Notes from Nowhere

laugardagur, október 22, 2005

MK Nowhere

Having moved into an installation, I have come to work in a Utopia. No- place like this have I known anywhere in my travels, no place have I known so wide and so owned, so busy yet so deserted, so bold and so square.

I have come to work the weekend in Milton Keynes. And until writing those words I had only in the back of my mind the question of what the name of this place means. And of course I see it now, the connotation of poetry fused with liberal economics, the allusion to England's historic mills, suffixed as an old town would be; the synthesis of the pastoral and the commercial in England's dream.

And this experiment seems to work in parts. There are trees everywhere. The post- revolutionary style boulevards are pleasant to stroll, easy to cross under, straightforward to navigate. Parking is ubiquitous and cheap. The malls are spacious and light, the people are friendly. We are in the heart of the country, and the country is singing a new song here.

The centre of this town is a grid, but unlike any old town, there is nothing at the centre of it. Of course there is no vacuum, no void; there is matter, and energy. But where is the monument to a near- forgotten hero; a warrior, a statesman, a poet? Where is the river that brought goods, the manor, the church? Where is our past, our soul, our link with the land or sea, with each other, where are the graves in which we will oneday lie together?

At the compass' point stands an idea, an idea that can be held in your hand. That can be packed in shining plastic or paper bag. An idea that sends bricks and glass into the sky like hills, that sends metal boxes around the road matrix. An idea that whirrs and hums and pulses and flows, that dances and winks and sings and complains. And this idea is only these things, and a countless thousand more. The idea is Choice, limitless and so extremely limited, definitely democratic and consequently inescapably tyrannical.

With no past but its imaginary memory, MK is free, but it can be only one thing. It cannot be backstreets brimming with stories and lives lived. It cannot be people moving in droves in the autumn streets, to the skip of a beat or a chance conversation. It cannot be wild or tame, noisy or quiet, alive or dead. It is not my Brasilia, it is neither that heroic nor that horrendous. It is not even paradoxical. What comes here comes from elsewhere, and what is raised here will fly away. All this town can be is a loose container, a gathered web, a leaking pot. And I have come to nowhere into this place. And to nowhere shall I return.

laugardagur, október 08, 2005

Spirits of place

Turned upside down, burned inside out and pulverised; strained, stressed and stretched to snapping; wandering about blind, hungry and tired; alone, away and overwhelmed.

I've gone forwards into an unknown. Having spent the last three years living with some of my dearest friends, I've spent these last two days moving, into a friends' flat on the hill; while he travels the world, from residency to residency, to who knows where, animating and exploring and meeting all kinds of creatures, human and animal, making his film.

I'm surrounded by hundreds of friendly, fascinated beings. I'm alive in an installation, a collaboration, a living artwork of absence and living, of parallel lives separated by age, degrees, the cold and the autumn.

While I sweep the dust from around the rooms, I see time and life lived; there's paint on the clipframes, tools on the walls, red and white. Pictures everywhere of faces, all either benignly primal or serene and refined; animals, Buddhas, flying insects, birds, dolls, mannequins, dogs and noble horses.

And there's light. Old chandeliers hang from the ceilings, imitating candles and cascading with glass jewels, or boasting five of six possible bulbs, three resting, two proud to shine. Fairy lights dripping down the walls, bringing to mind magic and forests and dew, snow, diamonds, shards of sunlight through a dark, dusty room. Little mirrors stuck in odd places, net curtains bringing luminous transparent light from the quiet tree- lined street outside, the Roberts radio with its little night light. Painted bulbs and yet more drops of snow.

There are crosses, prayer beads, plants, ladders. Antlers, antique picture frames, wooden floors. Huge rugs from Iran, an old set of white weighing scales, an empty birdcage with its little wire door wide open. Outside, a square wooden shed, a pond surrounded by reeds and spring flowers, the silent, forgotten Brighton backs. I'm starting to feel like I could make a home here.

I've moved house to a grotto, a magic place where the winter can come bid me hibernate. Where I can listen again, where I can rest in the shadows and worship the moon, not so much the sun, once more. Where I might read and think and hide away, keeping myself for some later harvest. Learn from this filmmaker, absorb some of what he has made of the world through my very pores, relishing and delighting in the abundance of this place. Living and continuing the work on this installation, re-animating myself while my friend animates the Finland world he's arriving in. And when he returns, I think we'll have stories to tell, and work to share.

Tony Gammidge

laugardagur, október 01, 2005

This dewdrop world

I feel dead to the world. I came to the cemetry on the edge of town - I knew that this is was beautiful place, that if I could open my eyes and my heart, the trees would reach out to me with long slender limbs and bring me into place, into line. The gravestones that speak of lives lived fully or cut off in their primes could communicate in their stony, monumental way of how to live, right Now. Even the squirrels, or the family out to pay respect on their Saturday, the folly, the chapel, or the endless collections of variously redded chestnut leaves, might wake me to the moment and back into life. But I am behind a veil, my heart is heavy, my head is bowed low. I have upset a loved one, a friend is going away indefinitely, and I am leaving my home. How I wish for eloquence, for endurance, for permanence. I cannot have them now, but I wish to lay this sadness down here and sing my fickle friend, beauty, back into my tired life.

'This dewdrop world
Is but a dewdrop world
And yet . .
...And yet'

- Issa

The way conditions conspire together and bring forward these and other miracles; friendship, falling leaves, flight; is a rare constant, and constantly surprising, ultimately delighting and at the same time threatening and resoundingly heartbreaking. I'm sitting on a growth in the trunk of a huge old beech tree under her generous wide canopy, sheltering; within and without feeling the tectonic plates of the seasons make their cyclic frictious meetings about me.

Summer endures a parry of rain from his inevitable successor. Autumn swiftly rounds on him and enters in again with grave intention, locking horns, shaking the leaves from the wreath on Summer's head. Then he retreats, leaving a colder blue, emptier sky. He rounds once more, with a hunger in his eye, and the old senior knows it's time to retire. Ground rising, shaking, the cloud army of Autumn floods the sky and toasts victory with a shower of rain.

Soon summer will be a memory and a remembered hope, and I'll forget the shining intensity of the year's zenith; the chestnuts and the pumpkins will bring me back to simplicity, back to earth, but as payment the fleeting season will ask another haiku for pasts and passing, and some long, strange offering, for the return of that hiding, beaten Sun.

In memory of Albert Thomas Tyler
1845 - 1945
And Gwendoline