Saturday, 31 May 2014


I get this one now.

I get this one now because I know it's not about the colours. I see it. It's grey and it's grey and there's no metadata yet. It'll come. It can be tagged when the filing is due.

Opacity is easy. Qualify that: opacity is easy with qualification. I recognise (I do not see, I do not witness) that I struggle with transparency. I see (I do not recognise) what it is to be gnomic: I see its power, I see its protest, I see its performance, I see its failures. I witness the unclear in mind, I hold it closer than you, I love it and I think I understand it. I fear it, like failing memories I fear that opacity is all there will be. I sense (I do not see, I cannot see) the clarity I could have. Optimism in mind, of mind. I will struggle to have it. Is this present tense? Is this a pledge? Is it regret emboldened by fate? See the lines. See the stripes. See the layers. A eulogy to colour. A eulogy to  the hedged. Here's a pledge: before or after it's too much or too far or too hard, let's recognise this scene. Let's say, nearly enough, why it's hard to say. The gaps are unsurveyable, they encourage hedging. So we hedge so many things.

Sunday, 17 May 2009


Stereotypical one-sheet hack-blurb press release from the last two years:
"[Nationality] [artist real name] has been crafting dark, uncompromising electronics as [artist name] since the mid-nineties, with a sprawling backcatalogue under [his/her/their] belt[s] that includes releases on [label],[label] and [label]. While [his/her/their] earlier releases such as [year]'s ‘[title]’ leaned more towards [idm / breakcore / drone / jungle / techno /...] and [hardcore / experimental / concrête / industrial] electronics however, this latest download-only album on the [nationality] [label name] label ‘[LP name]’ sees the focus on dubstep and bass music in evidence."
If you're an artist who's decided to abandon years crafting dark, uncompromising electronics because you've decided that around about now (i.e. 2011) you're creatively ready to explore the new horizons offered by dubstep and bass music, why not cut & paste the blurb above? Just replace the bits in square brackets with some relevant sounding material. I take it that you're already familiar with the idea of just filling in blanks, and that you're happy to produce something rather generic and uniform. Why not do the same with your press release as you've done with your music?


Narrative time isn't enough, it lets us down. Take this, for example. It's only a sketch, don't work too literally - I'm just going to draft the outline of a sequence of words that could be written at longer length. It goes like this: a man or woman, let's make it a man, does something for a hobby that involves writing. He writes enough words somewhere or other that someone picks up on it - let's say it's an academic. The academic has an interest in promoting the man, nothing sinister, nothing nefarious - it's just that being an academic, the academic realises that there's not that much more to what academics do over and beyond what hobbyists do, and since there's not much difference, it doesn't make much difference to promote the hobbyist. Perhaps that's naïve of the academic. For instance, if there's not much difference, it seems like the academic should invent some differences to make it clear that what happens in academia isn't just your everyday hobbyism. But perhaps it's not naïvety - perhaps the academic sincerely endorses the value of the hobbyist's writing and sees no division, no boundaries.

Here's a parallel: a guy paints things, and never wonders whether he's making art - he's painting, let the art question settle itself. Forget the perhaps of naïvety, it's not the issue. The basic set-up is all we're interested in so far.

So the hobbyist gets invited to the academic institution to present something to do with his writing. He turns up and they put on the usual works - it's a one-day workshop, there are a couple of invited speakers alongside him, no-one he's heard about, who are presenting papers with technical sounding much-hyphenated titles; there's a programme which reads like an agenda, with carefully scheduled coffee-breaks where institutional buffet finger-food will be picked at while postgraduates speculate about the scoreline so far. He gives his paper - we don't have to imagine he's awkward or embarrassed, and we shouldn't just picture him pulling hotly at his collar while struggling to explain his inchoate ideas in an inarticulate stutter. He's comfortable and confident, he explains clearly the modesty of his endeavour and admits with gentle but inoffensive clichés that he's largely a hobbyist who thought that this might be kind of, y'know, interesting.

The postgraduates are enthused but unimpressed - this is the correct temperament. They think that they see possibilities for this line of thought, they want to think about or work out or settle just how this modest idea might function if it's plugged into other thoughts that they know that other people around them already think about. And they like the imagery - plugging thoughts into one another, a mechanistic metaphor, like they're doing something substantial (which they are, but they depend upon the security that's paid by the metaphor). And if they suspected that this guy was telling the truth when he said that he's a hobbyist then they can absolve themselves by doing something substantial with the incidentally-secure stumbling of an amateur (or that's how they could see it if they needed to). As it is, his thoughts do prove to be kind of, y'know, interesting.

Perhaps he doesn't say y'know. It's a different idiom - perhaps he begins every sentence with the word "So", or maybe he runs his fingers across his head when he thinks. But it's idiomatic nonetheless. And the people at the workshop like the idiom, and don't notice whether they separate their liking of his idea from their enjoyment of his idiomatic expression of it.

The hobbyist goes back to writing, the academic goes back to being academic, and they correspond when the academic suggests that the workshop proceedings could be published as a special issue in a journal dedicated to recording the proceedings of workshops in this particular academic environment. The hobbyist is happy with the project, and is gratified and flattered to learn that his idea is being discussed by people at the workshop, and welcomes the possibility of reading a response to his idea that will be published in the special issue (which is becoming a volume). He likes what he reads, and he writes a few lines of speculative development - he sketches the outline of the sequences of words that he might write in response to the topics raised in the reply to his idea. The academic thinks that the response should be included in the volume.

Before it comes out (which takes a long time, and doesn't really matter that much anyway, since the minute it gets a DOI number or an ISBN or an ISN or some back-cover blurb it's basically published, for most specific interests) the hobbyist is invited back to another workshop, this one dedicated to the developments of his ideas. There are a couple of other speakers, academics who were postgraduates at the previous session, and this time their talks have technical much-hyphenated titles which include puns based on the hobbyist's name. The talks go well - the hobbyist finds the level of engagement gratifying and stimulating; he doesn't see it as focusing on him so much as on the idea that they've all agreed to talk about, and since he like to talk about this subject so much (it's his hobby), it's a very pleasant session.

But one thing strikes him: nearly all the participants express themselves using the idiom he'd used on the previous occasion - not that he was aware of having done so, but certainly that he is aware that it is being so done now. There's no malice or perhaps even intention, it's simply present in every talk, and since he's not been in the presence of so many people doing roughly the same idiom at every turn, he starts to notice it to the extent that it either amuses or alarms him. It's mildly distracting - at the very least, he's conscious of it, and he checks himself when he discovers that he performs it when he's talking to people during the coffee break (they don't notice - that is, they don't notice that he both speaks with the idiom and that he checks the idiomatic features of his speech).

The sketch is complete - we can imagine a couple of consequences and perhaps work them through, perhaps we work through the idea that the hobbyist might have come to suspect that he has adopted this idiom from people who adopted it from him (the recursive option); perhaps we play with the idea that he suspects that this idiom is symptomatic of a division between academia and hobbyism (otherworldlyism). Maybe we plug in a couple of further options: the academic and the hobbyist have become even more interchangeable, the divisions between them are even fewer (they even share idioms, the abstruse and recondite titles even involve him). Perhaps we can think through the consequences of the combination of occurrences, and the words used to express them.


A series of messages, on a tender subject, to a tender subject, each a thousand words. The first suggests something. The second proposes it. The third qualifies the proposal. The fourth is worried that the suggestion and the qualified proposal have not been adequately addressed by the recipient. The fifth recommends a different strategy. The sixth modifies the strategy, complaining that the recipient has delayed too long to make it implementable. The seventh rejects the modified strategy, self-recriminating for having ever suggested anything. The eighth apologises for the tone of the seventh, and considers a possible plan for resuming association. The ninth, or eleventh, or seventeenth, attempts to quietly withdraw everything that's been said; I was confused, I misread the signals, I'm not ready, I can see now that it would never work, it was all in my head, the myth of you is better preserved intact than being broken by an encounter, I won't contact you again, please ignore it all, these are not the words we two should use, there are no words.

The messages might conjure some sort of melancholy, that of a predetermined tragedy perhaps, if we discover them all at once, and know that none of them ever received a reply. A set of thousands of words that have created, suggested, proposed, qualified, modified and planned something. Another set of thousands taking it apart, entirely in our absence, ignorant of our volition to interact, unstoppable, irredeemable.

Another mode of tragedy would be to read these messages, and to learn that every word had been matched by replies, but that the replies weren't received.

And - though far less fanciful than the other two - a third, far lesser mode of tragedy, if tragic at all, would be to know that every reply was promptly received and understood, endorsed and acted upon, but that things just didn't work out.


Sometimes a single drop of a concentrated colour isolates itself. Nearby, the dye is gradually diluted as it spreads fibrous roots through the medium it's staining; but here, a rich berry sits languidly, implausibly dark - it's nearer black than red.


The sun shines so quickly that we don't have enough time to collect up all of our shoes and skateboards and chalk and books and crosswords. When it's sunny we can think of enough things to do. Bend in the sun and do the digging and picking. Sit in the shade and watch the sun benders dig and pick. Wear shoes and chalk and use a skateboard to get to the rocks and climb and then skate to the lake to take the shoes and chalk off, to sit next to the lake and read books about crosswords.

But this is summer, when we can think of things to do. And Autumn, which looks like April but upside down, is when we can think about all of the things we thought we'd do in the sun.


There's that tale about the author who writes the same story repeatedly, only its always different, but the same things happen. He spends his whole literary life writing this story and it becomes something like an autobiography, because some of the things are true or might have happened, and the story changes but always tells the events that have occurred. No two versions agree but everything that happens in them all is actually what the author did.

There's a tale about an author who writes the same story repeatedly, only its always different, but the same things happen. He spends his whole literary life writing these stories and it becomes something like a biography, because some of the things are true or might have happened, and all the stories differ but each tells some events that have occurred. None of them agree but everything that happens in them all is actually what happened.