Archive for October, 2008


this is more for me than it is for you

Record Two, who are you?

At the present moment it seems that every move I make in regards to work created within the context of this PhD is fraught, tense and not very enjoyable.  I probably subscribe to the school of thought that in order to make my work, I must be in some way depressed. Depressed and fraught in each step of the process from the conceptualisation, the making, the editing, and then the end bit.  It’s been this way in the past, lately however it hasn’t been so fraught and painful, but at the end of the day what is to be gained by torturing myself, is there something better about the work the worse I feel?

I bring this up because I have allowed myself to get off track slightly in the production of my records. With all the crap going on with finding a space I have not been as prudent with the tunes as I should have been and it brings me to an interesting question, what’s Records Number 2 all about?

Number 1 was easy, it goes with the room, it’s a partnership between the aural and the visual, but with 2 I have more freedom, is this the factor that has been handicapping me, with the abundance of freedom am I handicapped by fear?


At the same time, it’s kind of a stupid question, because I think it’s obvious that I probably am handicapped by a touch of fear, so now that I don’t have to worry about a visual relationship, what is it that I want this record to deal with, what occupies my mind, what is the thing that I want to explore?


I think about sex a lot.  Not fucking, but the rules of attraction and the idea of anticipation.  Sex itself is easy; there are a million pretty awful songs of any genre that speak to the idea of sex.  I have no real interest in exploring that territory.  Rather I like the idea of looking at the intricate nature of what happens between two people when they’re intimate.  I have been involved with someone for a while now and this particular relationship has allowed me a deeper understanding of intimacy and anticipation, and I am constantly trying to understand these particular ‘things’ with more clarity.

It can be argued that some experiences and situations are only understood within the context of an embodied knowledge.  Let’s stick with sex as the example, you can speak about having sex to someone who has never had it and they might have an understanding but they won’t really ‘know’ until they have sex themselves. Yet someone like Michael Polanyi would argue along the lines of Personal Knowledge where in creative acts are inherently full of personal feelings and commitments which have the ability to be more widely understood because everyone has feelings, and whilst we can’t for certain say that your feeling’s and mine are the same there is enough similarity to provide a more accessible experience.

So that brings me back to record two. If my interests lie within situations that are hard to convey, what is the purpose of the music I am going to create?  What is the common ground that I aim to tap into?

I am writing this because this work is tough.  There is something inherently constricting about thinking about making work that is ‘ineffable’.  To me, in some way this implies that I am making work about something so big and great that the inner fear is nothing will be good enough, and then there is the issue of not being able to speak to it because there are no words to describe it.

What is then that I want to use Record 2 to discover?  I like simplicity in my source material.  For record 1 I used just a simple guitar note and some ambient noise from the street and when it came together there was a sinister quality whilst remaining open ended.  For 2 I have this idea with the snare drum, I want a very particular dry sound, much like the one Martin Hannett got from Stephen Morris’s drums during the recording of Joy Division’s albums: Closer and Unknown Pleasures.  I want the dryness of the drums to provide the skeleton from which I can work from, I also know that looking at ideas of intimate relationships are well tread regardless of which angle one is coming from, and it’s the dark forgotten corners that I want to explore.  In some ways I want this album to be a combination of torture and rapture. Something that’s inherently wonderful to listen but leaves one feeling dirty or uneasy afterwards.

I am going to stop writing now about it for a bit, and try some stuff, but it’s worth noting that my methodology has radically changed because of how I chose to work on the first record, so if I take this heightened awareness and ability to play and I channel into something with my need for perfection, will it work or will I fuck the whole thing up?


sometimes you sulk

Every year I get a little bit older, I know it’s called a birthday (duh), and whenever I have one I tend to engage in a bit of selfish navel gazing, my birthday was last Fri, but I pre-empted myself by starting the navel gazing as soon as my progress presentation finished on 1 October.

I have come to a few conclusions.  1. It’s very possible the ADD I had as a child is back with a vengeance or secondly what’s more possible is that I am tired of running the fucking marathon that is a PhD every year, year in and year out (this is my 4th year, by the way).

Ever since I started this back in 2005 I have had spells where it’s fair to say I have been less interested in what I am doing and more interested in say, anything else.  What makes this different however is how acute the need and desire is to wash my hands of the whole situation, and there are mitigating factors.  Probably best to start with those and then other things.

First and foremost, over the last 7 months I have been engaged in conversations with the Glasgow City Council about using a disused shop front as a space to build my installations in. Why a shop front you ask, because the GSA doesn’t provide space for the PhD and the city of Glasgow has a history of helping artists by letting them use spaces which are empty.  A win-win situation you would think, yeah right, only on paper.  What is unspoken about is the magic of dealing with the city council.  I am not going to call out anyone publicly because that’s not classy, but in whatever country you live in take your idea of the IRS or Inland Revenue and think about how hard it is to get a real human on the phone, then imagine what it would be like over a period of 7 months, not on a weekly basis but on a regular enough basis, and your starting to understand what my personal hell looks like.

Cut to thinking I had made some progress, I had a face-to-face meeting with the man in charge, he was nice, provided me with a list of unused properties and then it was a matter of dealing with the individual who dealt with the property.  Some were nicer than others some were frankly despicable.  But over all I saw the ones I needed to and handed in my shortlist.  The council’s closing date was Oct 22, 2008.  I was told to ring on the 24th of October to allow them time to go through the offers and let me know if any of the spaces I had short-listed were an option.  So I rang on the 24th of Oct, a lot.  I wasn’t even able to leave a message until 3:45 that day because none of the people I needed to speak to were in.  (Bt the dubs, has the GCC ever heard of voice mail.  It’s a free feature people don’t be scared).  No response by the end of work on Fri, and no one returns my calls on Mon, so when I finally get someone on the phone Tues morning, they told me they don’t have an answer because they haven’t finished going through the offers.  Cue to my surprise, it looks a bit like this:


What the FUCK is going on here?  Foremost the entire global world is skipping towards a recession am I to believe that the city of Glasgow is immune to whims of a global financial crisis and the sites I have short-listed are highly demand.  I think not, as I am fairly certain they have been unoccupied for months.  Second, can you not call me to say that on Fri, or Mon, or even just email me,  as picking up the phone obviously requires too much effort?

What fucking kills me is that it’s not like I have a shed load of options.  Trust me if I could have gone else where for a space I would walk over hot broken glass, smile about it and then profusely thank someone.  But I am a bit stuck, and that brings me to the heart of this rant, why should I still care, and is it feasible to make the work I wanna make now?

Let’s start with caring.  Do I still care, yes, no, sort of?   I mean I care because I am teetering on the point of a nervous break down with this one.  Doing a PhD is a bit like this.  You receive a box in the mail telling you within the box there are all the parts to build a motor car, except you don’t know what that is, how to drive, what petrol is, and even how to open the damn box. Oh and there’s no instructions inside. You have to work to find those and most of the time they make Ikea’s instructions look award winning.  I have told my mum it’s like running consecutive marathons, once a year’s done you just keep going, shit blends you know.

So I am entering into my fourth year/marathon and I am tired.  I am knackered to the point where some days I go through the day with no idea of what happens or why because the minutia robs me of all joy.  And here I am on the supposed precipice of joy, the dawn of making work to test my theories and I can’t make anything.  When things rest on the idea of the domino effect nothing is more frustrating then setting up your dominoes and then being unable to knock them down.

This PhD is about the creation of aurally lead immersive installation art spaces. If I can’t make those what the fuck am I supposed to do?  Yell at the school for accepting research they don’t have the ability to support (spatially), yell at the GCC for being so backwater it makes tribal elections look sophisticated, or yell at myself for being in this position?  Trust me I’m a masochist; I’ve spent plenty of quality time berating myself.  Now it’s time we all share a little bit.