burn other people’s stuff
A week of not-unmixed success. People are asking me to write some weird things lately. Rooting around behind the clothes-rack for something I could think about, I found balls of dust, abandoned award certificates, lost shoes made out of a particularly pre-scuffed & greasy kind of suede, bought in Valencia, 2004. There’s a paper Chinese kite still in its box & I wonder briefly if it can be made to fly. Chris Ofili: “The studio is a laboratory, not a factory… An exhibition is the result of your experiments, but the process is never-ending. So an exhibition is not a conclusion.” Neither is a novel. I prefer the way artists & performers describe their practice to the way writers describe theirs. I prefer rehearsals to product. I like studies for things. (I don’t mean a draft; that I shouldn’t be taken to mean a draft is precisely what I’m trying to get over when I say I prefer the way artists & performers describe their practice…) Ofili again: “I’m not after a type of refinement of your life with a view to writing your own obituary… summing up as early as possible so people get it and they can just slap you on the back every time they see you.” He’s not actually talking about obituaries, is he ? I want to get that clear at the outset, too. Watched TV every day this week like you do. As Big Freeze Britain gave way–with all the savage unpredictability of the outside–to Big Thaw Britain, devastated people were having to wade across roads where, only the day before, black ice had forced them to crawl. Meanwhile, the 24 Hour News described images from Port au Prince as “traumatising”. To be on the safe side I looked away. I can’t afford to spend the next month or two attended by flashbacks, sleeplessness, sudden inexplicable phobias, mysterious bouts of Tourette’s. Haitians, though (in a sense luckily) too preoccupied to notice it, are being made to suffer this additional indignity: as the collapse of a built environment that was really rather meagre in the first place is made to resonate with the porridgy attitudinalising of a Survivors script, the new threat to them is the asphyxiation of their plight in a slurry of BBC rhetoric. You can rate a week by the number of times you lost your temper & gave up on the whole idea of language. But is a high number bad or good ? Paul McCauley found a perfect illustration of the erosion & commodification of the meta-commons. Here, breathing–an activity available to everyone, something you thought you could just do–is reconceptualised & sold back to the breather. Religions, of course, have been doing this for thousands of years–possibly even since, to deploy a BBCism, the very dawn of time. Each time a successful reconceptualisation takes place, everyone involved gets a slice of the pie, whether that’s actual money or some other even more satisfying kind of payback–a bigger department to run, better funding, localised celebrity, status satisfaction, ego-payback, whatever. Back behind the clothes rack I have a look at two paintings, the tops of their frames soft with dust. Nice. My down jacket, I see, could do with a clean. This reminds me that I still have, in some plywood storage cubicle somewhere, a very good three-season sleeping bag I bought in 1971, when it cost all of £20. I imagine it as full of a fibrous grey dust now, impregnated with old bird viruses & emphysema, which started out as goosedown. & Julian Richards sent these. But I don’t think that was this week. Pearlant: what a weird book that’s going to be. Looking at Herschel porn, I suddenly write a note about Anna’s sexuality at 60, how it’s a site of conflict with her grown up daughter.