Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gordon Matta-Clark
Office Baroque

Friday, November 02, 2007


burnt hair
yeah yeah
weren't there
yeah yeah
learnt chair
yeah yeah

wooooo oh oh

burnt hair (repeat)

Sunday, October 21, 2007


the air is on fire. sky tasting like soil. one slow mouthful won't swallow the edges.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

list #34

a faked history. the light from the stars that is always old. a pine forest. the matchbox museum. a published miracle. the smell of snow. lead flakes. a hole in the sky.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Friday, September 07, 2007

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Top Five Video Works Ever

A while back I gave a talk at ACMI on the top five video works ever. I began by thinking not so much about what works to consider, but WHEN and WHERE I would like to see specific works – like making a wish list for someone who has a time machine. Video is not timeless, nor placeless, something that’s easy to forget when DVDs can be sent all across the globe for curators to install in museums that in many ways look the same, and use the same equipment, the same brands, the same paint on the walls. Many of my favourite pieces of art are those that speak to the conditions of their production, that include a consideration of context that either makes it difficult to move them through space and time, or is internalised, so that the context is swallowed but not digested.

I would, for example, have loved to have seen Chris Burden on American national television in the late 1970s: both his piece called Hijack TV, where he “hijacked” a television broadcast in a live interview, much to the horror of the interviewer and the network, and another one called "Through the night softly" 1975. Through the night softly was 30 seconds of footage of Burden crawling across broken shards of glass, filmed in black and white. It looks completely gorgeous - he drags himself on his chest through this sparkly, glittering universe of fragments. Burden screened the work as a commercial. He actually purchased a months worth of advertising slots – when the network head was lazing about on the couch at home one night and saw Burden's footage he freaked out and immediately moved to revoke Burden's contract, but a contract is a contract and they were obliged to screen his “commercials” on prime time television. Burden later did another commercial that he called poem for L.A, which went to air in 1975, apparently the network was inundated with phone calls from perplexed viewers. Trying to insert footage like Burden’s glass crawl into prime time television scheduling today would be totally impossible – and this says a lot about the conditions by which images are screened and delivered, consumed. Consumption and control were both big deals for Burden – he said once in an interview that he used to take photos of people he didn’t like with a little spy camera and then chop up the negatives, sprinkle them on his breakfast cereal and eat them. He said it was a means of empowerment and control. Burden’s television commercials, by contrast, sacrificed control for chance encounters – they would have been encountered randomly, unannounced and unexplained, in the middle of dodgy shampoo ads and corporate broadcasts. In a way these were images that only survived by falling through the cracks.

I would also have loved to have seen Douglas Gordon’s Five Year Drive By installed outside in the American desert in Southern Utah. I saw an image of this work in reproduction years ago – a slide that showed a projection screen erected in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by low scrub and red earth, with endless horizon behind. The piece is a five year-long version of The Searchers, John Ford's epic western starring John Wayne. The duration of the film was stretched to match the duration of the narrative (five years from start to finish). Gordon calculated that 113 minutes of cinema time was equal to (2,629,440) two million, six hundred and twenty nine thousand, four hundred and forty minutes – so one second of cinema time had to last for 6.46 hours in real time, a durational leap that can only be made using video, not film. The landscape that surrounds the projection screen is the landscape in which the Searchers was shot – the Monument Valley in Southern Utah. Gordon said: “I like the idea of a physical monument to the idea of the search, the potential view has to be involved in a physical journey in order to see the work, this is a real parallel with the story.”Gordon’s Five Year Drive By played day and night - during the day it wasn’t visible, just the white screen in the desert. I like to think of this work as a kind of clock. You could visit it every now and then over the course of its duration, as a kind of life marker, a means of checking the passing of time against a narrative, so that the fictional story actually bends outwards to imprint upon real events over the course of five years of your life. There’s a sense of melancholia I get about this work, absolutely motivated by its absence, the sun takes over the image, the search is never completed, the whole is too big to experience, the fragment tells you where you are in time, like a chronological map.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


From the roof I throw stones that crack the street, leaving crevices as dark and as blue as the ocean floor. Everything here smells like snow. Shadows are always cool against the cliffs of slate and glass. In the centre of the piazza, a tower. On the top floor, a man with a ram's head shakes his horns slowly back and forth. From his fingers slide bright strings of dough, dripping and sizzling on the stones far below. In place of fingernails matt small poultices of leaves. The veterans all sleep loudly beneath creamy folds of paper. I fold it, and then fold creases and imaginary creases until the picture is embedded into the plane and springs away like an origami box, falling open, trampled thickly by bare feet.

A bulbous city, lightly covered with earth. All the policemen carry paper lanterns and keep tigers in their pockets in case of an emergency, pull tail. I'm driving a 1984 Toyota Celica, white, with pop-up headlights and a broken indicator. The chassis stinks of bongwater. The map is stuck between the seats. I ripped it, prying out directions from beneath the sticky vinyl. Our contact was refusing to budge. Burnt chickens and leaking gas pipes. We could be in Thailand, but we're not. I wanted to go home and cook pasta. Bringing deep pans of salty water to a luxurious, rolling boil and frying up mushrooms with garlic, fresh chillis and handfuls of chopped parsley. I flicked on the radio, poured a glass of wine. The telephone rang. I cradled the receiver and waited.

Who is this?
Who is this?
Hello? Who is this?

The phone hit the floor with a dull click and skidded across the linoleum. I picked it up carefully and with my right hand jimmied up the window sash and tossed it into space. I was wearing a powderblue suit that day, with black loafers, a pink necktie, blue shirt and cufflinks shaped like bullets. I was looking for clues.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Nathan Gray

The Fold: Nathan Gray
Joint Hassles, 2a Mitchell Street Northcote 3071
27th July to August 17, 2007.

Salt crystals on paper. Psychadelic dreams. Museological mutations. Nathan Gray's latest exhibition of sculptures and works on paper at Joint Hassles is like some light, fragile portal into a world sparkling with the residue of hallucinogens. Almost all the pieces feature hand-made fragments of paper, stained, marbled and saturated with organic swirls of colour. The collages are pinned behind glass like specimens in a muesum or flattened out origami, and matched with titles like "Pyschraficial Hood" and "The Hawknotist". Sprawling beneath the framed compositions are a series of free-standing sculptural growths. In making these works, Gray began by constructing simple, geometric frames from pieces of wood. The skeletal structures were bolted together using wingnuts and then used as supports for aggregations of paper, prints, cut-outs and string. The evolution of the forms seems slapdash, but they also have something of the lyrebird bower about them, as if Gray has nested out in the gallery and built little encampments out of shiny, precious lures.

The works in this show were originally generated as a response to Gray's recent experience at the Osaka Museum of Ethnology in Japan: "All the best parts of all the cultures of the world were mixed together, masks, costumes musical instruments, weapons and rituals. I tried to recreate some of the energy of this place by making my own masks and tools." Gray describes his collages and sculptures as abstract representations of relics, collected from a fictional neolithic village. "But instead of being ethnological", he explained, " I realized how much I was being influenced by album covers and band posters. I guess this is my culture." Music has played a large part in Gray's artistic productions for several years now: he has been collaborating as one-half of Snawklor for nearly a decade, and has also designed album-covers and t-shirts for various Melbourne band, including Architecture in Helskinki. The Grateful Dead album-covers from the 1970s are cited as a particular source of inspiration, and one that feeds Gray's broader interest in psychadelia and "the unseen". Traces of the Dead's fractal mandalas are particularly noticeable in Gray's Inspirational Vibrelation and Ud. Shaped like stylised guitars, these wall mounted sculptures sprout with quasi-symmetrical paper trails.

It then seems particularly appropriate that Gray has also been using his exhibition as a container for sound. The visual component is complemented by three musical performances in the gallery. Gray's own trio, The Fold Ensemble, is playing on Saturday 11th of August at 2pm, and features synths, loops, recorders, vocals, wah and (I am promised) extended guitar solos. Electronic duo Halfman/Halfmoffarah performed in July, and Snawklor held court amongst the collages last week. "As always", Gray writes, the exhibition "deals with my continued investigations into display and composition, the psychedelic and unseen, music, energy and colour." In his work at Joint Hassles, Gray has taken these ideas and constructed an unnatural history that remains poised as if on the brink of collapse.

More Nathan Gray work at

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

Streamside Day

I'm sitting on the floor in a polygonal enclosure waiting for the film to start. The walls outside are coated with iridescent emerald foil. As the lights go out, we sink into the half-light of dawn. In a long crane shot, cleared lands and tree carcasses streams past the camera. The sound of cicadas intensifies into a dense cascade of audio. Under the forest canopy, woodland animals venture into the frame: a rabbit, an owl, deer and a racoon. The deer drinks from a stream, oblivious to the camera. Cut from the woodland to the suburbs and a Bambi look-alike traipses down an urban driveway to enter a new, empty residence. Its hooves click on the kitchen linoleum. Outside on the street, a group of kids play house in cardboard boxes. We speed out of the city down the highway into the valley. The journey is inter-cut with brief, fragmented scenes: twin children crouch in a vast sea of grass, a swarm of bees engulfs the base of an enormous tree. “That’s our house right there”, says one girl, pointing to a miniature architectural model on a table in an empty room.

The parade begins slowly. A fire-fighter truck, cars and buses roll slowly into town, followed by a procession of revellers dressed in makeshift costumes and cardboard boxes. “Welcome to Streamside Day”, the poster reads. Children in animal masks wander the streets like zombies. The soundtrack is saccharine, like a twisted ice-cream van jingle. The cops watch from the sidelines, their faces lit by the flashing lights of emergency services. All dialogue is muffled. On a stage in front of an almost empty town square, the mayor begins her speech: “A great community spirit is starting”, she announces, speaking into the void, her audience distracted by the commencing feast. Guests navigate through tables laden with “traditional” settler’s fare, heaping their paper plates with food. As the sky darkens, a fake moon rises above the houses like a giant balloon. A man takes to the stage with an acoustic guitar. In front of a few, idle spectators, he performs the “Streamside theme song: "a flower blossom, raising through the falling leaves, the day’s just begun, light through the trees, this is the same light that falls in dreams. It’s a streamside Celebration." The tune is at once unbearably kitsch and strangely sincere, like a Julee Cruise song in a David Lynch movie. As the day comes to a close and the town is left empty, the camera scans streets strewn with discarded boxes and debris. Two moons – the full moon and the inflatable balloon moon – hang lightly in the sky. Someone flicks a switch. The moon flickers out and is pulled back down to earth. The walls begin to move again.

(Notes on Pierre Huyghe's installation Streamside Day Follies at Dia: Chelsea, New York, October 31, 2003 to January 11, 2004.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

No knowledge zones

"'No-knowledge' is a condition whereby everything one assumes to be true, or that one thinks one knows, participates in an essence that is incomprehensible. Knowledge repels itself. True knowledge is a voluntary freedom divested of all fear."
Simon of Taibutheh

Ideas are pulled out of white noise. White noise is the unrepresentable totality of phenomenological and mental perception, as constructed by the human animal. Like sentience, white noise is an invisible screen, a collusion so vast it cannot be seen (looking at the sun burns holes in the retina). In order to navigate through this impossible terrain, people try and shape solid pockets of meaning and isolate them as reference points. This process can be described as subtractive selection. Similar to the way that Michelangeo carved his marble sculptures out of a single piece of stone, idea pockets develop by scooping away the totality in order to find the singular. These singularities are the landmarks that puncture the void.

Sometimes it's difficult to determine who or what makes the landmarks visible: do you sculpt your own pockets of meaning or are you stumbling across ones already created? Outside my window is a street lined with houses. If I look at the houses, I see them either as self contained units, or, if I'm trying to go somewhere, as impediments along a route. Walking to the shops, I follow the road. I don't even think about it. The road is already made, it flows around the houses, and in order to get where I want to go I stick to path. I don't jump the fences and stroll through other people's gardens. I am a model citizen. I observe the codes. I am afraid.

A world without landmarks is a world without knowledge. To live in a no-knowledge zone can be likened to total immersion in white noise. This prospect is a dream, utopian, and yet it is critical to maintain because the acquisition of knowledge – as it regulated today, at 3:11 on Wednesday, July 25, in Melbourne, Australia – currently appears geared solely toward the maintenance of the economy. What is referred to as knowledge is then not knowledge at all. It is illusory, a fiction, a necessary lie. Perhaps we should ditch it for the sake of something else; a construction site, a no-knowledge zone, the potential for collective control.

In neo-liberal societies, the individual is presented with the dubious honour of self-regulation. Self-management, self-control, self-policing are critical strategies for a market in which competiton and prosperity are predicated upon the individual's capacity for self-maintenance. The focus on the self, the privatisation of labour, is echoed by widespread privatisation of public services and the removal of collective infrastructure. Any problems that the individual may encounter cannot then be referred. Kafka knew this condition well. Call up the courts and the telephone gabbles nonsense. There is no external law. The other end of the line has been leased out to a stand in, tenured by a corporate mouthpiece.

The singularity demanded by the system in order for the individual to prosper is a blindfold. With this blindfold firmly in place (helpfully fastened by its wearers) the threat of external perspective is neutralised. The erasure of the outside nears completion when the borders between life and work begin to crumble. Neo-liberalism relies upon the immaterialisation of labour: work is no longer definable as the task that one performs or the object produced, but is rather properly situated in the mind of the worker. The model citizen is a living, breathing, curriculum vitae, whose success is measured solely by an ability to overcome impediments to prosperity. Flexi-time workers in an immaterial labour force arguably bear most of the brunt of this affect. They are, literally, their work. Any free time "earned" is on the flip side of labour, a dualism that always requires the gift of the self. That it is a gift and not a requirement is the ingenious keystone in the maintenance of false agency.

Such maintenance is strengthened by the belief that all landmarks encountered in the void of white noise are created by the spectator. They come into being seemingly only at the moment they are sighted. They have no history, no past, and no future. They stand alone, each individual believing that they are the author of the fiction of knowledge, but in effect, agency lies elsewhere. The most dangerous symptom of this process is the generation of a time code: the neverending present, the eternal now. Ideas, when recognised, have no context. Their value is graded by the econony, meaning the perpetuation of the state of the eternal present.

I am reminded here of a mouse in a labyrinth. The mouse, trained to go through the labyrinth, does not consider the possibility that there may be secret doorways. The mouse can not bear the thought of the unseen. It does not entertain the potential of secrets. The maze is then produced only by the mouse, who tracks through its long corridors unaware that it is responsible for the path. The labyrinth is real, but outside the labyrinth are the no-knowledge zones. What is needed is to be able to move through these zones, and with the help of others, recognise the landmarks in the void by the context of their production.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Conversation No. 5

Do you want to ring up your husband?
I'm ringing up your husband.
Who is your husband, not your old husband, your new husband? Dougie's your new husband, right? Oh here he is, your husband. Quick talk to him!
Hello, who is this?
It's your new husband! Your new husband! Your new husband! Oh look give give me the phone. Hello Dougie are you there? How are ya? Look, the wife just wanted to talk to you cos she's so much in love. Look I'll see you later, I've got some rolls for you. Here, talk to your new husband (tries to give her the phone, she pushes it back, he tries to give her the phone. She takes it reluctantly) No, he wants you. Look, tell him you love him, Tell him, your new husband, you love him. Oh give me the phone. Dougie? What's that? Bring the wife over? Yes. I'll bring the wife over. What's that? You're already married Dougie, you're already married. Look, I'll bring the wife over she's going to have veal parmigiana and then she'll be right over here I'll put your wife back on (He hands her the phone).
Ask him how much he loves ya! Get him to tell you how much he loves ya!
He says he wants to know where the honeymoon is, when's the honeymoon?
Ask him where he's taking you for the honeymoon!
He says he's taking me to Geelong.
Do you want me to talk to him again?
No, he's your husband, you talk to to him. He wants you, not me. He wants you.
No, he says he wants you.
You're going to bed?
Give me the phone! You're going to bed with the wife Dougie is that right? You tell her so she'll understand here. And then we'll hang up.
Oh (she talks on the phone).
Veal Parmigiana.
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. What? He wants you.
No, he wants you.
Ask him how much he loves you.
Hello, can you hear me? Do you want to speak to him?
No he doesn't want to speak to me, he wants you.(She hangs up phone).

We're going to fatten you up for the jig a jig wth Dougie. Now, you promise to go and see and your husband tonight?
He wants to see you.
No, that's not the point, you can do things for him that I can't.

(They sip on Camparis)

He's alright Dougie, a nice bloke Dougie, I approve of your husband. I approve of your husband. Alright darling, we're going to feed you then take you to your husband for a night of mad passionate love. Mad passionate love. Alright? Enjoy your night of mad passionate love with Dougie.
Who's Dougie?
Your new husband, Dougie.
I don't want him.
Whatd'ya mean you don't want him, you're married to him, you made a promise at 67 Grover Road. I was best man at the wedding. Ask Dougie.

(This is a transcript of an actual conversation that I recently overheard in the pub. The couple were in their mid 60s, each carrying a large red white and blue homeless-person bag. The phone was a very sleek, new Nokia.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

virtual agency

The average budget spent on game development internationally is ten million dollars per game. 80 percent of them fail in the first 12 months. The best professional gamers can earn up to a quarter of a million US dollars per year on the competition circuit.

Since 2001, almost all new recruits to the American army have been gamers. The major means of enlistment in the United States is a computer game called America’s Army, available free online with a direct link to the Army recruitment page. It’s a first person shooter game, produced predominantly by young (16-24 year old) male animators. Each year the design team are taken on a three-day boot camp by the American Army to “test” the new weaponry for accurate incorporation into the virtual world. The pentagon funds the game and its operation. The virtual world is the primary training ground for war. EMPOWER YOURSELF. FREE THE OPPRESSED. FIGHT FOR FREEDOM. These are the game slogos of America’s Army.

The enemy targets in American Army are unfailingly Arabs. The illegal import of American games into middle-eastern countries has now motivated Palestinian game designers to develop their own counter-product called Under Seige. In this first-person shooter, the Palestininan protagonist is required to shoot and kill Israelis. The Israeli army is portrayed as a force of extreme brutality. The demographic of the players is the same demographic required for military recruitment.

In the ten fatal shootings in American high schools during recent years, all shooters were gamers. One fourteen year-old boy walked into a classroom, fired eight rounds, and killed eight people. He had only ever picked up a real gun once before, but he had the aim of a highly trained professional. Most of his victims were shot in the head. Weapons analysts have long indicated that there is something about the human face that usually deters direct facial shootings. In games like Doom or Manhunter or Postal, head shootings are rewarded with bonus points.

It used to be a myth that playing first-person shooter games stimulates aggressive “effects” and hostile emotions in the cerebral cortex, but now they’ve tracked the brain waves of the gamers and the theories are confirmed: it is possible to virtually simulate the brain activity of a real experience. To the brain, the virtual and the real “feel” the same. The problem being that games are powerfully affective educational tools that groom minds to behave and react in specific ways and are as such the perfect vehicle for propaganda. They are often devoid of consequences, encourage instant gratification, and promote extreme hostility. The sense of agency proferred by a game is an illusion – much like the illusion of choice in a “democratic” society. It’s a blindfold that covers inadequacy and masks deficits in actual inter-personal activity. The feeling of achievement is one of the most marketable and most lucrative elements of the contemporary game industry: games that don’t “reward” the viewer, don’t sell. If you can receive accolade and victory in the virtual world, perhaps you don’t need it in the real world? Or, if you can receive accolade and victory in the virtual world, perhaps this is transferable onto real life situations: American Army desensitises shooter responses to victims, encourages competition, and demands aggression in order to survive. No coincidence that these qualities are also the necessary components of survival within capitalist societies.

The minutia of detail and speed and rapid decision making required in games like Star Quest are highly desirable skills in working the stock market. In South Korea and America, retired gamers (the average gamer career lasts only six years, and gamers are often “too old” to play by their mid 20s), are officially recognised as prime contenders for stock market trading. The “best” retirees are headhunted by multi-billion dollar corporate finance industry.

from: Gamer Revolution 28/6/07 ABC 9:30, Red Apple Media

The Sunshine Singers - Nobody Jesus but you


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Grin without a Cat

"When a living being ceases to exist, does all that it has been cease to exist as well? How to integrate the memory, the experience, the presence of the dpearted, amongst those still here, the living? When it comes to cells, the usual idea used to be that when a cell died, nothing remained of it. It was here before; now it isn't, end of story. But the collective doesn't behave in the same fashion when a cell dies as when a cell hasn't died. there is a presence, a memory, of the dead. The collective acts differently because certain members died in its environment. The Cheshire cat is a metaphor for the fact that after the death of a cell something very surprising can persist, not at all what you might expect. Alice is very surprised not by her memory of a smile that has disappeared, but by what remains of a cat that has disappeared, a grin without a cat."

Jean Claude Ameisen

Monday, May 21, 2007

In the philosophy of history

Historiography is the writing of the writing of history. Contemporary historiography is the writing of history in the present. How can history, supposedly a measure of things past, unfold in the present? First admit that history is always mediated by the present - historical writing is a translation. There are no originals. There is no code. But nonetheless things do happen. And they happen in specific circumstances and specific places - in bedrooms, in streets, across the ocean, in aeroplanes, in cinemas, on tv. Things happen all the time. In order to become historical their happening must be contingent and witnessed.

This is not a history of the situation but of the event. Situations can be engineered - they can occur on their own. They do not need witnesses. Situations may then also be contained. But an event is always in excess of itself. It involves elements that cannot be named or quantified or represented, perhaps because of their exposure to the multitude. Events need witnesses. the only event that needs no witness is a miracle. Events rely on interception and a slight delay in recognition. Their significance is difficult to discern.

So we have a history of situations, that is also a history of events, and an event unto itself.

1) Things Happen.
2) These are addressed, as in on an envelope, because they have witnesses.
3) They are re-presented and exposed.
4) Things Happen.

The loop is never perfect but at each cycle goes out of sync. The durations are imprecise because there are too many extenuating circumstances. Circumstances are always extenuating.

A philosophy of history is necessarily linked to a philosophy of time. Because perception is key, history has a delay. Instant history is anathema to historical knowledge. The news is not history. There is then a sense of presentation about this model. It has to reach back and grasp the past in the present, preserve its historicity, but also admit the colours of its pallette.

The subject of historiography is not precisely a subject. Agency is bestowed. Visibility is no guarantor of history. Historiography is a methodology that lets in elements of the past and the future as well as the glinting perspectives that catch on the sides of this paradigm in its transition from action to address. Time is a subjective construct that dilates and expands, with no respect for the calendar or the clock. Knowing temporality is subjective means acknowledging the subject's own context and admitting the presence of formats. Even in their subjective relativity, time and history are constituted by formats.

Where does word play or play in general stand in this model of historiography? Play would be dysfunctional without work. Reactionary? Yes. To play with something, like language especially, you need to know how language works. Same with images. So this model of historiography encompasses play as one modus operandi.

The problem of the subject remains, but after play is admitted into the fray this is softened by the possibilities of dispersal.
In its duplicity, double meaning, the subject-subject is the maker and the product, the consumer and the producer. Subject - party to or confined by. Border markings across unsigned lines.

Maybe the present is not synonymous with the now, it stretches forwards and backwards. The open present lets in aliens. Things happen, but do we know why? Space is maintained as a certain coefficient or constant - ie the elements are for the most part localised (context) and situated in or respond to specific conditions. This is despite the generation of non-locatable forces (event). Is the differentiation of situations and events a question of timing?

The subject is a character. The character is a coalition of acts. Not all subjects are characters, but because they share characteristics they can move through each other. Characters can be fictional and non fictional but they are constituted by actions. The subject is content-based. Is this too dualistic? Dualism is the enemy of this model because in the process of turning hstory into the philosophy of history, all potentialies and possibilities briefly rise up. So: the perception of time is non-verifiable, but occurences are nonetheless reliant upon specific, externally imposed formats of temporality for their dissemination.

History is a state of production and consumption. It has to take care of the process of its dissemination. Historiography is the means by which the productive/distributive aspects of history may be addressed. The address offers up a subject, which brings with it a frame, a series of locatable elements that are juxtaposed with the absolute non-locatibility of the event's shrapnel. In these conjunctions we begin to live.

Garden of Harmonious Interest

The lake takes up the most space. There's a bridge on the other side and some reeds around the edges. The sky is faded.
Most of the colour has been bleached by the sun from someone's window. Except for the red on the temple roof mirrored in the water below. I can't see anyone here. Corners have been cut and smoothed out. I can't remember the names of the trees anymore.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

sophie calle

The shape of the future and memory, 1966

"My thoughts on art, like Humpty Dumpty, have fallen off the wall of language and will never be put together again. The 'visual' memories of something terrible are buried under pressure in my tiers of glass sheet. Pictures of the future slip from my sight through the progression of mirrors. Memories have a way of trapping one's notion of the future and placing it in a brittle series of mental prisons. The 'time traveler' as he advances deep into the future discovers a decrease in movement, the mind enters a state of 'slow motion' and perceives the gravel and dust of memory on the empty fringes of consciousness. Like H.G. Wells, he sees the 'ice along the sea margin', a double perspective of past and future that follows a projection that vanishes into a non-existent present."

Robert Smithson, 1966, 332.

Monday, April 02, 2007

thursday night

The house in the forest is like a concrete bunker. Huge, solid, yet peculiarly difficult to look at. It seems impenetrable. There are no doors and no windows. Protruding from the roof is a large, semi-transparent orange tube. It looks like it is made of plastic. A human body would only just fit inside. Perhaps that is its feeding mechanism. I enter the house by some subterranean means but I cannot remember what it encloses.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunday, February 25, 2007

torn wrinkle

a table piled with chicken bones
and itchy flakes of sunlight

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni

We go around and around in the night and are consumed by fire.

This latin palindrome was attributed to the orator Sidonius Apollinaire, and reads identically forwards or backwards.

"The phrase that reverses itself, constructed letter by letter like a labyrinth, perfectly represents the form and content of perdition. We have not sought the formula by turning the world upside down in books, but by wandering around, together with four or five rather disreputable persons."

- Guy Debord,
(in Oeuvres Cinematographiques completes, Gallimard, Paris, 1994).

Berlin 1997

In the Archive

In the 1980s, the East German Stasi came to the realisation that their surveillance of citizens was so absurdly zealous that it had become impossible to manage, let alone utilise, the millions of files collected. By 1989, the Berlin headquarters of the Stasi contained nearly 7 million files collected by the East Germans on East German citizens crammed into 100 kilometres of storage space. Whilst some of the dossiers undoubtedly reviewed potentially incriminating material, the majority constituted a catalogue of banality. Even the most insignificant actions were reported and recorded. In 1987, an undercover agent denounced a housewife in his apartment block for allowing her daughter to wear blue jeans. Neighbours informed on their neighbours’ haircuts, telephone habits, or reported if their television aerials were oriented in a suspiciously western direction. Notes were filed on the fashion habits of known artists. There were eight kilometres of files of transcripts of phone conversations recorded in Berlin alone. Add to this the so-called "Bureau of Olfactory": a warehouse stacked with thousands of jars containing pieces of fabric stolen from houses (notably, dirty underwear and socks), that were used to train sniffer dogs to track suspects. It was joked at the time that the only information you needed to provide your taxi driver with was your name, for they would already know your address.

After the revolutions at the end of 1989, the files that hadn’t been destroyed by the Stasi were made available for public review. Which raised several questions; when everyone is on file, how can anyone possibly be incriminated? When every action is recorded, what constitutes history? And how are we to sift the clues from the junk? Within the archive, the inconsequential and the incriminating sit side by side.

Topography of a Bird

Stendhal Syndrome

Stendhal syndrome or Stendhal's syndrome is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly 'beautiful' or a large amount of art is in a single place. The term can also be used to describe a similar reaction to a surfeit of choice in other circumstances, e.g. when shopping.

It is named after the famous 19th century French author Stendhal (pseudonym of Henri-Marie Beyle), who described his experience with the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence, Italy in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio.

Although there are many descriptions of people becoming dizzy and fainting while taking in Florentine art, especially at the Uffizi, dating from the early 19th century on, the syndrome was only named in 1979, when it was described by Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini, who observed and described more than 100 similar cases among tourists and visitors in Florence. The syndrome was first diagnosed in 1982.

(Thanks Wikipedia)

Journey to the Moon

In 1865, the young French novelist Jules Verne published his third major work, Journey to the Centre of the Earth. The tale recounts the journey of Professor Lidenbrock and his nephew Axel through Iceland, toward an extinct crater, across a sunless sea and into the inner most recesses of the earth. Verne’s continuous provision of metereological and geographical detail in the novel is for the most part an accurate record of the Icelandic environs. Although Verne never travelled to Iceland personally, he familiarised himself with the territory via written descriptions and artistic impressions in scientific journals and periodicals of the time. It is also highly possible that Verne collaborated with librarians and geologists in the making of his text. The contract from Verne’s French publisher stipulates the services and employment conditions for geologists and librarians, who were to provide Verne with the data needed to “validate” his fictional landscape. The crater into which the travellers descend is still known today as the Snaeffelsjokull volcano, located south west of Reykjavik in the Snaeffelsjokull Peninsula National Park. For Verne’s contemporaries, this area provided an unearthly spectacle of sublime desolation. Its exoticism was matched only by accounts of Antarctica, at this time just entering public discussion in France. Marked with jagged, rocky outcrops and rivers of molten lava, Snaeffels Jokull is the perfect backdrop for an expedition into the unknown.

A century after the English translation of Verne’s book, the site again proved catalytic for the production of science-fiction. A year before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took their historic steps on the moon they trained at a NASA base in north-east Iceland, not far from the site of Verne’s fiction. It was here that the first shots of a be-suited Neil Armstrong bounding across a rocky, lunar-like landscape were captured. Verne’s fictional account of the conquest of the earth’s interior was refashioned as a projection of extra-terrestrial activity. When the footage from Apollo 11 was broadcast back to Earth on July 20, 1969, its choreography had already been mapped out on that same desert of Icelandic lava. The aesthetic of history was determined by fictional parameters.

Incomplete Architecture

It is possible today to buy readymade houses from catalogue, newly built and newly furnished, with stainless steel appliances throughout and a lawnmower in the shed. This is the real estate equivalent of the gesamtkunstwerk; the “total package” of a domestic lifestyle. From the moment of purchase, clients set their clocks to the ticking of mortgage payments, monthly instalments and the rate of interest. Time is regulated by capital, segregate from the passage of historical or biological evolution.

Celebration was established by the Walt Disney Company in the mid 1990s, and is located only a short distance from Walt Disney World. As one resident of the community recently proclaimed; “Even though we must pay for the privilege, it's wonderful to live so close to Disney World. When you're not in the parks, you can still hear the distant echo of the fireworks each evening.” Celebration markets itself as a “real pre-1940s American town” but life in the exorbitantly priced estate is like inhabiting a billboard: a corporate microcosm, ringed like a moat by the security of Walt Disney’s family friendly signature. It even has its own soundtrack – muzak is piped continuously along the palm-tree lined main street – and property laws are in place to ensure that home-owners are prohibited from marring the Disney name (no “junk” littering the yard, no parking excessive amounts of cars on the street, no short term rentals). Everything is to be used, and nothing is to be created.

But there are models of inhabitation that have developed in opposition to the readymade, and those that can alter the culture of its use. In the Mediterranean, and particularly in Italy, the countryside is dotted with examples of “incomplete architecture”: skeletons of buildings, scaffolding still visible, which are nonetheless still inhabited as residences. The permanent state of construction is maintained in order to take advantage of a peculiar tax-loop hole in the regulatory framework. In these areas, property tax is due only after the building’s completion: if you don’t finish building, you don’t have to pay.

Chladni Plates

The German physicist Ernst Chladni was the inventor of the klangfiguren, more commonly known as Chladni plates. By vibrating a sand covered brass plate with a violin bow, patterned nodal vibrations appeared on its surface: a direct transcription of tonal properties.

Excess or Overdose

Int., Night. A Paris Salon, sometime in the 1870s.

The room is crowded and hot, and we are pressed close up against the daguerrotypes mounted eclectically across one wall of the Salon. What a marvel it is, a scene composed from sunlight and science, preserved in a landscape of salt and silver...

Whereas both the visually minded "art critics" and the newly established bourgeoisie of the late 1800s may have found photography "excessively detailed" , "too faithful" and "lacking in focus"; a medium of "inhuman precision" and "artless mechanics", those involved in the acoustic realm apparently thought otherwise. Rather than lamenting the razing of visual hierachies, the figure over ground protocols that traditionally governed painterly composition, the thoughts of modernist inventors strayed elsewhere. Suddenly, the background became of immense interest, and the capturing of "fugitive" previously hidden phenomena appeared immanently possible: especially, it seems, in the world of sound.

Hoping to emulate some of the "qualities" of detailed, impervious photographic inscription, sonic scores were produced whereby every element was miked up, amplified, and recorded on site, before being mixed together to create what was intended to be a recording of "absolute acoustic fidelity". But whereas the photograph proferred a uniquely detailed composite of all elements in front of the lens, in acoustic terms there was no such equivalent, and no such legibility. To the phonographers' great disappointment, when they played their recordings back they found nothing but noise.

Visible Language

Many years before he invented the telephone, in the late 1800s in Scotland, Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) was enlisted as an assistant to his father, a speech teacher. Bell the elder was responsible for developing what he called "a system of visible language", composed of symbols depicting the actions of the vocal organs in action. He referred to the system as a "universal alphabet", and insisted that his letters, "instead of being arbitrary characters", were "symbolic representations of the organs of speech and of the way in which they were put together in uttering sound." Alexander would frequently participate in his father's "visible language" demonstrations, and the two travelled to Montreal, Canada to "teach" the language to small crowds of scientists and teachers. Young Bell's role was to "play" the sounds, to act as speaker for his father's records. When the child left the room, an audience member suggested a sound. Bell pere would then "write" it in his system of visible language (which resembled vibrating wave patterns), and Alexander, returning to the room, would decipher it. As he recalled, "it was just as easy to spell the sound of a cough, or a sneeze or a click to a horse, as a sound that formed an element of human speech." The nonlinguistic noises always attracted the greatest applause.

Alexander Graham Bell's mother and his wife Mabel were both deaf.


fish fish
oh fishy fishy
how salty fishy salt salt
how fishy salty fish fish
oh salty salty
oh crumby flaky scale

theres's scrambled custard and cold beans for breakfast if you want some