A record of several decades spent successfully deranging a willing audience, The Art of Ian Miller features all the images you remember & some you don’t–
And here’s Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber, talking about Ian’s strong vision of Mammy Vooley as a politically-exhausted Maggie Thatcher.
“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s uncanny how it will now get on your nerves.” –Sandra Newman.
Frost. Smoke and mist trapped under temperature inversions in every steep little valley. Sudden dazzling light. A surreal tractor rally in nowhere. Later, Gothic winter ivy and near collisions in the lanes around Prolley Moor. With dusk the local drinkers get their welly down in the 4×4, hunched behind main beams. The satnav undergoes identity breakdown &, trapped in an obsolete idea of itself, will only plod east whatever we ask it to do. “It’s already taken us here. Look! ‘Dangerous Hill’ again!” I hate the satnav anyway, it has usurped my last raison d’etre. What’s life, if you can’t even hunch over the 1:25000 with a single-LED torch in your mouth, pretending to navigate. On the other hand if I’d pretended to navigate sooner we might not be here now. “Dead horse! Dead horse!” “Dangerous Hill! Dangerous Hill!” There’s nought but bones. With a satnav you never know where you are.
Woods at the beginning of winter. Cold air. The residue of sunset visible between trees. Lights on in the power station, early night in the medieval quarries. Time in arcs like that, invisible layers of time along the side of the hill, time lacing the branches together, in among the leafmould like a hard frost. Three grey lurchers! Running down the muddy hill! Holly. Your own breath. The sense that you still function. The sense of an ending and of someone keeping pace with you not far off.
Not long ago the river, suffering some fluid equivalent of a seizure or convulsion, swept down from the banks of the parks and golf courses upstream, carrying away the little garden-centre fences, the artfully planted clumps of bamboo and exotic grass, leaving instead a detritus of broken branches, blanched and ancient looking, tangled together with plastic carrier bags, broken toys and bits of garden architecture from the houses upstream. The flood washed away a pebble path here, a nice little gazebo there, so that suburbia, which previously had run all the way down to the petrol coloured water, now ended ten feet further inland, having ceded itself to a mud flat.
Danny MacAskill is essentially an entertainer. That’s how he earns his living. The combination of technicality, discipline & sheer joy of living he displays in this video leaves most popular fiction–100% a form of entertainment–looking sludgy & banal, even in its own terms. Why doesn’t popular fiction encourage writers as entertainingly skilful as this? Because we do not value the skillset itself, only the story it mediates. We long ago separated the skillset out and donated it to literary fiction. Danny MacAskill doesn’t tell a story. He just is. Indeed, by the look of it, he just is the skillset. As a result I cry every time I watch him perform, because the performance is so much more intense than anything I’ve ever made.
Very like Stoke Newington Cemetery, but with more of everything that matters. More unchecked undergrowth. More pathways, at stranger angles to one another. More cracked mausoleums and rusty padlocks. More black magic graffiti. A more dilapidated chapel. And, on the Brockley Footpath side, many, many more empty solvent cans piled in the little dells. A superior afternoon stroll on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Music drifts past, slows down for the junction, moves off along the street. Otherwise it’s quiet. C has gone to London to work. I’m in the vast invisible Russian Doll of geography. The space inside the house. The space inside the street around the house. The space inside the town around the street. The space inside the land around the town. Inside this vast structure I have relief from density. I can feel all the distinct spaces around me: the space in the loft, the space in the cellar; the space on the first floor landing, which is different not just in shape but in silence and resonance, to the space on the third floor landing. There’s such a difference in the way the air occupies these volumes! I sit on the stairs and read. I’ve got so much silence. I can’t articulate–I can’t get over to you–how much of a relief that is after 27 years in the city.
Hollyhocks, poppies, chamomile. All sorts of desperate lilies and iris. Those complex drooping rose and purple flowers that symbolised passion on the cover of an HE Bates novel in 1974, whose name I can never remember. A light you can’t tell from heat, contained somehow by the humidity, trapped in the air, gold even under cloud. The dogs bark next door. They bark up and down the street. Heat in the bricks, heat in every movement. You sit on the cellar steps. You wonder if the world will end, or just take some simple, beautiful, really amazing direction. You’re forced to admit it’s always been doing both, and that any minute now you’ll get up and go to the post office.
Sodden heaps of earth in a field. Crows beating southwards against a blustery wind. Mist blowing across the hilltop copses, threadbare pine trees on exposed slopes. A mass of chamomile and tiny orange poppies in the brown grass. She felt like gathering a whole armful of poppies, sweeping them up, wet and hairy-stemmed, petals already beginning to fall. Her arms would be covered with wet petals. She thought of orange petals floating on a dark green stream in some preRaphaelite painting, and shivered with pleasure. She remembered driving to one of those small towns, with names like Ilminster or Ilchester. Rain blowing in all directions through a haze of sunshine and exhaust smoke.