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.

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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

Bearing Witness; Anne Charlotte Roberton’s Five Year Diary

I happened to go to a screening back in May and found myself watching, or what felt more like bearing witness too, a selection from Anne Charlotte Robertson’s Five Year Diary. The screening was put on at BEEF, Bristol experimental expanded film, by LUX. I had no idea, really, what I was going to see. When I came away I had seen three twenty-five minute films originally shot on super 8, by a woman in the throws of nervous break down.

Anne Charlotte Robinson began the project in the early 80’s and shot over thirty eight hours of Super 8 film, which is still being put together after her death. The press release calls them ‘an intimate and exhaustively narrated chronicle of her daily life.. and battles with depression, paranoia, and borderline schizophrenia.’ The three films were Reel 22: A Short Affair and Going Crazy 1982, Reel 23: A Breakdown and After the Mental Hospital 1982 and Reel 80: Emily Died 1994. the chronologically track three instances of mental illness, being assembled, narrated and edited after the fact. I don’t want to write an essay, more just record a few notes on how the films made me feel – as Anne Charlotte Roberton’s film making really made me think about the currency of my more emotional responses and the edges of my comfort around articulating them.

I felt challenged by how achingly concise these impulsive edits and voiceovers articulated mania. What really struck me was a recognition, Robertson has that elusive visual language that really articulates the real-time experience of memory and receptive thought patterns that blur the present, that is so often missing from mainstream cinematic language. we are so used to seeing Super 8 in wistful suburban family holiday footage or the back gardens of frenetic children jumping through water sprinklers on lurid over exposed lawns. its a byword for nostalgia. Here it felt locked to its time, as we saw food packaging, 80’s clothes and hairstyles, but it also felt current, the precursor to hand held youtube video diaries and low budget documentaries.

What struck me most was how Anne Charlotte Robertson was obsessively pinning her fragile sense or grip of her self on finding her True Love. That is such a basic obsessional thought drummed into women, that something other and complete is yet to begin. That someone will read the clues of your life and know they exist to complete you in an ecstatic moment of realisation and bliss. In Robertson’s case this True Love was Dr Who, which for me lends a fascinating angle to the diary as a form of time travel (as well as cause me to reflect on my own conflicted relationship with the status and agency of the Dr’s female companions.)

Her actions become the phyisicalised process of her mental and emotional fragmentation, as she obsessively sorts through her rubbish and compost over and over and over and over. I kept thinking about me being a woman watching a woman’s own blisteringly open and bare record of her interior life. Is it a given that I have a feminist reading? It what ways can I relate to the aspects of her neuroses that feel tied up with her gender? Her obsessional focus on her diet and her garden belies an urgency to feel healthy and natural. As her mind unravels, her raw basic instincts become obsessional and repetitive: find true love, be in love and protect children.

This heartbreaking simplicity comes out in language and in longer shots of flowers and confessionals to camera, almost a cathartic precursor to webcam culture. What is startling is  that during all this she remains self aware, she is making decisions as a film maker, she is applying for funding, she completes an MFA, she is making art. Her films are her experience laid bare for her audience to witness, and are the most articulate depiction I have ever seen on film of, not just the gap between but the often overlaid experience of, love and madness.

Bearing Witness; Anne Charlotte Roberton’s Five Year Diary