Literature 034 On Paper J.D. Taylor 038 Homemade Dream James Ming-Hsueh Lee 040 Hide Kirsten Irving 041 Slugs Kirsten Irving 042 White Elephant Kirsten Irving
Architecture 012 Climate Augmentation, Los Angeles Article and Interview with Rina Kukaj by Gordon O’Connor-Read 020 Future Cities Interview with PD Smith by Rose Cooper-Thorne Illustration by Grivas Vasilis 026 Concrete Rose Cooper-Thorne
Fashion 050 Jackie Robert Glowacki 094 ΤΕΛΟΣ ΠΑΝΤΩΝ Christos Kapralos
043 Five Hawk Day Christina Lovin 044 Drawing silly Omens and rock in heads Lucy O’Donnell 046 Aeromancy, or Drawing Omens from the Air Marsha Meskimmon 049 The Note James Ming-Hsueh Lee
Music 088 Evripidis and His Tragedies
Art 060 THE END IS NIGH Alan Dunn on Mats Bigert and Lars Bergström’s The Last Calendar 070 Confessions of a Telephone Kiosk Ben Parry on Laura Keeble 078 Seeing in the Dark Alan Dunn on Suzanne Treister’s 20 CIA Black Sites
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Cover image by Robert Glowacki Jaz Wasson @ Next UK wears J J.S. Lee AW12 Contributors This Issue J.D. Taylor James Ming-Hsueh Lee Kirsten Irving Christina Lovin Lucy O’Donnell Marsha Meskimmon Alan Dunn Mats Bigert Lars Bergström Ben Parry Laura Keeble Suzanne Treister Rina Kukaj Gordon O’Connor-Read PD Smith Rose Cooper-Thorne Grivas Vasilis Evripidis Sabatis Jack Boulton Dani Canto Christos Kapralos Robert Glowacki Andreas Koumas Miho Hamaya Takuya BB Elena Vafea Jaz Wasson @ Next UK Tom Kitching
Climate Augmentation, Los Angeles Article and Interview with Rina Kukaj by Gordon Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Connor-Read
Opposite: Rina Kukaj: The New City in the Transsolar Cloudscape
Previous Spread Left: Overview of the new Joshua Tree Park California Previous Spread Right: Bio-Filtration System implemented within Joshua Tree Park California Opposite: Bio-Filtration System spreads towards the City
The formation of a city is our indelible mark upon the landscape. Built upon Portland stone down to scrap metal, it is often the gauge by which we measure our own aspirations and priorities in plain sight. But deference for this archetypal model is becoming obsolete when more than half of the world’s population has migrated towards urban dwelling. Subsequently the very coding of the city and all it’s paraphernalia such as density, topography and boundary are being re-written. Once profligate and profuse for only a few, major destinations such as Los Angeles will be impacted upon where population figures have swelled over the past decade. It’s distinctive portrayal through pop-culture and film-making is often a faux apotheosis of a city, like many others, suffering from the burden of over-exposure and an unforgiving climate. Owing to a basin landscape and deprived annual rainfall, the terrain of LA is almost arid and these acerbic conditions have created an ideal bedding for environmental pollutants that have contributed towards the phenomenal level of smog that is prevalent within this metropolis. The trappings of success can often breed undesirable side effects such as elevated levels of pollution. But in recent years a plethora of architects, engineers and designers have focused upon this imbalance through their own work. One architectural scheme in-particular has speculated upon the combination of existing ecological research with a clear design aesthetic. A masters graduate of the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, Rina Kukaj’s thesis titled ‘Climate Augmentation: Controlling and Modifying the Los Angeles Climate’ is both a timely and hypothetical investigation into adapting polluted climates through architectural interventions. The provenance of the scheme was to promote re-hydration of the Los Angeles landscape via a ‘purification blanket’; a canopy distributed within the surrounding terrain in order to filter LA through natural soil remediation of existing aerosols in the present atmosphere. Her thesis is documented by a series of graphical portraits that illustrate the chronological deployment of the blanket and further inclusion of a bio-filtration network, for the degrading of hazardous substances in the air. Less carte blanche, it’s an analytical response on an emphatic scale, addressing issues of climate erosion that is both cerebral and prophetic.
What made Los Angeles the ideal test-bed for your speculative designs? Rina Kukaj: I wanted to engage with the ecological difficulties that large cities currently experience. This is obviously a speculative account, but is also grounded by real-life affliction. And the potential to re-map Los Angeles, as a forerunner for climate-driven architecture seemed appropriate given the state of California has a reputation for technological advancements. Additionally, inactive wind movement, irregular flat topography, and the composition of compact tall builds often escalate the dense air conditions experienced by residents, making it an ideal backdrop with which to prophesize. At what point does the technology end and architecture begin? Or are they both part of the same methodology? RK: The two are very distinctive, and certainly individual in their own right. But overlaps are becoming more frequent. I have always pictured technology as the provider for advancing architectural interventions and thinking. But at the same time the architecture probes the technology. With this it is fair to say that the two really do go hand-in-hand.
years to come? RK: Sustainable design has become an essential issue more than ever before. We are building continuously and at a faster rate. Such mass production of material and the greater use of heavyduty machinery have naturally forced designers and technicians to explore the concept of sustainable design, at every level possible. Green credentials are at an initial glace a hindrance and an unnecessary hurdle, however in this day and age quite easily achieved. There is always a solution at hand, and more often than not it leads architects, designers, and researchers to an otherwise relatively unexplored territory of technological interventions and processes that subsequently have a very profound effect upon the design. It questions every action and asks designers to delve deeper into their creative thinking. It also helps that in the 21st Century the built environment has many specialists on board. The primitive ideology of the architects being the sole designer, engineer and executor is no longer the phenomenon. There are many sub-contractors that are employed, even on a small-scaled project. These types are always the most telling and act as catalysis for invention.
Ongoing developments in construction technology, fabrication & assembly can often mean buildings have a shorter lifespan than compared with any generation gone before. Does this create inherent responsibilities for architects, technocrats and designers? If so, what are they? RK: New architectural propositions should look closely at climate patterns and try to counter by stabilising such conditions. The impact of our buildings and their construction reach far beyond the boundaries weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re legally permitted to use, and often the need for urban pollution control is negated. Furthermore, we need to manage the discharge of toxins or air pollutants and encourage developments in technological machinery as well as material research, and unify with them architectural design. Within the design community there is a constant focus upon sustainability and green credentials that have implications from concept to manufacture. How do you anticipate architects will marry such expectations with their own schemes in Opposite: Bio-Filtration System
Future Cities Interview with PD Smith by Rose Cooper-Thorne Illustration by Grivas Vasilis
‘The first cities were built by a people we now know as the Sumerians...At the heart of Sumerian civilisation were independent, self-governing cities, beginning with the first city: Eridu. The Sumerians believed that each city had been built by a god or goddess as their own dwelling. The temple was therefore at the centre of city life, a focus of ritual and economic activity. The god entrusted each city to the care of a king, or ‘lugal’ in Sumerian. For Sumerians, civilised life was city life. They did not pine for some lost idyllic Garden of Eden, a perfect realm from which (according to the Judaeo-Christian tradition) mankind was expelled by a wrathful God. Instead the Sumerians believed their gods had given them the city – a place of plentiful food and water, a place of society, of family and friendship, and a centre of civilisation. They were at home in the city. It was where they believed all their dreams would be realised.’ P. D. Smith ‘City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age’ What can the future now hold for our contemporary cities and urban populations? How will current building practices and trends impact? We spoke to writer P. D. Smith about where he sees the city in the future and what possible effects design and architecture could have on their fates. In the last 5-10 years, for the first time in the world’s history, our population has shifted to more people living in cities than in the countryside. Why has the world’s population become more urban than rural? A tide of urbanisation is sweeping across the planet. Cities comprise less than 2 per cent of the earth’s surface but they are now home to more than half of the world’s population. By 2050, nearly three quarters of people will be urbanites. Why are more and more people leaving the countryside? Cities have always been places of opportunity. In cities people are free from the restrictions
that exist in rural communities ruled by tradition and clan loyalties. The city liberates people. Over the gates of the cities of the Hanseatic League was carved the motto: Stadtluft macht frei – city air sets you free. In a city you are free to become an individual. You can choose your destiny. Education and economics make this possible. The belief that the streets of the city are paved with gold is probably as old as cities themselves. Economics – the search for work, the need to trade, to buy and sell goods – is one of the great engines of urban life. Cities have been, and still are, very effective at raising people’s standards of living, even in an era of urban mega-slums. Even in the poorest nations, people are moving to cities to find an education for their children, to have access to healthcare facilities, to find employment and to experience the rich social and cultural life that is only found in a city. Cities are magnets, drawing people from the surrounding territory with the promise of a better life. Of course, that’s not to say that everyone is able to create a better life for themselves. But the dream is immensely powerful. What is a ‘megacity’? What can the future ‘mega cities’ learn from our current city populations? Ancient Rome was the first city to reach a million inhabitants. London reached 6.5 million people in the second half of the nineteenth century. But New York City became the most famous metropolis in the twentieth century and the world’s first megacity – a city of more than 10 million people. There were nineteen megacities by the start of the twenty-first century, only four of which were in industrialized countries. By 2030 that figure is expected to rise to about forty. Tokyo is currently the largest, home to an incredible 36 million people – slightly more than live in the whole of
Canada. Mumbai is expected to overtake Tokyo in the coming decades. But such vast cities are often part of even larger urban systems. For thousands of years, cities have proved highly effective at lifting people out of poverty. But today there is a growing divide between rich and poor in our cities. While globalisation and the opening up of markets around the world has generated great wealth, it is unevenly distributed. The gated communities of the affluent stand next to shanty towns in which households have no clean running water. In many cities of the developed world there is also rising income inequality, resulting in increasingly polarised urban communities. In Britain, London has the highest proportion of households at the top and the bottom of the income scale. It also has the highest poverty rate in the country. Today more than ever before we need successful cities – cities that are sustainable, that allow their inhabitants to live fulfilling and prosperous lives in inspiring yet liveable environments, and cities that bring people together rather than dividing them. The environmental and social challenges of the twenty-first century will be won or lost in the city. Inequality, divided cities, poor infrastructure – these are the warning signs city dwellers of today need to focus on if we are to create the cities people deserve in the future.
project, driven by high ideals and it remains to be seen to what extent the vision of a fully sustainable city will be realised there. With a projected population of about 45,000, Masdar City will be powered entirely by renewable energy: a concentrated solar power plant, photovoltaic fields, wind turbines and a geothermal plant. Air conditioning is supplied by an innovative solar thermal cooling system. The water of this desert city will be supplied by a solar-powered desalination plant, with waste water being recycled for irrigation. Residents and visitors must park their cars outside Masdar City and most of the transport in the city will be provided by a futuristic fleet of driverless, pod-shaped electric cars – the Personal Rapid Transport system. Of course, Masdar City is a relatively small project. We need to apply the lessons learned in such new cities in older ones. Retrofitting green technology will be a challenge. But city living – even in affluent cities – can be green. New Yorkers are responsible for the emission of many times more greenhouse gasses than the inhabitants of Mumbai. But those who live in New York produce only about a third of the carbon dioxide of the typical American. By reducing our carbon footprint, urbanization might just save the planet. Which are some of your favourite cities?
What about an ‘eco city’? Can they really help reduce or even eliminate the environmental cost of city living? In the desert, some twenty miles from Abu Dhabi, a new city is being built in the United Arab Emirates. This walled city on a square plan is an eco-city called Masdar City. It is designed to be carbon neutral. According to its architect, Norman Foster, ‘a zero-waste, zero-carbon city is like putting a man on the moon’. It is an ambitious
I love the concentrated verticality of Manhattan. It’s the archetypal skyscraper city, the one that defined people’s expectations about the modern metropolis in the twentieth century. Paris – the city of light – is a city that set new standards for urban planning in the nineteenth century. Baron Haussmann’s transformation of Paris from the 1850s has created a beautifully spacious city, albeit by sacrificing its historic street plan. There’s a constant tension in all cities between preserv-
ing the past and embracing the new. Cities like Beijing or Shanghai have swept away their past in an unseemly rush to modernise. Although I don’t believe all old structures should be preserved – cities are not museums, after all – I do prefer cities with a long history, like Rome or London. There is something extraordinarily evocative about the juxtaposition of old and new. I love the idea that when we walk through the streets today we follow in the footsteps of previous generations of city dwellers. One of the places where the urban past comes powerfully alive is in the twelfth-century basilica of San Clemente, Rome. Archaeologists have excavated beneath the church. Now not only can you walk along the nave of a much older church underneath the one at street level. But beneath this they have uncovered the streets of first century Rome as well as a temple to Mithras. It is a quite unique urban experience. Truly memorable. How is the architecture of cities likely to change moving forwards? In the 1930s, New York was the biggest city in the world, with a population of some seven million people (eleven million in the metropolitan region as a whole) and 200 skyscrapers. This was more than the total in the rest of the world’s cities. By colonising its own airspace, Manhattan changed the way people thought about cities. But today people are looking towards Asian cities such as Shanghai to see what the urban future will look like. The pace of growth and construction in Shanghai has been unprecedented. Its economy has grown faster than any other megacity since 1990, at about 15% a year. The changes that happened in New York from 1880 to 1930 have happened here in under twenty years. In Shanghai there were 121 buildings over eight stories in 1980. By 2005, that had risen to more than 10,000. There are some four thousand high-rise buildings of twenty stories or more. Shanghai is building both upwards and outwards. The municipal government has built satellite cities, such as the surreal London-themed Thames Town in Songjiang New City, and densely-populated high-rise complexes on the periphery to accommodate a population that has grown eightfold since the 1920s. Shanghai is now China’s most populous city, a vast sprawling metropolis of about twenty million people, a figure set to rise still further in the coming years. Indeed, it is expected that some 50,000 skyscrapers will be
built in China over the next twenty years. By then Shanghai may even become the city with the most high-rise buildings, a record currently held by Hong Kong, which has about 7,600. Population densities in central Shanghai are far higher than in London. These cities reveal the shape of things to come for much of the urban world. As global population rises steadily, growing urban populations will need to be accommodated with the minimum impact on the environment and the planet’s scarce resources. Architect Norman Foster, whose Commerzbank tower (1997) in Frankfurt, Germany, was the first skyscraper designed according to ecological principles, believes that high-density, high-rise living is essential: ‘We need skyscrapers.’ Unless we discover a clean energy source to power cars and homes in the near future, there is no doubt that high-density cities will prove the most efficient and sustainable way of housing the world’s increasing population. For many city dwellers that means high-rise living. But in the distant future, scientific discoveries, such as fusion, may unlock a new age of cheap energy, and we could see cities spreading out again, as they did in America in the 1920s, bringing a new era of sprawl and ‘slurbs’ (slum-suburbs). How does the architecture of a city help define it? Winston Churchill once said that “We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.” Architecture does shape both the character of a city and its inhabitants. In my book there are essays on some of the spaces and structures that define cities such as the Central Station, the City Wall, the Skyscraper or even the Ruins. The wall is one of the most basic architectural features. As Will Eisner said: ‘Where is there a city / without walls / that house its soul / or muffle its cries / and choreograph / the dance of its life?’ Walls create the urban spaces in which we live, separating the public from the private, protecting us from the elements and other people. The walls of buildings guide our route – sometimes straight, sometimes meandering – through the city, shaping the pattern of our urban lives. From Babylon to Berlin, in our ancient love affair with cities, walls have – at different times and different places – imprisoned people and helped set them free. More than any other structure, the fortified city wall has shaped urban communities around the world. ‘Polis’, the ancient Greek word for city, originally meant a citadel, such as the crown of a
hill surrounded by a ring-wall. From the earliest times up until the eighteenth century, the defensive wall was the city’s most prominent and visible feature. The first city dwellers felt the presence of their defensive wall even when they could not see it. It became a wall in the mind. Subtly and gradually, the city wall changed the way people saw the world. Although it protected populations against real or imagined threats from outside, it also united the enclosed community, binding them with a common sense of identity and shared purpose. The wall made people into citizens. But walls can also be structures of control. The first walled communities could easily have become prisons, holding camps for forced labour. Indeed, the ghetto, first named in Venice in 1541, is an example of how walls can be used to control urban populations. In China cities are synonymous with walls. The Chinese character for ‘wall’ is the same as the one for ‘city’ – ‘cheng’, written as a square with two or four attached gates. The construction of large walled cities began there more than three thousand years ago. China’s capital, Beijing, was once surrounded by a great wall with huge watchtowers and gatehouses, which towered over all other structures. And, of course, Beijing has at its heart the Forbidden City, once home to the Emperor. This extraordinary walled city, within what was once itself a walled city, is a labyrinth of courtyards, pavilions and official buildings, symmetrically arranged along a north-south axis according to the rules of the geomancers. The emperor, his courtiers and the administrators of the city all lived behind high walls, cut off from the ordinary people of their city: a powerful architectural symbol of the divisions within this most hierarchical of societies. In your book you talk about a continuity running between all cities, regardless of culture, and in the past, present and future. What is this essence of ‘city’? How does it manifest itself? One of the themes that emerged while writing the book was the remarkable continuity running through cities and city life, from the earliest urban communities to today’s global cities. In its essentials, life for the inhabitants of the first cities was not so very different from today. From the love of good food expertly cooked and enjoyed with friends and family, to the need to work, and the pleasures of shopping, their daily lives mirror ours. Cities were successful because they became centres of trade, creating work and wealth for
their inhabitants; because they were safe and secure places in which to live; and because they offered an intense social and cultural life – all things we value today. These busy, diverse communities became schools of the human mind, stretching and shaping our intellects. Cities are extraordinary technological and architectural environments – our natural habitat. But they are far more than the sum of their architecture. Cities are made great by their people. We shine in cities. In them we produce our most remarkable creations, from science to the arts. Writing began in the city. The first great libraries were in cities, as were art galleries. Banking began in cities, with the rules for money lending being laid down more than 3,700 years ago in the Code of Hammurabi in Mesopotamia. The first theatres emerged in cities some 2500 years ago. All these great traditions – the basis of our civilization – emerge out of urban life. For many, the big city becomes a crucible in which the self can be forged anew. This, as well as the promise of jobs, is what draws young people and migrants to the glittering metropolis. And this gift of self-discovery is reflected in the institutions of the city, in its museums, libraries, galleries, and theatres. The continuity that runs through urban life is an expression of the abiding needs and desires of people. Cities become great if they allow people to achieve those desires.
Approximately 7.5 billion m³ (265 billion cu ft) of concrete are produced annually. That equates to 1 m³ (35 cu ft) of concrete for every person on earth each year. Almost all buildings of the last century have some concrete component, such as foundations, and it is found in every country in the world- concrete transcends culture. A new book, edited by William Hall and published by Phaidon this Autumn seeks to advocate and celebrate concrete’s beauty, efficacy and its incalculable contribution to modern life. Collating fascinating and beautiful concrete buildings by some of the most celebrated architects of the last century; Concrete features familiar projects from Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright alongside work from some of the leading lights of contemporary architecture including Zaha Hadid, Herzog & de Meuron, and many lesser-known newcomers. ‘Without concrete our built environment and the history of architecture would be woefully bereft. It is time to reconsider concrete and its contribution to architecture. This is the place to start.’ William Hall
Concrete Words by Rose Cooper-Thorne
On Paper Words by J.D. Taylor
“The moon who simultaneously sees us both”: these words, dislocated from context or history, were found on just one of so many pages from books pasted on the walls and doors of the decaying suburb streets. From a distance, they made the surfaces they were pasted on look almost reflective, like liquid surfaces, so small and close together were these pages, that perhaps behind them one might enter some other world. On second thought, it may well have just been another advertising device or cynical art student’s masquerade. In any case, the irony was lost on the cracked and creased-up streets of this suburb, where populations laid-off from life cooped together in mediocre housing to stare in isolation, silently, at the vast redundancy of most modern life through the borders of a smartphone-screen. The library was long ago relocated to the basement of the town hall, an archaic and derelict building which one might find on a paper map, but certainly not on any digitised device. Its use had expired, its demolition deferred due to local council budget efficiencies enforcement. Paper had no use – expensive, liable to tear, disintegrate, err in its multiplicity. Digitised information offered the security of coming from one company, it could be copied and shared across other digitised devices, it demanded less attention. One could always switch to a game or social website in between reading information, unlike a book, which always stood tyrannical, demanding devotion and faithful interest. A Librarian had come to occupy the basement of this town hall for some years now. His name and background were not known. It was also possibly true that he could not even read the books which he
attentively cared for, and compiled in increasingly complex interdisciplinary systems that mocked the block-headedness of earlier cataloguers. He feared the power of these books, which had once through mere words sent heretics to their deaths and sent others into madness or brave, ludicrous adventures across continents, morality, the heart, soul, and other nouns which the Librarian strived to understand but for which no-one of the age could teach. Such nouns could, if exposed and liberated from the repressive confines of their hardback borders, intensify and enrich the imaginations and intellects of the sickly-looking residents of the nearby high-rises and the crumbling Victorian terraces. The Librarian sat for hours each day staring at words and phrases that he could pick out in the shape-shifting pages, in the hope that, like learning how to shoot or drive an armoured vehicle, or locate the enemy’s position in flat, deserted hillscapes and barren farmland, through careful and close study the correct intelligence required to command the situation would arise intuitively. He had become an expert in the sacred geometries of Persian Islamic art, in the haunted and mordant scenes of Goya, Caravaggio, Breughel and others, but his real interest was in harnessing the power of the unknown word for some good. At night, interrupted occasionally by the occasional fox or drunken reveller, he would temporarily desert the library to paste these pages onto disused shop shutters, broken payphone booths, parked cars, bollards and walls. The effect was manic, inspired, and utterly disregarded by the local residents. Back in the night, beneath the moon, the Entrepreneur marvelled at what “the sadness of a God”, from a ripped page pasted on the back of a
supermarket delivery van, might possibly signify. A sadness of unknowable depths, or melancholia in contemplating the squandered gifts of those creatures once lovingly manufactured. It was possible that the basis of social wellbeing and harmony had always been charity, justice, reason, tolerance, cooperation and humility – ideals already suggested in the religious prophets. Envisioning the health of such societies, these prophets used the only persuasive means at their disposal to persuade reluctant and ignorant masses to follow their rule, using their imaginations to conjure wrathful and benevolent Gods to provoke fear and superstition. Each era’s prophets were forced to recourse to catastrophic visions of differing sorts to call for such simple, easily forgotten ideals. The Entrepreneur had no interest in ideals, unless they could be translated into another currency. This perhaps was the one ideal of his digitised era. He had seen the pages pasted all ‘round the suburban outer rings of the city, with incomprehensible words and diagrams on paper, of all things, that useless and environmentally-unsustainable material occasionally, still sometimes, used to mop up wounds in hospitals. Words he could understand, usually no more than three hundred or so alongside flashing images and interactive links. But pages and pages of just words were much harder to concentrate on. Poverty, vanity and vainglory will often co-conspire in a man’s mind and present absurd, outlandish conceptions, like that within these pages might be found some forgotten technology or concept that had not been translated into digitisation, which might now curry great power and favour in the economy. It was by chance while sleeping in his car that the
Entrepreneur was interrupted by the Librarian pasting some large pages from a history book, countless small horses and flamboyant soldiers’ uniforms, on the side of his car. It had been easy from thereon to persuade the Librarian to allow the Entrepreneur to visit the damp and dusty museum in the derelict old school where he lived and worked. The nameless Entrepreneur gasped at the sheer density of textbooks, many of which could not have previously belonged to the small rooms but must’ve been brought to the safekeeping of the librarian. Mould suffused the air, and alongside the scarcity of light and use of candles, gave an atmosphere that one was not entering down a small flight of stairs but into a grotto deep beneath the earth. After a couple of visits, where both sat beneath the claustrophobic artillery of two strangers’ shared silence, the Entrepreneur’s comings and goings were no longer pre-arranged but became regular, until he too found it most convenient to also sleep in the library, in order to carry out his research into these magical books by day. The Librarian often fell into a kind of fogged silence, and was the kind of man who always felt sorry for something he hadn’t done. It felt like the entire world might be blaming him for some crime truly awful of which he had no memory of committing, yet the fact that everyone blamed him for it meant it was probably true, or that he deserved punishment anyway. As a child, he had often owned up to the pranks and misbehaviour of his peers, and yet hated this heavy responsibility. The pages meant more to him than just words. Their thick paper suggested an intimacy and understanding with the body that he had rarely experienced before, a new kind of beauty, utterly alien to all the transient
sexual encounters when he’d been off-duty, which would be found in writing upon and mapping each other’s skin. The disappearance of paper explained the disappearances too of physicality and of the need and use of materials and physical labour. Digitisation had made redundant almost anything, with an individual’s value determined only economically, and in their passive consumption of digital goods. The books suggested a return to the body and to an embodied skin where history was unwritten and unstable, and therefore organically and spiritually charged with a very violent active potential, if it could be unlocked. These wandering reveries for the Librarian often drifted on such great journeys that their origin, end and all else were soon forgotten. The Entrepreneur observed these very long silences like following the movement of a bird across the skies, and convinced him further of the Librarian’s great wisdom and magic which soon he would be able to exploit. Frequently, the Librarian would stare into a corner, no longer concentrating on his books, as if conversing with the dead. Such small observations, and the information he could extract from the books, all co-conspired in the Entrepreneur’s mind to suggest that luck and divine election were about to bestow upon him some expensive new truth for market. The Librarian did in fact have an assistant of sorts, the Woman, who would visit irregularly to clean the library and sell sandwiches and drinks. Her cleaning rarely extended beyond dusting and rearranging the piles of plucked-out pages on the great issue desk where the Librarian and Entrepreneur sat silently in study, usually with their backs to each other. Although the Librarian seemed to have no sexual proclivities beyond his ascetic attachment to paste and paper, the Entrepreneur increasingly found his eye wandering to this mousy-haired woman perhaps in her late 20s. She became increasingly beautiful and erotic to behold, until his mind could no longer focus on experimental combustion technologies from the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Her poverty, coarse manners and illfitting leopard-print overcoat all turned him on even more. One afternoon, when the Librarian was out carrying out ‘experiments’, something he had been recently preoccupied with, the Entrepreneur made his move. She was busy pulling out pages with diagrams in one of the library antechambers piled with books, in what might once have been the disabled toilet. The Entrepreneur explained that he believed he had finally discovered the great
“Their long and silent acquaintance had rendered their relations like that of a wife and husband, and she wearily responded to his command”
technology for which both he and the Librarian had been striving, and that if she wished to see it, she would need to undress. Their long and silent acquaintance had rendered their relations like that of a wife and husband, and she wearily responded to his command. Agog in amazement at how easily she removed her clothes, he quickly climbed out of his jumpsuit and began running his mouth across her body. “Won’t you need the book” she replied monotonously. “Of course, how silly to forget”, and after a polite though lacklustre mutual masturbation, their bodies alight like new matter, he placed the nearest book he could grab on her back, Hegel’s Science of Logic, and as she rested her elbows and chest against an outstretched baby changing board, he entered her from behind and began chanting random words that came into his head about God, morality, the devil, hell, terrorism, and the other nouns which the Librarian had told him about. The brownfield flat landscapes were not his enemy. Within the communities of rubble, fenced off military installations now disused, Pentecostal churches in former factories, randomly dispersed blocks of high-rise social housing, the Librarian found the tools needed for his experiment: diesel, extracted from numerous parked cars; flint, and matches from a store; carbon monoxide, extracted carefully over time from a rewired engine; a small piece of silver, from melting down his wife’s wedding ring; pages and pages of paper, taken from the canonical works of the world’s major religions; rain water collected in old mop buckets he’d laid out some time ago, greyish-green, beauteously suffused with life living, in potential, and long dead; and finally, numerous different substances and extracts the Librarian had also cultivated and discovered which could not possibly be translated into terms familiar to contemporary understanding. In his journeys across the estates and wastelands south of the city, he would often
bump into similar souls searching through waste with metal detectors, dogs, or fishing rods, each silently preoccupied with the profound transience of existence, chewing on chips and chocolate, the cans of strong cider and lager left behind where they had once sat before. In one of his few words to the Research Assistant who had moved into the library with him, he remarked at the increasing number of copycat page-pasting occurring across the city. The necessity of tattoo text and design for individual self-expression also suggested a repressed desire for sensuous expression through the word. Yet there was a danger too that someone else would stumble first on the elemental combination of words that would transform history, rewrite wrongs, including all his wrongs. He had spent too much of his life as a runner-up, good effort, see you next year. Not this time. He hurried back to the Library to complete the final stages of the Transformation. In the midst of their tarrying in that claustrophobic antechamber of textbooks, the Woman’s foot had accidentally knocked over a pile of books into a wooden panel which collapsed, revealing a small secret room. The pair detached themselves, and the Entrepreneur snaked his head into the small room, no larger than six foot by six foot, which contained a desk full of papers, strange diagrams, and a fridge, which on further expectation was full of glass jars with little pieces of dirt and material in. Clearly the Librarian had been learning to write himself with a pen, based on the scribbles beneath the lines of a children’s illustrated school book. As they gaped at each other, the Librarian trampled in across the spilt books. Now dressed, the Librarian, the Entrepreneur and the Woman stood in the pot-holed car park adjacent to the library, beneath the Moon and the buddleia bursting through the bricks of the abandoned upper part of the town hall. The lower part of the building was entirely plastered on torn pages, some from the Quran, the Bible, and various chemistry textbooks, clearly indicating to the very occasional traffic that this was some significant site. After spending some time arranging carefully a pile of objects into a large plastic bucket, the Librarian poured over diesel and began uttering the words, with a prophet’s phosphorescent haloed irises. Truly the goods of life would be found inward. Life is an infinite process of combustion and
expenditure, of burning and destroying matter, and transforming that energy into enterprises wild, or vain, or poetic, or committed only to the further destruction of life and the burden of living. The only tragedy is running out of time. The Entrepreneur had been secretly filming all this on his smartphone, which he had pretended to have abandoned as a condition of using the library. The number of online followers of ‘Papierism’ and its various social media presences was just over the seven-figure mark as the Librarian continued uttering his incomprehensible but fear-inspiring words. Papierist actions had been erupting across the cities, alongside great fires that burnt not just pages but plastics, combustible fabrics and chemicals, in a great rejection of digitised abstraction, and usually accompanied by exuberant expressions of physicality, like bare-knuckle boxing or violent orgies, always performed by amateurs, based on the video responses the Entrepreneur had found time to watch through. The Librarian’s insane passions had accurately translated into the marketable actions of a contemporary prophet. As the Librarian began pouring the diesel over his faded-blue sports tracksuit and finally onto his balding thick black hair, the Entrepreneur could clearly see that his actions were entirely co-aligning with his predictions, for once. In defiance of time, the body must be reclaimed against the forces of death, labour and digitisation. Life is beautiful. Beauty alone is indestructible and eternal, returning life to death and bringing to death future life. Only inwardly, in the private architectures of the soul, will each person find something to cling to against the rapid enticements and sufferings of life deceived and negligent of its beauty. And so with these words, the Librarian flicked a match against the box and, in a moment that seemed so quick it registered as little more than a still image, a frozen second the Entrepreneur was later forced to revisit and relive again and again and again, the Librarian dropped the match into the bucket and, not quite so simply, disappeared thereafter.
Hide Words by Kirsten Irving
fleece on barbed wire bitten bread blood-bubbles of haw berries the waving man reaper in the violets barley sown in winter hobby tailed by tessen kite over poppies man-puppet kestrel waving, just waving high over hours dipped in damson man and his lung a fat gallon smallest swept along stiff wave of fleece kite-wire man smallest berries bitten
Slugs Words by Kirsten Irving
We both saw one, which meant there were two. The little blot hanging out on the pan cupboard door and the one a width from my thigh as I showered, me planning on layering paper towel into choux the second my body was dry, and procuring its chewed-sweet mass without nanorisk of contact. I kidded myself that this was no crumb-paved heaven, that dumping it into the waxed strip of fake garden outside was a kindness. That night there was a slug on my bedroom door, black like a vortex through which other slugs could persistently drag themselves, until the walls were covered in live buboes, who could not chase you, but who gained ground while you slept, closing the gap like a nursery door. After that, I felt slugs in the bed, where there were no slugs, scratched wet bullets of slugs rolling across my skin, where there were no slugs, and dreaded seeing a single slug indoors, the avant-garde for the boneless overthrow.
White Elephant Words by Kirsten Irving
That plant, the one that arrived with the knock-down-ginger cloc-cloc - nobody to thank - you should have killed it. Instead you hugged it to you, wondered about its genus and tried to predict the skirts that would burst forth from the tight-lipped buds. You wondered - didn’t you who had left it there for you. Who was sending you sex in terracotta, and you sketched their buff outline as you hung on the phone. They were sandy and young-tree tall. It even looked like a man, crucified on invisible apparatus, branches spread in a plaintive appeal for water. And water it you did. Hourly. Caroline, folding your bedclothes, urged you to go for a walk. It had been three weeks and you’d even named the shrub, sat it for a joke in the mauve Gainsborough. Propped a cigar against its stem. So you did walk, but your heart clenched two minutes from the door, a butch fist around it. You ran home, tore the match from her hand; salved the leaf. Strange that Caroline’s asthma should flare so violently that day, her eyes pink, chest in a fibreglass claw. Sad that she should collapse, one moment hanging out the children’s playsuits, the next down and wrestling with her mutinous lungs. As a doll-small pair of socks flopped, in a snooze mask across her eyes, the sprinkler tramping wet fairy feet on her sinking blouse, you sat with the plant. A single petal reached from its cape, and was rolled between your fingertips as you watched her go down. Funny, the way it looked like she was dancing.
Five Hawk Day Words by Christina Lovin
On gray days such as these, a veil of frozen mist covers this flat land where white fills the air like dreams of lost sailors—their empty sails, ships passing in a fog— small towns appear then are gone like so many vanished hopes. I don’t need to search the trees for birds of prey. They come and wait beside the frozen roadways, perched on wire and fence like wisdom in a land of wandering fools, talons of ice gripping frigid metal with some cold patience my frantic hours could use. Bright days, a dozen or more feathered shamans—signs or fences grasped like opportunities about to slip away—or when only those bent on good or bad are about, just two or three raptors watch this stretch of frozen road. But today it is a five-hawk day: two red tails a mile apart, a kestrel hovering above an icy ditch. (The one I do not count—dead beside the road, poor wing rising from the shoulder of the highway on gusts of frigid air as each car passes). A pair of osprey near the river— they disappear into the clouds above, then plunge, indifferent, into the bitter water below.
Aeromancy, or Drawing Omens from the Air Marsha Meskimmon To Her Coy Draughtsman Friday, 13th July Love, love affairs, and other social activities figure strongly now, dear Sagittarius. You are a little more deliberate in your efforts, and this benefits you greatly. Deliberate in my efforts, I consult my forecast, looking to the heavens for a sign. My omens do not speak of foreboding, yet searching for them heightens my sense of apprehension, provides me with a sensory quickening in the face of the new, the unexpected, the untamed. Pure possibility attends the as-yet-unknown and seeking portents that presage its arrival is exciting – it is my guilty pleasure. But of what, or in what, am I guilty? Numerology, cromniomancy, dowsing… no. Alchemy, cleromancy, weather-witching… well, maybe. Aleatory parlay… oh yes, please. Red sky at night; sailors’ delight... Longing to read delight in the stars and the sky, they leave us wanting. Their messages are unclear, ambiguous, polymorphous in their perversity. They refuse legibility, they are drawn in compelling combinations of line and shade that resist us with the force of silence and shadow. Perhaps they are not meant to be read, but drawn forth. Perhaps their portentious power resides in the protected space of their mute becoming, or in their mutability. See a penny pick it up and all day long you'll have good luck. But leave it there and you'll despair. Awaiting that moment, missing that chance, plagued by a lingering ‘what if’, or worse still, the certitude that your hesitation in seizing good fortune turned it to bad; these are the risks with which we stargazers play. Some parlay well, speculating on a precarious advance, accumulating ever-greater gifts through ominous sorties. But at my back I always hear…
Sortilege is playing with time. I have no use for the miserly Kronos, doling out each breath, one after the other in sharp and cruel succession. And Aeon is a jealous, solipsistic deity, repeating and returning the past in so many variations. I choose instead to cast dice, draw lots and read runes to ingratiate myself with the aleatory and ethereal Kairos, to seduce her favours to my ends. She is opportunity, timing; cleromancy is the tribute we pay her when we love, have hope and determine to live generously in a present open to the indescribable beauty of the becoming-future. Stepping on each paving stone in careful order, watching the movement of the shifting clouds, you say ‘Good morning, Mr. Magpie, how’s your lady wife?’ Wishing on a star, clutching a rabbit’s foot, I stroke the charm that hangs around your neck. You are alchemical, ether to water to fire to earth. We are allotropic, like diamonds. You send me songs, I mark your words. Why is it measured in hours? We should make our own time. You're welcome in mine.* My fortune cookie tells me the truth: I got lucky when I rolled those blank dice.
Note: *Mark Gardener, Polar Bear, from the album Nowhere, Creation Records, 1990.
Central Saint Martin’s graduate Jackie J. S. Lee is rapidly becoming a serious contendor in producing London Fashion Week’s most anticipated collections. She has deftly proven herself as an expert in androgynous minimalist tailoring, and her collections show a fluid attention to detail that far surpasses her relatively short time under the fashion spotlight. Each season she shows a slight shift and a tweak or two, always sticking to what is now her signature silhouette of a sharp and modern woman - embossed collars, tunics and delicate fabrics resonate throughout her work. Her FW 12 offering is perhaps her finest example of this; with a tight colour palette of grey, cream and black seamlessly demonstrating her unique approach to the tuxedo. Definitely one to watch, she is currently working on her first men’s line, which, if her womenswear is anything to go by, will surely be a great success next fall.
Photography / Robert Glowacki Fashion Editor / Andreas Koumas All Clothes / J J.S. Lee Autumn/Winter 2012 Make up / Miho Hamaya Hair / Takuya BB Fashion Assistant / Elena Vafea Model / Jaz Wasson @ Next UK Words / Tom Kitching
THE END IS NIGH Alan Dunn on Mats Bigert and Lars Bergström’s The Last Calendar
In a May 2012 episode of the British hospital drama Holby City entitled Last day on earth, nurse Chantelle Lane is confronted by unbalanced patient Mr. Wellington who has a notebook full of scribbles from the Mayan Calendar, convinced that the world is about to end at midnight. “According to my calculations, the Mayan Calendar does not run out on December 21st 2012 as everybody endlessly blogs about,” he nervously tells her, “it runs out tonight. It’s the end. The end of everything.” We are given the impression that he is a retired teacher, perhaps post-breakdown. As midnight approaches he crawls under his sheets to await his fate. The tone is slightly mocking, portraying him as the oddball doom merchant, unshaven and recently split from his partner. As the clock ticks to one minute past midnight, Chantelle looks over at him and smiles, “Mr. Wellington, it’s a new day, we’re still here”. He holds his head in his hands before glancing up at her, muttering, “I don’t understand. Is this delusion?” Notions of the end of time softly creep into British consciousness in this innocuous evening drama, yet the second narrative running through the episode is the successful rush to save a life with a heart transplant. A more complex dialogue is thus set up between faith in everyday science and a belief in human divination. In 2011 artistic duo Mats Bigert and Lars Bergström created The Last Calendar to “examine the temporal nature of truth within celebrated ideas, scientific or otherwise, that history has proven to be wrong. The end-of-the-world Mayan long calendar scenario was floating around in these discussions, and we were interested to see whether there were other earlier and precisely dated opinions about the apocalypse.” AD: Could you outline what The Last Calendar is and how it came to exist? MB: The Last Calendar is an art project that we did in collaboration with Cabinet Books in Brooklyn, New York. It is a wall calendar for this year 2012 up to 21st December when the new age reading of the Mayan long calendar claims that the world as we know it will end. In the months leading up to this disruptive event we present an odyssey of other Armageddon scenarios in which people have imagined precise dates for the end of time.
There are generally between six and twelve entries per month, spread out through history and culture. They form an interesting thread of accounts of human obsession with living in the end of times, the recurring idea that “we are the last.” Also in connection with these small anecdotes we have created a series of art works, one for each month, inspired by old methods of divination, like reading the intestines of an animal, or looking at the pattern of coffee grains. So when studying these images, the viewer is invited to make his/her own prognosis. AD: Reading through it, one is very aware that humans have looked to the sky for omens, for signs of impending doom or change. Did you consider using any more stellar notions of divination or were you focused totally from the start on earthly objects? MB: I haven’t thought of that, but it’s true, most of the “mancies” we have used are all very materialistic and we have left the ephemeral aside – the wind, the stars and the birds are all extremely useful as methods of divination, but difficult to work with as objects/images. The bird especially has a central position in the history of divination, perhaps because of its placement in the sky, transmitting messages between man and the divine. In ancient Rome one of the official priests was the Augur. He looked at the flight of birds to interpret the will of the Gods. AD: You mention a technique of divination called molybdomancy in another interview and the fact that it is still used in Germany and Austria. Could you say a little bit more about that? MB: Molybdomancy is carried out through pouring melted led or tin into cold water. The metal instantly coagulates into weird cauliflower shaped sculptures that will trigger your imagination. And as you mention it’s a ritual that is still practiced, also in Sweden and Finland, but especially during New Years Eve when the shiny piece of spiky metal is supposed to give you a hint on how the New Year is going to turn out. If you see a boat you are looking at long travels, a scythe signals there will be ties cut, a key might indicate a career move and so on. We are dreaming of making a huge public sculpture using this method. Melting tons of tin and pour it into, let’s say the Thames, then put it on a plinth on New Year’s Eve and re-cast it every year.
AD: In your introductory text, you write of “the human need to discover patterns within the formless structure of nature.” In a previous issue of Stimulus Respond we spoke to Chris Watson about this theme and his experience, from sound recording across the planet, that there is in fact a structure behind it all, but one that is far too complex for humans to comprehend. Are omens in fact glimpses of such a structure? Or, what we like to think of as glimpses? MB: Unfortunately I am more of a believer that omens are signs of our amazing innate ability to confabulate in order to cope with the huge amounts of meaninglessness that surrounds us. What I mean with that is that our brain dislikes the seemingly meaningless and produces meaning even if there isn’t any. We are great pattern readers and will see figures in clouds and hear music in a hail storm. And it seems like people inclined to be more right hemisphere oriented and thus more prone to unfiltered sensory input, have had central positions in the art of reading omens like religious persons, savants, oracles and artists. I would like to label it as creative misunderstandings, a type of Aeolian harp playing the axons and synapses that make the storm of impressions mutate into new ideas and visions. But of course it is a bit depressing to not acknowledge the possibility that there is a complex structure behind it all. And if one likes to think so, tea leafs, molten led and a boiled head of a donkey are great tools to study it with. AD: As opposed to the artist’s role as documenter, working with ideas of predictions, visions and signs has always been one of creativity’s fundamental roles, the human ability to project, unlike other creatures. Do you see these as themes that span a few of your projects, such as Temporary Truth? MB: Well many of our projects, like Temporary Truth, deal with the elusive truth concept of science where new findings and revolutionary theories are changing over time. Something that was believed to be absolutely true 70 years ago is now looked upon with great disbelief. Like lobotomy, which won a Nobel Prize in 1949 and was the most celebrated method of treating psychosis in the late 1940’s. By 1951 over 20,000 lobotomies had been performed in the USA. A small cut in the frontal lobe and voila, neurosis gone! But with that also the visions you’re mentioning disappeared - the apparitions, the
phantoms and the spectres. Today neuroscience is trying to tackle the question of creativity and how ideas actually occur, using more subtle instruments like the MRI. Maybe the spark of divine inspiration is just a vague epileptic seizure? So sure, the human ability to project is a recurring theme and as artists we always try to dream up something completely new, something we’ve never seen before. It might sound utopian and I’ve often asked myself why this is, but maybe it’s because new experiences generate stronger emotions, and strong emotions creates memories. And all that together amplifies the experience of being alive. AD: You presented photographs and objects from The Last Calendar as Meditations on divinations. I am curious how did entering that space feel for the visitor and how did you arrange the objects and artifacts? MB: I wish to think of the experience of entering the exhibition as coming into a laboratory where a set of tools is on display that triggers the imagination. I like the idea that the artworks are tools and that you are supposed to use them productively. An abstract painting is not only an abstract painting but also a map made of coffee for you to navigate in. The context of the artwork made the viewer look for useful information like signs or omens if you like. Your immediate future could be materialized as the sprouts of a petrified potato or a shimmering pool of oil on asphalt. AD: You ended The Last Calendar with a guide to making your own The end is nigh banner. Was it ever used by anybody or were you more interested in triggering that image we all have of a lone figure proclaiming imminent doom? MB: Yes it’s been used, and not only by lunatics. The editors at Cabinet have proudly carried it during readings from the calendar both at the PS1 and Guggenheim. And I went around New York with one after a reading during the art fairs earlier this year. I was amazed how happy people looked when seeing someone presenting such a gloomy message. AD: And you have a really interesting list of mancies too you’d like to include here? MB: Yes …
Aeromancy: divination by weather or by throwing sand into the wind Ailuromancy: divination by the actions of a familiar cat Alectryomancy: divination by roosters pecking grain Aleuromancy: divination by flour or messages baked in cakes Alphitomancy: divination by barley Ambulomancy: divination by walking Amniomancy: divination by the caul of a newborn infant Anthracomancy: divination by watching a burning coal Anthropomancy: divination from human entrails Anthroposomancy: divination from facial or bodily characteristics Arachnomancy: divination using spiders Arithmomancy: divination by means of numbers Armomancy: divination from the shoulders Astragalomancy: divination by knuckle-bones or dice Astromancy: divination using the stars, astrology Austromancy: divination or soothsaying from words in the winds Axinomancy: divination by heating or throwing an axe Belomancy: divination by marked arrows Bibliomancy: divination by random Bible passages (pagans preferred Homer or Virgil) Bletonomancy: divination by ripples or patterns in moving water Botanomancy: divination by plants Capnomancy: divination by smoke, or bursting poppy heads Cartomancy: divination by cards Catoptromancy: divination by a polished shield or mirror Causimonancy: divination from the ashes of burned leaves or paper Cephalomancy: divination by a boiled donkey or human skull Ceraunoscopy: divination by lightning and thunder Ceromancy: divination by molten wax poured into water Chaomancy: divination from the appearance of the air Chartomancy: divination from written pieces of paper Chiromancy: divination by the nails, lines, and fingers of the hand Chresmomancy: divination from magic sounds or foreign words Claiguscience: divination from the taste or smell of a food that is not present Clednomancy: divination from hearing a chance word Cleidomancy: divination by a suspended key Cleromancy: divination by the casting of lots Coscinomancy: divination by a sieve suspended on shears Crithomancy: divination by grains sprinkled on burnt sacrifices Cromniomancy: divination by onions Crystallomancy: divination by crystal ball or the casting of gemstones Cubomancy: divination by throwing dice Cyclomancy: divination by the wheel of fortune Dactyliomancy: divination by suspended finger ring or pendulum Daphnomancy: divination by the crackle of roasting laurel leaves Demonomancy: divination with the help of demons and spirits Dendromancy: divination by oak and mistletoe Elaeomancy: divination by the surface of water Enoptomancy: divination with a mirror Epombriamancy: divination from the sound of rain. Felidomancy: divination from the behavior of wild cats Gastromancy: divination by food, or sounds from the stomach Gelomancy: divination from laughter Geomancy: divination by cracks or lines in the earth, or dots on paper Glauximancy: divination using owl castings
Graptomancy: divination from handwriting Gyromancy: divination by spinning in a circle until dizzy Haemocapnomancy: divination by the smoke of burning blood-soaked paper tissues Halomancy: divination with salt Hepatoscopy: divination by the liver of a sacrificed animal Hieromancy: divination by interpreting sacrifices Hippomancy: divination by the behavior of horses Hydromancy: divination by water or tides Ichthyomancy: divination from the movements or entrails of fish Idolomancy: divination from movie or rock stars Lampadomancy: divination by the flickering of torches Lecanomancy: divination by looking at oil or jewels in water Libanomancy: divination by staring at the smoke of burning incense Lithomancy: scrying with gemstones and natural crystals Logarithmancy: divination by logarithms Lychnomancy: divination by flame of an oil lamp or candle Macharomancy: divination by knives or swords Maculomancy: divination from the shape and placement of birthmarks Margaritomancy: divination by heating and roasting pearls Mediamancy: divination by scanning police radio or random TV shows Meteoromancy: divination by storms and comets Metopomancy: divination by examining the face and forehead Molybdomancy: divination by dropping molten lead into water Myomancy: divination by squeaks of mice Necromancy: divination by ghosts or spirits of the dead Nephelomancy: divination by appearance of clouds Nigromancy: divination by walking around the graves of the dead Oculomancy: divination by observing the eye Oinomancy: divination by gazing into a glass of wine Ololygmancy: divination by the howling of dogs or wolves Omphalomancy: divination by counting knots on the umbilical cord Oneiromancy: divination by the interpretation of dreams Onimancy: divination using olive oil to let objects slip through the fingers Onomatomancy: divination by the letters in names Onychomancy: divination by polished fingernails Oomancy: divination from drops of fresh egg whites in water Ophiomancy: divination by the coiling and movement of serpents Ornithomancy: divination by the flight or songs of birds Osteomancy: divination from bones Ouleimancy: divination by the appearance of scars. Pegomancy: divination by bubbles in springs or fountains Pessomancy: divination by pebbles Philematomancy: divination by kissing Phyllomancy: divination by the patterns and colors of leaves Phyllorhodomancy: divination by clapping rose petals between the hands Physiognomy: divination by shape, marks, and proportions of the body Plastromancy: divination by tortoise shells Podomancy: divination by the soles of the feet Psephomancy: divination by rolling small stones, or selecting them at random Pseudomancy: fraudulent fortune-telling Psychomancy: divination from the state of the soul, alive or dead Pyromancy: divination by fire or flames Retromancy: divination by looking over oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s shoulder Rhabdomancy: divination by branches or rods, dowsing
Rhapsodomancy: divination by a book of poetry Scapulimancy: divination from cracks in a charred shoulder blade Scatomancy: divination by studying feces Sciomancy: divination from shadows or the shades of the dead Scyphomancy: divination by cups or vases Selenomancy: divination from the phases or appearance of the moon Selenosciamancy: divination by the shadows of moonlight through trees Sideromancy: divination by the burning of straws Spasmatomancy: divination by twitchings of a body Spatilomancy: divination by animal droppings Sphondylomancy: divination from beetles or other insects Spodomancy: divination by ashes Stichomancy: divination from random passages in books Stigonomancy: divination by writing on tree bark Stolisomancy: divination by the act of dressing Suggraphamancy: divination by studying history Sternomancy: divination by the breast-bones Sycomancy: divination by drying fig leaves Tasseography: divination by tea leaves Tephramancy: divination by the ashes on an altar Theomancy: divination from the responses of oracles Theriomancy: divination by watching wild animals Tiromancy: divination by milk curds, or the holes on cheese Topomancy: divination by the contours of the land Trochomancy: divination by wheel tracks Thumomancy: divination by intense introspection of oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own soul Transatuaumancy: divination from chance remarks overheard in a crowd Tympanimancy: divination from the rhythms of drums Urimancy: divination by casting the Urim and Thummin Urinomancy: divination using urine for scrying Xenomancy: divination by studying the first stranger to appear Xylomancy: divination by wood or fallen branches. Zygomancy: divination with weights Zoomancy: divination by the behavior of animals For further details, please see http://www.bigertbergstrom.com and http://alandunn67.co.uk/stimulusaudio.html.
Confessions of a Telephone Kiosk Ben Parry on Laura Keeble
Britain’s best-loved street furniture, the iconic red telephone kiosk, continues to endure a slow retreat from public service. The disappearance of the public telephone serves as much more than an idle reminder of our pre-networked culture, telling us much about our changing attitudes to public and private space. With an 80% decline in use in the last 5 years alone, BT are cutting their numbers to match demand. In April this year BT began wholesale selling of the original cast iron K6 models to anyone who wanted buy one. In 2008, BT started its Adopt a Kiosk scheme which enabled local communities in towns and villages across the land to purchase decommissioned red phone boxes for the sum of £1 in an attempt to activate alternative use and ‘to preserve part of theirs and Britain’s Heritage.’ In the village of Little Eaton, an adopted phone box became a free book exchange, elsewhere a gallery, others were fitted out with a lifesaving defibrillation machine and another with beer on tap. In London however the Red phone kiosk remains an export icon of quintessential Britishness, up there with Big Ben, the changing of the guard and the red double-decker bus. All remaining K2s, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s design classic, have been designated listed buildings. In the end, with doors locked, it will simply stand as a monument to the analogue public telephone in an indeterminate bygone age no-one can quite remember, referred to simply as pre mobile and, like the blue police boxes of Doctor Who and the TARDIS, it will become the likely reserve of science fiction. At around 3am a women carrying a heavy bag enters a K6 red telephone kiosk outside Royal Exchange buildings in the city of London, she is nervous and slightly out of breath, beads of sweat gathering above her eyes. Resisting her flight or fight instinct she checks to confirm she is alone in the street then proceeds with what she has come to do. From her bag she pulls a small stained glass window and places it over the existing glass pane and with an exact fit deftly adheres it using a putty-like adhesive. She repeats this process until all 72 windows are covered, entombing herself in glowing fragments of her own confessional. As a rule, Laura Keeble inserts her work in the streets and public spaces in the early hours when the workaday city sleeps. Nearly all of Keeble’s interventions are unsolicited, appearing overnight by necessity.
“If I look like I’m supposed to be there, nobody will question my presence. I generally do a drop between 3 and 6am as the optimal time; the light is generally good enough to get a feel for the work and there’s a short but crucial time before the commuter wave of people come into London. If it arrives before them, people tend to assume that it’s meant to be there. If you’re there too early people think you’re making trouble after coming out a club or such.” The work’s sense of authority accentuates its ‘publicness’ in the cycle of metropolitan daily life when daytime sensibilities seem more programmatic. As day turns to night the city alters rhythm, public psyche shifts and the work’s status becomes more ambiguous. Is it there officially? Who put it there? Why is no one watching over it? At a distance it appears to be what it is, a stained glass phone box, a decorative public artwork of sorts. And here we might leave it without further consideration, merely registering its presence as part of a growing culture of playful interventions widely associated but misrepresented as ‘street art.’ As with much of this work it is not easy to determine where value resides, what contribution if any is made to cultural, political or social public life. On closer inspection of Keeble’s phone-box titled Confession it becomes clear that the individual panes are collaged from original church stained glass of different styles, eras, thicknesses and quality, reclaimed from scrap yards around the country and stripped for lead. The two divergent functions of public phone booth and church are united here in their impending fate as relic or ruin. Their redundancy or diminishing role becomes clear, one challenged by new technologies and changing social patterns, the other harboring values laid down two and half thousand years ago struggling to find relevance in the cultural logic of late capitalism, in the 21st century. 2012 holds the last major catastrophic premonitions laid down in ancient cultures and, just as the doomsday prophecies and millennium predictions proved bogus, the Mayan prophecy will be no doubt lost in the cyber glitz of new government conspiracies and the irrefutable potential for the cataclysms of climate change. Laura Keeble offers her own motivations behind the work. “My first stained glass piece was a McDonalds set. I called it the glass supper. I’m not
trained in stained glass but love the language of it, the way it communicates an ethereal quality. Stained glass I discovered was originally used as both a way to communicate the story of the bible to those of the parish who couldn’t read, and a belief that the coloured glass would filter the light coming into the church aiding creation of a sacred space, with ‘holy light’. This form of magical thinking had me consider the way in which we now see images on billboards and glowing bus stops adverts. These are our modern day holy windows, their statements help enforce the magical thoughts of consumerism “if I don’t buy/wear/have this, I’m not worthy”. So using that language I wanted to create a conversation within the viewer of what marketing actually is and whom it is done by. Many religious practices use branding in a similar way, I wanted to harness the idolatry of both and through sculptural form to create almost ‘holy icons’ of the modern day.” In 2010 Laura Keeble purchases a bunch of large gold boxed Lindt chocolate Easter eggs from her local supermarket. She removes the eggs, melts down and remolds the chocolate, and using her own preformed interior packaging, reinserts a perfectly formed chocolate Jesus on a crucifix. Back at the supermarket Keeble clandestinely restocks the shelves with her own products. Whilst provoking a questioning of personal and collective actions, much of Keeble’s work lacks the necessary subtlety or ambiguity for multiple readings, instead favouring very literal metaphors in her critique of consumerism, supplanting traditional idolatry. However, the forcing of these unlikely bedfellows, repositioning genuine church artifacts, consecrated then deconsecrated with modern consumer icons in their place of function, aggravates another reading beyond the clichés of consumerism as new religion. Something about value, something more prickly than our stoic rejection of religiosity to accept what might genuinely replace religion in the world to come, and a sad reminder that no viable alternative to capitalism has yet presented itself. The point about the anonymous intervention, unannounced and unsolicited is that it remains purposefully unexplained. Therefore the context of encounter and the moment of reception are entirely open to interpretation, governed by chance encounters and the serendipitous nature of the individual narratives of everyday lives. The lack of writing around the documentation
of such work, images found on flickr, or banal likes and dislikes on facebook and blogs is that the intentions of the artist are not present in determining how the work is actually experienced and understood. This is both liberating for how the work works, and problematic in trying to value the work through conventional reading of art criticism and art/non art criteria. As Keeble points out, she not only hands over the work, but also its potential reading. “I’ve spent an age on the pieces I’m inserting into public spaces so when I’m installing I try to own the space for a while... when I have it right I step back... and watch the work from close by to observe interactions ... there is a sense when its time to go, when I feel the work is no longer mine. And so it takes on a different ownership and I leave. I sometimes check back a few days later to see if anything has happened to it, but often not.” Keeble taught herself stained glass and has used it great effect since, none more beautifully than her transformation of a shopping trolley and basket (Down the Aisle, 2009), that logically, are never more at home than in a gallery. Keeble lives with her family in Essex and makes much of her work at the kitchen table, enlisting the help of her two children, often casting their bodies. To quote from activist artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ Manifesto for Maintenance (1969), Keeble could be described thus; ‘.... I am an artist. I am a women. I am a wife. I am a mother (random order.) I do a hell of a lot of washing, cleaning, cooking, renewing, supporting, preserving, etc. Also (up to now separately) I “do” art.’ Keeble does not fit the imagined archetype of the unsolicited street artist. Her activities are a family affair, and it is her sister who plays the vital partner in crime when they drive into London in the middle of the night, to ‘do the drop.’ What we begin to get by lifting the curtain on the backstage is the relational process generated with all those involved in the production and installation of the work. Keeble states her work is not targeted to a specific audience, but the performative ritual locates her in a particular space and rhythm of the night shift, occupying the same time frame as the municipal maintenance worker. “When you install early a.m. you meet with the city’s maintenance workers, cleaners, rubbish collectors, sweepers, window cleaners, newspaper sellers and so on. These people are all busy doing their jobs and working
too hard to generally worry about what I’m doing, but of course they see me and like the jar in their daily routine. There is often exchange and they are usually very supportive and more open to discussion whereas the commuter wave will take photos on their mobiles and save it to discuss later.” This unknown public, arguably the real participants in Keeble’s determined installations are witnesses to city’s invisible activities, its oddities and eccentricities, divisions and exclusions, while the other half sleeps. They accept the choreography of her movements, willing to share her in their presence in the background. In 1992, artist Joey Skaggs, aka Father Anthony Joseph created Peddling Portofess - religion on the move for people on the go. Dressed as a priest Skaggs cycled his ornate mobile confessional through the streets of New York City inviting anyone who came forth to unburden their sins in return for penance. Keeble’s confessional however goes beyond the principle of the completely anonymous confession to suggest reconciliation might be made with fellow human beings, at the prompt of a call. When we consider who actually uses the public payphone, the work gets arguably more complex. The public phone box has a longstanding relationship with the dark underbelly of our times, a space of anonymity free from trace, the place to report accident or crime, a helpline, sexline and the space for transactions of informal unmonitored economies. The payphone’s majority users are the city’s strangers, the most marginalized, those whom are forced or choose to opt out of society altogether from underclass to underworld; homeless, sex-workers, drug dealers, illegal immigrants, crime victims, migrant workers etc. To paraphrase artist Krzysztof Wodiczko, these strangers are the potential agents of public space, who see the danger we cannot see, and through lived experience denounce what is wrong in the present, and as potential prophets announce the world to come, with the possibility of a world free of what they know is wrong. This questioning of potential users and how the work might function is to open a space for further inquiry as to where value resides, as well as where the work fails or succeeds in its ability to communicate, and direct interpretation. Whilst Keeble’s form or intervention is a separated field from the overtly political, participatory works of
critical public art and art-activism, is not so say that small acts of insurgency cannot be a catalyst for action in more direct social or political goals. Whilst Keeble does not obviously share the methods, tactics and direct participatory nature of Ukeles work, or the feminist critique of women artists during the 80’s and 90’s so instrumental in establishing a new genre of public art and art-activism, it is important to recognize that her own work acts politically upon our environs, challenging our so called ‘rights to the city.’ Keeble’s playful, humorous approach to subversion joins and speaks with other ‘small acts of resistance,’ yes more abstract, yes openended, yet arguably visionary in their willingness to catalyze action in others. In this sense, urban intervention as an art of acting politically has something to offer the more front loaded politics of the activist, whose action and interpretation is designed to bring about specific changes in the system. Stopping people in their tracks, hijacking a moment or generating cognitive dissonance to redirect attention is a common ambition of recent interventions. For Keeble it’s more specifically about breaking the monotony of the consumer impulse. “I am interested in creating a pause. A brief moment in time, when a double-take allows for an internal question, a need to assess or understand. I use symbolism and familiarities of the everyday to question what is dictated to us.”
Seeing in the Dark Alan Dunn on Suzanne Treisterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 20 CIA Black Sites
Between the years 1972 and 1995 in the USA, inspired by the psychic abilities of the New York artist Ingo Swann, the CIA funded a Remote Viewing program at Stanford Research Institute in California and at Fort Meade in Maryland, where trained psychic spies attempted to use remote viewing to identify and draw remote and inaccessible sites, primarily in the Soviet Union/Russia, such as missile silos, submarines, POWs and MIAs. Black Sites is the name given to CIA run secret research facilities and secret detention facilities, where enhanced interrogation techniques are used on high value detainees. These sites are erased by the CIA from aerial satellite imagery before it is made publicly available on the Internet or elsewhere so that the facilities show up as blanks on the map. While the U.S. has generally refused to disclose the locations of these facilities, the specifics have slowly leaked out. A recent study found evidence confirming CIA black sites in 20 locations around the world, including Thailand, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Afghanistan and Kosovo. (http://ensemble.va.com.au/Treister/CBS_Malevich/ CBS_Malevich.html) Suzanne Treister’s series 20 CIA BLACK SITES from 2010 consists of twenty pencil drawings of forms obliterated by graphite, handdrawn estimations of masses. The artist takes her pencil and blocks in solid shapes where suspected terrorists may lie and she surrounds settlements with white voids. We are invited to conjure up images of what structures lie beneath the black cloaks, from secret corridors, escape hatches, cooling towers to cramped living quarters. The pictorial arrangements remind us that drawings are treasure maps full of promise, or threats. They are accurate within their own scale but not necessarily precise within a threedimensional universe. The drawings are steeped in humankind’s desire and duty to cast eyes and ears into every nook and cranny of our universe. We want to lift every stone, but in search of what? We want to be in the place of Gods, but what then? Thomas Harriot’s drawings of the surface of the moon from 1609 strained to the very tip of his pencil to capture details that were simply beyond his reach. More recently, Chris Watson stood in the Antarctic with headphones on and lowered his sensitive modern microphones down below the surface where no ear has ever been. He was the first human being to hear the emerging sounds. In the early 1970’s Ingo Swann was invited to take part in a Remote Viewing session of the planet Jupiter six years before the Voyager probe’s visit. It is recorded that during the three-and-a-half minutes Swann made several reports on Jupiter’s surface, atmosphere and weather, even suggesting that the planet had rings, which was later confirmed. After the Revolution, Russian intellectuals hoped that human reason and modern technology would engineer a perfect society. Malevich was fascinated with technology,
and particularly with the airplane, instrument of the human yearning to break the bounds of earth. He studied aerial photography. For Malevich, that realm, a utopian world of pure form, was attainable only through nonobjective art. Indeed, he named his theory of art Suprematism to signify “the supremacy of pure feeling or perception in the pictorial arts”; and pure perception demanded that a picture’s forms “have nothing in common with nature.” Malevich imagined Suprematism as a universal language that would free viewers from the material world. (http://ensemble.va.com.au/Treister/CBS_Malevich/CBS_ Malevich.html) As artists such as Malevich stretched the artistic focal length away from representative painting towards abstraction, technological advances sped rapidly in the other direction, pulling the universe into focus. In the words of Kinetic artist Bernard Lassus, flight and satellites guided us from horizontal into vertical beings. We flew up and looked back upon ourselves, before realising we had to cover up some of our now-visible tracks. In this context, Treister’s drawings set up a fascinating conversation, a pictorial and aerial game of Battleships, between Swann and Malevich, between superimposition and suprematism and between what we ‘can see’ physically and what we ‘can see’ politically in these vertical times. AD: Could you outline how 20 CIA BLACK SITES evolved into the final piece?
“NATO Supply Classification (NSC) 9915 includes Works of Art and for this category, as well as some other artworks, I chose Black Square by Kasimir Malevich.”
ST: Well the starting point for this work goes back to an earlier project, NATO (2004-2008) which was a kind of illustrated dictionary of things in the world as codified by NATO for military procurement. NATO Supply Classification (NSC) 9915 includes Works of Art and for this category, as well as some other artworks, I chose Black Square by Kasimir Malevich. As with the rest of this series I included a text caption below the watercolour image of the artwork including details of how this item could, if necessary, be procured. While making this particular watercolour I learned a lot about the histories of what had become of Malevich’s work, how it had changed hands and the various controversies. As well as information from the internet I had some personal contacts. Watercolour text caption on work: Black Square Kasimir Malevich (1913) Final version - Late 1920s - early 1930s Oil on canvas 53.5 x 53.5 cm Collection: State Hermitage, 2, Dvortsovaya Ploshchad, 190000, St Petersburg Acquired 2002 by the RF Ministry of Culture from a donation by Vladimir Potanin, a benefactor of the arts and head of the Interros holding company. See: http://ensemble.va.com.au/Treister/NATO/Natopages2/ NATO_Malevich.html
In 2010 I was invited into an exhibition in New York at the Leonard Hutton Galleries who specialise in this period of Modernism and I was asked by the curator Yuko Shiraishi to make something relating to a work owned by the gallery. I chose a Malevich drawing. These are the details that were sent to me: KAZIMIR MALEVICH MAGNETIC SUPREMATISM 1917 Pencil on paper 7 7/8 x 5 1/8 inches 20 x 13 cm Dated lower right: “17”
“My first idea was to make copies of a group of Malevich Suprematist works and put inside the shapes handwritten narratives of war escape stories.”
My first idea was to make copies of a group of Malevich Suprematist works and put inside the shapes handwritten narratives of war escape stories. These narratives were to be non-specific in terms of historical time and place. I had recently been trying to get my father to write down more details about his WW2 escape story and this was on my mind. In the end I abandoned this idea. I was at the time reading something about CIA Black Sites, an article about where they were located and all of a sudden these Suprematist drawings looked like they might hypothetically be aerial views of these sites, with their groups of buildings, outhouses and in some cases their fence like boundaries. The drawing owned by the gallery then became one of the 20 drawings of the CIA Black Sites group. AD: Could you briefly touch upon where 20 CIA BLACK SITES sits in relation to your broader interests in military information and the military’s experiments with the occult and alternative belief systems? ST: As you suggest, I have a broader interest in the military and histories of the intelligence services. This goes back to my family history and has informed a lot of my work, from my ‘Soviet’ paintings of the early 1980s, through work about video games of the late 1980s and my involvements with new technologies and politics of the net during the 1990s. Then there was the Time Travelling with Rosalind Brodsky project (1995-2006) involving my alter-ego who works at an imaginary military research institute in London in the future, and many recent projects of which the most relevant here would be MTB [MILITARY TRAINING BASE] (2009), a wall sized drawing of plans for a military training base. MTB includes proposals for a Federation Against Mind Control, a Herb Garden, a Communist Statue Park, a section of the Israeli West-Bank Barrier, a simulation of the ruins of the Palace of The Queen of Sheba and a Museum of Science Fiction, from a total of 72 sites. When I was working on the final Brodsky project, HEXEN 2039, and researching connections between the military and the occult I uncovered a deep history of military involvements with occult practices, from the Druids to the Soviets and from the Elizabethans to the CIA; in particular the Remote Viewing experiments of the
1970s-1990s that took place as part of the CIA’s MK ULTRA program, where so called psychic spies were left in an old building on a military base in Maryland to view remotely such un-surveillable sites as Soviet missile bases and to make schematic drawings of what they ‘saw’. While I was evolving the idea for 20 CIA BLACK SITES I was reminded of these experiments and in turn they can be seen as one of the historical references of this work. AD: Ingo Swann is a fascinating character, often discussed in the same sentence as Uri Geller, but Geller was much more of the showman. Certainly for me growing up, Geller represented a world of signs, divination, omens, one that a lot of my family members followed, crossing over into séances and Ouija boards. Thinking back I was probably puzzled as to why they thought they could fortune tell, yet they always considered art as weird or incomprehensible. I wonder whether you had any similar early or teenage experiences?
“During my teens I think my father was a fan of Uri Geller. Geller always seemed to be on the TV and at the same time my father had no interest in art or in my taking it up seriously.”
ST: Yes, during my teens I think my father was a fan of Uri Geller. Geller always seemed to be on the TV and at the same time my father had no interest in art or in my taking it up seriously. He also played fortune telling card games. I don’t really see a default connection between art and the occult though. I don’t think any of my family thought art was ‘weird’ although perhaps some of my English relatives thought artists were weird because of the kind of lives they imagined they led. AD: Perhaps this is an obvious question that you don’t have to answer, but do you feel that the CIA send representatives to see your work? ST: I have been told they have in the past. I think some of them may like it. There are a lot of smart people in the CIA; I’ve read some of their books too. AD: The 20 CIA BLACK SITES drawings reminded me of something and I realised that it was the unfinished maps of the Williamson Tunnels in Liverpool (http://dobraszczyk.files.wordpress. com/2012/01/21.jpg), folly digs to give employment to men after the Napoleonic Wars. There is an ambiguity in the drawings between the aerial and the subterranean, the obliteration of virgin white paper by the dark marks, the white negative spaces. ST: Yes, tunnels and bunkers and nuclear shelters, all these are suggested by the Malevich Suprematist works. Interesting isn’t it, how a project that was ostensibly about creating a utopian world of pure form can so easily be perceived as its opposite. But you have to remember that Malevich also studied aerial photography. AD: The act of drawing, the pencil, the graphite, you once spoke of working with materials that could not be “erased by the National Security Agency in the Cloud”, suggesting a desire for longevity but
also containing an inherent desire to keep the work rooted within the art world. I was at a talk recently by Paul Sullivan of Static Gallery in Liverpool and when speaking about his Noodle Bar project he stressed the importance of having it printed in the Liverpool Biennial catalogue, in order that when the local authority came along questioning his building’s change of use to a food business he could point and say “no, it’s a relational aesthetics art project.”
“I’m not so worried about rooting all my work in the art world, although my forays outside the art world haven’t always been inspiring.”
ST: People in offices, as well as artists, use pens and pencils. I’m not so worried about rooting all my work in the art world, although my forays outside the art world haven’t always been inspiring. I’m just keen on things remaining under my control, rather than keeping them as digital information in a data warehouse in the US where someone else holds the key. I was brought up with filing cabinets and bookshelves to keep my things in. That said, 20 CIA BLACK SITES is definitely an art project, unlike some of my other projects which have online audiences who sometimes have no idea that what they are looking at is supposed to be art. This is far more interesting to me than a lot of ‘relational aesthetics’ work, which often exploits audiences for the benefit of the artist who wants to have his cake (made by someone else) and eat it too. AD: BLACK SITE 8 is the only drawing we see with faded areas, with architecturally ambiguous edges and literally grey areas. The eye is immediately drawn to it, like a small window of hospitality. ST: Aha, yes, that is the one I mentioned earlier, which is in the collection of the New York gallery. It is very different from the others, less map like and more suggestive of perhaps a descending space, like the sides of a quarry or facing hillsides. It’s less aerial, for example the round shape looks like it might be floating above the softer comb-like shapes. Perhaps it’s a black hole above two airport car parks?
See http://ensemble.va.com.au/Treister/ and http://alandunn67.co.uk/stimulusaudio.html
Interview by Jack Boulton Images by Dani Canto
Evripidis and his Tragedies
What are you doing today?
not that much.
I went to the beach with a good friend and then went to eat fried fish, squids and potatoes and have some vermut at La Barceloneta, a beautiful seaside 18th century neighborhood of Barcelona. Then I headed back home to clean my flat and pack my bags as I am flying to Greece tomorrow. On the meanwhile I listened to Jens Lekman, Pants Yell and Sonny & the Sunsets. Later I am going to meet with some more friends and I will end the day dj-íng upstairs at Moog, a nightclub in one of the seediest streets of the formerly known as Barrio Xino. Needless to say, I am not going to sleep until I am inside the aircraft, tomorrow.
Tell us about three books that you have read recently.
Is that normal for you? It very normal for me to pack and unpack all the time. The last two years I have not stayed in Barcelona for more than 3 weeks in a row. I would always go somewhere - Madrid, Athens, Berlin, Paris, London, Valencia, mostly for playing live or dj-ing but also in order to be with my loved ones. I cannot stay away from them for a long time. Tell us a little about your musical journeys. My songwriting usually takes me back to places where I ache to go again but of course I cannot. They can be my childhood, my fights and make ups with my little sister, my lazy summers in Greece, my wild nights in Athens with friends that I no longer see very often, my older relatives, my cousin or a couple of friends who passed out, romantic relationships that ended up (don´t they always?), exciting one-night stands, spicy short love affairs. Those journeys can also lead me in some very deep places, unseen corners of my subconscious, fears, things that I am ashamed of, things that I do not dare or want to see about myself. They also transport me to places like the crest of a tsunami wave, a collapsing iceberg in Antarctica, a harbor full of prostitutes and horny sailors, a flooded Venice, a shipwreck... It may sound terrible to say this but writing songs brings a certain enlightenment to me and a purpose to live and create. My mother says that my songs are a free psychoanalisis and she is right. When I was not composing and performing, I was feeling lost and I was just drifting from party to party and from lover to lover. Now I am doing the same more or less but I no longer feel empty, at least
One of them was Venus as a Boy by Luke Sutherland, the tragic and magical story of a man-turned woman who had the special gift to change and enchant people by making love to them but could never find proper happiness. It takes place in a remote Scottish island and in the London neighbor of Soho and it both haunting and touching. I devoured it in one day. Another one was Role models by John Waters. A hilarious book about the people who, for some reason or another, are significant for this legendary film maker. It brought me to tears various times but not only because of laughterthe story of Leslie van Houten, one of the members of Manson family, for example, is very tragic. There is a also a parade of underground Baltimore misfits like the stripper Zoro who gave her daughter a very hard (but never boring, as the daughter herself admitts) childhood, Rei Kawakubo from Comme des Garçons and singers like Johny Mathis, Little Richard and Bobby (“Monster Mash”) Pickett. The book in overall is exactly like the John Waters who I was lucky enough to meet and chat with two years ago: extremely funny, perverse, nasty and a kick in the balls, all in one. The third book I just finished is Just Kids by Pattie Smith, the story of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. It is a love story turned to elegy, a chronicle of New York City in the late 60´searly 70´s, a tale of artistic drive, determination, dreams, drag queens, hustlers, rock n´roll bands, lice-infested rooms, dangerous streets, beatnik poets, hippy kids, lsd, amphetamines, heroine, experimental theatre, poetry, love, lust and loss.... and above all, mortality. I am presuming that the ‘Tragedies’ part of the group name is a reference to Greek tragedy... Are your collaborators fond of this comparison? The name began as a joke because my real name is actually Evripidis and the ancient Evripidis was a writer of tragedies. The people who know me agree that I am a very dramatic person who tends to bring out the tragedy in every situation - this must be my ascendant in Leo. A lot of my
songs deal with love as it was a natural disastera tsunami for example. Since my lyrics have a lot of dark humor combined with melancholy, I thought that Evripidis and his Tragedies was a name funny enough to take out a little bit of the weight my songs could have but, in the same time, underline this theatrical element of my storytelling. And there is also another element of the greek tragedy that is found in my music: the presence of Chorus, my backing singers, who ask me, respond me, prevent me, give me advisesjust like Chorus did on an ancient tragedy. My collaborators are fine with the name-at the end of the day, it is my project and I chose the name before starting to play with any of them. They find it funny. Do you have a favorite Greek tragedy? Why? My favorite Greek tragedy is Medea by Evripidis. Medea is a witch, the archetype of the passionate, dangerous and ultra sensual woman who leaves everything behind, betraying her own family, in order to be with the man she loves, Jason. In the long run she finds out that love is not the sweet nectar she thought it would but a bitter potion instead. Far from accepting her fate and bowing down, like most women would do in a man-ruled society like that of the Ancient Greece (or even now), she spins a web of terrible revenge, killing her rival, the princess that was about to marry Jason, and then slaughtering her own kids, so that no one will take them from her. She embodies love, hate, weakness and power in a single person. And if her story is not a Tragedy with capital T, then which story is? Evripidis and his Tragedies have recently started recording their third album. www.evripidisandhistragedies.com
Images by Christos Kapralos homoanarchy.tumblr.com
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