Last Minute/Long Relay

12 October 2007

Timetable for The Long Relay writers is below. Looking forward to it. Big thanks to Ben and Eva at Serpentine for helping to pull the whole thing together this last ten days.

Saturday 13 October

13.00-16.00: Tim Etchells in Bergen, Norway
16.00-19.00: Tom McCarthy in London
19.00-22.00: Deborah Levy in London

Sunday 14 October

22.00 (Sat)-01.00: M. John Harrison in London
01.00-04.00: Shelley Jackson in New York
04.00-07.00: Fiona Templeton in New York
07.00-10.00: Simon Bayly in London
10.00-13.00: Adrian Heathfield in London


Fragments Again

11 October 2007

Curator Adam Budak has invited me to take part in Manifesta 7 in Italy next year. Adam is organising the exhibition in Rovereto. Site visit coming soon.


Tom McCarthy’s new book Men In Space has a nice review in The Observer. Looking forward to reading it. Tom’s taking part in this weekend’s Long Relay event hosted by Serpentine gallery. Also confirmed for Long Relay now are Simon Bayly (Roehampton University/Theatre Pur) and Shelley Jackson whose as yet incomplete Skin project – a story published (as single-word tattoos) on the skin of 2095 volunteers – looks pretty amazing.


My performance/lecture in Frankfurt a couple of weeks ago jumped from its supposed topic of dramaturgy to a story about an inexplicable bout of crying that I’d experienced last year in front of a Cy Twombly painting at Guggenheim NY. As a follow up my friend Christine Peters just sent me info on a book called Pictures & Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings by James Elkins, an art historian at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Great title at least – will have to track it down. Amazon calling.


10 October 2007

Found the fragment below (via Boing Boing) in some New York Magazine collected 'Top Ten Most Incomprehensible Bob Dylan Interviews of All Time'. It's from an interview with Playboy, February 1966 and Dylan's speaking about how he chose his career. Nice text.

Carelessness. I lost my one true love. I started drinking. The first thing I know, I'm in a card game. Then I'm in a crap game. I wake up in a pool hall. Then this big Mexican lady drags me off the table, takes me to Philadelphia. She leaves me alone in her house, and it burns down. I wind up in Phoenix. I get a job as a Chinaman. I start working in a dime store, and move in with a 13-year-old girl. Then this big Mexican lady from Philadelphia comes in and burns the house down. I go down to Dallas. I get a job as a "before" in a Charles Atlas "before and after" ad. I move in with a delivery boy who can cook fantastic chilli and hot dogs. Then this 13-year-old girl from Phoenix comes and burns the house down. The delivery boy — he ain't so mild: He gives her the knife, and the next thing I know I'm in Omaha. It's so cold there, by this time I'm robbing my own bicycles and frying my own fish. I stumble onto some luck and get a job as a carburetor out at the hot-rod races every Thursday night. I move in with a high school teacher who also does a little plumbing on the side, who ain't much to look at, but who's built a special kind of refrigerator that can turn newspaper into lettuce. Everything's going good until that delivery boy shows up and tries to knife me. Needless to say, he burned the house down, and I hit the road. The first guy that picked me up asked me if I wanted to be a star. What could I say?

In the same place there's a link to a clip from D.A. Pennebaker's brilliant 1966 Don't Look Back in which Dylan lays into a Time magazine journalist with a barrage of questions and statements. "Will you see the concert? But are you going to hear it?"

Now looking forward to Todd Haynes's forthcoming Bob Dylan biopic – I'm Not There — in which Dylan is played variously by Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Christian Bale and an 11-year old boy (amongst others).

Long Relay

9 October 2007

This coming Saturday I’m writing in a project called Long Relay that Adrian Heathfield and I have set up for the Serpentine Gallery in London as part of their Experiment Marathon.

Long Relay is a kind of real-time call-and-response writing project conducted over the internet in which an initial text (written by me and frequently updated online as I write) is then re-worked, re-written or entirely re-invented by the next writer, and whose work in-turn in re-written by the next and so on, continuously over a 24 hour period. I start writing at 1pm Saturday 13th October and the project closes at the same time on Sunday 14th with a final piece by Adrian. In between (and working three hour shifts) are Tom McCarthy, Deborah Levy, Mike Harrison and Fiona Templeton (plus two more in final process of confirmation!). You’ll be able to follow the whole project, live on the internet as well as being able to access the individual parts/chapters as they are completed.

I’m looking forward to the project and nervous about it in a way, although, it being a live thing and something I want to approach very much as live there’s nothing I can really do to prepare. I plan to sit down with no plan and simply see where I go. If things work out I will have one thing to guide or inspire me me – a question provided by Olafur Eliasson whose Pavilion with architect Kjetil Thorsen is the physical base for Experiment Marathon.

It’s great to be joined in Long Relay by Tom McCarthy who I’ve met just a couple of times and whose Remainder I liked a lot and wrote about in the Notebook here. As well as Fiona Templeton whose You – The City was a huge inspiration when I saw it maybe 20 years ago, I’m also really happy to have writers whose contributions to Barbara Campbell’s ongoing 1001 Nights Cast have been so great. Long Relay definitely wouldn’t have been in my mind as a concept without the inspiring introduction to live writing, and text as call and response that Barbara’s project has been. I’ll be writing again for 1001 in a month or so.

More details on Experiment Marathon which also features work and presentations by Marina Abramović; Simon Baron-Cohen; John Brockman; Peter Cook; Sophie Fiennes; Armand Leroi; Gustav Metzger; Steven Pinker; Pedro Reyes; Matthew Ritchie; Israel Rosenfield; Tomas Saraceno; Angela Sirigu; Andreas Slominski; Luc Steels; and Lewis Wolpert, at the link above.

And finally if anyone happens to be in London for Frieze my video show One Hundred and Three People is still running at Sketch until 3 November.

Come Closer/Go Further Back

6 October 2007

“First just one came out, then two, then three, four, five, six, seven, but there were more than that in total. We had a dozen machetes, a dozen knives and some axes and pots with us. We gave these to them. Not by hand, but by leaving them on the beach. We said to them, ‘Come closer’ but they didn’t want to. They said to us, ‘Go further back, further back,’ so we did.”

John Vidal in The Guardian on the Earth’s ‘lost tribes’.


Also, Chavez epic tv.

“The fierce morning heat was a memory. The afternoon haze had come and gone. It was the cool of dusk, with shadows stretching as the sun dipped below the Andes. And Hugo Chávez was still talking. The clock showed it was just after 7pm. The Venezuelan president had started at 11am, more than eight hours earlier – a new record. He looked into the camera and grinned: ‘The first time in history’.”

Head Space

5 October 2007

Working ugly and hard in Bergen on the FE show, towards very early work-in-progress next week. Work days are 13 hours, there are no breaks to speak of and food is either dialling pizza or running to Spa to get stuff and coming back straight away. All 'meals' are taken whilst meeting, watching video or otherwise continuing to work. People sleep here and there on the floor or in their chairs as we work, the occasional succumbing to exhaustion more or less an accepted part of the routine. Not a good way to live.

I found a fragment I wrote last year or maybe the year before, describing one part of what goes on as we're trying to make something at this stage:

"…the process, whilst in conversation, or alone, of mentally 'running' imaginary or speculative bits of the show to see if they work. Often this seems to happen in relation to transitions between sequences – trying to figure out if a certain way of getting from one piece of material to another is plausible. So… in the tiny stage of your head you're placing figures and picturing the end of the one scene and thinking 'he does that and she says that' and then thinking 'that happens, and so and so says such and such' and then, moving figures around for the transition 'x says y and then a moves to b and then…'

Always constructing these very specific (if hazy on inspection) 'versions' and all the time, as well as the detail, trying to see if it 'feels right'. What's amazing to me is how knackering a long day of talking is, especially if you're doing a lot of this (which you could call screening of mental rushes) – it reminds me so much of computers faced with the task of rendering complex moving scenes… Your brain is really working. And it puts you in a very weird relation to the world too – because all the time you are somewhere (in a room, in the studio, sat in a café) you're also largely somewhere else. In this unfolding head-space which you're conjuring, making stuff happen with this cast of figures you have to shift and shunt around the stage. Very weird…"


2 October 2007

Vlatka got a new book from the often very smart and enjoyable artists projects/publisher Bookworks. Their Worldview by Emma Kaye and Under Hempel’s Sofa by Virgil Tracy are two of my favourites. The new one is Letters 2004–2006: Confirmation That You Still Exist; I Respect Your Authority; When Will It End; One London by Martin John Callanan (2007)

The blurb says:

“Callanan’s work explores apparatuses of power. Gathered here are the responses to his mass letter writing. Each letter poses a deceptively simple question or even inane rhetorical statement and the collected responses reveal the absurdity of bureaucracy and the egos of those that claim power.

Collected here are a selection of responses to a series of letters mailed between 2004-06, ranging from the bemused response of the Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury to the question “When will it end?” to appreciative letters from the offices of President Mubarak of Egypt in response to the declaration “I respect your authority”.

Callanan has some very nice projects documented on his site greyisgood. One of the letter-writing ones – called Confirmation That You Still Exist – is also documented in full there. For it “Letters were written to UK leaders, appointed leaders, and representatives. Confirmation was sought of their existence. This was done under the ‘Freedom of Information Act 2000’.”

The desperate dryness and bureaucracy of the responses from Buckingham Palace through the Houses of Parliament contain a kind of residual melancholy, with the entities compelled by law to respond to a request that is effectively meaningless. I think what’s beautiful about his work is the utter blankness of the statements or questions he employs – there’s a kind of monosyllabic theatre to them, which seems far from the extended or baroque forms of letter-writing, video and telephone pranksterism we’re more or less drowning in these days.

“I confirm..” writes one weary official in response to Callanan “…on behalf of the Department of Health, that Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Health, still exists.”


1 October 2007

My friend Misri wrote making some connections to the Julie Tolentino writing I did a while ago about her performance A True Story About Two People, here. She's writing about it in terms of contact improvisation, which really wouldn't have occurred to me, since its way off my territory. But reading this now I can see how much sense it makes as a refference point to the piece.

"It reminded me a lot of the questions and challenges that arise when I am doing/teaching Contact Improvisation… a form I have practiced for the last twenty years or so and which I've taught the last few years. Your conversation reminded me of how skin or muscle or sweat touch triggers associations of momentary and short lived intimacy, how in a jam you can have a long changing involved physical dance exchange with a stranger and they are not strange anymore and you never see them again. And how leaving a dance is always a moment – significant. Although it does happen a lot, so you get used to quick byes, slow byes, sort of good byes only to say hello again in a later dance. And it can be momentarily painful, a relief, a loss, a good ending, a quick exit. And the hellos, the moment of making contact and then following the point of contact as a duet can also be tentative – a getting to know, a slow and often importantly clumsy exploration of what moving is possible. Fast beginnings can be good too, but is more rare – often fast beginnings are a cover up for allowing the new awkwardness of the meeting and the strange sensation to filter in. A bit like what you said about talking to Julie as you danced to start with – which can mask sensation/just being there. Yeah – good old words. Nancy Stark Smith, one of the founders of CI spoke to me in an interview of how in her teaching of the form – 'the first move is into sensation' .  I like the confusion that is triggered, although it can be hard as well."