Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Nice to meet you Anyway

"So did I ever meet him?" I ask Dot. Dot shrugs. "He had a little scruffy dog", he says, "he walked it up and down the street. He came by the house asking about a computer mouse, he used to wear that funny little hat". I shrug right back. It doesn't ring any bells, doesn't conjure up any memories. I look back onto the coffin and throw my ceremonial handful of dirt down at it.

Yesterday Dot mentioned the funeral, asked me if I wanted to come. He hadn't known Mikey well, but he had talked to him on several occasions and he'd been kind of fond of him. "I don't think there will be a lot of people there". Dot said. Mikey had been found some weeks ago on a sofa, dead by overdose. It was his friend that found him, the friend who had let him stay at his house. That's how we found out about the death, when Jim bumped into Karim outside our house shakily volunteering the story, declining invitations to have tea inside, hurrying on to get to the shops.

We had tried to get hold of Jim to find out when the funeral would be. But it was difficult because Jim didn't have a phone and he wasn't answering questions on Skype. In the end we called the cemetery and found out that way.

I dug trough my clothes while Dot went to his therapy, trying to find something that looked serious enough for a funeral, struggling. I'd just managed to fight my feet into my formal shoes when Dot came back, and off we went, me, Dot and Karim.

picture by oxford city council

We thought we had made good time, but when we pulled up at the cemetery and asked the funeral director about it, we were told it was already over. Stunned I checked my watch, according to my time we were three minutes early. Apparently the council worker who had overseen the arrangements had been certain nobody would show up and told them to get on with it. Not even Jim had come.

"Can you at least show us where the grave is?" I asked. The funeral director nodded sympathetically and lead us down the path.

When we reached the grave he lingered for a moment as we stood there looking at the mound of earth, the hole in the ground,  the coffin down there. "Can I take your names?" He asked. "If somebody calls, it might be nice if I could tell them that who came."

He left us there afterwards. Dot took some dirt and threw down onto the coffin. "Are we sure this is the right funeral?" Karim shrugged. They tried to make out what it said on the plate, but somebody had thrown some sand on it and we couldn't make out the words. Karim got down on his knees, lent one hand on the edge of the hole and leaned down, brushing the sand off with a gentle hand. "Was that really his last name?" Dot asked. None of them were totally sure, but it sounded right enough.

We stood there, somewhat awkwardly. I looked at the tree under which the grave lay and recognised its species. "You know guys, this is a Deodar Cedar tree. Monks would be told to go meditate underneath it in the morning, it was said to alleviate asthma and respiratory problems. That's not a bad place to be put to rest." They nodded in agreement.

Karim retrieved something from his pocket, a big coin with a square hole in the middle. He turned it over in his hands a bit before he threw it down. The coin bounced off the coffin and landed on the side of it in the dirt. He looked at it with disapproval. "Least it wont get nicked." I half joked in a comforting tone, but Karim didn't take note of it. He scanned the cemetery carefully and looked down at the coin with determination in his eyes. Down he climbed with agility and care, making sure not to touch the coffin with his shoes. He bent down for the coin and placed it above the plate. Then he half jumped and twisted and lifted his body to get out of there without doing any damage.

Dot was digging through his pockets. "Does anybody have any pennies?" He asked. I checked my own pockets, but I hadn't transferred all my usual junk to my funeral trousers so the search was one of futility. Dot went back to the car to look there.

By the time he came back Karim had had the idea to make Mikey a last rollie for the road. He knelt down to roll it while Dot dropped the two pennies, with more luck than the first coin had had. "For the ferryman." Karim got up by his side and threw the rollie down too. "It's traditional isn't it."

"I must have met him." I said. I had been trying so hard to remember anything about him. According to Dot, Mikey had come by the front of the house several times. "I must have met him, but I just didn't notice him, he didn't register with me. And now it's too late, now I'll never meet him, I'll never get to remember him the way he acted or talked."

We kept standing there, in the light drizzle. I could see the grave diggers further down the path waiting for us to leave, but we remained. Karim had gone to sit on the other side of the tree. I put my hand around Dot, we looked at each other for a while and kissed softly.

Karim came back. We tried to think of songs to sing, but we could only remember broken fragments, some lines of others and melodies. The grave diggers had brought the digger around the top of the cemetery, possibly in an attempt to que our departure. I wasn't too concerned with their impatience, but I had run out of reasons to stick around. I looked down at the coffin one last time.

"Nice to meet you, anyway."

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The development continues

So, the BA got finished. I welded my bike, I wrote my dissertation, I got my 2:1.

Spit out into society again my boyfriend's mum's loft acts like a neonatal incubator for my unreadiness to deal. Some job applications are sent out, applied for a residency too, the late phone bill paid with my returned deposit, so not entirely procrastinating, just not up to full speed yet. Lazing in bed, playing with the iPad more than my conscience allows.

Roughed it for a week, mostly at Buddhafield festival, full radio silence, cue present fright to deal with emails that came during. Lost my festival funds to circumstance, earned them back with palmistry, cue possible gig at Glastonbury next year to do more of the same. Sun burnt my knees and the intimacy of so many strangers burned my mind as I touched their skin and told them about their fortunes (It always spills back as sudden trust invites confessions).

Hitched from Buddhafield with a sign declaring "To the beach." and a picture of sunny skies and a whale. Got to a beach where I couldn't swim but was consoled by doting boyfriend and tropical birds in an unexpected garden. Busted my knees but still, stubbornly trekked through Cheddar caves.

Home just in time to paint the basement and plan the flooring. Laminate, how it fills me with equal amounts of terror and glee. I will make it pretty, I promise myself, and I decide to trust myself in that promise and do it despite my neurotic fears.

Lazing in my incubator now, dreaming of trees. The development continues, in leaps and bounds.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The lure of the new library, and also slashfiction

Rejoice ye, people of Knights Park for the day of the new library is upon us!

And isn't it just lovely and pretty and open and free. Even so, I'm kind of ashamed to say it, but the first thing I did was do a little round looking for anything resembling a cafe counter or a vending machine. I am an anti-capitalist, but I'm also a woman that enjoys sipping tea and munching on crisps if I study into the late hours. We have to, after all, take special care of ourselves when we put ourselves through the ordeal of academic betterment.

But it is a wonderful space and it is so much more suited for casual browsing than the old Knights Park library ever was. So I found myself wandering between the shelves looking at random books, absentmindedly browsing the different subjects.

My attention was tickled a couple of times, but then something finally caught my attention properly. A book titled "The lure of the Vampire". Or to be honest my attention wasn't fully secured before I rifled through the pages and found out how much of the book was devoted to fandom. It even had a sub chapter called "Fan fiction: Buffy as slash."*

*slash refers to writing a pairing that doesn't exist in canon and it's often as not man on man even if non of the men are gay in canon.

I used to be an avid reader of slash in my time, I'm not ashamed to admit it, it was just as much porn to me as any nudie pic can be. Save the fact of course that nobody gets directly exploited by fiction. I masturbated to it routinely in my late teens and early twenties, but then my interest dwindled, possibly because I began getting laid, or maybe because I began questioning my consumerist attitude to it :P

In any case it is still a subject that intrigues me for various reasons. Among those most prominently that fan fiction is one of the few big cultures where girls and women express aggressive, violent and exploitative sexuality. Therefor it was especially interesting to me to find a book where these subjects were discussed seriously.

We live in a world that seems to celebrate the fact that women have won the freedom to be sexual creatures, but which at the same time seems to gradually narrow down what it means for a woman to be sexual. It might not reflect the way we feel ourselves, but it most certainly does influence it, and it also influence the dynamics between men and women.

Fan fiction and slash fiction in particular seems to argue that there is oh so many more layers to what girls want asides from pink, hygienic orgasms. Slash to me is a proof of a deep seethed need in many girls and women to embody the masculine. I might be reading too much of myself into it, but I detect a genuine frustration here, at the idea that sex is something men take and women give. With which I imply that the women are using male on male sex to describe sexual situations they think would be impossible between a man and a woman because of the expectations and gender stereotyping.

Might read the rest of the book later and write a proper review.

But I like to end with saying that it would probably be interesting for anybody who likes either vampires, fandom or queer theory.

Artist talk: Hooper, workshop: Displays of Dissatisfaction

Today I attended an Artist talk with Claire Hooper and went to a workshop Displays of Dissatisfaction by Rose O'Gallivan.

The artist talk was really nice even if I had to go early to attend the workshop. Hooper works with video and is especially interested in storytelling and structures of narrative. She showed us parts of a film she made: Styx. Here she uses a contemporary style and play with old, archetypal beings and ideas, creating a visually interesting and dynamic world where stories take place.

My interest got really piqued and I'm kind of bummed that I didn't get to stay behind for questions. Maybe I'll mail her some if they keep gnawing on me.

So yeah, I had to go because I had that workshop.

I'm sorry to say it, but I was kind of disappointed by Displays of Dissatisfaction. Todays part had the title: Talk and Introduction – The relationship between artwork and protest. To be honest, I was expecting it to be more political, more directional, less 'it's all relative'.

No, I'm not really doing O'Gallivan justice if I put it like that. After all I know very little about her actual political standpoints and I can't blame her if I misunderstood the aim of the workshop when I signed up. Hell, by the time it is over I might've changed my opinion about it, so stay tuned.

So far though. What I gathered from the Talk O'Gallivan is mostly interested in protests in a purely visual and conceptual way and she sees little point in the actual political messages behind them. Which is fair enough I guess, even if I disagree.

I have a tutorial with her the 22. at 10,  guess I can have a chance to put some of my annoyances to rest :p after all the project for the workshop, the making of the banner is interesting to me and I'm looking forwards to participating in it. I also look forwards to the gallery visit.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Shark hats and pigeon heads

Squeamish people should not look at the last

Dara Birnbaum - South London Gallery

When Phil first suggested that I should go look at Dara Birnbaum I lost the first half of the sentence and for several sentences I thought he was talking about my tutor Ana. I guess it was a happy mistake because it made me really interested. When I realized my mistake I didn’t really care, it sounded like something worth seeing. 

Phil mentioned that Birnbaum was on the vanguard of videoart, I’m kinda glad that he did, because it was helpful to have that in mind when I looked at the older pieces up stairs. I mean, the one called “attack piece” was really cool, but then there was a lot of different variations on “doing weird shit in front of the camera” which just bored me. The “Attack piece” one was interesting, it consisted of two screens facing each other in a small room. It alternated between showing the same scenes from a garden picnic slightly out of sync and showing video on one and photos on the other. The video and photos corresponded to each other in that the photos was of a man filming something while running around and the video was of a woman running around with a camera taking pictures. It was fun and playful, but also had something of an afterthought to it.

There was also two other video pieces, I liked the one with interviews with people on the boat outside Ellis island, the one with the confusing narrative I might’ve liked if I’d felt better and had more time to look at it.

Downstairs there was the new piece. “Arabesque” It consisted of four screens showing series of video in a loop. Some of the time all four screens showed footage of girls playing the piano. On the far right screen this was sometimes cut with scenes from a play where a couple agonized about their child leaving home or something, old television style. On the screen next to it the piano scenes were cut with text waxing melancholicaly about loosing ones ability to do what one loves most. 

Dot, who actually read the little booklet told me that the couple in the old television style drama was ment to portray Robert Schumann and Clara Schumann. The melancholic snippets were from Clara Schumanns diary. And the music played was alternately a piece by Robert and a piece by Clara. Maybe I’d be more able to tell any qualitative difference between the two compositions if I had studied music, but as an ignorant I found it difficult to understand why one piece could lead to a man being praised for centuries, while the other didn’t bring any recognition for a woman. A woman who the leaflet informs us, actually supported her family of eight children by playing while Robert was plagued by depressions.

Altogether “Arabesque” is a haunting piece if you read the information or not, but if you do read the little leaflet it might give you some pause too. After all, there might be many more women out there who did astounding things, but who were never recorded because their contribution to culture was deemed irrelevant. 

Sadly Saturday was the last day of the exhibition, but I'm sure there must be something online if anybody is interested in checking it out.