December 30, 2010

2010 - the end of days

I did a review of the year for 2009 which felt like my tradition but I now realise that it was actually the first time I had done it. As I sit down to consider 2010, I am surprised to find that the pressures of the year make a simple review less easy. The combination of the depression across the UK at the dark forces that have assumed control of the state, the professional pressures from this (which put many of us in the position of being resistant while charged with tasks of implementing the destruction of public services), the sadness from bereavement, and the massive but more exhilarating challenge of putting together the next and last Text Festival (while also working on its replacement) – all this gives the year a somewhat distorted retrospection. For a start off when I look to review cultural highlights I find that I only managed to get to the cinema once all year – that was to see Inception. A shortlist of one would hardly have much credit, though I could just say Inception and imply that I had seen more. I had the energy to see a lot more video films so the film of the year would have to be Tom Ford’s A Single Man – which actually came out last year, but to quote Michel Serres, whom I was reading while in Marrakech before Christmas: “Few people and even fewer thoughts are completely congruent with the date of their times”.

I did see a lot of exhibitions this year – a lot of which were very strong making it invidious to pick out the exhibition of the year. An honourable mention should go to the Moomin exhibition in Bury - while I set it up, the curation of the spaces was a collective effort in the Bury team to whom congratulations are due. But the final decision comes down to Jannis Kounellis at Ambika P3, London, and Brass Art’s The Non-existence of the Unnamed at International 3.

Both great shows - the only way to settle it was to think if I could see only one of them again which one would I re-visit: and therefore Brass Art just shades it (pictures).

In terms of poetry, I haven’t read very much this year either – the three books that most stick in my mind are Derek Beaulieu’s How to Write, Helen Hajnoczky’s Brocade Light and When blue light falls 2 by Carol Watts. Of the three, I probably enjoyed Carol’s most, but I think the first part also ‘won’ it for me last year. Saying I haven’t read much poetry isn’t strictly true as I have read loads of visual poetry, in research for the vispo show in the Text Festival. Locating many of these books by date is pretty hit-and-miss so as with my criteria above, I ignore the date of publication. Particularly brilliant, but also probably the furthest from a contemporary publication date was Márton Koppány’s Investigations. I am very fond of Satu Kaikkonen’s Fif poems and The Hidden Point which she gave me when we met in Tampere in October, but the most beautiful vispo book I got this year was Derek Beaulieu’s Silence . The best poetry performance I saw was also by Derek at Bury Art Gallery in July.

When I realised that due to the pressures already acknowledged my review of the year was going to be thin on positives and in the depressed mood of the time, I considered whether to supplement it conversely with ‘awards’ for the truly awful shows one sees in a year. But the despicable Conservative Government assault on British society is a low point against which even the worse exhibition of the year can’t compete. So I leave this year instead with a contender for the funniest moment of the year. Browsing in a bookshop I picked up a poetry book and read:
“I am a sperm-whale”... The opening line of Simon Armitage’s latest book.

Happy New Year

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Barney opens his presents

December 18, 2010


I am in Marrakech writing the Tragedy of Althusserianism.

December 04, 2010

Ghosts move about me patched with histories

Philip Davenport and Nicola Smith
Chinese Art Centre, Manchester 30 November - 17 December

Artists' Talk: 9 December 5.30- 6.30pm
Preview Evening: 9 December - 6.30pm - 8.30pm
Tour dates: 9 - 11 December

Ghosts move about me patched with histories is an immersive text/art experience, designed by poet Philip Davenport and performance artist Nicola Smith. Both have previously taken part in artist residencies in Chongqing and will use the exhibition to reflect on their experiences in China. The exhibition counterpoints the freedom of being in a strange environment with the limits imposed by social control.

Davenport’s text installation is a poem written into wallpaper, covering one side of the gallery. Nicola will act as a deliberately misleading tour guide, taking visitors through the environment created by the pair, including a pause for snacks, some trashy TV and a computer that rewrites Davenport’s words with infinite variations, programmed by poet Tom Jenks. A live chicken will be ‘resident’ in the space.

The artist talk is free but booking is required: please follow the link below for tickets:

November 30, 2010

The Other Room


7pm 1st December 2010

The Old Abbey Inn, 61 Pencroft Way, Manchester, M15 6AY (Manchester Science Park)

Admission is free and there is a well-stocked book shop.

Ken Edwards is the publisher and editor of the small poetry press Reality Street. He has had numerous books and pamphlets published including: Good Science: Poems 1983-1991 (Roof Books, New York City, 1992), No Public Language: Selected Poems 1975-1995 (Shearsman Books, 2006), Songbook (Oystercatcher Press, 2009).

Neil Addison’s latest book Apocapulco is in the new Salt Modern Voices series. His chapbook The Everyday of Irma Kite (2009) was published by Arthur Shilling Press. His blog is

Louise Woodcock is an artist currently residing in Manchester. She works in a diverse range of media including Live Art, Installation, Sound and Fibre. Recent projects include a collaborative performance with Jennifer McDonald at Counting Backwards, a live crochet at Mill 24, a video piece in Unsungfest at Contact Theatre and a talk and performance at University of Huddersfield’s Sonic Arts Forum.

November 26, 2010

Every Day is a Good Day

There's been a buzz about the major retrospective John Cage, currently on display at Huddersfield Art Gallery - originated by the Hayward Gallery and the BALTIC, an excitement I also shared today when I got to see it. I say 'shared' because despite all its marvels, I found a flaw which has nagged away at me since I left.

You enter the exhibition to a film of Cage being interviewed and photos of him doing various things, and even if you don't hang around to watch the video the drift of the Zen contentment of his conversation seems to gently locate your consciousness as you pass into the exhibition proper. The individual works are mostly beautifully deep and subtle images, for obvious reasons, reminiscent of Japanese Zen painting, punctuated by the equally striking diagrammatic compositions. Seeing such a body of work is fascinating, wash-away calming and affirming. It's just great stuff.

Then there is the hang: inspired by Cage's use of chance-determined scores, according to the catalogue "the exhibition differs markedly from a traditional touring exhibition. The procedure that Cage often employed, using an I Ching-like computer programme, is used to determine the layout of the exhibition at the gallery, with the programme determining the position of each work through chance operations. This results in works being displayed at many different heights, and in groups that no curator would ordinarily choose; such chance encounters between quite different works gives a sense of them being part of an ongoing creative process, rather than merely being the result of one creative moment." And on first experiencing the spatisalisation of works as no curator would not ordinarily choose, it is very striking. Knowing that the works are juxtaposed by chance adds a new layer. But as I walked through the galleries a second time (as I was waiting to meet Phil Minton who was performing at the Gallery), something about it began to bother me. It's no more than a deep feeling but how to explain that there is something fundamental and subliminal not right? I began to wonder about the "I Ching-like" computer programme. I realise that I am not convinced by the computer programme - not that it isnt random or that someone cheated, but that its randomness is not Cagean. I know that Cage did use a I Ching computer programme to generate chance operations which he created with Ed Korbin but he also used the I Ching itself - as I have frequently in the past. And it is this familiarity with I Ching that makes me uneasy. I didn't investigate the mathematics of the hang but I can only call its effect 'mechanical', and for me it seemed to clash with the ethereal Cagean gestures in drawing and paint. I am left thinking that an installation using an actual I Ching ritual would have delivered a more organic chance driven curation.

Just on the comment "in groupings that no curator would ordinarily choose", I am also reminded of the Schalauger (Basel 2009) hang which delivered a similar aesthetic (other areas not pictured here had the Cagean sparseness).

So I found Cage's works beautiful but I was less convinced by the artifice of the mock-Cage installation concept - not because it was over-egged or contrived but because I could feel that it was machine generated rather than spiritually random.

November 22, 2010

Worksetting - in every dream home a heartache

Last night's launch of "in every dream home a heartache" at the worksetting gallery, huddersfield. It opened with a performance of a structured accordian ensemble improvisation by experimental music composer Alvin Curran. Although it was interesting in its intervention in the distinctive arcade space, it was over long and too tonally restricted.

The most striking element of the show was the corian furniture by amanda levete.

Also included (on ipods) was the first stage of the nono project: sound-poetry works by
Ben Gwilliam (sound treatment of American poet P.Inman) - "Nono"
Carol Watts & Will Montgomery - "Pitch"
Simon Smith (with sound treatment by Jamie Telford) - "The Angel"; "Angel Cut-Up"; "Six Bold Flavours"
Sarah Boothroyd - Power and Freedom.

I am still working on curating the nono project so anyone out there still interested in responding to Luigi Nono can still get something in.

November 20, 2010


In London in the week making a presentation about the Irwell Sculpture Trail to the Chartered Institute of Water and Environment Management ( ) to develop future project partnerships. (A bit scary to realise that I started the IST in 1993).

Anyway, the only show I had time to take in was Newspeak: British Art Now at the Saatchi Gallery

It wasn’t clear why it called Newspeak. I guessed that it somehow implied that as this is Saatchi’s next generation they are supposed to be speaking new. That was me assuming that they were trying to say something positive about the new collection. But it did seem a bit risky because of the Orwellian interpretations – that Saatchi is attempting to control the discourse (again) about contemporary British Art. I discover via Google that "this exhibition turns that Orwellian vision on its head, showing that the range of visual languages being exploited and invented by these new artists is, in fact, expanding and multiplying." This in itself is a mad newspeak distortion of the meaning of newspeak.

And the claim made for it is not supported by the work or oddly the curation. On my previous visits the latter aspect has not really struck me because the work carried the hang. But while there are some works worth seeing the absence of a sense that this is a cohesive vision makes the linear circulation pattern of the hang seem lumbering. The only locational surprise is Gareth Cadwallader’s Dead Horse installed alone in a thoroughfare between two galleries. In the loose context, I found myself more in the mood for abstraction and so liked (top picture) Marcus Foster’s Untitled form, which he describes as hot air balloon-like but for me was reminiscent of forms from 17th Century Chinese fluted ceramics.
Dean Hughes never puts a foot wrong but I didn’t think Saatchi displayed it very well.
And the other work that stood out for me was Systems House with his mix of minimalism and manufacturing.

Unusually nowadays, the only noticeable use of text was James Howard and his 46 digital prints appropriating the graphics and language of advertising and information posters. Apart from the soft spot for me of finding an artwork which features a dog called Barny in the Saatchi, I enjoyed Howard’s word play

When its fact of life teaching schedule remember to
Include tell her most important one.
“Is any other dog?
Has it happened
To Barny?
At an alarming rate?”
“Has the children?”

November 14, 2010

Death and the idea of museums

(My usual excuse for not blogging much = Text Festival organising, preparing for the government destruction of public services, writing the Tragedy of Althusserianism, etc.).

Anyway, I joined the Museum-id network recently ( ). A quick trawl through more recent discussions that drew my attention to a question from Steph Mastoris, Head of the National Waterfront Museum: Are Museums About Stories or Objects? He answers:

"The boring and safe answer is, of course, that museums are about both. Objects are central to the very existence of the museum, but without telling stories about them the museum is just a storehouse. For me, the key issue here is much more about whether the museum's displays begin with the object or the story. I feel that the concept-centred display is far more robust and logical than one driven by what is available in the stores. The imperative to inform that lies at the heart of the museum's purpose is best served when coherent narratives are on offer. Once these stories are established the museum's collections really come into their own by providing unrivalled sources of evidence. Indeed, such a clear narrative structure also enhances the more random inspirational powers that objects possess. It is so easy to say "let the objects speak for themselves", but their language and their messages are often difficult to understand without a good narrative context. So we need museums that are story-driven, but object rich. "

Although Mastoris uses the phrased ‘concept-centred display’, ‘story-driven’ privileges narration, linearity over concept; I read his conclusion as bypassing ideas as the driver of the concept of a museum (despite the word itself of course being rooted in ‘the place sacred to the Muses’).

Contrary to a response framed in museological theory, my reflex in these sorts of debates is more phenomenological, referenced back to my own first museum ‘epiphany’ in the Isle of Man. Back before the Manx Museum had its rationalising extension and modernisation, it was a magical place. When asked questions about what museums are for, or how museums work best I am always taken back to a memory from 1972 standing in the museum’s reconstruction of a dimly lit Victorian shopping street and looking up to see the giant skeleton of a whale hanging overhead. It made no sense (probably a mixture of historic display accident and/or lack of storage space) but it remains my most striking experience in any museum. When I last visited everything had changed for the less imaginative. This panorama link:
now shows the whale skeleton hovering above where it ‘should’ be in a natural history gallery. I have thought often on why this bizarre juxtaposition worked. It clearly wasn’t a curatorial strategy – generally deliberate curatorial surrealism is egotistic and irritating – it had hung like that since the early Sixties, I think; I’d guess in a time when a little isolated island museum didn’t even have what we now think of as a curator. It wasn’t an ostentatious surrealist act; it was just the way the architecture of the building worked. When you were upstairs you could see the skeleton contextualised with the natural history collection but in the ‘street’ the outline of whale flew overhead. In terms of the debate about what are museums about, this experience is about an object (the skeleton) but, unless you are a museum professional who can interpret the installation as an operational configuration, there was no story. I recall and still find that the installation was unfathomable: it was what it was and was magical because of that. That moment represented, and still does, the possibility of imaginative space; in negating any meaning at all except itself it offered the exhilaration of creative freedom in an act without precedence. My answer to “Are museums about objects or stories” is neither. For me, museums are about the possibility of freedom, the ground for creativity. The curatorial responsibility is the mobilisation of objects to create the opportunity for that space. This is why the political imperative over the last decade or more for UK museums to be educational, to spoon feed the visitor and the school pupil with the story, is fundamentally destructive to museums’ value and raison d’etre.

With the new Dark Age pending in the UK and the sad and sudden death of Sue’s father, this question and my intuitive response to it, were in my mind when I checked out the People’s History Museum exhibition “Death and the Working Class” this week.

This video link gives a pretty good visual of the layout.

Although I have blogged previously about how disappointing the new PHM is, I approached the show with an open mind, maybe even optimism – reasoning that the banality of the permanent displays could be put down to funder sensitivity/expectation of political neutrality but that a temporary show working with such an emotive subject has the room, even the imperative, to address the seriousness of its intent.

Predictably given where PHM seems to have located itself, Death and the Working Class lacks the idea that would make it a serious show: anger. It is a bland social history show of objects supported only by fragments of context. It doesn’t evoke the idea of death or the experience of people dying. The display goes down the route of parsing the subject by themes:

preparing for death
causes of death
laying out
the ceremony
wakes and wills
mourning and remembrance

but the absence of the theme of struggle leaves you wondering why it bother to mention Class in its title. How can you curate such as show and not impart a sense of injustice in the viewer?

Whatever seriousness the exhibition could claim is badly undermined by the ubiquitous nonsense of ‘access’ play. In amongst the exhibits you are invited to read an epitaph and guess whose name it relates to under a flap you lift. There is a comments board where you are invited to write your own epitaph. On the floor there is a snakes and ladders game with coloured plastic skulls as pieces. But the stupidity prize has to go to the rack of mourning clothes with its sign “Put on these mourning clothes: how do they make you feel?” This is really unacceptable - especially having had Sue's father's funeral last week.

November 04, 2010

The Olympics and Poetry

In 2009 I was shortlisted for one of the 2012 Olympic commissions called "Artists Taking The Lead" - which would develop an international language festival featuring many of the world's leading poets, sound and media artists. Held in Manchester in 2012, The Language Moment would be the largest ever celebration and dialogue of language in the arts.

Simon Armitage was shortlisted for "Any Distance Greater than a Single Span", which would see an epic poem carved into the rock on Ilkley Moor and a range of spectacular performances. Neither of us got the final commission - mine was beaten by the proposal for a crap fountain in Liverpool; I dont know who beat Armitage but I like to think that his proposal was beaten by the offensiveness of its own egomania.

When the powers that be realised that the 2012 Cultural Olympiad was becoming shambolic, they brought in respected cultural leader Ruth MacKenzie to give it new direction. Various people said to me: MacKenzie is a shrewd judge of a good project, re-submit the Language Moment, she might have more insight than the previous discredited judging panels. So I did. I got a reply that she would pass it on to her team to consider. I heard nothing more and readers here will know the Language Moment has continued to develop and will subsequently be the legacy project I take forward after the Text Festival (freed from any constraints that the Olympics would have imposed).

Suddenly the BBC announced yesterday "An ambitious project to assemble poets from all of the Olympic nations in 2012 has been launched in London." apparently"Simon Armitage, the poet behind the idea, said: 'My hunch is this will be the biggest poetry event ever - a truly global coming together of poets.' The fucking poet behind the idea! Jude Kelly, the Southbank Centre's artistic director, (which is hosting the event) said: "Poetry has always been so associated with the Olympics - It seems appropriate to make poetry this central idea of something that is about a world gathering." Tony Trehy of the Language Moment said (in 2009 and again to the new Olympic Culture people in 2010): "Poetry was as much a feature of the ancient Olympics as sport. By the 21st Century the concept of global friendship has become central to the Olympiad without recognition of the role that the language arts could play in enhancing this world dialogue."

Apparently they are aiming for 200 poets from all continents. Hmmm... the Language Moment had 200 poets signed up from all continents. The only differences I can see is that the event will happen in London where the Language Moment happened in Manchester - to which people living in the north will no doubt look askance sky-ward, tutting "the usual story". And the other difference is that Hegemony of the Banal continue to limit the possibilities of language in poetry thus ignoring its relationship and dialogue with sound art, visual art, multimedia, etc.

October 27, 2010

A Sustainable Future for the Rollerball Museum

Since May, the cultural workforce in the UK has been nervously anticipating the onslaught of the dark regime that now governs the country. The disaster that this will be for British culture is universally accepted – except maybe by intestate liberals in denial, who for the sake of realism can be ignored as hopefully they will be for a generation - Charlie Brooker commented in the Guardian this week that the liberals represent the acceptable face of abuse but we have to hope that they are treated as unacceptable for many years to come. The only question in most people’s minds is the degree of destruction we face. I think that the most telling comparison I have heard is with the Conservatives' last ideological attack: the destruction of the labour movement and the closure of the once mighty mining industry: culture’s future looks remarkably like the fate that befell the wasteland of pit villages and blighted a generation of workers. My epigrammatic assessment is that this government could destroy one hundred years of British culture in the space of three.

The ‘Arts’ and ‘Museums’ have been producing various briefing documents and lobbying campaigns that set out why the arts are so important and there are various online ‘save the arts’ websites and petitions. The problem with all of these is that they rely on the arguments that the arts have developed over 2 decades of New Labour target-driven non-culture imperatives which have fundamentally undermine chances of survival in the current situation. Basically, the arts argue for the economic/social/educational value they provide but the new government is only interested in costs (and that is charitably to give them an economic justification rather than the more likely ideological truth): in this simple equation, the value of the arts is irrelevant.

The dangers are compounded because of the clever nonsense of ‘Business Transformation’. For decades, cuts in public service have been referred to as ‘efficiency savings’. Everyone knows that this is newspeak bollocks; but the unprecedented speed and scale of this debacle implementation is dressed up with this new language which suggests that services can be saved by radical re-configuration: “Business Transformation” is more than a distortion of the language – it is a plain lie. The propagation of this lie is compounded by the naivety of a sector of museum/arts administrators who were trained in the ethos of neo-Puritan museums as useful – it’s a generational thing. They are quick to accept the cuts as inevitable – because they are conditioned by the methodology of the previous regime to hit the target, even if the target is perversely destructive. So you get nonsense out of them such as “it is better to have one good museum than four mediocre ones”. This is supposed to suggest that the recent times of plenty have resulted in too many museums, some good some mediocre, and therefore the new governmental cull is actually an opportunity! This is plainly bollocks. Maybe it would be better to have four good ones – good museums don’t cost any more to run than mediocre ones.

I am pretty frequently getting email bulletins now with titles like “Fuelling The Necessary Revolution”. Every single word of that title makes me want to slap the writer, who goes on to claim that “The funding cuts announced this week are bringing into sharp focus the need for us to consider different ways of thinking and different ways of doing. Whilst artists have a proud and promiscuous history of collaborating across every imaginable boundary, arts organisations have too often tended to work in isolation or in competition. It has been written especially for public and private funders in order to persuade them to encourage and support more collaborations. This guide includes an explanation of the competencies, qualities and attributes necessary, describes the early stage challenges and offers a framework for assessment. It explains what disciplined collaboration looks like...” The exasperation I feel reading this is nearly debilitating – maybe to reduce my use of expletives in this blog I could just observe that the cuts are so large that most of the thinking is already directed to not doing things rather than doing differently; that for those of us who have been ‘promiscuously’ collaborating with artists for years and crossing every imaginable boundary this is patronising shite; and explanation of competencies, qualities, attributes and frameworks for assessement (just what we need!) is the tiresome bureaucracy of HR-Fordist model imposed on arts management over the last decade which paradoxically has artistically de-skilled arts management while pretending to professionalise it.

The other delusional strategy being offered is that the way to survive is to focus on the young – “we need to illustrate to government and society that our organisations can teach young people about the past so they can construct their futures.” There are two misapprehensions in this: the first relates to my earlier observation – under New Labour, working with young people was a consistent governmental imperative (to the detriment, I would argue, to the quality of the arts themselves): the working with youth card is already in the game and clearly has no value to the rich bastards that now govern the country. The other problem with it relates to the sustainability of the Rollerball Museum, which I come to below. Sustainability is another bit of jargon that has a multiple life in the current situation. Until recently it was used as part of the green agenda, reducing the carbon footprint of museums and galleries, etc. Now it has an additional use, much as ‘transformation’ means ‘dismantle’, sustainability now means survival.

Along with the liberal “don’t hurt us because we are good with the poor and dispossessed” strategy of the arts (liberalism after all is dead in the final act of coalition), the other humiliation some are swallowing is “The Big Society”. This is the Government’s vision for replacing the ‘big state’. I can’t be bothered to parse this nonsense, but suffice it to say, that there are arts administrators arguing that there is an opportunity for the arts to survive by ‘delivering this new agenda’. I am just not convinced that enough of the cultural infrastructure will survive because the sentence includes its own demise “for the arts to survive by delivering this new agenda”. This assumes that the arts are supposed to survive; but this is an ideological dismantling of public life to be rebuilt in a different image much as it was with monetarism in the 80s-90s. It doesn’t need or want the past. One of the founding concepts of museums is that access to the past informs the future - “our organisations can teach young people about the past so they can construct their futures” – to dismantle the infrastructure of British museums and galleries is to overwrite history, to disconnect the past so that a different, forgetful future is forged. The new government’s schedule for destruction is 2014 (so that British society has been irrevocably changed before they can be kicked out in the 2015 election), but this story makes me think of a slightly later date: 2018.

By the year 2018, the Corporate Wars have ended and crime has been eliminated around the globe. To entertain and divert the bored masses, the sport of Rollerball -- a cross between hockey, roller derby, and motocross -- has been invented and become wildly popular. Veteran player Jonathan E. (played by James Caan) of the Houston team has become so big with the fans over his ten-year career that the corporate owners fear his stardom violates the team ideology of Rollerball and may inspire a revolution. Mr. Bartholomew (John Houseman), an executive with Energy Corp., the team owners, tells Jonathan E. “Corporate society was an inevitable destiny”. Increasingly suspicious, the previously dumb jock Jonathan tries to investigate the history of the game and the corporations by going to visiting the last library-archive in the world, which is Zero, the world's most powerful computer based in Geneva. Jonathan only finds more evidence that the world is all wrong. The head librarian is madder than a hatter and the computer is twisted. Somehow they have lost the entire 13th Century and who knows what else. To paraphrase George Orwell “Who controls the past, controls the future”. And how better to control the past than to lose chunks of it. You never know, maybe they’ll win a second term, in which case they will be in power in 2018 - with the unemployment in the arts that's coming, there'll be plenty of applications for the museum director.

October 22, 2010

Moomin Valley at Bury

Magical Moominvalley
23 October - 15 January 2011

To celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Moomins Bury Art Gallery has recreated the feeling of visiting Moominvalley itself. The world of the Moomins, created by Finnish artist Tove Jansson has delighted and captivated children and adults alike for the last 65 years. Finnish writer and artist Tove Jansson created the white hippopotamus-looking creatures whose adventures have been translated into 34 languages. Jansson wrote and illustrated eight books about these eccentric creatures, the first of which The Moomins and the Great Flood was published in 1945.

Tove Jansson was a prolific illustrator and less well-known for her work produced in newspapers. Her beautiful drawings of the Moomins will be shown alongside a collection of rare examples of Jansson’s illustrations published in Finnish daily newspapers, as well as illustrations of JR Tolkein’s The Hobbit and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The exhibitions will appeal to children who are fascinated by tales of the Moomins but also to adults who can appreciate Jansson’s expressive drawings and the darker subtexts of the images and stories.

23 October - Special Opening, The exhibition will be formally opened by the Mayor and the Finnish Ambassador.

October 17, 2010

The Other Room

Tuesday 19 October 6pm FREE
The International Anthony Burgess Foundation,

The Engine House, Chorlton Mill,
3 Cambridge Street, Manchester M1 5BY.


October 14, 2010

Ron Silliman's Text

Ron's neon text extracted from his poem Northern Soul which, I think, is part of Universe, begins production.

October 12, 2010

Back from Finland

A great week in Tampere.

The Tragedy of Althusserianism started badly - so badly in fact that within a couple of days of arriving and struggling hopelessly, I seriously considered giving up the writing break and flying home early. I found an internet connection and started costing up flights. Then returned to my computer, and as if the threat of stopping turned on a tap, 19 sections of the poem poured forth.

"ichnologic years after inserting one mental
state into another, the space between but
the excuses as color-naming systems
deviate from the predict of universal forces would

I was very pleased to see Karri Kokko again and to meet Satu Kaikkonen. I gave Satu a copy of Reykjavik and she gave me 3 fabulous hand-made books (one of which featured the namepoem pictured here) and a couple of visual poems (which are now both on the wall in the apartment).

(Picture:Karri and Satu)

We had lunch together, and agreed their participation in the Text Festival, and then visited Tampere Art Museum, Tampere Contemporary Art Museum and the Sara Hilden Museum. Added to two shows I saw at TR1 and it felt like a cultured week. I had great meetings with Toimi Jaatinen and Taina Myllyharju, both social and establishing future projects. Taina was a great host throughout the week.

The next fruit of the Tampere partnership is the opening of the Moomin Valley exhibition at Bury Art Gallery on 23 October.

September 30, 2010

Text Festival 2011

The new Text Festival website goes live today.

Over the next month more events will be added.

Back to Finland

It's been an intense few weeks as the Text Festival moved towards having some sort of shape, so I haven't had time to blog. The first wave of the programme will be officially announced in the next few days - there'll be more to follow. Meanwhile I am returning to my favourite (so far) place in Finland - Tampere.

Primarily I am seeing purdah to write "The Tragedy of Althusserianism", which assuming I finish it, will come out on ifpthenq in November. But I am looking forward to seeing Karri Korro again and meeting Satu Kaikkonen for the first time. The first thing I'll do on arrival is attend an exhibition opening at TR1
Through the week I'll also be meeting various local curators to talk about future projects. I am not sure I will have internet access.

September 22, 2010

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

I remember that there were only two artists at Sevilla Biennale 2008 whom I found interesting; I can't recall one without looking back to my journal but the other was the Mexican-Canadian electronic artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. He also caught my radar at Basel Art Fair in 2009. So I am pleased to see that he has a solo show called Recorders at Manchester Art Gallery. It features seven recent pieces of which I think I recognise a couple from the previous installations.
Lozano-Hemmer’s artworks depend on the participation of visitors to exist and develop, as the artist describes:

“In Recorders, artworks hear, see and feel the public, they exhibit awareness and record and replay memories entirely obtained during the show. The pieces either depend on participation to exist or predatorily gather information on the public through surveillance and biometric technologies.”

Highlights of the exhibition include Pulse Room, on show in the UK for the very first time. Premiered in Puebla, Mexico in 2006 and shown to critical acclaim in the Mexican pavilion for the Venice Biennale in 2007, the work is made up of 100 light bulbs which are activated by a sensor to flash at the exact rhythm of particpants' heart rates.

"33 Questions per Minute" is a Queneau-like question-generating programme which as much uses rules of grammar to create endless (enigmatic and/or meaningless) questions. "Close Up" invites viewers to insert a finger into a scanner which then generate a digital image of the finger print into a collage of previously inserted fingers.

Seeing this accumulation of Lozano-Hemmer work, the striking thing is the visual pleasure in the digital super-realism of the images or the soothing beauty in mathematically balanced proportion in such works as Pulse Room. Oddly though, this ultimate over-rules the putative selling point of interactivity. This becomes of peripheral interest - and if focused on too long undermines the effect of the show as a whole because it gives the impression that in the end all the works are versions of the same piece.

September 19, 2010

A Single Man’s Inception

I rarely mention film here and I am going to do what Ron Silliman in his review of Inception said one shouldn’t and that is consider that film’s implications as a medium of serious thought. Like Ron, I thought Christopher Nolan’s movie of dreams within dreams was a ‘kick-ass summer film to trump all summer films.” And I probably would have left it at that until I caught up with last year’s Tom Ford film A Single Man while in Malta. There may not seem an immediately obvious connection between the two films.

Inception is a ‘colossal digital artefact, a virtual reality sci-fi thriller set inside the dreaming mind, with brilliant architectural effects and a weirdly inert narrative inspired by Philip K Dick and Lewis Carroll’ (Guardian). In the distant future, the technology of industrial espionage allows snoopers to invade the dreams of CEOs and steal commercially sensitive information. Leonardo DiCaprio is Cobb, a specialist who both carries out these hi-tech brain raids and trains executives to resist them.
Cobb’s team of specialists plan their inceptions like heists, drugging their targets, installing vast, detailed imaginary worlds inside their minds where they go into a lucid dreaming state, letting their subconscious guard down so the team trick them into doing or believing the thing Cobb’s employers require. Saito, an energy magnate, wants Cobb to do the reverse: not take information, but plant an idea in a rival's mind. In return, he'll fix problems with the US government so Cobb can return to his children. Cobb takes the near-impossible job, planning three layers of dreams within dreams for the target. It requires a larger team taking a powerful sedative: if something goes awry, the dreamers may not awake. Cobb doesn't tell his team that his past nurtures feelings powerful enough to bring on this comatose state for all of them. The embedding of the multiple layers of dreams is a directorial tour de force. In such sure hands the viewer is never lost in the complications but has the pleasure of feeling that it frequently stretches you.

Whereas ‘A Single Man’ is based on the 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood, which follows a desparate single day in the life of a deeply grieving single man – possibly the last day as the man, George Falconer, played by Colin Firth, prepares to commit suicide. Falconer is an expatriate Englishman in Los Angeles, a bespectacled college professor teaching English literature, a discreet gay man whose partner, Jim, has just died in a car accident. It is 1962, and there is fever and change in the air: the recently passed Cuban missile crisis has left America in a jittery mood, relieved but still profoundly anxious. The students increasingly affect the style of beatniks, bikers and bohemians, and youth culture is breaking through the suburban conformity. Falconer lectures against the state of fear for fear’s sake and compared to the authenticity of celebration implied by the meeting of Jim and George the students’ testing of youthful ideas are gropingly superficial. Colin Firth's performance is brilliant; as the Guardian reviewer commented, almost radioactive with grief, a grief which he may not express publicly, having been debarred from Jim's funeral by the deceased's family, and compounded (especially for us) by the loss of the couple’s two dogs in the same accident. So George lives this last day, punctuated with flashbacks to poignant memories of times with Jim as a kind of sensory farewell.

Both are great to watch (though the latter is head-and-shoulders better), though apparently no points of connection between the two films; but as they both revolve around the structure of consciousness, for the purposes of argument they were unified in my consciousness so that’s enough to consider the connection.

The reviews of A Single Man were strangely grudging. On the one hand, Colin Firth is universally appreciated for an outstanding portrayal, ably supported by Julianne Moore’s characterisation of his semi-alcoholic best-friend. But all the ones I have read are critical of Tom Ford’s directorial style; eg “sometimes looks like an indulgent exercise in 1960s period style, glazed with 21st-century good taste, a 100-minute commercial for men's cologne: Bereavement by Dior” and “visually potent but after a while it degenerates into a preening perfume commercial.” While once or twice, a beautiful composition is lingered on a moment too long, overall these criticisms are irritatingly misconceived. The only aspect that seemed overly a device of advertising is the absence of text. Advertising is a textual monoculture where only the words and logos of the single product features – it is actually this which makes advertland so unnatural. Despite the criticism being leveled at A Single Man, Inception is similarly textually restrainted but doesn’t get that charge.

In terms of representations of consciousness there is a big hole at the centre of the conception of Inception which makes it much closer to a film of multiple dimensions (like Matrix) rather than recursive dreams: each level has the same degree of reality as the next one and all levels are versions of reality. There’s no surrealism; even though in the dream worlds geometry can be distorted, it only transforms to hyperbolic geometry ie still geometry. The only ‘random intervention’ is a train blasting unexpectedly through one of the team’s set pieces, but in the context of the chase scene it arrives in, it almost doesn’t seem that out of place. There is no strangeness, the dream worlds dont have fuzzy edges, things that arent explicable to the dreamer; there are no puppies! Whereas Colin Firth experiences his day much more realistically as a dream, his consciousness drifts or focuses with intensity that changes the colour of the world, a sensation can overwhelm him, or the scent - when missing his lost dogs, he pets another character’s dog, smelling its head as someone who had lost a loved pet would. One of the reviewers criticised a flashback scene where George and Jim are sun-bathing in an unlikely rocky landscape, criticised it because it looked like an advertising location, but it is more dream-like than any scene in Inception. In comparing the models of consciousness in the two films - Inception's is as digital as its form; A Single Man is a phenomenological study, beautifully balanced and deeply insightful with a poignant conclusion looping back to the opening scenes.

September 09, 2010

And the Award for the Best Poetry Dog goes to…

I have a dilemma in writing about the Manchester Literature Festival which has launched its programme for this October: I have noticed that my blog readership doubles when I critically blast some aspect of UK literary banality – so if I comment on the MIF programme in the way that most of my readers would expect I will increase my hits; on the other hand I also notice that the Manchester Blogger Awards are situated within the Festival, so if I say something less critical maybe I’d increase my chances of a Blogger nomination. So prostitute myself for blog-reader popularity or sell out for an Award nomination?

I jest, of course. I couldn’t get a Manchester Blogger nomination because I am too negative about too many things Manchester. This is not because I have particular pleasure in denigrating the city; rather it is because I am fond of Manchester, because I like living here and therefore want it to be what it could be. I want Manchester to be an international city, and am saddened that it only has delusions of grandeur not real prospects (except in football which irritatingly, as an Everton supporter, is the one greatness I am against). A great city has certain characteristics. I want it to have great contemporary architecture and it doesn’t. I want it to have a great orchestra but it doesn’t. I want it to have a great Gallery and it doesn’t. I want it to have an International Festival that's not corporate or Literature Festival that actually contributes something to global artistic dialogue and its own cultural life but it doesn’t (well it does – the Text Festival but Manchester doesn’t acknowledge it). As Kurt Vonneghut would say: so it goes. So I can forget the Blogger nominations because I want Manchester to be more than it is - and so I turn to the Literature Festival programme.

My thoughts on it are mostly poetry related, as nowadays I get very little time to read fiction, but I guess we can extrapolate the quality of the poetry programme as consistent across to fiction.

Having built up to the big statement, it may not be world-shattering news for me to say the programme is dismally dull. Self-evidently the hegemony of the banal is installed in this and most other UK literature events, intertwined with the dumb marketing-led publishing, prize-winning poets giving each other prizes and facile literature newspaper coverage. So in this sense, Manchester is merely representative of the UK situation - the hegemony of the banal is a gauge symmetry – pretty much interchangeable with other such festivals in the UK - accommodation of mediocrity, indeed its celebration. Fundamentally, the purposeless Hegemonists have no artistic direction (just telling their own stories in their own voices) and so their festivals are artistically static. It is analogous to Richard Dawkins’ observation of the corrosive effect of day-to-day superstitions such as astrology on rationality; or the delusions of ‘be-nice’ liberalism – which have been cruelly exposed for their political vacuity in the current evil of the coalition government.

The only event that seems odd is the Tribute to Roy Fisher, which raises the question: Why has this particular poet been located in a relation to the mainstream? After all as Marjorie Perloff observed: “Fisher’s ‘cutting’ of the page, with its removal of words from their ‘planned situations’, anticipated a mode that became prominent in the U.S., not only in Silliman’s poetry but in that of many other Language poets, at least a decade after Fisher had written the (evidently unknown to them) Cut Pages”. But then in the brochure copy you find that his work has been championed by Carol Ann Duffy – the festival is shot-through (as Sartre would say) with Duffy. As Nate Dorward notes in Jacket 12 “a new mainstream postmodernism represented by authors like Craig Raine, Carol Ann Duffy, Paul Muldoon and Simon Armitage, and more generally by the popular dissemination of the clichés of poststructuralist theory…Fisher’s poetry has become less formally unpredictable since the mid-1970” and “The Cut Pages, Fisher’s most experimental text, is little known outside the ranks of Fisher enthusiasts because of its exclusion from the Oxford and Bloodaxe editions of his poems”. So that explains it.

Ordinarily MLF would not occupy my thoughts for more than the time it takes to flick through the brochure and be confirmed in the expectation that there is nothing worth attending. However, the mainstream is fond of its competitions – it is the way in which it validates itself, sells its books, rewards its mates. MLF is liberally sprinkled with awards, there’s even a gala prize dinner (in the company of Simon Armitage et al) for something called the Manchester Poetry Prize. But there is one prize which the mainstream can never have, despite their bid for it in the centre spread of the Festival Brochure.
And that is Best Poetry Dog. MLF’s whimsical design conceit is minimalist and newsprint style, punctuated by photos of flyposted epigrammatic sentences, with the addition on the centre spread of an intensely focused Border Terrier pulling toward something out of shot (amusingly it seems to have more directional intent than the mainstream poetry it has been co-opted to represent). The mainstream has a tendency to raid beyond its boundaries to pick up less threatening elements of more experimental work, the flyposting is a neat absorption of street poem installations stretching back to Cobbing and beyond, and more recently Phil Davenport’s interventions in Manchester and other cities; but the inclusion of the Border Terrier, can only be seen as a doomed attempt to take on the world’s most famous Poetry Dog – Barney. (I obviously highly rate Márton Koppány’s Gertrude S. in Budapest but I think Márton would accept that Barney holds the crown). This is a field of poetic contention which the Hegemony can not win. So the terrier – nameless therefore simply a model rather than a real poetry dog – fails miserably to challenge the Barnster. As evidence of Barney’s poetry credentials I offer the illustrations in this blog:
Barney and Derek Beaulieu
Barney (as a puppy) sitting in Robert Grenier’s shoes
Barney and Ron Silliman reading Geof Huth (photoed by Geof himself)

And therefore I am sure you will join me in celebration as the Award for the Best Poetry Dog goes to … Barney.

September 05, 2010

Busy even on holiday

I've not really had time to blog this last week or more due to the Text Festival curating. Between now and early November is the busiest period of organisation. It is such a big labour that it has to be done in phases. The Text Festival website should be back live any day now with the first announcements of what and who's on but in the meantime there is now a Text Festival Facebook and Twitter.

This coming week I am off to Malta for a break - except while I am there I will be finishing my article for the Shortcut Europe Conference publication, the sleeve notes for Ben Gwilliam's disc of 'molto semplice e cantabile', my Nono sound-poem for the Luigi Nono Project, and my forthcoming collection for ifpthenq "The Tragedy of Althusserianism". I have a couple of long blog rants also on the go which may make it up here when I get back.

August 27, 2010

Sarah Sanders

During the Not at This Address exhibition I curated last July (blogged at the time) I noticed that most of the younger artists involved had very little sense of how to deal with a larger gallery space. This is not surprising really: young artists first show at degree shows which offer them a display space the size of a cupboard; if they are anyways successful in their early career they might show at an artfair, and these spaces are just slightly larger cupboards; after that it's a succession of small galleries or group shows, the latter offering little experience in spatial judgement either. Artists develop their practice and therefore the size of the spaces they show in over years. Young artists rarely get the opportunity to respond to the challenge of a big gallery. I got to wondering what would the young artists whom I rate do with a large gallery. What would they learn? And what would I learn too? So when Bury Art Gallery had a gap in the programme (due to a major chunk of its historic collection touring the far east), the chance to find out was available.

The first to get the opportunity was Sarah Sander, a young artist whom I have been championing for a while - I showed her in the last Text Festival and in Not at this Address. Phil Davenport also included her live writing act in William Blake & the Naked Tea Party.

As one would expect, Sarah admitted that the challenge of responding such a large space was quite daunting, but Sarah is a performative explorer. In consultation with assistant curator Kat McClung-Oakes (a talent that should also be acknowledged), Sarah interweaved two fields of experiment - a personal response to the more obscure more recent figurative acquisitions to the collection and her articulation of visceral drawing qua act.

This combination merged into a fascination with paper itself as a form of drawing, and a dialogue with an artist she found in the collection (of whom I had never heard!) called Paul Hempton with a compositional obsession with triangles. Her installation has taken the form of a discovery of a balanced hang of the focal Hempton's plus some figurative but vaguely and unintentionally cubist landscapes also from the collection in conversation with her exploration of the geometry of the triangle within the format of modern paper proportions. The paper experiments, some drawn some folded, some cut, form a spatial rhythm around the space. Part joke, part first breakthrough, part seminal moment, privileged on a focal plinth with case she located her first terrible lump of paper folded - as far from origami as a lump of carpet. Interestingly this celebrated clumsy failure magnifies the subsequent finese of her artistry. As she installed floating pages hanging in mid-air this act too became performative which led to a final action in the installation on Friday in which she silently took a sheet of paper and like a video stuck in a loop walked to a specific place, threw the paper into the air, collected it from the floor, sliced it in half, returned to the spot, threw the 2 halves into the air, collected them from the floor, sliced again, on and on in a minimalist rhythm of beautiful simplicity.

The result of Sarah Sanders project is an abstract handling of space that is restrained, romantic, multi-centred and lyrically reminiscent of the cubist townscapes of Lionel Feininger.

August 20, 2010

uncontainable excitement

It looks like once a year I will receive an email from the Poetry Society inviting me to recommend ‘exciting new work’ that I might have come across, commissioned, etc., in the last 12 months to be considered for Carol Ann Duffy’s Ted Hughes Award for New Work, which she set up when she took over from Andrew Motion as Poet Laureate.

Somewhat bemused by the source of this request last year, I emailed them back to ask who the judges were going to be (as at the time of launch they hadn’t been announced). I received an email back telling me who they were – I forget now, look it up somewhere if you need to know – but it was obvious that the judges would be incapable of recognising new work if it held a gun to their heads, which is what I replied to the Poetry Society - to offer up real innovators would be to diminish them and validate a sham. The final communication from them took the form of the equivalent of a shrug.

And surprise, surprise, who should win the inaugural award than Duffy-lite Alice Oswald, “a nature poet who writes ‘very much in the tradition’ of Hughes”.

First of April - new born gentle
Fleeting wakeful on a greenleaf cradle.
Second of April - eyes half open,
faint light moving under lids. Face hidden.
Third of April - bonny and blossoming
in a yellow dress that needs no fastening.


Despite the claim that the award is for "the most exciting contribution to poetry" in the past year, Oswald, whose work is as indistinguishably mainstream as Duffy’s own, beat the ‘fabulous’ shortlist of Andrew Motion and Jackie Kay – on what planet would any of these names be considered exciting? The only adjective that comes to mind for Motion’s writing is turgid. Sue Trehy is an insanely fast reader and so when we travel she takes piles of books. I noticed that a Jackie Kay book had made it into her luggage recently. She doesn’t like me telling her what she should and shouldn’t read so I kept my mouth shut, interested to see what she thought of it. I’ve never seen her not finish a book, she seems to take it as a point of pride to finish if she’s started whatever it's like; but the Kay was thrown down unfinished. "Ordinary beyond belief, she can't write" she declared, "I’ve read better writing by 6th Form teenagers."
Saying “I would have told you so” isn’t as much fun as saying “I told you so”.

The artistic bankruptcy of the hegemony continues to manifest in an implied but fundamentally aimless desire for renewal. With no recourse or capacity to language itself as the source of renewal, much as they dally in writing for children or try their hand at plays, or as reviewed recently, even curating exhibitions (Duffy at the Tate), supposedly this “very exciting award highlights the many forms in which poets work, from poetry collections to verse novels; radio poems and film poems to libretti and verse dramas; individual poems or poem sequences; work for adults or children; through to poetry written for public sculptures, inscriptions, or other contexts”. Except the evidence so far contradicts this empty rhetoric because Oswald won with a rural book like her other rural books except with illustrations by an artist I can’t be bothered to look up. Amusingly Oswald said: “it’s an award that dips beyond the mainstream into some of the more unusual poetic channels”. ‘dips beyond the mainstream’ ! As well as being talentless, the arrogant writers of the hegemony of the banal are cheeky buggers.

Anyway, this year I emailed the Poetry Society back that having seen their understanding of new work in the first year I thought that they had a brilliant sense of humour and I was looking forward to an excitingly risible second year award. I did momentarily wonder what damage it would do to a poet who actually did write something new if they won it accidentally, an award despite itself, but even after only one year it is clear this is inconceivable.

August 13, 2010

node:space #1

The first installation in node:space. Have I created a visual poem?

Or an architectural poem?

Viewing by appointment.
I'll be inviting other artists into node:space in future moments.

August 10, 2010

Duffy at the Tate

When I first heard that Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy had curated an exhibition called The Sculpture of Language at Tate Liverpool my reaction was an equivalence of anger at the implications of this hegemonic banality and resignation that it was only to be expected.

For a while I intended to traipse over to Liverpool specially, so I could do write an informed critique. Noticeably there appear to have been no reviews of the show. Google just throws up the usual lazy journalism of reprinting the Gallery press release. A quick look at said-publicity, the list of works included, and the execrable sonnet Duffy wrote to accompany her selection made me begrudge the obvious waste of time and effort to actually go and see it but also realise that the information available is more than enough to know what’s wrong with it. Coincidentally I have been reading Tom Raworth’s latest “Windmills in Flames” which includes the appropriate response to Duffy ‘Coda to a Laureate’ – (first line: “If I could take my tongue out of your arse”).

According to the PR the show “Presenting artworks created in a range of media from 1699 to the present day, Duffy's personal selection creates a multi-layered and poetic display. It invites us on a journey towards a universal notion of language, from ‘before words’ to ‘when words come into being’. She explores the numerous ways in which artists have deployed, dissected and engaged with language; by making reference to literature, by exploring the processes and devices of inscription and the formal qualities of typography, by using words to convey meaning or by creating works that are synonyms and metaphors for communication itself.” I always wonder what marketing people and visual arts people (for that matter) mean when they refer to a ‘poetic display’. You frequently read artists and curators refer to images as poetic but I am never sure what that actually means; one can usually infer that it references some form of vague lyricism, which is about all you could expect from Duffy. In her case maybe vaguely lyricist visualism is preferable to

I couldn’t see Guinness
and not envisage a nun;
a gun, a finger and thumb;
midges, blether, scribble, scrum.

Followed by 2 more stanzas of equal banality.

The claim that this has been realized as an installation, which allows visitors to re-write it to create ‘their own sonnet’ is I guess laughable. My bet is that this is nothing more than the usual UK gallery practice of ‘hands-on’ write on cards and pin on a board to ‘have your say’.

The irritation about this show is in the oft-repeated fiasco of the visual arts co-opting poetry and in their choice demonstrating that they have absolutely no idea of what is going on in contemporary poetry. In curating the Text Festival I have reviewed the Tate Collection myself to borrow from so I know what Duffy had to work with. Seeing what she chose I am drawn to a comment from Marjorie Perloff’s ‘Differentials; Poetry, Poetics, pedagogy’ which I am also reading at the moment: “the what might happen subordinated to the what has happened”- this actually describes the problem in the hegemony of the banal, Duffy and her oppos write as if modernism didn’t happen; their past is not modern (her selection at the Tate is at best artistically static); their present is not contemporary and their future can only be the past.

August 06, 2010


Blogging has take a back seat recently as I focus on putting the Text Festival together and preparing the Nono project. Despite the impending dark age initated by the new Government, I am hopeful that the Text Festival will still be a mighty gesture. I am losing count of how many artists are involved now. The main announcement of the programme will be in October but maybe I can whet your appetite by letting slip that Christian Bök will do his first UK readings at the Festival and Ron Silliman will be back - reading and with a surprising manifestation of Northern Soul, the poem he began during his last visit.

(These recently rediscovered illustrations are from my distance past (1980's) when I trained as a potter)

August 01, 2010

This Week

Two gigs this week:

The Other Room
Linus Slug, Chris McCabe, Ben Gwilliam
4th August 2010, 7pm

The Old Abbey Inn, Pencroft Way, Manchester, M15 6AY

Ben Gwilliam is a sound artist and improvising musician based in Manchester, England. He works in the cross fields of experimental music, sound art, film and performance. Since the early 2000's he has been working with open reel tape, magnetics and amplified processes in solo and collaborative arrangements.
His work is a curiosity about sound-making/recording and listening, the 'sounds between' things as Installations, performances and appropriations. He has worked, performed and exhibited in Europe and the USA. He will be performing with Philip Davenport.

Chris McCabe’s poetry has featured in a number of magazines including Magma and Poetry Review. His first collection The Hutton Inquiry was published in 2005. He has discussed and read his poetry on BBC World Service, featured a poem on the Oxfam CD Lifelines and performs his work regularly. He currently works as Joint Librarian of The Poetry Library

Linus Slug is an obsessive compulsive disorder + pretend poet of the Putney Heath. In 2009 Slug graduated from the Hilson School of Poetry + is currently employed by the Insect Library in London. Slug runs the small press 'ninerrors' [] and is editor of FREAKLUNG. In June 2010 Slug organised a reading in memory of Barry MacSweeney at Morden Tower to accompany FREAKLUNG Odes [the current issue of the zine]. Work can be seen in Cannibal Spices, Klatch and issue 1 of Cleaves + Freaklung. Chapbooks include ffrass gazette [Arthur Shilling Press], sporangiaphores [yt communication] and a series of pamphlets via ninerrors. Obsessions include Art Garfunkel, anagrams + pseudonyms and the no. 9.

Counting Backwards is a new series of text-sound-performance events. It takes place on the first Thursday of alternate months at Fuel cafe bar in Withington. After a successful launch in June the series returns on Thursday 5 August 2010 with performances from Blood Stereo, Becky Creminand Jennifer McDonald & Louise Woodcock.
Start time is 7:30pm, and entry is free.
Blood Stereo is husband and wife duo Karen Constance and Dylan Nyoukis, each legendary in their own right, with Smack Music 7 and Prick Decay/Decaer Pinga respectively. Mangling sonic forms (musique concrete, sound poetry etc.) and tapes alike, the opportunity to see and hear them in action should not be missed.

Becky Cremin works in process and draws on traditions of live art, fluxus, performance writing and site specific work to construct a hybridity of practice which uses language as an object to expose, to investigate, to locate. She is a founding member of the poetic collective PRESS FREE PRESS, she regularly performs in London and beyond and her first chapbook Cutting Movement is now available from The Knives Forks and Spoons Press.

Jennifer McDonald & Louise Woodcock are Manchester-based artists, and part of a collective artists project called Rare Experiments. Jennifer is better known as a visual artist, and draws inspiration from significant cultural spaces. Louise curated the Lost Language exhibition earlier this year at Kraak gallery, and is one half of improvising noise band Blood Moon.

July 29, 2010


Coincident but not causal on our arrival in the city, Dublin was announced as a UNESCO City of Literature; not sure what that will actually mean but I have observed in this and previous visits that it does seem to have a lot of readers – it is noticeable that many more people seem to read books in public places, parks and cafes. Anyway, as it was a shortbreak, my only literary tourism was a visit to the Chester Beattie Library; European Museum of the year in 2002, this is a must certainly for visual poets with its magnificent collection of rare and ancient manuscripts.

My only gallery experience was my habitual return to the Douglas Hyde Gallery.
The gallery has unusual but interesting levels and is always very thoughtfully hung. On this visit I saw Dana Schutz’s Tourette’s Paintings and a tiny display of photography (+ 1 painting) by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein. The latter was mildly interesting with its hinted at Secessionist outsider aesthetic in the exotic photos of his wife, but was also slightly disappointing as the brochure talked about his massive range of activity so the show was inhabited by its absence. I didn’t think I was going to like the Schutz paintings and certainly some of them didn’t quite work, mainly because there was on occasion a sense that she didn’t know when to stop painting so that especially some of the backgrounds were over-decorated. But the interweaving of art historical references with the visceral dysfunction, irrational jerks, the human humiliations, and the contradictorily sweet colours made it a show I was pleased to see.