Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Monday, 14 December 2015

The tooth

His Whole Tooth

I felt the fiver rustle between thumb and forefinger
As I padded into your bedroom
Preparing to make the switch
A note would be easy to slide across the sheet
Want a smooth operation 
if this to be my last tooth-based transaction
I could picture the paper under the pillow
You always were a good sleeper

Mum is out with the girls
So I’m standing in for the stand in tooth fairy
Swaying in the shadows
The bathroom light is on of course
I wait to see if you are going to stir
Then I slide my hand underneath
Below the soft rock I crawled from under

Your head rests on a rock for a pillow
As you dive into you dreams
Deep inside an octopuses garden
You are sleeping like a wreck
On bottom bunk submerged in inky darkness.
But I can’t find the tooth
My hand scuttles like a skittish crustacean
Fleeing a divers torch light
Then there it is glinting
The jewel stashed in a hole in the reef

I slide the note along the silky sand
Five pounds seems a lot to pay
But it could be the last time
Mum is out on the town with the tooth fairy
Having a pre-Christmas drink
Mum always goes out with her friends
more than you dad
But I’ve got a fiver that says she’ll be home tipsy
And now I have your molar
So delicate in the hollow of my palm

I steal out of your room
Satisfied I’ve made a good deal
Then back downstairs to find the tin
Where I keep my memory sticks
I prize open the lid
And release the chewing gum sized enamel drop
Onto the bottom with a little rattle
It will stay here until I’m old and grey
The last of your milk teeth
I squeeze the lid back on
And place the tin back by my bedside
In the morning you will be five pounds richer
And I will be non the wiser
Mum will soon to be home
From her night out on the tiles
I want to be sleeping when she comes in
Or at least pretending to be

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Big Data

“In a way, I think the world is becoming more like the stock market,” Spivack says. “You can now measure theories about everything and make predictions about what needs to be done when resources are running low. If every device in a factory is reporting its state all the time, including when failures happen, you can use machine learning to look at all the devices that are connected, and at what their state was before and during failure events to learn to determine the early signs of failure.”

This reminds me of a clock-maker's apprentice sitting eternally still having being told to monitor a clock pendulum for signs of anomalies.

What concerns me about this is that we are transfixed by data and remain stuck in a post-rationalised realm. Will we move too far away from the idea that perhaps our control over events is not as black and white as we would like to believe? Will we forget that we can chose to evolve to a higher and more empathetic state? Perhaps forgetting is a good thing. After all Islam is doing pretty well at remaining stable and at the core of the belief is a recognition and acceptance of human-nature and not, as is arguably the case with Christianity, an idea that we can use spirituality to become more altruistic. This realism on the one hand (built-in systemised charity) and denial (charity as equivalence of empathy) on the other is where we now stutter like a scratched DVD. Hegel’s idea of free virtue as true virtue seems a long way off now. Authoritarianism completed.

Auto-destructive thoughts about nothing

The Void

Gustav Metzger uses the process of auto -destructive art to confront the machine based parameters of progress. That is to say as we become more adept technologically the more we define ourselves in mechanistic terms. This is analogous to the detournement of the Situationists who turned the language of the Spectacle back on itself. Metzger uses a machine aesthetic and methodology to manifest the problem of our mechanistic self-image. He also wishes to circumvent the ego driven idea of the artist producing stuff, which is perhaps a replication of themselves. The idea that ego is at the centre of Art production can be ascribed to a fusing of the rise of the Romantic idea of the artist together with the rise of celebrity , which grew out of the mechanical reproduction.

In my own practice I believe I am attempting to make work, which only I could have made yet at the same time with no component of Ego. My recent paintings for instance were produced with no reasoned decisions. This was a slow process and not the gestural spontaneity associated with action painting. I was aware that as a being I was making decisions but these were never rationalised or post-rationalised. It remains my hope that the paintings communicate an otherness due to this process. Here I see a weakness in that my desire to work outside of Ego could be construed as hubristically futile. I am Canute trying to command back the sea of Ego. My preferred analogy is that the Art- ist has become Canute trying to command back the language of the subconscious through post-rationalised Egotism.

Metzger’s work has parallels with Maholy Nagy in that both artists harness the power of technology. In Nagy’s case this was driven by a sincere belief that technology was a life enhancing force. His approach to technological mediums reminds me of an artist confronted with a ball of clay glazes and a kiln. He produced work that revealed the physical and metaphysical qualities of the medium. Take his telephone pictures for instance, which resulted in modernist enamel abstracts. In themselves these are not particularly remarkable but what is exciting is the idea that he was able to produce these remotely by way of a telephone, a numbered grid and a colour chart. Like a combatant in battle ships Nagy communicated the specifics to the technician over the telephone. I half-jokingly like to credit this as being the invention of the internet. Likewise, in the film "Light PLay - Black White Gray” Nagy managed to distil film to its essence and thereby harness its purity as a medium for time-space travel. At least this is the experience I had when viewing it for the first time in a blacked out booth in the Tate Modern. The object or machine within the film itself is still on view in a museum in Berlin where it resides in a state of perpetual death while the film is continually re-projected into being.

However, in the case of Metzger his choice of technology is as a warning of its devastating effects on the human condition. He equates the force of Nazi-ism with a machine with echoes of Orwell’s image of a boot stamping on a human face forever. He has relinquished any attachment to personal creativity for a greater cause. He has chosen the political and remains unequivocal in his view of how to deliver this. I am not yet ready to relinquish the joy of being a conduit for some other creative energy. I can see, though, how Rothko became increasingly disillusioned at the misinterpretation of open engagement with non-rational creativity and slowly moved towards an Art that gave less and less until the viewer was presented with a choice to engage or not. If the choice was “not” they were left bashing their head on a brick wall. Today the resonances of the look of his medium itself as symbol of a more selfish form of individuality make it hard to see the radical nature of the work. The question I ask myself is should I give up telling myself that ego-free painting can be a form of conceptual communication? After all it is not fame or renown I seek through the work so if it fails to get the point across why continue? Because, as Camus pointed out, meaning is found in imagining Sisyphus happy and in authentic engagement with the self. I have never been trusting of the form of detachment, which professes to be an attempt to by-pass ego because only a natural Egotist would need such strategies.
An after thought:
So whilst indigenous art may communicate an idea of primordial creativity it cannot be deemed living unless the artist embeds it within a state of now-ness. I mention this in relation to our protests at the consumerist or mechanistic nature of much contemporary art, which feels devoid of creativity but, which is essentially embedded in the now-ness of our culture and takes it's power from relating to our  current cultural identity.

Monday, 7 December 2015


twinkle twinkle little bat

I know what an ultrasound is
scoffs my Mother -  the nurse - on the phone 
Trying to sound not completely unoffended
My mind scrabbles to think when it might
have been invented
But then just stops wondering
It’s like sonar for tummies
The mysteries of the stomach revealed
Ghostly apparitions brought forth
By medical medium
Harnessing electronic apparatus
Now-a-days ectoplasm is applied post-fact
A ritual of remembrance
Of times when it was easier to fake it

You see
Yesterday my surprisingly long-legged son
Had lain on the vinyl, paper-towel covered couch
I had, initially sat at a distance
On the chair in the corner of the consulting room
Then coming to my senses
Moved to the chair by his side
The operator/ advanced radiographer/ specialist examiner
Asks him to pop undone his surprisingly long school trousers
The jell is applied
The transducer slides across the surface of his upset tummy
Signals are beamed back from the edges of the cosmos
To the screen by her side
There’s a lovely; liver
And look even dad can identify a kidney
Kidneys are easy to spot
Even in outer space

Last time I saw an ultrasound
I was looking at you I remark
Suddenly aware of the scalding self-consciousness
A slap in the face
As if you didn’t already feel like a specimen
Having obeyed all instructions
Not eaten for eight hours
Having drunk two pints of water
Dad then let you go to the loo
Moments before the technician calls you in
Now the bladder will be empty
Though she doesn’t dwell on my mistake
I see a flash of something like
Sheesh some people cross her face

So how do you become an ultrasounder I ask?
Impressed by her fluency at decoding
seemingly random patches of light
into bodily organs and a clean bill of health
Trained in x-rays then after a year in submarines
decided to make the logical leap
I fathom internally
But here I am by your side
Just as I had been at your mother’s
Boys are easy to tell
The operator had said then
Now you’re gathering yourself
Swinging around and sliding back down to earth
Onto your Rumplestiltskin
Surprisingly long legs
Thanks you say or was it bye
As you disappear behind a closing door
Back into the odourless air of real life

How I wonder where you're at

Upon Writing a Poem

There is the having decided to write it
at this moment of it
The having decided to not put off writing it of it
The rolodex moment of it
The stepping off the edge of it
The letting it rise and writhe
then curl and twirl around me of it
The flattening out on papyrus of it
The not skewing it of it
The setting it down as soon as it appears of it
The difference between now and then of it
The knowing what I meant then of it
The escaping fate of it
The deciding this is it of it
The trusting my gut of it
The this is it of it
The riding on the back of a hound of it
The longing for that time then of it
The wanting to bring that back of it
The carefully feeling under a blanket for it of it
The attempt not to disturb it of it
The need to have done it of it
The desire to have done with it of it.

The madness of it
The let it off the leash for a while of it
The was Walt Whitman really gay of it?
The wow as we were so we return of it
That poor old man the wind flung into a bus of it
The police enquiry and subsequent investigation of it
The so by witnesses do you mean people who were there of it?
The woah flying poor little old man out shopping of it
The looks like he just flew of it
The terror and the trauma in an instant of it
The that might just as easily have happened a hundred year ago of it
The end of days of it
But somehow it could only have happened today of it
The spiralling inevitability of it
The resultant fury at the Old Testament God of it
The wanting to drag them from their beds
as they lie plotting airstrikes of it
The self-centred cotton wool faced nausea of it
The joy of finding there is a god after all of it
But when I die she vanishes of it
But if I want one that’s the deal of it
The finally putting down the pen of it.