Thursday, 30 September 2010

Stories / Double Blind (No Sex Last Night) - 1992

. . . for the first time in my life, try to tell an honest story . . .

French conceptual artist Sophie Calle joins with Gregory Shephard to create a voyeuristic tour de force. Armed with camcorders, Calle and her collaborator/partner Shephard head West in his Cadillac convertible to produce and document a real-life narrative of their journey and their relationship. With America as the backdrop for this unconventional coast-to-coast road movie, Calle and Shephard each narrates and records a personal diary, presenting strikingly different versions of the narrative/relationship. Aiming their dueling camcorders, the protagonists chronicle the elusive landscapes of human relations, wrestling to reconcile self, sexuality, and desire. The viewer is challenged to reconsider the subjective and cultural roles imposed by gender, sexuality, power, and tradition. Throughout, Calle seeks to redefine through personal investigation the terms and parameters of subject/object, public/private, truth, fiction, and role-playing. The quasi-documentary style evokes the films of Chris Marker, to whom Double-Blind is dedicated.


It disturbs me that her drives may be closer to my . . . obsessions, than I'd prefer to admit. It's so exhausting, and tedious. But there you are - I don't want safe either - I fear it would bore me to tears. And then I'm trapped - and bizarrely, it would break my heart to end it all.

Is there a middle way?

I think, yes, I think perhaps . . . there is someone . . . if only I'd just grow up.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010


Gold light and passerby

Blue umbrellas

Red light and umbrella

Narrative / Meshes in the Afternoon - 1943

Meshes of the Afternoon is one of the most influential works in American experimental cinema. A non-narrative work, it has been identified as a key example of the "trance film," in which a protagonist appears in a dreamlike state, and where the camera conveys his or her subjective focus. The central figure in Meshes of the Afternoon, played by Deren, is attuned to her unconscious mind and caught in a web of dream events that spill over into reality. Symbolic objects, such as a key and a knife, recur throughout the film; events are open-ended and interrupted. Deren explained that she wanted "to put on film the feeling which a human being experiences about an incident, rather than to record the incident accurately."

from MoMa

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Midnight colours

Surfaced, and flown beyond bounds, a landscape of colours revealed; celestial indigo - gold flashed crimson - flamed passions aroused and found. We navigate these journeys as dreams, stories, fantasy, myth . . . but minds may cross, and a mighty flash illuminates, inwards and outwards - and doubts flourish, as our compass spins.

Afterwards, burnt swirls, flare yellow, unbidden; reminders echo through silent dark nights.

Courage to soar . . .
while in fear I shall submerge to glacial depths,
tracing melancholy curves. . .

In time . . . gently.

red and yellow and silence

"Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one's room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?"

images: Derek Jarman, In the shadow of the sun; words, Elizabeth Bishop, from - A question of travel.

Monday, 27 September 2010


Chagall - The Firebird.


“The repose of sleep refreshes only the body. It rarely sets the soul at rest. The repose of the night does not belong to us. It is not the possession of our being. Sleep opens within us an inn for phantoms. In the morning we must sweep out the shadows.”

Gaston Bachelard

Been fighting off the flu since last week, and this morning, I have awoke - and the fever has broken; I feel calm. Judgment has returned. I've talked and talked and talked my way out. But, everything feels re-aligned, and maybe, maybe I'll become a creature of the light.

I can sleep now. But I do need a nicer bedroom than mine.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Sophie Calle

For 30 years the Paris-based artist Sophie Calle has been preoccupied with boundaries—especially those between private and public. In her work, she has exploited the demise of photography’s authoritative status as factual evidence in our postmodern world of mass replication and digital transformation. Undermining once-stable boundaries between fact and fiction, Calle leaves us to perform our own detective work based on the evidence she provides.

Coincidence and chance inform her works, as does a psychological undercurrent that she connects with the voyeuristic nature of photography. Calle has often used the format of the captioned photograph, implicating us in her project of destabilizing photographic veracity and suspending meaning through uncertainty, but paradoxically leaving us to doubt her persuasiveness.
Full article at Canadian Art

It’s often presumed that privacy is a myth in our technologically enmeshed world. Yet it’s a testament to the reverse that artist Sophie Calle, after more than 25 years of stealing strangers’ phone books (L’Homme au carnet), photographing hotel visitors’ underwear (L’Hôtel) and stalking strange men through Europe (Suite vénitienne), still manages to find uncomfortable aspects of the private—often in her own life—and expose them through art in unique and provocative ways.

Now the DHC/ART Foundation offers a peek at Calle’s latest with the North American premiere of “Prenez soin de vous,” a major exhibition that debuted to good reviews at last year’s Venice Biennale.
Full article at Canadian Art

Friday, 24 September 2010

night reflections

I know the colours seem ridiculous, but this is what this camera does...

Scarlet woman

I see the woman with the scarlet hair quite often on my journeys in and out of London. She's with the big bloke with the beard - and they are very much in love. They always seem so happy together, at ease.

I'm toying with documenting the people who are familiar and unknown. Perhaps not very original. But I find the quotidien so fascinating; alluring. . . People I do not think of outside this particular every day context. The before and after of their narrative, unknown. And unmissed when they're not there. But for some reason, I want to remember at least that they exist.

It's been brought on by a number of things - all my recent photos have been from the top deck of a bus - and all this looking - real looking - can't help but to make you pause and reflect on the people below.

Up there, I am cocooned. It would be a shock to meet them in another context. It's not very British either. But maybe if I work up courage, one day I will talk to them, and take photos with my real - grown up camera, if they allow. But . . . do I want to break this spell of the unknown?


  • Scarlet woman, very much in love
  • Viet Minh woman
  • Tall Tim Burton extra man
  • Zappa look-alike-man
  • The three mustachioed businessmen
  • Serene homeless man
  • 1940's woman

Waiting and separation

On ellipses . . .

An absent . . . friend (?) . . . uses ellipses a lot.
But with spaces between each dot –

Or period, as I suspect she’d say, being American. Period - period - period ... sounds more final that dot - dot - dot. Or even stop - stop - stop.

Do my unspaced dots have different intent? Aesthetically, on the page, spaces between appeal.

My ellipses infuriated another friend, saying they betrayed a fuzzy mind – chaos - disjointed indecisiveness. Well... she was right, of course. But then her voices speak the internet to her – and ellipses aloud are “dot-dot-dot” ... they break rhythms, rather than create cadences.

There are mid sentence dots ... pauses in thought ... and dots that fade away at the end . . .   

Leaving open space for thought to fill. Unwilling, or unable, to articulate my own. Stand ins for elliptical speech.
  • Then of course    ...  . . .  ...     is S-O-S in, now obsolete, morse code. Speaking in code . . .
  • And... acceleration and velocity,   f = m.a . . .  .   .    .
  • My first love, used to identify herself, somewhat coyly, as S... ni

But the arch literary ellipses exponent was Louis Ferdinand Celine – much criticized. In Conversations with Professor Y, Céline defended his style - disjointed sentences reflect emotion on the page, our garbled turmoil.
Maybe I'd never see him again... maybe he'd gone for good... swallowed up, body and soul, in the kind of stories you hear about... Ah, it's an awful thing... and being young doesn't help any... when you notice for the first time... the way you lose people as you go along ... the buddies you'll never see again... never again... when you notice that they've disappeared like dreams... that it's all over... finished... that you too will get lost someday... a long way off but inevitably... in the awful torrent of things and people... of the days and shapes... that pass... that never stop...

Death on Installment Plan

All things sugar and spice

Sitting outside, drinking coffee at the British Library during my lunchbreak, a school party passed by - 4/5/6 year olds. Oddly, they looked American - you know how Americans stand out. But anyway, walking along in pairs, a gentle hub-bub of childish glee; then two girls - blond, bouncy, pink and pastel passed by, and I caught one of those little snippets of ephemera. One said to the other:

Only one nuclear bomb has ever been dropped, and that was in Japan.
More than that, darling - everyday.

Loss Distribution Curve

Place yourself on the curve...

Thursday, 23 September 2010


These two excerpts are from my diary, made during my search for the western edge, passing through Loch Rannoch, and the Isle of Skye. I've left them as is, as questions I posed to myself, remain unanswered. Ignored, until this week.


Curious; though about 20 yards from the summit, I stopped for a rest - I sat on a little grassy bank, and gazed down at the Loch of Rannoch. It was a moment of peace, which reaching the summit did not match. Reaching the summit felt like a phyric victory.


I've been walking out to the lighthouse at the end of the Waternish peninsula. I can see it from where I am sitting - oh, maybe a mile or so away across undulating fields.

But I've stopped by an old derelict house - a huge gray three story house - roof collapsed - a shell inside, the chimney half down. Ghosts of interior walls.

A house of legends - hundreds of years old, surely?

Ghosts: when was it inhabited? By whom? It's just past a group of old crofters cottages - they only have low walls remaining, as if someone had laid down all the foundation stones, and left. So, this house is probably the remains of some wealthy land owners house - perhaps one of the ancient lairds of Scotland; now disappeared; almost.

It's quite beautiful - melancholic. Humming in its presence. My heart soared when I saw it, and I left the path to the lighthouse (fuck the lighthouse!) and struck out over boggy fields towards it; across burns and streams which vein this countryside - sheep scattering --- and so I sit here, in a relatively sheltered spot, by a collapsed stone wall, under its soaring presence, framed by deep blue skies.

--- and,
here, now, like ---
Rannoch, climbing Craig Varr

Both times it feels as if I've reached the end - the place I needed to be - before I reached the original, designated end --- the accepted end, of this walk --- and?

Chosen - all along; here: where people used to live hundreds of years ago, for perhaps hundreds of years, gazing at, if they noticed, the same view I see now - only the sheep and the rabbits remain. Unafraid. Not dinner.

Destination before end point. Is it necessary to go all the way? Who set the end point? Me? Or did I merely accept it? Unthinkingly.

I feel that I've reached my place, for today . . . yet . . .

I am not sure if I am brave enough not to go onto the. . . lighthouse. . . . . .

And so I shall go, following the other walkers, like the one whom I was catching sight of, a half a mile or so ahead of me.

But I've "deviated" onto my own route - a route with no visible paths. Yet I am where people once lived - and I share that space with those from another time; another reality.

So here is my place, and my now. All further travel, even "on" to the lighthouse will be part of the return. I know it.

And do I take heed, and stop traveling, eyes fixed on horizons? Walking towards an end point - and then another end point - and another. . . a series; a recession; a receding, never obtainable end point. Regression.

And do I pass destinations, my destinations, every day? Unnoticed?

One day, I must recognise where, and when -- to


reality is not necessarily truth

Perhaps it makes more sense this way - or perhaps it's just more trite. Perhaps they are interchangable. But I know which one I'm interested in.

My moose

Another dream?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

truth is not necessarily reality

I thought this on the bus, while listening to Ultravox, of all things, staring up. I don't know what it means, but when these things pop into your head, waddayagonnadoo? It's been a tough week - a roller coaster. Still feels a quite precarious. Windmilling my arms, while teetering on the edge of a muddy bank. A breath either way could decide it.

It all started with a dream.

Isle of Harris - Luskentyre beach

The feeling has almost ebbed away, now, having returned to my car --- at the beach at Luskentyre. At first, I enjoyed sitting on the sand banks, looking across the sound, to the rocky hills on the other side. Yellow - grey purple blue - grey sky/clouds: Rothko.

Then I walked up the beach towards the sunset: clouds, sun, beach, waves, sea, mountains, grass - at first I recognised intellectually - aesthetically, that this was something extraordinary. A special moment.

And then, it just got more and more beautiful. Or, I opened myself up to more and more; emotionally it was starting to overwhelm me.

And then - - - - it was too much. It started to become almost painful. So beautiful, it was painful. I shouted "too much". Too much to be alone with. I felt close to tears; a bit hysterical - and I needed to escape ---

I ran, up and over the dunes, behind grass, in a little valley behind the dunes, running parallel to the beach - - - - I couldn't look anymore. And I walked back hidden from the beach, from the sea. Although I could hear the waves. That was ok - - - - - I needed that neutral space. Still near, but not in it, as I walked back to the car. Time and space to dwell - almost trying to imprint the moment. But I dared not look again - It was over, and I was afraid going back would lessen my experience . . .

And I needed to be alone. It could not have been any other way ---

- - unless I was in love at that moment --- ? ?

--- To make love?

I have not looked at these photographs until now - they were taken in March 2010... this is taken from my diary. It feels a little corny now, the ending. But I couldn't think of any other correspondence. At the time I was trying to find the western edge - and I made it to the Outer Hebrides. They're islands off the far NW coast of Scotland, for my American friends, that barely feel like they should be afloat.

See, I told you Lisa Emily...

Dungeness - my sanity

I drive here a lot, to escape London. I don't know why I live in London...

I don't know what else to say about this...

Makes me happy . . .

...even though it turns out to be about the suicide phones on the Golden Gate bridge

This is the Golden Phone, can you ring me back?
Ten mongrels home alone bring the panic back
Sound travelled in the air then they blew it back
They took out all the noise and it all went black

How could they even care it's a nonsense sound
This sound is everywhere but it can't be found
Find Nancy fool around and the noise went white
It built the warmth back and there was light

Crimes everywhere yeah, but I don't want that
Love's all around yeah, but I don't want that
Gold in my hair yeah, but I don't want that
Bring me that nonsense sound and I'll be back

Well, crushed up bit of stuff, can you pull their ear?
Their legs are far too stiff and they can't get near
I'll make this call back to you in a year
Mongrels, this nonsense sound won't disappear

Crimes everywhere yeah, but I don't want that
Love's all around yeah, but I don't want that
Gold in my hair yeah, but I don't want that
Bring me that nonsense sound and I'll be back

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


I told a woman in the street that she was very beautiful. I shocked myself into silence. I never gave it a moments thought, and there it was coming out of my mouth, as I walked by. She smiled. How bizarre. There was no intent, other than the observation. These last few months have made me giddy. I'm attracting all kinds of oddness towards me. It's a roller coaster ride, but there you go.

There's a very fine line between getting away with something odd, and making a terrible faux pas.

Shadows and light

CAUGHT — the bubble
in the spirit level,
a creature divided;
and the compass needle
wobbling and wavering,

Father's stories

These may be facts,

  • My father was the youngest of 17 children; Seven real ones, and ten half ones. His father married twice. He was born in Hackney.
  • He was evacuated during the war, and sexually abused by the farmer he was lodged with. He was three.
  • His mother and father were killed in the blitz. He was four.
  • Polish soldiers stationed nearby, adopted him. They were sad. They missed their families, far away in Nazi occupied Europe, not knowing whether they were dead or alive. They were kind.
  • Afterwards, his sister brought him back to the city: "If we're going to die, we're going to die together", is what he said she said.
  • His sister and brothers would never tell him how his mother and father died; or, they would tell different stories. In a tube station; in a lift shaft; in a collapsed burning building; in a bus. He never knew, really, which story to trust. Bewildered and hurt. I found out they were killed at Bank station, together - 11 January 1941. At least that's what the official record states. But how, why, the circumstances? Don't know.
  • His brothers were East End gangsters. He was the naive young brother. He was their child runner. They also made him steal from shops - the tailor - the jeweler - to order.
  • His father's will split the money "equally" amongst all children. Except for my father who received less - the amount wasn't exactly divisible by seven. He received exactly one penny less. He returned again and again to this inequity.
  • His nickname was dopey - "homage" to the seven dwarfs.
  • He travelled to the V&A museum, in south London, as a young boy, and sat amongst the exhibits, to escape the east end.
  • He lived at "Manor house for working boys" for a time.
  • Then, he was drafted, and spent two years in occupied Germany. His first great escape.
  • He emmigrated to South Africa, in his early twenties. His second great escape.

I saw him a few days before he died.

He was talking to me, and then suddenly he accused me of stealing his model ship, and breaking it. I thought and thought back to my childhood, and couldn't remember. I said that. He looked at me with the smug look of someone who knows my inner soul - and that it was a dark deceitful soul - and said: "Ok". I suppose what event he attached this view to was immaterial; whether the story was true or not was neither here nor there; it was arbitrary. What was important, was this was his relationship over me.

I know you, he thought... and perhaps he did.

But it was his brother who broke the toy boat, when they were children, when they had been evacuated during the war. The brother he lost - because he also disappeared; just as my father did to South Africa; just like he did with me; just like I did with him. The brother who was there during the abuse. Stanley, became a famous jeweler, left London, and never spoke to the family again. My father confused me with his brother - his brother who cut himself off from the family, like me and him did to each other. All the other brothers remained tight knit. Echoes.

My father had many strokes, caused by chronic alcholism. He was delirious, everyone said. Maybe - but I was hearing truths.

He rambled onto me for hours, talking to his brother. I protested a few times; and then let him talk his demons out. It must have felt safe to talk to his brother. His lost brother, who knew the secret. But, I think he was talking to me too. At least, that's the story I tell myself. I needed to hear the things he said, and I can't quite admit that he never wanted to tell me these things. So, he spoke, and I listened.

He told me lots of things. This is when he told me about the abuse. I don't believe he told anyone before. Not in 69 years. A big piece of the puzzle missing, found. It had to be told, I believe. He knew he was going to die. He did. And he had to let this secret free, finally.


I'll stick to images. My writing just can't compete. Still, these've got people in them; albeit from me being up on high.

Monday, 20 September 2010


I think I'm going to tell some stories. Perhaps.

"Stories. Most people need stories; they need to fabricate fictions to give some order to their lives, or they need stories to fill the holes of their misapprehensions. Creating stories allows one to be the hero of his own myth and god of his own reality. For me, stories are no way of living; stories are only good for books."

From an Occult Diary, A. Strindberg - thanks Lisa Emily for revealing this.

Or a blog...

Though I have seen that this isn't a absolute truth. Depends, innit. I'm warming to stories.


I remember as a teenager listening to friends relating the previous evenings drunken escapades and such, and thinking: That's all bollocks. It wasn't anything like as good as that. Or that was a lie. And there they all were, the listeners, all seemingly colluding in these "monstrous" untruths, and embellishments, etc etc etc. And they'd all join in.

Now I can see, of course, it was just story telling... or is it "just"? Could it rather be "just" laying down the ground rules for a future filled with stories. How many actually believe these stories? I suspect these stories become truths, in the sense that people believe them to be objective. And to dismantle one, is to bring down the whole ediface. And my god, when we've spent a life time constructing that...

Or maybe I'm the weird one, hanging onto some notion of provable truths.

But because there was so much lying and deceit and denial within what I laughingly refer to as my family, "truth" became really important to me - sacred - and I obsessed about it - I try to hang on to it. Even when I know it's impossible. Even when I know I lie to myself.

When others deviated from it, start to tell these "lies", I became very upset. Still do. This was the tactic used within my family to cast me as mad, if I ever had the timerity to question their madness. To bring attention to facts that seemed as plain as day. When I retreated into myself - became mute - insular - a kafkaesque punk... It was said: "Well, Stephen is just like that". Just.

To this day, they are wary of me. My father went to his grave denying the reality of our family. Of himself. He, they, can't see me. Almost literally. I've seen them no more than three times in the last 25 years. There was a gap of 14 years. They don't understand why. Just.

A few years back I asked my father a question about why we moved around so much, three continents in 10 years. He shouted at me: "Are you blaming me for that!?". I was fucking 9 years old. Who was responsible. Me, it seems. For what, I'm not quite sure.

Ah, may father, that's another story. But I can only try to piece together his story - a story - in the end my story - and it's lies. It says everything about me, and only a little about him. My photographs of walls and under bridges in the place he grew up in, east London, is my search for his ghost. As if the crumbling bricks will reveal a truth. They are full of ghosts. I'm full of ghosts.

So when I see it now - truth - I'm moved beyond words. I am drawn. It illuminates. I soar. I am so proud of those who achieve it, if only for a moment, unearthed from the myths of their lives. And they open up. Its not shocking what is revealed. But it is. It has an extraordinary affect.

But what do you do with it when you find it? How do you act?

And why is it so damn scary to be open and honest? Most of all, with yourself.

Narrative II

Narrative and truth. I can't seem to see the big picture. I get bogged down in the minutiae, can't see the "out there". And I suffer for it. I've even tried going the other way, in desperation, and try to break down narrative completely - banish it from my life. Quite a psycho-analytic hook into my inner state that. But, I don't know how much of my feeling/unfeeling for narrative is nature, or nurture. My life has been so episodic, that there is no structure - I've always assumed my relationship to it, and truth, has seeped into me from this experience.

And maybe narrative is just the diversion I use not to address the actual issue.

My friends have tended to come and go. And even there I use the passive. Without the "I": I've let friends go; I've sabotaged friendships; And sometimes, I just do and say the wrong things, as I grope frantically around in the dark, missing the right things, grabbing the wrong.

I lose people, and that hurts.

As a child, being wrenched from this country and that - why would you make bonds, if they're just going to be broke? And so, I didn't. Or, I was so wary of letting anyone near. That's where the pattern stemmed, I think. That's rooted in, ha, "nurture". How do I break it? How do I trust? And, I suppose, that breaking of bonds I might make or desire is my biggest fear now. And when I do try to establish a bond with someone special: but I freeze and panic, and do something stupid in an attempt not to make it happen, again. To make it different this time. I get intense, and scare people - they run.

May be this is just common or garden experience? Always seems so special when its your own.

But I am making a big effort to be a friend. A good friend. And I have succeeded on a few occasions, and have some precious people in my life. They've tended to let me dance my merry panic ridden dance, and remain unfazed, until I settle. Still a few twitches every now and then. I try to be calmer each time I find someone special, but...

Perhaps each catastrophe is a learning process. But my god, I feel like I've done all the training I can bear.

Anyway, what's become apparent about this blog, about relationships, friendships, and even going to work everyday - is that they all create undeniable narratives. Whereas silence, stillness and solitude - a large part of my recent past - cause narrative to loose meaning. No structure. And you sink. And I've always retreated from failed and stillborn relationships, and pretended I'm a loner - and read books like the loner's manifesto. It's bollocks. It was all trying to justify my state, rather than ask what I really wanted.

I was never a loner. Just alone. Trying to cope with what was - just was.

But it can be a bit of a chicken and egg situation; if you're alone, what good is it thinking you shouldn't be alone. You are. And what way out of it is there? It seems impossible - and so we perpetuate our current state, as if its something sacred. Even though we know its crazy. See anyone else doing it, and probably we'd know exactly what they should do. But you can crawl out. I believe.

But the tiiiiimmmme it takes. It's excruciating... full of false starts. And on failure, I've retreated to some place safe. And say, this is my place. It's necessary, but... its not a home. I'm just dwelling. I'm not rooted - just rooted to the spot, in fear.

I remember a trick a friend told me - imagine yourself in a film - in your current situation - your life as a film - and you're in it in a the third person kinda way. Just what would you as the first person viewer be shouting at the tv set as the third person acted or didn't act? What would make you cheer? What would have your head in your hands, moaning - "oohhh nooooo. Don't. Don't. You're so close"

How has this gone on for so long? Dare I hope, I can start cheering?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Emily has become inscrutable...

Swum away.

A momentary muse taught me not all was lies; and the power of truth.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Next the mirror?

I live only here, between your eyes and you,
But I live in your world. What do I do?
--Collect no interest--otherwise what I can;
Above all I am not that staring man.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The fish

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Illuminations I

Undeniable narratives - a possible future. Whereas silence, stillness and solitude dissolve narrative. People, create narratives. Or stories. Or the apocryphal. Or lies. But, do we need them? Can't I be coherent without them?

And so it goes.