Sceptical Distance

9 July 2007

There's a collection of white plastic garden furniture stood beside the pool in the hotel basement. Six chairs, a couple of loungers, a trio of small tables (maybe footstools, its hard to say). On one of these, in any case, set at an angle like the earth titled on its axis, is a green apple, from which several bits have been taken. A man is swimming with his daughter, some blokes come and go from the steam room. Nothing happens.

Later a woman wearing some kind of semi-uniform (in the general area of nurse/dental hygenist/pharmacist), comes out from the health-spa reception and dons a pair of the white latex 'Inspection Gloves' from the box that's lain on the floor near the entrance. She walks over to the small table, picks up the apple in her gloved hand, and takes it – held at a sceptical distance from her body – back out towards reception for disposal I guess, or some kind of forensic analysis.


I Live Because I Do Not Exist

7 July 2007

On that day and in the days to come, when a boy was going to die, he would first stop talking. His throat would be too dry and to speak required too much energy. Then his eyes would sink deeper, circled in ever darker shadows. He would no longer answer to his own name. His walk would slow, his feet shuffling, and he would be among the boys who would rest longer. Eventually a dying boy would find a tree, and he would sit against the tree and fall asleep. When his head touched the tree, the life in him would fall away and his flesh would return to the earth.

The narrator of Dave Eggers’ What Is the What circles the subject of death concentrically – recounting terror, outrage and anger by turns, as he both fears for his own life and watches his Sudanese Lost Boy compatriots die in an endless variety of awful, sudden or slow, often shocking ways; by slaughter at the hands of Arab horsemen, attack by predators, aeroplanes, disease, infection and starvation. Mainly though he’s resigned to the fact that he can’t predict which of his companions will survive the terrible journey, cannot know for sure if he himself will make it through. Obsessed with this question Achak tries for while to use a friend, another lost boy walking beside him, as a kind of index of his own health.
In the mirror of William K, I did not look well that day. My cheeks were sunken, my eyes ringed in blue. My tongue was white, my hipbones were visible through my shorts…

Very often through the book (which I wrote about already here) Eggers returns to the topic of the flimsy separation between life and death, puzzling at the all-too-easily passed border between survival and extinction, existence and disappearance. Its a distinction that he sees can exist even in life itself, when at another comical and chilling point in the book he meets a solitary adult living alone in the jungle, hiding from everyone. The un-named adult gives him food, and jabbers continuously as he eats, lecturing Achak:

I don’t live anywhere, and you should learn from this. Why do you think I am alive, boy? I’m alive because no one knows I’m here. I live because no one knows I’m here. I live because I do not exist.


More Blogs

5 July 2007

Hugo Kings ImageHugo Glendinning has a re-vamped website with images and texts about his work including collaborations with Martin Creed, Adrian Heathfield, Franko B, Yinka Shonibare, Paola Pivi (and me!). Arriving at Hugo’s place to visit (in the real world) there’s often a moment where we’ll end up at the computer, with Hugo randomly opening folders to show me things that he’s been working on for himself, or with or for different people. From what’s there on his site I’m guessing that the notebook there will be a virtual version of this ‘what’s new’, which is great because he’s always got pretty fascinating projects on the go. Check out the images (as above) from Forced Entertainment‘s durational performance And On The Thousandth Night, the text and series of images of his son Louis sleeping and the many images that he’s been shooting for some Olympics related project, in which kids create dance in East London locations. I’m sure I’ll be linking back and forth to Hugo’s site a lot.


Another new blog/site I’ve been checking out is this one from theatre director and writer David Gale, well known for his work way back leading Lumiere & Son with Hillary Westlake. I really liked this line from David’s recent entry on American identity/Paris Hilton:

“Mythical figures are not people, they generally represent single human characteristics rather than the complex of qualities that comprise flesh and blood persons. We devise mythical figures for the purposes of instruction – they’re not supposed to be something you become”. 


K (reading Mark Danielewski's brilliant House of Leaves) wrote me:

"Bachelard says that our childhood homes physically form our imaginations. So in a way we're always there, ripping up carpets or  digging into corners, or building whole new extensions I guess. For  me there's something very physical about [this relationship to space] too – related to our understanding of our bodies…"


M. mailed me a link to a 1995 sound installation piece by Janek Schaefer, titled Recorded Delivery. Made by sending a voice/sound activated tape-recorder in a package on a journey through the postal system from studio to gallery it looks like a conceptual precursor for the great Tim Knowles Spy Box piece I wrote about briefly a while ago and which involved a boxed/rigged camera sent by post to record the sights of it's journey. Audio samples, and details of a vinyl edition recording of the Janek Schaefer Recorded Delivery are here.

Spam Subjects

4 July 2007

Best spam subject line of the last several weeks:

Second place goes to this one:

Subject: On the site of each disintegration explosion, a fireball rose up first, immeasurably brighter than Sol itself.

First place goes to this one which came from my friend G. who just got married. He was at the airport heading to honeymoon, sending and checking last mail on wifi when it arrived.

Subject: In a lively row walking, drinking Sunset, voices, lights,
 – all that's there, And at times lowering our eyelids Under someone's
 assiduous stare.

The devil got all the best tunes but those spammers got all the best lines.

City Changes

3 July 2007

2008. 20 inkjet prints, 21×30 cm each (framed: 30×40 cm). Manifesta 7.

City Changes consists of twenty text works, starting with a description of a city in which nothing ever changes. This initial text has been rewritten 19 times to produce a sequence of increasingly preposterous variations, mutations and exaggerations of this imaginary place. The versions of the text – presented as framed inkjet prints – alternate between invocations of the urban environment as a place of order and routine, and descriptions of it as a site of perpetual change and multiplicity. The process of continuous alteration in the text itself, switching back and forth from city-of-stability to city-in-chaos, is mirrored in the visual economy of the prints as changes introduced in each successive version are presented in a new colour.

The evolving sequence of City Changes reflects my interest in the linguistic and narrative tropes relating to urban structures and city life. At the same time, the work playfully unpacks some of the political and emotional baggage carried by concepts such as change and chaos, stability and stasis. In its tracking of the transformation or mutation of a single text through numerous contradictory versions, City Changes also renders visible the process of writing itself, producing a complex colour-coded trace of the decisions, additions and omissions of each new incarnation.

The first public manifestation of the work – City Changes 1-4  – featured as a part of The Sheffield Pavilion, a Sheffield Contemporary Art Forum publication project for The Venice Biennale, Documenta XII, Skulptur Projekte Münster 07, and Art Basel during June 2007. 

Travel Wallet

Multiple for free distribution. Arts Council of England Commission. 2006.

Travel wallet commissioned to mark the Arts Council England's 60th birthday.
One of a series alongside wallets by Tracey Emin, Jeanette Winterson, Liz
Davis, Adam Sutherland, Michael Clarke and music producer Ty.

Etchells' work for the wallet comprises a series of three texts which
catalogue elements from which a narrative might be formed, including
locations, characters and objects.

Drama Queens

Performance without actors. Project by Elmgreen & Dragset. Text by Tim Etchells. June 2007.

Seven 20th Century superstar sculptures find themselves displaced and out of
their usual context on a stage. The performance involves motorised and
remote control replicas of sculptures by Giacometti, Helpworth, Arp, Koons,
Ruckeriem, LeWitt and Warhol. The work unfolds through a series of clashes
and crossovers between the various isms and aesthetics which the sculptures
represent — from formal and minimal to pop and postmodern.

You can read more about the piece, here and here.

London performance at The Old Vic, 12 October 2008.

A Kind of Ventriloquism Job

2 July 2007

Really loving Dave Eggers’ What is the What after strong recommendations from M John Harrison and from Hugo. I’ve always really liked Eggers as a writer of sentences. There’s stuff in Heartbreaking Work and in You Shall Know Our Velocity that has all the energy and verve of Kerouac at his best. I read Kerouac at 17/18 I think, along with Burroughs whose hardcore cut-up Nova Express I accidentally picked up on Derby Market, having mistaken it for something by Edgar (Tarzan) Rice Burroughs, whose probably stupid books about some bloke marooned on Mars I liked. Oh well – I’m glad of these accidents of naming and the alphabet. Some of Kerouac and Burroughs are really embedded in me (though I think thankfully the Rice Burroughs is pretty well all washed away). In Kerouac and Burroughs I found sentences, runs of words, but more than that energies, approaches to language that I still draw on from time to time, in that strange way that we do incorporate language from other people, sample it, replay it, echo it, often unknowing and unwittingly.

Despite the stylistic connection to Kerouac I’ve sometimes been pushed back by the content in Eggers – the whole Real World/MTV thing in the back end of Heartbreaking Work I found too painful, or too thin, I was never sure which. In What is the What though he’s given up on the flowing, stream-of-consciousness, post-Kerouac sentences and on the eternal teenager routine anyway and replaced them with a very tight narrative structure and with what Mike describes as a kind of ventriloquism job; a manoeuvre that has Eggers inhabiting someone else’s life story entirely (that of Sudanese ‘Lost Boy’ Valentino Achak Deng), whilst (at the same time) standing far back from it (writing-wise) in order to let it breathe. No showing off, except the kind of showing off that’s all about not-seeming-to. Really great, awful, disquieting, elegant. Funny too.

Before that I got about one third into We Have to Talk About Kevin. I wasn’t buying really. Didn’t like the narrator, didn’t believe in ‘her/it’ either and I really seemed to be being asked to believe. Had that feeling I get sometimes with overbearing narrators that if I was sat next to this person at a party or on a bus or whatever I would make my excuses and leave. I guess the extended conceit (letters to the ex-partner) started to drive me nuts too.

Listening (meanwhile) to No Age. Can’t remember why a kind of lo-fi Los Angeles punk-duo crossed my radar at this point. Maybe via Other Music. The No Age CD Weirdo Rippers seems very cool I think, just playing some tracks from it here and there at the moment. In fact I am playing the track Everybody’s Down many times over and over and the neighbours are fucking loving it. Ha ha.

Last weeks image residue: canisters of something called patio gas, grinning burning men wrestled to the ground out of flaming Cherokee jeeps by random have-a-go holiday-makers, cops in those white boiler suits again, a forensic facility in Kent called The Igloo, flooded streets, sunken cars and floating skips. Must be Summer.