Jan 292013
Kiosk 4

The installation:

It is a discomfort zone (an installation. Or a room. In a Zone).

It is a polyphonic installation and there are vocal variants.

In the case of a room or installation, there is a lot of waiting to come in, a kind of discomfort that is easily mistaken for boredom.

In the context of any actual place or location, access to the room or installation follows  the principles of  contagious fiction and contested fact (Tarkovsky’s Principle).

Take sides. In our opinion, it is better to be partisan: our gaze always falls to one side or the other, and we are learning to shout more loudly.

It has been said*  that three kinds of space are woven together in the journey crossing the zone: nature, home, and a shrine . In other words it is a pilgrimage.
(* Building with Wood. Gilberto Perez – LRB (31): 4, 26th Feb 2009, Pp 27-29)

Slavov Zizek reads the zone in which the room or installation are located differently. In The Thing from Inner Space he sees it as a ‘post industrial wasteland’. However, the choice between a classical zone (‘wilderness’), a zone of modernity (as for Zizek), and a meteorite zone (or any other) is mainly one of stylistic preference in our opinion.

An aesthetic for access to the room or installation can be expressed mathematically as: N+2. This should probably be (… ) bracketed indicating its presence within an incomplete formula, ie – It is a broken off  fragment.

Entry into the room or installation is at walking pace. Time however may be running swiftly, like a yellow brown torrent of flowing water.

In order to picture or place ourseves in the room or installation: Watch; Read; Listen; Write; Talk back.

Another word for installation or room is kiosk.

Jan 292013
Guest Kiosk 2, Izmir station

The Rules. For the journey. Across the threshold; a moment of absolute transition.

I am reading Geoff Dyers: Zone: a Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room (2012). This may already have been obvious to everyone.

The film is Stalker (1979) by Andrei Tarkovsky.

The book is a kind of summary: “Do you think I would be spending my time summarising the action of a film almost devoid of action…  if I was capable of writing anything else?”, Geoff Dyer writes. He says he saw the film when he was in his 20′s, and that he thinks about it a great deal.

The Trolley Sequence:  is an examplar of the “(N+2) aesthetic. “A long magical sequence of three men clanking towards the zone” is described at length by Geoff Dyers from Pp 44 – 56. I have not seen the film and have to rely on his  words for this.

The “clanking” denotes their particular kind of extended horizontal journey required to enter the zone. Dyer describes the room or installation as a “refuge” or “sanctuary”, and he may also employ the word “pilgrimage” – I cannot recall.

As for older men travelling on this kind of horizontal journey there are memory gaps and natural pauses – “sites of decayed meaning” as described by Geoff Dyer (P 45). These are not the same gaps as occur due to the flicking of a reduced attention span. They should equally not be thought of as heightened experiences.

On our timeline of “(N+2)”, it was the strong horizontality of the train journey we made in October 2006 across the Great Alföld  from Bucharest to Novosad and then to Belgrade. In the book/film/journey the Writer also takes a plastic bag with him.

Stalker, Writer, and Philospher… are the names given for the three travellers in the film/book/journey. The place or position of Stalker is ambiguous, although to Dyer his vulnerable presence is always deeply affecting . For any number (“N”) watchers or readers of this “(N+2)” aesthetic the spectacle requires at least these two: The Philosopher and the Writer. The Philosopher carries a backpack. It is his collection of everything (after all these digital days a backpack is good for the entire contents of the British Museum, Library and much, much more). It is his collection of everything, and like all Collectors he hates to be parted from it. When he loses his backpack, he insists on going back for it (which is not permitted: no going back is allowed in the zone). Nevertheless he is reunited with his backpack later as if by a miracle.

The Philosopher holds on to his collection. By contrast the Writer is always trying to get rid of his. He gives away his books and throws away his bag in the book/film/journey, but again it returns to him mysteriously later. In other words, these two, who are both strangely familiar to us, are men who in their different ways are required to hold on to their collections.

Curatorial Conundrums

 Posted by at 10:28 am  Hitting the Potholes, ON the STREET  Comments Off
Jan 262013

18092012039The bicycle hanging on the wall. The steamed up windows. There is something called the Men’s File on a shelf – perhaps a catalogue – a sort of rogues’ gallery. On the cover of the File is a wild looking horse with a man next to it, arms wide, taming the beast, about to ride the beast. Stencilled on the window: ‘wood roasted artisan coffee’ and ‘Italian food heroes’. A proper Guardian readers’ hideout. Assorted culture bandits.

Eyes peeled to the gutters to glean what gleams in the muck of it all as we wait for the acolytes of Milt Friedman to wreck the joint. Watch with some sort of learned helplessness. We don’t believe in it but we are not yet ready to do much about it. Wait until it’s all gone. Wait until we can actually see what it is we’ve lost, not what we are about to lose. Waiting like a surfer, treading water (actually, there is a surf board on the wall as well as the bicycle) waiting for the wave, for the energy to lift me (you) above the waiting helplessness of the swell that is going nowhere.

Here are the bones of the installation. Umm! I thought for a moment the bones might be in place, describing a structure, but I’m not so sure. The stall looks bright enough, but I suppose it’s merely an architect’s dreaming of what we might be. What the installation might become. Yesterday I turned my mind to collecting without knowing precisely what that might involve or what I should be looking for. There was some sort of unthought out assumption that it would be things that caught my eye or my nose, or something I rubbed up against. But even then I might not see it; missing all the important stuff.

A dog owner sits with a (smallish) dog on her lap, she bounces it, like one might bounce a baby, then buries her face in its hair. My face might or might not register the disgust that I feel. I looked up at that precise moment. Now I check again and she is talking with her woman friend – I imagine they are a couple.

I would like to get rid of more books. What books might I read at some indeterminate time in the future – is it at all likely.

I think people change as they walk in through the door. Like visitors to an art gallery entering into an installation. They know they have become actors of some sort but have no idea what to do. Spontaneity is not easy. It might be easier (harder) if somebody told me, right, now you have to be spontaneous, or this is another good one, just be natural. But the cellular activity slows down and I must try to remember what I am supposed to be doing – what clues are there? – are there parts of the installation that could ease my social anxiety? Vandalism could be a possible course to set out on but it’s scary, in fact, far too scary. I can already feel the strong arm of the burly policeman(person) forcing my arm up my back.

Just be natural. Just a suggestion of an ironic smile. I know it all. I’ve seen it all before. perhaps I’ve even been here before.

Jan 232013
wordstall pipes

Ich muss nicht schreiben…”. I don’t know who Peter Stamm was talking to when he said this, perhaps only talking to himself, but, product of a tidy Swiss mind, he wrote it down afterwards so that eventually the phrase found its way into print under his name.

Our Merzstall by contrast is an untidy and leaky construction, the patch is close to the issue of yellow brown fluids which constantly flow through, and a (Swiss, or clockwork, or other) logic for finding our way into commercial print appears to be entirely missing.

“Ich muss nicht schreiben…”, which, impersonally speaking,  stops one in ones tracks. Or it ought to, the same as the nineteenth  ’Bartleby Effect’, only we lack the (the American, or novelist) moral courage or certainties of Melville to put into effect. So we wait.

We wait, and we wait. It is part of our aesthetic. Our aesthetic? In a nutshell it is N + 2: mostly cardboard, corrugated iron and plastic sheet assemblage, and waiting, and the idea of ending a story to us is improbable, strange, and rather queer.

Recall the warning of Angela Carter on (Shakespeare’s and other) endings, “Truthfully these glorious pauses do sometimes occur in the discordant narratives of our lives and if you choose to stop and stay there, at such a pause, and refuse to take it any further then you can call it a happy ending.”

Master of the Merzstall

 Posted by at 11:05 am  Holy Fool/Hero, IN Conversation, Old Men Travelling  Comments Off
Jan 232013
Merz stall Scwitter031

I am looking forward to going to Schwitters in Britain at Tate Britain (30 Jan – 12 May). I like the way TB shows are often less grandiose than those in T Modern, and on more difficult artists from a discomfort zone, the ones that don’t fit in.

Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) – artist “worked in collage and paint, sculpture and performance, poetry, and fairy tale…” . And master of Merz (random cut off from “Kommerz”): Merzbau (bombed by the Brits 1944, while KS was living in England!), Merzbarn (a wall built near Ambleside that has now been moved to Newcastle).

Or Merzstall (like Wordstall): vote Kurt S(c)h(w)itters for immediate induction into our hall of (in)famy!

About Discomfort Zones

 Posted by at 10:56 am  Hitting the Potholes, ON the STREET  Comments Off
Jan 232013

Discomfort zones – such as a random line from off the BBC Radio 4 this morning (c. 09.10am): “…Jumble offcuts, what is that going to look like?” A social science researcher is describing the experience of younger people trying to find today’s markers of adulthood: not sex (do it as a teenager), not property (can’t afford to buy), not work (for many)… and not even luxury good items (although most try to do it this way).

Discomfort zones are when to two groups rub up against each other. Two groups or… (say) “two countries that in spite of their similarities have always found it difficult to progress in sync”.

About discomfort zones and jumble off-cuts: I have also just begun reading Geoff Dyer’s Zona… A tall young man comes into a continental coffee bar, takes off his backpack and puts it under a table. He is not the terrorist type, we have to wait to be told. A broken light bulb is waiting to be repaired. The barman is waiting to repair the lightbulb. Or for a customer. It is not accidental, all this waiting, it is the way things are: very continental, very mitteleuropa.

Meanwhile Pinky Cameron in his BIG SPEECH ON EUROPE today says he want his “Comfort Zone” back. He says he wants to feel “comfortable” with his relationship with Europe. He says he wants a proper debate – oh dear, and in such a hurry! – meaning the experience of sleep-walking towards a “happy ending”.

Resist! It is Zona not zone. Put the word out on the street.

Stories waiting for their ending

 Posted by at 1:12 pm  Atelier, OUT in the WILDERNESS  Comments Off
Jan 192013

Kiosk 28, AssosStories waiting for their ending. This line I discovered in Peter Stamm’s Unformed Landscape (translated by Michael Hofmann) and liking it I wanted to borrow it as a title for this piece of writing. A title, yes, but more as the start of an idea, carrying as it does the notion that stories have their own authenticity or perhaps that should be their own authority. They are the authority of their own beginning, middle and end. All we have to do is scrape away the dust, the wind blown detritus and see the gem that it is, gleaming in the grey glumness of this winter’s day.

And after ‘stories waiting for their ending’ comes some other lines which grab my interest: ‘There was something to be done, but she didn’t know what it was. Someone wanted something from her. People were crowding her. A shadow, which seemed to be her, was running off ahead, and she couldn’t catch up with it.’

How do we keep up?

Not so much with the others who are always racing ahead but with ourselves – this shadow which runs ahead, like an excited child. Is that to get to the end of the story or to get more into life? Having brought in this excited child, I’m seeing this child – who seems to be a blond tousle haired little scamp with mischievously twinkling eyes, up to no good I bet – seeing this child running though sheer excitement, not to get some place else. There is no destination in mind.

And here he comes, through the door, returning home, late for tea, clothes muddied, perhaps torn, his mother smacks him in the face. Her hands are always ready armed with a slap. He yells, his cheek stinging, the iron taste of blood in his mouth.

She doesn’t know how to finish the story. It’s way ahead, some unimaginable time in the future when he is older, perhaps he leaves to become a soldier and go off to fight in some distant war. But now? What now? What about her? She is still young, full of strange yearnings.

How many stories are staking a claim here? Is that smack in the mouth the opening statement? The shock, the struggle for a thought. How to frame it? Never again? Was the smack the final straw, the last of many such blows? And we don’t know whether it was a smack in the context of strong maternal love or a loveless duty bound misery.

Perhaps he meets somebody the very next day. Or perhaps she does. Perhaps the following day he returns, late again, to an empty cottage.

Or should that be the cardboard, corrugated iron and plastic sheet assemblage in the favela?

Villa Miseria (1.0.)

 Posted by at 10:50 pm  Anti-Gravity Surgery, Old Men Travelling, ON the STREET  Comments Off
Jan 162013
tripe stew131

Where are we now? We have entered the city, and we are on the streets of some district.

Which city? Continental, it could be Rome or Istanbul, Berlin or Buenos Aires, Rio or Kalikut. It could even be New York or Boston. Even London… (at times on a clear night and in certain places).

And we think we are on the streets, in a happy-go-lucky way setting up shop with our news-stands ready in wait for passing trade.

Except that – NO! – we are not quite on the street, the district where we are located appears to be more complicated than that. Although close to the city centre, it is more fluid than pavement and hard concrete: it is fluid, watery and floundering like “Tripe Stew” (virgin yellow mud, or Mondongo, as it is called in the lunfardo local Buenos Aires tongue). We’ve set up close to the main outlet for the city sewers, the cloaca maxima – the same areas as the rubbish tips and landfills – and the “unplanned settlements”, favellas.

Nor are our wordstall racks exactly brimming with the latest copy from the glossy magazines – just the gleanings (or vaguenings) from off the tips, or rescued out of the pits and brown yellow waters. We sift the rubbish for something that could be of value, sorting out what is recyclable in the hope of making a few pennies. It is hard work for all the uncertainty.

Here at the the endings of the issues, we spend most of the time watching what is floating past. We’ve located in this Villa Miseria close to the main drain (not the sort of noxious place to fall in). So we say we are “On the Streets”, but it is incorrect, an exaggeration, we are not quite in fact. We are off them, if only a little way, but it is another world.

But here at least we can show ourselves to be partizan – “I am partizan,” wrote Antonio Gramsci, “I hate those who don’t take sides. I hate the indifferent.”