Map Dream

18 December 2009

Transform 2


Someone, I don’t know who, is drawing on a map of the world to show the different areas conquered by particular armies and leaders at different times in history. With the pen he/she makes strange shapes – bubble and rectangle outlines that span countries and even continents, sometimes naming some nation, leader or dictator – Hitler, Alexander The Great, The British Empire – to indicate whose territory has been ringed.  In the dream the maps don’t make much sense to me. The shapes are too similar, and in any case the basic map/projection of the earth this person is drawing onto is not a familiar one – very long/wide and stretched, no doubt realistic but somehow hard to navigate or orientate on with the eye.

World Funniest Video

16 December 2009

One funny video is the one where cats are chasing after a reflection of sunlight that is moving around from a mirror. The cat is going crazy chasing that little piece of reflectioned light, trying to trap it with his paw and the cat is looking very confused with the light mainly because of how it will not hold still under his paw and later he is sitting still just staring at the wall in fronts of him, staring at it like a freak like he has got a big problem with it (the light on the wall) cos the light is moving around there just above him and sometimes he is raising his tabby coloured right paw (he is a tabby cat) and he is raising his right paw a bit like he might just strike at the light but the most funniest part of all is where the reflection light is making circles around the cat and the cat is doing crazy circles on the carpet by the coffee table thing like chasing his tail around and around he goes you think he will spin himself into a whirlwind or tie his godamn legs in a knot he is going so fast that is what is so funny. Another funny video is of Kelvin, or Kevin and he is running into the garden to play baseball and his brother  – I guess, you cannot really tell if it is his brother or not but I think it must be his brother that is there already and he (the brother) says 'Kelvin! (or Kevin you cannot hear it properly) and whacks the ball towards the Kevin that unfortunately catches him right in the testicals and he goes down on the ground like a sack of potatoes or however they say it, like a tree that has been felled over onto the patio there, like a dead man with a expression of excruciating absolute agony on his face. Another funny video is of a dog that has landed on a blue trampoline in a yard. You cannot tell how he got into the trampoline. Did he jump on there all by himself? I kind of doubt it. Did someone throw him on there just to make the video? He is not really a big dog, only black and white and small so it would be possible to throw him, but the way he goes upwards like a rocket is totally laugh out loud funny and that strange expression on his face and the big eyes, that dog for sure looks surprise. He goes down falling to the trampoline at the start of the video then he goes up, bouncing, he goes high up with that expression like a rocket he goes up, then he goes down again but it stops (the video) before he hits the trampoline again you do not see what happens next the video is only nine seconds long or maybe 11 seconds. It is hard to tell if that can really be the world funniest video if it is only so short. Maybe there should be a different categories for short funniest video and longer funniest video but I just want to figure out which is the funniest video on the whole world without using any categories like the funniest hip hop dance video or the funniest animal video or the funniest video of a ski accident – that is not the funniest video in the whole world. Anyway the contest is still going. I will keep looking. Someone linked me a video of a guy that cannot stand up. I think he has not got damaged legs or a serious brain impediment he has been drinking that is all but probably he has been drinking a lot. It is a totally funny video because you can see he is confused like he thinks the world is tilting or something, he thinks the world is the problem but really it is him that is the problem. Loser is holding onto a tree or a lamp post or whatsoever he can find to cling onto to stop him from sliding off the edge of the world then he gets up and walks some steps along the street, I have seen a hamster walk better than that (in another video that is not so funny) but this guy can hardly stand up, he is swaying then he takes a step. What is so funny? I guess you are just waiting for the guy to fall over again. Some funny video can be full of surprises but another funny video is sometimes just exactly what you expect, you know what will happen it comes as no surprise at all but still you are laughing.

Quick Steps

7 December 2009

The following text I wrote for the new publication What I Think About When I Think About Dancing published by Campbelltown Arts Centre, Campbelltown, Australia. Curators: Lisa Havilah, Emma Saunders, Susan Gibb.

Quick Steps
(what I think about when I think about dance)

Movements that seem ordinary – the stretching of fingers, the lifting of a glass, or a knife, the low-key meander of a walk to the shop on a Sunday morning, the sudden start of a rapid jog down the stairs to catch someone at the door, the run for the bus and the shoulder barge to the subway doors, the reach for the TV remote, the hand raised in a wave from the back of the car, the throwing back of the head and the closing of the eyes, the slump and collapse into a seat. The negotiation of a crowded bar whilst carrying drinks (glasses pressed together with tension between hands, or balanced on a tray). The pause and slight bend to listen at the door of a neighbour’s apartment when you pass it late night and hear voices from within. The unbuttoning of buttons, unzipping of zips, the thumb-dance of SMS texting. The sidestepping back and forth of polite pedestrians eager to avoid a collision. The silent and strangely punctuated dance in a hotel doorway as a visitor leaves at night. The almost frantic dance of hands and stooped body when searching for a mobile phone that’s ringing somewhere, but deep in a pocket, which pocket? or concealed in which zip-compartment of a bag? The arm thrown back for the hurling of a stone. The looser arm bent back for the throwing of a stick. The sideways tilt of the body, torqued to skim a stone across water. The soft lean back against the wall of an elevator. The movement of palms against a surface – brick, polished concrete or carpet. The movement of fingers, turning the pages of a book. The rotation of feet and ankles, stretching of calves and knees whilst seated, cramped, on a plane. The gestures of stop, come forwards, wait, go back. The gestures of yes or maybe, the gestures of now, then, yesterday, today, here, there and never. The dance of fingers on a tabletop. The dance of hands and arms explaining the route that someone must take to reach a building somewhere in the neighbourhood. The dance of hands and arms that seek to describe the architecture of a courtyard on the other side of the world, the turn from the crowded main street, the sudden and unexpected opening out of the interior space, the six trees within, the brilliant rectangle of sky. The dance of arms and hands describing a fight between sisters, or a fight in a taxi rank late night. The semaphore pantomime of hands making gestures as part of a bellowed conversation that traverses traffic in the street. The dance of lips talking. The dance of eyes reading. The dance of hands demonstrating a touch that once a departing lover made, with his hand, or her hand, on yours – not a caress and not a handshake, not a blow, not an assertion and yet neither a question. Flicking crumbs from your lap, brushing dandruff from your shoulders. Scratching the arse. Precise movements made with a key in an awkward lock, the various twists and lifts, pulls and pushes (with hands and shoulders, even knees) needed to open up the door. Scratching the back of the left calf with the upper side of the right foot. Itching the nose just by moving it – a wriggle. More scratches, itches, tics, gasps, sighs, yawns turning to small shivers, minor shakes. Blinks, twitches, hesitant gestures to no particular end. Movements that seem pretty much unplaceable – hardly a part of discourse, scarcely part of any kind of behaviour, system or code. Vague gestures. Amorphous shifts, shivers, shrugs, glitches. Undulating forms, flows, tensions and extensions. Dances of musculatures, tendons, and interlocking bones. Movements that are scarcely, in some sense, recognisable as human. Or movements that are on the edge of what you might think of as human. Body as invertebrate, as canine, as aquatic, as simian, as reptilian, body as machine, as robot, android, cyborg, body as ghost, as spectre, as wraith, as demon, as flesh in the grip of possession. Body taut and stretched in orgasm. Body open. Leaping running jumping stretching. As if a kind of temporary war on gravity has been declared. Body closed – folded in on itself. Body knotted. Body fighting itself. Bodies in configurations that you only see in pictures from the killing fields. Bodies impossibly twisted, dislocated. Knotted, piled, stacked, hung, thrown, crumpled like so many rags. Scarecrows. Broken forms. Slides. Glides. Quick steps. Dazzling feet. Electrified. Pure joy. Delight. Surprise. Sweat. Joy again. The crush of bodies in a mosh pit. The movement of eyes around an unfamiliar space. The movement of eyes around the body of a sleeping lover. The movement of eyes across the screen of a laptop. Taste of blueberries. Stumbles. Trips. Misses. Shapes written on the ground – lines, circles, spirals, zigzags. Fingers on skin. Walks with purpose and intention. Crawls. Runs. Drags. Meanders. Feet or hands moving vaguely with indecision and uncertainty. Movements that feels more like sketching, or searching for something. Movements that feel like incomplete memories. Movements as attempts to peel back some layer of the present to get to the past. Butterflies. Movements that feel like they are attempts to be something. Attempts at something. Versions of something. Provisional. Small steps. Small gestures. Moves that make you think of other dancers and other dances. The way this one holds her head, the way this one moves his leg, the long back of this one, the grace of the other one, the energy of that move, all of these things pointing you elsewhere – into your own past, into the many times you sat somewhere or stood somewhere and watched others move. Sounds. Breathing. Occasional exclamations of breath, slight and unintended sounds of exertion, effort, stress and strain. The sound of feet moving on the floor, pounding, squeaking and always the breathing. Ballroom dancing. Tango. Waltzes. Line dances. Disco dances. Ballet dances. Mosh pit again. Solos. Duets. Enormous and complex sequences of perfect unison. Meg morphing. Wendy ghosting, fighting. Fumiyo shimmering and cutting and melting. Kate tangled in Las Vegas sequins and knots. Vlatka’s hands on a table top, turning and shifting – there and then gone and then there again. Jerome’s lines. Jonathan’s arms. Seth’s feet. The big guy from Pina Bausch. Raimund Hoghe. Bez. Prince. Ian Curtis. A class of school kids dance the sea – appearing not only as the sea creatures themselves, but as the floating seaweeds, the plankton, the bubbles of air. Another group of school kids dance the stars and the planets, the meteors and comets, all of them with tinsel tied to their wrists. A dance of skeletons. A dance of sparkling jewels look, Aladdin’s cave. Drug dances. Drunk dances. Fight dances. Weeping dances. Dawn dances. Pavement dances. Burning dances. Trembling. Penetrating. Order. Disorder. Order again. Lost shoes and kicked-off shoes. An ex-lover dances in her apartment, there amongst the kitchen things, the furniture, the coffee cups and strewn clothes, she dances, showing the moves she must dance on a stage in some weeks time, marking and naming the moves one by one as she marks them: ‘the fall’, ‘the wave goodnight’, ‘the kiss the air’, ‘the swivel hips’, ‘the not now’, ‘the cripple bend’, ‘the wave goodnight’.

Tim Etchells at 23.01 on 21 October 2009, Sheffield.



29 November 2009

I’d like to ask first of all please let it not be that Utopia with doves and waterfalls and soft white clothes and doors that open as soon as they are approached

and please let it not be that utopia with all in harmony and accord

and please not that utopia of agrarian fantasy, with all of us in touch with or at peace with the land, working the land together or weaving together in some endlessly temperate and agreeable climate, caught in simple pleasures, eating simple wholesome food

and please – just as strongly, please – not that techno utopia where no one works at all since the machines – ever more clever, resourceful and skilled – are doing everything, hidden in basements, miniaturized or concealed behind the walls

and please not that morbid utopia that so many churches speak of or hope for or promise, but only come the day, meaning after death

and not that utopia of absolute freedom or that of total equality

or that of the flattening of creeds, races, genders and all that into one single humanity or brotherhood

and not that utopia of original ignorance, Adam and Eve, the nakedness that is not nakedness no thank you

and not that utopia of free love 

or boundless and open desire

or that hallucinatory psychedelic utopia of the human dissolved into the universe

and not that utopia of the virtual, with its useless pretended transcendence of flesh and biology

and again please, not that utopia of endless oneness and endless accord

not likely peace, or everlasting peace

not likely peace at all

and not the satisfaction of all desires 

and not the exhaustion of all need

and please not an end to difference

no to the utopia determined by sense

no to the utopia determined by utility

no to the utopias of knowledge, understanding, and progress

please not the uniformity of consent

or that of placidity

no to the erasure of anger

please not the utopic reduction of human space to that of a prison in which all needs have been anticipated, prescribed, provided for

please not the reduction of everything to the realm of the solvable

please not some temperate climate of banality cotton-woolled and perpetuated ad nausem

not late-capitalist laissez-faire bliss

not communistic brotherhood

not either theocratic order

or rationalist decency

not some medicalised or genetically modified utopia in which all personalities and physicalities have been balanced, remixed and extended forever in a calculation of chemicals and genes

please not the utopia of the old and wise

and please not that utopia of the young and the carefree


not men and women in accord with each other in all the possible combinations,

or mankind so called at accord once again with ‘the animals’ so called

no, not equality 

nor comfort

nor acceptance

not even tolerance

we'll have none of it

a utopia of dispute might be better

a utopia of permanent contestation

anger and the unruly.

But not even those will satisfy

let’s have instead the utopia which resists all names,

refuses all belonging

refuses all place, definition or affiliation

i.e. not for us that which can be dreamed or imagined, described or spoken of

and not for us anything that can be caught in the noose of 26 letters (called an alphabet) and hanged

not for us what is offered

not for us what is given

not for us what is promised

not for us what is even possible

not that

not anything of it

but everything, everything which is other than that.


Friends, acquaintances, enemies i look forward to our eventual meeting,

and to your full acceptance of these my most reasonable demands.


Tim Etchells, on the train from Paris to London, the 25 October 2009.

[Written for the recent latenight program event on Utopia/Dystopia at Frascati Internationaal in Amsterdam. Also read in Munich at The Woodstock of Political Thinking two weekends ago].


Ice: Work in Progress

25 November 2009

Ice Work in Progress 5

[Hugo sent thru these shots from the fourth attempt at a new ice-letters piece we’ve been working on. Looking good.]

Dancing Museum #2

22 November 2009

A while back, in preparation for the week long workshop/think tank project called Expo Zero, convened by choreographer Boris Charmatz at Musee de la Danse in Rennes I asked a few good friends and colleagues to send me memories of dance or dances, movement or movements – fragments from life or from dance, or from dance in life, which I hoped would feed into my work at the Expo. I already posted a few of the fragments, and with thanks again for what my friends chose to share, here’s a second instalment.

It’s the look .
Fixed , blank and it means it.
A look on a face of symmetrical beauty.
Dirty beauty.

And underneath.
The legs pushing forward and the back leaning back.
Leaning way way back.
The arms pinioned in a careless hang but the face is somewhere else .
On another job.

Below its all insistence and burn but above its all stillness and stare and the low , loud sound is reverberating  through the move at triple time .
Passing through the body and out.
Sound as surface to walk on.

Inside the body is whirring, it’s whirring  fast .
Outside it’s going slow.
And its having trouble moving  through the air, making the air cling to it-
Making me cling to it.

Not that it needs me.
The move is not in need.
Its the move as god.
Regal delinquency in action.

It burns itself past the retina straight into the gut and resurfaces at odd moments of desire.

Wendy Houstoun
(“a michael clark piece but i don’t know its name.”)


Strangely (well, maybe strange for this context but not for me) very few of my memories of movement are from the formal world of dance. Moments from Pina Bausch, La Ribot, Jerome Bel, Michael Clark and other icons are there alright and will be there forever, but the first memories that hit me when I got your email were movement memories from popular culture. David Beckham’s famous free kick against Greece in a world cup qualifier still makes me well up, and is impossible to forget since it was immortalized by Lone Twin in Walk With Me in one of my favourite performance movement moments.

Seeing Morrissey for the first time dancing with bunches of gladioli stuffed in his jean’s pockets in the video for This Charming Man is another movement moment that will never be forgotten, but there’s a limit to how many times I can mention This Charming Man in response to your requests.

So its gonna have to be the memory that I’ve been revisiting recently, along with millions of other people, of seeing Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough video back in the day. For me this was one of the last moments of the ‘good’ Michael Jackson –of the talented, spontaneous, beautiful, black Michael Jackson, before he became the white, schmaltzy, freaky, global superstar. But I – we – didn’t know that at the time. At the time this was simply one of the most exhilarating things I had ever seen – the most perfect combination of music and dance – the pleasure of watching someone ‘lost in music’, performing with every cell in their body.  Look at it – even his arms are dancing to the tune in the most exquisite piece of unchoreographed choreography ever. I can watch this moment over and over and over again and never tire of it.

Lois Keidan


He arrived late, preferring to hit the ground running. It’s an improvised piece full of live decisions. He has been naked. He has been left alone with his eyes shut. But the moment to remember is after the piece has ended, officially. The audience is starting to leave and he’s calling them back….there’s one more dance he says…a famous dance….danced by a famous woman….a grieving woman…a woman grieving for her two dead children. And as he talks he starts to dance. He is big, broad, strong.  His body moves as he imagines or remembers the woman moving, the woman grieving, his empty arms extended as though hers holding. His voice is calm and low, his own. The audience is half standing, as he describes the story of this dance, they’re on their way out, not sure what they’re staying for. He sways, kneels and lays the empty burden from his arms onto the stage. The piece is over.

Terry O Connor


Here’s my most enduring memory of a dance movement – it’s the movement that crystalised a sense that dance can express better in words some feelings, that a gesture of the body can communicate a complexity of emotion.

It’s from a piece by Roxane Huilmand that I saw at the ICA in the 80s. I don’t remember the name of the piece. I don’t remember the music, it may have been Bartok, it may have been Walter Hus.

The gesture is a simple one and I think it was like this:

with head down, moving from back stage left diagonally towards the middle of the stage, very low lighting, the solo dancer (Roxane I think), brings both arms  together in a curve from just behind her body to just in front, the hands don’t meet – they rest at waist height about 10 cm apart. The gesture seems half embrace, half a collecting and containing movement signifying emotion internalised, feeling collected, gathered and controlled, and isolation. It was brief, powerful and very poignant for me, for the friend I was with, it was boring.

Deborah Chadbourn


memory of a dance unravelled

I have never seen the show. Again. I have never seen that show again: not live, video, CD Rom or whatever, since that night I first saw it, the only time I saw it, and that woman got up from the audience and danced on stage. It was weird. I remember it vividly and yet I remember almost nothing else. It made me shake. It made my hands sweat. It made me want to leave. It made me feel I had vertigo and might only be able to crawl out of the theatre on my hands and knees. I was reduced to that childhood fear I had when my mother took me to the pantomime and they picked children to go up on stage. Nightmare. And then it ended. The music stopped. She went back to her seat. The show went on the the end. No one did anything.

Who was she ? Nothing happened but it might have. Might she not have done anything – pulled out a gun, or kissed Christine or pulled her down to the ground and punched her or tore her clothes off. Anything. And if she had what would they have done ? Because what they did – that night when I saw the show – what they did was nothing, nothing more, nothing less, than what they did every night – I guess – they just stood there, shifting, jigging even, to the music in that moon-faced, half-arsed sort of a way that defined the way they performed in that show, and that made her feel it was OK, and maybe some kind of a dance that she could join in, and then, when the music ended she sat down.

Was she a plant or what ? I never asked. Or why not, why not get up and join in a show called Stalking Realness that seems to be pretending to be an event, but not theatre, or maybe it is or maybe it isn’t. Or maybe she was a friend. I never found out.

What’s funny is how it doesn’t happen more often in theatre. Joining in. What’s surprising is how unbreakable – how  unbearable – that boundary is. The more it is tested – with performers coming out of the audience for instance, or going into it, or whatever – the stronger it gets, in general.

That’s what makes theatre theatre. Whatever else it is not, it is a collective dream space. Its success is in creating an ‘as if’ world, in which performers become explorers, and which changes the co-ordinates of time and space. And when something, someone, else drops in, it is literally matter out of place, an irritant, a violation of  symbolic world. It makes me physically sick.

Claire MacDonald

Collector of Fragments

19 November 2009
Bitter History

An image from Vlatka (on a wall down the street) and a text (re boredom) from my brother.


Had a few of those jobs, not the kind when you can voluntarily say yay give it a go for a full 32 mins. Couple come to mind, one poss the worst on a stone crusher. Stood on this fuckin huge 40 tonne machine on a footplate while a 16 tonner swung shit and concrete in front of my face, no cage, and dumped its old oily load of bust up town of brown field site into the rollin vibrating killer jaws of satan hiself, yeah, my job mind, was to grab steel and shite from the jaws of said beelzebub, and any other foreign matter too. foreign matter. crushed old stuff for foundations of new stuff. old steel fucked the machine tho, that was the job. 10 hour shift in fear of your fucking life every time you grabbed a 9 foot piece of reo and the fucker bit it already, yeah, snag you, pulled in, lost a coat once. was wearing it, but it was me or him. hope it went  in the foundation to build somewhere nice.Used to pick Brody up 6am in the van. Smell of victory v’s gave it up then, yeah brode was a great plant man, fix ought, but fuck , whisky before the work. Not a tot neither. hafe bottle. Early doors hometime he was a two handed pint man for the first half gallon. steady as a rock then, nay tremours. purple drain from his face to red and then start talkin and laughin with us all. I’d be away then. Id reckon he’d swamp another gallon and then back to the favourite homeside. a drop for the mornin and a victory v.

Site and Boring

17 November 2009

Another Guardian blog by yours truly, this one about site visits.


John Cage said, “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.” He’s right: there’s a certain kind of unboring boredom that’s fascinating, engrossing, transcendent, and downright sexy. And then there’s the other kind of boring: let’s call it boring boring. Boring boring is a client meeting; boring boring is having to endure someone’s self-indulgent poetry reading; boring boring is watching a toddler for an afternoon; boring boring is the seder at Aunt Fanny’s. Boring boring is being somewhere we don’t want to be; boring boring is doing something we don’t want to do. Unboring boring is a voluntary state; boring boring is a forced one.

Unboring boring is the sort of boredom that we surrender ourselves to when, say, we go to see a piece of minimalist music. I recall once having seen a restaging of an early Robert Wilson piece from the 1970s. It took four hours for two people to cross the stage; when they met in the middle, one of them raised their arm and stabbed the other. The actual stabbing itself took a good hour to complete. Because I volunteered to be bored, it was the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen.

Came across the above in an interesting (not boring) 2004 text by the conceptual writer and artist Kenneth Goldsmith – I also learned in the last couple of days that he’s the founder of the amazing UbuWeb, which somehow I didn’t know.

Unwritten Malady

15 November 2009

I have a new video/text work titled Unwritten in the show The Malady of Writing (a project on text and speculative imagination), curated by Chus Martinez, at MACBA Study Centre, at Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona – the show runs from 20 November until March 7th 2010. Unwritten follows a little from the work I’ve done with Starfucker and 100 People, as well as the live-writing experiment of the Long Relay project I organised with Adrian Heathfield a couple of years back.

Inspired by two texts in the MACBA collection – Guy de Cointet’s Tell Me and The Fox, a publication initiated by the New York branch of Art and Language and described as “a quite particular collection of texts in different book forms written by artists” The Malady of Writing comprises 160 plus titles from more than 50 authors, including my own book The Broken World and the new work mentioned above.

Meanwhile a selection from the Empty Stages photographs series I’ve been working on in collaboration with Hugo Glendinning is currently part of Looking Aside at the Peter Scott Gallery in Lancaster. The show runs until 11 December and features work connected to performance and documentation with work by Manuel Vason (The Spill Tarot) and Lucy Cash/Goat Island (video installation) amongst others.


Nice review of the Durham Lumiere show (see immediately below), though I find it weird (or rude) when people neglect to mention artists’ names.