Blog

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.

Sunday 4th Jun 2017

IMG_20170528_173953_069

A peak into my dusty woodshed after dark / A place where all my NEWS happens / A dedicated part of my artistic practice / Yes, this is what my blog is for

NEVER DO ANYTHING WHEN YOU AREN’T FEELING IT

IMG_20170528_174127_044

First things first, myself and Paul Hughes are running a DIY called Men From Behind in Folkestone this August, supported by Live Art Development Agency and hosted by ]performance s p a c e[.

It’s about the gendering of penetration as a masculine act, how this has ramifications on  the flow of men’s subjectivity, and how we can dissolve the binary underpinning this all.  There’s also some fun explorations of the concept of ‘back doors’. It’s for anyone and everyone interested in opening up male bodies (their own or others’) through a ‘creative enema’ of filthy writing and subversive image-making, sneaking these performances into the public realm under the radar. Applications open until 19 June. Apply now.

2017-04-28 13.34.12

In other news, just over a month ago, I spent a few days in Peterborough at Metal with their Associate Producer, Kate Marsh and seven other great people as part of the Change Maker Labs. We were exploring the ‘in-between’ that sits beyond the ‘othered’ (my automatic spell-check just tried to change ‘othered’ into ‘bothered’) and ‘normative body’ through movement, complete with talks from visiting artists, Scottee, Luke Pell and Noemi Lakmaier, and lots of really good food. Getting time to think in such a concentrated yet free-flowing environment is pretty rare, and I’m excited about the ideas that are developing out of it.

tim spooner cambridge junction 1

Last weekend I saw Tim Spooner’s The Voice Of Nature at Cambridge Junction and it was probably one of the most enjoyable, strange and alluring things I’ve ever seen. If it comes back (it must come back) you should go see it.

2016 3/4

I’m listening to a Spotify advert that’s telling me the government is helping people become homeowners. And now there’s another advert about a web platform that will make me stand-out online. Something about chicken fillets – all the ways you can cook a chicken fillet…oh good, Lene Lovich is playing. While I’m not paying any cash to listen to this record, I am giving over some brain space in the hopes that I’ll divert my cash to bricks and mortar, HTML code and fowl later on, when I’m good for it. Fair trade, right?

2016-08-19-18-05-00

No, I haven’t been updating this blog much lately, because I’ve been moving to London and getting settled there, and concentrating on making work for SPILL Festival in Ipswich instead. Come: I’ll be showing LOAD on Saturday 29th October, 5pm at Ipswich Town Hall. What’s it about? Broadly speaking, inappropriate pleasure and self-exploitation. More fun than it sounds but not exactly light-relief either.

Sat here in my kitchen in Clapton, listening to Dan Deacon and segments about pregnancy tests, writing about my work, what strikes me is how most of the performances I’ve done over the past 12 – 18 months have emerged from similar source material but been completely different in each and every iteration. Trying on and discarding coats in a charity shop. The artistic process generates so much waste – in the rehearsal room and on the road, material and ideas discarded, chopping away at an invisible, endlessly replenishable marble in search of the right form. And titles! Titles! I hate titles. I squirm when I think of I Was A Teenage Volcano and between you and me, I’m not too hot on Load as a title either. But there they are, on the web site, in the search results, maybe even in the collective unconscious, enduring evidence of your questionable aesthetic decisions.

I’m exaggerating of course. It’s just a process of maturing. I’m happy with where the work is right now. But fuck me… those titles.

In other news, I had a great time in Hastings with Curious, courtesy of LADA and their DIY workshops. We questioned boundaries, privacy and permission in someone’s private bedroom, up at Hastings castle and on the beach with some very smart, passionate and provocative collaborators.

OK, while this has been fun, I’m bored of writing now – I’ve done more work than I should be doing on a Sunday already. Have a good one.

2016 1/4

Where are you at as an artist currently?

I’m thinking about how I can incorporate more live sound and movement into my performance, and the role / reliability of autobiography in my work. Having spent three years studying English & Creative Writing, I’m very comfortable using the written and spoken word but feel these practices will open more windows, artistically speaking.

gafeth march 2016-32 copy

Recently I worked with Eirini Kartsaki who introduced me to some completely new approaches to my material that pushed me out of my comfort zone (and paid off with some great audience feedback from my performance at Camden People’s Theatre) and this weekend I attended a workshop on inter-disciplinary performance called ‘Babble’ hosted at Future Everything, which introduced me to the possibility of using live percussion on found objects using contact mics and loop pedals. As a frustrated drummer, nothing would make me happier.

What are you working on?

(I Was A) Teenage Volcano continues to evolve. After showings at Emergency at Z-arts, Manchester in 2015 and Sprint Festival at Camden People’s Theatre, London in March 2016, I’m looking to incorporate the aforementioned live sound and movement, embedding it more in the text material, which will also be put through experimental approaches. Robert Brown and I are also developing a short performance film as part of my Terminal Ferocity project. We’ll be working on this over the next few months before he jets off on his travels. For now, here’s a sample:

There’s also some spots of writing here and there, which I’ll be sharing when the time is write (ha!)

Anything else worth mentioning?

Yes, I’ve had a lot of fun turning a staircase into a volcano and creating a four hour durational, interactive sound performance for families at Haphazard at Z-arts in February, and performing to a crowd of three hundred or so people in an empty swimming pool wearing nothing but a silver paper crown, a pillow and my boxer shorts, acting the fool at Short & Sweet.

Photo (l – r): Gareth Cutter at Short & Sweet, image by Jody Hartley; I Am A Volcano at Haphazard, Z-arts, image by Tamsin Drury

What’s getting you excited right now?

1. The music of Anna Meredith.

2. Attending Buzzcut festival.

3. The Cognitive Liberation Front.

12961204_1502620103135305_4143761931530681106_o

Photo: Cognitive Liberation Front at Short & Sweet, image by Jody Hartley

Celluloid Stripes

Ideas come and they hang around for a bit, so I work on them, and then I get bored and do something else for a bit. And then I get bored of that and come up with another idea, which hangs around for a bit and then I do that for a bit instead. Then I get bored of that idea, and come back to the original idea (the one I had two ideas ago), which is still hanging around and do that for a bit again. In this way I maintain a constant sense of being very busy whilst making the smallest of incremental advances in the direction I want to go, which also happens to be three different directions at once.

Welcome to my creative process. Please wipe your feet and take off your shoes before entering, and make sure they’re clearly labelled too as I may just put them on by mistake (or design, if they’re good shoes) and walk out with them.

PhotoGrid_1454791352292

Oh! Who’s this then? Why, it’s me in a tiger suit and my film-making friend, Robert Brown. It’s been nearly a year since I last slipped into my figure-hugging, striped spandex body-stocking; I honestly thought I’d worn it out. The idea, that is.

But no, ideas hang around. Or they wander off and come back to find you sat at your kitchen table in Levenshulme, Manchester, having breakfast and thinking to yourself, “I’d like to make more work in a shorter amount of time with fewer barriers to access. And I’d like it to be about fantasy within domestic settings. It’s got to be queer, it’s got to be colourful and it’s got to be fun. And I’d also like it to be about feeling (un)comfortable in your surroundings, wondering how your ideas or even your very own self, will survive the future. And I don’t want to do it on my own.”

And then this idea that you put to the back of your mind either because you dismissed it as ‘NOT AS IMPORTANT AS THIS OTHER AMAZING IDEA I’VE JUST HAD’ or accidentally left it behind at the pub when you and your wife Samantha were busy trying to avoid the press brushes some leaves and twigs from its fur and goes:

“Oi, DICKHEAD!”

You jolt upright, causing a little fountain of milk and Shreddies to leap into the air from your bowl.

“I’m. Right. Here.”

I’m not sure what happens at this point. Maybe you and the idea have a good old romantic kiss – with tongues and everything – just as the sunset rolls behind the ocean like a monstrous pink grapefruit and gives the sky a hot flush. Yeah, that’s good.

So, the tiger returns. I’ve used this, I don’t know – frusona? – to explore ideas of boredom and mundanity before but this year I’d like to take this tiger of mine back to Telford, the source of all my dreams, fears and frustrations. But since Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Telford, I decided to do something a bit smaller and domestic in scale. For one miserable, wet Saturday, Rob interviewed me in my tiger costume and we followed whatever tumbled out of my brain as a structure for our subsequent filming. I’ll be working on turning this raw material into a short film over the coming months, and expanding it to include more creatures and locations in subsequent shoots if all goes well. Amazing, eh?

In the meantime, I’ve got a couple of other performances coming up soon, pretending to be a volcano and all that. Oh, now there’s an idea. Off I wander. Don’t mind me, ideas, I’ll be back in twelve months’ time.