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Charlotte Colgate, Diana of Salford, Mixed Media, 2008

Issue 12 May 2009


>>> Contents Blank Media Team...

Chairperson: Mark Devereux Financial Administrator: Steven Porter Communications Manager: Kate Butler  Web Manager: Simon Mills  Moving Image Curators: Dan Hopkins & Jamie Hyde 

Blank Media Presents... Manager: Iain Goodyear Blank Media Presents: Steve Goossens 

blankpages Team...

Editor: Phil Craggs Visual Editor: Rob Dunne  Poetry Editor: Baiba Auria  Fiction Editor: John Leyland  Music Editor: Dan Bridgwood-Hill  Joe Booker Angel Cossigny Gareth Hacking Marcelle Holt Matthew Twyford Justin Watson Blank Media is kindly supported by:

> Introduction > Purmina Thaker > Charlotte Colgate > Trashed Couture > blankpicks > Joe Booker > J.G. Ballard Obituary > Cass Elliss > Kalbakken > Liz Wroe > Blank Media Presents... > Steve O’Connor > Blank Media Recommends...

>>> Did You Miss Us?

Welcome to a very special issue of blankpages. Why special? Well, because the magazine you see on your screen before you has been put together by five editors, three of whom are making their first editorial contributions. They have made this issue more expansive, articulate, colourful and...well...better. I’m sure you’ll agree. We’ve spent our month off discussing and planning the future of blankpages. Not all our plans are ready to be introduced just yet, so keep your eyes open in future issues as we develop the magazine further. To celebrate our re-launch we’ve having a party, and you’re all invited. It’s on the 15th of May at the Black Lion on Chapel Street, Salford. There’ll be readings of poetry and prose, multi-media presentations, live music...If that weren’t enough, you’ll get to meet us (don’t worry, we’re all lovely. Honest) Doors open at 8, with a suggested donation of £2 on the door to help fund future Blank Media activity. It’ll be fun. As for the issue we’re launching, we can boast poetry from across the world and features on what’s going on in our own Mancunian backyard. We’ve fiction from a writer completely new to our pages, a feature on an up-and-coming band as well as mp3s of their music, and an interview with a fashion designer who’s material comes from what others discard.

On a sadder note, one of the leading writers this country has produced in a long time died this month. J.G. Ballard’s work has challenged, entertained and disturbed readers since the mid 1950s. His progress from sci-fi short story writer to leading novelist re-enforces the importance of artists being allowed to develop and build reputations in publications such as blankpages so that they have the chance to find both their voice and an audience. A special feature reflecting on Ballard’s work is also included in this issue. One thing however hasn’t changed in our re-think - and that is that we still want your contributions. We want your poetry, your fiction, your ideas; we even want to know what you’ve been listening to/reading/attending and what you thought of it. We want to know what you think of the changes we’ve introduced. We’re here to be read by you but we’re also here as a platform for you. Make the most of us. Phil Craggs

Contact us…

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Purnima Thaker Amazing Endeavour It is a miracle if A lone traveller finds shelter. Or a catamaran finding its way Without its owner In the heavy, stormy, musty water. For storms do not allow smooth sailing. It is a work of art if Thousand thoughts could echo One action of love, One of gratitude. For often pieces do not fit easily, You try but encounter magnificent failings. It is an epicurean adventure To span the heights Without the guiding trails. For in the mountains Echoes of your shout for help Will not be answered. An unhappy sacrilege awaits you In the dry, sweaty, sandy desert. Occasionally you will find a mirage or two, But never to rest the railing.

>>> Charlotte Colgate

Linda Pen and Ink, 2008

Who would you class as inspirations/idols in the fashion industry? I love the work of Vivienne Westwood in the 80’s, defining independent British style and identity. The 80’s and early 90’s club wear from Michiko Koshino really inspires me, but it is classics from the golden age of couture such as Cristobal Balenciaga and Christian Dior that provide lasting influence over my work today. Currently I feel that the collections from Comme des Garcons, Gareth Pugh and Giles Deacon are the most original of all their contemporaries. Who has had the biggest impact on your work and designs? I am probably most influenced by my mother’s style as she was a beauty queen in the 60’s, an air hostess and model in the 70’s and worked for 80’s fashion label Bellino when I was born. She was always immaculately dressed in fantastic Bellino suits, with lots of hounds tooth check, shoulder pads and costume jewellery. She always wore high heels, even if she had to walk to work in the snow or run for the bus. I will always remember admiring at her clothes in the 80’s, as that set the standard for what glamour was to me at an early age. How have you gone about making your name across Liverpool? I work as a stylist for local magazines such as, YQ, FaB and Off The Hook and have also worked for a local PR company, looking after their Topshop concession brand and styling their fashion spreads. This has helped me to build up a strong network of contacts in the local fashion and media industries. I have also stayed in touch with other designers from university who are also involved with similar projects to me. What has your past work included? I have just launched a range of recycled clothing, mainly focusing on denim, which has just gone into Resurrection on Bold Street. It’s an eco friendly fashion brand that in entirely sourced, designed and made in Liverpool, ensuring a carbon neutral output. This year is the Year of the Environment, and as we all strive to reverse the damage done by mankind, it’s really important that we consider alternatives to the fast fashion of recent years, and look to ethical recycled clothing brands such as Trashed Couture, and quality, locally made garments that will last more than a few seasons and weather even the most outrageous trends. I also recently styled the sporty fashion shoot for magazine when the Fashion Vs. Sport exhibition came to Liverpool in February. It was great fun using ski masks and high tech fabrics alongside Balenciaga jodhpurs and beautiful Stella McCartney shoes.

>>> Trashed Couture

How beneficial was your course at JMU? The fashion design course at JMU gave me fantastic insight into the design process and changed the way I think about fashion. Before I started I viewed fashion as an adornment and a trend focused industry, but I have realised that with good design you can alter perceptions and change the course of things to come. Fashion is more than just pretty dresses and designer labels; if we look at ethics and sustainability as supplementary to good design then fashion can alter society for the better. What is next for you with regards to your work? I will be attending the ‘Climate for Change’ series of events at FACT on Wood Street, as a stylist at the Frock Swap (15th April) to give out fashion tips and styling advice, and as a designer at the Pimp Your Party Frock event (1st April), to dispense tips on how to update your party frock for next to nothing. I will also be showing my recycled clothing brand Trashed Couture at the finale fashion show event at FACT on the 30th May. Have you any plans to extend your work to other cities such as London? My plan is to build Trashed Couture up in the North West over the next year, in Liverpool and Manchester, and then to take it London as soon as it is financially viable. Do you have any mottos or work ethics that you stick to? No more £5 bargains! I would like to see an end to fast, throwaway fashion. In this country we throw away over 1 million tonnes of under £10 garments every year, and these end up in landfill sites, going to waste and polluting our planet with unnecessary waste. We need to start buying garments that are made from recycled materials and garments that are made to last. If we start buying from local independent shops that source goods locally, rather than from huge multinational corporations that burn up millions of tonnes of polluting jet fuel to get you those cheap £5 tops that fall apart after two washes we can make a positive change through small steps of our own.

Get Trashed With Eco Couture Ethical Fashion isn’t all about over priced knitted bamboo jumpers and vegan wellies! It can be cool, stylish and affordable, as new label Trashed Couture proves this spring, right here in Liverpool; at leading independent fashion boutique, Resurrection. The brand is the brain child of top Liverpool stylist and designer, Sara Li-Chou Han. Having created four fabulous couture looks for the highly successful Recycle Rechic fashion show last summer, Han has gone on to create a funky new recycled clothing brand, inspired by the couture styles, but focusing on wearable denim pieces that are as affordable as they are cool. Of the brands eco credentials, Han says: ‘2009 is Liverpool’s Year of the Environment, and as we all strive to reverse the damage done to the planet by mankind, it’s really important that we consider alternatives to the fast fashion of recent years, and look to ethical recycled clothing brands such as Trashed Couture, and quality, locally made garments that will last more than a few seasons and weather even the most outrageous trends.’ With styles such as the denim hot pants and denim miniskirts costing from as little as £15 and £20, you can feel good about your style, ethics and bank balance while updating your summer wardrobe essentials. All the garments are made in Liverpool, and there are no environmentally destroying overseas imports, ensuring a carbon neutral output. The source materials, all second hand denims sourced from local charity shops and clothes swaps, are unpicked by local fashion students and creatives before being completely reworked by Sara herself, guaranteeing ethically made, sourced and produced garments that make a charitable contribution towards The Red Cross, Animal Welfare and other local causes. Trashed Couture’s services also include reworking vintage garments and those old clothes that you don’t want to throw out, but haven’t worn for years. Han says of the service “Many of us have beautiful, high quality garments that have fallen to the back of the wardrobe because the style and cut just isn’t up to date. Instead of hiding them in a drawer let Trashed Couture rework them into new and stylish pieces that will instantly bring your wardrobe up to date.”

To see for yourself how cool recycled clothing can be just pop into Resurrection on Bold Street and make your way over to the Trashed Couture concession in the women’s wear department. Here you’ll find items from the reworked denim cuffs from as little as £5, to the stunning couture denim gown, a real show piece at £280. “I was thrilled that Resurrection is the first shop to stock my brand as they are a fantastic independent fashion boutique, right at the heart of Liverpool’s retail district.” Han continued. You can see more recycled fashion at the Climate for Change series of events at FACT over the next few months. Designers such as Sara will be on hand at workshops and Frock Swaps to dispense eco friendly fashion advice on reworking your own wardrobe. You will also be able to see Trashed Couture’s newest designs at the Climate for Change Fashion show on the 30th May, also in FACT. For more information or to take advantage of the garment restyling service just drop Sara an email at or ring 07964 072 879. More images can also be seen at the brand new website –

I have recently revisited a favourite album of mine, namely Spy Versus Spy’s ‘Little Lights’. I find it easy to forget just how good it is as it hasn’t left my CD player for longer than a few months since it’s release nearly ten years ago. Along side Marvin Gaye, Neil Young and Slint, it’s my aural wallpaper. I play it, listen to it, enjoy it and put it back on the shelf without a thought. But wait. How often does a record as unique as this actually come along? Packed to the rafters with heart and soul, innovation and experimentation. It’s an epic masterpiece and the band’s only full-length album before their untimely demise. A demise that surely caused you, dear reader, not to have heard of it, because quality certainly isn’t an issue.

>>> blankpicks

Opening song ‘Waiting For Centralia To Sink’ sets the tone perfectly. The feedback-drenched, Bonham-esque drum introduction perfectly tees-up the main riff which kicks in with immense power. The song keeps hopping from one rhythm to another, cluster-chords send the musicologists scrambling for their notepads, while the two singers trade impassioned hollers and beautiful melodies, painting partially obscured lyrical pictures of an “unstitched heart”. I’d probably describe it as progressive-emotional-punk-rock, if that didn’t sound like the worst idea ever.

Also, this month, I was delighted to stumble upon a new series by Charlie Brooker. It shone out to me like a diamond in the muddy, filthy mire that is the rest of television. Informative and hilarious as ever, Brooker is at the top of his game and I thoroughly recommend it. Dan Bridgwood-Hill

‘A Scanner Darkly’ ends with an author’s note that comprises in part a list of ‘friends’ and their ‘punishment’ for drug misuse. It is a sombre epilogue and the final thought-bending twist in a compendium of ‘Five Great Novels’ by Philip K Dick. Ordinarily this sort of intrusion would turn me off, but my experience with these five novels has been anything but ordinary, and certainly arousing. Every page is a question, every chapter coaxed me to a new reality, to the novel’s bleak inner world. ‘The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch’ is the first of the five stories, and after the main character’s psychedelic identity crisis on Mars, the story ends with a tricksy chop. We are all perpetually hurtling towards the Earth with no answers. ‘Martian Time-Slip’ picks apart not only its characters’ psychoses, but also its readers’. Dick externalises mental disorder in the form of a seemingly supernatural child with time warping abilities and the narrative loops and melts around an unsettling tableau of corporate manipulation and misinformation. The buildings are sentient, organic beings with robot hearts and there’s no hope for solutions. Interestingly, the matter-of-fact delivery of these fantastic stories is part of their charm. Dick’s nonchalant shifting from one point of view to another and back again should feel shoddy and our disbelief should come crashing down from suspension on the ceiling of our spaceship. It never does. The fact is, I found distressing human truths in these novels, predictions even of future truths. If you believe what you read on the internet, then there is a Philip K Dick android somewhere in the world, apparently ‘misplaced’ in America in 2006. I have to wonder how one misplaces an android, and of course where he is, and what he makes of the confusing world he created and now inhabits. Would he be able to answer my questions about his art and his life? John Leyland

>>> In Mrs Court’s Class

I was five years old when I was in Mrs. Court’s class, year one. As school is when you’re at that age, it was more fun than educational really. I remember this one day in particular. We had to write a story and draw a picture to match, which is something I’ve always loved doing. My story was about my Auntie Wendy who was coming to visit. I remember deciding that the story wasn’t interesting enough, so I embellished it a little by pretending that my Auntie was going to bring me a red ball (which I drew myself bouncing). I got so excited about my story, that I sort of ignored a natural and essential desire to empty my bowels. In the back of my mind I knew that I desperately needed the toilet, but I could only think about my drawing. There wasn’t enough room in my infant brain to house both concerns. Besides, I’d never been for a poo in school before because I was frightened. I’d seen other people do it and the bigger boys always kicked the door in on them whilst they were indecent. They all looked so undignified, sitting there, legs spread, pants down. The thought of it happening to me depressed and petrified me. So as the need grew stronger and stronger, and made its way to the forefront of my mind, I did my best to pay no heed to the problem. It was agony. Obviously, I couldn’t hold it in, my bowels then weren’t the strong, well defined muscles they are today. The embarrassment slowly started to creep its way out. I fought it hard, but it wasn’t long before I was sitting on a dirty secret. And it stank! So much so, that on my return from showing the teacher my progress, I turned around to see her with a wince on her face. I watched as she called over her teaching assistant, a Mrs. Smith. As teachers have the power to delegate, Mrs. Court must’ve used said power to get Mrs. Smith to try and locate the source of the hideous odour. I think they both probably understood what the nature of the problem was. Mrs. Smith’s job was to hold an investigation into which little tyke had created it. She didn’t seem too put out by her superior’s request actually (she was generally all to happy to please), and set about tracing the crime in the only way you can really…by sniffing the bottom of each and every child in turn until she found the culprit. If I was watching the scene back nowadays, I would most definitely find it ridiculously hilarious. I’m sure ’Sniffing Kids Arses’ wasn’t in Smith’s job description. However, back then, at that very moment, I was far beyond the point of shitting myself with worry. I could do little more than watch Mrs. Smith sniff her way towards me and the inevitable embarrassment that would come with it. She worked her way so skilfully through the class that if you didn’t know any better, you’d be forgiven for believing that she had practised her technique. She was a way through the suspects now, up to Phil Jones…Laura Williams…Stuart Griffiths, all of course bringing up negatives on her ’shit radar’. I can still recall the sheer dread I felt, just waiting. As she neared Tom Parry and the start of my table, I just stared at my work and awaited the impending doom like the convicted man in the gallows. Smith had got past Kayleigh Storey and I was next in the firing line. Although I wasn’t looking, I could sense her comparatively large figure standing behind me. I heard her bend down and inhale a great big breath from the vicinity of my rear. Turning round to face my comeuppance, I was just in time to see her signal to her workmate that I was the perpetrator, with only the slightest attempt at discretion I may add! She kind of pointed down at me a few times whilst pinching her nose and mouthing “It’s him!”. From this point onwards was a bit of a blur. I can’t recollect if my classmates were laughing at me or not, but I don’t think they were. I do however, remember her asking, “Have you had a little accident Joseph?”, to which I replied, “Yes”. Me and my cacky pants were friendlily escorted to the boys toilets by Mrs. Smith so that I could clean up and finish off. I can only imagine what the small talk between myself and Smith was like on the journey. I don’t quite know how I managed to keep the mess contained within my Y-Fronts either. We got to the little boys room and I went into a cubicle so that I could clean myself up and finish off what I had started in my pants, safe in the knowledge that Mrs. Smith was standing outside to deter any bigger boys with ideas towards bullying. By the amount that was already in my pants, I don’t know how there was more to come out, but there was.

Now, I’m sure you don’t feel you need to know the ins and (or exactly) outs of my toilet habits, but you should understand this… I think I have a spastic colon. My mum told me that my uncle has the same thing…I think it’s called a spastic colon anyway. It basically means that I take a rather long while on the toilet. And I do. My dad revels in telling house guests about the time he caught me playing Monopoly against myself whilst relieving myself. And Monopoly is a long game with a large board and a lot of pieces… It was actually quite an achievement. So I took a long time on the toilet is the point I’m attempting to bring to light here. Mrs. Smith waited obediently outside the whole time. She must have been getting bored though, as towards the end of the trip, she shouted “Are you nearly finished Joseph?”. I was. I was just wiping my bum, so I told her so. “I’m just wiping my bum!”. I heard her laugh, but it was hard for me! Up until the age of six, my dad wiped my bum for me. I remember calling him when I had finished (“Dad, I’m finished!”). One day, when I was six, he understandably got annoyed at being disturbed from reading his paper or whatever adult activity he was indulged in, and said “For Christ’s sake Joe, I’ll still be wiping your bloody bum when you’re sixteen!”. I think this thought forced me to start to wipe myself. Anyway, eventually, I finished in the cubicle, came out and put on the clean underpants that my dad had kindly brought in for me from home. You may think that going back into my classroom and facing my classmates was hard after this escapade, but it seems that events like that just kind of wash away like water off a ducks back when you‘re young. Within five minutes I was back writing my story and fantasising about the non-existent red ball my auntie was going to bring me. Joe Booker

When J.G. Ballard died last month, he left a vacuum in the literary world that will be very difficult to fill. Writers who can look at aspects of modern living, present them to us anew and make us see, ready or not, just how strange and disturbing the seemingly ordinary world actually is are rare and valuable. And once they’re gone, it can take a long time for another to emerge, especially one prepared to reveal inconvenient truths. He once said, ‘I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit, and then force it to look in the mirror.’ Safe to say, he achieved this ambition. Ballard initially made his name writing science fiction short stories more influenced by surrealist painters than other writers in the 1950s, and is still considered one of the best short story writers that the genre has produced. But his science fiction is rarely about space ships and alien invasion; it is more about exploring the human mind and the effect that the alien and unknown might have on it. Collections such as The Terminal Beach see his characters wander lost through changing worlds which have shed their traditional rules and certainties and perhaps have no room for humankind anymore. Other stories of the period ignore science fiction altogether, such as ‘The Drowned Giant’ in which the body of a giant is washed up on a beach. No answers as to where he came from are forthcoming, and when he loses his news value he’s simply forgotten. His early novels subject the world to a series of disasters including flooding, drought and the crystallisation of time. They are science fiction, but there’s not an alien in sight. Ballard’s focus is on what happens to the humans who live in these changed worlds and find themselves changing in turn. The 1970s saw a change in direction. His collection of ‘condensed novels’ that make up The Atrocity Exhibition deal with the sexual appeal of celebrities such as Ronald Reagan and Marilyn Monroe, especially those who have been murdered or died in car accidents (a theme he would deal with more fully in Crash in 1973) in stories such as ‘The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered As A Downhill Motor Race’. The stories are experimental and explicit, and link Ballard with the work of William Burroughs (the two admired each other’s writing). His next novels were equally disturbing - when he submitted Crash to publishers one rejection letter advised him to seek psychiatric help. (continued...)

>>> Mythologist Of The Near Future

In Remembrance of J.G. Ballard (1930-2009) by Phil Craggs

The breakdown of civilisation continues in High-Rise when the occupants of a luxury block of flats start to degenerate into factional savagery. This theme of humanity finding itself at odds with an increasingly sterile and anti-septic world links his final novels in which outsiders enter into self-isolated communities only to join in with their psychosis. These novels; Cocaine Nights, Super-Cannes, Millennium People and Kingdom Come; have similar plots but in each Ballard’s satirical focus is on a different aspect - drugs, consumerism, vigilantes and the need for fear and violence in human relations. The plot is largely a vehicle to explore these themes, but the books are written as thrillers with all the excitement appropriate to the genre. But mainly he is known for Empire Of The Sun, a semi-autobiographical novel about his childhood as a prisoner of war in China. On the surface this novel (followed by a sequel, The Kindness Of Women) is much more conventional but reveals the origins of much of his imagery, such as empty swimming pools. The world actually became as surreal as his later fiction, and the echoes of this time sound through his entire body of work. His influence stretches beyond fiction writing. The quote in the opening paragraph was sampled by Manic Street Preachers on their scathing masterpiece The Holy Bible, while Ian Curtis was such a fan that he called the first song of Joy Division’s second album ‘Atrocity Exhibition’. The Klaxons named their debut album after Ballard’s book Myths Of The Near Future. And bizarrely, Madonna named a recent song and tour ‘Drowned World’. David Cronenberg followed up his adaptation of William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch with his version of Crash (Cronenberg’s early films often feel like adaptations of Ballard stories), and Steven Spielberg successfully filmed Empire Of The Sun, starring a young Christian Bale. Ballard’s death robs us of a writer who examined the familiar with a surgical precision that revealed new ways of looking at the world. His work stands as a warning against the complacency of civilisation and reminds us how little it would take for all our certainties to fall away. Never ‘political’ in the true sense, his writing has reflected the pre-occupations of his lifetime to a degree unparalleled in modern literature. As the madness of the western world has tried to hide itself under a veneer of scientific progress, social order and advancement to some undefined better tomorrow, Ballard has consistently torn it away, exposing the psychosis beneath. To read his work is to see the last fifty years held up to a mirror. The mirror is Ballard’s. The vomit is our own.

>>> J.G Ballard

>>> Fear of Flying by Cass Elliss

How is it that the last time I flew alone was 1997?

I didn’t know there was an option

I felt the same sense of excitement, the beginning of a journey of myself

And that I had lines around the outside And was filled in In colour

But come the end of the summer, the freedom grew panic To get myself Somebody Mine

Nothing escaped through a hole in the outline

I kept him Locked up safe Fighting a losing battle

People feel much more when I’m not trying to make them take a shape in my jigsaw

He lost And now, I’m 20 again

I heard the theory: No one can be owned or controlled

I’ve never been scared of flying or any of the usual things Like dying alone

Yet all of beauty I guarded fiercely Lest it be taken By friend or love

Just rather worried of what might happen if I wasn’t needed full-time and right through I thought I might lose myself If I stopped being A bit of everyone

He might want to dismantle me And leave with a piece of mine Just as I him The rule of subtraction does not translate here, Where I am. Not afraid of flying, Dying, or Living.

Kalbakken were formed in 2005 by Dave and Kirsty Birchall following the realisation that the songs sung to them by the Norwegian mother, Maylis, during childhood were actually really rather good. These traditional Norwegian (and occasionally Swedish) folk songs had been passed down through generations and led to the pair organising some informal jams while they were both living in the Levenshulme area of Manchester. Inspired by the success of this, they decided to investigate further. “We began collecting songs from various song books that Maylis had at home,” explains Dave, “and talking with her about tunes. Then we started to dig into libraries, archives and sound sources in and around Oslo on trips there to see family”. Kalbakken, incidentally, is the name of the Oslo suburb where these visits were based. These authentic melodies and lyrics are then reconstructed by the duo into a beguiling and often haunting collection of songs using Kirsty’s beautiful soprano voice and violin and Dave’s accompanying voice and guitar. The forthcoming album on Little Red Rabbit Records is also peppered with jaw harp, accordion and, most prominently, percussion, which is taken care of by long-term associate Nick Dobson. He has no Norwegian blood and claims to be influenced solely by early-eighties hardcore punk pioneers Void. Nobody involved is really sure if Nick is an official member of the band, but his rhythmic contributions are a vital element of both the album and live performances, driving the faster songs and adding space and textural depth to the quieter ones. Musically, they often sound very similar to how the songs would traditionally have been heard. “The guitar has replaced an old-school instrument called a langeleik which is a form on untempered dulcimer, like an American mountain zither,” says Dave. “Flutes, like birch bark flutes and herding horns are also features of Norwegian folk song and in the past we’ve used recorders to imitate that”. Violin, voice and side drum would also have been used traditionally. However there is another element that creeps into the Kalbakken sound occasionally – Dave’s love of avant-garde music. Having played electric guitar for the internationally renowned free-rock havoc-wreakers and improvisation-fundamentalists Stuckometer, he is no stranger to the more unusual end of the musical spectrum. Dave plays down the differences between Stuckometer and Kalbakken. “I don’t necessarily see a difference! The main thread in my music is the practice of improvisation. In Kalbakken, for example, we do have very clear structures and sequences and some tunes are totally structured, but the majority of my parts have large areas where I will be improvising themes, ideas, melodies, all within the framework of the song”. The idea of improvising as a theoretical and structural formula for people’s social interactions is also something he is interested in. “For me”, he continues, “it’s the most well-realised model of human interaction that could be applied on a wider level; all the players are free to innovate and evolve themselves on an individual level but their ability to do that relies on their ability to listen to and respond to the other players which creates a greater sense of unity”. The other element important to Kalbakken’s music is the lyrics. It wasn’t until they started translating them with the help of their mother that they realised what a goldmine it was. They cover typical folk topics, such as love, death, work and politics and the band have unearthed some fantastic stories.

“Bonden Og Kråka” is typical of this. It describes a farmer killing a giant crow and using every last part of it’s body for something. For example, he makes twelve pairs of shoes from the skin, he makes twelve lengths of rope from the intestines and he makes the eyes into windowpanes. We’ll allow them a little poetic licence with that last one. The farmer goes on to use the meat, the claws and the neck and the song ends with the line “And if you can’t use a crow like so, you’re not worthy to have it”. “Surely a metaphor for our future consumption patterns”, exclaims Dave, excitedly. The other song here is “Hvem Kan Segle”. It is short, simple and effective:Who can sail without the wind? Who can row without an oar? Who can say goodbye to their friends without a tear? I can sail without the wind, I can row without an oar, But I can’t leave my friends without a tear. Kirsty and Dave may have stumbled over these songs accidentally, but pursuing it and digging up these often long-forgotten gems is something they take great pleasure in. Dave describes the fact that they might be rescuing songs that may otherwise have died and never been heard again as a “beautiful possibility”. Presenting the songs to people who are likely never to have heard anything similar also attracts them. Maybe that is something to do with the fact that they are all teachers in their day jobs? Kalbakken may theorise about improvisation and consumption patterns, they may use obscure medieval Scandinavian songs and they may be influenced by Ornette Coleman; but at the end of the day they just sing beautiful, catchy melodies. Those old Norsemen had great pop sensibilities, didn’t they?! For more information visit or . Dave also presents a fortnightly radio show on All FM ( called ‘The Northern Wire’ where he plays a variety of weird and wonderful music.

>>> Kalbakken

Human nature allows us to control the tenuous balances in our lives. My practice explores the conflicts we face between reality and fantasy; what we desire and what we need. Through my work I have explored how different trends come into our lives quickly and disappear just as abruptly, replaced by the latest craze. This is a theme that consistently runs throughout my work but becomes manifested in different forms. Previously this was based around music and drug culture, looking at the expectation of excitement but also its short-lived nature and aftermath. Currently I am looking at this idea with regards to the workplace, exploring the methods we use to retain both individuality and sanity in a monotonous environment and a place where control and order are essential to keep things running smoothly. The chaos in an office may not always be visible as there are systems in place to control it. Using repetition and scale my work aims to transform common objects into works that are both playful and suggest tension or anxiety. ‘Stress’ and ‘Post it Note I’ (pictured) come from a series of works titled ‘from nine to five’. Using objects ubiquitous in an office environment this was an experiment in creating work that had an ambiguous meaning. A smiling stress ball, a common decorative and relaxing item has been multiplied and chaotically distributed over the ground. But, each ball faces in the same direction, at the viewer exploring the balance between the light-hearted nature of such a sight and the uncomfortable anxiety of being watched. ‘Stress’ (2008), 400 stress balls, variable size

>>> Liz Wroe

Along side this ‘Post it note I’ is an over sized post it note, and object that is normally a personal reminder that when enlarged becomes an obtrusive public statement. The text comes from a motivational quote that has been edited to become ambiguous. Does laziness appear attractive? Is this designed to encourage the author to be productive? Or has it become a statement suggesting this is the best path to follow?

‘Post it note I’ (2008), paper, permanent marker, 6ft x 6ft

>>> Blank Media Presents...

March’s Blank Media Presents is one of the busiest for some time, with the intimate venue offering a tight squeeze of bodies that offers a welcome change from the chilly weather outside. Those who attend are rewarded with badges, cake (of course) and a projector showing a selection of the art available on the Blank Media web site – a gratifying amount of which has featured in blankpages itself. First up are The Gatherers, who combined acoustic guitar lilts with haunting violin to make a relatively gentle start to the night. They began with two instrumental numbers – gentle guitar melodies with Nicole Schwitz’s violin weaving in and out above it, reminding this reviewer of the way John Cale’s viola mourned behind the rest of the band on The Velvet Underground & Nico. It’s not until song three that singer/guitarist Andy Reid warms his vocal chords, which continues into the next song which picks up the pace of the set suddenly – breezy strumming beneath the vocal verse; slowing down for the bridge before picking up again in the next verse. It’s a welcome variation, and reminds a little of American singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur. Next up are Plank, a three-piece who immediately turn up the volume with electric guitar, bass and drums that are ear shattering in the small room. They begin with the bassist and drummer establishing a firm base for the track with the guitarist producing spaced-out sounds before settling into a driving rhythm. They follow this with a track created upon the repetition of a main riff which, rather than get dull through the repetition, builds and builds until it begins to sound like the perfect set closer. These two numbers alone show how tight the band are. A slight technical hitch temporarily delays the start of the next song, as an effects pedal refuses to do what it’s supposed to. But they get it right on the third go, resulting in raised fists from the band and cheers from the crowd. It’s worth the wait; crunchy riffs mix with looped guitar sounds and produce the best crowd reaction of the night so far – it’s not exactly moshing, but there’s some enthusiastic nodding of heads and tapping of feet. The rest of the set develops in this trance-rock direction, with the crowd becoming noticeably more into it with every song that goes by. Finally, there was The FTSE 100. Now at this point in the interests of impartial journalism blankpages has to declare a bias – the guitar player for the band is none other than our very own music editor Dan Bridgwood-Hill. It is something of a relief therefore to be able to report that no matter what your compromised reviewer thought (i.e. that they were great), the rest of the unbiased crowd were clearly into them every bit as much. As loud as Plank but more funk-inspired and less driving, The FTSE 100 played almost jazzy arrangements that had the crowd on-side straight away. After a first song that combined being intricate with being catchy, one member of the audience ironically commented ‘That’s easy that is!’ It was revealing that he made no attempt to prove his assertion. The rest of the set continued in this fashion – songs with unusual structures and an emphasis on playing around inside the boundaries of the track whilst not losing the tightness, again connecting it with more traditionally jazz-based structures. The set ended with cries for more from the audience. At the end of the night there had been only two tracks to feature a vocal – both by The Gatherers. It’s to all three bands’ credit that they weren’t missed. Phil Craggs

Yukio was sleepy. It had been 20 minutes since Cowboy’s last phonecall. Normally, this would have been a warning sign, but Mr Ikeda had relocated him to a new room that was more conducive to ‘good health for spiriting work endeavours in positive appreciation.’ He had then slapped Yukio on the back causing an overly familiar ache to return. No reflective screens, no side windows, just ambient natural light and lots of hard copies for ‘stunning employee with determined dynamic thinking process touch.’ The company had paid for Yukio’s new spectacles too, designerframed with lenses that could cope with something as trivial as eye-strain. New office, same job; Proof-reader. ‘Don’t Sue Us’ wasn’t the title of Yukio’s first manuscript of the day. ‘There’s No Horror Beyond Lack of Understanding’ by Won Kan Fuji, a regular supplier of manuscripts to Kanji’s. Yukio was more than familiar with Won Kan’s work. He’d even had the dubious pleasure of meeting the white-gloved Won Kan Fuji on a number of occasions. The words ‘prolific yet uninspiring’ had been typed in red into the Kanji file on Won Kan by Yukio himself. He removed his glasses and placed them atop the pile of manuscripts. He pinched at the bridge of his nose. Cowboy would probably leave him alone until lunch, and he was a trusted employee, that much had been made evident by his swift move. No-one would visit unannounced and he wasn’t a snorer. He tilted his head back and looked up at the ceiling tubes sucking through ambient light and sky. Accidental solitude makes me a being of no flesh Yukio woke suddenly. The phrase instantly repeated so he wrote it down on the first thing that came to hand, the title page of Won Kan’s manuscript. “Accidental solitude makes me a being of no flesh,” said Yukio aloud. He paused then added the word ‘until’ so it read ‘There’s No Horror Beyond Lack of Understanding until accidental solitude makes me a being of no flesh.’ He scribbled out Won Kan Fuji’s name. His cell-phone rang. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. “Have you decided?” asked Cowboy. “No,” replied Yukio. “It’s far too early to make that kind of decision.” “Aw, come on! It’s great!” “It’s far too early!” Yukio shouted then hung up. He’d been having trouble remembering just how he and Cowboy had met. Some friends embed themselves like ticks, get under the skin of a man’s life. Almost like a counter-point to a loved one. Yukio was sure that he’d had a girlfriend at some point. He remembered keeping a picture of her in his old office. Maybe it was still there. Cream soda was of importance. Not the fizzy-bottled shit that twenty-four-seven convenience stores sold; proper cream soda with two straws poured slowly into a tall Yankee Sock-Hop milkshake glass. It was a rare treat when Yukio was a child. A trip to the fairground ending with his nose pressed against the café’s cold glass window, watching the spinning lights as a wall of screams battled with the background burble of the coffee-machine and his mother’s smile. As the fairground encroached upon the land he would later impress a girl, who had a penchant for tight sweaters and all things Natalie Wood, by taking her to the café and sharing with her his favourite drink. A photograph was taken at some point. Yukio had written ‘Missaki’ on the back of it. The Snap-Tite frame occupied a space beneath the window in his old office.

>>> room by Steve O’Connor

Yukio counted the manuscripts on his desk. There were forty-two manuscripts and he blushed at having consumed such time with so pointless an exercise. Forty-two was also the age of his mother when she had died. Yukio had been told that she had gone on a journey. He couldn’t remember how, when and if the truth had ever been broken to him. He smiled. So smile. He wrote these words on the title page. It was a phrase the girl or his mother had used whenever he was grumpy with headaches. There was a flickering of light like candle-flame beneath a moving hand. Yukio would have answered yet another of Cowboy’s calls, had he not collapsed. At what point does the world snap back into focus when you’re a stuffed Panda toy called Tomas and you’ve reached the end of the spin-dry cycle? Are the tears, dirt and smells you’ve accumulated throughout your three month gap between cleans purged in any way? After all, three months of gorging followed by a ride where you may well drown must cause some sort of nausea, maybe even the bends? Amnesia perhaps, when you emerge from the machine smelling like a new stuffed toy? It is nothing less than a life of inversion; every reflection of self fails to fully represent self; every mirror twin is left-handed and parts its hair on the opposite side; every photograph delineates the life of a being you once resembled right up until the pop of the camera’s flash bulb, but never beyond that moment. The nosebleeds that followed a collapse always left Yukio’s nose tender and swollen, exacerbated by touching, prodding and picking at it until it bled again. His head ached. On a chair behind the pile of manuscripts was Tomas, Yukio’s Panda. Tomas drew his first breath when he was dragged from his packaging by Yukio’s needy hands. All of his life he had silently observed his actions. His dark button eyes were fixed on Yukio and his stitched-thread mouth smiled. Yukio crawled over to the chair, grabbed Tomas, raised the bear to his sore nose and inhaled. “Tomas,” said Yukio. His bottom lip quivered. He buried his face into the toy and sobbed silently. His cell-phone rang. Yukio staggered to stand and then rested on the edge of the desk. “Howdy!” said Cowboy. “What’s up?” “No. Tomas is here. I mean, nothing,” Yukio murmured. “I lost it for a while.” “What?” Cowboy’s tone of voice added to Yukio’s headache. “You sound terrible! You okay?” “Fine, fine,” Yukio returned the Panda’s stare. “Just have to do something.” “Come on over…” “No,” said Yukio. He hung up. He sat in his chair and placed Tomas next to the manuscripts. He felt compelled to write. The last word he had uttered was ‘No’. He wrote down the word, then immediately changed it to ‘Noh’, threw down his pen and turned to Tomas. “Any thoughts?” he picked up his pen and scribbled out the word on the page. “How about…?” ‘I know’ he wrote and then turned again to Tomas for confirmation. The bear’s expression remained fixed. Yukio sighed. The noise startled him. The sparse furniture amplified the sound. A man, a chair, a table, a pile of manuscripts, a stuffed toy and a pair of spectacles behaving like stations between Shibuya and Shimbashi. Static yet busy, even if his business his purpose was to briefly invite, entertain or even decipher momentary discourse. His voice whooshed like the sound of trapped air between two passing trains. “Ah”, Yukio said, testing the spatial limits of his new room. “AH!” he shouted. Self-awareness struck. He was making a fool of himself. No-one knocked at his door. No-one asked if anything was the matter. He licked his upper lip. The blood from his nosebleed had already begun to congeal like a snotty toffee. Yukio remembered an instance as a child swallowing syrupy medicine from an old spoon.

“You should get your five a day,” Missaki suggested. “It says so in all of my magazines.” “Ah, I spend all day reading,” Yukio replied. “I no longer believe in the reliable narrator!” “Heathen,” Missaki laughed. Every morning was punctuated with conversation such as this, and Yukio loved it. It made him feel like his life was drenched in affluence. The morning walk to Shibuya station was a route scattered with playful glances at each other and profane words suddenly exclaimed in order to draw disapproving looks from passing strangers. “I’ve been reading your magazines actually.” “Really? Learn much?” “Well,” said Yukio. “There was an article on boosting the immune system that I thought…” “Ha!” Missaki always yelped at the inappropriate. “You’re such a pervert.” “Next time I’ll just look at the pictures.” The morning air was filled with the smells of breakfast and water flowing. Missaki’s heels clack-clacked like a metronome, a percussive lead-in to the bellow of traffic a few streets away. “I want a smoothie.” “You’ll have to want,” Yukio replied. “Starbucks is crazy at this time of the morning. Tourists, commuters. I’m not going.” “Well, I am,” they had reached the Scramble Crossing. Missaki turned, grabbed Yukio by the waist and kissed him. The tip of her tongue flitted past his lower lip. “See you later.” As she slowly disappeared into the throng of commuters, Yukio, as usual, willed her to turn and smile. And as usual, she didn’t. Shibuya Station’s redesign left Yukio cold. Oversized cornices fashioned to look like turbines, pointless stages, everything scrubbed or painted white to convey a sense of space. Yukio wasn’t convinced. It hadn’t done anything to relieve congestion. In fact, the whole refit seemed like an exercise in encouraging disappointment. A hopeful man was standing at the bottom of the steps that led down to the platform. He was waiting to assist Yukio in his journey. “Good morning, Mr Ikeda.” “Good morning, Won Kan,” Yukio surveyed the platform and its surroundings. Every morning was the same. Yukio would behave courteously, but never actually look Won Kan in the eye. “Off to work?” “Of course, of course.” It was a familiar exchange that always led up to the same question from Won Kan Fuji. “Have you, by chance, read my most recent manuscript?” “Yes. Yes, I have,” Yukio lied. “It’s promising.” “Great!” Won Kan replied enthusiastically. “Actually, I’ve been giving it some thought and think that it could be one in a series of…” A tannoy announcement drowned out Won Kan’s words. Yukio’s train had arrived. “Sorry, my friend,” Yukio smiled. “It’ll have to wait.” The commuters shuffled towards the end of the platform as the train came to a halt, and Yukio could feel Won Kan’s hands pressing into the small of his back. “Make room! Make room!” Won Kan shouted, one of many assistants aiding passengers onto trains at Shibuya Station that day. “Make room!” he shouted, carefully guiding Yukio through the carriage doors, just like he did every morning.

Yukio was relieved. He had been spared an awkward conversation. He was thankful that Missaki hadn’t been there to witness it. He hoped that similar good fortune would provide him with a seat at some point during the journey. The carriage doors closed. Yukio could feel Won Kan’s stare through the carriage window. He chose not to meet it. Instead, he looked down at his finger nails, hoping to project an image of being lost in thought. It was then that the train shook. And then a woman screamed. And the tremor and scream sustained, stretching time like old glue, illuminating helpless faces, distending the minutiae of the moment of collision. Cowboy walked in a circle around Yukio. His spurs jangled and left small indentations in the carpet tiles. “I have no answer for you, Gweilo,” Yukio murmured, holding Tomas to his lips. “Oh, I think you do, Yukio,” Cowboy replied. “I think you’ve known from the moment you got here. Why else would you ignore my calls?” Yukio didn’t answer. The jingle-jangle of Cowboy’s spurs annoyed him, though not as much as Cowboy having arrived unannounced. “Why a cowboy, Gweilo?” Yukio asked. “Well… Where would one find a cowboy?” It struck Yukio that such questions were not the actions of a friend, but rather an inquisitor. To be subject to scrutiny from this ridiculous figure seemed absurd. All he wanted was an answer to a simple question. Lying on the floor, Yukio reasoned that anger would not deliver the response he sought. It was like being the victim of a pointless practical joke. “The Wild West.” “To be fair, it is a confusing experience,” said Cowboy. “Only ever happens once.” “And what now?” Yukio frowned and scratched his head. “Now you recite me your poem.” Yukio raised himself to his feet and walked over to the pile of manuscripts. He sighed. “Must I?” “Yes,” urged Cowboy. “I’ve redrafted it.” “Just read it.” Yukio cleared his throat. “There’s no horror beyond lack of understanding Unless Accidental solitude makes my being Fleshless So smile I know death, Mother. By Yukio Ikeda” Cowboy chuckled, rolled his eyes and put on his Stetson. “It’s awful, isn’t it?” Yukio’s face reddened. “It’s not the worst I’ve heard,” Cowboy lied. Tucking Tomas beneath his arm, Yukio looked around the room. The chair, table, manuscripts and spectacles, even the light had diminished in substance like the colours in an old photograph. “And what of this?” “This?” said Cowboy. “This is nothing, just surface and symbol.” He then threw his arm around Yukio and they left the room together, out into a vastness of nothing as pure as a blank page.

Poem of the Month is the initiative of TATE ETC. magazine, publishing a new piece of poetry every month on its website at The poems are written exclusively for TATE ETC. magazine and among the authors there are widely acclaimed poets such as John Burnside, Moniza Alvi, Adam Thorpe and David Harsent. The writing they contribute responds to the pieces of art which are within the Tate collection, be it the landscapes of John Downman, Bridget Riley’s Op arts or the ready-mades of Man Ray. TATE ETC. is Europe’s largest art magazine, issued three times a year. Each issue is filled with in-depth articles, discussions and interviews with the artists and art-practitioners. Such personalities as Sigmar Polke, John Banville and Tracey Emin are among the contributors discussing the fine, modern and contemporary faces of art. The latest Poem of the Month was contributed by Elaine Feinstein, a great novel author, writing also radio plays, television dramas and biographies. For TATE ETC. exclusively she created a poem inspired by Isaac Babel Riding with Budyonny – a figurative painting of British Pop art by R.B.Kitaj. The collage-looking art work meets on its canvas horses, angel, carnival colours and dark skies. Where is Isaac’s place in such savagery? Find out at

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Issue 12 of Blank Media’s e-zine, blankpages is out NOW! As usual, we bring you art, poetry, prose and - yes, more art! Check it out at our...

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