In any case I claim as my work this week the choreography of all the drunks in Brussels. The backwards and forwards staggering of the guy at the ATM, with its interlaced measure of side-to-side swaying, the guys head leading his body in confusion, his whole frame suspended from time to time in moments of temporary balance and bewildered thought, was pretty much the start of the show. Later, when his money spat from out of the machine, he let it fall, stupid fingers bluntly grabbing as the notes scattered flightless to the pavement – the green brown of brand new 100/50 Euro notes heading downward to their place at his feet. His comical grasping, blind, flat palmed, was my work, and the trick of the other guy, his friend, with a darting less-drunk motion coming in to help him, crouching and grabbing the fluttering cash was a maybe too clever way to turn a solo into a duet, the two of them gathering notes in hurry that was frightened by the prospect of wind. The way they circled the pavement to the waiting taxi was mine, the more-sober one going round, out and into the road to take the left-hand passenger door after first flinging the other wide open for his friend, who, after collapsing inwards to the darkness of the seat, made great and protracted drama from the action needed to close the door after himself – faint circles of the hand, conflicted leaning in tension with the seat belt and then finally the gesture of his fingers, straining for the handle, a miniature ballet staged one full half metre short of their mark.
The climax of my work was maybe days later when a different drunk altogether, a veritable Nureyev or Nijinsky of his time, crashed down the stairs of a restaurant, head over heels and then wedged in the curve of the stairs turn, unable to right himself, in unwinding agony of an overturned beetle, legs in slow motion, animal groans. His friend also joined for the duet, the latter trying to right the former, by pulling him upwards, all the while threatening to fall and join him in the almost and painful horizontal. Their exit was the piece de resistance – the drunkest of the two clasping his hands around the neck/shoulders of the other who took him, weaving an unsteady path between the tables, his friend a good natured more-or-less-sentient sack of potatoes at his back declaring good! good ! good!, as they lurched closer to the door then found release to the darkness of the night beyond.
The work I am proudest of though, was my trio for a drunk man, a half empty beer can and a brand new Mercedes Benz taxi. Staged at 1 or two in the morning the lone dancer – in white track suit, sideways baseball cap and rolling stagger – drop-kicked the beer can from his hand and out into the floodlit street, the can moving in a wild unruly arc, towards the parked up taxi, but over it, a beautiful clearance which non-the-less dripped and dashed a curve of lager to its gleaming bonnet and windshield, incurring the wrath of the driver but stunning the crowd with its thrilling, abrupt and unexpected parabola. In the aftermath the dancer almost collapsed, fell back on himself with the recoil, so beautiful.
The rest of my work – all the swaying, blundering of the city's many drunks dispersed across its vast stage, all the missed footsteps, the fumblings, the falls, the yells, extended arms, slumped backs, entangled pas de deuxs, the gyrations, twists, circlings, stumbles and misunderstandings, the sudden motions, the unison chorus of staggerers, subway platform soloists of confusion, argumentative quartets around benches etc etc I will not recount or describe in full detail here but hope that you have seen them, and appreciate the work. Something about a venture on this scale is suiting me. I will move, in the not too distant future to larger things – the rise and fall of the money markets beckons and I have let the relevant authorities know that I am ready for the job.
Hands & Feet
Spent some days working with Fumiyo on the piece we do for next year. Early conversations still. Some nice things in the studio. On the floor of the space we were working in at Rosas many coloured dots and lines of tape, red, blue, yellow, green – the dots like oversize confetti, diagram-ghosts, marking points for the geometry that backbones so much of Anne Teresa’s choreography. The week before (in London) I watched the Reich evening, in which the standout work was Phase, to Reich’s Piano Phase. I loved it, in its tension, and apparent singularity – the dance like the music a simple-but-complex, complex-but-simple braid of repetition and doubling. Stunning. Ant Hampton has been blogging some lately which I’m glad of – he wrote nice things about the performance here.
Really noticing these days how much I watch hands in movement – was momentarily obssessing over what I saw as a difference between the hands of the two dancers in this work (not visible in the grainy YouTube clip of course!). Watching Fumiyo in the studio too it’s certainly her hands and her face that I seem drawn to as she moves – maybe not so much that these are what I see more, but rather that they are what i can frame a comment on or through – as if these more easily narrative parts of the body (?) allow me a language with which to start speaking. I’m not sure. Sara Jansen watches the rehearsals too and at some point commented on what F. was doing with her feet. I’m suddenly reminded that whilst I must have seen how she moved them, and certainly felt it, I can’t even start, for the moment, to describe or speak of it. It’s either not in my memory, or where it is, I don’t have the words with which to extract it.
New York based theatre academic Jonathan Kalb did an interview with me a while back, then came to Portland to see Quizoola! and Sight is the Sense… His generous and smart response to the work can be seen online.
Two guys in the Japanese restaurant, both in business suits, one railing the other with rhetorical questions to help him make his point.
How does fiber function as an armour?
He asks, the other guys says nothing, picking at sashimi, waiting for his colleague to continue.
How does metal function as an armour?
In a bar two days later (think morning sunlight and filthy windows) the interactions are even less readable. Speaking languages you cant start to guess the meaning of, with a surfeit of gestures that somehow remain opaque the guy in the Everlast sweatshirt confronts the woman drying glasses at the counter. If it’s a friendly conversation or not, you cannot tell. At some point in the undubbed movie he proffers a photograph – visible from where you are sitting – the face of a child. Bar-woman looks blank, goes back to her labour. The picture is his daughter, the presentation of it a simple uncalled for intimacy? Or the child is missing, a trail he follows with detective incompetence, a rudderless ship? You can’t know. Will never know. Leaving, the guy grins with cigarette in teeth, but his eyes are still probing the clientele, still looking for something, then he’s gone.
Final cast for Drama Queens at the Old Vic tomorrow (Sunday 12th at 7.30) was announced a few days ago – remember you can get all the old news here first. Joseph Fiennes, Jeremy Irons, Alex Jennings, and Lesley Manville join Kevin Spacey in the project of Michael and Ingar (Elmgreen and Dragset) with a text by me.
A picket line of workers (miners, clerical staff, teachers etc)
a throng of people near a stadium (occasion unknown)
9.11 re-enactors in their outfits and ‘masks of shock’, bags of pre-bought ashes and faked up office document-detritus in their pockets and shoulder bags ready to throw skywards when the cardboard planes strike the replica towers. Kids look on, bored, restless. They saw it all before before. A band strikes up – that song they played on Titanic but hacked up in some generative/interactive/download-only remix by Protocol9 or HawkerSiddley.
A sturdy guy but somehow unstable there’s some kind of random ungainly thing going on in him. Under the surface (or more like ‘all over it’) you check curious shifts of weight, dips in gait, semi-lunges, hidden twitches, the whole of this, a rough equilibrium, somehow contained in the general direction of his motion, deliberate moves mixed and matched with unpredictable impulses, the combination threaded round the axis of his spine, the bloke always steadfast and balanced somehow, moving forwards but rolling, only his facial expression letting slip, from time to time, his own surprise, by startled eyes, at the movements he makes, riding the frame of himself.
Or on the street in London:
First thing I saw this morning when I looked out of the window was [inaudible]. I thought oh yeah, this is England. The sunny days are over.
Scale of Intensity
Ant sent this yesterday, vaguely re The Broken World, which he’d just finished reading, but also somewhat in line with the apocalyptic markets meltdown we’ve had crashing around our media eyes and ears these last few days. I hadn’t come across Don Patterson before – I liked this quite a lot and I’m about to start looking for more.
The Scale of Intensity / by Don Patterson.
1. Not felt. Smoke still rises vertically. In sensitive individuals, déjà vu, mild amnesia. Sea like a mirror.
2. Detected by persons at rest or favourably placed, i.e. in upper floors, hammocks, cathedrals, etc. Leaves rustle.
3. Light sleepers wake. Glasses chink. Hairpins, paperclips display slight magnetic properties. Irritability. Vibration like passing of light trucks.
4. Small bells ring. Small increase in surface tension and viscosity of certain liquids. Domestic violence. Furniture overturned.
5. Heavy sleepers wake. Pendulum clocks stop. Public demonstrations. Large flags fly. Vibration like passing of light trucks.
6. Large bells ring. Bookburning. Aurora visible in daylight hours. Unprovoked assaults on strangers. Glassware broken. Loose tiles fly from roof.
7. Weak chimneys broken off at roofline. Waves on small ponds, water turbid with mud. Unprovoked assaults on neighbours. Large static charges built up on windows, mirrors, television screens.
8. Perceptible increase in weight of stationary objects: books, cups, pens heavy to lift. Fall of stucco and some masonry. Systematic rape of women and young girls. Sand craters. Cracks in wet ground.
9. Small trees uprooted. Bathwater drains in reverse vortex. Wholesale slaughter of religious and ethnic minorities. Conspicuous cracks in ground. Damage to reservoirs and underground pipelines.
10. Large trees uprooted. Measurable tide in puddles, teacups, etc. Torture and rape of small children. Irreparable damage to foundations. Rails bend. Sand shifts horizontally on beaches.
11. Standing impossible. Widespread self-mutilation. Corposant visible on pylons, lampposts, metal railings. Waves seen on ground surface. Most bridges destroyed.
12. Damage total. Movement of hour hand perceptible. Large rock masses displaced. Sea white.
Right Kind of Light
A while back I wrote a short text for Arne Fork whose project with Co>Labs/Travel Light – Not The Right Kind of Light For a Magic Act – opens 2,3,4 October at WUK in Vienna. The process of the piece began from open invites to a group of writers who were given cart blanche in responding to the theme of disappearance, with the extraordinary story of artist Jan Bas Adder as a further reference point. No idea what twists and turns the process of the project has taken thus far, or if my narrative below will be in it or if it simply hovers somehow as deep background. Certainly though I’ve ended up donating the title, which comes from a line in my text. Here’s what I wrote.
From out of the window you can see where kids on the wasteground that is mainly bricks and concrete have set on fire to something that used to be a car. The flames have burned up higher and then a bit higher and are now reaching up to the tree that stands there. No one could know what a tree was doing out on there anyways, they were always wondering about it and Kids were always swinging on it and climbing it right up there for no good reasons to see what was going on around which was probably not much. Now the branches are on fire. You cannot see any kids just now anyways that is for sure. Maybe they hiding somewhere or probably they all runned back to the houses. If it rained the fire in that car would go out but it will not rain for a longtime I think according to internets, so the fire will just continue along and maybe then the petrol tank will explode and fire will be everywhere. I mean I do not know if a petrol tank does really explode like that you know bang and whoosh, like how it does in a movie, or if they always just make it that way for things to be more exciting. You got to have some exciting in a movie but on a wasteground it does not matter so much if it is exciting or not. Who cares? Who is even watching a wasteground. Only nobody, only some guy or whatever looking out at a window. But for a movie it has to be exciting cos people paid a ticket or wasted a lot of time trying to get there to the movie theatre so maybe that’s why the petrol tank explode the whole time in a movie like that to send the flames right out in a ball of explosions. Now through the heat haze of the burning and the sun you can see two of the kids out there though. One is the one called Kaya, you can always hear people calling out her name the whole time like they looking for her or she done something wrong and the other one that they call him El Mucho, I do not know why, he is a skin and bone thing he is not that much of Mucho if you ask me. Anyway. They are behind the car that is burning, more far off from the window, you cannot see what they are doing really. They are always fooling those two like playing games with a stick and stone or a big blanket out of industrialised polythene they found it somewhere or salvaged it off a vehicle that got abandoned at a road block. That Kaya makes out like she is a big boss of everything but mostly she just get in trouble and Everything does not pay any attentions to her except El Mucho though, he follows her round like a shadows, does all what she says, makes an echo in the world of the things she tell him to do. He will do anythings, that is what the other kids say and laugh at him for or throw discarded batteries or stones in his direction, or sprinkle chips of broken windscreen glass at him from up above like a cruel snow. Now they are playing in a wardrobe – Kaya and El Mucho. There is all kind of shit out there on the wasteground. Some of it just get dumped there – I mean I guess shit has to go somewhere. Some things is what people were dragging across toward houses to salvage somehow and then they got shot or planes came over or security patrols came by and they had to abandon it thinking ok ok they come back later but they did not come back so in the morning when light comes there is like a 3 Piece Sofa sitting there in a concrete middle of nowhere or a big box of canned groceries in a vastness or puddle of nothingness. Mostly that kind of stuff disappears before too long in any case cos someone else goes out to get it, but some stuff it just stays there a long time like no one wants it and no one even bothers to think about it until the rain comes and breaks it down or the kids that are in league with the rain break it down with their feet or their hands. Like one time there were books out there. Boxes and boxes, you could not see the cover and they end up all over the place all rip up and torn up by the kids and left to mush from the Rain. Anyway. Kaya and El Mucho are playing at the wardrobe. I see them play this game before. I do not understand what it is with them because to me they do boring shit. One goes in the wardrobe. Then the other one close the door and run around obviously yelling ya-ya-ya-ya-ya about one thing and then about another but you cannot hear it they are too far away. Then that one that was yelling opens the door and makes out like the other one disappeared. Like it is all a big magic act. They play at that dumb shit a long time, taking turns. It is easier for El Mucho to fit in there than Kaya that is for sure. Now they play again. El Mucho goes inside and Kaya walk around like she explaining everything to the crowd that does not even exist, all waving arms and like on a Magic Show all ya-ya-ya-ya-ya and ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya but watch out, while she does that the petrol tank is exploding which at last answers the question about movies from before. If you wait an answer will come along. It is like a bang very loud that it shakes the glass on the window and it does that fireball thing exactly like Movies and the thick black smoke also and a lot of kids come suddenly running out of houses. Afterwards Kaya is lied like a doll where the explosion threw her up and down. And some kid that knew her is touching her with a stick but she not moving. Other kids are running about yelling El Mucho, El Mucho, El Mucho. They go all directions. Mucho, El Mucho. Yelling and chanting his name like that is gonna help and the flames die down and the smoke goes up and around and still they cannot find El Mucho. You do not notice how blue the sky is some days till you see the smoke against it. Anyways. At first none of the kids think to look in the wardrobe that is still standing there like a exhibition of ‘wardrobe’ in the middle of vast nothingness plus burning car, tree and assorted other crap. They do not think to look in the wardrobe and the door of it does not open either. No sign from it. No sign of Mucho. You just see a lot of kids running around. Four of them try to lift Kaya just like it says not to in a first aid manuals. But it does not really matter cos she is dead anyways and when they carry her away towards the houses, held between them like a miniaturised drunken sailor abducted by a ragged army of starving midgets in clothes that do not fit them, you can see that her entrails are dragging out behind. A few kids are like disgusted, miming sick faces but other ones make like they seen it all before and get bored, wander off. Takes a while till they pretty much all gone. Just the junk or stuff down there strewn around and the fire that mostly died out now and the tree that is blackened is all that’s left when the light starts to fade and you can see the stars. Later some soldiers truck by in a Jeep, they have the weapons training on anything that moves or does not move. You can see they laughing in that language they speak. Ha ha. One points his gun at the tree, another at the sky, another at the wardrobe. This last guy he suddenly fires like fifty times – bang bang bang. The others are all laughing and punching him at the shoulder cos he’s wasting Ammo and he will only draw fire from the houses. Whatever. He stops. The wardrobe is filled with all holes. How can you fill something with holes? People wonder about that. A hole is a nothing. You cannot fill something with a nothing. You cannot fill something with a ‘not thing’. Anyway it is too complicated, it is getting late, too late for things that are too complicated. When dusk comes down fully there is just one kid left on the wasteground, this one in a yellow dress-thing, a kid called Yara that slightly knew El Mucho from a time they were in a summer camp together before everything happened and she is apparently concerned where El Mucho went to so she is walking around and you can guess she is telling his name again and again but you cannot hear it, again, because of the distance involved. She is only a kid and her voice does not really travel far when it is night and when they light is fading and the stars are coming out. I guess it is pretty late by now when she has the good idea to look in the wardrobe, that is anyhow shot filled with holes. She opens the door and looks inside. El Mucho should be there of cause. He should probably by lying in a corner of it all slumped and dead. Or like he should be stood inside the wardrobe, stood in a shape fixed rigid by fear, the soldier bullets tracing a miraculous outline to him, a magic survivor. But the fact is all different than what it should be cos El Mucho is not there at all. He is not in there or anywhere around. There is no traces of him in the wardrobe or out of it. In fact you can make a list of all the places in the world and a list of all the places that are not in the world and that motherfucker is not in any of them. Yara in the yellow dress-thing does not know that. She is puzzled. She is like that magician assistant that open the door at a finale to show that the other assistant came back but it does not work. Just a empty wardrobe. I mean he is gone. Vanished. But she does not do it good, not with the right kind of attitude or gesture or smiles. She just open the door look in there and then shrug once, and shut it again, not with proper excitements. You can see that the light is really going by this point. It is really not the right kind of light for a magic act and maybe cos she can sense that Yara walks off clumsy back towards the houses and you can imagine the credits for that Magic show should scroll at that point, with the names go by so fast you cannot read them while the music plays and the screen goes dark.
Guardian piece on the forthcoming Baader-Meinhoff movie quotes Jan Schulz-Ojala’s accusations about it in Der Tagesspiegel – that the film’s producers are operating as a “history waste management machine”. Loved this line from Schulz-Ojala: “They’re taking the radiation waste of the nation and burying it in the dumping ground of moving pictures.” In a cynical moment you could take that for a description of a much broader and widespread cultural/political process.
Some while back I contributed to a publication project Fools In Print edited by Lucy Keany, and including work by a whole bunch of other artists such as Ryan Gander, Matt Keegan, Graham Parker, Hayley Newman etc as well as the lovely Vlatka Horvat. Themed around “the virtuoso, ad-lib, timing, humour, one-man shows, dancing strategies, desperation, wannabes, Live Art, music and new technologies, audience, [and] glitches”.
Over at Ambiente Hotel Mike Harrison has been on a powerful jag lately of posting rather beautiful and harsh fragments – dense little kernels of narrative and atmosphere that may never need to be expanded, perfect as they are in this boiled and tangled form. Check out the narrative fragments here and here, the imaginary reviews here and here, and my favourite – a kind of prose poem that eats itself – here.