Now showing in some cinemas in the UK is The Messenger, a new documentary that highlights the plight of birds across the planet as the Chthulhucene really starts to manifest. Despite the healthy proliferation of avian species in our back garden, there’s no doubt in my mind that in my lifetime there’s been a general reduction in the number of birds in the sky. The metaphor of the ‘canary in the coal mine’ rebounds in this instance, as the world wide reduction in bird populations is an unmistakable warning that something is wrong and we really ought to be paying attention.
Q: Do you believe in god?
A: Something exists over there. Is that something benevolent , malevolent, or indifferent? Let’s just say something’s been asleep for a long time, and maybe one day it will wake up.
Photograph taken at Dyrham Park, October 2017.
A culture is no better than its woods.
As the Holocene comes to an end, cultural commentators and paid pifflers are scrabbling around for a term to describe what will follow. The ‘Anthropocene’ has been posited and widely accepted but perhaps a more appropriate – and undoubtedly more interesting – term is ‘Cthulhucene‘. This allows for inclusion of both human and animal species, no longer separated, “all in it together”, refugees from a planet-wide environmental tumult that no model is ever going to be able to predict the full impact of. I hope it catches on as a term, if only to see Daily Mail writers and readers struggling to spell and pronounce it.
Photograph taken at Dyrham Park, October 2017.
This is as far as I got with the latest painting, as of last Saturday morning (11th Nov). I’ve progressed further since then, finally getting some colour on there. It’s going well but already doing those bricks is proving a challenge, but that’s all part of the process. Despite what Eno & Schmidt advise in one of their Oblique Strategies, I am always suspicious when something seems too easy. There has to be some blood, sweat and angst ground into the surface of the finished work, otherwise I think it’s lacking something important.
Poets know that such power a they have is soon absorbed by the fetishised objects that surround them. Relics are the true autobiography.
Iain Sinclair, American Smoke
Further to my earlier post, this is an exhibition that coincided with the launch of Iain Sinclair’s latest book: The Last London. For about two weeks in September, Gallery 46 in London hosted a collection of materials related to Sinclair’s creative career, with contributions by a truly eclectic cast of characters, many of which I’ve only learnt about through their associations with Sinclair.
The absolute locus of all this material is Sinclair’s own collection of photographs and ephemera, which he’s accumulated over decades and use as memory prompts for his writing. You can pore over this material – faces, places, scribbles and doodles – and sense there’s a tangle of colliding narratives and the one connecting threat that holds them all together is Sinclair’s unique imagination and how he’s applied it to the subjects that have fascinated him.
An absolutely key document is Brian Catling’s ‘map’ of the churches designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and the strange interconnections between them that Sinclair and Catling first worked on in the 1970’s. I can remember in an interview how Sinclair explained that he and Catling were never really involved in the 60’s/70’s ‘counter culture’ drug scene, pointing out that “we didn’t need drugs. We had enough trouble controlling our imaginations.” This map proves that, and testimony to its unique power is the effect it had on Alan Moore who, after seeing it, expanded his original ideas for From Hell beyond the factual boundaries of the Whitechapel Ripper murders into a much more sprawling exploration of the time and place in which they occurred. That’s the London that fascinates, and it’s that London that is being swept away by a tsunami of “regeneration”; drowning gallons of untaxed cash smashing down on the city, erasing the last traces of those things that made it what it was. Sinclair’s seen enough of these changes to know he’s no longer welcome there, and has sold up and moved on. It remains to be seen if he’s done with the past, or if the past is still done with him but, for now, The Last London is like a draft text for a memorial gravestone for something that’s probably already dead but just doesn’t know it yet.
Alan Moore and Iain Sinclair were filmed by John Rogers discussing some of the material on display in the exhibition and it’s well worth half an hour of your time. Two renegade minds, firing on all cylinders, discussing their “mad” ideas and not even bothering to try and explain what they’re on about, assuming that if you’ve got this far, you can at least keep up with them.
We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us they they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.
Photograph taken at Dyrham Park, October 2017