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.

Durham Neons

13 November 2009

Wait Here - Durham

Please Come Back - Durham

Pictures of my work from the opening night of Lumiere in Durham, which runs up to and including this Sunday night 15th November.

Nigerian Movie

11 November 2009

My friend Matt passed me this spam, or a version of it, which led me into some googling to find this slightly longer version. It's a very beautiful phishing email. I really hope the movie gets made. 

Dear Sir, 
I have a full length tragedy movie script title: RANKLE Jones The Golfer. It is a new idea, full of suspense and thrill. I need a production company and financial investment into this movie production as it will make a block buster. 
Jones enjoys golf playing, hoping to be a professional golfer like Tiger Woods. Professional golfers play in golf field, ours play at home. No fucking son of a bitch will accept correction. The pride of what is yet to be is a destroyer. Jones: Everyone in life have a dream and aspiration to fulfill, so I am too. My life, my all will go to a sport I love and cherish most. Golf is my dream game, a sport I love. Let’s go golfing. 
Rudolf drug life flashes of wealth caught Jones napping as he was convinced to take part in one of the most bloody drug cartel deal. 
Shelly is a desire of every men but her stinking lifestyle of prostitution can’t let her settle for a man. 
Jones fought Elvis in the night club all because of a fames sex machine Shelly with Rudolf, Alex and others watch with no one allow to separate until someone quit for the other. 
There are a lot of happenings at the night club. 
Gangsters and Police combat force. 
Why is Jeff called the master by Rudolf, Elvis, Jimmy and others? 
It is traumatic to live with nutty breed of human, all in the name of family-hood. Traumatic experiences of Ray of hatred, alienation by all his family members, his emotional disgust and good moral negligence on the part of his parent on the family. 
His erratic brother Jones gave him a blood bath, living his life-less body after which he was in oblivious state. Ray is cast away and also an object of mimic. 
Hilda gave Ray a taste of love life which has been missing for years. I love you mum because you hate me. Cassandra my sister is no different from my mum Vera. Ray’s love life with Hilda left nothing to be admiring as it is an ocean of perfect love for both of them. 
Jones finally golfed out daddy’s ''Kenny'' breath, as he was left to his pool of blood. Jones life turns sour of no savvy as he committed suicide. Those that bury mines indiscriminately will one day fall victim to mine explosion. 
There are golf scenes, fist fighting, snake scenes, club scenes, sex scenes, drug scenes, Police shoot out, gangster, hovercraft, Apache helicopters and Belgian attack dogs. 
The script is over 120 pages. 
This production has good advert spaces that will be integrated into the movie without it interfering, as the production is purely commercial. This is a viable promotional vehicle to boost your products and services across the globe considering the much success this movie will achieve.
Thanks for finding time to read through. Only get back to me if you are ready for us to proceed with this viable movie production. 

Best Regards.  XXXX, PRODUCER.

Dancing Museum #1

9 November 2009

A while back I took part in a kind of workshop/think tank project called Expo Zero, convened by choreographer Boris Charmatz at his Musee de la Danse in Rennes.  I wrote a bit about my participation in the Guardian – the Expo was a kind of open ended and experimental look at dance, esp the idea of dance in relation to archive and history, as well as a public wondering-out-loud about the idea of a Dancing Museum. Anyhow. In preparation for the week long encounter 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’m going to post just a few of the fragments here and there in the next week or so, since they stand alone very well, and because (as often) I was so lucky with what my friends chose to share. Get the feeling I might continue to collect these.

In around 1974 aged about 8, I spent several school lunchtimes one summer hidden in a small group behind the temporary classrooms that had been put up on the playing field. Stuart D. had begun bringing in his battery powered red and white plastic record player. These were secret meetings. It was our secret. We sat round in a small circle about six or seven boys listening to Stuart‘s Mum‘s Elvis singles, mostly Jailhouse Rock because it was the wildest but also my favourite Mess Of Blues.

I had never heard music like this before or certainly not consciously. My sister liked Slade and Marc Bolan but I don‘t think she actually owned any of their records and I certainly don‘t remember a previous occasion of just focusing on music. Maybe it was the secrecy of our meetings or just the intensity of the situation, but this was a dark, powerful and really somehow quite sexy experience for all of us. We would then take it in turns to dance watching each other. We were trying to move to the music in a way we felt was most appropriate or how we imagined older, cooler, tougher, or sexier people might move to it.

This was my first active experience of listening to music in this way and my first memory of actively wanting to move to a piece of music without being told to do so. The movements we made involved skipping from leg to leg, flicking forward our over-extended feet, so that the feet were stretched down to the front, legs bent. Our arms swung rhythmically,our bodies twisting from left to right with our knees making somehow alternating circular motions. It seemed to be most satisfying when you made each twist and swing harder and deeper. The head was kept looking downward.  Jason S. once caught us trying to dance and said “Oh your trying to do the Bop!” I think were quite proud that someone as cool as Jason saw something good in what we were trying to do.We had never heard of “The Bop”.

This, later led to a strange pre-teen fascination with Elvis, Buddy Holly and in particular Jerry Lee Lewis. Once, having confessed to my parents about “doing the Bop” I was twice talked into demonstrating these movements for other family members. Once for my aunt at Christmas and then another time at my grandparents which I remember as deeply depressing and somehow it didn‘t work so well on carpet. 

(Phil Hayes)

When I was 18 years old  and  wanted to be a writer I  some how ended up training  instead with the most famous postmodern dancers of their generation on the theatre course at Dartington College of Arts. This was a huge suprise to me because most  bookish  students I knew  went off to University to read English Literature and write essays on the novels of Jane Austen. Before Dartington,  I  spent a year working as an usherette at The Gate Cinema. I tore tickets and dished out scoops of ice cream and wondered what to do with my life.The films they were showing at the time were all Derek Jarman’s early films…Jubillee, The Last of England….and so I got to meet Derek  who came to the cinema often, and it was he who told me about Dartington and encouraged me to apply.

Dance was called Movement on the time table  and we had to do it every morning from 9am to 11am . In the first year we had to walk around the dance studio a lot and then break in to a run. Every time I felt bored I  reckoned Derek was with me and that it must  all mean something. The revelation I had in the hands of my brilliant  tutors  Mary Fulkerson and Steve Paxton was not particularly  a dance revelation, but a perceptual revelation- by which I mean I began to see things that were once  invisible to me

What I began to see was how the human body is aligned. This sounds like a small thing but you just don’t get it from pictures of skeletons…..I began to notice  how people  lived in their  bodies – not just  dancers  but everyone  else: my mother,  my boyfriend, shop assistants, cops,  bus drivers. It gave me a vocabulary that up to then I didn’t even know I wanted or needed.

There was an exercise we had to do in class where one part of the body leads the dance, the little finger of the right hand for example.  I began to see this was true of  every day life as well.  Some people lead with their chins   or breasts  or  balance on the heels of their feet so they sway backwards.

I began to understand  something about  how the body works with or against gravity which I just hadn’t seen before – it was  not visible to me because I wasn’t looking for it, but now I was, and from this  I began to put together some thoughts  which were communicated to me through the body rather than through ideology: thoughts about who feels entitled in the world-who takes up the most space or dominates a room and how their bodies achieve this.We always had to do “movement” barefoot and  the aim was to “find a neutral body”. I understood this but I also knew in life there is no such thing as a neutral body..nor is it desirable out of a dance context. It’s a bit like pretending we have neutral emotions.  Dance has taught me more about writing than anything else – in particular how a performer can create a black hole on stage and be something I never want to look at – even though the lights are blaring above them, and how another performer can lurk in the shadows and he or she is the only place my eyes want to be.

(Deborah Levy)

It’s a slate move, but it’s on a sea-cliff in the sun. It’s Indian Summer, maybe in Pembrokeshire, maybe down in the toe of Cornwall–the real Cornwall. Strong sun on your naked upper back. The rock has its own smell, sharp & somehow neutral, but that comes to you from underneath the smell of the sea. It comes to you from underneath the sound of the big waves at the bottom of the cliff. You did the first fifty feet without thinking about them, in a series of small elated jumps & springs, showing off to yourself, celebrating your own ability to direct energy. In those fifty feet you could stop, hang off a big hold, lean slightly to one side and do the pose “Looking at a Seagull or a Boat” or “Being Really Quite Completely in Command of This Stuff.” That condition ended–that narcissistic-kinaesthetic fuel ran out–about two minutes ago. Now it’s this: you have to go up to your full reach, at the absolute extension of every muscle & joint from right toes to left fingertips, and get the ends of the first two fingers curled over a one-eighth-inch ledge. It’s maybe three inches long, and it’s slanting downwards to the left. Once you’ve done that, you will have been thrown so completely out of static balance that you will have to move immediately or you will slip off the foothold and fall into the sea. The move is this: you are going to bend your arm quickly at the elbow, from completely extended to the point where you can actually engage the upper arm muscles, and pull hard. Pull very hard and quick on the one-eighth-inch ledge with the two fingertips you have on there, and at the same time start running your feet up the rock, until you can get the fingertips of the other hand on the one-eighth-inch ledge, which by then will feel as big as a football field you hope, and lock both elbows solid so you can push your right foot hard against the rock somewhere up near your diaphragm without levering yourself off. By this time your arse will be out over the drop. You will be out of breath but you will not notice that. You will not be noticing that or anything else much. Now shift your left hand to the right a centimetre, and put your left foot next to it on the one-eighth-inch football field. Line them up: left toe, left hand, right hand. An inch each. As soon as your foot touches, you will have to begin pushing down hard with both hands, through your fingertips and rigid-bent-claw-fingers and utterly abused finger joints, because the next thing you are going to do is stand up. There’s nothing to hold on the wall above. Your leg is bent in half  and you can’t get it moving. Push down harder. Try and throw more of your weight over the ledge, which has gone back to being one-eighth-inch wide by three inches long. Push, push. Push. Your bones and tendons judder and stutter from locked to fluid, bent to straight. You do not want to know what is happening in your knee joint. Stand up very slowly and carefully. So ok either you are standing up there now or you are rolling back down towards the sea with you arms swinging out and your head banging on things. Either you are shaking so much you are going to fall off the ledge anyway, or you are shaking just enough to know you are alive. The sweat is fucking unbelievable. The chemicals are sluicing through you and though they’re good laughing chemicals they are making you shake even more. Someone is shouting up at you from near the sea, or maybe that’s a gull. You have no clue what you’ll do next; or care. The sunshine has come back and you can feel it on your forearms. This put you back in your body.

(Mike Harrison)

Have been curious to see that writing about actual dance movement is not extra easy (for me). Something about how dance movement is often (and definitely in this case) not something that you stumble into or through or find yourself in the middle of – it’s painstakingly picked apart and taught and commented on and rehearsed – an etching-in process. And then it’s channelled through when called for. Whereas physical experiences that strike me are the ones that are happening without preparation, surprises unthinking. Some of the ones I came up with were actually a bit traumatic or hyper-intense (eg. when 6 I had a serious concussion from falling down a wall – I have a super precise memory of the movement of plants (that were growing out of the wall) brushing past my arm as I fell). But it’s not dance. Or maybe a dance training wired me to read a lot of situations according to, literally, how I’m moving through them… I usually remember that better than words spoken for example. In memory a whole situation is recorded as how-my-body-moved-through-it.

Also on movement passed between bodies – – a funny byproduct of not seeing my family very often is forgetting what they’re like, and I always find it very weird how we share a lot of movement habits unconsciously (gestures, stances, expressions). It’s sort of nice, sometimes disturbing and anyhow makes me feel I own my body a little less. Also not dance 🙂

I also thought about how in the house in New Zealand I know the movement of the sun through it very well – how it moves over interior walls and into particular corners, in the length of the day – and sort of moves moods and colours and shadows with it. Sounds a bit abstract, but it’s quite a visceral memory of the space in motion.

(Kate McIntosh)

Jazz Band

4 November 2009

Following my Guardian online piece the other day (see just below for the link) I had a nice mail from Nicholas Eliott who is the company manager for Richard Maxwell – I mention his performance, reading stage directions during a work-in-progress, in the Guardian piece. What follows is from our exchange:


I enjoyed [the blog piece] not only for the personal glory, but because it was such a fine expression of ideas we share. Just Saturday I winessed the shambolic set-up of a nine-piece jazz band and told my friend I needed no theater better than nine musicians trying to figure out how to make seven music stand work.


The jazz band set-up sounds cool. I was on a visit to some theatre spaces in Vienna recently, looking at possible venues for something, and they showed me the main stage of the opera house. about 70 technicians (Im not joking) were busy on the stage with one thing and another – like looking into an ant colony. the guy shoing me around must've thought i was an idiot, I was so delighted by what i saw… would've hired them all immediately and called it a show…


The "drama" of the jazz show was that it was Halloween so the pianist was caught in traffic. They did a couple numbers without her, then after a little bit of commotion in the back, she quietly crossed the stage. The bandleader called over to her, "Are you really double-parked?"
"Yeah, Chris is going to watch it for me."

Paris Etchics

26 October 2009

Under the bridge by the river we come across the kicked over remnants of a fire – smear of ash in the earth, debris including a broken wine bottle or two, some trash here and there. Sheltered in the curve of the bridge where it comes to meet the ground, against the damp and only mildly graffitied stone wall, there are three crudely improvised mattresses. Not placed together, but rather spread out, isolated, as if the inhabitants of these beds might share this location not socially but in spatial terms only. Something about the still-life of the scene compels – these narrative traces, trails of presence – and whilst S. and I don’t break step my eye reads the scene insistently as we pass by. The first bed comprises a single sheet of plain cardboard, perhaps one metre wide, lain on the ground and stretched towards us, a nothing of pillow for the head, imagined feet to the river. The second bed, nestled parallell to the wall of the bridge, is a small strewn pile of promotional newspapers, slightly impacted with the faintest trace of a human form. The third bed is formed from two separate cardboard sheets, overlapping and marked with the name of some product or another. These sheets are damp, perhaps even sodden, having lain here the longest perhaps, evidence of a night some while ago. The first bed though, takes my eye back to it with it’s absolute simplicity. There is only a  minimal colour difference between it’s muted cardboard and the soft earth, and with its minor traces of inhabitation (non-descript footprints around, a slight indentation at the place where one might imagine hips) it is definitely the most forlorn of these improvised beds. There is a kind of geometric sadness to its oblong – grave-like of course, though I did not think that at the time – presenting enough room for a human to lie in or on, not more, not less. Of course it goes through my mind that these home-made structures are also empty stages of a kind – spaces of absence and potential. But though I know my camera is in my bag I’m somehow reluctant to stop, take it out and make pictures of a scene like this.

Seems like I’m comfortable enough to write about what I see though.. which is puzzling at first. I wonder if it is because the intrusion or appropriation of this fragment from another’s reality is somehow less when done in words? And of course I know I can forever qualify here, with words. Or is it because I don’t trust a photograph for this, with all the camera’s qualities of capture and its relentless aestheticisation? (Or with all the photographs’ claim to truth?).  Perhaps it’s just because I think I can move more nimbly what I am looking at, and the fact of my looking, rather better in words? Words is my place perhaps, more than pictures, and i feel comfortable to negotiate there. Perhaps Hugo would know how to take a picture here? Or perhaps he would also balk at the invasion. Funny. When I filmed my friend K.B. for a video a good few years back, Hugo, watching the footage and taking pity on K’s severe and extended stress in front of the camera, told me that he would have stopped the camera! But then performance is my place also and I’m inured to watching people go further than they had expected to go, revealing themselves. I guess I’m a known vampire of that.


Poem for September and October

14 October 2009

London. London. London. Goteborg. Goteborg Goteborg. Sheffield. London. Istanbul. Istanbul. Istanbul. Istanbul. Istanbul. Istanbul. Istanbul. Rennes. Rennes. Rennes. Rennes. Rennes. Sheffield. Sheffield. Sheffield. Rotterdam. Rotterdam. Dresden. Berlin. Berlin. New York.  New York.  New York.  New York.  New York.  New York.  New York.  New York.  New York.  New York. Sheffield. Sheffield. Sheffield. Paris. Paris. Sheffield. Goteborg. Goteborg. London. Sheffield. Sheffield. Sheffield. Sheffield. Sheffield. Paris. Paris. Paris. Sheffield. Sheffield. Sheffield. Liverpool. Graz. Graz.