Libya Fragments

2 March 2011

Appointments were made without relevance to merit. A nervous civil service never questioned the coming and goings. At the Interior Ministry I asked the man in the biggest office (with a broken fax machine and no working telephone) if he were the minister.

"Maybe," he replied, adding that he had been last year, then someone else had been appointed while he was still in post, but had subsequently . . . er . . . left town . . . "So, maybe I’m the minister," he added helpfully.

Kate Adie on Gaddafi. More here.


"No-one died here," shouts another of the regime’s supporters, addressing a monologue at the visiting reporters. "There are no shortages of food or petrol. It is safe here. There is no violence. Everything is good."

An American colleague is confronted by a man who speaks at him for several minutes pouing out his praise for Colonel Gaddafi. When the man is finally finished, he asks: "Did someone pay you to say that?" The man quickly agrees.

From here.

The Show

23 February 2011

From Ant, somehow re Vacuum Days :

a queasy mix of violence and car showroom bonhomie.

Defence contractors said they felt "battered and bruised"

 Arabs in dishdashas take aim with American M-16 rifles

a black breathing mask for use in a nuclear attack next to a tray of boiled sweets and a pot of free pens


Full article here .


The Children of the Rich

21 February 2011

The children of the rich have many advantages in life but do not grow up nicely because thanks to inbreeding they are frequently stupid and in any case spoiled. That was certainly true what people said about the sisters Tiara Wristwatch Cavanagh and Toxica Vestibule Cavanagh that were born to their proud parent Cavanaghs sometime in England in the midst of an economic downturn that the family had no realistic reason to take notice of. If Tiara wanted a pony she got two and if Toxica wanted two ponies she got four and if the two of them wanted six or sixty racehorses they got multiple instances more of those graceful and expensive creatures than they actually asked for in the first place and etc. Their bedroom was a stables, a garage for cars they were not yet old enough to drive and a swimming pool they were too lazy to swim in.

Even life as a diet of endless advantage and cushy vacation-breaks could not prevent that they were dumb. How the parents wrangled their hands and bit their lips and wondered what to do about it, consulting books about nature vs nurture and waving flash cards at the kids during advertisement breaks in order to stimulate their brains. They (the parents) believed in innate goodness and potential of all persons but in the end tho this did no good and a private tutor was hired to educate the ladies Cavanagh. When he arrived he was a stupid English gentleman based on Michael Caine whose qualifications were not legally what they seemed to be and paying him was sending good money after bad since he could not teach them anything, not even manners, deportment, mathematics or Sods Law. The girls spent much of the lesson time letting the Latin roll over them like water off a wetback and instead gazing out of the windows daydreaming about a shopping expedition to Dubai or pulling the legs off a fly they had caught in a net kept just for that purpose.

When Toxica and Tiara were approximately in the area of 16 years old they hatched a half-baked callous and largely simplistic plan to murder their parents and speed up the process by which they would come into full possession of their rightful inheritance. With this in mind Tiara pretended to be ill and lay down on a fainting couch which she had arranged in her bedroom and called for her mother on the intercom. When her mother came to see what was the matter a few days later Toxica was still waiting behind an arras or curtain, with a big heavy stick of wood she had selected from a pile of what seemed to be similar improvised cudgels in the garden. Whack! She hit her mother on the head and her mother kind of went staggering like a drunk or an idiot with some kind of brain co-ordination defect. Finnish her off said Tiara and their mother said oh no do not kill me I am flesh and blood I gave you everything you wanted and asked for an could possibly have needed please come on you can’t be serious, is the bonds of blood not worth more than mud and all kinds of things like that and Toxica just laughed and whacked her mother a few more times in the vicinity and region of her head. Later they killed their father too and loaded the bodies in a walk-in deep freeze cabinet.

After the murders Toxica grew heavy with remorse, putting on weight, weeping and moping, writing endless unpublished confessions on her Facebook, and scoffing endless biscuits and chocolate confectionary. Tiara meanwhile showed no remorse, enjoying the fruits of her murder spree, buying land and houses to look at, building orphanages, adopting children and then diss-adopting them on a whim as was the fashion then.

One day a police officer called. The investigation was brief and competent, the case against the sisters Cavanagh completely watertight. When the trial came they got a lawyer based on James Stewart but it didn’t do no good against a judge based on Judge Judy. He argued that they had diminished responsibility, that society and TV in general was to blame, that the way they were brought up was through no fault of their own that they did not understand the significance of taking a life even if it did only belong to their parents. Judge Judy didn’t take no shit from anyone. Even the pleas that Toxica showed evidence of remorse (about 20 kilos of it) dint cut no ice with her. The sisters Cavanagh were sentenced to death by legal lethal injection, they were strapped to gurneys and watched over carefully by a team of almost-qualified physicians while their heartbeats slowed to a murmur and their story came to an end.

[Fragment written whilst working on the new Forced Ents piece…]

Postcards, All And Sundry

19 February 2011

Finally got round to producing postcards featuring some of my neons and other work. You can buy them – a set of 8 – via the Forced Entertainment website.


” ..advertised in local newspapers and with flyers which promised: “Lapland New Forest where dreams really do come true. Lapland has come  to Dorset”… Visitors were offered a winter wonderland with snow-covered log cabins, a nativity scene, husky dogs, polar bears and other animals, as well as a  bustling Christmas market. But instead of the promised magical festive treat, they experienced fairy lights hung from trees and a broken ice rink… The “bustling Christmas market” merely comprised two food stalls selling German sausages and a choice of turkey or pork baguettes (with stuffing).”

Not much fun for the victims but this story has to be one of the best things I’ve read for ages. It’s so close to my continuing 2011 project updated daily over at Vacuum Days, and so close to the kinds of things I wrote about in Endland Stories. Amazing that the guys involved made more than £1m on advance ticket sales. Full article here.


Looking forward to doing this event with Tony in London next month. It’s free but booking, as they say, is essential.

Tim Etchells and Tony White
Thursday 17th March, 7:30PM

In a new text-performance for the National Portrait Gallery Tim Etchells builds and dissolves stories, worlds and pictures in language, working with rules, games and strategies unfolding at the edge of narrative coherence. Etchells draws on text material from catalogue essays and critical responses to works in the collection whilst also invoking the more familiar landscapes from his work through dystopian urban adventures, science fiction and distorted fairytales. The performance will be followed by a contribution by Tony White, the author of novels including Foxy-T (Faber and Faber), described by writer Toby Litt as, ‘one of the best London novels you’ll ever get to read.’ For Dirty Literature, White will read from works of fiction that respond to the National Portrait Gallery’s location, as well as his satirical 1999 novel about an alienated police force who seem locked in to a cycle of violence and prurient self-justification: Charlieunclenorfolktango.

More info here. Bookings via:


11 February 2011

This quote is from here a good few days ago now.. so events have moved on considerably. But I was struck by this short description from protester and British actor Khalid Abadalla, of the spontaneously oragnised space of Tahrir.

The regime has realised that it’s days are numbered. Negotiation is going to have to be based on what is going to make the people in the square leave….. [and] the popular feeling is ‘I’m not leaving now’. Midan Tahrir has a system that works, it has borders that it can protect, it has its ways of feeding itself, it has ways to sleep, it has ways to bring people in and out safely. It has now become like a mini state that works and will function as long as it needs to in order to get what this country deserves.

Grand Moral Spectacle

7 February 2011

Before I could procrastinate, Britt sent through the full text of the leaflet pictured below. Here it is.







who after fastening her arms to her side, and putting a rope around her neck, will strike the scaffold from under her; and if the neck of the wretched victim be not by this shock broken, the said MORAL TEACHER will pull her legs of the miserable girl until by his weight and strength united he


This exhibition, (the admission to which is free) is provided by a "CHRISTIAN LEGISLATIVE’ for the instruction of "A CHRISTIAN PEOPLE" and is intended to impress upon the minds of the multitude of abhorrence of all cruelty, a love of mercy and kindness, and a reverence for human life!!!!

– – – – –
London C Gilpin, 5 Bishopgate Street Without

More Variousness

6 February 2011
grand moral spectacle sml.jpg

Apart from stimulants, the other key is “formula. You have to have a formula that’s absolutely strong enough to hold anything. That’s where people like me are very fortunate. I have a kind of innate sense of structure, which also makes me a good mimic. It’s very close to mathematics. When I wrote a computer game a few years ago, it was in some ways the easiest job I’d ever had because it’s all structure, and the guys know it has to be. If you’re talking to a Hollywood person they never know what they’re doing structurally. They ask for changes and everything falls apart, but computer game people are just perfect because they know the purpose of every element.”

Great interview/piece on Michael Moorcock by Hari Kunzru at the Guardian.


A nice piece on virtual/unrealised projects by Andy Field here, routing back to some of my own work – Bienale Reaymades which you can find here in the notebook, the sundry virtual events booklets and so on as well as the ongoing updated daily through 2011 spectacular Vacuum Days.

Still speaking of the Vacuum Days – Britt sent this image of what she called “a strange and awful announcement” from 1847. She came across it during a round table ‘Objects under Surveillance’ in relation to the Metropolitan Police Historical Collection. For some reason I’m assuming that this is an anti-Capital Punishment tract – the description of the Hangman as “the great moral teacher” seems beyond event the most enthusiastic capital punishment fans. When i get a moment I’ll type in the complete text!


Meanwhile nice link to a project on abandoned/repurposed cinemas by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, which makes a great parallel to the ongoing project Hugo and I have been doing since 2003 on empty stages.

Most recent empty stage from the series below, this one from a trip I took to see various quite amazing spaces in the Ruhr a couple of weekends ago.

img_1295cut adj 01 sml.jpg


Cairo Salvage

1 February 2011

Just pulling out a few fragments from the coverage of events in Egypt.

AP interviewed some protesters. Radwa Qabbani, 26, said:

I am not protesting the police. They are citizens like me. I am protesting corruption, unemployment and high prices.
We are just asking for the smallest dreams.

 Quoted some days back on the Guardian Live Blog, here .


Protesters emerged stumbling from white clouds of tear gas, coughing and covering their faces with scarves. Some had blood streaming down their faces. One man fainted. Police dragged some away and beat a journalist, smashing her glasses and seizing her camera.

At one point, the protesters seemed to gain the upper hand, forcing a line of riot police to flee under a barrage of rocks. One demonstrator climbed into a fire engine and drove it away.

(Also from the AP release, as quoted in The Guardian live blog, link above).


This from The Economist’s Cairo correspondent yesterday:

I knew it was truly over when I came home to find a neighbour in a panic. He had smelled a fire nearby. We traced its source soon enough, after climbing to the roof of my building. Smoke drifted from the garden of the villa next door, where workers had recently been digging a peculiarly deep hole, as if for a swimming pool. In a far corner of the garden stood rows of cardboard boxes spilling over with freshly shredded paper, and next to them a smouldering fire.

More intriguingly, a group of ordinary looking young men sat on the lawn, next to the hole. More boxes surrounded them, and from these the men extracted, one by one, what looked like cassette tapes and compact discs. After carefully smashing each of these with hammers, they tossed them into the pit. Down at its bottom another man shovelled wet cement onto the broken bits of plastic. More boxes kept appearing, and their labours continued all afternoon.

The villa, surrounded by high walls, is always silent. Cars, mostly unobtrusive Fiats and Ladas, slip in and out of its automatic security gates at odd hours, and fluorescent light peeps through shuttered windows late in the night. This happens to be an unmarked branch office of one of the Mubarak regime’s top security agencies. It seems that someone had given the order to destroy their records. Whatever secrets were on those tapes and in those papers are now gone forever.

Continues here .