Aug 102012

Let’s check this out. Let’s check the arithmetic of memory. I was getting older but there was still (I estimated) plenty of time left, barring accidents and those well known Acts of God or plain and simple murder, come to that. The brief time of innocence between forgetting about nuclear weapons and the advent of global warming had just given us the window of opportunity to launch an attack on the unsuspecting world; heads in the clouds, feet barely touching the the wild flowers in the meadows.

Fast forward to some time that might or might not be the present, limping along in a desultory fashion; a result of varieties of conflict and trauma, cynical but still raising the standard of hope. Crawling out of bed, Continue reading »


 Posted by at 11:03 am  Atelier, Fundamental Perversions, OVER and BEYOND  Comments Off
Jul 272012

On board the Dreamboat there were puzzles to be examined. Such as, who is Massimo?  Such as, why would anybody think that I might be his friend? And if I was what would it mean? And more importantly, would it be dangerous?

Not that my potential interrogator hung around long enough for me to reply.

Out beyond the harbour walls the Dreamboat encountered a lazy swell; the combination of that gentle lurching and the ever-present smell of fish stirred my intestines into high alert, a state of readiness to evacuate should conditions deteriorate.

More questions flooded my mind, perhaps in an effort to distract attention away from the volatility of current peristaltic activity. Questions such as:
Continue reading »

Jul 202012

I zipped up, waited a few seconds, grabbed at some oxygen, sighed and shrugged, then turned to face my interrogator. Expecting something altogether more solid, more muscular I was surprised to see a girl, well, a young woman, who could have been no more than seventeen, overwhelmed inside an oversized uniform, dark, black or possible navy, her waif like face locked in uncertainty was a striking contradiction to the questioning, challenging voice I had been subdued by.

    Are you, by any chance, looking for the Kazoo Dreamboat, her voice had mysteriously become dream like, soft.

    Perhaps she had a colleague with her, somewhere in the shadows, a senior colleague who was supervising her on her first day in the job.

    Kazoo Dreamboat? I wondered about the strange name but decided to press on with my mission to reach the conference on the ninth floor.

    I’m trying to reach the ninth floor.

    A sheaf of papers had appeared in her left hand. She carefully examined them.

    Apparently you must go down to the fish wharf, three floors down.

    Erm, I rather was hoping to . . . I need to  . . . erm pee. I never did like the word pee, so prissy, so pathetic, but my vocal apparatus had got strangled in the effort to say piss.

    Sorry, was all she said and waited for me to leave.


Jul 192012

As a committee member I had been invited to a specially conformed conference to discuss matters of the utmost international importance. Held as it was within the solid imperial splendour of Victorian limestone, the entrances watched over by uniformed staff, ex-military, ex-police or even ex-G4S, my expectations rose to dizzying heights as to not only the outcome of the conference but my own status which I had always thought to be of a rather doubtful nature, skirting as it did both  the gutter and the lower ranks of the aristocracy. Now this, I thought optimistically, now this is where I belong, and squared my shoulders as the commissionaire held out his hand so that he might examine any documentation I might have. My first attempt was a failure because he merely shook his head and moved as though he intended to send me marching back out the door that I had so recently entered through. From my voluminous pockets I was able to produce some other papers. I could see he was sorry that he didn’t have any latex gloves to handle such a doubtful offering but he was willing to take a chance and drew them towards his highly trained nostrils. After many dramatic contortions involving all his extensive facial musculature he cleared his throat. I had assumed he would then return my papers but his hands were now empty and he withdrew into an official indifference as to my existence and if I did indeed exist what actions I might take.

    There was no reception desk and no receptionist but fortunately I had been informed my text message that the conference would be held on the ninth floor so I cast about for the lifts. As you well know the public transport systems in that distant city do not include much in the way conveniences so it was imperative that I discover the whereabouts of the gentleman’s conveniences fairly hastily. But I now seemed to be alone so seeing some stairs descending off in the shadows to my left I decided on that course of action. Two flights down I had the notion that a Virgil was needed to guide my steps. Did I have to go down in order to eventually end up on the ninth floor? Had I once again made the wrong decision? But, no, there is a door, heavy dark wood, perhaps mahogany, and though there was no sign on the door my spirits were lifted at the prospect of relief of urinary pressure. And what a delight it was to see a long row of gleaming urinals arrayed along the length of one wall, with gleaming copper pipework and glass splash guards to protect my admittedly unpolished shoes. Unzipping, as one must, in such circumstances, I was surprised by a low cough behind me. And then a woman’s voice:


    ‘Are you Pring, the poet?’ Almost a purr, even a hint of growl.


    ‘N-n-no,’ I stammered.


    ‘Are you Peliot the poet?’


    ‘No,’ no longer a stammer, but in fact a hint of anger that I was being delayed in self-producing the wished for relief.


    ‘Are you a poet at all?’


    ‘No, no, no I’m not a poet but I have to get to the ninth floor.’


    That might just have been the wrong thing to say.


                    (To be continued)


Jul 162012

Christopher Turner (LRB 5 July 2012) in his review of the Barbican exhibition: Bauhaus: Art as Life, quotes Gropius’s manifesto that called for a unity between art and craft, a unity that would ‘rise one day towards heaven from the hands of a million workers like the crystalline symbol of a new faith’ and to facilitate ‘a community that wanted to create a new man in a new environment.’

    Where do any of us stand in relation to this linchpin of an ambition? What sort of work or practice would it take to bring enough light into our beings to make us ‘better’ people? Do we even believe that it is possible? And what is the evidence for change in us?

    Visiting an old friend recently, it seemed to me that he was much the same as he was when I met him more than forty years ago. There was the same strong ethical thread informing his behaviour as well as being an opportunistic chancer who was able to charm his way across social, professional and bureaucratic boundaries. And when I, in turn, reflected on any possible changes in me that I could detect, I see the same short sighted, shy individual with a poor instinctive sense of reality, who has to rely on books to aid him in building some useable concepts of reality. Sort of.

    Because there is a strand of doubt which hardly believes that locked into our subjective/objective tensions we have never and will never finally describe reality. And this idea or belief is central to this blog and then, of course, there is a but, quite a big but:

    But we can be tantalised, seduced, persuaded, entertained, enraged and engaged as we pursue these strange and surprising, not to say outrageous, gods of language. 


Threads and Traces

 Posted by at 11:39 am  Atelier, OUT in the WILDERNESS  Comments Off
Jun 012012

I think of networks of nerves and blood vessels, I think of love that touches and enables new organisation to take shape, I think of a sheep trapped in barbed wire; the paths that open out into the journey and those that apparently come to what we call a ‘dead’ end. A few weeks ago I could not help but notice the body of a black cat killed by the rushing of motorised traffic as I cycled out, vulnerable, myself, to the possibilities of the same fate. A mile or two of A road before I can dive off into the network of lanes that connect farms and hamlets, wriggling and clinging up hill and down dale; a maze to disorientate, to visit sleepy hollows, and present new and surprising vistas that I didn’t know existed. The black cat’s cadaver was in the middle of the carriageway, recognisably cat-like, but it wasn’t long before it was flattened, bones crushed, soft tissue squeezed out, perhaps nibbled by creatures that have a taste for that sort of carrion fast-food – crows and the like. Then a couple of weeks later it looked like a scrap of fur rug and by this time it had moved (been moved?) into the edge of the road, more or less right in my path and finally in the last week or two all that remains are three or four scuffs of black something-or-other across the white line; something that I no longer bother to avoid. A mere trace of something that had lived and breathed and been loved.

    Earlier this morning I read Paul Durcan’s The Road to Vétheuil 2009 (from Praise in Which I Live and Move and Have My Being)  and loved how it traces a path of love from walking ‘downhill to the village’ to the opening of the door and ‘we embraced and we burst out laughing.’ And the final six lines:

        ‘We stood face to face, talking nonsense,

        Not having seen one another for six months.

        Delighted to be doing that, and that only,

        And not being expected to do or say anything else

        But simply to be there and nowhere else

        Piping absolute, pure, spontaneous song.’

    Alain Badiou (In Praise of Love) writes (something else I read this morning): ‘ . . . between May ’68 and the Eighties . . . I developed the political conviction I have remained implacably loyal to and for which “communism” is one possible name. But I then equally structured my future life around processes of love that were by and large definitive. What came later, of the same order, was illuminated by that inspiration and its enduring nature . . . That was really the moment when, in between politics and love, my life found the musical chord that ensured its harmony.’

    The image of the project that we call life that is suggested by Badiou's words is that of a musical instrument (take your choice of instrument!). We are given the rough outline and we struggle daily and in our dreams at night to refine the trumpet or violin, to clarify what sort of instrument it is, learn to play it, engage with our resistances – when the teacher says sing, well, sing for God’s sake . . . but no, I can’t, I won’t, leave me alone, I’m in too much pain, I’m too distracted.

    And here is Tonto peering at the traces, the hoof print in the soft earth, the broken twig. He’ll know which we must go


Where’s Wally?

 Posted by at 3:42 pm  Atelier, ON the STREET  Comments Off
May 252012

Which one do you mean? There are so many, lined up against the pock-marked wall, their faces fatty and flabby and pox-marked, eyes screwed up against the suddenness of bright sunshine, a phenomenon that we had long since given up hoping for, believing that we had entered a state of permanent overlapping of autumn and winter; the seasonal clock winding on a few clacks of the worn out ratchet and then slipping back. Jerry and Dave guffawing as they must, as they have long been programmed to do; surely this can’t be real – a sort of intermission from the early days of television and at any moment Bill and Ben will chirrup their way on to the screen and all will be well. Nanny will arrive with a soft-boiled egg and nicely toasted soldiers, dripping with the best butter that unearned money can buy.

    Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Their trousers are round their ankles. What have they been up to? I do hope they haven’t been playing with that nasty, jumped-up Aussie . . . what was his name? Rupie . . . yes, I think that is what it was. An unpleasant ambitious sort of person, up to all sorts of no good tricks – very good at making unverifiable promises, actually very good at telling woppers. Question: how do you get the outcome you’ve promised your big friends whilst pretending to be impartial? Now, that is the skill of this game that we’ve blagged our way into – politics.

    Question: how do you get away with impoverishing much of the population whilst begging for their votes?

    Oh, yes, that’s where Rupie comes in.

    Is that what they call a virtuous circle. I mean we get richer.

    It was unfortunate for Dave that the wind that had filled the Australian’s sails for these last twenty or so years was flagging just as Dave got into power. It’s true he was still able to shift the blame from the bankers who had rather overstepped themselves – but we mustn’t get in the way of wealth creation for the few by regulating their behaviour or taxing their dubious casino transactions – on to the previous government.

    Question: can we shoot them now? No, sorry, but we have something called the rule of law and they do have access to the most expensive lawyers in the land. No wonder they are guffawing, it’s touch and go, but they believe they can still get away with it. Like their hero, the slippery Tony B, it’s all about timing the exit, having clawed your way up into the super rich category. Come on, even Ken Liversalts has become rich enough to pay those clever accountants to find those perfectly legal tax dodges.

    But let’s leave the last word to St Wally Benjamin:

    ‘In the appreciation of a work of art or an art form, consideration of the receiver never proves fruitful. Not only is any reference to a certain public or its representatives misleading, but even the concept of an ‘ideal’ receiver is detrimental in the theoretical consideration of art, since all it posits is the existence and nature of man as such. Art, in the same way, but in none of its works is it concerned with his response. No poem is intended for the reader, no picture for the beholder, no symphony for the listener.’

    (The opening paragraph of his essay, The Task of the Translator.)

    Actually I do believe that I could pick at random any paragraph from Walter Benjamin and it would be a gem.

    And I don’t think Benjamin was a salesman.


Funnier and Funnier

 Posted by at 4:28 pm  ON the STREET  Comments Off
May 232012

Buffo Buffo – How else should politics be conducted these days except with loud guffaws? Or rather performed because what we are exploring here is the performative efforts required of governments. Are they doing any thinking? One rather feels not. And if not, how should we in turn be thinking and acting, and what happens when we begin to consider the possibility that our politicians have become superfluous?

Direct action along the lines of the Occupy Movement is one possibility: Activism (see Graeber's Direct Action: An Ethnography for more on this)… although who knows whether or not anarchist spontaneous self-organisation (protest + assemblies + encampments) produces any real thinking either.

Inaction is another familiar and widely used response: Fatalism… and the avoidance of anything that might interupt the cultivation of our inner sense of eternal peace, plus or minus (more likely) any real thinking.

Where is the moral imagination to be found these days?

On the one hand there is the current crisis (a source of concern or celebration depending on your point of view) that capitalist dynamics are really running down: both overcapacity in manufacturing worldwide and a disconnect between economic activity and productivity over the last forty years… and that the world economies are heading for a state of growthlessness, in which we will never be able to work off the DEBT. On the other hand there is simultaneously the other crisis as well (imbued with a terrible uncertainty as to its future outcome) that global warming is happening and we ought to do something about stopping the world getting HOTTER, but we can't because – Buffo, Buffo – it seems democracy is not fit for purpose.

Where is the moral imagination to be found these days?

I am held by a quotation of the 18th century political theorist Edmund Burke, which I read in the latest copy of the LRB (24 May P5) that society "is a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and who are to be born.":

- so that, while Uncle Wally's chessplaying Turkish puppets continue to stalk the land, a toast to Franz Josef by us all, and a salute to the Great Porte, is as an important performative effort today as it ever was.