Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Do you remember an exhibition in a car?

Mongolia by David Klasen

The curator of en route via another route commandeered a car of the Trans Siberian express train to Beijing. It left Moscow on September 12 2005, the day that England drew the fifth test to win back the ashes.

I would have loved to have been on that train:

• To have read out, live on Trans Siberian Radio, a Russian translation of Keith Arnatt’s ‘Is it possible for me to do nothing as my contribution to this exhibition?’

• To have released some balloons and watch them float into the big skies of the steppe bearing the slogan ‘all that is solid melts into air’

• To have sat in the dining car , seen the abandoned dinner on the table, and read Gabriel Kuri’s note in Russian explaining that the person who had purchased it had left in a hurry. To find out how many countries the train would have to pass through, and how many translations of the note would have to be made, before anyone took up the invitation to eat the dinner.

Well worth missing the cricket for!

Were you there? Did you enjoy it? Did anyone eat that dinner?

Friday, May 26, 2006


In 1970 Keith Arnatt produced a work of art entitled

‘Is it Possible for Me to Do Nothing as My Contribution to this Exhibition?’

The work consisted of a written statement in which he explored several different ways of doing nothing as a contribution to an exhibition.

All the ways of doing nothing that he identified, actually involved doing something. Even if that something was as simple as:

  • putting forward the idea ' I have done nothing' as a contribution to the exhbition
  • requesting some space within the exhibition in which 'to do nothing'
  • making the statement 'I will do nothing' and sticking to it for the duration of the exhibition

Arnatt was using conceptual art (art using ideas and language) to show the limits of conceptual art.

Lawrence Weiner made a famous statement about conceptual art to say that:
An artist can come up with an intention for a work of art and then:
• Might make it themselves
• Might get someone else to make it
• Might decide not to make the intention into a physical reality at all
Either way in Weiner’s view you still have a work of art that can be distributed, received and owned.

Arnatt has come up with an intention for a work of art that can not be made by the artist or by anyone else, and the intention of which can not be communicated by the artist to anyone else.

(I haven't been able to find the text of Arnatt's work on the web, but it is reprinted in full in the book 'Six Years' by Lucy Lippard.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Things on walls

Photo by ebmorse of 'The Wall that Went for a Walk' at Stormking USA

Andy Goldsworthy builds walls that have renounced their mission, forgotten the boundary line that they were supposed to demarcate, and gone for a walk. They wind their way around and between trees, up and down hills, and into and out of ponds.

Last year part of ‘The Wall that Went for a Walk’ at Grizedale Forest in the Lake District got blown down by the wind.

This month ‘s Art Monthly reports that Goldsworthy declined the Forestry Commission’s offer to repair the wall. Goldsworthy said that:

‘I knew that change would continue after the making of The Wall and that I could not dictate or determine what that change would be’

The writer and physisist David Bohm identified the tendency of us human beings to defend our thoughts and opinions, to take up fixed positions. Bohm wrote:

we often find that we cannot easily give up the tendency to hold rigidly to patterns of thought built up over a long time. This kind of thought leaves no room at all intellectually for any other possibility

Goldsworthy has resisted the temptation to attempt to defend his wall, and recognised that no fixed state is sustainable over time.

Even if the Forestry Commission fixed it this time, for how long would they keep repairing it: 30 years, 100 years?

The act of repairing the wall would have seen the wall take back its mission as a wall again, holding back nature and holding back time. The wall that went for a walk doesn’t hold back anything.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Post-global art

Jem Finer has meshed together the three spheres of the world wide web, the night sky and the earth.

He has found a website for every star : a website that names someone, somewhere or something on earth that shares or contains the name of the star.

You can find the links to these websites in 'On earth as it is in heaven', which provides access via his old readers digest atlas to a set of world maps: one global double page spread per constellation.

Each star in the consellation is plotted onto the atlas at the point of the earth where the person/thing/place that shares its name is located. Click on the star and the link takes you to the website that identified it. All the stars joined up by lines which make a new earthly shape for the constellation.

The picture above is the map for the constellation Orion . I was hoping that Jem would have found something about Betalgeuse in Guildford (where Arthur Dent thought that Ford Prefect came from). But instead the point is situated in New York, home of the Betalgeuse film and TV production company.

Stars, earthly towns and cities, websites, : lasting for billions of years, hundreds of years, years. When we come to map them we only have our human recognition of shape, our shared myths, and our understanding of words with which to map them with.

We have nothing anywhere near as potent and user friendly as the constellations with which to navigate our way around the world wide web.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Blank (700)

Making up a story for children is more fun than reading from a book.

Leaving some words blank for the kids to fill in is more fun than making up the whole story yourself.

Last night’s story went like this:

Two (blank) lived on the moon. Their house was on the edge of a (blank). In their bedroom was an enormous (blank) made out of (blank). In their living room was an enormous (blank) made out of (blank).

The blanks filled in by Andrew and Anna were:
1 children, 2 crater, 3 blanket, 4 lettuce, 5 sofa, 6 cucumber.

The last delivery rocket to the moon had been filled half with lettuce and half with cucumber.

There was no cucumber left after making the sofa so the family have been eating lettuce salad for the past seven weeks .

They have all been tempted to pick at the sofa to get some cucumber to liven up the lettuce salad. But so far they have managed to restrain themselves.

They next delivery rocket is scheduled to reach the moon at bedtime tonight. It is going to bring them (blank) and (blank).

Monday, May 15, 2006

The impossibility of choosing (433)

One week last summer I ran training courses in Glasgow and Manchester.

On the Tuesday night I was sitting out in George’s square, enjoying the Glasgow jazz festival, and wondering why I hadn’t followed the Scot in me and gone to University there when I was 18.

On the Wednesday night I was walking into Manchester’s Cornerhouse centre wondering why I hadn’t stayed followed the Smiths fan in me and gone to University there when I was 18.

It struck me that the two regrets were contradictory.

Some versions of quantum theory hold that for every choice you have made, the alternative paths that you didn’t take are followed by another you in a parallel universe.

Other theories state that if our universe is infinite in scope and duration then somewhere else in our universe, on a planet just like ours, another person just like you has taken/is taking/will take all the different paths that you chose not to take.

The ‘mis-guide to anywhere’ gives the following advice:

‘’in a place that is new to you, dream that you live there. Go on a quest to find this other self. Find the place you live; the place you work; the routes you take to see your family; the places where your friends hang out; your favourite places to eat or read or daydream; the places of crisis in this other life; the points of meeting and departure; the places of grief; the places of joy; the place where you can get the best plain pillowcase; the places where you can pick fruit from the trees; the place where you can get funny cards with the message spelled wrong; the places where your children might be born and the place where you might die. Live this other life for a day’’

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Nostalgia (253)

Donskibeat has uploaded onto You Tube a film called Morrissey - Charlie's bus.

It shows Morrissey and Jonny Marr in 1984, taking a group of young school kids on an open topped bus to a sunny Kew Gardens, where they meet Sandie Shaw. They find a nice place to sit and listen to Sandie sing 'Jeanne' while Jonny played guitar.

I love the contrast between the sun shining on an idyllic setting, and all the kids enjoying themselves, having an ice cream, and Sandie Shaw singing the saddest of all the Smiths songs
'Jeanne, I don't know what happiness means, but I've looked in your eyes, and its not there'
set in the bleakest description of late 70s Manchester
'Jeanne, there is ice in the sink where we bathe, how can you call this a home,when you know its a grave?'

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Conference (293)

I was in Manchester the other week, for the Records Management Society’s Conference.
In a break in the proceedings I visited the Cube (Centre for the Understanding of the Built Environment), to see their exhibition Found shared: the Magazine Photowork.

There is a good review of the exhibition by Redeye

Editors of Magazine photoworks collect already existing images and collage them together to make a magazine.

They look, feel and smell like convential magazines, but the experience of reading them is different. They do not attempt to inform or entertain you. They do not pretent to be ‘current’. The images inside them have a history, a previous life of their own. But you aren’t told what that previous life is. They are just presented as though those pictures were always meant to be grouped together.

The character of the magazine photoworks depends in part on where the editors get the pictures from:

Ohio finds its pictures in photographic archives, archives of different small societies or organisations. It takes these dull photos that would never see normally see the light of day, from totally unconnected archives, and presents them for you to read into them what you will.

Found is made up of bits of paper, notes and photographs that people have found in the street, or on trains, buses etc, and sent into Found. The Found website has things posted every day that people have sent in, but visually the magazine is more of a treat because of the effort that has gone in to fit all these things together on the pages to look like a magazine.

Permanent food takes their images from glossy magazines, and makes a new magazine out of them all that looks just as glossy, sensational and edgy as the type of magazines the pictures come from.

My favourite thing in the exhibition was a film called Helicopters made by Ohio. The film consisted of a succession of still pictures which happened to contain a helicopter, set to a musical background. In most of the pictures the helicopter was an incidental detail and in some it was just a smudge.

I chose to buy the latest issue of Permanent Food, mainly because on the contents page the section that started on page 73 was entitled ‘Back to the Old House’ (title of an old Smiths song). I have no idea whether the contents page was written by Permanent Food as some sort of commentary on the pictures they have brought together, or whether it was copied from another magazine and collaged into Permanent Food like all the rest of the pages.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Other peoples titles (28)

Its funny how the kids come up with their most philosophical questions when we are in the car.

Yesterday we were just turning out of our road when andrew (age 6) asked
'have you ever tasted anything in a dream?'

On the Isle of Wight we were driving to to Brading Roman Villa when Anna (aged 3) asked:

'Where people made when the Romans were here?'

She had been to the Dinosaur museum the previous day and I think she was just arranging geological and historical time in her head.

I would love to use these as blogpost titles. What if I made a seperate list of potential blogpost titles, that I haven't been able to use while I am busy trying to use up Bruggerman's potential exhibition titles?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Unfinished projects and ways of presentation (312)

Wes White has retyped the first twelve chapters and seven verses of Genesis and re-arranged all the words into alphabetical order. The words of (320 times) God (54 times).

You can buy a copy of it in fanzine form for £2 from his website:

In his forward to the fanzine Wes tells us how he had planned to spend till 2010 rearranging the whole of the King James Bible into alphabetical order. The project was first delayed (because of laptop failure) and then abandoned (because Wes read of Simon Popper's alphabetical rendition of Ulysses in this years Becks Futures exhibition).

If the story in the forward is true then it is one of art’s great coincidences that Popper exhibited his edition while Wes was starting on his. But I’d like to believe that Wes has made up the story, and in so doing has taken Popper’s idea and done something new and original with it.

Friday, May 05, 2006

It is really nothing (465)

The first concert I ever went to was The Smiths at Brixton Academy on Friday March 1 1985,
Three days before my 16th birthday.

The first song they sang was 'William it was really nothing'

Not a bad debut eh?

In the song Morrissey tells a suburban male that ''it was really nothing....... it was your life''. And somehow that has always come over to me as a very liberating and reassuring statement.

Nice to have it confirmed by another Steven (Bruggeman).

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Oulipo were/are a group of writers who would not write a novel or a poem without first imposing rules on themselves to constrain what they wrote.

There is no better Oulipo resource on the web than Derek Badman's list of novels written using Oulipo-like constraints.

Not the least pleasing of the novels listed was ‘Negativeland’ by Doug Nufer.
No sentence in Negativeland was expressed with a positive construction.

Nufer does not discount the possibility that the inspiration for this was the number of rejection letters he had received from publishers for his previous novels.

It was announced this week that Stefan Bruggeman’s ‘Show titles’ did not win the 2006 Becks Futures art prize.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Can't wait for tomorrow (287)

Stefan Br├╝ggemann has painted 728 potential exhibition titles onto the walls of the ICA, in his entry for the 2006 Beck's Futures competition.

I believe that the winner of the competion will be announced today.

Bruggeman says anyone is free to use the exhibition titles if they want to. He offered first choice from the titles to the organisers of the Becks Futures exhibition themselves, and they chose a title for each of the three venues that the exhibition is being staged (London, Bristol and Glasgow).

The title for the London Becks Futures at ICA is ‘Can’t Wait for Tomorrow’, the 287th of Bruggeman’s titles.
  • I have decided to put all of these titles to good use: I am going to us them as the titles my next 728 blog posts.
  • I will not use any other titles until I have got through all of Bruggeman’s titles.
  • I will not use any title more than once.
  • I will use the titles in any order I like
  • I will make a blog post a day
  • I'm starting with this post: 727 to go now!