Dead Space: 26 Caledonian Rd

How do you curate a small, shabby cold space? Or why? The noise of the derelict is distracting. As the audience tactfully negotiate crunchy, narrow stairs their noses fill with musty smells and the work sinks into the damp walls. Those of us who choose to accept the invites from friends to the ‘five days only'(!) exhibitions of unknowns and their tutors are often subjected to pathetic gestures. There is a sort of planned disappointment that whimpers apologetically in these heroin-chique squats, and when you approach the curator they stand tall and proud in their project, unshaven, trousers held up by string and the liquids of an alleyway soaked into the dinner jacket. To clarify, I want to think a bit about what it takes to exhibit with a lack of funds and in a space on death row. The level of creativity and self-awareness required by these spaces is higher than usual, yet they are the capillaries of a city’s art calendar. Public toilets, alleyways, former residences and old warehouses make up the challenging environs for photographers, painters and performers. But if the white space is the embalmer of once alive art, the derelict is the vomiting vagrant obscuring the delicate wallflower. If you’re going to exhibit in a hobo’s home, you better get your pants down before he does.

Categories: Fragments

Created: 2nd June 2016


Far too much noise.

And who are you? I was just wanting,
That’s all. So I’ll walk upright
Like your fucking monkey steps. I am not them,
I am not them, I am not them, I am not them.
I can do fours.

Get to bed, have some rest.

And tired, boy am I.

Categories: Fragments | Written

Created: 19th November 2015
Edited: 27th December 2015

Having a Coke with Jo…

“Being a Sunday, and knowing how plagued you are by poetry on this hallowed day, I was thinking about our conversation on an aversion to the worthiness of poetry readings, particularly the tone. And I remembered this poem by Frank O’Hara and how much I loved the deadpan way he reads it, slightly sneery even, or bored…”

“I returned to my room only to hear poetry being read meaningfully, I thought i even heard fucking Andrew fucking Motion. Before the dark thoughts came rushing in, I turned off the radio and put on the beach boys. And then your email. Phew. Because I love poetry but I miss poetry. I did not know this poem. The delivery is perfect, and how he ends it is so matter of fact, but perhaps with a hint of anger, which appeals. Deadpan readings are the best readings. Thank you.”

“I watched it a few times, it’s quite mesmerising. It makes me think of a papal ceremony, just the edges of the garments being filmed. I would probably avoid the term ‘fabric porn’ unless you feel it can take the weight of it. If you were to carry the sketch further I’d look at its rhythm, but if you were to go any further I’d imagine you’d re-film. The white at the end is so intense, but they all have a non-specific mood that is definitely emotive. I had a craving for a burger, i made one and ate it, now i feel sick. Desire is not always a good thing. … I think you are very close to all this at the moment. The light, space and time that summer will afford you will enable you to start connecting and forming these sketches and works. This will all have been very useful and productive. [Also,] the religious connection, the pornography, the desire elements; these are all very emotive in a socio-linguistic sense, don’t let them cloud the tactility of the work. The languages in use are ones of shape, form, taste, touch, etc. Their connection with socio-linguistics is complex. Just be careful that’s all.”

“They were talking about the papal red shoes this morning, how the last pope rather favoured them, this glimpse of crimson sneaking out from the edge of the gown. They neglected to mention how the one before, John-Paul wore pure white doc martins. I do not want to refer to it as fabric porn when I present it. It is, as you say, a weighted term and i do not want to bias it in that way. It has just become a sort of shorthand for thinking about this (hence the detail of the virgin at prayer). I don’t want to trip over the edge, a balance of desire, glimpses of hems not full frontal. Or just an essence. I once ate all my easter eggs on easter Sunday and vomited them all back up on the car journey in the afternoon. Whilst editing, the want to re-film was strong. Your point about it being a sketch, about rhythm is all correct and i would like to re-film knowing what I know now and with the space and time and light of summer that you mention. The formal visual elements became important in the editing and especially in the last few days. It has definitely been very useful. Thank you for responding Rich. As ever, you cut straight into the core of something. Your words help to specify, to highlight inaccuracies and to point a way forward. They also remind. Tactility was the word I think I was searching for today. … Here is some things on Kienholz, Ed and later on his wife Nancy. The work is a bit dark, grubby and exciting because of the combination of materials and the scenes created, some are hard to look at some you can’t stop looking at. This is a short video on The Hoerengracht, which is an important piece. It was interesting what she says about the resin, the bringing together of materials, the merging. This is a ‘sketch’ for The Hoerengracht that I photocopied from a book in reference to Fred and frontage. The wikipedia entry is not bad either. The Ozymandias Parade was the first piece of work that I saw of his, I saw it in a book when I was doing my foundation and I always remember it and the feeling a bit disgusted, and then amazed that this was also art and then being really excited by it but not articulating it, I wish I had told one of my tutors at the time that I liked this piece. Do a Google image search to get a sense of the aesthetic. It’s not all terribly deep in some ways but that’s ok, but I think there are connections to be made with other artists. Mostly it is the grubbiness with shininess, the corruption, the combinations of materials and the inside and outside, frontage elements in some of the pieces that most interest me. Don’t think I have ever seen any pieces in real life, which is a shame, I imagine they have a particular smell to them too.”

“These are very close to how I imagined the Fred set to be. It’s their position within the blank space, almost fully developed environments placed inside other environments. Imagine the character walking around them, you get the same unsettling paradox as theatre, the actor engages with a world within a world and the tension buzzes at the edge of theirs and the beginning of ours. They acknowledge both worlds like a paranoid schizophrenic. Film offers a comfort to the audience and I wonder whether the enjoyment would be to perform a piece live and film it to get that nervous energy. Another reason I like the setup of the spaces is the perversity of the private theatre. Like a sex party or a cage fight, or some S&M dungeon; all that effort and time painting and decorating, building crosses, bars, cages, so that people can live out some private fantasy. For me Fred has perhaps become Margaret and I am imagining a bizarre environment for this costumed figure to exist in. Very much like the Mccarthy film I saw, ‘Pirate Party’. It was such an unsettling environment. But I also imagine you could avoid the sinister and create something touching and more sympathetic in the space. I think the idea of creating a stylised, middle-aged spinster’s home and placing a character in it who combines the comfort of a mature woman with both the glamourous and grotesque, excites me. I see some strange performance taking place, perhaps sexual in an onanistic, group or participatory way (remember we hate participation so we must inflict it on others at least. I think it is important not to kill an event and that can happen in two easy ways, film it when film is unnecessary, or create a static sculpture out of an environment that should move or be interacted with. I am never sure how Beuys felt about that, he seemed to promote such an idea of vibrancy and immediacy in his speeches and performance pieces, yet was so keen to hang them or fix them like taxidermy in white spaces. Some are sculptures, and static sculpture has a language that makes it feel very alive, a movement or vibrancy where colour, shape and line create a physiological empathy. Very much where your lexicon of materials come in, they are incredible packages of sensation and haptical conversation. But when Beuys displays some work it becomes artifact, dead and posed. It’s an unusual dilemma, and one I would rather have than do nothing. I suppose in regards to the performance it’s of no importance, but in relation to any sculpture you’ve been creating through your experiments I guess I’m echoing everyone else, they feel dead before they’ve even been alive. The video then becomes an imperfect record of their once vibrant and sensual existence and we become museum visitors, left with the long dead remnants of a cultural moment, instead of what we should be, which is an audience to a living sculpture, full of rich and complex meaning. I am not denigrating the video, I am just excited about the phase when these things start living. … That’s it. The weekend done. No furtherance achieved and a continued desultoriness. Pints sank: several, wrongs righted: none; a laugh, a rant, and many a moment stood staring in all directions with as much anxiety as a drunk can muster regarding the complete lack of future all around him. The brotherly bond has been checked for firmness and found as stable as ever. Love has meandered around at a distance like a coquette, and the rain and thunder made a guest appearance for a startling mid-show performance. Tomorrow the air-conditioned nightmare shall resume and the quest for Friday evening will begin all over again. If I can make it till November without falling into such a state of ennui that I fuse with the moulded chair and am tossed into the skip of the Wincanton industrial estate, I should have just enough money to enter a frustrating and panic-inducing period of wanking and wandering, self-medicating and wringing of the withered soul. See you on the other side.”

“A quick response to your email, which was good to get in the midst of the beige buffet last weekend. And it was a strange coincidence that had just been looking at an image of McCarthy’s pirate party in a book left behind in Clacton. And good to read something some well written, and, as ever, something that gets right to the nub of things. As I said to you when I saw you, the Kienholz merry go round piece is one that has really hooked into my mind, I photocopied twice once in black and white and once in colour, one of them in my notebook the other pinned on the wardrobe a while ago now. It was a piece I had not seen before but it immediately struck a familiar feeling and familiar desire to create or respond in someway to the frontages of Clacton, and how much for so long that I have been thinking about these things. Anyway, I like the idea of creating a world for these characters, Fred, Margaret; and having an element of control over developing their context. I like the vision you create of the Margaret in her world. I think a giant padded puppet, perhaps in a padded world. The pleasure of work undertaken for pure pleasure is what I find compelling about seaside places and piers, the thrill is fleeting and hollow yet everything goes in to that moment of enticement. With Margaret, I think there might be many versions of her. I think you would need to think of the first version you make of her as ‘edition one’ and not get hung up on making her totally perfect the first time, think of how long you have developed her within your head and this would be in danger of preventing you from making her at all. She could be made in a variety of materials, but a satin one is a must. Maquettes are always good, make a small one to test out shapes and how things will fit together. And yes sinister, would be easy but wrong, I think domestic to contrast the grotesque. Related but to the aside of it is Fiischli and Weiss ‘rat and bear’ in several different films. And the idea of performance. When i showed my live art friend the film of the rolling fur a while ago, we talked about somehow performing it live. He showed me this artist Stuart Sherman, skip to the bit where it is in colour, a way of performing objects and materials. I like the small scale, it is of a particular time and is very different but there is something kind of exciting about the possibilities that this offers. And yes, we are against participation. I looked at the images that I sent you on my phone and they are shit. The work has progressed even within a week, that is what space and time does I guess but I will not send you anything now unless I think it is finished. Also, I am beginning to go off the idea of film myself for the moment. I like the element of risk in the live performance or in live sculpture, whatever that might be. I had my tutorial with Tom on Wednesday and he really liked some of the little sculptures, some of which we agreed were finished, and he really felt that the films undermined the sculptures, basically saying something very similar to what you said. He wants me just to keep working on these sculptures and exploiting all the materials, nothing must be extraneous. Though he did like a little film which included my hand as for him it showed the tactile interaction with the material, but this is where it could be performed rather than filmed. The life must be in the sculptural reality of the real encounter with the objects, or as you more elegantly put it ‘the phase when they start to live’. So I am continuing with clear PVC and stuffing and hanging and concerning myself with weight and elasticity and toying with the idea of a sewing machine. Planning an exhibition for September in the swan after the MA show has finished. An artist whose work I think does have a sense of ‘aliveness’ is Phylidia Barlow’s work, I think I showed you the book last time you were around here. she is a quietly influential artist, taught many people who have gone on to become famous. She also did pieces that have holes in them that kind of become like eyes. she was inspired by Louise Bourgeois ‘nature study (velvet eyes)’. Interestingly she is also completely against the idea of interaction and touching work.”

“For the sake of pedantic clarification I would point out that I was pro-film. My point was more that the sculpture had left nothing for the film but a corpse. The film could record life if some element of the sculpture is a filmic event, like your earlier sketches. And the interactive element was to be promoted at our own discomfort rather than eschewed. Outside someone is cackling in a horrible, guttural way, and Martin’s room tidying unnerves me with unpredictable crashes and bangs through the wall. This discomfort is mine only and if I am to gain any use from it it is the baiting of my fragile ego. We need a discomfort, and interaction may be the key. I am so disgusted and detached from the motivations of people I can only benefit from interaction, surely? … I’m on a definite downer, I can feel it. Knowing your own mind is convenient but leaves you no happier. I am aware that I barely care about sentence choice, that I am trapped in a lethargic, despondent and despairing body. I am inside, deep down, frustrated by the lack of tools available to me to correct the situation. It’s like my mind floods itself with a nonsense of bureaucracy and I am stuck, frantic and exhausted, the other side of the door. Meaning is significant in depression. When someone says that life has no meaning they mean exactly that. That all things have become arbitrary to them and that they cannot place definitive value on any part. I find myself saying things and by the end of the sentence I have no idea what any of the words mean, the langue and parole separate. It seems unimportant what/how/why I say. It’s an odd sensation, at these moments there is a mixed gift. I find that I am able to separate other peoples’ exclamations in my mind. All words lose meaning and meaning scurries back into some physicality. Everyone appears absurd, like the extras on a soap-opera set saying ‘rhubarb’ to each other. I can read people but they seem like empty toys, puppets mouthing nonsense to deaf kids. I got into a pointless argument with Tom and his brother in the pub. Literally an argument without a point. Tom had one, but it had no context as his brother and I were arguing as pure gesture. His brother is just mardy and I rose to it. In my current vulnerable state, uncomfortably out of place and dislocated, therefore feeling I need to please everyone and be submissive to anyone, I subjected myself to the responsibility of engaging. But I engaged without caring, which can only cause problems, the frustration swells, the argument is engaged, the structure of intention and meaning fragments and I am left fighting a battle with armour but no body, and look what happened in Bed knobs and Broomsticks, I’d be no match for Angela Lansbury. You’ll understand this off course, your reservations regarding work is often formed from loss of meaning. ‘Why make this when I could just as easily make that?’ et cetera. Some of us work better with a smaller palette I think. I think. … Woke up with a modicum of excitement this morning, as is the way with my fickle brain. Had a relatively bad day yesterday. Woke up with an attack of the OCD anxiety. Cleaned the fridge, felt the whole world was over-complicated, that each particle and each combination of particles at all levels created questions that I could not answer. I decided to take some photographs of my blouses but it proved frustrating. I remember commenting that you were putting on rather a lot of deodorant that first night of Magic Theatricals, no doubt conscious that you did not want to sweat all over the blouse. Unfortunately the deodorant has left white marks. Not a biggy, there are a million and one methods it would seem for removal, and certainly not your fault, but it made me aware of the difficulty of making work when you are close to the subject. The OCD kicked in, everything felt messy, the mice were scurrying, the moths were nestling in to my clothes, the static in my head got louder and louder, my blouses were becoming duller and dirtier and broken before my eyes; I went to the pub. On the bus journey I found myself deeply concerned by every persons’ entering and leaving of the bus, this was mingled with gardening. My view from the top of the bus meant I could see into everyone’s gardens, some beautiful gardens. But gardening can be a curse when you are this way inclined. The thought of something that requires so much energy for retention is all too much. A few pints among the tawdry idiots of Crystal Palace settled things. And then I ate chicken on the way home. From the front seat of the bus the view of the sunset from Sydenham Hill was pretty impressive. The chicken wasn’t too bad either. In true alkie style I bought a bottle of vodka from Tescos and went to bed to watch An American Werewolf in London. On the bus, I thought of mysticism, caused by the slow sub-conscious pondering of Bataille. I thought how fundamental it is in Art and how the hell does it work? And then I thought of your work and, even though you have mentioned it in the past, I wondered about it’s mysticism. Without mysticism your work may be pointless, perhaps. Would that be bad? The thought was half-formed and now I return to it I can’t make sense of it, but the inquisitiveness is still valid, and the question is as heavy and pertinent as any; what form does the mysticism in your work take? I think I could re-word the question in a thousand ways. It seems to me that the answer to this question somehow whispers remotely from a place where your interests meet, somewhere at present you only have vague clues as to where it is.”

Categories: Fragments | Miscellanea | Written

Created: 28th October 2015
Edited: 23rd November 2015

The Simple Still

Raised and undone to a tear now.
A tear from simple still to the open.
As if
And I cannot but throughed will.
From still is a not and to broken only at all time.
In hered time, in the open, I sore, sawed, exposed.
And feeling late,
late late
off time.
In my bright and broken still
I am the wander and simple still at great wander to her.
As let back and let of space
I am the simple still that stops.
I am the still stills the other.
(She move in wonder)
I am the simple still that is as backed as.
(And hers scatter)

[circa 2009?]

Categories: Fragments

Created: 6th September 2014

A is for ism

I say nothing.

Saying nothing always turns into something.

Each absent phoneme making a connection,

A social group is formed, excluding me,

But taking on my voice.

I asked if I could stop them,

The reader just shrugged,

Not her problem I suppose

And I couldn’t help envy her dead answer.

Staggering whitely through the frosted park I was taken

How close I felt to the road but somehow distant.

And the road seemed so mismanaged.

“The bare trees peppered with black crows

The sky a fleshy hue,

And all that silence collected in the centre of London.”


Still nothing, I carried it to Liverpool Street.

The pain in my back had started to talk, drowning me out.

Who cares anyway, “I do.” it said,

And pushed me against a wall

That I clung to for support.

She said, “You said something,

And I wrote it down,

I can’t remember what it was but

It was something.”

Oh good, I thought,

Another escaped nothing has made a name for himself.

Categories: Fragments

Created: 6th September 2013