If this were choreography

17 December 2008

You dream that you have woken but that soon you are slipping back again, not into sleep but into unconsciousness. Vague panic reactions. Layerings of different kinds of unconsciousness. A mechanical bird brings the answer to your questions.


M. watching an almost motionless Jim Fletcher in the drifting, dramaturgically flat and rather circular monologue Sight is the Sense… says to me afterwards that she had spent some time during the performance thinking “what would this be, if it were choreography?”. I was so happy with this thought, and with the perverse but beautiful image of her sat there listening and thinking, hard at work translating the shifts, turns, spirals, associations, jumps and flows in the text into steps, gestures and moves through space.


Afterwards the rain seems to blurr everything and soon pretty much all that remains is the image of a beggar on the streets of Brussels – a guy who sits on Anspach every day with a beat up set of bathroom scales set out on the ground in front of him. It’s as if (you guess) these scales at least nod to the chance that his presence here – with downcast eyes and torn paper cup – is work rather than beggary.


16 December 2008

When x tells me that Barack Obama has moved to Sunderland after a few months playing for Bolton I am not too surprised. He's shown some promise for a young player and clubs like Sunderland are probably always on the lookout for fresh talent. I don't make the mistake of confusing this particular Barack Obama with the president elect of the United States of America, and in any case I'm aware that X has a handful of quite distinct Barack's in operation right now. After all, his up and coming footballer is stored on the same hard drive as his Obama 'lone survivor of a mutant pack searching for answers and his father in the dangerous atomic wastelands of Washinton DC', in Fallout 3. And neither of these two is sensibly confused with his Barack Obama the small time pimp and drug dealer, who recently woke from a trauma-induced coma in a prison hospital in the town of Stilwater, and who following a daring escape has resurrected his gang the 3rd Street Saints, in a quest to reconquer the city and eliminate his rivals who now control the streets. Perhaps most distant and unconnected of all is his further Barack Obama who is busy seeking portals, fleeing assassins and from time to time slaying goblins and dragons left right and centre in Oblivion. Seems like the president elect Obama and his numerous alter egos have a lot of very different battles ahead of them in these next months, in many many different worlds. We'll be following Sunderland in PES 2009 with interest.


Even stranger when you think the real Obama will have this nation to preside over. 

Nothing Is Simple

Barbara Campbell wrote about the performance/time entry below, quoting this part:

Or those times in performance where you think for a moment that time has stretched or slowed, or that time was somehow stopped or had been forgotten but that now, in this moment only, it has started again, remembered.

She wrote:

Best thing on Australian television when I was growing up in the 1960s was a children’s program called The Magic Boomerang. I’m hoping (cause I wasn’t watching out for this as a kid) that the said boomerang was owned by an Aboriginal boy but what I remember well and loved most was that the performance of the world did stop when the boomerang was thrown, spinning seemingly endlessly in the air. And boomerangs being what they are do indeed draw a magical arc in the sky, a parabola where you seem to hold your breath until you see the forces of physics? spirits? take hold and turn that spinning thing around at which point you can exhale. The world would stop for everyone except the hero boy boomerang-thrower who was able to act quickly enough to get the good guys out of danger. Long live the deus ex machina.

Just more romantic remembering.

I wrote:

That’s a lovely image. Is all remembering romantic? No, I guess not. But there’s something about the fixed-ness of the past that lends itself to that – the past always allows us to fetishise the particularity of what was – in its beauty, force, awfulness or other qualities. I’m not sure that that’s romantic – strange the force of things we feel that we witnessed – even if it’s just the trope of a children’s TV show. these things have such presence in us. psychic landscape and all that.

She wrote:

Isn’t it this fetishisation of our memories (a very particular version of the past), childhood ones especially, that tends towards the romantic? But only if we never allow ourselves to challenge those memories. In this case, with the Magic Boomerang, it certainly needs challenging. Since writing to you about that show I’ve checked the website to find out more. As I half-suspected, the boomerang-throwing hero was not a young Aboriginal boy. From the synopsis: “Tom Thumbleton, a 13-year-old boy who lives with his parents on a sheep farm near the fictitious town of Gunnaganoo, finds a boomerang among some Aboriginal relics his great-great-grandfather left in the attic of their homestead.” Such a lot of brutal history barely hinted at in those simple sentences; it makes my stomach churn. The 45 episodes were aired in 1965-66, ie just months before the landmark 1966 referendum that gave Aboriginal Australians full enfranchisement. Before then, they were allowed to fight and die in our wars but had no voting rights nor were counted in any census. And this was the least severe of the injustices.

“strange the force of things we feel that we witnessed” – indeed. And the things witnessed as a child go beyond the psychic – encompassing the somatic, guiding us consciously, unconsciously, subconsciously towards what/who/where/if we will be.


Can I quote you on the boomerang? I’d love to add that text to the notebook.


Yes but given what I’ve said above, it would be necessary to include the qualifying background don’t you think? I know it rather undercuts the simple beauty of the magic boomerang but nothing is simple where Indigenous politics or history is concerned.


Stopped Remembered

3 December 2008


In performance I love the big clock of the now bent double, forced to a limit, cranked up or condensed to hell. I love the strange yet somehow necessary job we seem to have in rooms like these, of getting time itself to drip, pulse, echo, loop, freeze, shimmer, explode.

Or those times in performance where you think for a moment that time has stretched or slowed, or that time was somehow stopped or had been forgotten but that now, in this moment only, it has started again, remembered.

Text and the first image from my Peachy Coochy in London, a while back. The first clock from my journey Dusseldorf to London to perform, the others from various stations and elsewhere in the last ten years. Seems like I am collecting these.

Kate wrote:

You would love brussels central station at the moment, it’s in this long groaning overhaul which is becoming a comedy. I love spotting the frightening half-measures and in-betweens they construct to keep things tottering upright while they replace the wall/floor that was keeping it there before. It was always dismal down there but now it’s shattered too. The latest new addition is a bunch of brand new clocks hanging off wires cause the ceiling hasn’t been replaced yet (everything’s coming in in the wrong order). Like yours these are half under wraps, taped over. But meanwhile they’ve turned off the older clocks that are also still hanging, so you look down the platform and there’s about 6 clocks in view, some bandaged, others saying wildly different dead times. it’s a clock grave down there.


Meanwhile, in that other world, where time has not stopped, I thought these were pretty gripping.

Up Against It

Recoiling from time to time Nick Cave gets tiny electric shocks from the microphone during the set, stepping back from it, in something between alarm and irritation. I'm getting these tiny shocks he says vaguely, almost, but not quite asking for technical assistance. After a later shock he looks concerned for a moment and then makes a joke out of it "Please" he says "Please don't let me die in Sheffield". It seems a reasonable request and it's one that he goes back to a few times during the night which is otherwise all deserts and moons and melting snow, and rain and beautiful girls and guns of course and bad towns and bad men and blood and fire, and eyes and rage and knives. No one wants him to die. The crowd are too happy with him caught in a boiling torment of lust and doubt and need to want him dead, they are too happy with him caught in melancholic near-suicide mode, they are too happy with him bent double self-tortured and writhing in a sweating, howling, yelling rage of incomprehensible confusion and guilt to ever want him dead. But mostly they want him living so that he can kill. Stagger Lee is what they want to hear. Again and again. Stagger Lee, Stagger Lee. Those are the cries between songs. Stagger Lee. They want him coming out of the darkness and into town, and they want him not dead but murdering,  blood and brains and the rest of it all over the walls and floor, red right hand, but mostly Stagger Lee. And in the end they get what they want.


On the floor in the window of the toy shop at St Pancras Station a gaggle of battery operated toys have walked themselves into a corner. The fluffy pig is down there, nose pressed right into the angle, head actioned in a relentless twisting, a frenzied side to side, like he's digging for something caught there between the glass frontage and the wall, his feet propelling him forward, the glass wall holding him forever in place. Forever or until the batteries wear down. Behind this stuck pig, a soldier thing marches back and forth and a few other creatures amble the neighborhood, heading here and there, purposeless, mildly pathetic, and for the most part forgotten. One of them, a duck perhaps, or chicken, is tangled somehow in the lower wire framework of a postcard stand, another (the clown perhaps or the puppy) trails an accidental ribbon of sellotape, gummed with dust and human hair, like an amateur street sweeper. Best of all though is the giraffe, who, at a lanky ten inches tall, has walked himself to the window and is gazing, staring straight ahead, big eyes fixed on the feet passing by, and on the stretch of marble veldt that extends beyond his prison. For motion he has two modes, a pointless side to side juddering jig (net effect = zero), which alternates with a stepping-forwards-with-intent that culminates with a kind of head butting jerk motion. It's the latter that makes him the star of the show. He's right against the glass and every headbutt forwards is directly into the window, bang, pull back, bang,  as if, with the cute face and wide eyes he is trying to hammer his way out, or destroy his good looks, or somehow get the kind of psychiatric attention that is no doubt his due. Giraffe's face though is a total blank, the action, calm, repeated, like one hard-man trying to prove to another that he has no feelings whatesoever, nutting the glass repeatedly – bang, pull back, bang, pull back, bang – the whole thing done with that kind of numb expressionless conveyer-belted animatronic anger you expect from caged animals and humans without hope, a numb rage that suits the context and goes largely un-noticed.



On a large blue billboard The College of Christ the Redemeer advertises its courses in Theology, Computer Technology, Business Studies and English Lessons.

Not far off in the South London rain a chalk-board slogan beckons you to the

Last ENGLISH run pub on Harper Road

Most of the lettering in white chalk, the word English capitalised in red.

Thanks. But no thanks.

Two Fragments

23 November 2008

we are walking on the roofs, and he's talking us through the
footprint of the building from above,
the different areas, gesturing around, we're stood on a 3-d map.
Below that's the foyer… out there that way, that's the fly tower,
over there, right up the edge there that's the studio.
We step this way and that on the silver roof paint,
that part there, with the tiled roof, that's the original stage and auditorium, it's just fraction of the complex,
then we're on the move again, wary of the edges, stepping the low 'walls' which mark the boudaries of the separate buildings/extensions/additions to the structure below
look he says, that's the city wall, he's pointing out and down to the stone structure running off beneath us and away from the building, before it's sandwiched between two much more modern structures. We look out over the city trying to get a fix on location,
below us the warren of the spaces we've walked through – under stages and over them, through corridors, passages, second-foyers and studios, past offices and apparently random apparently windowless rooms, through construction spaces, ascending and descending to second balconies, third balconies etc – knots and unknots, tumbling in mental space, as it tries to match, settle or cohere with the plan view we have from up here but whichever way I picture it, whichever way I twist, stretch, bend or compress the model in my head, it seems unlikely that the space below our feet could ever contain the whole of what we saw.


later, in another city. Up there on the stage one of the dancers in the golden 60's mini dresses (it's the one with the beard) neglects to put down her bottle of beer as they traipse to the stage for the song, so that the section with the synchronised hand movements – the Supreme's Stop In The Name of Love – has only two outstretched hands to gesture the punctuation Stop!, and a third which seems to vaguely proffer a bottle.

A Revamped Procedural Sky System

20 November 2008

“First we look to buy a nice house and car. Then we buy guns and other weapons. The rest of the money we use to relax.”

Suddenly it’s all Somali pirates all the time, all driving speedboats, all loading their machine guns and rocket launchers, all chewing the narcotic leaf qat and dreaming of ways out of the zone – here, here, here and everywhere else. Where is the amazing Kathy Acker when you need someone to mix this stuff up a bit?


Initially, the team created a procedural sky rendering approached based on algorithms — which led to a totally unconvincing skybox that was clearly inferior to what a hand-authored skybox would be. “We considered it to be a total failure,” he said.

He explained that a great deal of focus must be put on the tools that surround the algorithms, to allow the systems to be properly harnessed. In the end, the game shipped with a revamped procedural sky system that ended up much more effective than the first attempt. It takes into account myriad weather patterns, atmospheric conditions, and other variables.

Following earlier post on games testing, and in general zone of The Broken World, the quote above comes from a nice piece here at Gamasutra on virtual world creation and how developers, like those of Far Cry 2, are increasingly minded to use what they call ‘procedural content generation’ to make spaces, environments and so on from sets of rules and more-or-less random variables. I still can’t quite explain or understand why I find this kind of thing so totally fascinating. Link via Boing Boing.

Night Vision

19 November 2008

[picture by vlatka horvat]


Local newspapers carried the typical story of a factory owner who consorted with local witches so that he could transform into an owl to watch over his workforce from up amongst the rafters in his premises, how the spell had been successful and the various dealings and shenanigans he had uncovered from up there involving theft and misappropriation of goods, also how the spell was intermittent and how he had randomly transfrmed from time to time – becoming an owl at a dinner party and at a trip to see a supplier of some essential goods that he needed, to his great personal embarresment and causing probelms with his wife and certain business partners who made comments on his strange transformations and started rumours that he was in league with a devil. Also how he one day transformed back from a owl to a person again without intending to do do and how he was thence stuck up in the rafters, clinging there, naked and alone, weeping, according to a caretaker they interviewed on condition of anonymity, until he got rescued at dawn by some lads from the Maintenance Department on extendible ladders. And how, as time passed he became at war with the witches because of how the spell was so useless and caused so many problems in his work and private life and how he trade descriptioned them for the bad spell and how finally, frustrated with the legal process, he sought to kill them and hired some other witches (from another town) in the pursuance of that act.


The geography of the building makes even less sense with the lights on. As if the architecture was meant, somehow, to be navigated late night in confusion, by strobe or ultra violet light, in a state of drunken sway, or otherwise staggering. In blunt daylight, or under the flat vibration of brutal fluorescents, the vertiginous and counterintuitive twists and turns of the stairwells are awful confrontations, abstract puzzles remaindered from some nightmare and rendered in concrete, where at night, routed though its quite other logic, filled with sweat, din of sound, and intoxicated bodies the same passageways are soft spirals, secret routes that turn forever in, out and around your desire. “The space”, he whispers, when you find him later “grows from the logic of the night”.


the pastness of the past you know. what was and what isn’t, what’s gone.
and your turned back, the perfect symmetry of your arms, your self-absorption,
the blurring/ flattening of the colours thanks to the nightvision so that body and landscape begin to dissolve into each other..
the pool of light and clothes at your feet.
the indistinguishable background that looks like it could have other distant figures,
the sea that could be sky.

Writing and Speaking

18 November 2008

Mike (M John) Harrison has some nice words around Forced Entertainment’s Spectacular. Also, thumbs up from Lyn Gardner on the same piece in The Guardian, and Maxie Szalwinska on the many delights and fabulous rigours of Saturday’s Peachy Coochy Afternoon which we co-hosted with David Gale and Adrian Heathfield, hereSpectacular continues to Manchester, starting tonight, followed by Taunton and Glasgow.


Vlatka‘s London show at BAC (2nd floor space) runs 13 – 29 November 2008, Thu-Sat 12pm-7pm & 9pm-10pm. It’s free. The show has a mix of her photos, videos and recent collages. They say:

With a strong connection to performance, Vlatka Horvat’s work makes use of a range of media from video and photography to works on paper and projects with text. She stages puzzling encounters between a human figure and elements of the built environment. Comical, mischievous and unsettling, her work explores aspects of experience that are difficult to put into words, or depict in images – feelings of doubt, hesitation, restlessness, and of being lost. 

For anyone in New York meanwhile, or headed that way, Vlatka is also half of a two person show with Jennifer Cohen. It runs November 7-December 14, 2008 at Rachel Uffner Gallery at 47 Orchard Street,  Lower East Side.


Also since last week the video I did with Vlatka Insults & Praises is in the exhibition Speaking Out Loud at Netherlands Media Art Institute, Keizersgracht 264, 1016 EV Amsterdam. Curated by Susanne Jaschko it runs 15 November 2008 – 17 January 2009.  Opening hours:  Tuesday – Saturday and first Sunday of the month + December 7 and January 4 from 1:00 – 6:00 pm.

Other artists participating:  Mukul Patel (UK) and Manu Luksch (AT), Charles Sandison (UK), Christoph Keller  (DE), Jaromil (IT) and Jodi (NL), Linda Hilfling (DEN), KH Jeron (DE), Tudor Bratu (RO) and Istvan Ist Huzjan (SLO), Michael Höpfel (DE), Trikoton (DE), Evan Roth (US).

Press release:

Speaking Out Loud centers on the processes of both “thinking out loud” and “speaking out.” Thinking out loud describes the associative, dynamic and rather uncontrolled process of simultaneously thinking and speaking about a particular topic. We think out loud to make a suggestion, to put forward an idea or a thought rather than to make a claim. Speaking Out Loud advocates this free and creative process of thinking out loud through artworks that enable a playful and surprising experience of language. This happens in the form of what could be summarised as experimental language exercises or canny transformations and alternations of language.  

Meanwhile the act of speaking out demonstrates resistance and the existence of alternative concepts and views. As a democratic act it constitutes a cornerstone of democratic society. In  that sense, the exhibition promotes the idea of controversy, dissent and debate as a relevant society shaping strategy. In the light of representative democracies, low voter participation and  increasingly levelled concepts of life, Speaking Out Loud attempts to call for taking an active role in the debate. Moreover it explores the subversive power of spoken or written text but also unmasks the inflationary and culturally connoted use of words and phrases.

The artworks in the  exhibition deal with the act of speaking, reading and writing.  They particularly reflect on and emphasise the performative qualities of language and thus reveal the strong and inseparable connection between words’ meaning and their performance/performer.

Renowned novelist Paul Auster captured the act of speaking as “When words come out, fly into the air, live for a moment, and die. Strange, is it not?” It is this fluidity and dynamics of language and its meaning that the exhibition centers on, observes and reflects.

In this fluid state, words fly and dance, thus enabling a mental dialogue between the artwork and its  viewer/listener, and opening up to continuous interpretation.The exhibition mainly presents works of Dutch and English language. Thereby it also reflects on a world in which vast distances are bridged with relative facility but where language remains a system of cultural “multivalence.


There’s a good review by Tim Robey of my novel The Broken World in November/December’s Frieze. Sadly not online so I can’t link to it.