Walking Double

30 December 2007

22 hours straight of traveling, with only fragments of sleep. For the rest delirium and boredom in incomplete measure. A movie you catch glimpses of in the darkness of the plane, miniature scenes without sound, floating in the seatbacks – rectangular stars in some blurred unknown or uncharted constellation. Another film you watch for maybe half an hour of before its in any case implausible plot turns to sleep or sand, or until the point at which the audio gets too broken by the insistent/cheery announcements of imminent landing and/or turbulence. Funny how the half finished stories are the ones that stay most inside you, barbed like fish-hooks, deep pathetic mysteries, lodged there in your consciousness. Even days later you can’t shake the overheard traces and vivid glimpsed figures which you take in osmotically throughout the journey; the whole burnt on the retinas, its soft parade of characters from stories you cannot properly read, and cannot either write. The stewardess with the pinched blank face. The grinning lumbering ogre/guy in white jeans, white sweat-shirt and white parka,  grinning at something you can’t decipher. Overheard dialogues. The kind-of-cute girl who, on the walkway to the plane, tells the inquiring-older-traveller that she works in D.C, actually, spent Xmas in London and is now heading to Split for New Years. The young woman who is calling some guy that she met here (or there?) on another trip and whose friend she just bumped into on the flight, leaving him a long message as she stands in baggage reclaim, explaining that she was in Argentina when he called her last month and that she hopes they can maybe connect in Germany. It’s all possibilities, incompletions, other people’s longings. On the longhaul portion of the journey there’s a brutal alternation of heat and cold, darkness and light (unfiltered sunlight and blinking florescent) in which the blindfold functions not so much as a means to block out disturbance as a diabolical partly-elasticated tourniquet for the brain. Editing consciousness, but badly. The visuals are cut, but the audio continues, ceaseless and tedious, even past the triple filter of red wine, engine drone and ipod. A baby crying somewhere up front. Low level bickering of a couple nearby. Long discussions between members of the crew and another passenger seated somewhere back and to your right whose repeated complaints about shooting pains in her neck, shoulder and left arm lead to speculation about if they should or should not disembark her in London for medical attention (starts in a barely controlled panic, ends with the Steward making either recommendations about physiotherapists in Nairobi or jokes about how he is *not* going to do CPR on this flight thank you very much). Or the long conversation between three other passengers seated on your immediate left on a later plane (two guys and a woman) about various pseudo-religious experiences they have had involving strange feelings, premonitions and mysterious lights etc. One of them talking for a long time about a set of green, yellow and blue lights he saw hovering outside one time, the lights moving in the sky, moving up and down, then eclipsing the sun, how his wife saw the same thing, controlled mechanical movement of the lights in the sky, could not have been a plane, clear as day, he went inside. In the bedroom he saw a miniature version of the same lights. They moved across the room he said and slowly traced a path up towards a crucifix they had on the wall. Green, yellow, blue. He could not explain. In the end you’re left with the pair of kids that boarded the plane in Split, the first looking grim, with one eye covered entirely with single sticking-plaster, the second looking brighter but carrying (ominously) a battered box containing the hospital game ‘Operation’ (ages 6 and up), or with the figure of a much older guy, in brown leather jacket, sat on a railing whilst waiting for his luggage in Zagreb, eyes only partly hidden by his aviator shades, his raised hand, his balding head and the start-up haze of smoke from his cigarettes. Your companion tells you that this is the Croatian Frank Sinatra, the famed singer idol of her parents generation. Unless he’s dead, in which case this guy before you now, alone in any case, traveling now without an entourage, is just the spitting image of him, the walking double of his previous and now faded glory.

[See a somewhat related text from some while back. This also seems relevant]

Gone Now & Always Here

28 December 2007

Reading notes on a busker I saw here in NY maybe two years ago.

 At Astor Place, a semi-destitute/derelict looking white guy in his late 40s with greasy hair and an old army jacket, two pairs of trousers (the top pair all ripped).. Classic homeless couture….. Singing into a ghetto blaster thru a crap mic as the tape machine plays karaoke versions of (mainly) Rolling Stones songs… one song on each tape. An amazing voice and a presence that’s half neurotic drunk guy and half top-of-the-bill showbiz. He’s never quite 'going for it' in any case; he’s always held back, always a kind of lounge-singer irony (the street as a lounge), and a clumsy off-handedness to his manner; a bottle of mineral water in one hand, the mic in the other. Low centre of gravity. Mostly he is just head down, eyes down, singing – bent forwards and into himself. From this curled private place he’s sometimes coming out – arm extended in line with his shoulder or higher, the hand making a loose fist or an idle point – in one sense just marking and holding these kind of shapes which are the rhetoric of ‘singing’, but marking them so perfectly that they function 100%. The opposite of his bent-in thing is a ‘coming out and at em’ routine – a sudden switch of intensity and focus to the crowd, which, since he’s on the street, means singing to people or to the disappearing backs of those who are walking by – playing lines directly to them with a kind of careless, half-wrecked brilliance. Very smart. And his voice has everything. In between the phrases of his singing he’s bending to fiddle with the ghetto blaster – repositioning it slightly, causing feedback, looking in his tape bag, taking a drink of water. I am watching, entranced by this amazing performance that’s not really in art but which is in something else, and all the better for its lack of ‘proper place. I’m so thrilled in fact, and of course very busy trying to work out if some part of the charm of what he’s doing could be used in a show! When he leaves, he empties his bucket of dollar bills into his pockets, still singing as he does so, missing the mic at some points, hoists the ghetto blaster on his shoulder, the music still blaring and exits across the street, thru the traffic, still singing.. as if to the cars…


S. comes in to sit next to me as I'm writing, asking for breakfast (Cheerios) and a notebook so that he can write down his Theory About Time. Everything in the future, he writes, is already happening now.


25 December 2007

For some reason they were re-checking everyone at the gates – passport and boarding cards, just before entry to the plane. As we get to the top of the line the guy doing security, says right away to the kids, looking at their passports, ‘So, two Sheffield lads eh?” and they say yes, nodding, a little hesitant, not sure what this is about. He bends and says to S. “Which team do you support? Blades or Owls?” and S. looks at him for a moment and says Blades. He only dimly cares about football I think but he knows this is the team, and the one that M. used to support back when he was really into football. The security bloke says “Good answer” then he turns to speak to the airline person stood next to him, “Let’s sort out some better seats…”

As new boarding cards appear to be printing he pulls his jumper up to show that beneath it, on his tie, he has a small Blades tie-pin. “They wont let me show this” he says looking round mock-conspiratorial  “all the rest of them here are from down South”. And then he gives us the new paperwork. I’m a bit unclear or confused what he’s done exactly, if anything, so I say thanks to him as we enter the walkway  but not anything excessive, just like “oh cheers..” or something like that. When we get to the door of the plane though they direct us left.. and we’re shown not to seats but to the lovely booths/folding couches, insanely comfortable with all the legroom in the world and we’re instantly being plied with champagne and people that want to hang our coats somewhere. S. has a sudden excited spike in his football supporting enthusiasm and as the personal-service continues apace whispers to me in a joking/ impressed kind of way that “Now we have butlers…”As we fly I keep thinking of this guy – wishing that I’d said thanks in a proper way – and wondering also about these kind of spaces inside jobs that allow you to subvert them by being randomly nice to people.


Unreality Mapping

22 December 2007

Overheard at the Starbucks:

If you ever saw the episode where they all have cup cakes at Magonolia Bakery, well I live about half a block from there.


Meanwhile Vlatka has been working on some amazing things for her show in January 2008 at White Columns in New York. Here are three of the works-in-progress.

Vlatka Horvat Work In Progress1 Vlatka Horvat Work In Progress
Vlatka Horvat Work In Progress 3

New York Miscellany

21 December 2007

Arrived in New York with the kids flying first class following a surprise upgrade I will write about tomorrow.


Missing Mike/M John Harrison out here on the internet following his decision to lower the shutters over at his blog Uncle Zip’s Window. Reading Mike there has been such a pleasure and an inspiration. Watching his evolving collection of writing fragments, thoughts on fiction and the process of making it, autobiographical stuff, found fragments etc was one of the things that kicked me into writing here. Mike’s going out with some nice stuff about his central theme of worldbuilding – his persistent championing of the delirious, and essentially linguistic space and possibilities of fiction as opposed to the ‘thought-through’ and supposed internal coherence of so much science fiction has been great to read.


I’m liking the images of this work by Joshua Callaghan very much. Also this project by the same artist – a rather small looking collection of ‘good news stories’ clipped from an L.A. newspaper during the course of 2004 – everything from dog survives two weeks in a pit, to a potential cure for nicotine addiction.


Arts Council of England has been ‘cleaning-house’ rather vigorously in its latest funding awards announced a week ago. DCMS/Government gave them standstill plus inflation but ACE warned that this would necessarily be passed directly (or as a matter of course) to their RFOs (regularly funded organisations). In a pretty drastic cull, it looks like over 200 organizations have been given notice that they’ll be ‘dis-invested’ come April 08. (This dis-invested is pretty abysmal ugly euphemism of a word, even in quote marks). In selfish terms Forced Entertainment got what it wanted from the latest round – an inflation linked increase over the next three years – so our own work to redefine the ‘distribution of the sensible’ is safe for now, but there were plenty of cuts that will undoubtedly cause questions. Organisations slated for ‘disinvestment’  have until next Feb to appeal, and as the Guardian noted already “petitions will be springing up all over the land”. I wrote my first letter of support last weekend already – for Station House Opera – whose maverick work of reinvention at the intersection of theatre, visual arts and architecture has always been valuable to me as perceptual shift, and provocation. Station House’s relatively modest grant (for core costs) has been cut to nothing – a move which, if not reversed, may prove terminal for them.

Just Working

13 December 2007

This from my brother M:

Way busy in work putting in railway sleepers on the upright to hold a bank up after we cut a track thru a field. A hundred and thirty so far and a shit loada concrete. Young fella owns the propert, 26 years of age. Grandad left 25 mill to him. He gets up, smokes a rolly, has a coffee, plans his games room, clears the ice off his range rover by remote from his back door, and goes back in. o yeah, then the dog comes out for a shit next to my pick up. He stayed in for a year when he first got it and smoked weed. Brains gone a bit now I reckon, nice enough lad, but fuck me. Been cold here. Fingers like digits of a monkey at the mo. Smell naught but creosote from sleepers. Chainsaw has made me deaf and blind from the shit in them. Just moanin bra, just moanin.

This from Kate:

I have promised myself bed by 12.30 so I’m on the clock. Things are going well here though it feels like eternal night – we spend the light hours and much more in the studio working.. it must be equinox soon from what I can see through the curtains. The studio is painted all black, with ceiling arches so that some places on stage you hear yourself in echo (discouraging when ‘acting’). I am half expecting bats. The group in good spirits.For some reason in the last days I am remembering that trucker [in Now Not Moving at 1001 Nights Cast] often – the one you described scratching his family on a napkin in the middle of the forest. Something about being on the road and really not sure that any other recent life is actually current or existent. And trying to rebuild it in your imagination sort of burns it out, or flattens it into stick figures…

Ha! my father just Skyped from the garden in New Zealand! He held the computer up so I could hear a blackbird singing in sun.

Stayed Up All Night

12 December 2007

Hugo (see below) also nodded me towards these short youtube clips (here for example and here) promoting Douglas Coupland’s new book The Gum Thief. I’ve been thinking and talking to some people on what to do for my novel The Broken World when it is published by Heinmann next year; these are pretty good though it has to be said that as diverting book-promo Miranda July’s site for No One Belongs Here More Than You still takes some beating – as long as you don’t mind trashing your refrigerator.


Listening to: El-P I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead.

Stand out line so far:

“I may have been born yesterday, sir, but I stayed up all night.” 


Power-cut disconnected the lights in the kitchen, while I was away but its all restored now. Only the digital clock on the cooker remains unstable – like time has been broken somehow. Glimpsed from outside the house in the dark and the cold the kitchen is lit by its hyper manic blinking on and off – seems more random than is plausible. An unheard electrical storm is raging – the electronics are haywire but still the scene proceeds. Sheet lightning in miniature. A room filled with an incoherence of tiny blue flashes.

From Above

11 December 2007

Back in Paris. From above the people on the ground below looked like hieroglyphs.

from above
from above again


10 December 2007

Hugo wrote me from Paris:

Yesterday we went to a small puppet theatre in the Jardinde Luxembourg where a version of Little Red Riding Hood was playing. As I sat there I realised that it was not only the same theatre that Truffaut used in 400 Coups but also exactly the same show. The first 4 rows are for children only and the call and response section threw up all those same faces and laughs and confusion that are visible in those clips we borrowed [for video-backdrops in one section of] Instructions For Forgetting.

The benches are the same too. Afterwards we asked the manager – whose father started the theatre in the thirties and made 3 or 4 and those same shows have run ever since…

Empty Stage picture to be done for sure…