Four Facts

31 July 2008

First thing we see off the plane is a man stood with a sign, awaiting the arrival of Kenneth Fear.

A sign outside the hotel lobby elevator warns that This Object Is Under Surveillance.

Posters for a Mozart performance promise a completely authentic reproduction of a premiere in 1788.

On the steps up from an open air cinema by the river some drunk English argue with 'foreigners' about the pronunciation of Adidas.

 

Linkage

29 July 2008

When I say that presence is a kind of a problem, I’m speaking also about the limitations of the body as object that is bound by physicality, by laws of physics, by time, etc. Rooted in performance, my photo works, which are basically events/encounters staged for the camera, will be limited by what an actual body in actual space can do. ‘What is possible’ to depict in an image will be limited/guided/affected by what is possible for a body to do or enact. Doubling as the image-maker and the protagonist, one of the obvious, concrete limitations is that I am unable to simultaneously occupy the space in front of the camera and behind it.

There is a very nice long interview with Vlatka at the great blog This is That, including a lot of visuals of her work. (update: seems like you have to sign in/be invited to read content on this blog now…)

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In that sense it’s not even *about* gaming.. it’s about worlds and how we make them, how we understand or creative narrative and narrative possibllity as readers. I mean – I’m really struck by the fact that if you say “In the next level of the game you will need a compass, a rope and a bottle of surgical alcohol” your mind is already starting to construct a narrative – already grasping for what might happen using those things, grasping for connections.

Two more blog reviews for The Broken World: one at Other Things, and one at Pop Dose.

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My friend David Williams started blogging at Skywritings which for the moment is a collection of his occasional writings on and around performance. The site includes programme-note pieces on recent Lone Twin performances and David’s contributions titled Light and Listening for the Marathon Lexicon project which I co-curated with Adrian Heathfield and produced with Forced Entertainment.

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Finally my opening address for last years Spill Symposium is included in a new publication/collection Live Art UK/LADA’s Live Art Almanac. The Almanac also includes essays by Lyn Gardner, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Daniel Gosling, Leslie Hill and Rebecca Schneider amongst others. Copies from LADA’s bookshop Unbound.

Art Flavours In Action

28 July 2008

A few shots from my Art Flavours piece at the opening of Manifesta 7 in Rovereto last  weekend.  Top picture is the video installed in a tiny washroom space on the ground floor of Manifattura Tabacchi. The other two are at the start of the day, with customers rolling up to sample free gelato flavoured to illustrate terms from the province of contemporary art – Memory, The Spectacle, The Archive and The Body. More info on the project by following the tag below. Free gelato for somewhere between one month and two months… depending on how long the budget lasts. Get it while you can.

Art Flavours Video Installed Rovereto

Art Flavours - Gelato Cart in action

Art Flavours - Gelato Cart in Action

Psycho Acoustics

26 July 2008

Sound of a helicopter in the darkness outside. Looping close and then away, scouring the streets I guess.

Once it’s gone I say tuned somehow and the more I listen the more I start to imagine that sound might be fundamentally different in the dark – clearer, crisper, more vivid. Is this just a piece of projection – something connected to the way sound magnifies in the imaginative space created by darkness? Or does night tend to bring atmospheric or other changes that objectively alter the transmission of sound?

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Memory of hospital visit. Lain on the gray raised vinyl-covered semi-articulated couch/bed thing that is temporarily ‘covered’ with a strip of what could be extra-wide kitchen roll. I’m wearing T-Shirt, underpants and ‘gown’ (starched backless rag that has been washed thin, a million times). My trousers are discarded in the changing room. The door out to the corridor is locked she says, so its ok to leave things in there, so I do, the trousers bunched in balance on a three legged stool. On the couch/bed I am lain on my back at first, then on my side. Latterly I’m curled towards the ultrasound suite and she’s rubbing the wand-thing along my legs, its progress (and conductivity) increased by the freezing cold gel she has slopped all over the skin. She’s looking for clots, pushing back and forth up and down the leg with the wand, sometimes smoothing with her hand, tracing the path of the veins, groin to ankle. The smoothing thing she does is about upping the pressure in the vein so she can see the flow better. For a few moments she has the sound of the ultrasound thing turned up… I can hear my heartbeat, hear the flow of the blood in the veins, hear the rushes as she moves the wand back and forth. Star Trek acoustics. Maybe she doesn’t need the sound, or maybe she only needs it for a while as she gets set up. Or maybe she thinks that sound is freaking me out. But in any case she turns it down after a while. We pass the next few minutes in silence, she’s working up and down my legs, her face intent on the screen, lit by it more or less, since the lights in the room are now dimmed. I watch her for a while… but then I realize that I’m trying to read her face, looking for reactions. The pauses she makes, or the adjustments she makes to the calibrations of the ultrasound; are they meaningful? Does she look worried? Or is she puzzled by what she is finding? Does her silence now seem different than the silence two minutes before? I realise this is a fools game and turn away – I’ll know soon enough. At that point, turned away, I am staring at the back/side panels of the Ultrasound unit, and looking faintly upwards to the underside of the monitor she is so intent on. What I’m seeing – face about 40-50 cm from it,  is the plastic moulding of the equipment, ventilation/cooling structures, cables, ports, a small plaque with technical info. I’m imagining that a lot of thought went into the design of the other side of all this, but that no one considered for too long that people in my position would have this strange perspective. It’s a vaguely Ballard moment, tempting as it is to fall into trance and trace the contours of the equipment, or to obsessively map the route of the ducting with the wires for the wand. It’s over soon though and I’m out of there as fast as I can dress and walk. Showering later the skin on my legs is still tight with the dried gel.

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A financial consultation. They ask how many kids I have, how old, their dates of birth and with a little bit of thought about the years I reply. The guy says “Some people are *really* unsure…. I had a bloke in here some weeks back who had to find out the birthdays of his kids by checking his tattoos. He just opened up his shirt and was reading off the dates…”

Installation

23 July 2008

Some notes from last week in Italy:

Boxes of materials marked urgent and fragile and urgent again piled all around. In the courtyard of brilliant sunlight people come and go, fetching carrying, workers and carpenters and painters and artists looking for this or that, or for someone that can help with this or that, labourers with shirts off carrying absurdly heavy crates or stacks or rolls of things, technicians, assistants all heading to and fro. Segmenting the space thru which these travelers pass at any moment there are the static forms of people arranged at a distance from each other and talking on their cell phones in a variety of languages. The artists labouring over the tarmac they are laying for an installation/construction – pitch melted, poured and then spread along the ground in an activity designed as if somehow to double the heat of the courtyard, whilst beyond them, in the distance at the very end of the courtyard, an Icelandic guy is stood alone in a moment of contemplation, with a paint brush in his hands, also upping the temperature, as he considers the not-yet-completed leaping red flames of hell that he’s busy depicting in a kind of mutant carnival/circus trailer style on a huge construction of wood. Here and there and everywhere you see piles of debris – timber, broken glass, the wrapping that a huge bale of material came in, or the strewn plastic tethers (hi tech version of string) that might once have held together poles or packages during transportation. Enter the shade of the building and the corridors take you past numerous rooms in which people are working – painting or constructing a wall, stacking timber, or focusing the beam of a video projector or arranging objects, or making patterns with the light from lamps or (for the most part really) engaged in some activity that is most likely work but which is impossible to figure at a glance, not knowing in any case what is being made or built or installed) or else, stood staring vacantly, lost in thought or wondering about the arrangement of things you cannot see, or else, again, very often not working at all or stood or walking or crouched and speaking into a cell phone in a variety of languages. As many rooms as there people working in there are at least as many again in which work has stopped, or perhaps not even started. Marie Celeste arrangements of tools, materials and water bottles. Piles of debris everywhere here – shredded cardboard, smashed timber, swept dust. At the top of a staircase a nest of old light-fittings, tangled like octopi, all metal curves and trailing cables. Outside a room nearby a discarded mess of polythene which unfurls or uncrumples as you pass it on successive journeys through the day, opening like a flower, whose ragged malformed petals are a surface smeared with paint in streaks, blobs, brush strokes and tangled footprints. Outside a further room there is foil of some kind laid out in a hurry which bears an unexpected harvest of cactus leaves arranged to dry, the spiked flesh wet with what might be rain (?). Empty rooms. Or rooms with boxes. Rooms with boxes, speakers, pots of paint empty and full, posts of filler empty and full, benches, plinths, trashed boxes, broken benches, broken plinths, unhinged doors, shattered chairs, improvised carpets of polythene and of newspaper, video monitors wrapped in plastic trailing headphones, SCART cables or speaker leads. Impossible to iterate it all. In yet more places work seem to have stopped half-way thru. Maries Celeste again. A piece of metal has been positioned and nailed into the wall to cover a hole, but the nails are only driven a short way into the wall. On some random corner a ladder leans against a wall, killing time. An extension cord is plugged into the wall but leads nowhere – the other end, with the socket, has been looped and lightly knotted over a window handle, as if this gesture alone might save it from being borrowed, stolen or otherwise taken away.

A Carpet of Dust

20 July 2008
Igor Eškinja - Dust Carpet

Just out of the opening throes of Manifesta 7 here in Italy. Thursday morning we were in Manifattura Tabacchi and ex-Peterlini in Rovereto, then moved on to Trento in the post office, then Friday to Fortezza and to the old Aluminium Factory in Bolzano. Pretty much an art overload on a daily basis, but lots of good work (and lots of bad).

The dust carpet piece (pictured above and below) by Croatian artist Igor Eškinja must be one of my favourite things in the whole show – transient, delicate, fragile, funny, beautiful in some way, and prompting strange performances of ‘taking care’ as people pass by it in the corridor where it is installed – a vulnerable object that really intervenes in space and changes action. At once a literalistation of a phrase (like much of Vlatka’s work) Eškinja’s piece also summons a thing from its own negative/residue (rugs collect dust, here is no rug, but the trace of one in dust), a pattern marked out in detritus.

Igor Eškinja - Dust Carpet Detail

Shadowplay

12 July 2008

We ate in some pub. It was London but some part between one and another – a not-quite-zone, ambiguous, hard to definite in its mix of houses, businesses, retail units, construction work, cobbled alleys and nothingness. The light and the sky above was pure Magritte for a while, vivid blue and unreal, later fading with the street to become a shadowy De Chirco.  Just down the road Crow said was a house in which Verlaine and Rimbaud had stayed for a while, a house of ill repute, whose blue plaque was now removed for reasons that could only be guessed at. History was always flickering then, in and out of existence, a story told one day and not the next, a story still whispered.

Outside the window, in the darkness/dim orange of distant streetlamps and moon, men were waiting on the street to catch plastic bin-liners crammed with rubbish dropped from the windows of the flat upstairs, the bags then laid out on the street like lines of slumbering figures hunched foetal for collection. A strange furtive sport – this dropping and catching of the bags – played in the shadows, and meant apparently to be observed only as if by chance, through windows as conversation proceeded inside…

Someone said that as a child all her dreams were bad dreams (and hence she grew to fear sleep, telling herself stories to stay out of it, pinching herself… trying all sorts of remedies but always falling in the end to that place where dreams would come, unwanted.)

Another seated at the table, with clear deep eyes, said that once, way back as a child, she’d dreamed that she’d pressed the button to launch the bombs to start the nuclear war. Months of guilt, maybe longer, for something that did not even happen.

The Broken World Website

11 July 2008
Broken World Website Image

My friend Mary Agnes and her team at byHand have been working on a simple website for my novel The Broken World. It went live yesterday, or thereabouts after a fair amount of conversations on the move, with Mary and I sat or stood or walking in different parts of the country (or Europe in general) saying things like “Have you got it on the screen in front of you?” or “I can only look at it on my phone” and talking about navigations and interfaces and backgrounds and cells. I had flashbacks of working on Frozen Palaces and Nightwalks more than ten years ago, downloading ridiculos huge QT movie files over a dialup from Germany in the office of a theatre and calling Mary to discuss in the fifteen minutes before a show started.

They’ve done a great job on The Broken World site. Text is fragments from the book, or new fragments related to it. Images, collages and design are by Mary et al, plus maps, a few tweaks and a handful of additional images from me. The one above I was esp pleased with. Interested to see what kind of traffic the site might get.I liked the working-diagram below quite a bit too, produced along the way – a map of the site, with links and representations of all the pages and the routes between them. Something about the sketch, and the miniatuarisation, and the representation of choices, that I really like. (File under: representation of the structure of a website devoted to a novel about the structure of an imaginary computer game).

Broken World Website Map

Neon London

8 July 2008

Starting tonight my neon Wait Here is being shown at a new project space Butchers run by Ben Borthwick and Cylena Simonds. Ben is an Assistant Curator at Tate Modern. Cylena is an independent curator and writer based in London. From 2004-2008 she was the Exhibitions Curator at Iniva. Butchers looks like it is going to be an interesting adventure.

Wait Here at Butcher’s, 183 Royal College Street, NW1 0SG, 9 July – 25 August. Viewing hours: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (but best after dusk!). Opening reception: Tuesday, 8 July, 6-8pm. Transport:   Camden Town tube/ Camden Road rail/ Regent’s Canal. Press text:

“Shown for the first time in London, Tim Etchells’s artwork Wait Here (2008) launches the opening of new project space Butcher’s on 9 July.

In his display for Butcher’s shop front window, Etchells’ red neon sign reads in full Wait Here I Have Gone To Get Help, suggesting an ominous event has taken place, the gravity of which we do not know. Passersby may wonder if the sign refers to an individual event, something that happened recently on the street or to a general state of the neighbourhood/country/planet.

But there is a tension between the language and materials of this artwork. The urgent call to wait is at odds with the fixed state of the sign. How long should we hold on? And how long has the situation (whatever it is) been going on? Is it getting worst while we wait? Will help come in time? If we leave, are we forsaking the possibility of help, even hope, in the future?

The absurdity of this dilemma is particularly appropriate for the launch of an unfunded non-commercial art space. Butcher’s identifies with Etchells’ piece in terms of its relevance to our immediate financial and organisational capabilities, but also as an oblique comment on the role of art spaces in the community. Will Butcher’s reaffirm a sense of community, or is it just another stage of gentrification?”

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Barbara Campbell pointed me to Ivan Grubanov’s website. She had just come across his paintings of empty stages. Apart from the connection to the Empty Stages photo-series Hugo and I are working on, I like the combination of the paintings with the rest of the work you can see there on Grubanov’s site, esp the images of a performance in which he speaks from a crane in front of the parliament building in Belgrade. I guess what’s effective to me is the contrast in the work between a political reality – charged, real – and the (perhaps equally dangerous) idea of something transcendent, other, outside.

Movie Collider

6 July 2008

# In situations like the Vietnam war, and violent inner city neighborhoods, the person with the most plans, prospects, and hopes will die.
# A dying person’s last words will always be coherent and significant.
# A good person will always die in the presence of friends.
# If a good person dies with his eyes open, a friend will close them, and they will remain closed. If a villain dies with his eyes open, no one will close them, and the camera will linger on his face.

The above from a long long list of movie cliches that Graham Parker pointed me to. Quite a nice text.

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Reeling, we cross to a similar chamber called the Compact Muon Solenoid. It is here that the famous “God Particle” may emerge. And it is here that they really mug me with concepts. They try to soften the blow by claiming that physicists find it difficult to visualise extra dimensions too. That’s easy to say when you’re packing 26 of them. They’ve got the maths. They can pull down extra dimensions whenever they want their equations to balance. You just have to accept them. That makes you vulnerable. Your rationality dissolves.

Also liked this account from Chris Morris about visiting the Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Switzerland.

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