30 August 2007

To Brussels tomorrow (and then by car to Gent) for a re-rehearsal with the cast of That Night Follows Day, which starts to tour again very soon. Rotterdam is first, Graz is second. Looking forward to seeing it again. Victoria have done a four-language edition of the text – looks great – I just got proofs of the cover. Photo by Phile Deprez.

That Night Follows Day Cover


Going Back

29 August 2007
J.G. Ballard from Shanghai Jim

I keep trying to think what would have happened had the war not taken place. I would have gone on living here [at Amherst Avenue], and probably would have gone on living in Shanghai. So I see around me here a sort of alternate life that I never actually managed to live because of the war.

Just came across this impressive website called Ballardian, devoted to all things J.G. Ballard.

The top item currently is a long review/reading of a 1991 BBC4 documentary called Shanghai Jim. I remember watching this documentary (quoted above), when it came out I guess, around the time they released The Kindness of Women. The frame for Shanghai Jim – which touches on events from Empire of the Sun – is that Ballard goes back to the city for the first time since just after the war – revisiting the camp in which he and his family were held, the house that they lived in and so on. There’s something very interesting about this process of return/revisiting, I think partly because going back to anything, is such an elusive experience, and because it’s so very resistant to capture, especially in the visual field. I mean what part of that complex, webbed, uncanny feeling of time-passed and time-collapsing can be captured on film? Very little, although David Lynch might get close to it, at least as on-form as he is Inland Empire. Even on the grainy youTube of Shanghai Jim though there is something extremely compelling about Ballard, in his super-well-spoken/unruffled/well-mannered way, navigating his way through the locations of his own past, sat out-of-place and out-of-time in his white blazer and his hat, top shirt-buttons undone, in the tiny room of Lunghua Camp’s G block in which he, his parents and his sister were interned for nearly three years. “This little room…” he says, looking around “..is in fact probably as close as I’ll ever come to home, surprisingly…

Make Things Happen

28 August 2007

Discussing Tom McCarthy’s book Remainder with Hugo, which I wrote about already here. As we’re talking we get on to artists and Hugo’s describing a conversation he had with Paola Pivi, whose extraordinary staged scenes, often involving displaced animals, or large objects or people, in relation to extreme or unexpected landscapes, he has often worked on with her. Paola’s is the donkey in the motorboat stranded motionless on a flat sea, the helicopter overturned and rested on its rotorblades, the pair of zebras stood in the mountainous snow, the alligators turned and swirling in lakes of cream. H. says that sometime ago Paola wondered aloud to him if, aside from the demands of having to make tangible work, she might prefer not to photograph these scenes at all – confirming in the end that she’d rather just stage them as events; to organise the logistics, make things happen and then simply sit back to watch.

I wondered since about the difference between the compulsion to write something into existence and the compulsion to actually make something happen. Perhaps there isn’t so much difference as one might think, at least if you believe what Burroughs wrote in The Adding Machine, where he sees writing as kind of magical or political practice that makes things happen in consciousness, in order to see those same things made manifest at some future point; that “the purpose of writing“, he says “is to make things happen“.


Somehow related (I think).

In Berlin at the weekend during the artists talk/discussion at HKDW, William Pope L. said something like this (any error caused by my slow typing):

I guess I’m interested in making interventions inside people’s heads.
Kind of like neuroscience for theatre. That would be good you know – to build a sculpture actually inside peoples consciousness… and then do shit in there.

(Works best if you can imagine the ironic (?) mad-scientist glee with which William laughed after saying this).


Some Reports

25 August 2007

From Devon M. wrote this:

All ok here apart from a couple of hours in a and e on Friday. A chain of
events, pick, concrete, eye, concrete. Bleeding eye. Nice. N was only asking
for a story with bleeding eyes the other day (true) so I came home and he
got a live one. All ok but v sore and I look like a terminator abt to be
mashed, or mid mashed. Light is a problem at the moment.

 Meanwhile, in post Apocalypse Liverpool:

I'm a Nogadog, me. I've been one for four years and I'm 17 now. I thought it was a good thing when I was young. It was all my mates. You are just a Nogzy soldier. We are all Nogzy soldiers.

More here


Promises, Passwords and Signals

23 August 2007
John Baldessari



















Beautiful Robert Smithson drawing at the amazing Ubuweb. Also nice list-work from Bruce McLean and the John Baldessari as proto-Bart above. I am going to lose myself in there sometime when I get near a decent connection (see below).


I am stood in the narrow part of the hotel room, right up by the door, with the laptop raised above shoulder height and turned at a slight angle in order to catch the ghost of the fucking wifi signal that haunts this annex. I have resorted to this only in desperation after the previous tactic of shifting position slightly on the bed for fifteen minute periods failed to find the tiny pocket of signal that sometimes can be found there, tangled in the sheets. If you get this message please come and get me. I am in room 133.


From the train, coming here, days ago.

The kid I can’t see who’s sat behind us says:

But you cant be scared, because it is your voice.

And then later:

Mum can’t turn her voice into your voice.


Automatically generated:

Please note that your temporary password for the ****** System is: starsshame

The password is case sensitive.
Your UserId has been sent in a separate email.


21 August 2007
Vlatka Hovat - This Here and That There

Vlatka is getting ready for her eight-hour performance This Here and That There at HKDW in Berlin, this Friday. I am helping her prepare which means for the most part I am sitting in the sun and watching her. Sometimes, with the stop watch on my phone, I have to time how long it takes for her to shift the 50 chairs into a new arrangement. The tech guy is great but he’s reluctant to believe that she wants to move the chairs all around the building on her own – he has someone that can help her. Vlatka says no; her shifting the chairs is the piece. He says OK, but he adds that there’s someone scheduled to be there – so its really OK for her to change her mind.

Shooting Baskets

20 August 2007

Late last night in a hotel room at Heathrow before a very early flight this morning. The non-neighbourhood of the airport, a featureless maze of bunker-buildings, offices, and thrown-up hotels, these offering luxury as approximated by guidelines from central planning (= leather-look sofas, foyer coffee franchise, 'art on the walls', and overpriced wifi).

Outside the roads are named as if they're the residential streets of some generic suburb, although here, even more than there, the names serve more to make them seem less like real places, not more. It's a weird vibe right now in the non-area anyhow. When we arrived in the late afternoon we passed an especially non-descript building (think above-ground annex to an underground car park), ringed with the grim garland of guys bearing riot shields, their heads hidden in helmets and visors. The HQ of the BAA apparently, and near it the shrub surrounded car park, with protestors hemmed in. Tents and polythene shelters. A scale model Glastonbury but no stage. After dusk the anonymous mini-roads are haunted with stray climate change protestors spilling out from the temporary camp nearby, also vans of cops in uniforms and yellow-flouro jackets, many of the latter parked up at the drive-in McDonalds, enjoying a chat, the night, a break in the fighting and the rain. Much later in the night, when we pass the small encampment again, one lone guy at its floodlit periphery is bouncing a football, shooting baskets to a non-existent hoop against a high and security-camera-ed wall.

It Still Counts

16 August 2007

"It still counts, even though it happened when he was unconscious.."

Some kind of unofficial Miranda July week at my house, for no particular reason. I've been reading her short story collection No One Belongs Here More Than You (which incidentally has a very nice and much pointed-to website), then yesterday watched Me, You and Everyone We Know, the 2005 feature film she wrote/directed/performs in. The film's not based on the book, but the tone, the broad feel of the world and the kinds of figures in it are pretty close.

Predictably the big switch from one to the other is interior to exterior – characters whose (narrating) heads we'd be totally trapped inside in the stories are more like passers-by in the film; quirky strangers, seen at some distance. The depth of the protagonists' dysfunction, their deep misapprehensions and delusions about the world, the traps they've built for themselves (in language and bad logic) are the space we live in on the page,  dense, tangled and interior, where the movie (think alt-lite) is forced to show everything as external action and symptom.

I missed the first-person voices (she's great at them and it's not quite the same when rendered as mono or dialogue), though the only-just-tenable situations, caught in fragile stasis or suspension, are still there. The stories reminded me vaguely of what I was doing with Forced Entertainment in The Voices  a few of the monologues from which also made their way into the videos Kent Beeson…, So Small and Erasure. July's stories are lighter touch, more complex dynamic structures though. There's a combination of comedy and darkness to the characters, as though in amongst the urban/suburban absurdity, something terrible, cruel or violent, or something disproportionately sad is always lurking. Even when the stories drift through quirky towards cute or cookie there's enough of this foreboding to make them feel much more substantial. I like the stories a lot – The Swim Team is current favourite.