Scale of Intensity

30 September 2008

Ant sent this yesterday, vaguely re The Broken World, which he’d just finished reading, but also somewhat in line with the apocalyptic markets meltdown we’ve had crashing around our media eyes and ears these last few days. I hadn’t come across Don Patterson before – I liked this quite a lot and I’m about to start looking for more.

The Scale of Intensity / by Don Patterson.

1. Not felt. Smoke still rises vertically. In sensitive individuals, déjà vu, mild amnesia. Sea like a mirror.

2. Detected by persons at rest or favourably placed, i.e. in upper floors, hammocks, cathedrals, etc. Leaves rustle.

3. Light sleepers wake. Glasses chink. Hairpins, paperclips display slight magnetic properties. Irritability. Vibration like passing of light trucks.

4. Small bells ring. Small increase in surface tension and viscosity of certain liquids. Domestic violence. Furniture overturned.

5. Heavy sleepers wake. Pendulum clocks stop. Public demonstrations. Large flags fly. Vibration like passing of light trucks.

6. Large bells ring. Bookburning. Aurora visible in daylight hours. Unprovoked assaults on strangers. Glassware broken. Loose tiles fly from roof.

7. Weak chimneys broken off at roofline. Waves on small ponds, water turbid with mud. Unprovoked assaults on neighbours. Large static charges built up on windows, mirrors, television screens.

8. Perceptible increase in weight of stationary objects: books, cups, pens heavy to lift. Fall of stucco and some masonry. Systematic rape of women and young girls. Sand craters. Cracks in wet ground.

9. Small trees uprooted. Bathwater drains in reverse vortex. Wholesale slaughter of religious and ethnic minorities. Conspicuous cracks in ground. Damage to reservoirs and underground pipelines.

10. Large trees uprooted. Measurable tide in puddles, teacups, etc. Torture and rape of small children. Irreparable damage to foundations. Rails bend. Sand shifts horizontally on beaches.

11. Standing impossible. Widespread self-mutilation. Corposant visible on pylons, lampposts, metal railings. Waves seen on ground surface. Most bridges destroyed.

12. Damage total. Movement of hour hand perceptible. Large rock masses displaced. Sea white.

Right Kind of Light

26 September 2008

A while back I wrote a short text for Arne Fork whose project with Co>Labs/Travel Light – Not The Right Kind of Light For a Magic Act – opens 2,3,4 October at WUK in Vienna. The process of the piece began from open invites to a group of writers who were given cart blanche in responding to the theme of disappearance, with the extraordinary story of artist Jan Bas Adder as a further reference point. No idea what twists and turns the process of the project has taken thus far, or if my narrative below will be in it or if it simply hovers somehow as deep background. Certainly though I’ve ended up donating the title, which comes from a line in my text.  Here’s what I wrote.

El Mucho

From out of the window you can see where kids on the wasteground that is mainly bricks and concrete have set on fire to something that used to be a car. The flames have burned up higher and then a bit higher and are now reaching up to the tree that stands there. No one could know what a tree was doing out on there anyways, they were always wondering about it and Kids were always swinging on it and climbing it right up there for no good reasons to see what was going on around which was probably not much. Now the branches are on fire. You cannot see any kids just now anyways that is for sure. Maybe they hiding somewhere or probably they all runned back to the houses. If it rained the fire in that car would go out but it will not rain for a longtime I think according to internets, so the fire will just continue along and maybe then the petrol tank will explode and fire will be everywhere. I mean I do not know if a petrol tank does really explode like that you know bang and whoosh, like how it does in a movie, or if they always just make it that way for things to be more exciting. You got to have some exciting in a movie but on a wasteground it does not matter so much if it is exciting or not. Who cares? Who is even watching a wasteground. Only nobody, only some guy or whatever looking out at a window. But for a movie it has to be exciting cos people paid a ticket or wasted a lot of time trying to get there to the movie theatre so maybe that’s why the petrol tank explode the whole time in a movie like that to send the flames right out in a ball of explosions. Now through the heat haze of the burning and the sun you can see two of the kids out there though. One is the one called Kaya,  you can always hear people calling out her name the whole time like they looking for her or she done something wrong and the other one that they call him El Mucho, I do not know why, he is a skin and bone thing he is not that much of Mucho if you ask me. Anyway. They are behind the car that is burning, more far off from the window, you cannot see what they are doing really. They are always fooling those two like playing games with a stick and stone or a big blanket out of industrialised polythene they found it somewhere or salvaged it off a vehicle that got abandoned at a road block. That Kaya makes out like she is a big boss of everything but mostly she just get in trouble and Everything does not pay any attentions to her except El Mucho though, he follows her round like a shadows, does all what she says, makes an echo in the world of the things she tell him to do. He will do anythings, that is what the other kids say and laugh at him for or throw discarded batteries or stones in his direction, or sprinkle chips of broken windscreen glass at him from up above like a cruel snow. Now they are playing in a wardrobe – Kaya and El Mucho. There is all kind of shit out there on the wasteground. Some of it just get dumped there – I mean I guess shit has to go somewhere. Some things is what people were dragging across toward houses to salvage somehow and then they got shot or planes came over or security patrols came by and they had to abandon it thinking ok ok they come back later but they did not come back so in the morning when light comes there is like a 3 Piece Sofa sitting there in a concrete middle of nowhere or a big box of canned groceries in a vastness or puddle of nothingness. Mostly that kind of stuff disappears before too long in any case cos someone else goes out to get it, but some stuff it just stays there a long time like no one wants it and no one even bothers to think about it until the rain comes and breaks it down or the kids that are in league with the rain break it down with their feet or their hands. Like one time there were books out there. Boxes and boxes, you could not see the cover and they end up all over the place all rip up and torn up by the kids and left to mush from the Rain. Anyway. Kaya and El Mucho are playing at the wardrobe. I see them play this game before. I do not understand what it is with them because to me they do boring shit. One goes in the wardrobe. Then the other one close the door and run around obviously yelling ya-ya-ya-ya-ya about one thing and then about another but you cannot hear it they are too far away. Then that one that was yelling opens the door and makes out like the other one disappeared. Like it is all a big  magic act. They play at that dumb shit a long time, taking turns. It is easier for El Mucho to fit in there than Kaya that is for sure. Now they play again. El Mucho goes inside and Kaya walk around like she explaining everything to the crowd that does not even exist, all waving arms and like on a Magic Show all ya-ya-ya-ya-ya and ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya but watch out, while she does that the petrol tank is exploding which at last answers the question about movies from before. If you wait an answer will come along. It is like a bang very loud that it shakes the glass on the window and it does that fireball thing exactly like Movies and the thick black smoke also and a lot of kids come suddenly running out of houses. Afterwards Kaya is lied like a doll where the explosion threw her up and down. And some kid that knew her is touching her with a stick but she not moving. Other kids are running about yelling El Mucho, El Mucho, El Mucho. They go all directions. Mucho, El Mucho. Yelling and chanting his name like that is gonna help and the flames die down and the smoke goes up and around and still they cannot find El Mucho. You do not notice how blue the sky is some days till you see the smoke against it. Anyways. At first none of the kids think to look in the wardrobe that is still standing there like a exhibition of ‘wardrobe’ in the middle of vast nothingness plus burning car, tree and assorted other crap. They do not think to look in the wardrobe and the door of it does not open either. No sign from it. No sign of Mucho. You just see a lot of kids running around. Four of them try to lift Kaya just like it says not to in a first aid manuals. But it does not really matter cos she is dead anyways and when they carry her away towards the houses, held between them like a miniaturised drunken sailor abducted by a ragged army of starving midgets in clothes that do not fit them, you can see that her entrails are dragging out behind. A few kids are like disgusted, miming sick faces but other ones make like they seen it all before and get bored, wander off. Takes a while till they pretty much all gone. Just the junk or stuff down there strewn around and the fire that mostly died out now and the tree that is blackened is all that’s left when the light starts to fade and you can see the stars. Later some soldiers truck by in a Jeep, they have the weapons training on anything that moves or does not move. You can see they laughing in that language they speak. Ha ha. One points his gun at the tree, another at the sky, another at the wardrobe. This last guy he suddenly fires like fifty times – bang bang bang. The others are all laughing and punching him at the shoulder cos he’s wasting Ammo and he will only draw fire from the houses. Whatever. He stops. The wardrobe is filled with all holes. How can you fill something with holes? People wonder about that. A hole is a nothing. You cannot fill something with a nothing. You cannot fill something with a ‘not thing’. Anyway it is too complicated, it is getting late, too late for things that are too complicated. When dusk comes down fully there is just one kid left on the wasteground, this one in a yellow dress-thing, a kid called Yara that slightly knew El Mucho from a time they were in a summer camp together before everything happened and she is apparently concerned where El Mucho went to so she is walking around and you can guess she is telling his name again and again but you cannot hear it, again, because of the distance involved. She is only a kid and her voice does not really travel far when it is night and when they light is fading and the stars are coming out. I guess it is pretty late by now when she has the good idea to look in the wardrobe, that is anyhow shot filled with holes. She opens the door and looks inside. El Mucho should be there of cause. He should probably by lying in a corner of it all slumped and dead. Or like he should be stood inside the wardrobe, stood in a shape fixed rigid by fear, the soldier bullets tracing a miraculous outline to him, a magic survivor. But the fact is all different than what it should be cos El Mucho is not there at all. He is not in there or anywhere around. There is no traces of him in the wardrobe or out of it. In fact you can make a list of all the places in the world and a list of all the places that are not in the world and that motherfucker is not in any of them. Yara in the yellow dress-thing does not know that. She is puzzled. She is like that magician assistant that open the door at a finale to show that the other assistant came back but it does not work. Just a empty wardrobe. I mean he is gone. Vanished. But she does not do it good, not with the right kind of attitude or gesture or smiles. She just open the door look in there and then shrug once, and shut it again, not with proper excitements. You can see that the light is really going by this point. It is really not the right kind of light for a magic act and maybe cos she can sense that Yara walks off clumsy back towards the houses and you can imagine the credits for that Magic show should scroll at that point, with the names go by so fast you cannot read them while the music plays and the screen goes dark.


25 September 2008

Guardian piece on the forthcoming Baader-Meinhoff movie quotes Jan Schulz-Ojala’s accusations about it in Der Tagesspiegel – that the film’s producers are operating as a “history waste management machine”. Loved this line from Schulz-Ojala: “They’re taking the radiation waste of the nation and burying it in the dumping ground of moving pictures.” In a cynical moment you could take that for a description of a much broader and widespread cultural/political process.



Some while back I contributed to a publication project Fools In Print edited by Lucy Keany, and including work by a whole bunch of other artists such as Ryan Gander, Matt Keegan, Graham Parker, Hayley Newman etc as well as the lovely Vlatka Horvat. Themed around “the virtuoso, ad-lib, timing, humour, one-man shows, dancing strategies, desperation, wannabes, Live Art, music and new technologies, audience, [and] glitches”.


Over at Ambiente Hotel Mike Harrison has been on a powerful jag lately of posting rather beautiful and harsh fragments – dense little kernels of narrative and atmosphere that may never need to be expanded, perfect as they are in this boiled and tangled form. Check out the narrative fragments here and here, the imaginary reviews here and here, and my favourite – a kind of prose poem that eats itself – here.


21 September 2008

I've become pretty much oblivious to the twists and turns of the daily tide of phising/malware spam, but the spectacular appeal to morbid prurience in what's below woke me up.

On Internet forums there appeared messages of a powerful explosion at a United Kingdom nuclear power station located in the suburbs of London.. According to witnesses’ statements the explosion happened at about 3 pm on the 9th of September. In particular, one resident of this town has made a call and had time to inform her relatives that connection in the town was being cut off in order not to let people phone somebody. She insists that the explosion really took place at the nuclear power station, and that it was a really powerful one, and now the radiation cloud is moving.This information is being unofficially confirmed in public agents’ private conversations.

Besides, local residents place pictures of the explosion consequences and victims’ bodies in their blogs.
The photo's attached to this email!
Send this email to your friends!

Precise Woodstock

20 September 2008

I went to Vienna to do a lecture in TQW's great Precise Woodstock of Thinking series – 50 lectures over ten days by a collection of usual and not-usual suspects on the topic of The Future of Dance and Performance. Writing the lecture was a bit of a torture, and led to at least a couple of days of my recent time in New York being consumed in curses. I found an angle I could work in the end though (the process of finding perhaps relates a bit to what I wrote here about performing Quizoola!) and I was more than happy with the result. My general line was to doubt the past, to suspect the imagined capacity and mock the vanity of our hold on the future and to focus instead, on the present, presentness, now. This from the lecture, not the end, but heading in that general direction.

Language. I love words in a room, in the space between persons. This room, the one we are in now. Words that bring us closer, you and I, you and they, and those which force us all apart. Language for performance is that maybe – not so much a matter of writing, as one of speaking. Speaking is always bodied, provisional, temporal. Always performance. Now.
She speaks. And could stop speaking. Could be made to stop speaking. Could fail in speaking. That perhaps is a glimpse at the vulnerable the heart of performance. That it could stop. No book is going to stop. Movies rarely do these days. Few sculptures stop. And yes, the internet jams, the computer freezes but that’s another matter I think. But performance – performance can always just drop dead there right in front of your eyes, clam up, fall over, dissolve and that fact is written all though it, all over it, no matter how much denied. Now I am talking about frailty not language. But perhaps those two are more connected than I thought.
Words I wanted to write about. The failure of them – the struggle of them, the always present attempt to arrange them, to line them up, here now, in the here and now, in such a way that they make something happen, the fight or flight in the mouth and the brain to make sense with/of them, words. The constant stumbles in language, the digressions, the sudden energies of excitement – the sudden clarification of a purpose, the finding of an idea – and the subsequent lostness, vagueness, the fracture of hesitation, faltering, the hysteria as you or I and these words lose their way.
Words I wanted to write you about. How they summon things into the room, imagined presences, scenes, images. The complicity of those moments in which we hear something and make it happen in our minds eye. The way that words work make and surf the now, pulling us closer, forcing us apart, unfolding. No past and no future, each new word in the sentence always the same word in fact, always now, now, now.


Also in the Vienna Woodstock my friend Christine Peters made a lecture, in which she quoted a letter from Buckminster Fuller included in his book Critical Path, (1981) . Fuller wrote the letter to a ten year old boy, who'd written to him asking about "thinking and doing". The letter goes like this:
Dear Michael,
Thank you very much for your recent letter concerning "thinkers and doers."

The things to do are: the things that need doing: that you see need to be done, and that no one else seems to see need to be done. Then you will conceive your own way of doing that which needs to be done — that no one else has told you to do or how to do it. This will bring out the real you that often gets buried inside a character that has acquired a superficial array of behaviors induced or imposed by others on the individual.

Try making experiments of anything you conceive and are intensely interested in. Don't be disappointed if something doesn't work. That is what you want to know — the truth about everything — and then the truth about combinations of things. Some combinations have such logic and integrity that they can work coherently despite non-working elements embraced by their system.             

Whenever you come to a word with which you are not familiar, find it in the dictionary and write a sentence which uses that new word. Words are tools — and once you have learned how to use a tool you will never forget it. Just looking for the meaning of the word is not enough. If your vocabulary is comprehensive, you can comprehend both fine and large patterns of experience.             

You have what is most important in life — initiative. Because of it, you wrote to me. I am answering to the best of my capability. You will find the world responding to your earnest initiative.

Sincerely yours,

Buckminster Fuller, February 16, 1970

Short Stories – Portland/New York

19 September 2008

In the brief cross town car ride M. mentioned she was going to China soon. Did she speak Chinese? Yes she said. She'd lived there five years. How come? Oh she'd passed through Shangahi when travelling, age 19, and somehow got stuck there, waitressing, trying to save money for a ticket home. Five years. We turned a corner, the traffic got complicated. J. said it reminded him of a song. About a piano player. Also trying to get home. Could not remember who by. We thought Tom Waits. M. agreed, still focused on the driving. We never found out more about Shanghai or what had happened there.

Over coffee next day R. said he'd grown up in Houston, a NASA kid. His dad was a NASA engineer. Doing what exactly? Turned out his dad ran one of the teams charged with bringing the crippled Apollo 13 back to Earth. Calculating orbits to swing the ship around the moon. 1000s of calculations all done by hand since no computers big or fast enough back then. His dad got a Presidential Medal. J was two years old. 1973. I knew the year already cos as a kid I'd watched the whole thing from England in black and white. Those static voices don't go away. Those pensive men in shirts and ties at desks, staring at screens. It was a weird loop of time – or more some strange shift of proxemical relation to those event – to be sat there in diner with R, eating pancakes, discussing the part his dad played in all that.

Walking from the apartment each morning V. and I are conisseurs of the day. Stepping out of the air con for the first time we are like "nice" or "yeah not bad" – savoring the air – or "really hideous" or "too close" or "not so bad as yesterday" – offering up our opinions all the way along the street, like trigger happy wine tasters, experts of the summer or something, until at the end, past the garage and the empty lot haven of rats, of it we've reached a kind of consensus.

Dream Objects

16 September 2008
Quizoola! - Jim Fletcher and Kent Beeson

Last week I was with Jim Fletcher and Kent Beeson in Portland for performances at PICA’s wonderful TBA festival curated (for the last time) by Mark Russell. Jim performed the monologue Sight Is The Sense… and Kent joined us for a run at the 6 hour Forced Entertainment  improvised questions and answers performace Quizoola!. Here’s something I was writing yesterday, about one particular part of the latter.

In response to the question ‘Which objects have appeared in your dreams?’ Jim starts with naming a few things, going slowly from gun, houses, cars and rivers, to stairwells, doors, seas. At first I think I am going to cut him off, but I’m tired and so far as I can tell I miss the moment for that. Half a minute later I change tactics, look down to make a joke that I am going to go through the papers looking for more questions as he continues – as if his answer of no interest. Standard tactics. Do that for a while, as he’s still working away on his list. Bit later I look back up from the papers, and watch him – Jim’s eyes focused in middle distance as he continues to talk. I’m smiling a bit as I am watching him I think, enjoying the care and attention and self-absorption he has as he does that, despite the earlier display I made of mock indifference or impatience. There are many moments in the performance of Quizoola! where you try one thing, and then a few seconds or a minute or two later you try something else, a mild kind of ‘cycling the possible responses’, scratching the surface of things, looking for something you can use or work with more substantially. You’re naked in this process – I guess everyone can see that you’re hesitant, unsure. It’s OK. Nothing comes in any case. I watch him, he keeps listing – more objects that have appeared in his dreams. Paper, books, glasses, a mirror, roads, a suitcase. I look out at the people watching. I look out. People seem happy enough listening. It’s a kind of break from the back and forth of the Q&A, doesn’t need the same energy. The room seems very still. I keep thinking that I’m going to stop him. But, looking down at the papers again now I don’t know when to do so, or how and I’m aware that a kind of hole has appeared in the performance. A landmark feature of a negative kind, a black hole. Knives, trees, boats, dogs, bags, tables. He keeps listing. As he goes I’m half listening, but I guess I’m also more or less focused on thinking of ways out of this situation, my mind erratically scratching around in the dust and dirt of the moment, looking for ‘a good idea’, a question to ask – a way out. It’s possible to think of diving in with a question that would scold him for taking so much time and space with this – Do you think people want to know all this stuff? Are you afraid of being boring? – but nothing of that sort seems quite right and I let it pass. Mostly I’m full of inertia, faintly sad in a way, as he’s listing all those banal objects and we’re all sat there listening. Now – with a distance of some days and some thousands of miles – I’m not even quite sure how I stopped him in the end. It wasn’t a put down for sure.. I used that later, a few questions further in, rounding on him for taking so much time with his dreams. But at the end of the listing thing itself I just don’t remember how I stopped Jim and moved on to another question. Strange process of the Quizoola! performance – that you are so focused on the momentary interaction you are trying to make, but so endlessly, so serially, that they start to blur and erase each other. Every moment is a decision or a change moment, part of a flow maybe, something you can intuit for sure, but nonetheless each and every moment is a crossroads, a chance you have to take or not take. – Afterwards, overhelmed by the sheer accumulation of these decisions, so much of what you have done is lost to you, work buried in it’s own dust, ceilings collapsing but you don’t know who’s in there. Later, in the bar you can’t even remember what you did, what you said, what led from one thing to another. It’s gone.