December 09, 2008

Islington Mill Art Academy

Back in 1982, I was nearly thrown out of Loughborough College of Art for too persistently challenging the competence of my lecturers. And in 2003 after a brief waste of time at Manchester Metropolitan University's MA, I resigned in disgust at the disorganisation and mediocrity of the poetry lecturers. So I am comfortably in the camp critical of the state of arts education. Higher education has become a business that is less to do with transfer of knowledge or nurturing artists and more to do with administrations that generate fees and 'hit' targets disingenuously pretending that progress is constant. So it was a great pleasure last week to spend some time in conversation with the artists of the Islington Mill Art Academy.

The Academy is a fascinating attempt by a group of young artists to education themselves, to develop their practice autonomously. Choosing their own influences, the artists invite practitioners to talk about their work, respond to the work going on and establish a creative dialogue.

December 07, 2008


Well who would have thought it? It turned out that I could work out how to read the poems after all. It felt like the audience got what I was doing too. Most of it turned on speed and breath I think. I found that I edited really visually or semantically dense passages on the hoof hoping to at least get the flavour of the original. One of the audience said in response to this, that this was surely an argument for editing them out of the originals as extraneous. But I can't accept that; that way lays writing for performance rather than writing to write. The performance was just a snapshot of what the poems might be/were on that particular night. I suppose the contrary revelation for me was that I actually really enjoyed the experience and want to do it again.

The only thing I didnt do was read Calculus - because I forgot - minus the proper layout - because working that out on this page is as difficult as reading it. So here it is:

0. monotonic the fall. In the cot, of equilibria and reducing complexities, the baby recognised my death as our eyes another reason to avoid the butchery of children’s moment Cut, a form of transitivity when the engine stops and you can't go on, but you get out of the car and go on. A prepersonal intensity corresponding to the passage one experiential state of the body to another implying augmentation or diminution in that body's capacity to act She reminded me of what we could have had - and it was remarkably paradisiacal, only less so. The dynamics hovering bird wings, the public are mad those that aren't found in any species in city park ascriptions of method. Two opposing points connected by positive and negative charge tired but it was there, something about never getting there – the slender margin language object – daily routine of back and forth sine wave study to the quaint notions of windswept steppe and desert’s unequal presumption of innocence without fear of retributive access will be the end of memory: 1

November 27, 2008

The Other Room

The Other Room on 3rd December I'll be reading with Carol Watts and Scott Thurston.
This may be a surprise if anyone notices, because I virtually never read - as a matter of artistic 'policy'. Putting aside issues of reading as marketing, my writing contains its own investigative imperative that is driven by the need to solve problems of language and space; generally if a problem is solved by the writing itself, I don't see any need to read it to anyone - if someone wants to know whether my solution was viable or useable they read it themselves. In addition, formally my texts tend to use visual resonances, rhythms of layout or word shape, counterpoints of line beginnings and endings which I can't see how you could punctuate vocally without introduction sound accents that are not equivalent. On top of that personally I am dyslexic reading aloud.
I'm buggered if I can think of a good reason why I am reading but I am.
So here is the problem I have: I am going to read poems that should not be read and which I am not able to read!
Therefore, (obviously) I will start with the toughest one to read: Mirror Canon Snips. This was written as an installation on the staircase at the Melbourne DrawingSpace. Originally, as part of the show preview, I envisaged as well as the installation there would be a performative element; two readers one at the top and one at the bottom of the stairs would ascend/descend reading the text, finishing when they had swapped places. As this was in my mind from the start, I found myself asking - is it possible to write something that is so difficult to read that it causes someone walking on stairs to trip and fall over? Starting from a position of not being able to read the poems for all the reasons about, my Other Room reading begin with a poem that aims to make the reader to fall over.
Second, I will read from Reykjavik, (written for the Safn Museum) which if you havent seen it is a single line long line poem in a concertina form - meaning that there are multiple readings/directions in which it can be read. So who knows which one I will find?
After this I will go to some poems from 50 Heads - although it has been read in public, it hasn't been read by me. First I will read Calculus - because there is a huge dyslexic episode on the page at the beginning of it. Then I will go to Entscheidungsproblem - appropriate because it asks the question: "is there some procedure which could solve all problems one after another?" (that is actually the first line) . Of course by this point both me and the audience will be losing hope that a solution is possible and so Lassitude will be the next poem. And as I know in advance that I cannot achieve my goal, the final poem will be Underachievement.
The reading can't succeed because it is impossible - therefore it will be a success.

November 25, 2008

Text Festival

I've not been up to writing here for quite a few weeks due to illness mostly. Anyway, to prove it has not finished me off, I point you to the Text Festival website which is beginning to accumulate the shape of the forthcoming events.

October 29, 2008

Seville Biennial

Just back from Spain where I managed to see the Seville Biennial in the Monasterio de la Cartuja de Santa María de las Cuevas. I thought as I entered that it is a brave curator who has “Miraculous Moments” written over the entrance. I have a number of responses to the show: the actual experience of individual works; the fairly clear but fragmented curatorial concept and then the catalogue. Luckily I didn’t read the latter until after I had seen the show. Particular highlights for me were
Tamás Waliczky’s ‘Landscape’ -$5790
Rafael lozano-hemmer’s ‘Tercera persona’
Austrian Ruth Schnell’s ‘Retinal Scripts’ were a striking effect installed at various locations around the site. At first glance these appeared to be simple lines of small lights but as the website says “hologram-like words that are generated by transmitting high frequency light impulses to light diodes ... Grasping these words requires an agile viewer and an intentionless gaze. Thus, the eye that scans the light horizontally itself becomes the support of the image. This phenomenon effective here is the so-called after-image.” Lights actually writing on your retinal.

Anyway, I walked through part of it then took a wrong turn and ended up in what looked like an architecture MA degree show. But having tracked back and tried again from another direction I realised that this was still part of the Biennial, just not very interesting part. After a while it was much of a muchness; and it surprised me when I got to the end of the circled tour and that was it; maybe it’s me, but with the linear layout of the exhibition, I would have finished it with some set-piece or conclusion.

Giving the curators the benefit of the double, I turned to the catalogue to see if I had missed the subtlety of their conception. The director Peter Weibel writes that the biennale’s artistic risk is to take on the role of technology, science and media in art, architecture and ambience. This premise may well be the problem, since I don’t see that that is that much of a risk. Weibel’s essay then sets out the reasons for taking the risk. These are:
A call for emancipation: epistemé and techné
This argument is that dating back to the Ancient Greeks who mad the distinction between higher forms of knowledge (mathematics, geometry, etc) and lower forms (painting, architecture, music, etc), aesthetic organisation mirrors social (class) organisation. “The emancipation of the artes mechanicae is one of the conditions of the emancipation of the slaves in the name of democracy. To emancipate the slaves means to emancipate their form of knowledge and practice…To abolish class separation it seems necessary also to abolish the separation between the arts…The dissolution of class society implies also a dissolution of the separation of the arts.” I don’t believe that this is the interrelation of the arts to democracy.

A plea for democratization: Technics, Science and Culture
“Still today technology is under suspicion to be the opposite of culture, a manual but mindless practice or competence.” I think that the project to engage with science and technology is timely but Weibel does the possibilities that this throws up a disservice. The evidence that is advance here comes from sources dating from periods between 1925 and 1966, clumsily out-of-date the analysis misses the real excitement that artists should and are engaged in through dialogue with the truly miraculous moments of recent scientific discoveries. Having identified the false dichotomy in types of knowledge in his call for emancipation he reinstalls the split in an analysis that talks of “technology as a humanising tool that can create a new equation between the masses and art”, to the point where he declares that “who is against technics is in fact against culture, but not only this, he is also following an inhuman impulse”. Who exactly is this? “To be against the alliance of technique, science and art means to be against democracy, the masses and human progress”. But who seriously is?
“It is so important that we change this separation and make the so-called passive consumer an active producer by means of interactive art that unites intellectual and manual labour and abolishes the separation of labour and therefore the separation of classes.” This begins a frequently reference but totally illusory notion that interactivity somehow represents free action. “Media activated and experienced by the public, the observer, the viewer, the user is the true democratic and human use of media”. This reminds me of a current TV advertisement that more and more people are joining the revolution…with their use of the Braun electric toothbrush.

You_niverse: Interactive Art and the participatory Universe
This illusion of interaction as free action is carried further in this concept of You_niverse. Taking Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle – the act of observation at the quantum level changing the state/location of the observed particle – as a model for the universe as fundamentally participatory. Putting aside the Science, which says that the uncertainty principle only applies at quantum level, this is a shoehorning argument to get to an ontology which skips Materialism in favour of the desperate magic canker of participation. As Dave Beech recently wrote in his excellent Arts Monthly article “Include me out!”: … “There is a temptation, within the earnest tradition of participation, to treat it as a solution to the problems endemic to the whole range of established forms of cultural engagement, from the elitism of the aesthete to the passivity of the spectator, and from the compliance of the observer to the distance of the onlooker.” And specifically relevant to the Biennial’s claim that interactivity art is somehow empowering, “the participant typically is not cast as an agent of critique or subversion but rather as one who is invited to accept the parameters of the art project”.
The essay concludes with a key point: “the Biennial’s goal is the participation of the public. There will be a democratisation of art. The audience is the star, not the artists. The emancipation of the masses through technology: art not for the masses, but by the masses.” Speaking as one of the audience, I can say without self-deprecation that I was not a star of the show, and looking at my fellow visitors, sharing the serial ontology of progression, they certainly sparkled no more than me. “The encounter with art at the biennial of Seville will make people euphoric” – it didn’t do that for me either.

The essay by the co-curator Won-il Rhee was even less realistic. I haven’t really got time to critique it fully but a flavour of it can come from the putative questions that the works on display provoke: “Will I throw aside the new and undeniable digital reality when faced with the analog reality?” I couldn’t help remembering the scene from Under Siege 2 when Steven Seagal has fought his way to the mad scientist who has password locked a computer controlling a deadly satellite. The baddie declares Seagal is too late; the computer can not be stopped, whereupon the hero shots the scientist through the computer. Rhee’s following question: “Should I still cast aspersions on the imagination?” made me laugh out loud. And so did the next: “Should I accelerate your [sic] exploration into the extended time and space, while enjoying a risky tightrope walk on the border between reality and imagination?”

Returning to the reason for linking science and art. I think that there is a much better reason than the old arguments put forward by the curators, and it is the opposite of the privileging of the audience, the opposite of all these notions of the active viewer, the radical reader (from the poetry world); The most important thing about science is not the discoveries but the method. The act of investigation, the attempt to hypothesise, the primacy of rigour. The most important process in art is driven by the same requirement.

October 13, 2008


I went to Berlin ostensibly to attend the Zebra Poetry-Film Festival
but who needs an excuse to visit your favourite city. The Poetry-Film Festival was execrable. The audience (at least starting out) was impressively large, so it is a double crime to have such poor work showing. Pretty much all I saw was either weak narrative poetry voiced over or subtitled to mediocre illustrative film images; or generally coming out of Eastern Europe/the Balkans laugh-out-loudly-bad Kafkaesque nightmare animations. The fare could be summed up as a festival of banal verse illustrated by plodding film-workshop shorts. “Again and Again” was an 11 minute documentary filmed in a glass factory in the Myanmar countryside with a subtitled and spoken Buddhist poem accompanying. The German producer stood up at the end and talked about her documentaries and how this film by The Maw Naing had come out of a film workshop she had set up in that country. And that is all you could say about it. It certainly did not represent any example of a new art/poetry form. It was a little sad really that the young Myanmar artist was so ill-served by the importation of the Western documentary model.
BlauwBlauw (Bruised) was a Belgian film by Sandy Claes, Miguel Declercq and Daan Wampers featuring a naked woman in an empty room. An animated blue bruise appeared on her body and in stop-motion moved and expanded around her until it bound her in blue elastic ropes, pulling her and tying her to the room. Some words about poetry appear on and off. The makers spoke about it representing domestic violence but this notion was fundamentally dissipated by the absence of violence in the language.
The best worst example of UK practice was Cul-de-sac by Sandra Ensby and a poet who I don’t know called Benedict Newbery. The poem was the usual English poet-first person lilting along about melancholy, slow small life dying and the comforts of pointlessness. The film was a simple watercolour style illustration again. When Newbery spoke he pretty much summed up the problem. He said that Endsby had seen the Zebra Competition and as she had seen his work somewhere emailed him to ask for 5 poems from which she could choose one to animate for the prize. The audience chuckled at the English ingenuous amateurism of it all. But this was the admission of the festival: the works on show are (mostly) film-makers who acquire poems which they illustrate with image. The poems are stuck in an unchallenged linguistic history so these works advance nothing. The Festival programme claims ‘there is no other comparable presentation of poetry films… the most important forum for an independent art form fusing poetry, film and new media.” Unfortunately, if they are able to maintain this eminent position unchallenged the real possibilities of language art and the time-based media will be peripheral.

Thankfully Berlin has endlessly more exciting possibilities and this visit was one of the most brilliant I have ever had. On the Friday I met with Patrick Panetta who was a great guide to more galleries than I can remember. Things that stood out though were Ming Wong at MKgalerie and Josephine Meckseper at I was also pleased to see Maurizio Nannucci's ALL ART HAS BEEN CONTEMPORARY at the Altes Museum .
Lawrence Weiner was a constant presence of course, in various galleries and on street corners. The El Sourdog Hex had some nice pieces though there was also a sense that you get a lot nowadays that Lawrence is surveying himself, locating himself as a future historical figure.
I also had the pleasure of dinner and Ukrainian Champagne with Steve Miller and his girlfriend Sonya. Steve’s current installation in Bury is a deeply interesting show which I will talk about soon (when I have been able to convert some of the images to do justice in the blog format).

October 07, 2008

Zebra Poetry Film Festival next

Just back from the European Museums Forum in Bertinoro Castle, Italy

There's lots to report but I am now off to Berlin for the Zebra Poetry Film Festival - so I will have post a double report when I get back next week.

September 27, 2008

two 'gigs' to see

Next week I am in Bertinoro, Italy for the European Museums Forum Workshop “Museums And Local Resources: A European Perspective” I will miss two gigs that I would like to have seen:

Marianne Eigenheer is doing a talk about her work and the current Bury Art Gallery Exhibition "the Irony of Flatness" at 12.30 lunchtime on Tuesday 30th September.

and the other is
The Other Room
Wednesday 1st October 2008 at 7.00pm
The Old Abbey Inn, 61 Pencroft Way, Manchester
David Annwn, Caroline Bergvall, Joy as Tiresome Vandalism
I've not seen Caroline since the last Text Festival so I am disappointed by the clash. I can highly recommend both events.

September 20, 2008

the nature of bury

As a curator no matter how much you trust your judgement that an artist will do something interesting, it is still a scary moment when the artist proposes an installation that starts with an ‘empty’ gallery. Whether you take a hard-line on the degree of rigour which an audience faces or not, curating an empty gallery at the start can be daunting. Conceptual environmental artist Kerry Morrison ostensibly started from just that point in her current show ‘the nature of bury’ at Bury Art Gallery.

Actually the gallery turned out not to be empty, it is filled with a question: “where can I discover the nature of bury?” Kerry has for a number of years working in collaboration and dialogue with the scientific method – the gallery opened with the pregnant ‘scientific’ equipment which would be used to gather the samples, statistics and observations of the nature of bury – the display of a methodology of enquiry. I am pleased to write that Morrison’s query was instantly a sort of consciousness of the gallery space, an almost tangible ontology of her question. Having asked six people the question, she mapped their responses and began a series of artistic-scientific field trips, returning with specimens, new knowledge, new insights.

She writes “I choose my next exploration site from the conversations have with passers by at the current site. A map drawing of the next destination will accompany the first map drawing of the first. Travelling with my cabinet of research materials - a camera, sound recording equipment, jars and receptacles of various kinds, observation logbook sheets, crayons, pens, pencils, and a map of bury - I proceed from the gallery to the selected site of investigation. Upon arriving at the given destination I explore this nature of bury. Meeting people, and talking to them about what I am up to is an important element of the work. Through conversations I hope to discover anecdotes and points of interest relating to ‘place’ and the nature of the place. Each conversation I have will end with, “Where’s another good place discover the nature of bury?” (I paraphrased that lot)

What I find remarkable is that the question she leaves ‘hanging’ in the gallery has gained weight as her researches have begun to fill the space. Her exploration of the identified sites of the nature of bury has, as she intends, returned apparently scientific objective samples and observations, and in this very action she draws the parallels (and exposes) the subjectivity of scientific and artistic investigation of the world. She illuminates the ambiguity inherent and the greening-soon-to-be unquestionable nature of what n(N)ature actually is. In this regard even her lower case title is an insightful touch (I do like an artist who sees the subtler points of the language).

Personally I have no interest in nature or the environment – countryside is the dismal gap between cities as far as I am concerned. I recall Picasso once said that if he went for a walk in the landscape, it gave him green indigestion which required him to relieve the overload of his senses with green or landscape paintings. This always seemed daft to me – one because there is no comparison between the sensual overload of a city street with the monotony of the rural and two, sharing the metaphor of green indigestion, a more sensible care of one’s ‘stomach’ is not to ingest in the first place. When Kerry asked me where the nature of bury was I replied an old chemical site (which has become a site of special scientific interest due to the eco-systems evolved from contamination) and Radcliffe town centre. All that said: I have to own up to a great and growing fascination with the discoveries and objects of nature that Kerry is accumulating in the gallery. Maybe this is how I want my nature anyway – in a gallery (or a good park is acceptable) – either way the in turns beautiful, organic and clinical reification of nature, its artistic scrutiny, draw me (of all people) more frequently back than any recent show to see what new insight her accrual of the nature of bury has to offer.

The show runs 19 July - 8 November

After all I have said about the problems of galleries as crèches, the gallery had just such a out of control children problem overflow into Kerry’s installation. A more thoughtful piece on this to follow.

Peace Demo

WE have the annual irritation of New Labour's party conference this week - Manchester streets are sealed off, police patrol in vast numbers, helicoptors hover overhead night and day. On the first day on which the sun seems to have shone all year, it was great to see the End the Wars Demonstration roll into town.

September 09, 2008

"The decision to withdraw the poem was not taken lightly"

The banning of the Carol Ann Duffy poem "Education for Leisure" in a GCSE poetry anthology has ripped around the world understandably with the outrage against censorship and also simple-minded stupidity.

As I read this story the thing that struck me was not the fact that the Educational bureaucrats could be so easily bounced into Reaction - it is the defining characteristic of such people - be it in health services, local government or education. The thing that stands out, which sadly isnt being said by anyone, is that the poem is a stinker. Apparently they only had 3 complains and it was withdrawn; wouldnt the world be a better place if 3 complains that it is bad poetry could have got it withdrawn - that wouldnt have been censorship, that would be saving poetry itself from the banality which is its fate.

September 03, 2008

Cairo : Sound Constructions

Group exhibition from 7 till 30 September 2008
Location: Factory, 1st Floor
7 September, 8:00 pm: Opening
8 September, 8:00 pm : Viennoise – a performance by Mahmoud Refat
Voices, melodies, and sounds fill the space of every city. Noises waft through the air, their origins often unknown. In the ebb and flow of sound, we find our way through the world, or get lost in it—dissolving into a sea of cell-phone ring tones, and re-emerging with the call of a name. Voice and identity are inextricably linked, connecting us to each other while defining us individually.
The sounds of a city can feel like an embrace, but at other times they threaten and disturb. In the privacy of the home, city noise is shut out—but complete silence is rarely achieved. Thus, the artists featured in this exhibition do not attempt to quiet Cairo but instead add their own sounds to it: Their works layer and echo, interpret and describe, both acoustically and visually. Sounds will not only be heard, they will also become visible.
Featured artists: Barbara Armbruster (Germany), Marianne Eigenheer (Switzerland), Zoe Irvine (UK), Hadel Nazmy (Egypt), Mahmoud Refat (Egypt), Beat Streuli (Switzerland).

القاهرة: تراكيب صوتية
معرض جماعى من 7 حتى 30 سبتمبرالمدير الفنى: باربرا أرمبروسترالمكان: المصنع والدور الأول
7 سبتمبر، 08:00 م : الافتتاح8 سبتمبر: 8:00 م : فيينواز - عرض لمحمود رفعت
تملأ أصوات البشD8 والأشياء والنغمات فضاء كل مدينة. وتنطلق ضوضاء عبر الهواء غالباً ما لا يعرف مصدرها. وبين علو وانحسار الصوت نجد طريقنا عبر العالم، أو نتوه فيه – غارقين في بحر من نغمات الموبايل، لنعود مع سماعنا نداءً لاسم. يرتبط الصوت والهوية بشكل لا يمكن فصله، متجلياً في ربطنا ببعض عندما نعرّف أنفسنا كأفراد.

يمكن لأصوات المدينة أن تبدو كما ل و كانت تعانقك، ولكنها في أوقات أخري تهدد وتزعج. في خصوصية البيت، تُحبس ضوضاء المدينة بالخارج – ولكن يندر تحقيق الهدوء الكامل. لهذا، فإن فناني هذا المعرض لا يحاولون تهدئة ضوضاء القاهرة، إنما يضيفون أصواتهم الخاصة لها: أعمالهم تتقابل وترجع الصدي، وتفسر وتصف، سمعياً وبصرياً. لن تُسمع الأصوات فقط، ولكنها ستصبح مرئية.

فنانو الم9رض: باربرا أرمبروستر (المانيا)، ماريان إينير (سويسرا)، زوي إرفاين (المملكة المتحدة)، هديل نظمي (مصر)، محمود رفعت (مصر)، بيت سترولي (سويسرا)
Gallery hours in Ramadan
Saturday till Wednesday: 11:00 am – 2:00 pm & 7:30 pm – 10:30 pm.
Thursday off, Friday 7:30 – 10:30 pm.
مواعيد الجاليرى فى رمضان
السبت حتى الأربع: 11:00 ص – 2:00 م و7:30 م – 10:30 م
الخميس مغلق، الجمعة 7:30 م – 10:30 م

August 19, 2008

The Reality Street Book of Sonnets

Having recently received The Reality Street Book of Sonnets edited by Jeff Hilson, I was struck by the exhilarated curiosity one feels when in the presence of a great anthology. I counterpose this feeling with the contrary feeling you get from the salad-mixing of popular anthologies. Bookshop poetry sections offer two shades of negativity in this regard: pick up an anthology at random and you either have that sinking feeling that these people can get away with such sloppy publishing and concomitant sense of superiority you get from seeing these feeble efforts. As Ron Silliman wrote in “In The American Tree” – “[this] anthology is a record of the debate”, but there is an endless stream of imbeciles chattering at the moment. Anyway, these thoughts cause me to return to something I’ve not read for years – ‘A Pamphlet Against Anthologies’ by Laura Riding & Robert Graves. The essay argues that there are only 3 types of anthology that are acceptable:
A non-professional, non-purposive collection, such as the poet’s or amateur’s scrapbook; the rescue-anthology, the value of which is primarily historical; and third – the anthology that is criticism. I think there is a fourth. The question of the form of an anthology is a live one for me at the moment because I am in the process of editing one to accompany next year’s Text Festival. The Book of Sonnets is a particularly good one. It made me think about really good anthologies: “In The American Tree” obviously, Rothenberg & Joris’s definitive “Poems of the Millennium”; “Other” Caddel & Quartermain; the Chicago Review “New Writing in German”. With very positive feelings about the Book of Sonnets, I am pleased to note that the Text Anthology (probably not its final title) shares a number of poets – Tony Lopez, Carol Watts, Robert Sheppard, Alan Halsey, (that I can remember without looking at the list). But having returned to the Riding and Graves, I note they also have a lot to say about the implications of classification within what they call a true anthology – approaches mentioned include alphabetical order of poets’ names or titles, or chronological by birth or death of the poets. Silliman divided In The American Tree geographically – East and West Coast. The fourth type I think is the most exciting to delve into, to read – in the way Lawrence Weiner means with READ ART. It is, as Silliman comments in his introduction the poetic conversation of …“The nature of reality. The nature of the individual. The function of language in the constitution of either realm. The nature of meaning. The substantiality of language. The shape and value of literature itself. The function of method.” So I still have the question of how I will construct the Text Anthology. I’ll want it to do those things. “Anthologies are not facts, but individual viewpoints over complex fields of information.” So it will be a curation.

Anyway, off to Toronto now.

August 16, 2008

Carol Watts

Carol Watts ( ) visited yesterday see the Irony of Flatness (picture 1) and discuss various project possibilities. Also shown introducing Phil Davenport to her "China" series - some of which will feature in the Text Festival anthology. Here is a sonnet from her 'Brass, Running':


difficult and persistent is the light
and its qualities a haunting of precepts
her gunmetal sanctuary where breath mists
famished in its reckoning her absence is
a volume to be accounted for do you know
the desolation of measurement motes
descending second per second without
intimation think of the sound of light as
a guttering of limbs its rush a hunger
to sustain the evidence of breathing snatched
from other open mouths the denial
of burning is not harmless she is not here
is something inflammatory baptism: light
and water implicated in the frenzy of cities

August 09, 2008

Dancing Chairs and a Walking Woman

On a more positive note, the works in the Irony of Flatness (Bury Art Gallery until November) are definitely deserving of more attention. The first is Marianne Eigenheer’s video-drawing “Dancing Chairs and a Walking Woman”. This is a particularly resonant and exciting piece. It recalls Marianne’s experience of walking around the streets of Cairo, having a look round while she was there preparing for a forthcoming show. This meandering came to be represented in the artist’s distinctive arabesque coloured drawing, the depth of her line mirroring her unique sense of space. This drawing in itself became a thirty metre long work which has been exhibited in Germany/Austria (I forget where). During her walk she became fascinated by the way Egyptian men place their chairs in the street, a male gesture of dominance of public space; Marianne began photographing them. “Dancing Chairs and a Walking Woman” is the brilliant counterpoint of these two aspects of the walk – the meandering fluidity circling the sometimes ominous fixed points of maleness – video stills shifting between one set of images to the next spread across to two screens. The depth of Marianne’s spatial dimensionality in this work actually touches you to the core.

By the way, I’ve written the catalogue for Irony of Flatness which is now available for £2 from Bury Art Gallery.

Green Drops and Moonsquirters

Months ago in this blog (more than once) I lamented the state of the English public gallery curating, specifically, as an example I mentioned how it was literally impossible to get into Manchester Art Gallery Asia Triennial video installation because there were so many playing toddlers and crying babies. The Gallery has now gone one step further with its latest offering: Green Drops and Moonsquirters
Of course, because success in the UK galleries is measured by numbers of visitors rather than the artistic quality of exhibitions, this is already a huge hit. But for anyone with any interest in the arts it is truly desperate - the galleries of the City Art Gallery must be hellish. In Manchester, the powers that be are constantly exercised with the notion that the city aspires to being 'world-class'. Every international visitor I have had, visiting the City Gallery can't understand it. Manchester is a great place to live, but without a world class gallery you wonder how it can aspire to be a world-class city; moreover, with a programme like this it is questionable whether the City Gallery is actually an Art Gallery. Maybe the logic of endless years of New Labour cultural pejoration are generating a category of museum practice that at the moment is nameless but is actually an anathema to art itself. In a lot of ways, it is close to the Victorian paternalist notion of the museum as a mechanism for worker's education and betterment. After all, virtually from the cradle citizens are given performance targets. It is frequently noticeable that even young artists, arts development and curatorial staffs have this conditioning which has removed the capacity for free thought. The state managerial approach to public mobilisation through intravenous outputs and outcomes with objectives set in advance means that many young artists dont know how to experiment or challenge themselves without knowing what the result of the experiment will be in advance. State funded galleries are as much part of this cultural ecology - I used "cultural ecology" ironically there because that is the latest jargon bollocks being used by the Arts Bureaucracies. It has been a long running idea in theatre that exposing children and young people to drama you are creating the audiences of the future. But the implementation of this has been didactic theatre endlessly addressing 'issues' of bullying, sex education, "citizenship", etc. So rather than creating the audience of the future, this model is creating citizens who think that is what theatre is. The same is happening in galleries. Children visit galleries either in school parties or with parents. So the school visit teaches them that all art has to be explained and that you have to do worksheets when you visit a gallery/museum. When visiting with parents, you play, dress up and do activities, which teaches you that the gallery is an indoor play centre. This sort of thinking is what has led to some libraries now to be called "ideas stores". So what should we call this thing instead of "Art Gallery"?

August 03, 2008

July 30, 2008

The Pros and Cons of Screens

The 'Live Sites' giant screens project aims to leave between 45 and 60 screens in towns and city centres. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is supplying the screens and the BBC will provide the content, including live coverage of the Beijing Olympics and through to London 2021 and beyond. The project is funded from the National Lottery and commercial sponsorship. Local authorities will be responsible for maintenance costs.

CABE "fully supports the idea of creative access to the Olympics for the widest possible community through temporary large-scale screens around the country, it has serious concerns about leaving them as permanent installations." ..."Just when we're starting to create well-designed, civilised public space in many English towns, along comes a rash of intrusive neon screens," Sarah Gaventa, director of CABE Space, comments.
There is only really one intrusive screen in Manchester at the moment - in Exchange Square ( which isnt well-designed or civilised. Not withstanding the square's shambolic concept, confused further by a ferris wheel, I had always abhorred the ugly black-surround screen, seeing its broadcasts as offensive appropriations of the public arena. However, when I visited Tokyo with its urban landscape of multiple screens, banked high, tangled with neon, flashing, excitement, I realised that the problem wasn't the screens, it was how crap the English are at doing exhilaration in public. The screens are remarkably ugly in themselves but it is just as ugly that the Government public education/conditioning through the Olympiad that makes them really terrible. The aesthetic and social crime of it is the 'legacy' (a great Government word), which will be endless feeds of BBC breakfast TV and mind-numbing daytime soaps/quizzes and the banalities which pass for early evening news broadcasts.

July 25, 2008

Introducing Robert Grenier to the Cotswolds

After the Irony of Flatness, Sue and I introduced Bob and Suzy to the English countryside (since he's so embedded in the Californian countryside). While we were there, I did an recorded interview which will be available soon. But just after the tape stopped, Bob said "I'd like to add an addendum": which was -

"My imagination of coming over to Bury to do this work was that once we had set it forth on the wall, I would have opportunity to finally know what it was. I could read it. I could stand back from it. I could think about it. I could question whether or not these separate images went together with each other, how these images might have gone together. After the fact, the real work was setting it forth on in space on the wall and it’s not my business to know what it says, any more than it is for any poet who writes a poem. I might get different readings on things in passing, but especially with a work of this kind of complexity, organisation, over time. The main thing is to allow it to exist in some space, and I don’t have to worry about what it means it can just be. "

July 19, 2008

Irony of Flatness Opens

A great opening. Pictures mainly of Robert Grenier's reading. Others to follow plus recordings of the performance itself.

July 15, 2008

Announcing The Irony of Flatness

Three Exhibitions open on Friday at Bury Art Gallery

An exhibition of drawings by international artists
19 July – 8 November 2008

As a mark-making act, drawing can simply be represented as (and be representational of) transferring the three or more dimensions of reality down to two – flatness. The Irony of Flatness is a challenging exhibition of contemporary drawing, which examines the possibilities and power of drawing. Through it, working with shadow, line and gesture, the artists taking part investigate the experience of the act, the space of the act, the moment of the act, and the concept of the act. Continuing Bury Art Gallery’s commitment to innovative international programmes in the north of England, the show features renowned artists featured include Marianne Eigenheer (Switzerland), Stefan Gec (UK), Rachel Goodyear (UK), Robert Grenier (USA), Kristian Gudmundson (Iceland), Alan Johnston (UK), Karin Sander (Germany) and Ulrich Rückriem (Germany).

The drawings featured investigate the full range of media that artists are using today – from animation and film to pen on paper to pencil directly on to the gallery wall. All challenge the irony of the drawings’ apparent flatness with spatial metaphor, line and void toward new dimensions, the presence and role of touch related as well as sight, observing the space between the lines and movement.

World Premiere: at the preview on 18 July, one of the founders of the American LANGUAGE poetry movement, Robert Grenier, will read for the first time from his poem series “64”.

The exhibition is supported by two solo shows:

“the nature of Bury”
Kerry Morrison is an environmental artist who works within the public domain, engaging with people whose lives are touched by their natural environment. She creates artwork in response to local environments relating them to the wider global context. In this exhibition she investigates the relationships between humans and nature, developing a process which will evolve the installation of material found and created over 16 weeks study in Bury.

“On G. Delph. St”
Berlin-based Steve Miller constructs non-animated film sequences, storyboard formats and single images concerned with the absurdity of context and everyday paradoxes of language and dialogues. Strongly colourful and sharply graphic, Miller generates a vibrant 21st Century urban style straight from the heart of European cultural excitement.

Preview Friday 18 July 6.30pm – 9pm

July 14, 2008


Celebrating Phil Davenport's birthday, Sue did one of her legendary dinner parties: (pictures: Barney with Robert Grenier's shoes; + Phil Davenport & Robert)

Tonight Sue created:
  • Roast spiced butternut squash soup + Prosecco
  • Wild Mushroom Risotto + a Rosé (that Phil brought)
  • Roast rosemary and garlic leg of Lamb with fondant potatos and parmiagiana + Greek Nemea (red Agiorgitiko grape) + a Merlot
  • A trio of Lemon Desserts with Kir Royale

Countdown to Irony of Flatness

I'm happy now that the countdown to Irony of Flatness has begun - the exhibition opens at Bury Art Gallery on Friday. Yesterday, Robert Grenier (right) arrived from California and Steve Miller (left) arrived from Berlin.

July 08, 2008


Back from a great visit to Budapest. A good meeting at the 2b Gallery discussing possible future projects and a fleeting introduction at the Young Artists Association which needs following up in the next visit. The food was great because Sue came with me and we had an apartment. Though there was plenty of champagne drunk on the banks of the Danube!

I also saw an interesting survey show of contemporary Hungarian art called WHAT'S UP at Műcsarnok - I was particularly struck by El-Hassan Roza, Kis Varsó: Little Warsaw is Dead and Szász György, who I will no doubt keep an eye on for future possibilities.

July 03, 2008

Mirror Canon Snips in Melbourne

Mirror Canon Snips has been installed in The DrawingSpace - Melbourne. Here is an extract of the text (which forms part of the "Space" series of projects, following from Edinburgh, Reykjavik and next Berlin) More images from the installation when I get back from Budapest.

Palatine. descending begins with both registers. of the sequence are important. the undiagnosed wait. a. shimmering caused by the highest perceivable frequency and the inability to focus on the multitude of rising tones. Rise and going. Proposed that the piece be revised and realized the lower threshold won’t be treated as if it is between the upper and the lower threshold, rather all entrances are timed in such a way that the ratio between successive pitches is the subsequent voice imitates the initial voice only weakening. the peristaltic itinerary of thought stooping to the prone who must shade. the ability to breathe necessary to stay alive; iff not sufficient to stay alive, there is categorically no upper threshold – but the pause/non-zero on the landing to breathe necessary (to be) above an illusion of ever-deeper, should be used only for uncomplicated work of short breath. Amusia the collapsing material. Vertigo o the Cut for a crashing chord. the scale of a moment of first or last anniversary in between and leaving footfalls as the breathers and catalysis. Amusia? Pedagogy us only with amusia. spiral similarity equals a dilatative rotation, the product of a dilatation and rotation – the upper and lower thresholds exactly one octave apart.

June 21, 2008

Green Drops and Moonsquirters

Months ago in this blog (more than once) I lamented the state of the English public gallery curating, specifically, as an example I mentioned how it was literally impossible to get into Manchester Art Gallery Asia Triennial video installation because there were so many playing toddlers and crying babies. The Gallery has now gone one step further with its latest offering: Green Drops and Moonsquirters

Of course, because success in the UK galleries is measured by numbers of visitors rather than the artistic quality of exhibitions, this is already a huge hit. But for anyone with any interest in the arts it is truly desperate - the galleries of the City Art Gallery must be hellish. In Manchester, the powers that be are constantly exercised with the notion that the city aspires to being 'world-class'. Every international visitor I have had, visiting the City Gallery can't understand it. Manchester is a great place to live, but without a world class gallery you wonder how it can aspire to be a world-class city; moreover, with a programme like this it is questionable whether the City Gallery is actually an Art Gallery. Maybe the logic of endless years of New Labour cultural pejoration are generating a category of museum practice that at the moment is nameless but is actually an anathema to art itself. In a lot of ways, it is close to the Victorian paternalist notion of the museum as a mechanism for worker's education and betterment. After all, virtually from the cradle citizens are given performance targets. It is frequently noticeable that even young artists, arts development and curatorial staffs have this conditioning which has removed the capacity for free thought. The state managerial approach to public mobilisation through intravenous outputs and outcomes with objectives set in advance means that many young artists dont know how to experiment or challenge themselves without knowing what the result of the experiment will be in advance. State funded galleries are as much part of this cultural ecology - I used "cultural ecology" ironically there because that is the latest jargon bollocks being used by the Arts Bureaucracies. It has been a long running idea in theatre that exposing children and young people to drama you are creating the audiences of the future. But the implementation of this has been didactic theatre endlessly addressing 'issues' of bullying, sex education, "citizenship", etc. So rather than creating the audience of the future, this model is creating citizens who think that is what theatre is. The same is happening in galleries. Children visit galleries either in school parties or with parents. So the school visit teaches them that all art has to be explained and that you have to do worksheets when you visit a gallery/museum. When visiting with parents, you play, dress up and do activities, which teaches you that the gallery is an indoor play centre. This sort of thinking is what has led to some libraries now to be called "ideas stores". So what should we call this thing instead of "Art Gallery"?

June 14, 2008

Twilight Readings

Just before my recent travels, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park sent me a copy of Simon Armitage’s YSP published book – The Twilight Readings According to the introduction, to celebrate the park’s 30th anniversary, Armitage was offered a residency. Armitage asked to be described as visiting artist rather than visiting poet. “I imagined working with the physicality of language – seeing poetry as a fashioned and fabricated substance, sculpted from words…”

Not actually capable of that, Armitage ended up writing two types of poems:
“The first anecdotal, prose-looking things, like stories… The second were translations from the Wakefield Mystery Plays, the cycle of mediaeval religious pageants which are closely associated with the region… I chose five dramatic monologues, each one having some relationship with the intended setting, and translated them form the original Middle English into contemporary [sic] (but still colloquial) verse.” This passage is near enough a statement of Armitage’s practice in general. The first poem in the book is not by him, but by Robert Frost – The Road Not Taken. In this context, the ‘poet’ is so uncritical he doesn’t recognise that the last 3 lines are actually an ironic indictment of the rest of the writing:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The first Armitage poem is “My Camellias”. It is enough to describe it as he does – an anecdotal, prose-looking thing, like a story. It is pretty poor even by Armitage’s standards, but the shambolic typography is really worth a mention. If you have seen 50 Heads you will know that I have a particular penchant for blocked poetic texts, the way beginning and end lines work across and down the block. I hadn’t realised that it could be done so badly. Taking no account of any of these possibilities, Armitage may well have put the final look of this “poem” in the hands of the book designer, which is not an acceptable excuse for the erratic dissolute kernelling. I can’t really replicate the layout here. Maybe, again, the last 3 lines indict:

he looks are me with a wounding expression, one which suggests that in his all-seeing, all-knowing eyes I am little more than a complete and undisguised and irreversible dandelion.

To give a flavour of the second type of poem: Third Torturer

Look out yourselves and mind your bones
for I come hurtling all at once
and damn near broke both bollock stones
so fast hurried I hither.

How is this contemporary? This is the most damning criticism of the Armitage poetic project (shared by all the mainstream poets – Carol Ann Duffy, etc) – modern poetry didn’t actually happen. This is not simply the legitimate reassessment of earlier sources; it is the erasure of 20th Century poetry. For anyone who knows my position on the British mainstream my response to this piss poor book will not be a surprise, and it is not actually the book that has provoked me to write about it. It is instead the initial decision of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to employ Armitage in the first place. YSP is not the only visual arts agency/gallery to employ such poets. And it is really unacceptable for visual arts directors/curators clearly knowing nothing about contemporary poetry to blunder around in the artform. It is interesting to compare how in contemporary art the imperative is towards innovation and the new, whereas poetry is treated as immutably frozen in a pre-modern moment. Galleries and other visual arts agencies think engagement with poetry represents them as more catholic when their choice of poets exposes them as ignorant.

June 13, 2008

Dreamer? Are we the only ones?

Visiting an infant/primary school to discuss possibly curating a community-based commission, I waited in the corridor outside the Headteacher's office before the meeting. On the wall, presumably contributing to the development of young minds that use the corridor, there was a poster with a close-up of a young teenager (wearing make-up) slightly smiling, looking directly out of the picture at the viewer. The caption read:

but you're not the only one.
achieve economic wellbeing"

June 07, 2008

Art Basel

The rail trip from Stuttgart to Basel takes about 2 hours and is straight forward except for the dashing change at Karlsruhe. In Basel I stayed with the excellent Swiss artist and Director of the Institute of Curatorship and Education, Marianne Eigenheer . Shortly after I arrived Frank Hettig and Ed Beardsley (from Bonhams in Los Angeles) arrived. Upon which we set off for the first big opening Art Unlimited at which invited international galleries show one artist only. We met up with Patrick Panetta one of the curatorial partnership of KP in Berlin ( – we had been set up to meet to discuss a possible show for me at their space. Standing in the sunshine, drinking champagne is part of the scene of meeting old and new friends, new contacts, new projects, and of course being seen. I had a most interesting conversation with Eva & Adele, who are an artist collaboration gender persona who have recently shown at KP.

Inside Art Unlimited itself there was little of interest. The only work that stood out was a beautifully lyrical video piece called Morakot (Emerald) by Apichatpong Weerasethakul from Thailand . While the most striking thing was a whole railway carriage shipped all the way from China containing an installation (which I didn’t queue for). It was striking more for the exaggeration of its presence in the hall, which counterpointed the problem with the majority of the exhibits: the hall itself; in this very difficult spatial context, galleries had individual display areas but these areas were predominantly the temporary trade fair display set up, which meant that even works that could have been interesting seemed out of place, not really there. As with much of Art Basel, this doesn’t seem to matter because the most important thing is the gallery/artist having achieved the status/value to have made the selection.

Then we walked a few blocks to Liste. .This was 4 floors of gallerists, showing young artists from all over the world – it was like a giant degree show, really, with not much standing out. I was pleased to meet David Thorpe at long last – he is currently working on the new contemporary programme for the Royal Academy in London.
The only artist who stood out at Liste was Dean Hughes - which is ironic since he was born in Bury, had a work in the Text Festival and has just shown at the Cube in Manchester. The Liste crowd was generally younger than Art Unlimited, overall production values were lower and less curatorially experienced, but it had the energy that you’d expect when you fill a 4 storey building with many hundreds of young artists trying to attract attention and at the same time have a good time.

At the end of the evening I finally hooked up with Patrick Panetta. We had an interesting conversation about my recent installations (Reykjavik: ) and he talked about the KP space in Berlin. Their concern is the notion of relevant questions for the current moment in the situation of Berlin and its art scene of maybe 500 spaces; what and how does a gallery/artist address a world which has so many other voices speaking at the same time? So far the ‘shows’ have been shows about the nature and experience of shows, their parties, their conventions, non-happenings. Patrick is rigorously committed to working with artists at the edge of the essence of their practice as artists. We are beginning a developmental conversation leading somewhere.

The Art Fair proper: The crowd at the VIP opening, as the name suggests, was quite different from the other two openings – very wealthy collectors, movie stars, international curators and artists, and conspicuously beautiful well-dressed women. Unexpectedly I didn’t get to dive straight into the ‘art’. I had arranged to meet a German artist, Christoph Dalhausen who took me up to the coolly designed VIP lounge, where young assistants in fashioned uniforms served double expressos on demand. We talked for some time after which I rejoined Marianne Eigenheer to begin the marathon of walking around the endless avenues of contemporary art displays, most of which sell to collectors and dealers for 6 figure sums, contacts are made and met, business cards are exchanged. The credit crunch and economic downturn has apparently slowed the sales activity since last year, but a lot of business is done after the Fair so you can’t really tell on the ground how it is going. I recall Alan Charlton telling me that some gallerists put red dots beside works to give the impression of rampant demand and therefore the urgency to buy, buy, buy.

Of course the problem with so much art is that very quickly you can’t see it. The only memorable piece for me was a large Sol leWitt. I also found photo texts by Lalla Essaydi (Morroco) interesting, and Marianne introduced me to the work of Lothar Baumgarten, which I liked. After a pleasant lunch across the street with Frank and Ed, we had the pleasure of meeting my friend Maurizio Nannucci, a real excitement after a gap of 3 years. We had a short conversation and agreed his involvement in the Text Festival next year.

After that, another weary session of touring round and then back for a nap before the late European premier of Lawrence Weiner’s ‘porn-film’ MILK IN WATER EXISTS. It was amusing queuing with the art crowd to get into a porn cinema, no doubt a joke LW intended. The wipe-able seats were wide with movable arms and plenty of leg room resonating the cinema’s more regular salivating clientele. This crowd was mainly young.

The film was an edited sex orgy in a gallery involving soapy-smooth young art students, with occasional overlaid Weiner phrases, fragments of his/their conversation about architecture and structure, and passing epigrams from him. I found the piece problematic. I have seen earlier Weiner films with similar use of naked bodies and it seemed locked into a previous time, and certainly a time before AIDS. This aspect was made more questionable by the only black male participant being the only one wearing a condom. IS THIS REALITY GENERAL OR SPECIFIC was frequently asked in the film; the ‘actors’ answered ‘general’; I felt that the condom (and the gum they were chewing, strangely) made it specific. You could see that Weiner was relating ideas of structure and materiality to the biological human reality, but it needed serious editing.

Next day, we were too exhausted to return for Weiner’s public conversation so I don’t know whether these issues were discussed. Having seen the manifestations of Art Basel I had come to see, I set off to the Kunsthalle Basel, which had a very dull show not worth discussing and the Basel Architekturmuseum which was not dull. I nearly didn’t go in as it had a show titled “re-sampling ornament”, but it was really excellent Then I went across to the Basel Kunstmuseum – a massive collection to walk round. Legs got tired. High points for me were the Giacomettis and a surprising Albers piece called Fugue. Both fired me up for the Canon poems. By this time I was tiring fast so I found somewhere that looked nice for lunch but was ordinary Then I returned to base. Done.
After a good nap, I got back into the Canon meaning to start Albers or Giacometti but instead finished Tal’s Best Games.

On my last day, Marianne and I went to the Schaulager - “Schaulager is the home for the works in the collection of the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation that are not currently on exhibition. It is a new kind of space for art. It is neither museum nor a traditional warehouse. Schaulager is first and foremost a response to the old and new needs for the storage of works of the visual arts. It dispenses with box storage and transforms the foyers of the exhibition halls into autonomous facilities, independent of any museum, with specific qualities and functions.” A great concept, a great space, great architecture (Herzog & de Meuron) and great art. The exhibitions by Monika Sosnowska and Andrea Zittel excellent and reason enough on their own for the trip to Basel.

June 01, 2008

Waiblingen, Germany

I'm in Waiblingen on the outskirts of Stuttgart at the moment, - guest of the local authority; as Bury is loaning about 70 Turner prints for the opening exhibition of their new gallery. Conceived and guided to completion by my friend and long-time curatorial collaborator, Dr Helmut Herbst. I've taken loads of photos but not got the connection to load them from here - maybe when I get back to Manchester. As is often the case with this sort of opening, you can't really appreciate the gallery just now because most of the views of the architecture are cluttered with marques for the celebratory activities, concerts, etc. The German politicians and the accompanying academics that come out of the wood work on these occasions have a particular penchant for very long speeches - which seem interminable especially when you can't understand German. Sadly, as is the way of the world, the politicians are most excited by the new art school building beside the gallery, which you can already see will distort the policy towards artless education agendas lacking the art that could give the whole some meaning and forward impetus. Together, these two new buildings could be great spaces with the old 17th Century museum building forming a triangle – we can only hope that art that got Waiblingen this far survives.

On Monday, I move on to Basel for the Art Fair.

May 26, 2008

After Thoughts

The most affirming part of attending the European Museums Forum was seeing that there are plenty of museums out there not corrupted by English anti-intellectualism or New Labour. You see curators who quote Proust (“the truly imperfect earth is not one which is devoid of masterpieces of art but one which is full of them and does not know how to love them or preserve them”) rather than their performance indicator regime. The comparison was most striking comparison for me was the presentation by Weston Park Museum in Sheffield ( and Museo degli Sguardi. Rimini's Ethnographic Collections (
The former proudly told us how their public had been completely involved in every stage of the design and selection of displays; how they had won the Guardian’s Family Friendly Museum of the Year Award; how the community was at the heart of the museum. It reminded me of my last visit to Manchester Art Gallery which has a similar ethos, when the galleries could only really be described as a massive crèche – during the video installation in the Asia Triennial it was literally impossible to enter the dark space to see the work because it was full of toddlers and crying babies. However, of the 40 odd curators who presented at the Forum (including me) this year, I was most struck by Maurizio Biordi from Rimini. He didn’t speak English so was translated by his assistant. Contrary to the dominant UK model of vacuity, over-loaded social conditioning and curatorial deskilling, he talked about The Museum of Impressions – a museum in a place where people don’t go for cultural tourism, the museum itself is not ideally located in the town, the museum houses an inconceivably curious and out of context collection of relics from various continents assembled by numerous travellers and collectors. I met some really good people, museum directors I am keen to work with, but Maurizio Biordi’s commitment to thinking, to looking at the object was inspiring.

May 14, 2008


Here I am in sunny Dublin. Initially I am here to work on Mirror Canon Snips in time for the Melbourne installation in June; later in the week I am here for the European Museums Forum. In a break in the work yesterday morning, I took a pleasant walk in the sun through St.Stephen’s Green and round to the Douglas Hyde Gallery. There was a video installation by Willie Doherty made up of a quite nicely shot footage of a winter wood (apparently near Belfast) intercut with shots of a concrete urban housing estate, overlaid with an enigmatic soft-accented deep-voiced narrative of visiting either or both. It had the feel of Robbe-Grillet’s great snapshot set on a forest walk and filmic Last Year in Marianbad – both of which I find more satisfying: I strongly recommend RG’s book Snapshots – but the Doherty piece is harmless enough. There was also a small selection of key objects which informed a booklet published by Paul Mosse by the Gallery. This was a delightfully whimsical selection and better than the Doherty in its lack of pomposity.

May 10, 2008


More from Recursive Shadows (photos by Steve Walton) ; The beautiful glass and lava construction by Icelandic artist Ragna Róbertsdóttir. When I was in Reykjavik last year I wrote the poem 'hrafntinna' for her, part of my ongoing "The Canon" sequence. ('hrafntinna' is Icelandic for Obsidian.) Although the blog format buggers up the line endings, etc., here it is:

cleavage black grey red tunnelling a permanent record of the mechanical impact, standing parallel to the cube. The core of many processes we take for granted slipping across an apparently uncrossable horizon. Because tunnelling efficiency also drops off with distance. Vicariant daughters and sons – our hierarchy of mediated imposition asks of recursion and definition and positive lineage. Extracts. The rules bleak if embodied in processes brought into close proximity, the rippling, gradual curves scented with conchoidal fracture grown by rifting and crust through the apparent crowding inside. This square glass boundary breaks flexural waves in release. Its stillness ripples and cracks and fractures in crystals taking the lower energy release ratio with periods of relative quiescence;

cleavage until cleaved apart commuted between here and far-field glass mountains parallel to a diagonal plane. Functionally colourless even if it is not actually colourless nearly colourless, endless until its edge is thought said in another way within the new complexity felt more fullerene than its touch; same grey colours devotedly to projection of latent collections, houses, spaces, gaps, with containers and contents and objects leaning, a veritable thinness, objects cleaving to the dichotomy of sagas within the part of larger orders of magnitude observed across small fissures emanating from the bulb of percussion - naturally occurring obsidian monotonic the fall which is an absence like streets. Her divergent boundary, action, situations, fluents with no time to straighten before frost’s northern cleavage expanses in value the absence of a family of well-understood random slips parallel to the lateral planes but horizons and fractures in crystals with periods of relative quiescence between particles defined random as shear history in piles of brimstone in the prepersonal intensity of every hand. The peculiar property possesses presenting the proportion, the likelihood of proportion to the size of the formation and propagation of cracks tears in materials ranging from glass to lava variations thrown, the direction of the tear or tears, the roughness of a fractured surface which resembles cracks and tears; the percolation of fluids through disordered media through beds framing their corrugated filter-law. Functionally black even if it is not actually black wind whistles in the light of northern rock , a cleavage, absence like streets transparent framing somewhere close to this poset edge, parallel to a vertical Prism by weight structure of dust coral shell glass nature orbits debris of her hill sphere formation, her specifically her without the rain there and not there would pry loose any plenary behaviour metastable and legal fiction: independently peopled who do not follow any natural planes of separation: Tunnel: most readily over distances comparable held in prisms fine-grained igneous and rock freezes symmetries that are continuous motions without sufficient time in the presence of impurities and depending. Recursive divergent boundary, action, situations, fluents with no time to straighten before frost whence isolation’s peripheral horizon informs anyone anywhere of dusts other

May 07, 2008

Recursive Shadows

Alan Charlton
Ulrich Rückriem
Ragna Róbertsdóttir

curated by Tony Trehy
at Bury Art Gallery

I'm particularly proud of this show - now open until 5 July.
The Guardian comments about it:
"Far from being clinically purist, this kind of minimalism, with its whisperings of otherness and almost hypnotic technical application, is fully capable of provoking a hearty sense of wonderment"

April 17, 2008

What do you want

Returning shame-faced to my tumble-weed blown dusty blog. It's not that I have been lazing around, just I was too busy to write. I think it was Sartre who wrote that you have to decide between living and telling. Anyway, I had a couple of things to do in Scotland, then preparing for the China-Tibet residency which I was invited to do - then all that fell apart as the Chinese started shooting the Tibetans, so that's off - and now I have to do a new piece for a new installation in Melbourne by the end of May - so I've been writing it. O also had a great holiday in Alicante - on which I also wrote, mainly the next book project "Space" in which the Melbourne piece has become a part.

Anyway, that's not very interesting for you. So just to get myself back into the swing, a couple of things to mention. Went to the Other Room, at the Old Abbey Inn last week to hear Alan Halsey, Geraldine Monk and Tom Hanks read. A really good night and the venue is a remarkable find. It's Robert Sheppard and Alex Middleton plus others next on 4 June - which I strongly recommend (though I will miss it because I'll be at the Basel Art Fair).

The other recommendation is "What Do You Want" the current exhibition at the Cornerhouse, part of the Asia Triennial Manchester 08.
Shaina Anand's CCTV Social is a deep and thoughtful, Surekha's video of an adolescent girl floating through the sky is a thing of beauty. On the top floor, Tejal Shah has achieved something simply to make that difficult space worth visiting. On the down side, in the Cafe, Jasmeen Patheja's framed texts make the mistake of treating language as if it were transparent.