December 27, 2016

Sequester the Bile

Combined with the Brexit vote disaster, Donald Trump winning the American election makes it clear that we have arrived at an historic moment when the idea of Progress itself is being turned back, when truth no longer matters, when the existence of humanity itself faces the abyss (Fascism, climate change, nuclear war, you know the list). As you know, I am dismissive of the portentous claims of Poetry, but there is a certain attraction to the Romantic image of the heroic poet standing against the apocalyptic storm to bellow ‘fuck off’ to the Darkness (I paraphrase obviously). In that shocking Trump week, I was reading a medical thing that talked about a process called sequestering bile. This seems obviously a metaphor for the requirement of this moment. It occurred to me that if poets were going to mean anything there had to be a global chorus that sequestered the bile of Trump etc on the 20th January coincident with the Inauguration Ceremony. Poets would raise poetry to the status they historically claim with poems sequestering the bile; #SequestertheBile could trend alongside/surpassed the Inauguration hashtag. Anyway It’s there as an idea.

So in addition to the ‘Place’ collaboration with Jayne Dyer, I began writing ‘Sequester the Bile’ with the intention of publishing it on 20th Jan.

A little after I started, I was approached by Tom Jenks and Steven Fowler to see if I would do something as part of the Enemies Project, a collaborative performance on 14 January at the Burgess Foundation in Manchester -  The obvious collaborator for me on this is Helmut Lemke .

Having only just come out of poetry retirement, I am tempted to joke the Godfather3 line “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in” or more recently from John Wick “You dip so much as a pinkie back into this pond, you may well find something reaches out and drags you back into its depths.” … on this occasion the something was the Enemies Project.
Anyway, the poem-writing has started. At the moment I am investigating two motifs: the Nazi policy of killing ‘Useless Eaters’ and the megalomaniac architectural dreams of the 1000 year Reich, specifically the proposals to build a triumphal arch in Berlin under which the Arc de Triomphe could fit and the Volkshalle Dome which would have been so huge that the breathing of the crowds it could hold would have created weather.  The useless eaters language resonates with the murderous Tory welfare policy which except for the absence of lethal injection is evil in plain view: google death rates from the ‘Fitness to Work’ test and compare with Nazi Aktion 14f13 criteria for murder.
And the grotesque gigantism of Volkshalle starts with a gold elevator.

As I say above I am under no illusion that poetry offers real resistance to the evil we face, but as I recently blogged about Paul Hindmith’s Mathis der Maher, the artist’s responsibility at times like these is to make art that contributes to the resistance. To belt and brace it though, I am actively working in the real world too.

November 12, 2016

Remembrance Sunday

My grandad fought at the Battle of Kohima (Burma) in 1944. I've written this as a memorial to him (Ted Hoban).


What a marvel is ancient man! 
tangled propagation delayed to the end
the divine sepulchre of life, tennis court
overrun, bayoneted and shot

extreme separation anxiety
in dying or isolated from the body
when pernicious lists are dry springes – when prefixed mourning 
counting toward gestures of weird bread/wine ignore the recognition of absence,

the suffering of absence. A petrified destination so dark it’s not like sleep,
Austere black as anaesthetic, but
One null device unannealed ignobly saturated in foreign rain
will be no more string, strategically and in the light
miss you to would miss you

November 05, 2016

The Mathis der Maler Question

One of the great pleasures and stimulations of working with artists who connect to the cultural moment that is Bury has been the development of the personal creative dialogues that have blossomed over the years. Lots of collaborations have grown out of the confluence of artists meeting through Bury. Some of them have even involved me, as an artist rather than curator. The most recent is the new 'Place' project with Jayne Dyer which has dragged me back into writing poems. One of my last before my 'poetry retirement' in 2010 was my poetic response to a question that Riiko Sakkinen posted back in 2009(ish) - the eternal question for artists - how does the artist engage with the revolutionary struggle (or words to that effect)? This resonated with me because (not a lot of people know [or care probably] that) my favourite composer is Paul Hindemith and my favourite piece of music (since 1982 when I first heard it) is his Mathis der Maler Symphony.  The Symphony is the orchestral version of the opera of the same name in which Mathis the painter struggles for artistic freedom in the Protestant Reformation. My answer to the question is the poem below, which was published in the Bury Poems:

Suddenly Violins

The Mathis der Maler question: demands Riiko Sakkinen must paint.

All length scales in analogous deferment; what does this say about me?

That people are watching/judging or they are not watching/judging.
Looking nostalgic illusion or less ultraparallel
the one breach of principle tested twice.
Later iterations forgetting serves a good functional purpose.
Failed (isotropic and homogeneous) within 
the meniscus didn't ought to have do that and longing
for when defeat used to be romantic.
Homophonic. Sweeping. But as with all things eurotrashed, 
recursion how far?

To digress: the death of distance is also the annihilation of memory. 

Save us from the annoyance of the past described in the present tense:
sessile objects made flat. 

Reading the poem back I was struck by how the Mathis de Maler question now resonates very directly with the global/local danger of fascism/war/environmental catastrophe/Brexit/Trump/etc we face. A tweet I read a few weeks ago came to mind; (words to the effect of) "If you ever wondered what it felt like to be a decent German in 1934, now you know" - which is exactly the situation that Hindemith faced. The Opera was not performed because the Nazi Party banned it, and Hindemith had to flee in 1938.

And here we are in our rerun of 1934; only yesterday, the fascist mainstream British newspapers branded judges 'enemies of the people', whipping up the mob to rise up against the rule of law. 

There is some discussion in Museum circles about how to respond. I plan to savage the inadequacy of the Museum conference mewling in a future blog, but a first curatorial response had to be Riiko Sakkinen. His ABC of Capitalism opens on at Bury Sculpture Centre on Saturday 12 November.

(A footnote, while looking up links to write this blog, I stumbled on a forthcoming rare performance of the opera in Mainz. Having never actually seen it, I'm very excited to see if I can get there in 2017)

August 19, 2016

Last Things

Except for the poem "Israel" (published on this blog) I haven't written any poetry since 2010 - poetic silence from a combination of Bury workload, more exciting creative possibilities, and the sense that I had reached a point where to write was to repeat myself. When Jayne Dyer and Wayne Warren started work on their exhibition in the Bury Sculpture Centre, they asked initially for an essay for the catalogue, but then changed their 'demands' to a poem. I said OK but didn't actually think it was likely to materialise. 
It was only when I walked into the gallery and saw the installation forming that I realised that I had to respond poetically, as the extraordinary balanced moment of beauty is beyond description or explanation being relevant. So I wrote: 

Last Things
past last things,
minus one, it is all happening too fast as iff propagation delay echoes shicho
Like now: and I cannot keep up capacitance
I am bicontinuous counting interarrival time
I am picked off trying to count backward minus one
a false antecedent and a false consequent, a nowhere and an everywhere

the lamps are going out

The catalogue (designed with John Rooney) - also beautifully produced - is available now from the Bury Art Museum shop.

May 26, 2016

The Bury Poems

Talking about the publications of the Text Festival, I pulled out a copy of The Bury Poems from the bookshelf, and was surprised to find alongside Tony Lopez, Robert Grenier, Ron Silliman, Geof Huth, Phil Davenport, Carol Watts and Holly Pester, there were three poems by me. I'd completely forgotten. On reading them, I only just remembered writing two of them, and had no memory of the third. The second was inspired by something Riiko Sakkinen wrote, so I think I will save posting that until November when his exhibition opens in the Bury Sculpture Centre. The other two are below. 

You can purchase the Bury Poems from the Bury Art Museum shop. 

(The Art of Pedestrianisation referred to in one of the poems was going to be the title of the next book after my last book The End of Poetry ; Strangely I was reminded of what this was going to be about this week at the Royal Academy - hope this isnt a sign of the return of the poetry virus).

The Tragedy of Althusserianism

The tragedy of Althusserianism he is
the worst thing that could happen other types of hysteresis
also give rise to objects quite like free objects, in that they are left
adjoint to forgotten, not necessarily
the absence of rebel strangled instead of barricading

urelements feels/thinks/flashing lights/facades
- Them unphotgraphed seconds
Through artists have an excuse: Save us from poets
lumbered with poets as list-makers
The obscure reveries of the inward
gaze as the effect of our ignorance is Time.

I am the last
Considered an autotopology
thus elimination of intermediate inference
the soldier who died for perspective
of the Art of Pedestrianisation unwritten -
the mechanics of walking and falling.

Despite rigorously the inattentive secretary
other possible Trehys from Leibniz
originating parameters
a continuous closed circuit of periphrasis

Catharist feeling abruptly out of date
our happiness gives way to the next by-passed by
a long distance

Scorn for slow mediocrity, contained of two types of obscurity
And for reasons of yield I am uniformly continuous

from superclasses: A taxon comradeship

baffles the man counting on the abacus.
What is the hysteretic source of the heredity
of prefiguration the which began in Shicho markers' historic
clinicla observations of life-threatening descriptive, retrospective
historical characters nonholonomic navigations susceptible to fall.

May 14, 2016

The Australians Are Coming (to Bury)

Over the next week/month Bury celebrates Australian contemporary art. On Saturday afternoon (yes, I know it's an odd time), two shows - one an installation  Illuminating configurations : re forming the line; edges, splats and cuts by Irene Barberis and (curated by Irene) a survey of contemporary Australian drawing featuring 100 works. I'm very excited to see Irene again, we first met in Tokyo back in 2006 and it's always a pleasure to see her and her work. (some of you might have seen her installation in Bury alongside Mike Parr in 2011). 
Both shows run to 13 August. The Contemporary Australian Drawing has organically evolved from six previous exhibitions around the world, from Chicago and Rome to Dubai. The participating artists were asked for a visual response to two texts on writing/drawing, taken from essays by Serge Tisseron and Michel Butor, “All Writing is Drawing’, and ‘the Space of Writing, what is that?’.  

All artists were supplied with a standard size and weight paper. The thoughtful and enthusiastic response of all artists concerned has resulted in this extensive exploration and examination of the themes, ‘All writing is Drawing’ and ‘the Space of Writing'. 

The Australian intervention in the Sculpture Centre is Jayne Dyer working in collaboration with Wayne Warren. Funnily enough I met Jayne in Beijing through an introduction from Irene Barberis, and we immediately got on very well. She has shown in Bury before - you might remember her piece in the Text Festival.

Last Thing previews on 17 June, inspired by Paul Auster's 'In the Country of Last Things'; the book presents a world where architecture and space constantly vanish, preventing individuals from building their own identity relative to the space they inhabit. An arena where matter is scarce and what is available is regurgitated until it becomes unrecognizable or depleted. 'Last things' documents fictional spaces about to disappear. 

Three great shows not to be missed.