Thursday, 5 June 2014

Normal love

Somebody says “you've lost weight,” and you're not quite sure if it's a compliment or an accusation. Then your wife hears the comment and looks across accusingly, as if she knew all along about some dark secret. How seriously ill you really are, how you are in denial and refuse to get a check up and so acknowledge your terrible condition. Then of course it may be a compliment, you've been working out, cycling and taking the stairs, eating less crap, respecting your body an so on. Who would ever believe such things? So the statement hangs there, floating in some twilight place, unable to be taken forward but still living and breathing in a hopeless state of purgatory. The lost weight that cannot quite be explained by your current known lifestyle choices. Will anything be said about better fitting, better quality clothes, your posture or demeanour, the fact that your just sitting up straight and smiling? I don't know. 

“You've lost weight” becomes a criminal sentence, a judgement on your behaviour and habits because clearly they make no sense because right now, in this room, nobody can quite align your physical appearance with the person that they thought you were. You are a misfit and a fraud, some shadowy figure who has dealt in some black and Devilish secret deal and rendered yourself, just for the moment, just in this instant, as a thinner, falser, less passable version of yourself. Perhaps, in the light of this you should just go ahead with new and radical looks; get those neck and face tattoos, shave your head, get piercings, have that gender reassignment surgery you always promised yourself in later life, have a tummy tuck or a gastric band, become a heroin addict, join UKIP, an irritating lung removed or getting a nose job. 

All of these might be more acceptable than appearing to be a little more slender which, a result has propelled you out there into deep and misunderstood space and into oblivion. Am I any thinner? To be honest I don't know, I don't even know what weight I should be. If I look at myself in the mirror out the shower I look the same. I have a paunch, I have a gut, a small one anyway and nothing to worry about. I just eat carefully and I do take a mix of regular and occasional vigorous exercise and I fidget but I'm fine, I'm OK, I suffer an innate and unshakable sense of my own strength and well being. I refuse to be ill, overweight or underweight. I make these choices but avoid all the factual baggage, all the reality, notes and regimes. I am a pillar of self awareness and luck, genetic error and some kind of ongoing applied judgement. All these things work, they come together. They work for me.  

So I'm me, fat or thin me, normal, plump or skinny me. You see it's all in the eye of the beholder and those beholder's eyes do often play tricks and the tricks are complicated by the tongue and the brain and the emotions and drivers that compete and criticise and compliment. People are looking, people are looking out for me and you all the time. They see us in our layers and out of them. They want to see how you're measuring up or if you're not and that's fine but as for me, well I'm moving. I'm moving very quickly in my own personal path, I've established a trajectory, a calculation I made, verified and acted upon. Now I'm accelerating, shifting through the spaces high above, across and through all the words and well meant or casual and cruel observations. It's confusing at times and lonely but it's a direction.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014


I may have murdered a man on Google Street View, outside of a stranger's home, on a street I don’t quite know, as unfamiliar cars passed by and fellow pedestrians ignored us; but it was done in broad daylight. All unfamiliar except for the all seeing eye of the Google VW Beetle with all that revolving apparatus on the roof. There am I, a media star. Blood on my hands and blood on the street, we left a deep pool I had to step over or was that just a trick of the light? Perhaps there's a footprint. Incriminating evidence, circumstances and complicated data gathering equipment. Perhaps it's all just make believe but who believes in make believe? The street they seem to believe they own, all public space is gobbled up and shared, a view now captured along with me and my victim. Rendered and spun into a mix of the truth, the unrecognisable and the day itself. The hour, minute and second with digital timestamp. My motives remain unrecorded, they can't get inside my head, yet. My crime, a sorry sight that will live on in countless viewings and scattered, fiddling searches, on phones and screens. Most likely largely ignored or just filed under those WTF comments. “Some dead guy.” “Some other guy standing.” “It looks fake to me.” “He looks guilty.” “I'm sure he did it.” “Oh, I heard about this.” “It made the Daily Mail and Reddit.” “What business was it they were promoting?” “Where is that place anyway?” “Next shot will have a dog on skateboard or some party goer struggling home wearing a horse's head and no pants.” “I'm not sorry for him.” “Set up.”

It was a sunny day then, when they stole my image and hijacked my soul in that drive-by way that is neither being witness or following a conscience. Just the relentless capturing of locations and details with no intervention or judgement calls. There's no reverse key or rewind. Why edit out the shit anyway? Why bother about what's there? It is what it is, we made a cosmic tattoo that loops around the sun and everything else in 365 days but never gets dizzy. Perhaps I should hide behind a tree or a rubbish bin. Turn and walk in the opposite direction. Pull my shirt over my head. When the officers of the law come in a month's time what will they find? I hid the body, I put whee only a drone would find it and they're not ready yet. We still have some use for the humans. They can search, they can film and of course they can just get on and kill one another. That's all very uncivilised, just what we hoped for.

I should tell you all about my motive, what led me here. Those events, those unlikely circumstances, what he did to deserve it. What he said and stole. What I lost and didn't have. Why they drove me here and made me do it. Why I hurt so much, my humiliation, my loss. I heard the words inside my head, I couldn't do anything to stop it. They just kept talking and then it clicked on me. Almost an innocent man, almost but for one rash action, almost innocent. That camera isn't good enough to catch the pain etched on my face like laser surgery, no lines or signs. And that black, dense mass in my heart is outside of the spectrum of the polished lens. A heart that colour isn't even a colour. That's what we murders know that the rest of you don't. How fucking black it all is and how badly represented we all feel by ourselves. Even when we're stuck out there, hung up in a real estate display or on the edge of a pamphlet photo. The walking ghost of Street View dispatches another body to the other place where even the www wont easily reach.

There's no sensation of speed, travel or movement. We freeze in the pane, on your screen, caught in the act. Static in a sickly acceptance that petty crime will come along, repeat and, despite the politician's good words and the promises of funding, won't go. So let's just record the footprints on the sound stage, the scenery and the back lot landscapes. They'll easily mask all that social disquiet, the rumblings.  Let the bad behaviour play and turn viral, it doesn't matter so long as you can find your way out, or the plumber, or that rental bargain and as for the story of the murder? Well that just happens in other people's families and other peoples lives. Doesn't it?

Monday, 2 June 2014

Life before death

“We have almost no consideration for profit and that is probably why we are highly profitable. You can put that theory right into your corporate pipe and then smoke it. Some. In fact it's not even a fuckn' theory, it's a fact and that's why I've a Maserati parked outside the building doorway right now and for all I know I may have left the key in the ignition and the motor running. Why don't you go out and just grab yourself a free ride and see how far you can get? And while your doing that I'll have another glass of this fine French Brandy or maybe suck on a Cuban cigar. You see that's rock and roll and that's money.”

“ The thing about art is that it doesn't really exist, it's just stuff brought together, or other stuff taken apart and then along comes somebody and stands it up. Well once it's standing up, there in the public domain you have three choices really. You can ignore it, walk by and just deny it's there altogether, show it an unmeasured level of indifference. It'll fade away, into the background, some geeks might like it, there will income, low rents and crumbs from providers, recycling values, that's about it. Obscurity has it's appeal but it doesn't make you any real money.”

“You can hate it, throw things at it, criticize it, burn it down, run it out of town as the most dangerous thing you every seen, you could just say it's just a piece of talentless shit. There's a lot of it about. You might, if you've got some history get valuable publicity and that's ok, most likely you'll just be seen as a bad investment and then you'll be ostracised. Believe me to be ignored is worse than anything, worse than bullying or violence, but that's where you end. I reckon you get three chances, blow all three, they hate you three times in a row, three turkeys, three strikes and you're so far out you're not even in the same country anymore. That bad. End of that story.”

“But the third way is that for some inexplicable reason (or not) you really like it and they like it, it's brilliant. It's special and unique and work of certain genius and what's more it may well have some commercial value. It's worth money. Who'd have thought that the dumb ass idea of yours mister/miss writer, artist, poet, musician etc. would be worth something? Next thing you know big boys like Apple or Samsung or Ford or Exon want to give you support in your venture, use your sweet image, your sound, your association, you can smile all the way up there on the media free ride. They just come along and shovel you right up like you landed on the street from the ass of a horse and now they want to sprinkle you amongst the roses where they think you'll do them some good.”

“So what have you got to show me?” I sat down in front of his desk, laid back a bit on the chair and put both of my feet on his desktop edge and smiled. He grinned back and nodded. I grinned wider. We were going somewhere now. I took an envelope from my inside pocket, removed my feet from the desk and adopted a more gracious position as I handed it to him. He smiled and ripped it open. There was a folded note inside and a memory stick. The stick fell as he tore the envelope and landed on the desktop with a clatter.

“It's all you really need,” I said. “This is the work you've waited on. Push it forward the right way, bearing in mind profit isn't everything and...we'll make a tidy sum.” I sat back and produced my most winning, confident smile yet. Or so I thought. Ideas have value, even bad ideas, even good ideas badly executed and if he thought that it was all some kind of saleable art then I wasn't going to argue. We'll be dead a long time while the others discuss, write books and film documentaries about  wether or not it all was what we said it was. History isn't a bother to me, I'm content to help make it happen  because I know I won't have to live through it. That's some one else’s' problem.

“Damian Hirst designs a block of apartments, condos, whatever you want to call it, it's a holistic art and lifestyle project. We build it in Los Angeles, that's the first. He designs them inside and out, nobody can change things once they've signed up to our management scheme but they are there, living, breathing, sleeping and fucking in an appreciating artwork that's their home. Their piece of action, their share of the prestige, their investment or pension plan or whatever. Then we build another block in Miami, in Paris or in London, in Sydney. Wherever, but up to a limit...and we control all the business, all the ins and outs, all the transactions and all the media interest. The money will be coming out of all our ears. You need to phone this number.”

He read the note and put the stick into a laptop then dialled the number. I zoned out, my part was over for now. I stood and looked out of the window. I was in a dream. So I watched as the light began to dim, the sky was changing, the clouds running and stumbling, fading into the east as quickly as they were replenished from the west taken back up to some other bulbous, fattened place of fury. Soon the heavy air released the rain and the ground breathed in. I wanted to run out and get myself wet, soak my shirt, stick out my tongue and hold my head back. Do a kind of chicken dance to celebrate another day of rain. I smiled inside myself, I chose not to give anything away. Tomorrow would do, that's a different day and more my day. This day is too damp, too heavy for a show of emotion or uncontrolled happiness. This was all about art after all.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Dark Materials

"I like it in the dark. It stays dark for long periods, now the power has been cut, now the candles are burning low and petering out. Here I am, in a misty, musty gloom, fed up with politicians and people saying one thing and thinking another, doing one thing and believing another, voting for things they neither understand nor believe and stuck in systems and set ups that have been proven to fail time and time again. So now I'm here, where I've always been, in a grey place. I look down at my hands, rough and dirty, fingernails broken, grim and dirt in them, pitted and grained. I rub the dry palms together, wearing through the skin, the hard working skin, the tough and worn skin. The hands of a worker. Now I'm at rest, sitting on a wooden box, staring into the dark and thinking dark thoughts with clear edges. It's the clear edges that define the problem, finding and setting limits. Mine are moving, I'm on a journey, I'm an explorer.

My eyes have become accustomed to the light, I see further but not far. My horizon is limited, I pace around the interior of the house, now the world is bigger but never big. I never wanted a big world. All I wanted was enough of a world to explore. One without people and disturbance and those mas of ideas that come through the letterbox on flyers, pamphlets, propaganda, news sheets and circular letters. I see them and the complex systems they purport to represent, the ideas they push, the interaction they call for but these things I ignore. I ignore then like the knocks on the door, the silent pushes on the dumb doorbell, the voices, pointed and filtered through the letterbox. That split little portal into daylight, bright stabs that lead outside to cash machines and buses, trampled leaves and rainy conversations. The occasional twilight run to the corner shop, foraging supplies and holding up activity. Maybe searching  further afield to replenish tools and materials, skip diving or picking things up. I need the memory the outside to dig out the inside. Digging out the inside and putting it outside. I always found places, places are everywhere if you only look.

Then there's my downward trajectory. My return to the swamp and the evolutionary source, into the black and crawling, crawling through the chambers and constructions. Deconstructing and breaking through. I have this idea of where I'm going, this ideal that forms in my head, my progression down into the bowels and the source. Chasing drips and rivers, breathing bad air, foul and reeking, hot and sticky like some escaping prisoner, unsure of the root to some final freedom. That was what I wanted, that's what I'm still trying to find down there. 

Now I'm in a rest period. My note book and pencil lines define the day. Tear up the time into manageable bundles, into pieces of work and pieces of rest, pieces of reflection and pieces of sleep. I defy the world in this with my energy and hygiene, with my grand design and my scheme, my solitude and silence and my grim determination. You could say that I was living the dream, my dream, perhaps your nightmare, perhaps your curious indulgence. In this project my superiority is clear, my attack is to the underbelly, the bottom to the top, sailing in my muddy sea, caked in the hard waves and beyond the fickle weather. I am no slave but I work as if enslaved. That's all part of the twist and the pleasure. 

So you have me, you see me, but you don't. One day they'll bring me out in a coffin, or dirty like a dead dog from the gutter on an ambulance stretcher. Glenn Miller or Count Basie will play in the background as the neighbours look on, nodding and saying “well I never”, or just whispering, hands across their treacherous mouths. That was always what they did. My body, now dead with dirty nails and blood dried across my forehead covered in a sheet or zipped in a bag like a blitz victim or a battlefield casualty. It will all be seen as as some kind of unexplained, inexplicable mystery. One for the files and the college courses and a para or two in the Daily Mail. Then whisked away down the damp streets for the autonomy and ambiguity of the morgue and the final fire. Where might they scatter me or bury me deep? I should write down my wishes. Of course I wont care and I don’t care, my soul has passed on, ranging back and forth but mostly down, down in those tunnels. Care is for the weak and the living.

Your houses will slowly crumble, your streets they crack and subside. Doors no longer fit and windows wont close. The gutters leak and there are cracks, slim and unnoticed then great and yawning. Then the masonry starts to fall, trees bend and old people trip on the pavement cracks and the distorted kerbs. I did it all. I built my empire, my tunnel kingdom, under your home, your English castles. I tore away God's good earth with my bare hands and stolen shovels. I propped it up with rotten timber and broken furniture. An earthquake sitting inside a time bomb. A challenge for all the fine engineers with their degrees and their concrete pouring techniques. We'll see how quickly and how costly it is to fill my underground honeycomb. There will be blood and money, for miles in all directions. North, south, east and west. You see I am that thing...

I am that modern phenomenon, recognised, the weirdo, that thing you dread. You up there, paying your stupid mortgage every month, struggling to cope, keeping the faith and walking in the light. I was there, under your very feet, under your kitchen and living room, digging away beneath your possessions, your investments and all you hold dear. The subliminal secret warrior and terrorist staring up through the cracks in the floorboard. The dirty old bogeyman looking up your wife's skirt and giggling at your stupid little conversations. I was so inferior I just had to explore and travel the full spectrum to turn out so superior. As you shall all see. Meet me, see my handiwork, fifty years effort, sweat and hard labour for  the Mole Man of De Beauvoir Town."