‘private’ digital realms.

I sent a Whatsapp to K earlier that read;

everyone i know on social media feels like they are competing to have the ‘best’ reaction or sentiment. our generation is fucked. totally lost in a vacuum with no way out. we are mediating everything we experience through non physical space with no bodily/embodied consequences and we are so used to sculpting our personas for our own gain there is literally no space to be earnest – we have no spaces to be vulnerable with each other, people trying to clasp hands that don’t exist – our children will laugh at our complete ineptitude to use tech to mobilise. I feel so fucking useless today.

ISIS use the encrypted messenger Telegram to communicate and plot attacks, people use Facebook to mourn and organise memorials, twitter becomes a source for news outlets, I use Whatsapp to tell my friends I feel helpless and to moan. Maybe my great great grandchildren will be able to recover digital fossils of my opinion, tastes, amazon purchases and status updates… like jewels and cracked pots found in ancient burial grounds. Will they think they know me?

I want to understand better, to be able to get outside of myself, ask questions and listen to the answers without spewing out soundbites of opinion. I want to embody my empathy and turn it into something useful, and I want to claim physical space where I can actually connect and communicate with people in a vulnerable and earnest way. I turn to writing as my first response rather than to the streets or to the houses of friends, if I did actually meet and connect with people I wouldn’t know what to say or what I’d want to do – or if and how I wanted to act. If The Place – is in fact – online then I want to let go of this bullshit personal mediation, self promotion and the psychosis of millennial competition. Even if its just a lens I am seeing other peoples actions through, it is still harmful that I have internalised it so deeply. I get irritated with peoples online responses, Im irritated with my own responce and by my absorption of horror via sites built for advertising, selling data and propagating our idealised selves. Irritation is not useful and it is not empathy. I don’t want to watch people dying online. I don’t want to read their last tweet. It makes sense that news be shared by the fastest means, its not by design as such, but it causes clumsy and upsetting moments when death gets sandwiched between funny memes and self promoting art events. It is debased. It is uncivilized. It leaves no space for compassion, decency or dignity. What are our collective digital ethics and how do we enforce them? Im also left wondering, if repetition is ‘prayer’, what our collective rituals have now become and if they are fit to process loss and disaster; do I need to create my own forms of ritual/’prayer’ just to help me understand.

I’m a hypocrite and a hypocrite by birth. I know peace comes at others expense, atrocities are the rule not the exception. Peace is the exception, and we are in a privileged moment that has been hard fought for, to experience it. Its not a given, and its not a birth-right. These stories coming from the speakers of my smart phone, eyewitness accounts of terror, from various places and people all over – are so far out of my realm of experience I don’t feel like I can react. I can conjure with a swipe the most mind bending, shattering accounts of total horror on the same device I use to laugh and joke with my friends and family. What are you supposed to do with this information? Mine is the first generation brought up with the internet and 24 hour news. I don’t know what to do with it. We are machines for taking in and spewing out information – Twitter crashes – France closes its borders – Germanwings volunteers were at the stadium – my friends tag themselves as safe on Facebook – France’s National Front gets airtime on state TV – Poland states it will no longer accept refugees. So much information causes a kind of paralysis and a pervasive sense of powerlessness. But this is our reality now, so what do we do with it?

I know there are histories of torture, oppression and a continual failing to extend the cultural and economic wealth amassed in Europe to others, but I have allowed myself to stay ignorant to the specifics. The UN is treated as an advisory board rather than a law enforcer, and economic strength is the only power that protects a country when the shit hits the fan. I know my education omitted the UK’s history of colonisation, and that I have a very poor understanding of other European countries colonial past, including the Netherlands where I currently live. I don’t understand the trade of oil and its history and repercussions. I have sat at dinner parties in houses gifted by parents and listened to contemporaries say that they ‘don’t like to get involved in politics.’ I have skipped lectures and classes and exhibitions and symposiums for feeling that they were for ‘other people’ about ‘other peoples issues’ and that they would take me ‘off track.’

Today I’ve resolved to not be afraid of being earnest in ‘public’ and admitting how clueless I am. I’ve resolved to think again, and harder about a responsible way to live, the impact of that life on the earth, the people within it, and the forces that outlast us beyond our digital footprint – learning, meaning, compassion, empathy, integrity, love, compassion and activism.

I Don’t Know How To Share

Which Way Are You Looking? (I Wasn’t Expecting An Answer)

Right now, I am looking into the room. Its a high ceilinged square, almost a cube, with an entire wall of windows overlooking a leafy courtyard. I think on first glance It appears that I am reflecting the light coming in from the window on my left, but my lightest parts are in fact on my right side; facing into the room. As I am non-human/animal, I’m looking only in the sense that Im facing outwards, but I understand my primary function is to be looked at. In this instance I am self aware, so I understand myself to be a wood support, with linen stretched around, painted with white gesso, wrapped in plastic, transported, sold, painted over a period of a few weeks in short irregular bursts, put into various states of storage and then hung up on this wall.

Which way was I looking as I was being painted? In fact, I find the assumption that the way I view myself would be a direct result the brief period in which I was being painted, a very human centric one, although I admit it has changed me. The thing about being a painting is that you’re kind of in flux, it wouldn’t make sense for me to place too much importance on how the paint is now, thats up for change. I’m a slow burner, I’ve got all the time in the world, i’m in no rush to make definitive statements or use capital letters and full stops.

Am I conscious of my own appearance? I heard recently that women frequently experience their physical form as if they are an onlooker, and can enact this several times an hour, sometimes more frequently and its particularly common during sex. It’s to do with how many images of other women’s bodies they see everyday. Im aware of when I look good. I think I look best when the light comes in huge studio windows on my left in the mornings – so in this sense – I think i’m also looking inwards. Or I have to same ability to dissociate from my form. I also have a similar confusion due to proliferation of imagery, and I suppose it comes down to identity politics and how I want to define myself – I don’t want to talk for all paintings so I’m trying to tell you about myself through my own eyes. I guess I have a conflicted relationship with looking and the gaze, its so caught up with my identity that its difficult to know who I am without it.

If someone is looking at me, Ill look back at them, because I take myself seriously and I think they will get more out of our encounter if we both try.

Which Way Are You Looking? (I Wasn’t Expecting An Answer)