International

In August, I’ll be taking an expanded version of LOAD to Dublin Live Art Festival.

CDS 27th 28th May-7

Credit: Ivan Denia, Chisenhale Dance Space, Fiver Friday

First presented at SPILL Festival in October 2016, it’s a TED talk that’s actually a yoga session that’s really a phone sex chat line about putting your body and life on display. I’m performing alongside some really great artists including Martin O’Brien, Rhiannon Armstrong, Robert Hesp, Umama Hamido, Reverend Billy and more.

And then in September, I’ll be notching up a few more air miles by following in the footsteps of Count Dracula on a pilgrimage into the heart of darkness.

IMG_20170720_231803.jpg

Credit: Gareth Cutter

Taking in a Whitby weekender, a 5-day research trip to Romania, and a concluding overnight vigil in London, this DIY+ led by Martin O’Brien, and supported by LADA and Jerwood Charitable Foundation, feeds into some of my own thinking into sick, queer bodies, gastromancy and buttholes, which I expect will be bubbling up sometime in October.

Over and out.

Sunday 23rd Jul 2017

There are three dancers in In The Mood For Frankie, currently being shown at Trajal Harrell’s performance installation, Hooch Koochie, showing at the Barbican. Trajal is one of them. We watch him and the others as we perch on piano benches, squat on the ground, or stand either side of the faux-marble platforms (really just overhead digital projections beamed down on plain white wood), small fish pond and kitschy straw mats that make up the runway. By turns languid and extravagant, taut and frantic, the dancers stalk the space and claim it as their own with nonchalance.

The variations are a long-time in coming, and I oscillate between fascination and boredom.

One of the dancers is holding an old oil lamp and prancing back in forth in what I would describe as a ‘Medieval courtly style’, his gaze leaping between the ground and the sky, leading his body with it. He does a little solo from one end of the platform the other and back again, joining Trajal and the other dancer as a trio.

They remind me of friends dancing in a club.

And like when you’re at the optician and they’re trying different strength lenses on to get the prescription right, a new ‘lens’ drops over my gaze on the scene all of a sudden, wiping out any attempt to fix meaning on it: they’re just three bodies dancing together. The set, the costume – doesn’t really mean anything. This guy holding the lamp? I find it intensely funny. Not disparagingly so. I love it. It makes me want to take an empty kettle to the next Knickerbocker and act fabulous whilst doing it.

In one of the adjacent rooms, there’s a slightly doctored version of Baudrillard’s The Conspiracy Of Art projected on the wall, where he argues ‘art has lost all desire for illusion: feeding back endlessly into itself, it has turned its own vanishment into an art unto itself.’ Trajal has changed ‘art’ to ‘performance’. As a gesture, its probably the least interesting one he makes in the exhibition, but one line from the original leaps out at me strongly:

“The poetic operation is to make nothing appear out of the power of signs.”

Sunday 9th Jul 2017

IMG_20170705_001906_471.jpg

In Telford there are a lot of occluded men. There is a grid of flesh. There is wet chest hair that looks suspiciously like a question mark asking “What are you looking for?” There are pink supply lips at the top of the frame. Instead of answering, you just place the screen of your phone over your face and slide it down reaallllllllllllllllly slowly. A moan escapes. Repeat the action and feel the smooth plastic against skin produce a friction you didn’t expect while a voice goes “Hello? Can you hear me? If you are a racist or do not like people from America then block me.” And if you replied, it would be something like, “No, it’s not like that at all, none of those things bother me,” but you place the phone in your pocket and grab your keys. Going out. Back later. See you in a bit. But you’re still walking through a grid that stretches much further than you’ll ever walk, even as you head to the lump of land called the Wrekin. A landmark. You don’t know the names of any of the plants. Nope. This place? Why would I?

New Fag Realism. A puce screed of tedious intention.

I set myself this target of writing a blog every week to be published on a Sunday and so far I’ve found it both funny and boring, and occasionally inspirational. Not much to report (yet) but I’ll tell you this: I walked down a forest path in Ironbridge gorge on my 30th and it stank of wild garlic and manure. My nose was rancid with the odour and I thought, ‘Great! This is exactly the smell I want for my next project, given that it will probably be about ventriloquism’.

IMG_20170706_203253_966.jpg

I’ve also been writing some poetry on Twitter that no-one seems to be paying attention to, which is just the way it should be because there are far too many poets and not enough Halifax adverts to go round.

Water. Coffee. No. No coffee. I love you. No I. I love you.

Sunday 2nd Jul 2017

Pink vague.

IMG_20170630_174807_884

Been working with Paul at Chisenhale Dance Space on LOAD for a couple of days this week. The pair of us have been pinching, swiping, pressing and gliding through a structure that does gentle hand-brake turns. The audience watches a punishing floor as two violins glide away from each other imperceptibly and Beckett disappears into a lacuna. Noun verb noun. August. That’s when I’m presenting it. Across real and imagined borders.

In December I go to a place to make some work as well but I don’t know how much I can say about this because I haven’t asked. What is an artist’s blog really for, then? Nothing. Absolutely fine.

ssssssssssssssssss  s s s s s s s ss      sh   s  s s s  h s h s          sh s h s  sh  sh sh s  hhh

sss   s s     s s s s       s s s s          ss s s s s        s s s s ss s ss          s s s s s s s ssssssss

s  h h h ssss s h  s s

IMG_20170126_191609_065

This morning the steady whine in my ear collapsed into a coastal crash and I thought I might fall out of my chair: man, laptop and Microsoft Word report overboard. Labyrinthitis (nowt to do with David Bowie). And I got up and felt the knotty left hip, and the collapsed, shallow right foot. The eyes, the disease and the body blasted by sex, inhibition, performance, the wrong limits, the recklessness of a rubber band flying from thumb and forefinger. This has nothing to do with turning 30 and everything to do with having been 20.

Apart from that, nothing extra-ordinary this week (except I discovered that the Shrek Is Love, Shrek Is Life video is soundtracked by Stars Of The Lid).

SUNDAY 25TH JUN 2017

Michael and I have matching lime-green bandanas wrapped around our necks. We lean against the pristine white colonnades of Tate Britain’s foyer, chatting about queerness, cruising and embarrassment.

IMG_20170620_221914_519

Every so often, my eyes dart to the right. I’m still listening to Michael – but I’m also conscious of the pose I’ve struck, left arm resting over my head against the white column, legs clad in indigo denim and scissor-crossed. I’m seeing whose gaze I catch over the upturned collar of my bleached denim jacket.

There’s a cute androgynous person with short dark hair, tanned skin and angular earrings leaning against the ornate balustrade by the staircase. Our eyes hold each other for a few suspended seconds, bolstered by wide smiles – then break away back to our companions. The bands of brightly-coloured fabric wrapped around our wrists and necks, dangling from our back-pockets and bound across our foreheads create a playful context to engage in something that often seems incredibly po-faced and serious. I think of the hate-stare of cruising guys, brows knitted in a ‘v’ of intense scrutiny, sizing up your cut versus the explosion of laughter that tumbles out of my body as I lay on my back, the fitted sheet crumpled like a tissue.

“What’s wrong?” they ask.

“Nothing! I’m just having a really good time.”

Belly-laughs during sex.

The cutie to my right crumples in a fit of giggles and hushed talk with their friends.

IMG_20170624_161347_613

I think of J. Halberstam in The Queer Art Of Failure talking about a ‘queer and fluid form of knowing, that operates independently of coherence and linear narrative or progression’, a ‘silliness’ which ‘leads…to new and different forms of relations and actions’.

I’m at a fancy function for a gay men’s mental health charity that is replicating the body issues it purports to address with a poster stuffed with chiselled white bodies, hairless nipples, gleaming teeth and a drag queen. The men here have all had their chinos and polo necks sprayed on, and a vogue troupe-for-hire slices lines through the air. I want to do a flailing, stumbling stage invasion in honour of this silliness. A queer silliness that doesn’t take OPULENCE and SUPERIORITY and FIERCENESS as its primary objective. It’s not that I don’t admire these things in some way, I love the Brooke Candy video; but I’m more interested in carving a vague, clumsy freedom for myself because I often feel very vague and clumsy.

Do you want to join my Boring Queer Collective? It’s not very interesting, and there isn’t very much to tell you. It’s essentially a loose assemblage of people doing pointless administrative tasks like making Google Spreadsheets and listing the composite materials of douche bulbs.

Michael and I continue chatting. We’ve been ‘Cruising For Art’, a kind of silly cruising at Tate Britain as part of their Queer and Now festival, where the erotic potential still-exists and the one-on-one performances are serious in the sense care has been taken over them, but it’s playful in a way that traditional cruising doesn’t seem to be (not that I would know, of course).

IMG_20170409_221911_601

Anyway, unrelated, I love this quote from Mark Fisher’s The Weird And The Eerie:

“We could go so far as to say that it is the human condition to be grotesque, since the human animal is the one that does not fit in, the freak of nature who has no place in the natural order and is capable of re-combining nature’s products into hideous new forms.”

With bare feet and obscene jelly on the furry floor.

Sunday 18th Jun 2017

Sheaf & Barley are reading my runes in the Barbican greenhouse: they tell me, amongst other things, that my voice will be the thing that ‘gets me through’. A producer sits with me on the mezzanine of a children’s arts venue: she tells me over coffee that I need to go deeper. My father calls me over the phone: ‘stop being such a harsh critic of yourself’, he says.

 

This week, sat in the garden of a friend’s family home in Brighton, I attempted to do a factory reset on myself. I was on an artist retreat of sorts, an informal get-together with a few artists I met at the Private! Keep Out! DIY in Hastings last year. We dumped our bags in the hallway, sat and drank wine, ate fresh fish, and told jokes late into the night. Then, over the following two days we discovered that most of us were in fact just very, very tired and need more time to rest. ‘Productive nothing time’ as one dubbed it. I just want to drink wine, eat fresh fish and tell jokes more often.

I turn 30 in three weeks so there’s lots of looking over my shoulder, reviewing the past as it drifts further away; eyes scanning the inside of my skull as I try to sleep, circling the highlights and lowlights of my twenties, scratching out schematics for a better thirties. Using my voice. Going deeper. Killing the critic.

I’m reading Close To The Knives by David Wojnarowicz. This quote from ‘POSTCARDS FROM AMERICA: X-Rays From Hell’ has caught my eye:

To make the private into something public is an action that has terrific repercussions in the preinvented world. The government has the job of maintaining the day-to-day illusion of the ONE-TRIBE NATION. Each public disclosure of a private reality becomes something of a magnet that can attract others with a similar frame of reference; thus each public disclosure of a fragment of private reality serves as a dismantling tool against the illusion of ONE-TRIBE NATION; it lifts the curtains for a brief peek and reveals the probable existence of literally millions of tribes. The term “general public” disintegrates. What happens next is the possibility of an X-ray of Civilization, an examination of its foundations.

Wojnarowicz wrote this at the height of the AIDS crisis. The fundamental, alchemical reaction of making the private into something public is just as powerful today. I’ve felt the magnetic attraction he describes grabbing a hold of me whilst watching Christeene perform with David Hoyle on the Royal Vauxhall Tavern stage in a spectacle of filth, queerness and defiance, committed to memory against the gay disco of Rose Lauren’s heartbreaking, tears-in-my-eyes American Love. I felt at home in the unabashed celebration of themselves on stage.

So, what’s my own ‘deeper’?

2017-04-15-11-48-38.jpg

There’s just over 24 hours left to apply for Men From Behind, the DIY 14 workshop I’m running with Paul Hughes (of Timber & Battery Fame) at ]performance s p a c e[ in Folkestone. We’re having a 2 day sleepover by the sea to talk about gender, penetration and backdoors, and its supported by the Live Art Development Agency, which is pretty ace. Do join us if you can.

Sunday 11th Jun 2017

My landlord has finally painted the room.

dav

For the past 8 months, I’ve woken up and stared at the long strip of flaking magnolia where the wall meets the ceiling, directly opposite my bed (which is actually just a mattress and bedding on the floor), revealing a paler layer of white underneath. It’s a tired analogy but it looked like a wound to me, and my fingers itched to prise it wider, peeling it off bit-by-bit, or to stab away at it in little jabs with a kitchen knife until the floor was covered in powdery scabs.

Posters of Cassils and Felix Gonzales-Torres covered the cracks that snaked like fault-lines along the wall; now there are smooth, virginal rectangles of magnolia and a polite request from my landlord to not put any more posters up, please. I’ve turned my desk to face the window instead of the wall. Now I can watch the neighbourhood cats slink across the sheds belonging to my neighbours who have such things as gardens when I need to take a break from writing things like this.

Last night I was sat drinking a few beers in the forecourt of The Yard Theatre with a couple of friends. We’d just watched Ponyboy Curtis’ new show of queer, bucolic love and lust, Vs. Most of the theatre crowd had gone while the incoming Pussy Palace nightclub crowd were still putting on their outfits at home, or maybe getting a drink somewhere more central East London. So, just me, my friends, and a few small clusters of people hanging around, having a drink and a smoke.

17952981_10154475599056778_8018041279437136512_n

We were talking about Grindr, and how one of my friends, now in his mid 30s, is getting a noticeable flurry of 25 year olds messaging him. Like, a lot of 25 year olds. What do they all want? Well, we can imagine; this is Grindr after all. And it’s not that he doesn’t understand the rules of the game. It’s just that he doesn’t see himself in the way he thinks he reads to them. What is he: a ‘daddy’ now?

My week-old tattoo has been scabbing and flaking away in small filings of black. I scoop handfuls of cocoa butter from a small tub and massage my upper arm once in the morning and again before bed. It smells delicious, like freshly-baked pastries, and melts beneath my hands as I rub it firmly onto the skin, sliding it across the healing needle-thin wounds. It catches the daylight as I turn and look at my fingers, shiny and slippery, and I think of Vaseline: how they share a similar texture; how the early explorations of my own body were facilitated by globs of this mass-manufactured petroleum-jelly on a teenage finger-tip. I always bought it in those small, blue and white circular tins, sold as therapy for chapped-lips. I’d take care to never actually apply it to my lips.

IMG_20170531_230948_873

And as I think of these early explorations, an image of a rudimentary, almost atavistic (which is not to say unintelligent) kind of anal sex appears; one where the latex sheath disintegrates beneath the Vaseline and the cock is gilded by this material that becomes flammable in its liquid state; this semi-solid mixture of hydrocarbons, discovered in the mid-19th century on the oil rigs of America, greasing huge metal skeletons pumping billions of gallons of black ichor from the earth’s skin; oil that has flamed and roared in automobile engines for nearly a century, heating up the planet’s surface to an apocalyptic fervour.

I was going to make a point about how things like tattoos are indeed ‘descriptors of you’, but that people usually read you wrong anyway, including yourself, so you might as well scar yourself for life. I was going to make this point within the context of costume, finery and mystery, which I saw in abundance at Pussy Palace, and really liked. And how this costume, finery and mystery operates as part of game that you have to play, especially in the creative industries. But I’m also kind of bored of it, and a bit tired. As if I don’t put enough effort in anyway. But I got distracted and digressed thinking about anal again. Sorry.

tumblr_oq75xttzuQ1v3ax16o1_1280

I read somewhere that the symbol of a snake swallowing its own tail was a symbol for homosexuality, and I tried corroborating this on Duck Duck Go yesterday, but a 2 minute glance didn’t turn up anything useful. Perhaps it is true. But anyway, I’ve been thinking about the serpent as a symbol of temptation and fall from grace, and how much I like this irreverent depiction of the Birth of Venus. And I think about black ink, and the sort of serpents I want running through my body.