Thursday, July 20, 2006

This morning

Our one year celebration kicks off with the suggestion of Marine Hugonnier that we rejoice in the knowledge that human beings have walked on the moon.

I am celebrating by singing the REM tune 'do you believe they put a man on the moon' but changing the lyrics to suit whatever I am doing at the time.

At the breakfast table I sang 'do you believe, I've got some egg on my spoon, egg on my spoon'

On the 08:07 New Malden to Waterloo train I am writing these words and singing 'do you believe, I can type without much room, without much room'

Sunday, July 16, 2006


In the space of a Friday lunchtime, a visit to the Tate Modern got me thinking about what we human beings try to do with time and space:

  • We divide up time and space because time and space are both indivisible
  • We find ways of visualising time and space because time and space are invisible
  • We fight for time and fight for space because time and space are infinite and unlimited.

My first stop was the fourth floor: back to Pierre Huyghe's One Year Celebration inside his Celebration Park. Huyghe's premise was that our calendar is a map, a map of the year, and the map has some uncolonised territory in the form of days which don't have a holiday attached to them.

At Hugyhe's invitation several artists and critics have come up with suggestions for colonising these days with celebrations.

Two of these proposed celebrations are attempts to resist the mapping of time, in order to escape the constraints that our mappings of time place on the way we live our lives and on the way we think about the universe.

Joe Scanlan suggested having an 'open day': a day slotted in somewhere between Sunday and Monday. Nothing can be scheduled for this day (because no-one knows when it is) and we can instead enjoy things in life that don’t need to be scheduled (Scanlon suggests that coffee, newspapers and cigarettes should be half price).

Another artist suggested a day out of the year, a revival of the Mayan practice of having one day in the year that wasn't included in the calendar, to remind everyone that time is greater than the calendar, that time is impervious to attempts to measure it.

I popped into the bookshop to flick through the book accompanying Celebration Park and noted Hughye' s comment (in an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist) that he regarded time as a corollary of space. He talked about how a television programme exist mainly in time, but also in space, and differently from objects.

All this talk about the relationship between space persuaded me to pop upstairs to the fifth floor to revisit my favourite thing in the Tate Modern: 1,000 millimetres by Stanley Brouwn.

It consists of a card index box, containing 1,000 pieces of card. Each card has the words '1mm' written on it, above a horizontal line, in pencil, one millimetre long. So you have a thousand millimetres in the box.

There are no more or less millimetres in that card index box than there would have been if Brouwn had left the cards blank and saved himself the effort of drawing all those lines.

We have no way of adding a millimetre or a second to the universe.

As I was coming down the escalator from the fifth floor of the Tate Modern I had a Eureka moment. I solved the mystery of time and space: they don’t exist!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Genius is still genius

Photo by choudoudou

When I opened my eyes this morning, my first thought was of how Zinedine Zidane must be feeling, opening his eyes this morning.

I listened to French radio after the world cup final last night. I was impressed by the loyalty to Zidane of all those who reported or were interviewed. In the whole hour that I listened not person blamed him for the defeat, not one person used any words like shame or disgrace. Some expressed their thanks to Zidane for what he had done for France in this world cup and over the years.

One correspondent described the moment Zidane got sent off as like moving from 'le chaleur' of a Rio de Janeiro beach to ‘la froideur’ of a cold bath in the space of a split second.

Another correspondent described an empty café, with a lone man in a Zidane top clearing up the clutter left by the fans who had gone home. The correspondent imagined that some of the fans who had left the café were parents who had gone home to kids wearing Zidane tops too.

A convincing case could still be made for Zidane being the player of that tournament. He was pulling the strings again last night, throughout the second half and extra time. As a 34 year old, to be still bombing into the penalty area half way through extra time is a phenomenal achievement: compare with his fellow 34 year old Luis Figo who never seemed to last past the seventy-fifth minute of matches.

Does one lapse in self control wipe out fifteen marvellous years? it depends what you want to remember people for, and what you want to see in people.

I’m reminded of the Nottingham Forest fans on at the end of the 1992/93 season, defiantly singing ‘Brian Clough is a football genius’ as they watched their team get relegated. They will have suspected that Clough was by then an alcoholic, and that his drinking had contributed to the relegation, but they also knew that he had preformed football miracles for them.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Today we celebrate unlikely but uplifting combinations

Pierre Hugyhe wants ever day to be a celebration, so he asked some of his artist friends to come up with a reason to celebrate on days that we don’t have a holiday at the moment.

Pierre has used his exhibition at the Tate Modern to display the new holidays to the public for the first time.

The day I am most looking forward to is the day celebrating our sense of anticipation. But no date has been set for that yet.

The most enlightening holiday will be the day of rational certainty. On that day we will be enjoined not to cross our fingers or worry about stepping on the cracks in the pavement. The horoscopes won’t be published. Temples, churches and mosques will shut their doors for the day.

The results of the day will be interesting. Can we base our lives solely on things that can be rationally proven? We don’t know what time is, or how many dimensions there are in the universe, or why the universe was created, or why a table feels solid when the atoms that it is made of consist mainly of empty space. We need metaphors, assumptions, beliefs, and maybe even faith, to bridge these gaps.

The day will necessitate a temporary laying aside of the existing public explanations of the nature, purpose, and destiny of the universe. It will thus provide you with a bit of space to come up with your own answers to these questions, whichever answers help you pursue whichever type of life you most want to live.

Julia Cameron in her book The Artist's Way urges anyone wanting to make more use of their own creativity to come up with their own view of why the creator of the universe created it and what that creator is like.

I like to think of the creator of the universe as a being that is not all-knowing, but is instead all-learning: learning from the new things that are happening all over the universe all the time. That learning isn't stored by the creator seperately from the universe, the learning is stored in the universe itself. The universe works to both use some of that learning and to keep on creating new situations for new learning.

The creator of the universe created it because no universe had been created before, and the happiness and beauty it could potentially generate might well be worth the inevitable pain.

Later in the year another Hugyhe holiday will celebrate the future. The curator Hans Ulrich Obrist asked his artist friends to tell him what they think the future is. It is a nice twist, a curator asked to produce a work of art by an artist and doing so by curating the comments of other artists to create an exhibition within an exhibition within an exhibition. All the artists have come up with different little straplines for the future, thus confirming that not only do we not know what the future holds, we don’t even know what the future is.

We at World Flapjack day are a little disappointed that that this French led endeavour has not come up with a day to celebrate any of the wonderful things found in patisseries.

To make up for this omission we are proposing to make July 8 the celebration of ‘unlikely but uplifting combinations’.

On this day evey year people will be enjoined to take the day off to combine different things that they like but don’t normally do at the same time. This is so often a sure fire recipe for happiness in life.

The inspriration for this day came from the Banauchoc: a pain au chocalat with banana in. (you can get them from the Panos bakery on the concourse of Brussels Gare du Midi station).

Some of the things I like doing are: playing chess, having a bath, meeting new people, learning new languages, getting fresh air. In Budapest at the Szechenyi Baths you can stand for hours in an open air thermal bath, play chess with a waterproof chess set and improve your Hungarian.

We at World Flapjack Day support Pierre’s endeavour. and will be celebrating each of these new holidays as they come through the year.

Photos of Szechenyi baths by phnk

Sunday, July 02, 2006


So England’s world cup quarter final went to a penalty shoot out. The commentators said they wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone. You can tell which players are going to miss by the fear written on their face.

Andrew (aged 7) switched the telly off and ran out of the room when Jamie Carragher missed his retaken penalty. The miss gave Christian Ronaldo the chance to knock England out of the tournament if he scored his penalty for Portugal.

I switched the telly back on in time to see something that impressed me. Ronaldo picked the ball up and kissed it. He was taking time to say that whatever the level of pressure on the moment, he loved playing football. He put the ball down on the spot and then chipped it into a part of the net that no goalkeeper could ever reach.

A triumph of love over fear.

Looking back on it it was inevitable that England would lose. They had played poorly all tournament, the manager had run out of ideas four years ago and only stayed in his job becase it would cost the FA to much money to end his contract. He didn’t seem to be able to adjust to injuries to his first choice strikers.

The only thing keeping England going was the superstitions of fans but even they seemed to have run out by the Quarter final.

Andrew had worn his England wristband, given to him by one of his teachers at school, continuously from the start of the tournament, and told us how it made England win, because his teacher had made it magic. The wristband fell down the toilet three days before the Portugal game.