One detail I found no space to mention in Guardian piece:
The funeral musicians don’t face the audience or each other when playing at a funeral. Instead they sit with backs together and face different directions. Because the dead are not with us. They are gone, scattered.
Tim Etchells: Solo Exhibition. Gasworks. 5 February–28 March 2010
For Tim Etchells’ first solo exhibition in a London public gallery, Gasworks presents two works previously unseen in the UK. Focusing on language and interpretation, the exhibition explores the potential of communication between discourses and cultural frames. Art Flavours (2008) reflects on the possibility and impossibility of translating the specialised language of the art world into edibles for the public. the video shows an Italian ice cream master dealing with the task to translate concepts in contemporary art into flavours of ice cream. City Changes (2008) is a game of linguistic manipulation in which a single text is repeatedly reworked. Whilst playing with issues related to urban life such as change and stability, chaos and stasis, the work renders visible the process of writing itself, exposing the decisions, additions and omissions of each new incarnation. Opening: Thursday 4 February 2010.
The Story. The Conway Hall, London.Friday, February 19th, 2010
I’ll be speaking at this event The Story, a one-day conference about stories and story-telling. The event has been put together by Matt Locke, a really interesting producer/curator/all rounder, who I worked with years back to produce my SMS instructions project Surrender Control. Speakers at The Story come from many and diverse areas of cultural practice – from games and interactive, to contemporary fiction and art, to publishing and journalism. Current list includes Cory Doctrow, Tony White, Alexis Kennedy and Paul Arendt, David Hepworth and Sydney Padua.
Instructions: Gasworks Discussion Event: Wednesday 3 March 2010, 7–9pm
Tim Etchells in conversation with Ant Hampton.
Artist and writer Tim Etchells invites performer and writer Ant Hampton to Instructions – a discussion about delegation and collaboration across different fields of practice. The two practitioners will reflect on how the act of relinquishing control over the final outcome is embedded in their work and on their relationship to improvisation and incompleteness.
The woman working checkout in Staples has a sales pitch trapping overtrained zeal beneath a blanket of heavy prescription tranquilisers. She won't stop fielding offers in our general and specific direction – there's 15% off the printer inks for any ink we buy two of, there's a discount on the paper supplies – do we need any paper? If we take out a Staples discount card we can also get a further 5%, she can do it right away, it won't only take a minute, so do we want her to do that for us? It's exhausting just saying no to all this stuff but while the content is a slide for slide parroting of some in-house powerpoint training routine the tone is strictly lobotomised. Florescent backwash on everything. Muzak in the aisles. No eyes in the deep sockets. No touch in the fingers jabbing the till, the air or the calculator. Look, we'd save 23.98, or even 47.92. Each sentence has neither peaks nor troughs, but each drags you down on a frightening spiral. By the end you're on your knees. Each word a dead song of suffering. Did we find everything we were looking for today? sounds like the last words before coma takes hold. Yes. We found everything. Are we aware of the offers on the printer inks? Yes, we know. Do we need some paper today? Numb question summons dead chills, as a muted calling, from just beyond the grave. Gray skin. Tremble fingers.
Cambodia blurring into indistinctness now, its heat fading with the snow rumoured to have been here but in any case gone on our return. Strange how much memory is spatial, or how much impression of place relates to space. Space re-writes the body, consciousness even. You’re turned inside out. Re-folded. Re-mapped. Hard-to-quantify difference of Phnom Penh. It’s partly in the collapsing / non-existence of distinction between public and private space. Product of poverty. The shop that is also a living space (TV, couch, table), the sidewalk that is also extension of ‘house’ – table and chairs to eat on, cooking on stove, kids playing on road, guys working on the sidewalk, road also extension of shop and home. Product of climate also – outside being cooler, in the evenings, with no aircon. Getting home I miss the tangle. Everything behind walls here, behind doors, inside cars, inside something. Whole of UK culture a multiplication of boxes. Nothing breathes. Phnom Penh shops also blurred to start out with – all kinds of things for sale in combinations that a foreigner has no way to read – half the time you don’t know what you’re looking at, the eye takes a long time to read, the brain makes only slow sense (or no sense) of what it is presented with. Takes days sometimes to ‘figure out’ what those stalls are selling, or simply to decipher what that machinery is there, at so many places at the roadside (compressed air for motorbike tires). Barber shops as chairs, mirrors and temporary structures on the sidewalks. Petrol stations as rusted oil drums fitted with some kind of pump or, lower down the economic ladder, petrol stations as a plastic table bearing six 1.5 litre Coke bottles that have been repurposed, filled with petrol. Noise. And making do. A list of things that can be carried on a motorbike (everything). A list of things that can be mended (everything) or improvised (everything). Sudden French colonial streets, organised, with villas and high garden walls. Young monks, shaved heads, dressed in orange and seated on the opposite rooftop at dusk, watching the hotel swimming pool. One of them laughing, miming swimming to his colleague. I wave. No response. Geckos on the ceiling. A hidden bird high up in the trees that makes a sound like some kind of incomprehensibly catastrophic electrical event. Never see the bird. Degrees of heat and humidity in different kinds. Tuk tuks. Scattered street corner playing cards. Fish for sale in the sun. A programme of redevelopment taking place in the background. Steady march of western and Chinese financed hotels I guess and a slow process through which space is more firmly delineated – post-colonial economic re-development meets psychogeography and wins.
Possibly the best interview question to me, ever, from a Greek newspaper:
You have been characterized for your productions as the “Lord of unreasonableness”. What do you think about that?
Where once the Mini-Market stood, now there is nothing.
Not siding with China for a moment on its human rights and censorship record. But some credit at least for these sentences from the People’s Daily:
“We’re afraid that in the eyes of American politicians, only information controlled by America is free information, only news acknowledged by America is free news, only speech approved by America is free speech, and only information flow that suits American interests is free information flow.”
Deliriously thinking in the morning, half awake, lain in the bed. Not a dream but the kind of manic circular brain activity that goes with jetlag, tiredness, dehydration and (I think) the Malarone. Was awake around 5, already thinking vaguely that if I would still be awake at 6 I’d catch the dawn chorus again, which on the previous days showing was spectacular acoustic display of bird-sound fireworks from the tree just out back of the room. But basically lying there trying to sleep, aware of the form of the mosquito nets in the very faint light from outside.
For ‘no’ reason thinking about a place/culture where in order to sleep safely various kinds of spirit fences must be put in place to surround the bed as well as spirit traps to go underneath it. (There’s been pretty much no talk of this kind of stuff here in Cambodia, though of course you can’t help notice the various spirit houses complete with offerings everywhere on the street).
Notes (written at the point I just gave up and got out of bed to sit beneath the AC unit): Safe Sleeping. Spirit fences made with pendants and flags and other things hanging. The fences themselves made from thread stretched between posts – the thread should be unravelled thread from your own clothing but for expediency/in a rush it can be nylon thread or fine wire – makes the fence less strong but better than nothing. Particular shapes. forms, colours and materials (torn clothing, aluminium foil shredded plastic) for different of these fences which prevent entry of different spirits – a sequence in which they need to be laid out (concentrically) and in different heights. Lying there I’m aware that this is somehow like computer firewall too.
Traps need to go under mattress. And other things – above. All aimed at specific kinds of specific demons, spirits etc. Also specific fences needed in particular regions of country – mountains forests etc to deal with specific dangers there.
Days later a dream of someone bound, covered in mud, in the shovel of a huge digger at some construction site – digging the living out of the ground, or burying the dead.
Another dream. Some guy firing a gun into the window of a bus crowded with passengers.
All in all hardly processing Cambodia at all – the strange way that another landscape, another spatiality writes itself into you so deeply but in a way that can’t be understood or articulated. ‘Everything’ filed straight into back brain. Impossible (or at least slow) to digest.