Archive for August, 2009


today you were far away, and i didn’t ask you why, what could i say?-The National

Duuuuuuude!  Where the hell have you been?

I know, it’s a really good question, where have I been and what have I been doing? It’s fairly obvious, not blogging.

I could bore you with trivial tales about this and that, and that’s what I had planned to do up until last night. But….

Last night, I saw one of my favourite bands The National play at the Royal Festival Hall in London and it knocked me sideways (in a good way).

This was not from the gig last night, but youtube can’t produce everytime.

If you have never seen them perform, I command thee to do as soon as possible, they make great music and are committed to playing their songs with force and dedication, it’s as if there is no wall between the band and the audience, everything melts away and it’s just one group of people sharing in this ‘thing’, and it’s this ‘thing’ that’s so important to talk about.

As I have mentioned in previous blog entries I hold Andrea Fraser’s Why Does Fred Sandbeck’s Work Make Me Cry as a key text for me, and in a way I suppose I held her reaction to Sandbeck’s work as the penultimate response.  If you have people crying then it works, it’s so great that it’s beyond words and the only reaction is to cry.  But as the research has progressed my thinking on this is progressing as well.  I am not saying that crying is right or wrong, what it is, is one particular individual’s response to a particular piece of work in a particular setting:yeah, context-it’s everything.

During the set I was standing there singing along, doing that strange indie white person’s dance and really feeling it. As the band’s set grew and their relationship to the audience developed and it was almost as if there was a swell, a combination of the audience being so caught up in their performance and the band being caught up in our adulation.

Aside from that something began to happen to me, as I stood there as they played Slow Show, there seemed to be this expansion in my chest, it was amazing.  Suddenly I was filled with feelings so good I would like to find the drug that equals what I felt, I mean it was as if my heart and my chest might burst at any time because I felt so moved.  It was a multitude of things, I was drawn deeper and deeper into the tunes, I felt this incredible sense of love for certain people in my life, and I honestly believed as I was standing there that I was in the presence of something that couldn’t ever be put into words.  At that moment I have never felt better.I actually sent this email to myself in the middle of one of their songs because it was so important for me to remember this:

What if it’s about trying to create a physical being, why can’t we believe in thing we can’t see? What does it mean?

Slow Show

Dude, I know, we’re getting close to the G O D word, but maybe that is what it is about.  I mean the whole thing is that I don’t know anything for certain, but as I stood there with my chest bursting and my head expanding because I couldn’t comprehend or define how amazing I felt-I thought, maybe this is how people feel about God.  I am not going to tackle the God thing here because it’s not what my research is about, but part of me was thinking is this how we deal and experience the ineffable?  In fleeting moments where the mediums we can grasp come together in the right way and suddenly we’re thrown into this feeling, this place, this experience that is big, so grand you just think-fuck me.  What just happened?

What this is beginning to expand for me is how much I relate to the ineffable as a malleable idea/experience rather than a thing or object. It doesn’t mean that I don’t think these things can be ineffable, but for me, and my work, objects et. al are the sum of the parts of the thing.

I mean as I sit here recollecting what it is was I thinking it was that I was in the midst of an ineffable moment and I wondered if the band’s music is simply an instrument or a portal to make such an experience physical.  In hindsight what is also interesting for me about that is that I was actively being self conscious and aware, yet the experience wasn’t dampened or destroyed, something I had previously thought would happen the minute one perceived themselves perceiving.

It’s so hard to try and decipher and as I sit here trying to put the ‘unutterable’ into words I laugh.  To try is futile, so what is my research going to do?  What am I trying to prove?

This is a bit of email I wrote someone this morning about the gig… it fits.

I have seen the National about 6 times already and every time it’s always been amazing and restorative, like I leave the gig thinking and feeling more whole.  But last night’s gig was amazing, it’s been a while since I have gone to a gig solo-it’s has a sensation of loneliness but also complete freedom.  I drank only water and was literally blown away by them.  At one point I felt as if my heart was going to explode out of my chest because I felt so good.  It deepened my love for people I love, you included and I just wish you could have seen it.  I sent myself a lot of mini essays during the gig, as it’s really research related. But I get God now, like I get this thing, this sensation and I wonder if because the belief in that which can’t be seen is hard is everything we do a way to personalise that relationship and bring it to our own level?  Is that what I am trying to do with my work?  I don’t know, but I suppose this is my job.  It was simply amazing.  I really wish you could have been there, but I will make sure you get to see them either here or in the NYC.

And this song closed it out, although this was shot in Vienna.


been to long…..

(I wrote this a month ago when I was in NYC on 1 July)

It often starts with the tossing and the turning, searching for the cool spot on the pillow.  Most people find it and fall back asleep. Me, I never find the cool spot.

I am sitting here, looking out over New York City as the sun rises and lazily tries to break through the low-hanging haze that seems to be a permanent fixture on the skyline. When I leave my cocoon of air conditioning and sound-proofed windows, not only will I be immersed in the city but also in the haze and the humidity.

So, why start like this, why bring us into it? you ask. It’s simple: it’s about work and ways of being and thinking. I know this is a shared blog and in general the policy is that I don’t really write on my own work things in the specific, but I feel that this is a worthwhile endeavour, so here we go:


I am asking this, because this morning I woke up wrecked with anxiety, an anxiety that makes me want to hide from everything: my work, the PhD, and life in general. It’s not as if it’s too much, or as if there’s something that I can’t manage, but it’s like the haze outside my window: it envelopes you like a blanket, and right now it feels too heavy for me to move myself.

As I am about to embark on another installation I think about this state of mind and who I am, and which aspects of it are present within my work. It’s not like I have come to some sort of light-bulb-like conclusion: ‘Oh anxiety, that’s what it should be about’. It simply seeps in.

So what and why and how is this in any way relevant to this blog and the working relationship I have with G? The reason is that it’s about the base for everything I do: in some way every work I have made has in some aspect tried to address this issue. I suppose it comes down to the question of ‘what kind of experience am I trying to create?’

It’s such a vital and important question, and in a way I haven’t answered it or even asked it directly. My father came over to Glasgow after the second installation in my PhD research was completed, and we did a brain-storming session, I have never worked with my father like that before on a project.  For the most part my parents don’t participate in that way. But working with someone outside of my contextual framework was amazing. I had to have answers and I had to know, as he was asking questions out of curiosity, not malice. It made me realise how little I did know about what it is that I want. To some degree working within the structure of practice-led research creates some kind of tunnel vision. I was going full steam ahead on the work, with in some way letting my instinct and gut feeling take over when it came to the nature of the experience. But I never directly addressed what that experience was to be or what I wanted it to be. A bit cart before the horse. Now I have the chance to rectify that process, can I change that with the third installation?

So back to the nature of experience: what is it that I want? The best way of doing this is to look at work that I have seen lately, and to give you a peak at the thinking inside my head.

When G and I were in Basel there weren’t any immersive installations per se, but there was a lot of work that was immersive in some way. Lots of glossy black plexi, in which you’re reflected, but not forever like in a mirror, but in a rather flat 2D way. I have never enjoyed seeing myself in artwork, because it break the fantasy: I am real but the artwork is producing this thing beyond myself and then bam, there I am. In some way that inclusion of the self is vitally important.  It’s jarring in the sense that for the most part we have an idea of how we look, but sometimes our reflection is not the same as the internal image we have created of ourselves. That’s where the black plexi and the mirrors come in.

I had been deliberating for months, or rather the past year, that Room 3 would involve a pool. I had seen it done in Basel several years ago, and besides the sheer coolness of it, being in a pool was something so ineffable within the context of it being a work of art. The work came alive when it was engaged with by the viewers, and it contained an ultimate sense of immersion.  But as I have neither the funds nor the physical space to create the work that I want to create, the questions is how do you substitute that and what do you do to keep moving?

In glimpsing all of this black Perspex in Basel and seeing some mirrored pieces, it became apparent that I wouldn’t need water to generate the effect that I am after. I can create an environment about immersion without having people actually physically immersive people within the work.

Within the last two installations, the work has had a high aesthetic sensibility while I am also cultivating and actively generating a sense of dread or doom. There is something about the work that makes people uncomfortable. I like that, and I want that as that is my way of allowing people in, to give them a sense of certain things that I feel at particular moments, if only for a short time. I am not just immersing people into this aesthetic visual world, but I am using the music that I create to integrate the visual and the aural, to make something that is more than the sum of its parts.

So back to what it is that I want, what kind of experience I am after. What is the purpose of Room 3? Simply put, I want Room 3 to be the integrated accumulation of all that I have been working towards. This is my chance to really show not only my aesthetic sensibility, but to also highlight what that sense of aesthetics means to the work as a whole. I want the experience to incorporate aspects of calm but ultimately to have people leave feeling unsettled. I want the hair on the back of your neck to stand up and for you to feel a mental itch. If the work were to be realised right now, I would say that the purpose of the work is to drown you in my anxieties and to allow someone else to feel them, to truly know the level and depth of someone else’s fears. And I want it to look good.
For the moment I feel pretty I have said everything there is to say. The sun has broken through the haze, so it’s time for me to frolic.