false sense of complete control

29 November 2007

Wendy wrote from Australia re the lag and travel horrors, this time long haul – see my text version of something connected – motion stasis.

1st day: everything moving but with no discernible rhythm. 2nd day: the back of my body arrives. 3rd day: more breath but then a deep, deep emptying – almost like falling for hours. 4th day: rhythm coming back into the walk and a smile that means it. 5th day: the cartilage seems to connect up. 6th day: stamina returning with desire to walk for hours and hours. 7th day: tiredness that comes from being able to recognise sensation in the body. 8th day: deeper tiredness combined with desire to go out for a drink but not able to fulfil the desire due to tiredness. 9th day: false sense of complete control combined with ineffectual suggestions at work. 10th day: suppleness returns, along with appetite and real taste and ability to notice other people. I heard it takes a day for every time zone crossed so eleven days would be about right.


My pics from arrivals in Munich the other day.


Double Concept Album

My friend Graham Parker and I have been in an on-going conversation about spam, filtering and such like, mainly in relation to his art practice that’s often drawn on these things, and based on our mutual fascination with the poetical qualities of all the dadaist filter-busting stuff that the guys selling Vigara like to put at the bottom of their emails. A while back, in New York, we got to talking about the Storm botnet, and later Graham wrote with the fruits of some further digging:

“I thought you might like the following – a list of subject headers for the storm worm e-mails. It reads like a double concept album about War and Love:

230 dead as storm batters Europe.
A killer at 11, he’s free at 21 and…
British Muslims Genocide
Naked teens attack home director.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has kicked German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Russian missle shot down Chinese satellite
Russian missle shot down USA aircraft
Russian missle shot down USA satellite
Chinese missile shot down USA aircraft
Chinese missile shot down USA satellite
Sadam Hussein alive!
Sadam Hussein safe and sound!
Radical Muslim drinking enemies’ blood.
U.S. Southwest braces for another winter blast. More then 1000 people are dead.
Venezuelan leader: “Let’s the War beginning”.
Hugo Chavez dead.
President of Russia Putin dead.
Third World War just have started!.
The Supreme Court has been attacked by terrorists. Sen. Mark Dayton dead!.
The commander of a U.S. nuclear submarine lunch the rocket by mistake..
First Nuclear Act of Terrorism!.
So in Love
Happy World Religion Day!
Most Beautiful Girl
Someone at Last
I Believe
The Dance of Love
The Miracle of Love
All For You
Vacation Love
I am Complete
Wrapped Up
Moonlit Waterfall
A Little (sex) Card
A Special Kiss
Hugging My Pillow
Safe and Sound
You’re Soo kissable
A Romantic Place
Breakfast in Bed Coupon
For You
I Love You So
Want to Meet?
We Are Different
We Have Walked
You Asked Me Why”


28 November 2007

I went down the stairs and out the front door. Susan and Ellen were in the office talking. I didn’t say anything to them. I walked out the door and turned right.

What did you do then?

I walked to the corner. I thought about going straight down as usual, but instead crossed the street. I began walking up a slight hill to the Brown Quadrangle. I passed two people as I turned into the Quadrangle. I took a diagonal left, which would leave me out between two libraries.

Wait, I remember crossing the first intersection. I think there was little or no traffic.

After writing my slightly hysterical airport/journey post the other day, I checked mail and came across this piece by Alan Sondheim titled Memory of a Walk, quoted above. I don’t know Alan’s work that well, largely from his postings on Nettime some of which have been amazing. I really loved the blankness and calm of this recent piece –  mundane and enigmatic at the same time.


Bennun - Newspaper Stand Image

Had mail from Neil Bennun following brief previous entries here on Fénéon, the three line novel and newspaper sign-boards. Neil sent a bunch of images from his collection of newspaper sign-board pictures, including the one above. Writing to him reminded me of the book Suitcase Body Is Missing Woman by Eva Weinmayr (Bookworks, 2005) which presents a fantastic archive of Evening Standard newsstand posters arranged in alphabetical sequence.

Traced Onto The Paper

24 November 2007

About to enter 10 hours of questions and answers about art in The Frequently Asked. Thinking of this Henri Bergson quote from the performance/lecture by Lin Hixson and Matthew Goulish last night

“Chaos is just the structure you weren’t expecting to see.”

And of this exchange I heard the other morning, two friends discussing a potential colleague:

Y: Is she disorganised?

X: Let’s just put it this way; she is not in full control of the detail.

Y: [sceptically] What else is there?


Vlatka has a great story at 1001 Nights Cast, the first time she has written for the project.

Some Science

23 November 2007

This, about Peter Higgs and hopes that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will finally find the Higgs particle and with it help figure out the origins of mass, when it starts to smash protons into each other next year. There’s something fascinating to me about the view from now back onto 1960s science (be it computing, genetics or quantum) – the myth-making attention on the characters, their relations/rivalries/or lack thereof, the framework myth of science as a ‘gentleman’s game’, the universities and research almost-before corporations, the present view on almost-amateurism and ‘early days’ in those fields that now seem long-established, institutionalised, utterly central. Also, I love those narratives, like this one – about a thing ‘proved’ first as pure theory but which then waits decades in hope that instruments or experiments will back it up as observed reality. Of his long wait for a confirmation of his theory Higgs, now 78 said “I have to ask my GP to keep me alive”. I’m trying to figure out the possible relationships between that methodology (a theory waiting for proof) and art practice which so often (for me at least) starts by doing – action (words on paper or on screen, fooling around in the studio, arsing about with the video camera) first, and which then has to wait for a theory.

Also read an interesting article (via my friend the artist Graham Parker) from earlier in the year, about Microsoft Research teaming up with biomedical researchers in Seattle, Boston and Perth, Australia, to see if anti-spam computer techniques can also be used to help design an AIDS vaccine. Something gripping about this idea too, not least because of the material/linguistic aspect – research founded on a pervasive (but-in-the-end-arbitrary) instance of metaphor.

Finally this – more mythological territory in science – about reconstruction of the Collosus code-breaking computers at Bletchley Park.

Motion Stasis

21 November 2007

In which the day is fragmented entirely from dawn to dusk, to the point where nothing can be done with any of it. The dazed twenty minutes at home after waking and before leaving the house, the fifteen minutes walking to and then waiting for the bus, the ten minutes on the bus, then fifteen minutes waiting for the train. The journey itself – a bare hour of stopping-sevice, interrupted by two ticket inspections, plus your constant moving up and down so that other people can get on/off and in any case distracted by the fact that train is way too crowded, you’re hardly awake. Eventual arrival at an airport, the ten minute walk thru the terminal to check-in, the ten minute wait in line at check-in machine and then another fifteen at bag drop, the five minute walk to passport control and security, the further and much longer wait there, the more-or-less eventual ‘arrival’ at the top of the snaking security line, the depressing removal of objects from pockets and laptop from bag, the taking off of shoes and the transportation of all these things thru the magic security portal, the five minutes spent relocating all these bits and putting them back in the places where they were before. The walk towards the gates. Various pointless bits of extra or recreational waiting – to get a coffee, to buy some sticking-plasters, to buy something to read – then some pointless hanging around looking for wifi, and then waiting around for the gate to be announced, then a walk to the gate, a sit down and then a trip to the toilet and then some further pointless waiting stood in a line at the gate itself, in order to gain entry to the plane (higher seat numbers boarding first), and then – the non-surprise surprise – some further waiting just below the gate, now on a large grey bus into which everyone is packed, followed by its circuitous and slow driving to the plane itself, lumbering through fog or rain or brilliant sunshine or whatever’s on offer that day, then further waiting on the tarmac stood in line to file up the temporary steps and onto the plane, stowing your stuff, seating, belting, waiting for the safety demonstration, the taxi and take off. And on and on and on and on and on, and all in small chunks of utterly useless time, thru a long and endlessly fractured wait for a plane change in some other city, the entire boarding and disembarcation procedure repeated, eventual arrival and a taxi ride in the darkness of an invisible city to a hotel whose name you have forgotten as soon as you’ve checked in.

I don’t think I can do justice to it though, really. To the deadening core of it; the day’s hours passing in dried, sliced and dried form, each chunk of time you earn too small to do anything with – a distracted conversation by mobile phone, three snatched and unfocused pages of the book you were trying to read, two paragraphs of an email before the seatbelt light comes on and you have to shut-down. At a certain point – perhaps as the aeroplane dawdles with violent aimlessness around the runways in Frankfurt to the sound of its muzak ballads and banshee funereal jet-engines, you even try ‘thinking’, hoping to at least cross some mental ‘to-be-dones’ off your list in this cramped, ponderous no-man’s land. But even the thinking stalls, looping round, as you’re waiting for the announcements to finish or as you’re waiting for the baggage to crawl round in circles towards you on the slow-motion conveyor belt thing, your whole psyche sinking systematically through the day, down towards a nirvana of florescent-lit half-sleep, locked in your own skull and falling, in an eternal fucking delirium of motion stasis.

Vienna Dialogues

20 November 2007

Heading to TQW (Vienna) tomorrow for the Dialogues series put together by Adrian Heathfield and me. It runs Thur. 22nd – Sat. 24th Nov.

The Dialogues series.. is the continuation of their intensive analysis of the ambivalent tension between creativity and critical analysis. In Dialogues they explore the importance of the lecture performance for knowledge production in performance art. Paradigmatically, they not only present two lecture performances, but in a ten-hour marathon they also create direct encounters between artists, thinkers and curators, which is at the same time intended to be serious and playful, organised yet uncontrolled. Variants of public discourse are rehearsed around art and performance, with games and rules of relationships being explored on the basis of the most penetrating and productive questions. Dialogues produces the emotions of a live encounter within the boundaries of experience and thought.

Or something like that.

There will be a lecture/performance from Adrian and I called In So Many Words, and a lecture from Matthew Goulish and Lin Hixson of Goat Island, titled Every House Has a Door. Most exciting perhaps will be Saturday’s epic discussion event The Frequently Asked for which Adrian and I are joined by: Jonathan Burrows, Matthew Goulish, Lin Hixson, Janez Janša, Joe Kelleher, Bojana Kunst, Alastair MacLennan, La Ribot, Boyan Manchev, William Pope.L, Goran Sergej Pristaš, Alan Read, Irit Rogoff and Rebecca Schneider as well as by Hugo Glendinning (on the video cameras).

What has performance got to do with survival? What place do feelings have in art? Sixteen frequently asked experts from performance and other branches pose frequently asked questions on contemporary art. The spectrum of these questions includes the experimental and metaphysical, the practical and the hypothetical, the mundane and the absurd. The total playing time of The Frequently Asked is ten hours – a marathon in the formation of dialogue pairs each followed by discussion. The audience can join in the discussion and come and go at any time. Etchells’ and Heathfield’s play of questions makes good what Vilém Flusser already noted 20 years ago: “And no longer discourse but dialogue will structure future culture; that is, no longer ‘progress’ but mutual encounter.”

Real To The Eye

16 November 2007

Scientists are saying that the future is going to be far more futuristic than they originally predicted.

So says Sarah Michelle Gellar as porn star Krysta Now in Richard (Donnie Darko) Kelly’s new film Southland Tales. I like the world – absurdist sci-fi political conspiracy thriller meets California post-War-in-Iraq soap by way of Philip K. Dick, MTV’s The Grind and David Lynch – with some part of the styling done by Mike Kelly perhaps, and the whole thing hung on (or slung over) a preposterous rickety, comic book mash-up in place of a narrative. Plus there’s Justin Timberlake with a scarred face injecting himself in the neck with some weird drug (called Liquid Karma) that the US Military are supposedly testing on troops out in Syria, where the war in the Middle East has spread (this is all taking place in 2008, after the nuclear attacks in Texas, you understand) and later Timberlake off-his head lip-synching his way through the Killer's All These Things That I've Done in an amusement arcade, pouring Budweiser all over himself. What happened in Fallujah was… a mistake, he says. Good job some scientists have discovered a rift in space-time then. What did we do when we discovered the rift in space time? says one of them, pretty much rhetorically, to a puzzled Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, the former WWF wrestler, who here plays an amnesiac action-hero named Boxer Santaros. He does good puzzled-acting and looks at the scientist who spells things out nice and clearly; What did we do when we discovered the rift in space time? We sent monkeys through it. Very funny.

Kelly apparently had to chop the film down and add additional explicatory voiceover (as if explanation ever helped anything) after the previews last year at Cannes resulted in walkouts and boo-ing. Shame really cos even though its fun, clunky and weird, top-knotch transcendental quantum nonsense, enjoyably baffling and transparently stupid, what it really needs is to be wilder than it is. I could have done with a version that went further down the road the movie sets forth in – the much less travelled road – less explanation, less road-map and more hard-to-follow would be good. Or just plain crazier, more chaotic, careless or libidinously creative.


The replica Rolex watches I am being offered in spam these days are 100% real to the eye. How good is that?

File Under Rain

15 November 2007
Stezaker Mask

I have a new story at 1001 Nights Cast , written yesterday from the prompt paying for a bullet. Had fun with that. Many things came to mind but very content with the direction it took. I want to do more with the idea of spatializing time.


SoMe reasons to be in a bad Mood: (a) it is raining in New York (b) the M on My keyboard is fucked which Means that every single M I type has to be pressed with extra deliberation otherwise it refuses to appear, bringing a very unhelpful eMphasis and general self-consciousness to the whole writing thing today. Cleared endless aMounts of huMan hair, skin, dust and other unidentifiable stuff froM out under M, J, K, L, N and , on the keyboard but still no joy. M’s are hard right now.


Tony White wrote me about a test-publication of six mini-ebooks he’s done featuring excerpts from his fiction-in-progress working-titled Balkanising Bloomsbury. The ebooks arise from his recent residency with Proboscis, exploring the potential of their new Diffusion ebook generator.

These stories are great – I wrote about one of them here a while back – and were created by cutting up, remixing and re-narrativising fragments from different sources including E.M. Forster and the Milosevic trial. Some of these stories have appeared elsewhere already – the first of them Gobbledegook was written for the Croatian Nights anthology (Serpent’s Tail, 2005), whilst others, like Hyde Park, were done for 1001 Nights Cast. This is the first time though that they’re all gathered in one virtual place, along with notes from Tony on the writing process.

Assembling the ebooks can be a slightly fiddly job in my experience (I downloaded their series on Species of Space, way way back) but James at Booktwo has posted a nice video demo which helps with the origami.

Links here for GobbledegookHyde ParkDo You Hear That?, and Bottle Orchestra. Others can be navigated to on the Diffusion site, where you can find the first version of the Bibliography.


Tony also flagged that the John Stezaker Masks collages (one of which is above) will be at The approach W1, 74 Mortimer Street, Fitzrovia, London W1W 7RZ, 22 November – 19 January. These are amazing pieces, I wrote briefly about Stezaker here. Gallery is open: Tuesday-Saturday: 11-6pm or by appointment. I’d be happy with any of these as an Xmas gift if people want to club together.


M John Harrison started a nice discussion about the colour of Space Travel, following a Google search that led some poor soul to his site ‘what is the colour of the space travel?’. Next week – what is the taste of time travel?

Accumulated Sediment

10 November 2007

At the start of The Wooster Group‘s Hamlet: Scott Shepherd comes alone to the stage, calling for the projection of the tape, and starting on the dialogue, Act One, Scene One, with the first appearance of the ghost. All very low key, him sitting. The volume low.

Stay! speak, speak!

He’s alone aside from the screens, the usual functional-but-techy looking scenery, and the projection of the film. It’s some Richard Burton Hamlet film, from a 1964 Broadway production directed by Gielgud which was recorded in live performance then shown for only two days in 2000 cinemas across the US. The film was meant to be destroyed after this simultaneous ‘screening-event’ but Burton kept one copy and this – found in an attic after his death – has since been widely distributed. It’s this film – an unauthorized remnant of a single live action – which will ghost the whole of the night these 43 years later, as back-projection and as an immaterial imperative from the past that – like Hamlet’s dead father – endlessly lays down its demands on the bodies and the materiality of the present. Demand to do something. To vengeance. To action. Demand to move things onwards. A demand to both animate and dispel the past, in fact, by action in the present. A bringing forth, and, at the same time, an exorcism.

Speak. Speak. I charge thee, speak!

says Shepherd, demanding. The tape – imperfect, flickering, pixelating, jumping. He wants the past to speak. To speak to him. To speak through him to us. It’s a tough call. On the bare stage of the beginning of the piece it’s almost a joke, a farcical demand, but its a joke that over a stubborn two and a half hours becomes sonic/video-mixing poetry, gets somewhat mired in its observance of theatrical-narrative, and at times gets to be a tangible theatrical achievement.

Speak. Speak. The tape is manipulated, figures are erased, partly erased, reduced to hands, eyes or fighting swords. Figures are flicked in and out of existence, figures flicker on and off, in an out of static storms that are at times reminiscent of Bill Morrison’s Decasia: The State of Decay. Speak. Speak. He wants (they want, in the broader sense) to make the shell of the past re-animate, to articulate it into the present. A triple layering – a message layered over as it passes through time, from Shakespeare, to Gielgud/Burton, to the Wooster Group, with a few hundred thousand others in between. Maybe that’s what theatre (that theatre especially) is always (the animation of what was, through practice, into the present), and at the struggling heart of the Woosters’ Hamlet it’s the layered archaeology of this transaction (tyrannous and wonderful, empowering and not infrequently crippling) that is made visible at all times. Becomes material. A kind of technologically mediated, bodily, suddenly tangible Chinese-whispers. A virtuoso ventriloquism/dance, and a clumsy fight, with the past.

And then, today, I read this fragment from M John Harrison’s review of Stephen Venables’ book Higher Than the Eagle Soars, about being the first Briton to climb Everest without oxygen:

To Venables climbing is “a game where history is everything”. The real fascination of the Eiger North Wall, for instance, “is the accumulated sediment of human myth deposited on its ledges, ramps and infamous ice fields”. He’s quite contemptuous of the proclamation he heard at the 2005 Mont Blanc Bicentennial celebrations: “La montagne est un lieu où on se trouve face à face avec La Verité”. Far too French. You don’t climb on truth, you climb on the shoulders of giants, inside the culture – or conspiracy – of climbing.