Tuesday, 31 May 2016

It's No One for Fun

It's the day before the fun fair and 'IT'S NO ONE FOR FUN', but in a good way. Rides are yet to be unpacked and now stand layered in seemingly impossible smaller versions of themselves. An invitation to 'TAKE MY PHOTO' is still holed up behind bars. Micky mouse and Minnie hover above a carriage draped in green tarpaulin buoyed up with their very own brand of irrepressible and somewhat irritating optimism. Micky's ear is missing so he'll need it.

Cinderella's carriage has a number plate and tail lights as it squats unceremoniously on its trailer. Its pink paint has peeled away. The gold gilt is tempered by a utilitarian non-slip uniformity of bumps. But the fun fair imperfections don't make the scene sad, just more beautiful. Cinderella is always on the way to the ball, and midnight never comes to break the illusion. The ride doesn't go anywhere, just ends where it starts, a story erasing itself as she moves through it, a circular amnesia.* 

'Kunstlich' the German word for 'artificiality' springs to mind at the funfair. Both "Kunstlich" and "artificial" have the word "art" at their root. We may romantically think of art as a "real" or a "true" expression of emotions.  But "kunstlich" or "art-like" is not real or true, just imitation and is somehow thought of as second-rate. It is man-made, an imitation of nature. It is plastic, not the real thing. It does not decay or die, but deteriorates, becomes tawdry, becomes scrap. It has no core like a tree has rings, but is hollow, empty, without substance. The funfair imitates fun and we revel in it. It is a pastiche of itself. Does this make it less fun? Of course not. That the illusion that is fun is a millimetre thick, rusted to boot and is as insubstantial and fleeting as a bubble only makes the experience of fun more real to us. 

Number ones, 1's and No. Ones rule the fun fair, emblazoned on every ride in ever more eccentric fairground font. Freddie Frog, Mega Machine and Mystery House all simultaneously kicking each other off the number one spot of the best rides in town. Shot to the top of the hit parade by their screaming fans though they all celebrate the same gut wrenching song of "oggy oggy oggy". The fun fair where you can be a number one, or a no one, disappear in the crowd or have your picture taken.

It's the day before the fun fair with the promise of IT'S No ONE FOR FUN', a space we can forget our own narratives and destinations for the space of a ride, be a no one, but in a good way. 

*I've just read Jenny Diski's  "Travelling with strangers", An excellent book about travelling without going anywhere and visa versa and finding yourself among strangers in both senses of the word.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

In the Dog House

My niece and friend in Erwin Wurm's Confessional (One Minute Sculpture) at the Berlinisches Galerie in Berlin. Participants are invited through written instructions to interact with Erwin Wurm's sculptures to be the artwork themselves. In this case to put their heads into the doghouse and confess for one minute. The girls seemed to particularly enjoy this sculpture as this was their second round. More info on the exhibition here.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Neon Lights

neon lights/ shimmering neon lights/
And at the fall of night/
This city's made of light - Kraftwerk

Neon Licht/ shimmendes Neon Licht /
Und wenn die Nacht anbricht/
 ist diese Stadt aus Licht - Kraftwerk

I was trying to edit down my photos today, but instead I ended up making more photos by taking screen shots of my iPhoto library. These pictures were taken of the Hamburger Bahnhof and out of the U-Bahn window, back in 2013 in Berlin. I seem to have got pretty carried away with the shimmering neon lights as I took nearly 150 photographs.  

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Photo Opportunist

I read another article recently bemoaning that people were taking so many photos of their lives on their mobiles that they were missing out on the 'real experiences', and even less likely to remember them afterwards.

Maybe we are not missing out on a real "experience", if there is such a thing. Perhaps we can also discover an "experience" or even an "existence" through taking photos. The Japanese photographer Gentaro Ishizuka puts it like this in the notes to one of his books, 'Lensman':" In this world of unstoppable time, where no one can grasp anything in its entirety, it may be entirely possible that the reality of these things captured by the camera in pictures, could, in fact, trump one's own reality".

I like Ishizuka's metaphysical approach to photography because it is visually very much grounded in the sober and everyday. He seems, like me, to be a photo opportunist, at least for this project: "My next theme will be things that simply catch my eye when going out for no particular reason, or just everyday things".

He is also conscious of the fact that no matter where he is, he experiences a kind of "déjà vu" with his pictures. "Finally, after this remote journey following the Pipeline (in the Arctic) to its most distant point, I had once again found that scrap factory on Harumi Pier". He goes on: "...perhaps all these things were simply images pulled from one's own consciousness".

From the book "Lensman" by Gentaro Ishizuka

Fascinated by junk that he had discovered in a disused factory there many years before, Ishizuka adds,"Bathed in the faint light seeping through the walls, these discarded radios, television, and other miscellany took on new meaning with a multitude of shapes, shadows and substance. And in that place without a soul, taking pictures in deep meditation, there was oneself". 

And I would add, that as much as there is "oneself" in such places, there is also the "not oneself". The void, the blindspot of the self. This in turn may lend even the most empty of places a soul. Even if we can't see the blindspot, we can try and depict it, experience it. As in Ishizuka's photograph above, we can't see our own backs but it is still an interesting view. 

This piece was inspired by the artist book meet-up in Edinburgh that takes place once a month. 

(The pictures were taken at Fountainbridge in Edinburgh on the site of a former brewery. The Grove is a community garden project also at Fountainbridge. At "The Forge" people can learn carpentry and welding skills in workshops held in shipping containers. The new Boroughmuir High School is also being built there.) Here are some pictures of the same site from two years ago.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Seismic Lewisham: A work in progress

I was born in Lewisham. As long as I can remember, the centre of Lewisham in South East London has always been rather a work in progress, dominated as it is by a massive roundabout, the high road flanked by an enormous police station (the biggest in Europe!) and an ageing shopping centre. With the link of the DLR to Canary Wharf and Bank there has been a lot of building work here in the last five years in the centre. With so much development in London recently it would be interesting to imagine that the original characters of districts to be seismic rather than down to the economic whims of the day. If it were seismic then the character and history beneath it would always bubble through and burst the attempts to lay order upon it, whatever facade was slapped upon it or soul ripped out of it by a property developer. Covent Garden and Soho, for example, would remain  'louche', erupting periodically to reset itself despite attempts to tame it. Lewisham's seismic nature would always be that of a 'work in process'. It would always teeter towards ugliness but there would always be the underlying hope for the beautiful Lewisham of tomorrow.