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.

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)

My Favourite Deleted Youtube Video

I’m not sure why I would have first searched ‘Driving in Portsmouth’ on YouTube. I think it may have been that I was thinking about a public sculpture that exists in the fork of the motorway as you drive out of the city, and over that slither of water at Hilsea that officially gives the city its island status.

I am from Portsmouth. Its particular topography is held in the oldest part of my brain even though I don’t live there and I don’t need to know it. I can perfectly visualise the paving slabs in my street, the tracks on the footpath on Portsdown Hill, how many steps it takes to cross the road over to the George Inn, and the exact weather conditions which ensure the ice cream van might be parked next to Micks Monster Burger, in or out of season.

The public sculpture in that fork of the motorway was a Millennium project, one in a set of architectural investments the city made to mark a thousand years since the last one and the new dawn of a new century. These Millennium developments were a neo-liberal spending spree to show future generations that we had taste, money, foresight, democratic ways of selecting designs for public sculptures, that we valued the arts, believed in cultural heritage and that Portsmouth was to be a ‘destination city.’ Everyone was into the Millennium; I even remember the coolest band at school who my friends’ older brother was in was called Millennium. We all remember Robbie Williams in that chainmail dress on Top of the Pops. I know exactly what I wore on New Years Eve y2k, synthetic parachute pants and a shoulder-less long sleeved top from Tammy Girl (I must have been freezing.)

‘Driving in Portsmouth’ turned up quite a few results. In fact ‘Driving in…’ videos are a thing. People just drive around a place filming from the dashboard or from the passenger seat. Sometimes they have the local radio on, sometimes its silent, maybe they add some effects when they switch between footage. The comments are often from people that have moved away from a place and are very nostalgic, they might say something like ‘Its changed so much!’ or ‘I remember when I lived on Palmerston Road in 1976 and drove this route everyday’ Then a commenter might pipe up with ‘it would be quicker if you turned right outta South Africa lodge then first right again onto Warfield Ave all the way though to Hulbert road, up to round about back down, straight over bottom round then right onto the m27 :)’, a conversation then ensues about the quickest route from a to b. Personally, I feel those people are missing the point, although its hard to say exactly what I feel the point is.

My favourite Youtube video that has now been deleted was called Driving in Portsmouth at Night, I think, although you tend to only half remember these things because you assume they will be there forever and can be coungoured indefinitely with two or three abstract words. It was around four minutes and was roughly split into two sections. In the first half we drive around Southsea during bright sunshine hours with Ziggy Stardust as our soundtrack. The film is cut, according to chord changes in the song for dramatic effect, and somehow passing pedestrians and indicator lights seem to fit exactly with the music. The comedian Bridget Christie confessed that when driving with her children they will always play the theme from Steptoe and Son in the car, to produce this same effect, rendering every passer by as an extra in their personal comedic invention, similar to the strategies of John Smith’s films.

Anyway, halfway through the YouTube film, our journey dramatically switches from day to night. The lights go out just as the bridge of Ziggy stardust comes in, and dashboard lights blink as Bowie heightens with the lyric ‘So where were the spi – ders, while the fly tried to bre-a-k our b-a-lls, With just the beer light to gui-de us, So we bitched about his fans and should we crush his sweet h-a-nds?’ And we are then left euphorically gliding up a pitch black motorway, past the afore mentioned up-lit millennial public sculpture in the central island, ‘Oh ye-e-ah.’

The film is for some reason, to me, hilarious. I think because it is affectionate and earnest, with considered editing and heightens to a climax. Maybe that is a formula I respond too. It’s very hard to say why you find something particularly funny, but its something actually quite serious and worth thinking about. There have been some great comedies set in cars. Marion and Geoff is an incredibly under-rated cereal, it’s so clever and gentle; Just a man in a car, recording himself and allowing his personal tragedy to unfold. Alan Partridge’s driving ettique is always a delight. Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan would collaborate later on The Trip, some of the funniest scenes of which take place inside their car either singing along to or stoically coexisting with the music they have chosen to soundtrack their journey. Seinfeld’s Comedian’s in Cars Getting Coffee is worth a mention. Using the car to film is also associated with low budget or D.I.Y approaches, early reality TV and constructed reality genres.

I recently had some hypnotherapy, which was a rather wonderful insight in many ways. Along this process of nudging and flexing the deepest and darkest held feelings that seemed calcified in the most surprising parts of my body (the therapy associates memories with colours and parts of the body), I found many moments of distress were associated with being a passenger in a car. A revelation I found tinged with comedy, as so many personal tragedies are. All of these ideas, people making driving videos, others responding to them so fondly, the association of specific music with specific stretches of road, repetition, routine and comedy led me to consider the car interior as a gendered space. The representation of the car interior on TV of in particular, I feel is presented as a male space; something I’d like the reflect on further elsewhere.

I started to think about the kinds of experiences I’d had as a passenger and the intensity of memory I have for particular car journeys. Ultimately, although it is in some ways familiar territory and the dramatic potential of the car interior is so fully explored in cinema, I think there is something banal, lo-fi and slippery here that I’d like to respond to in film.

It may or not be funny.

My Favourite Deleted Youtube Video

Wandering Around Richard Long ; Landscape on the Page. Notes from Arnolfini’s Artist Book Collection

A Critical Re-valuation of A Proposed Publication by Marie Yates has to be the most exciting find in Arnolfini’s artist book collection for me. Considering Richard Long’s current show, this book feels pivotal in how the ideas of landart are shown in artist bookmaking and publishing and the idea of the radical pastoral. Marie Yates thinks ‘The notion of landscape/art discourse is problematic to say the least’. A Critical Re-valuation of A Proposed Publication is interesting for many reasons. For one the format is complex, we have within the document a proposed artist’s book, the pages of which are printed sequentially within it. The publication then critiques the proposed artists book by delving deeper into complex ideologies around our idea of landscape.

In Yate’s view ‘the use of landscape in art (a conjuncture of some historical depth) represents the placing together of two inadequately theorised sets of ideology…’ the publication goes some way to re-dress the imbalance. The proposed book outlines Yates theoretical standpoint around conflicting prevailing notions of landscape. She presents sets of opposing ideas in fours, like a compass around sections of word and image. The texts investigate our notions of Nature and Culture as binary opposites in western culture. In the UK there is no such thing as a ‘pure’ landscape, completely untouched by humans. Landscape is the product of ‘unlimited exploitation…of Nature by man, and of the enduring exploitation.. of men of one class by men of another.’ The ideas of Nature and Culture are in fact inseparable and contextualised by each other, making the ‘outside’ a no-less (if not more-so) contested space to make art than the ‘inside’. Yates reflects on landscape/art that ‘the Idea of Nature is appropriated in a paradoxical manner as both subject and object, source and residue.‘ The very format of the publication reflects these paradoxes, and the difficulty in adequately documenting such work on the format of the page. By employing simple one-word opposites she can talk about the idea of landscape/art in terms of gender, class, power and labour; within a simple minimal layout. (Marie Yates was part of The Artist Placement Group and showed in Over Land in 1975 at Arnolfini with Phillipa Ecobichon, Hamish Fulton and Richard Long.)

‘This was a precious moment in the history of art – the time of Art & Languge’s early musings – when art really was what the artist said it was. Thus, seven photographs could actually be sculpture’

Clive Phillpot extract from ‘Richard Long’s books and the transmission of sculptural images’ 1987

Five Days In The West Country : Wandering : Spring : A Hill Without A Name Veiled In Morning Mist by Nicholas Stanley-Adams takes the format of a word and image documentation of a walk, such as the books presented here by Hamish Foulton, Richard Long or Gerard Hemsworth, but intercepts with poetry and an excerpt from the ancient tale of Tristan and Isolt. I like how Stanley-Adams walk produces a strange otherworldly place, rooted in the landscape, rather than a sense of predetermined conquering. Very different to Hamish Foulton’s large scale photo book documenting his walking. Fulton characterises himself as a ‘walking artist’. In fact he has stated ‘If I do not walk, I cannot make a work of art,’ summing up his thinking by stating ‘no walk, no work’. (I think we can therefore assume this book work functions as straight documentation(!))

I really enjoyed finding Les Pins by Bernard Lassus, a small publication that takes Lassus’s 1960’s documentary style photography and presents it as a stitched together Frankenstiein landscape at eye level with an accompanying text describing the forests inhabitant (a nobel savage as a woman that lives in and uses the pines). Lassus’s original photographic project was about ‘dematerialising the real environment’ (in this case a French Pine forest,) but in the hands of the small artists publishers Coracle Press, the photos reconfigure into a romantic landscape.

Two Pipes Fourteen Locations by Peter Downsbrough is pleasing, if slightly stark. The two sculptures of specific dimensions, move from a suburban to a rural locations photographically documented across the pages. Although it seems dry, it is insistent and repetitious and humble, and sort of ridiculous. The sculptures themselves are quite odd, not quite ghosts of failed town planning, not quite unfinished rural pylon, but somehow never feel out of context. They use the unique form of the book to appear in my places at once.

At the time he was making them in the late 60’s and 70’s Ed Ruscha considered his book works to his better artworks, and changed in turn what an artists book could be. For example, Every Building On The Sunset Strip’s use of photography as a form of map-making or study of place is more conceptual, than documentary. Clive Phillpot, director of the library at MoMA, notes that some of Richard Long’s books owe a debt to Ruscha’s, bearing the trademark of a blank page in the middle of a sequence. Their deadpan, cool aesthetic was at the time radically different. (I couldn’t help then including None Of The Buildings On Sunset Strip by Jonathan Monk.) Another beautiful long fold out, photographic book Flower Arrangement For Bruce Nauman by Dennis Oppenheim is also a pun. This time on Nauman’s work ‘Flour Arrangement’ (where he quite literally arranges flour on the floor) and on the hypnotic nature of panoramic landscape photography.

‘ You have to get over the colour green.’ Wrote Wallace Stegner about the aesthetics of Western Landscape. ‘You have to quit associating beauty with gardens and lawns; you have to get used to an inhuman scale.’

Extract from Urban / Wild by Nathan Coley

South West Coast of England by Gerard Hemsworth seems to be an example of an artist’s book as a straight piece of documentation of a performance. I assume from the title and compass co-ordinates on the photographs, that the artist is taking photos in each direction from a spot on the south west coast. Clive Phillpot reviewed the title in 1972 for Studio International, alongside other new books by Ed Ruscha, Sol Lewitt and John Latham. He concluded ‘that artists are using the book format not only because it has acquired a new status as a convenient record of events as a result of the advent of performance art and evanescent artworks, but also as a specific visual medium with its own possibilities and limitations, which also happens to be activated by the ‘reader’.

A youth group sailed the artwork to the gallery, the act being documented in Voile/Toile Toile/Voile by Daniel Buren. Canvases doubled as sails, that floated down to the museum directly from sailmakers to then be hung on walls as artwork. Cute, right? I really like Rough Sea by Susan Hiller. The book collects holiday postcards showing rough seas. The images are slightly uncanny en masse, the landscape refusing to be horizontal.

CLEAR SKY by Bruce Nauman documents the sky over the desert resulting in a photobook which appears to be just square pages of colour. Its a very simple and elemental idea, which makes the book almost feel like a material in itself. Nauman then made LA AIR, which shows the stark difference in colour in the polluted air above the city. The two books become a perverse colour-field reference book They seem to work so well because the concept and form combine do something else to the photos, making the page feel infinite rather than pictorial.

CLOUD RAIN RAIN AND SUN CLOUD DRIZZLE RAIN SUN CLOUD SUN CLOUD THUNDER CLOUD HAIL RAIN SUN CLOUD SUN CLOUD SUN CLOUD SUN CLOUD SUN CLOUD SUN CLOUD RAIN STARS SUN

Extract from A 118 Mile Walk Under the Sky, 1980 from Twelve Works by Richard Long

A repetitive sequence in Hand Made Containers by Tom Beldon shows the artist making hand gestures, then translating a glyph on paper, and then again larger onto the wall using his hands. I can’t find anything out about this artist, but I think he is an american ceramicist. He doesn’t seem to be making containers either, just demonstrating shapes. It seems like there is some process of translation or dematerialiation of language intended but i’m not sure to what end, but I just like how of the era it is, with the artists hair and clothes. I also like to imagine he was alone and using a self timer.

Work No. 88 (42): A sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball by Martin Creed exists as much as an idea or proposal as it does as a physical piece, and therefore owes alot to some of the earlier 70‘s works shown. It has a similar humour to Nauman, Ruscha or Oppenhiem’s work. Its a one liner, and probably not a very clever one. But a screwed up piece of paper is also a byword for a failed idea, or a bad idea. The simple sculptural action or gesture seems fitting and the of sense ‘doing something dumb anyway’ still feels quite fresh and experimental, lo-fi and D-I-Y.

I particularly like It Is So Green Outside It Is Difficult To Leave The Window by Shelagh Wakely. The small book documents the arrangement of furniture in a small unassuming paved city garden of a terraced house. Wakely plays with a narrative of the house’s inhabitants, and its unclear how much the artist is involved in the movements of objects. Its a funny book, not least because the changes in the garden are observed over three years, and to be honest not that much happens. I think, maybe, Wakely is employing humour to talk about the dry documents artists were producing at the time. She manages to find something more playful, narrative led and to my mind interesting just in her back garden. The result is gently poetic, with an economy of means (a garden and its furniture, washing, a camera and a great title). There is a real strangeness to it, she makes something from nothing.

‘Ploughed fields beckon in the stone.

Those oak leaves are made of copper,

That spiders web is made of oak,

And we made of flesh Without analogy.’

From Analogies, Witches Point by Caroline Tisdall, 1987.

Tisdall was Joseph Beuys’s collaborator, a poet and critic.

*A full bibliography with more information about these publications can be found at http://www.nomadicreadingroom.com

Wandering Around Richard Long ; Landscape on the Page. Notes from Arnolfini’s Artist Book Collection

On Getting Dressed, Hunter-Gathering and Making Ourselves in Caves

We make ourselves in caves. We just want to drag our things into a dark space and sit with them. We dress up in our best clothes to sit or stand in the dark of the gig venue or cinema and enjoy a ritualistic flashing of lights and banging of drums. Freda Kelly, The Beatles secretary, remembers the Cavern smelling of piss from the often over flowing toilets and rotting fruit from the grocers above. And yet emerge the immaculately suited or leather clad Fab Four. They knew what they were doing. We all made ourselves in the caves of our teenage bedrooms. In various dingy, dark, cheap places where you are afforded time and space. It is endlessly fascinating then, how wide the gap can be between what people think/perceive/ imagine they look like, and the reality of how others see/ read them. We often assume others will make the leap and connect the dots without us putting in quite enough attention to detail.

Bill Cunningham says ‘Fashion is civilization’ without it we would be cave dwellers. Its a politicised thing I think, to wear clothing that has been acquired/ come across/ given to you/ been too good-er deal to refuse. Even if this causes a slippage or incoherence in our semiotic reading of a persons outfit and by extension, creation of self. What you wear is never exactly what you would have chosen. Right? Nor should it be. Maybe you don’t know what you would choose. Who said fashion had anything to do with choice? Who said style had anything to do with fashion. Susan Sontag said ‘its one thing to listen to punk rock as music, and another to understand the whole S&M-necrophilia-Grand Guignol-Night of the Living Dead- Texas Chainsaw Massacre sensibility that feeds into that.’ Same with fashion right? Its all about the subtext.

Sometimes people just seem to get it so right, and more regularly before that homogenising minimalist international context-less look of fashion online (think Norm-core). The passages in Just Kids in which Patti Smith describes her clothes and delicate sartorial decisions are quite moving. Smith is so thrilled when her new Dylan like hair is complemented by Warhol at that tin foil cave, studio 54. And Viv Albertine, a real life cave girl, declaring her passions as ‘Boys, Clothes, Music’, yeah clothes are super important. Oh! to be a fly on the wall when Jarvis Cocker and Chloe Sevigny were briefly dating and therefore getting dressed in the same room together. The double bluffing. Both trying to outwit each other. Both knowing each other really cared about fashion but were probably just to cool to show it. Maybe they spoke about clothes, maybe they didn’t. Jarvis said in i-D magazine in 1993 that charity shops are a modern day stand in for our innate suppressed ancestral urges to hunter-gather, and bring our spoils back to the cave. Two hunter-gatherers from either side of the atlantic, who never had to get a real job. (Not that they knew at the time of dating that they would never have to get real jobs, and could forever reside in the worlds of their own creation.)

Kim Gordon says Chloe Sevigny ‘dresses in subtext.’ They would both ‘get it’ when Kurt Cobain dolefully explained to camera his sadness of no longer having to hunt for treasure you cant afford in thrift stores, after you’ve hit the big time. Kurt lost touch with his inner cave man. Chloe maybe not so much. A nocturnal creature herself, dressing for the darkness of the club and reviving the 1890’s muse for the 1990’s, proving as an actress in Gummo that if fashion is your job then when you’re naked, you don’t have to be unemployed. Jarvis recently returned to the cave (an actual cave for a fashion shoot) for Another Man, and wrote a poem. He says ‘This is the real sound of the underground (cos it is, y’know actually underground) No outside influences whatsoever.’ What a great idea. Get back in the cave and start again. Remake yourself. You don’t need the internet. Take a bit of time to really think about it. No mirrors. No sharing. Poverty is the birth of creation and all that. Jarvis and Chloe. What a great moment. One famous for her boyish androgyny, the other for his innate effeminacy. I bet they just threw on the clothes from the hotel floor during that particular whirlwind.

Cor.. so you’ve come out of that dark cave and you look so great, so human, so deliciously pre-internet, so ready to move home with your mum because you are scared of the millennium bug like Chloe. And I just wanna snap you on my disposable camera with the flash on, your hands in front of your face, like Jarvis snapping the crowd at Glastonbury or like Mick Jagger in the back of a police car. Because you are so rock ‘n’ roll.

On Getting Dressed, Hunter-Gathering and Making Ourselves in Caves