Archive for the 'aa' Category

A letter

Dear Marc, David and Cormac,
In your books you make a connection to one another, directly and indirectly. Firstly, in the Epilogue of ‘non-places, introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity’ by Marc Augé, 1992 there is a reference to the novel ‘Small World’ by David Lodge.
“A few years ago the talented British novelist David Lodge published a modern version of the quest for the Holy Grail, a novel set with effective humour in the cosmopolitan, international and narrow world of academic linguistic and semiological research”.
In ‘Small World’ by David Lodge, 1984, on page 84 of the 2011 Vintage publication, Lodge writes,  “The paper must be finished soon, for Morris Zapp has asked to see a draft before accepting it for the conference, and on acceptance depends the travel grant which will enable Rodney Wainwright to fly to Europe this summer (or rather winter), to refresh his mind at the fountainhead of modern critical thought, making useful and influential contacts, adding to the little pile of scholarly honours, distinctions, achievements, that may eventually earn him a chair at Sydney or Melbourne. He does not want to grow old in Cooktown, Queensland. It is no country for old men”.
Cormack McCarthy wrote ‘No Country For Old Men’ in 2005, making the same quotation as Lodge, from the first line of the first stanza in ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ by W.B. Yeats, 1926.

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

There would be a thousand links made by others from these beginnings but it is these that come to my ear and eye, from far to near. Yeats wrote this when he was sixty’ish, so the entertainment of old age is a process of becoming older, but not old. I could make the golden bird on the golden bough that appears in the fourth stanza, it has a place at this point in time, where I had been wondering how something modelled and cast could co-exist with my recent work on human ecology.


An example of

A series of observations, reminiscence and mystery, putting to bed some things from the past-present.

Who noticed the filmic treatment for the latest advertisement playing at cinemas recently from the US Navy? Facts were delivered in captions, such as the high percentage of the world population living close to the sea. The seductive aerial view of a state of the art aircraft carrier from bow to stern played out with some ambient rumble. At the end the US Navy claims that it is committed to a kind of total protection. Emphatically stylish with no hint of threat or destruction, presented as a global brand. We also learn this week that the US military is the largest employer in the world with ‘3.2’ million ahead of Wallmart, McDonalds and the Chinese PLA. This must be some kind of satisfying safety net , knowing we can all rest safe in our beds. Could we speculate that it’s the worlds working class that is the biggest employer by far, no that doesn’t make sense, but the very idea of employment / unemployment is starting to feel a thing of the past. There must be some new concept around the corner about human existence that we are waiting to recognise, not as a phenomena but a useful reconfiguration of time.

In ‘Ratners Star’ (Don De Lillo) –  Cyril, who is on the committee to define the word ‘science’ says that “If a medicine man chants over your body all night and you wake up cured, that’s science”

Everything is included as science and now all artistic practices have taken the oaths of the methods of the institution.

A man working on a plane I fly on is Asian, he speaks three languages, possibly four, and he is in fact an actor and a poet. The airline company has a growing reputation and respect as an employer. All the women doing the same job come from the country of the airline, as do the pilot and the rest of the crew. He seems an exceptional man and I am aware of how his presence embodies the necessity of dignity. ‘Let us go then, you and I’.

What would you name and how could you describe the strip of built environment that runs from Gatwick into London? It’s a patchwork of villages, estates, dwellings and industries, intersected by other routes and crossings. Snowfall emphasises elevations, contours and boundaries. Infinite divides produces a temporary nausea in my stomach. I don’t know if it is the past or the present that creates this sensation, either the land has been divided into ruins or where I have come from barely requires any such divides. Allotments appear and they are always good for the eye because they represent endeavor and production on a human scale. Bridges, tunnels and cuttings punctuate the line and the suburban shifts rapidly to the urban. London eats it’s green surrounds, it’s leafy glades, it’s moral bounds.

Across town, on a train heading north there are conversations; two people, small groups, on the phone, headsets, strategic business chat. It’s a kind of edu-speak in scenarios, sales and marketing where fluid modernity flexes its inhuman manners. The surrounding cranes and the sites of new-build provide the necessary backdrop to the dumb-downed drama, a construct of business seminar and role play.
The man speaks, the men speak, the woman listens, the women listen, she interjects using her mouth, they interject using mouths to form aah’s, ehms and oh’s. When she speaks he says yea, when they speak he says yesss, quickly interrupting to expand and clarify. Micro middle managers, on the move, creating capital for the others, maybe on bonuses for clinching the deal. Fictions played out as fictions of careers. Work, an increasing accommodation of ambition and purpose.

Some memories are made up of quite easy and obvious things. The missing locations of shops that punctuated a street or square can set me wondering about business systems, the employees, the whole flow of goods and the whereabouts of the customers, and I was one of those consumers even when I assured myself that I wasn’t.
Virgin megastore meant the music business, the entertainment industry, video games. Waterstones meant writers, publishers, the printed word, the page, turning. Habitat meant design, kitchens and bathrooms, curtains and bedding (though bedding actually came from elsewhere), sofas, dining and lighting, the world of interiors.
All gone now, elsewhere, god knows, as company efficiencies stripped out sustainable work and then the identity of employees. Now empty spaces, waiting the next wanderlust, a graveyard to unborn memory.

Across the great divide of negativity, someone’s light becomes another persons shadow, the anxious persona, psychopathic,  looking to short circuit life’s sweet halo. Some view life, it appears, through smoked glass, in mistrust, an outlined ode to love thought of as lust. Out the blue, at the close of day, a monologue might play of blackmailed threats about accumulated debts. When love left town, dancing in the light, it was tapping out a line, burning bright, at closing time.

That’s an example of what happens when you think consequences was a game of the past, when memory triggers a time you can’t catch, when there’s no rhyme or reason that make the pictures match. A colleagues says, you know, I see now that you are interested in the everyday and another says, you know that the poem that starts ‘Let us go then, you and I’ , that’s like an experience I had and am still working with. We agree, as we walk and talk, smoke, eat or drink, that everyone learns about what we know and then understands what we need to know.

Hare and Owl

‘The nightingale of poetry, like that bird of wisdom, the owl, is heard only after the sun is set. The day is a time for action, but at twilight feeling and reason come to take account of what has been accomplished.’ L. Trotsky – Literature and Revolution.

During the breaks from the daily routines and practicalities the imagination seems to flourish first in dreams, moreso than through observation or  in conversation. During this break, the Owl played a recurring ‘fly on’ role. The image, idea and form of the owl was everywhere from Bergen to Berlin and then Vis island. I felt happy and contented about this unexpected companion. Then, there is the ‘walk on’ part with the Hare along with a freakish cameo for a cat. In the telling of the – hare dream – I was deemed to be a ‘weirdo’ with a capital W by someone, who even derided me for being Hugh Grant-like, which wasn’t supposed to do much for my self esteem. However, Grant’s emergent role in the News International phone hacking story has, in some righteous way made me feel pretty good and good for Grant.

I will tell the hare dream that occurred around my birthday in June to get things started.  – “Part of last nights dream – two hares were in the bed – with fur like light and shining eyes – I had to check myself to see if I was dreaming. I left the room and it felt like home – when I went back in to see if I was still dreaming one of the hares had become a cat with its mouth on the neck of the other hare and its claws holding on. I said to the cat in silent communication – now you have to let the hare go.” This was a highly vivid dream but I decided not to try to analyse it because this way I can recall the visual imagery and sensation of the time states of the dream, the intensity of luminosity around the animal furs and the intelligence of their eyes. The intense phase of transformations was exciting and not fearful. My silently transmitted request to the cat felt wise and correct, simple and not complicated with desire. Instead of dream interpretations I went to the bookshelves for – The Leaping Hare, by George Ewart Evans and David Thomson. If there is a better book on the Hare, then I don’t know it and I am not referring here to Wonderland or the Looking Glass. Freud says that dreams do not judge but do bring about new forms for things.

The hare’s affinity with moonlight, full moons and moonlit spaces couples humanistic intuition into instinctive behavior. In the period when I worked on public space art commissions I learned to work into the twilight. It became a period of time where everything began to look and feel a little different. Not the extreme dark or the astronomical sky but a phase where the eye can read the space and object within in its environment in such a way that new information and awareness is created about the surface, form, textures and atmosphere around the site of the work. In full blazing light these subtle qualities are just not so apparent. The axes of inward and outward light makes for a contemplative and resonant state of mind to both see and feel what had been done and what is needed to be done through a slow turning panoramic quiet. I still love this period after sunset and its variable duration. My preferred twilight (UK – so it could vary around the globe) would be around October, that invisible month where the air is cooling and the twilight spectrum can hover around warm and cool colours.

In France – entre chien et loup – is a comparative event at dusk or dawn appearing as the turning points for what can become real and imagined. Poachers, gamekeepers and naturalists are consulted in the Evans-Thompson book along with historic and ritualistic references and we learn that the symbolic, transformative magic of the hare exists across the world. Lying low in full daylight and emerging ‘at twilight’ brings the hare into the same zone as the owl for ‘feeling and reason’. But as the dog departs and the wolf enters, so does the hare and the owl.  Trusting the dog to guide us may be more realistic but to allow any of the animals of the night to do so challenges our sense of the real and brings us to a place where trust in a different kind of imagination is possible. Any crossing into the night is like seeing into a new territory and whatever it may bring. This possibility will also bring uncertainty and could be disruptive, slipping into a depiction of danger by introducing us to an idea of fear, in that we can’t see clearly with our eyes so we need to see in another way. This extended capacity of seeing through ‘feeling and reason’ can also be experienced as a suppression of the pleasure of the visible. What is visible by night is markedly different to what can be visible by day. Who or what will guide us is another matter.

In –  Cities of the Plain; The Border Trilogy, C. McCarthy – there is a scene where an owl flies into the windscreen of a truck like a flying crucifix, shattering the screen and their reality. There are a great deal of lit. reviews of McCarthy’s work online so I don’t really want to add to that but the owl episode loomed into my dream states and sleep for a few nights as if I was the owl. The owl in the story wasn’t incidental or just something that was part of the night life of the place and time like the hitting of jackrabbits was. If you have lived in the country and driven at night you will hit an animal of some kind at some point and most probably thousands of moths and flying insects. Where I lived it was deer, foxes, rabbits, hedgehogs, pheasants and badgers. I only ever hit about two or three in all but roadkill was common. Many animals can adapt to the roadside environment and the high speed chase of bright lights coursing along the roads but some won’t make it. To hit a bird like an owl, a night bird of prey,  is a very exceptional circumstance, so it must mean something.

The day before reading this part of  of McCarthy’s story I had seen a bit of news online from the BBC where a woman in Cumbria returned home to find an owl imprint on her bedroom window. It was reported that the RSPB thought it was most likely a young Tawny Owl and – ‘The marks on the window are said to have been left by ‘powder down,’ a substance that helps birds protect growing feathers’. Then it turns out that it’s not so uncommon for birds to leave imprints onto windows but none are reported as cracked or broken. So is it possible for the owl in Cities of the Plain to fracture the truck’s windscreen? I think the writer needs the owl to become crucified into their lives and the screen to shatter. It’s a beautiful and sad moment that will shadow what is to come for Cole and Parnham. But it’s Troy, the older ranch hand who is most troubled.

After Billy, Troy and Elton have been out for a day of perfect horse riding in a landscape that they hold dear and are driving home Billy stops the truck in order to help a group of Mexicans whose truck has a flat tire. Troy is uncomfortable with what could be seen as an act of kindness. ‘Are you done bein a Samaritan?’ First he can’t understand why Billy should stop but later understands that Billy is restoring a past favor, a karmic episode. Troy sees the idea of disruption in the night, the little things that may hold motivation for someone else can also bring unexpected consequences for others. Nothing is scripted coherently for each and everyone of us in any relational sense. What was good for Billy was not so good for Troy as he reacts with a psychic depth to the death of the owl. ‘One of its feet shuddered and drew up into a claw and slowly relaxed again and it moved its head slightly as if to better see them and then it died’. In my reading, Troy has met the eyes of this dying creature and possibly taken up the spirit of the owl into him. Billy, on the other hand, is on a parallel script and hangs the bird in the fencing by the roadside, before driving on with a restricted view through the web-like screen. Troy has been given an image that disturbs his reality, the owl has taken him to another place. ‘It was just a owl’ – ‘I know, It ain’t that’. – ‘You sure you’re ok?’ – ‘Yeah. I’m all right. I just get to thinkin about things is all.’

From that moment on John Grady Cole’s script becomes a passion, leading to death and glory from the knife of the Mexican pimp (and a little of Borges as well). Billy and John become two characters that embody what cannot be resolved in the time available to them in their respective life-spans and so we witness the unresolved, conflicted attitudes of the past, locked into that same time and place. Even though they have transgressed in their personal lives by crossing and re-crossing the border at a time when it was last possible to do so, they don’t seem to have learned enough about what these transgressions indicate and they remain unprepared for what is coming into the world through the home land. Their collective memory is poignant and yet is still going to remain untold and forever washed over through the shifting attention from local troubles to the global wars on resources. The contemporary geopolitical frontiers of the USA are delineated as a past and future and dissected through the emotional fates of the two men bound into the troubled culture of the borders and hinterlands where Mexico is revealed as a place of the night. Across the border where nothing adds up, the uncertainty and force of imagination remains as a necessary danger to men like them, when time is running out and where there is nowhere left to go. Their lives will simply will be lost in the worldly configurations of the necessity of recalling the future stories to account for a wider population in the world that they could each not quite imagine. What we can sense is that the value of limitations, the dignity of life and the need for a care for others remains as a moral and ethical basis for the rules of the road.

On our own individual journeys, listening to the stories of others whom we meet will tell us most of what we need to know. Whether that changes our own script is another story. The theme of running the rule of ones own destiny abides.

Through the remaining days of reading while in Berlin, owls in various guises appear, on a broach, in a keyring and on the sides of a doorway. On Vis island, the beach stones reveal owls and on return home one of the first images I see is on a postcard that CG had brought back from this years Venice Biennale – ‘The Night Watchman From The Knowledge Series’, Nancy Foutts, 2011. Its a taxidermy owl with a satin eye patch. While it is striking in its own way I am not a fan of the taxidermy trend of contemporary art because it suddenly intruded as a condition of style a few years ago. I only felt clear about this in the past year and it was some work or another that brought it home.

In Berlin we visit Hamburger Bahnhof Contemporary Art Museum where Joseph Beuys’ work is in the collection that includes ‘How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare’, 1965. The Hare in this work is dead and does not look like a taxidermist hare. He said, “A Hare comprehends more than many human beings with their stubborn rationalism …I told him that he needed only to scan the picture to understand what is really important about it”. In the Pergamon Museum, I found a hare painted into a bowl as beautiful as a Beuys drawing.

A grid of owls


Owl theft        

British Ecological Society photo prizewinner

Prizewinner – BBC link

to be cont.

You can’t repeat the past – of course you can! (ack. to Fitzgerald&Dylan)

Artangel – from the 2011 Jem Finer’s ‘Longplayer’ annual talks. John Gray speaks with James Lovelock

Ideas spiraling around regulation and adaptation, anecdotal tales along with general scientific and social descriptions gives this event a level of basic interest. A bleak humanistic prospect is discussed calmly where a more radical technological mutation is seen as unlikely. Intelligent communities seem to be one of the leading optimistic solutions.  Population control and feeding people appears to be a central concern and there was agreement over the need for women to be leading the way globally in issues of childbirth. A sense of politeness prevented the essential contradictions of James Lovelock’s ideas and opinions to become more fully illuminated. When asked about the role of the Artist, it seems it is to keep people happy and the role of the Arts is to become understood through a broader context of institutional creativity that can be associated with the scale of impact of modern science. No mention of a political or social engagement for the Arts that will impact or resonate in ways that may change the way we ‘see’ the world. Maybe art is the entertainment to technocracy and should, subversively, decide to be so.

Science Friday – Connecting Science and Art, speaks to Cormack McCarthy, Werner Herzog and Lawrence Krauss

This is more discursive and a more accessible event where the presenter Ira Flatow engages the three guests in a round table dialogue around connections. The range of knowledge and enthusiasms is evident and the exchanges of interest deeply mutual and meaningful. Listening to Werner Herzog read an extract from – All the Pretty Horses – is memorable and you wonder why it isn’t Herzog himself, making a film about one of McCarthy’s stories. But if you want to taste the connections of science and art then there is much more here to inspire you. Lawrence Krauss’s book on Richard Feynman looks too good to miss and the listeners couldn’t help but reflect on the work of Richard Feynman in some relation to the Gaia principle, where putting humans on the outside of Gaia, firstly, trying to integrate and then co-adapt as an inappropriate contemporary narrative. It’s emergence with the rise of the Green movement may have been a useful one at the time.  If anything, as time has passed, the bongo playing Feynman has become more closely inclined towards the intention and imagination of the Artist and the Arts and McCarthy and Herzog are making significant contributions to the dialogues that are appropriate for constructing the humanistic narratives about long term futures.


Letter from Southern France – First Impressions – What does the world’s oldest art say about us?
by Judith Thurman

1988, China – deletes a star!

Deciding to blog this is to engage in what Access propose, which is to help fill web space with content about what needs to be seen and heard. For me, it’s not only about one Artist.


In 1988 Alain was in China for three months on a travel scholarship, studying temple gardens, architecture and contemporary Chinese art, making connections with Artists and Art institutions. While in Hangzhou towards the end of the journey a note-book with all his carefully recorded contacts was taken from a bag in his hotel room. Nobody knew where it went and it became impossible to trace the many friends and colleagues met with.  This was before the internet and emails or web sites that would have made this network visible and with a capacity to develop and communicate. On returning home, he was advised to let some more time pass because he may have already put some of those peoples lives in danger, a chilling thought.

The following year the Tiananmen Square massacre revealed to a surprised world how much the Chinese government feared the rapidly opening up of culture and communication with international links for the whole population.  The Xiamen special economic zone revealed unexpected insight into the scale of structural thinking for China to establish itself as the factory of the world for the next phase of global capital. Where could state capitalism flourish? Only in China on this scale.  It was also apparent that the purpose of Art was to become the human face and to function in much the same way that post WWII American Art had already operated.  In 1988 in Beijing or Shanghai, no one was that interested in what the  Chinese artists were doing and they mostly dreamed of being elsewhere.

It is a historic and consistent tactic within the Han Chinese political power structure to periodically and publicly enforce this kind of crackdown and to silence critical voices and expose the idea of a dissidence is not in harmony with the will of the people. Even Mao couldn’t resist this process and the signs of the Cultural Revolution as a destructive force to sweep through change could be seen everywhere, once you learned how to look .  An Artist who is speaking out becomes one of the most dangerous people for any government to tolerate.



Three Probabilities

Three Probabilities is the title of  an event at USF Courtyard, Bergen from 19.04.11 to 25.04.11 where Alain Ayers will show some new small scale work.

Borealis and the Dreyblatt concert Bergen