I had just finished my exams, celebrated my birthday and got on a flight London to Seattle.
I found myself arriving at a 22 buck a night air bnb in Highline on the outskirts of Seattle with a quarter full suitcase and lots of time to absorb my new home, write my dissertation, and quickly explore the city in five days before catching the greyhound to Portland.
I loved where I was staying instantly. A wooden structure, shared between three of us, just the right dynamics of chats, learning about our differences and expectations en transit, keeping sweet vibes throughout and respecting each other’s time needs and privacy. I loved waking up surrounded by the alpine greenness of pnw. Got my Orca loaded, and picked my daily trips between jumping on the 35min bus journey to the city centre, or 35 min walk to the coast.
Seattle is where my journey begun, and where it ended.
I got caught on the rising tide on a private beach, I studied in the most quaint little library in Fremont, strolled in unexpected familiarity up and down University Way and experienced the awe of Japanese tourists in Suzzallo and Allen Libraries the setting of some of the Harry Potter scenes.
Seattle is the uber cool without the forced coolness. It is grounded, down to earth, green, gorgeous, creative and blatant.
I couldn’t have ever imagined Seattle would have made such a fundamental mark and given me so many beautiful memories from this two month trip, and without sparing any important details, I couldn’t have asked for more.
Other than to return, again and again to soak up the atmosphere before I move on again.
Can’t say I knew much about this artist. A big fan of Levy Gorvy gallery, we went there unplanned to check what wonderful work they would have had on show.
Linking the concept of body and mind, Clemente, with soft pastel presentations, unravels stories of primal desires and sexual exposures whilst taking on representations of portraits and bodily figures on their own or in intimate interactions to challenge the angle of societal and cultural assumptions of the psyche.
Everyone should read Nick’s beautifully empathetic, humility fuelled, comicly crafted answers, coming from a big pool of love for his fans.
I first encountered his music as a punk/gothy teen at the Rebound club in Athens and my mature years had me thinking he needs to grow up and out of the pool of self-absorbsion and then his son died, and that was the fundamental lifetime event that I perceive when he did. We so need loss of life to define our reality and reconnect us with life again.
My girlfriend, a woman I love through soaring heaven and table-flipping hell, refuses to read any of my writing because she always sees some hint of infidelity, resentment, or perhaps madness in it. How do I get her to understand that just because I might write a poem about some lusty girl I saw on the train I don’t actually want to sleep with another woman?
CIRCIUM, COLORADO, USA
Tom Waits famously wrote “You are innocent when you dream”, yet dreams are not nearly as innocent as they seem. Neither are songs nor poetry. Songwriting and poetry are perilous callings, full of intrigue and infidelity. They are covert undertakings that creep around our deepest and most hazardous needs. They are not for the squeamish or the eager to please.
I believe you when you say you don’t want to sleep with the ‘lusty girl on the train’ – the problem is what you want to do is actually worse. You want to write a poem about her. To write a song or a poem about another human being can be one of the most intensely intimate acts a person can perform, it is an act of profound, unblinking contemplation, a near religious meditation on that moment of carnal recognition.
Listen to Patti Smith’s version of ‘Gloria’, where she has taken Van Morrison’s already wolfish classic and expanded it into a supercharged religious rumination on lust.
I look out the window
See a sweet young thing
Humpin’ on the parking meter
Leanin’ on the parking meter
Patti Smith’s ‘Gloria’ is not concerned so much with the actual sexual encounter, but rather with the brutal carnality and religious ecstasy of language itself. It is one of the most demented displays of predatory sexual desire ever recorded. Yet, it is beyond sex. It is even beyond worship. It is poetry. The “sweet young thing” that is “humpin’ on the parking meter” is your “lusty girl on a train”.
Gloria, Peggy Sue, Billie Jean, Angie, Delilah, Fernando, Jolene, Ruby, Maggie May, Chuck E., Sharona, Sara, Suzanne, Sweet Caroline and, indeed, Deanna – these names live on, as sacrificial lambs, compulsively sexualised in our collective consciousness.
My song ‘Deanna’ was seen as a particularly brutal act of betrayal, and thirty years on I still haven’t been fully forgiven. I console myself with the thought that I was unflinching in my duties as a songwriter and in doing so wrote a song that brought joy to the lives of many, even though it broke a heart (or two) in the process.
From one wordsmith to another, and from someone who has spent a considerable amount of a long and contentious career in the songwriter’s doghouse, that’s the name of the game, Circium. Harsh as it is, we spend our lives walking on the hearts and messy eggshells we have smashed in order to make the omelet that feeds the multitudes.
I can perfectly understand why you want your girlfriend to read your stuff, as we poets and songwriters often have little else to offer than our words, and of course our perverse little truths. However, your poems are intimations of an eroticized and imaginative adventure of which your partner is excluded. It’s little wonder she might be reluctant to get involved.
Having said that, over time I have discovered great poetic and personal value in writing about the familiar, that which is in front of you, that which you see every day, that which sleeps beside you, for often that quotidian presence is the most extraordinarily complex and dangerous thing of all. It holds a looking glass up to beautiful and terrible truths that live inside us. As we look into our lover’s eyes and see our reflected selves, our courage as writers is tested and enlarged.
The girl on the train will always be there, forever travelling through that imaginative space, but maybe the challenge for you as a poet lies within the intricate wonder of the one who sits before you. She is, after all, your mirror.
Restricted images hide a story. Retelling the story by slicing away the margins is how tabloits make headlines. The most extreme, the better. It may not make sense, but the readers’ shock deters them from revisiting and unpacking the reality.
This introduction of new journalism made it into our every day lives. It trimmed the stories to polarising and accusatory as the norm.
For example, see this image in its entirety.
What information does this image contain that is useful to you? The path, the river, the people in the distance, the dog, the season. Is the dog seeking your attention by waiting on you?
Now, what story does the image below tell?
Consider your first thoughts looking at this image. Is the dog angry, about to react, or playful, is the ground cold and wet?
The second story has dramatised the narrative by removing useful information that would have told the story in all its complexity. It automatically polarised understanding by simplification. The narrative is cut short and the story is left for the viewer to interpret.
Now imagine the text defining the already minimised story.
Dog stares before it runs away, or attacks.
Greying dog lost in the winter.
By doing so we have already disassociated the image from the reality.
Next time you see a close up in the news, ask yourself, what is the purpose of such trimming and what are you missing out in terms of information.
Photography is a gift of storytelling. Butchering details, however insignificant they may appear, is a political decision made by editorial professionals serving singular story telling.
You don’t have to consume what is given and to enrich your understanding ask the questions that can better inform you.
I went to the UK launch of the Judy & Punch movie at the Picturehouse Central near Picadilly Circus.
The event had a live puppet show and actors portraying the audience husslers you’d get in the 17th century pre show crowds.
Drinks flowing, the pre movie event was comic, dark and intense with high pitched call outs and bashing noises, floating between comedy, with hints of tragedy, to fairy tale like medieval perkiness.
Now onto the movie.
Set in the mountain village of Seaside, the scenes are made in 17th century English/western European surroundings with a forest, unwavering views over the mountains and further away and filled with all the weird and wonderful characters you’d find in the dark streets of London mid century.
The story of the name Seaside goes like that. The villagers believed the sea would rise to near the top of the mountain, making their village a seaside settlement. They went on as far as building boats, which coincidentally and comically the housekeeper of Judy & Punch wonders what happened to them.
The script takes you through the success of a puppeteer couple who have returned to Seaside after the money and drink thirsty husband burned through their earnings from the big shows in the Big Smoke.
They start very successful shows at the village, waiting on the day talent spotters will come through and open up a new chance for a show in the city.
Whilst all of this rolls out, the husband keeps on failing. Whilst the wife (Judy and female puppeteer) goes out for the day, he gets drunk, nearly forgets a crawling baby to the fireplace, chases a dog for stealing his breakfast sausages and trips over throwing the baby out of the window into the dense thick forest down the mountain.
The wife returns (Judy) and the fight kicks off where he leaves her for dead in the forest. Nearby travellers/White witches find her, bring her back to health and before they move on their next journey, go back to the village to tell some truths about Mr Punch, who is about to hang the elderly housekeepers to clear his name of his wife’s and baby’s disappearance.
I won’t spoil the finale. From second to second I couldn’t predict what would happen. All I can reveal is that’s the first movie that I watched mesmerised without noticing how the time went past.
Go check it out for yourself and tell me what you think.
I don’t believe in God, not in the traditional way anyway. But I do believe in the power of gratitude and appreciation towards people who have come to your life to reflect a mirror of your self, to ascent and revalue what you hold dearly inside of you.
I will begin with the story of how I met Michael. Some four and some years ago. Through a common acquaintance who knew I was visiting Portland, Oregon.
Michael is a philosopher. One who has jumped the academic ship to share his true passion over the community waves in that beautiful Pacific northwestern part of the world.
Throw Michael a dice and you’ll get the idea back kindly explored twice. His accessible, empathetic yet unafraid to challenge skill says as much about his heart as much as about his mind which is open, loving, honest and growing coffee fuelled day by the day.
I need not to say I feel fortunate to have spent some hours with him and his wife talking through everything and anything, tipping things on their head for the purpose of our own individual truth as much as for those around us.
Next up is Kostas. I met one of his closest mates some 25+ years ago, his wife around 3 years ago, so the journey to him is a little deflected by circumstance.
Kostas is a scientist, with a research project in Svalbard in Arctic Norway, an explorer and a dj by the day.
I will begin my journey with the most recent interaction, coming back from my rowing training to a text from Andreas saying tune in to this radio station, our pal is playing some music.
Kostas is the guy who managed somehow to dig the most beautiful sounding punk rock tunes right uplifting and melodic enough, for a two hour set on a Sunday morning. Towering at 6 feet, this guy curated a set through geography, turned political reflection, turned dedication to his friends. And all with the same passion as he talks about the intricate details of his research lab and in kindness and humour to his team and fellows.
And last but never least, is Andreas. My pal of a lifetime. The person that knows himself so well, that he understands me and is honest as much.
We met in Rebound, the then only dark wave club in Athens, still going with freakishly beautiful human beings rocking to some of the most etheric yet often screetching 80s sounds.
Andreas is kind and generous and has the ability to conversate with anyone whilst maintaining a uniquely unpretentious level. He knows his nuclear physics, no pun intended, and I’ve seen people feeling intimidated by him including my own father who has known him since I was a late teen kid.
For me in many ways I noticed how respectful he is of my partner avoiding to offend by calling or texting, and how subtly he presents he’s there when I’m on my own, not for his benefit, but for an upgrade to a reference point we may have discussed before.
Most importantly, I feel like I can be anyone and everyone around him. After all, I have grown up parallel to his own journey and we have seen each other grow up, change, contract and deconstruct over a fairly long time too.
I am so incredibly lucky to have him in my life.
My dedication post to the three men is made in honour of how I grew up by knowing them, and still grow today. Neither of them became who they are today because of their wives, mothers, other women in their lives. Surely their partners have supported their development, but it’s all down to those boys doing it alone and remaining truthful to themselves.
I know there is a lot of material about loving and protecting men out there, but unless they had looked inwardly, there is no way anyone could have done that for themselves.
It all begun late at night walking the streets of Rome.
Me and a bunch of Italians, in our 20s where walking to a place I can’t quite remember now.
I can recall the excitement of the new experience ahead, a new thing to discover, having fun, drifting from one place onto another.
Coming back to art school, developing the photos, I realised having taken a photo of our feet, walking. This small and unimportant detail became the point of recall of what the hang out felt like at that point in time.
The style, became a thing over the years.
Photos of shoes on feet in places. They were taken when there was time to absorb the moment. When life paused. A documentary without the documentation, yet a personal moment of just being.
The following photos follow the trail of moments over the past twelve months or so, from early 2018.
This is something I wanted to do for awhile. There may be more from the past in blog posts to come, or of moments from further back into the past.
From the Contemporary Art in the Global (MSc School of Oriental and African Studies)
Artists: Derek Walcott, Mark Rothko, Frank Bowling, Atsuho Tanaka, Sammi Baloji
The project visits the theme of darkness as it is approached by the selected artists through painting, poetry, installation art and photography. Dark times have for centuries been associated with the Dark Ages, the victorian times, the plague, III Reich, and the Crusades. Is darkness created in the name of God to entice a journey in reflection? Darkness in this exhibition will be visited through the artists’ own periods and reflections of darkness. Starting with the more recent Baloji’s photographs have a strong post-environmental sentiment, yet all artists reflect on humanity’s over-consuming framework of aimless societal misappropriations maintained by irrelevance. The artworks date from post-war period, aligned with the more recent works of Baloji’s diptych, for the provision of a bridging point on perpetual concerns about the loss of communities, citizenship and human rights that have been exaggerated, yet feel less visual, for the absence of blood. The art on show reflects as much today, as they did at the time of making, that we are entering an autumn of social conscience exasperated by the informality and misappropriation of technology coercing the psyches onto a temporal loss and inaction. Yet there must be resistance. Art is also a mirror up to the society, ourselves, in hope each individual visiting this exhibition will reflect a little and make a small step of resistance that translates into a big change. When we don’t speak, we maintain darkness. Northwest indigenous communities have talked of ‘silence’ as a skill. ‘Silence’ used in diplomacy can present a show of arrogance or absence as in demonstration against what I’d said. Against that theory, words presented hide the things that happen in silence, including their potential to tell a different story. Bringing artworks made by Rothko, Bowling, Tanaka, Walcott, and Baloji together distinctively plays to the audience responses, being of equal therapeutic importance as they were to the artists at the time of making. The five artworks have incredible ‘enlightening’ power’, offering a quiet introspective space for soul searching. We would like visitors to individual notice which one artwork they are drawn to on their individual experiential pattern route, free from want and free from fear.
Rothko. M, ‘Orange and Yellow’, 1956:
Rothko “Silence is so accurate.” Yellow and orange make green; green the colour signifying life, renewal, growth, fertility, harmony, nature, freshness, energy, and safety. Rothko never wanted association with any art movement however he was pigeonholed as an abstract expressionist. The simplicity of Orange and Yellow cannot go without noting the technical challenge of keeping the colours separate so they don’t produce green. Is the artist pointing out that we are in the process of exploring our spirituality, and have not reached a harmonious existence yet? A quest for ascension, Orange and Yellow has a ritualistic quality to the universe framed within the shuttle golden Buddhist orange outline. His work has often been described for its meditative qualities whilst remaining large, and non representational. Barney Newman, the man inspired title of Frank Bowling’s work in the exhibition, saw himself as a political artist who has also shown his work outside Rothko’s Chapel in Houston, Texas.
Bowling. F, ‘Who’s afraid of Barney Newman’, 1968
The painting is another major African flag colour representation Bowling is known for. Bowling is of Guyanese descent, a descendant of a slave, still surrounded by racism and race assumptions with participation in the First World Festival of Negro Arts, whilst being the first black artist elected in the Royal Academy of Arts with the artist recently receiving an OBE, continuing the colonial mode of tradition. His work was also shown at Afro Modern exhibition at Tate Liverpool in 2010’s, for significance the port of Liverpool having hosted the largest number of slave trade shipments in England. The question is does Bowling rebel or commercialise further the idea of Africa in a place of exoticism and colonial frames? ‘Who’s afraid of Barney Newman’ was made in 1968, placed two years after the Guyanese independence from the British. Was Bowling raising awareness at a time when slave trade destinations were gaining independence from colonial rule?
Tanaka, A. ‘Electric dress’ 1956
Atsuko Tanaka had one said “I wanted to shatter stable beauty with my work,” highlighting how domestic objects are but beautiful and disruptive from the lack of presence, yet plethora of being. Tanaka’s silence covered by the bulbs in the original artwork, from a position of an emerging arts movement, could have represented silence as an imposition for a projection of power. In international relations frameworks, silence is mostly imposed by psychological violence, affecting the corporal of the most vulnerable, women, people of colour and those not integrated in the functionality of post Colonialism, and neoliberalism in the global and constitute political discourses and practice. (Dingli, Bhambra and Shilliam, 2009)
Walcott, D. ‘Love after Love’, 1948–1984
Undoubtedly there is a pause in Walcott’s ‘Love after Love’ poem. Who inspired the poet to write this? Is it advice, or as I have always read this, as a love poem to oneself? Derek Walcott passed away two years ago and his sea breeze of poetry is a timeless reminder to leave the insecurities we all carry, behind, and just be. The meditative quality in the thought of spending time with oneself is not unlike Rothko’s iconographical ‘Orange and Yellow’. Does it really matter who’s heart is broken or who broke whose heart? If anything, the world would become a better place if each and everyone reflected on the poem a little every day. After all, through love there’s light and the light lost in things that don’t work, is light lost.
Baloji, S. ‘Kumbuka’, 2003
Stylistically ethnographical, the photographer has removed the orientalism and exoticism of indigenous communities, removed the smiles and colours and yellow grey toned the landscape, to represent Congolese as the Congolese see themselves. In this diptych he has interestingly kept women seperate to men. He plays with the Primitivist Theory of the artist as an ethnographer, whilst placing it in a contemporary context. Artwork Labels
Image from eu.art.com Rothko’s goal was “the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer.” Rothko was known to suffer depression, reflected by the frame as a limit to happiness. Rothko was Latvian and Russian who went to primary and high school in Portland, Oregon – the ‘weird’ US city because of its rebel inquisitive population. His work invites the viewer to explore ‘metaphysical realities of their own consciousness’. The red a reflection emotional forces fighting nature a sea of blood at sunset, framed in limitation, stopping time, a photograph. The mesmerising quality of this work, is attracting attention even for non believers. The quality of light and Rothko’s interest in creating light reflects his religious iconographic approach to his frames.
Image from https://www.wikiart.org/en/frank-bowling/who-s-afraid-of-barney-newman-1968 Bowling has expressed his frustration in an interview with Laura Barnett for the Guardian: “It seemed that everyone was expecting me to paint some kind of protest art out of postcolonial discussion. For a while I fell for it.” The Rastafarian flag of green yellow and orange, signifying the displaced africans living in exile as a result of the slave trade. Unlike Rothko’s clearly defined frames, Bowling’s use of colours is blending into one, another around the edges and without affecting or altering the core of the three colours. Could the merging of colours also point to different ethnicities merging into one in the Caribbean and South America, as a result of colonial rule. Think of the children of Chinese, Indian, Syrian and Spanish immigrants on post-colonial lands, the ‘dougla’, the ‘koolie’, the ‘red skin spanish’. Or did he attempt to define frayed around the edges, maybe from wear and tear? The impact of slavery remains as unaddressed as it was in 1968 as it is today. Microaggressions are all apparent. The artist, a slave descendant, opposed the idea of representing Caribbean art.
Image from youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUV-v3xI7Lw Atsuho Tanaka’s electric dress, still lighting gallery spaces and discussions across the world, even after the artist’s death, in a timeless manner, originally the bulbs laid to cover her body, now exhibited without it. In the West, a Christmas tree is something beautiful, pretty and a tacky representation of a happy time. Tanaka was one of the more influential Gutai art movement artists, believed by many to deserve the leadership position within the rebellious post-war Japanese artist group, a but hindered from it due to her being a woman. Tanaka’s work is symbolic to false light, untruth, prettiness by misrepresentation, a wonderful objectification of many beliefs changing and evolving in the years the work was created. When the artist wore the artwork, around 200 light bulbs flickered every two and half minutes, like a pulsating body, inviting the viewer to view it a ‘living’ being without consideration of the being inside. Gutai translates as ‘concreteness’ born from a society that advocated for the loss of individualism.
Image from https://www.christystich.com/blog/2016/2/4/my-most-treasured-poem Derek Walcott passed away less than two years ago, a Caribbean child of a slave, lived most of his life in Trinidad and St Lucia, and was awarded with the Nobel Prize in 1990’s. Walcott’s poem is a reminder of being one with ourselves, salvaging ourselves with acts of faith ‘Give wine. Give Bread’ playacting Jesus proclamation of memory in the act of sharing love towards a progression towards oneself to a place where our reflection in the mirror doesn’t feel ugly or drained anymore, but celebratory. Walcott’s exploration of European and African cultural adaptations within the Caribbean, and the multiculturality of the West Indies is reflected throughout his work. Walcott’s poem has a nostalgia about the mistake of trying to fit in other people’s shoes, and when ‘The time will come’ as in the time we will be ready or will be forced upon us to reflect in being at peace with oneself reminding us it is entirely achievable as ‘Sit. Feast on your life.’ is one of the few things in life left we have entire freedom to do on our own.
Images from #sammybaloji instagram page Sammy Baloji is a Democratic Republic of Congo born photographer working internationally, with photographs represented in a wide range high profile african art fairs and collective exhibitions. Born in a country known for the inherent political fragility, threat to human life, animal habitat and near extinction of species. His work is very much representing a colour code for how DRC is seen abroad and how it feels to Congolese people from within the country. Baloji having participated in Venice Bienalle in an exhibition on Belgium’s colonial rule, he notes sharing and learning about a specific time period “To talk about our reality, and also to dream.”
Mark Rothko, (b. 1903, Daugavpils, Latvia), Orange and Yellow, 1956, 231.1 x 180.3 cm, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, US
Frank Bowling, (b. 1934 , Bartica, Guyana), Who’s Afraid of Barney Newman, 1968, acrylic paint on canvas, 236.4 x 129.5 cm, Tate
Atsuho Tanaka, (b. 1932, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan), Electric Dress, 1956, 165 X 80 X 80 cm, courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo
Derek Walcott (b. 1930, Castries, Saint Lucia), Love After Love, Collected Poems, 1948–1984
Sammy Baloji (b.1978, Lumumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo), Kumbuka!, 2006, Photo collage, various venues)
Foster, H., Marcus, G. and Myers, F. (1995). The Traffic in Culture. California: University of California Press, pp.302-309.
Bishop, C. (2006). The Social Turn; Collaboration and its Discontents. Artforum International.