Your light is the food of empty bellies
Your light illuminates dark houses
Your light adds magic to the hands of cooks
Your light waters the withered
Your light heals the sick
Your light is the mercy of the divine
Your light is joy to the unsmiling
Must you leave?
I shall keep your fragrance
Rezia Wahid is a textile artist who specialises in hand weaving. She is currently writing a PHD proposal which looks at engaging audiences and bringing people together with her weaving. Rezia is influenced by a wide range of subjects which includes Literature and Nature. She often writes words which come into her mind when praying, thinking, whilst looking at nature or alongside her drawings and designs- Rezia doesn’t call herself a writer or a poet but her woven pieces are just like poetry. She lives in London and balances work life with four young children as well as a husband who is a writer!
This morning I said I’d get up, but I didn’t. I said I’d do work but I didn’t. I said I’d do a lot of things but I haven’t.
Instead I put on this song and danced in my room around the sunsquare, like the breeze coming in through the window, like hot coffee in the air.
Arm over arm dancing in euphoria thinking of all the times I’ve moved like this with someone else and realising that I much prefer moving like this by myself. Reason no.1 to be thankful.
Reason number two is that the song speaks to me so. About the way it feels to be inside, all these days as just one long day. Too much time to do anything, not enough time to get things done. All times are now, there is no now only always, there is no always except for…. except for what?
Time keeps on coming
I’ve been all around
I’ll keep on running
‘Til time catches on
I’ve been on the run
Except I’m not running. I’m inside. Windows flung wide.
Arms waving, body rippling like it’s underwater, legs out at an angle, sweeping under to project a leap to the corner of the room, I spin to face my audience of plants. They wave in the breeze, or in enjoyment, I don’t care which, I think it is the latter. The song becomes all songs, becomes heartbeat. Outside of my window I hear people cooking, I hear children in trouble, I hear a shower, I hear laughing. I do not hear my blackbird, still. They all make the song, the song becomes all of them.
My hair raises from its roots like I’m in antigravity. My arms become the boughs of a great weeping willow, my legs the swift river. My heart the beating hand of time striking my sternum as though to reverberate the ribs, my lungs the caged leaves , my mouth a furnace, my eyes two lonely headlamps on the shooters hill road. Fading, melting, passing through.
The song comes to an end and I am out of breath. I put it in again. Leaping like billy Elliot but badly, floorboards creaking slightly, carpet ruckled. I wonder if my sisters remember how I used to refuse to dance the steps they choreographed on our carpet, where moving from one flower to another was a significant move. It reminds me still of dancing to one ariana grande song on the dance dance revolution machine. It reminds me still of standing under a whole flock of swallows murmuring as they go to bed.
I don’t know if you’ve seen it, they move in the air like fish in water, a shifting mass of feathery bodies moving like one body. A murmur. My heart murmurs. My mouth murmurs, the radio murmurs. Paris murmurs. My body is my body and is a thousand swallows taking flight, a line of flight from the self beyond the wall. The french road for wall is mur. A double wall is a murmur. The music is a mur, I am a mur, together we murmur as swallows do. as I do. As moving is. As dancing does.
This time last year mum and I saw one at the quoits, the sky stained blue purple in sunset, the water rippling beneath like soft percussion, the wind still and the two of us holding our breath. When they feel overhead we wanted to spin under them, run with them, dance with them.
As the final notes play out through the speaker, the wind rattles the plants to make a rousing applause, a standing ovation, even the dead ivy on the sill rustles his brown leaves in appreciation.
The Roomba had mangled them, whirred over their edges and swept at their corners. The paper plains become crags and creases and trenches.
“Oh,” I said weakly, and sank to my knees. What metaphor was this? Half-done, half-loved labour in tatters? How to explain my grief for these squares?
My finger hovered over the first of the puzzles. I dreaded the feel of it, hated those contours. I tapped at a peak, it pricked me right back. I looked at my littered letters in valleys.
“You can still do them,” husband comforted. “We can flatten them out – they’ll be just the same.” But what of the folds and the scars and the tears? There is spirituality in perfect minutiae – in the crispness of bedsheets and pages and grids. This: the essence of the perfectionist’s faith.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. My sin of carelessness had begotten this plight. On the floor beneath the window I had discarded companions.
Several hours later I took husband’s advice: they are squeezed between tomes, like flowers in a press.
Faith is delicate, like a crossword.
Et in Arcadia ego.
Megan is studying data science and is currently teaching machines about crime. She still loves words though, especially crosswords. She can be found on Twitter, @CrypticMeg.
Todays near window comes to you from the mind and music studio of Steve Tromans. it comes hand in hand with a beautiful piece of music that you can access here. Highly recommend checking out more of his work whilst you’re there!
This time last year I was resurfacing from a pretty deep depression. I know this because I remember, but I was reminded of it because my Instagram archive decided to display some choice pieces of last spring for me to look at. Most of my content last year was me waxing lyrical about birds or trees or light. Here’s one:
——— imagine here a brief hiatus in which I went deep on my insta and sent my friends photos of us from 2015 with captions like « omg so long ago » and other such vibes. I won’t bore u by including them here, but I can assure u that they’re good pics of me with varying lengths of hair and at varying degrees of sobriety ✌️it’ll probably be charged about in another vidéo -Apéro that I’ll have with my best pal sometime again this week (that’s drink wine & face time to u)
Anyway I spent an inordinate about of time looking at last spring today. Looking at the sun drenched, green robed fields of home. A ghost spring of recovery, silver streamed into my retinas whilst the depopulated spring outside my window battles the war for us. Paris occupied again. Here, there are two springs existing at once. One in my phone, one outside my window, and neither of which I am actually IN. The one in my phone is huge, i walked about ten miles a day with the dogs, over hill and down dale and across streams and through woods. I was documenting the wild magic of becoming. The one in reality small, one room, two windows, a courtyard, a corner of sky.
So many shots of chubby knees and heavy docs striding through fields growing progressively greener. Shots of the dogs running, begging, smiling, tongues lolling. shots of brickwork, of country pavements, of pub signage, or birdsong, or birds, or blossom, or blooms or new leaves. Where I’d been I’ll I’d posted relatively little. In coming back to myself in recovery I posted more and more. A minds eye view of both the return if the spring, and my return to myself. An almost « real-time » video essay: what does it mean to become in the season if becoming? An interesting question. One I have no answers for, except the list of shots I mentioned above. One which is still being answered as we never cease to become. Either way it is spring on my phone, and it is spring outside, and even though I am inside in my flat in Paris, in my phone I am running through fields in England. I am both. I am all.
In reality though this compulsive Instagram documentation is not a video essay, in that I have not consciously created it to have structure and form like an essay is supposed to have. More accurately you could call it a video notebook, like the stacks of notebooks at my mums and the two I have here that have every single thing I’ve ever written in them in pen and paper form. A video sketchbook: some light, some birds, some sky, a song I like.
I read a paper by Simon O’Sullivan called « Fictioning Landscape » (it’s on his website) about the relationship between landscape and fictioning in the form of video-essays. He particularly focuses on weird examples, that unpick the fabric of reality and posit weird fictions of the past and future within them. The examples he examines present a « porous border between fact and fiction » and insinuate a foreground of temporal shift; futures that won’t happen, pasts that didn’t quite. The notion of the then-spring encroaching on the now-spring implies a layered temporality, too: now-spring is all-spring.
O’Sullivan discusses some brilliant examples of audio-visual essays including Justin Barton and Mark Fisher’s On Vanishing Land and Victoria Halford and Steve Beard’s Voodoo Science Park. J would highly recommend looking them up – the book of voodoo science park is brilliant – highly recommend.
My friend, Josh Vyrtz, makes video-essays – you can look at them here. They each possess a kind of fictioned surreality, whether theyre about painting a landscape as toilet graffiti or sitting on a bench from 9-5. There’s a joyous kind of whimsy to them, that’s tinged with a melancholia, and a hunt that there’s some kind of Magic going on, links to external spaces, spaces outside of the frame.
Thé above photo is a still from my favourite of josh’s performance/video essays. It was about his dad, who died. About his own self discovery, and about learning about Switzerland where his dad is from. It was also not about this at all, but about vulnerability, and masculinity. In the film josh was himself and his dad and a plastic gnome. In the performance he was himself a cab driver, and a whirling dervish of emotion. It was a performance, an essay, a film, and a thing of beauty. To my mind josh was create a fictional past in which his dad had shown him Switzerland, and a future in which he had been shown. Fragile, vulnérable, wishful. It made me cry.
I’ve written a lot about music over the last few days; being inside all the time, it’s one of the few things I can always do without getting bored of doing it. This video essay of Josh’s starts very close to his face, like the moment at the end of a party when your smashed and on a sofa chatting shit:
« there are some songs which, when I listen to them, make me feel like the lead in a movie »
Cut to josh blue lit, by fountain, gazing around , telling us, conversationally, and in response to the obvious question « which songs? » the top five songs on the soundtrack of his life.
Cut to josh silhouetted against a pink dusk, London skyline rising jagged on the horizon, and josh freewheeling in his bike, bare arms conducting the symphony of a London bike ride: wheels ticking, bike creaking, wind blasting, river rushing. We don’t hear the songs he mentions, just the sound of the city, and of the weather. It’s joyful in its release, melancholy in its près back sonic element. It makes me ache for London, and ache for the outside, and for riding my bike. I don’t know why the lack of music makes it feel melancholy, like a dream. What do you hear in dreams? Music? Real life noise? Quiet?
Josh’s video essay turns the wind and the river and the bike into the soundtrack of his life, they become the music; that actual music may change that’s playing through his headphones, but the sound we hear never will. It makes a temporal shift. Josh will hear these sounds on every bike ride he goes on, and for someone who rides his bike almost every day pre confinement, that seems to me to be the true soundtrack of his life, if he ever manages to hear it. In the film josh makes the city an orchestra, the weather the symphony: himself riding no-hands-on-the-handlebars conducting the sky. The fiction here, though an aesthetic one – (re)making a conversation we’ve had before – enacting a freedom and joy of riding through the city in fine weather – creates a performance journey. One that exits real time and creates a « music-time » or a « film-time » as much is I created a « spring-time » within my phone. The film is saturated with residual emotion, and by not providing the music, Josh allows that emotion to speak for itself in the box of film time we can all dip into with an internet connection.
Both of Josh’s films that I’ve mentioned here are hugely emotionally charged. They both alter space-time and allow something to speak « not to us but to something within us » which is how fictioning works: creating a space-time in which the truth is made not true, and by which we can pro rated ourself on the plane of now. Whilst they don’t engage with the weird in the same way as O’Sullivans examples, they engage with a melancholia that seems ever present (I would call this grief-space)
like listening to a song u thought was happy but is really sad. Like Dancing Queen, or Boys of Summer, or Loaded by Primal Scream. Joy and melancholia: two sides of the same thing.
In these uncertain and tumultuous times, where the news is often based on « post-truths » it becomes « crucial to produce other and better » fictions than created by the state or the media « by which to orientate ourselves within our world.
Outside the window a blackbird is singing with such tenacity and gusto that I feel like crying. In the drawing evening, i have Henry Jamison’s new record on. The blackbird outside sings as though to accompany him. I am listening to him sing like the world is ending, or like it’s beginning. I’m not sure if I’m talking about Jamison, or the blackbird.
I wasn’t going to write today, but Henry Jamison released a new song: “Atlantis” that pulled me out from my hungover stupor and forced me to put pen to paper.
His 2019 album, Gloria Duplex, soundtracked the summer of last year, with “Boys” and “True North” being stand our favourites; but the truth is there isn’t a song on that album I don’t like. Lyrically Gloria Duplex addresses contemporary themes of toxic masculinity, what it means to be a man, and to be a person existing under capitalism. The form of Gloria Duplex mirrors the lyrical narrative too, in becoming so much more than just another folk record with a guy and his guitar. But today’s Near Window isn’t about Gloria Duplex, it’s about “Atlantis”, a track released not more than half a day ago at the time of writing. Where Gloria Duplex’s production soared into an ocean of sound, and samples, and really pushed at the boundaries of what a folk record could be, “Atlantis – Demo” brings Jamison down to the ground. Mostly because it’s a demo, but also because of the close miced nature of Jamisons voice, and the soft fragility of the song’s phrasing.
The track opens with a harmonica playing a single note, reminding me implicitly of lonely midnight scenes in prison movies, a lone prisoner against a barred window, the drawing dusk encroaching on the single cell, and the sound of a harmonica soaring upwards.
This is an interesting image to open with, considering Jamison wrote “Atlantis” on the second day of confinement. It really speaks to a sense of isolation, of the world crumbling outside the windows.
The song opens anxiously:
I wonder where they’re going?
“What do you know about power?” She said
All there is worth knowing.
Yet the melody and lilting guitar betray a kind of jaded apathy in the face of this, that is reflected in “I used to think I could Change the world”. I am torn between describing the melody as apathetic, or as being indicative of us all having been lulled into a sense of false security. The dual chord progressions, and the steady pendulum swing of the tempo; it all comes around again, it’s relentless, there’s nothing you can do.
But then comes the chorus, which feels like a complete rebuttal of this:
That’s how Atlantis fell
Into the rising sea
Everyone looking around saying
“Hey, no, don’t look at me!”
These lines are angry, exasperated. They speak, not only to a sense of climate anxiety (in using the myth of Atlantis) but also to the general apathy we all feel. No one has the answers, but there’s always something to be done. “Hey no don’t look at me” is so indicative of the way many leaders initially responded to the current crisis (I’m looking at Boris Johnson here). The image of the sea rising so relentless too, no one reaching out to help, everyone holding their hands to themselves. I’m not sure if this is truly the experience of people down on the ground. I’ve seen more kindness and experienced more community in the last few weeks than I’ve seen in a long time. But the apathy at the situation is palpable, as is the desire not to be apathetic. Jamison seems to be reiterating a point: if we fall – when we fall – no one will know what to do. It’s our job to help each other, even if we don’t have any answers.
The second verse, in Jamison’s typical stream of consciousness lyrical style, has further detached itself from the events happening around them. “Over my head”, “didn’t get a word”, “something about apocalypse”. The rising tide of the melody builds for a chorus that he follows with a second look at me:
Hey, no, don’t look at me!
Look at me.
Don’t look for answers here, but please god don’t stop looking at me. It reminds me of the “imagine” video – each and everyone of those influential faces getting off on appearing to do something without doing anything. Don’t come to me for help, but please do watch me perform some vocal acrobatics on one of the most overplayed songs of the 20th century.
Sitting at my kitchen table in the drawing in of a Parisian dusk, alone, save the blackbird singing so sweetly on the chimney pot opposite. As Jamison’s lonely harmonica rises into the air, the blackbird joins him in giving voice to anxiety and apathy in equal measure. The sound of both together makes me feel nostalgic, and sad, and worried. I close my eyes and sink into Jamison’s generous harmonies, and sumptuous production. I feel swept into the momentum, carried along by it: I completely buy into it’s feeling of isolation and detachment.
But it’s a song of two voices. The isolated voice of the verses, complacent, and detached; and the angry, anxious and warning voice of the chorus. On his Instagram, Jamison says that the song is a kind of protest:
Against complacency in the face of the worlds immense challenges, against the feeling in [him] (and many others) that there’s nothing we can really do after all.
The song has a mythic quality to it. Like it’s come to us from a time outside our own. A myth transcending the fabric of the world, to offer a warning, and to show us what has happened is what could happen. It’s not a message of hope, but it’s a message of knowledge: Beware
“It is spring, that is to say that it is approaching THE BEGINNING”
Scrolling through Twitter at some god awful hour this morning I saw a green and yellow painting of daffodils. Mottled grey blue of sky and brown thatch of distant trees reminiscent of the arrival of spring in William Carlos Williams’ Spring and All :
Under the surge of the blue
Mottled clouds driven from the
Northeast – a cold wind. Beyond, the
Waste of broad, muddy fields
Brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen
David Hockney, confined in Normandy, has painted the archetypal spring view, reminiscent to me of Lent fasting, of school holidays, of spring fairs. Of the becoming and the returning of the spring; new and old at the same time. He’s called the painting Do remember they can’t cancel the spring. The painting is joyful, yet there’s a restraint in Hockney’s iPad stylings that isn’t usually there, a pared back response to the view he’s been presented with. Hockey in confinement paints in starker, more drab colours. There is no true joy in the coming of this uncancelled spring. The joy of yellow cannot combat the sadness of brown.
I went out today, into the quiet of a Parisian morning, cold edged air like the cracking of an eggshell. The streets are deserted as they never have been, everyone inside and fearful, but the morning is as glorious as any one I’ve seen. The sun barely up, the sky itself pale with its own becoming. I had that familiar loosening feeling, of the ending of the long winter, and the upward spiral into spring; and then I remembered I had one hour within which to move around, to buy bread and loo roll and milk and then turn on my heels for home. I was unreeling from my insides, but tethered to the safety of home. Out on furlough for eggs and bread.
A few weeks ago, pre confinement, Matt @xenogothic tweeted something about Caribou’s new album Suddenly, that resonated with how I felt about it: full of spring bops, but tethered to an innate sense of melancholia that seeps through the alum with every subsequent listen.
The album stakes its emotional territory lyrically, and through the clever use of windy samples in “lime”, or Sunday morning soul in “home” to place you in a memory, whilst making the moment of that memory happen in the present. In a google hangout yesterday my friend was talking of the semantics of nostalgia making the memory always already present, so its tatters to the past become meaningless almost in the act of remembering. Another friend with whom I’ve been writing letters has written some questions to me about this to, like :
How do you know what was real? How do you protect memories from new feelings that will ultimately twist it? How do you travel in time throug memory without altering the memory?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I don’t think it’s us who travels in time, but the memory. We’re always on the surface, weathered by the ghostly returning of past/future moments: spectral weathers (if you’ll let me name check my own book?)
Suddenly is suffused with memory, with a retrospective glance inward, and feels, when listening to it, like an album made inside someone who’s been listening in on pop music and has made an album that orbits it: not part of it, but born of it. Apologetic soliloquies to sisters, mothers humming lullabies, the four to the floor of the club still reverberating in your bones as you lie in bed waiting for the room to stop spinning, an elegy to emotion, and rawness. Dan Snaith (the man behind caribou), when he sings, seems to me like he’s whisper singing in the confessional, or right into my ear. The fragility of his voice caught in close miced glory, and more often than not without reverb or delay. Dry, soft, and conversational, like whispering in the night to keep anxiety at bay.
I especially get this feeling in “Sister”, the albums opener, where Snaith whisper sings:
Sister, I promise you, I’m changing
You’ve heard broken promises, I know
Like a conversation had late at night, in response to a sister saying they’re worried about you. The rolling progressional chords and steady heartbeat like rhythm seeming a metaphor for revolution, and not the kind of revolution that overthrows governments or changes the world, but the kind that turns the world again, continues the revolution of a cycle. It feels like a mirror held up to life in confinement; the beating of my heart, the tick of the clock, and the cyclical shift of the sun as it revolves in the room.
“You & I” has a sense of the opening approach of spring, the synth chords warm and bouncy like the first day you can go out without a coat on. The arpeggiated chimes that punctuate the verses and chorus sounding like sunlight through freshly grown leaves, calm and calming, yet its chorus and outgrown derail this feeling of warmth and comfort by pushing us into a feeling of high tempo anxiety, discordant rush, snatches of voice. The end feels like the upcycling of a Bond climax, all running and car chases and guns and thrill. A final sampled “Hey!” Echoing into the void before opening into the inherent melancholia of the opening of “Sunny’s Time”. The piano warped like an old record rattling on a gramaphone that you’ve left too long in the garage. The speakers are damp, and it sounds as though the sound has to travel through time to reach the present moment; from the becoming of its recording, to the moment of its hearing.
Spring whilst seeming like the happiest of new awakenings, freshness, beginning again, it also seems to be suggested with the melancholy of endings. There’s an old English folk song I heard sung once in my local pub by a man with no teeth that caught, for me, that sense of euphoric release; albeit one that knows it cannot last.
The primrose blooms, the cowslips too,
The violets in their sweet retire,
the roses shining through the briar,
And the daffodown-dillies which we admire will die and fade away.
These lines, in acknowledgement of the temporary nature of the coming of spring are reminiscent of the scant lines sung by Snaith in “Sunny’s Time”
It all found me since I’ve been gone.
I’ll be back when this is all done.
“Sunny’s Time” slides itself into “home” with a relative danceability. It feels like coming throug the door with a baguette, and an avocado and a box of eggs, the coffee on to brew, windows flung wide to let in the new spring breezes; but with the bitter sweetness of wishing there were someone there to spend that morning with you, and a particular someone at that. Like the first lonely Sunday morning after a breakup, when you’ve gotten past the getting drunk phase and your friends have deemed that you could do to be left alone a bit, you wake up with not much to do, and a wish to do not much with someone that isn’t satisfied by eggs on toast. It’s the beauty of a good morning undercut with a lonely melancholia; like putting on happy music that only makes you cry. This is further compounded by the sample of Gloria Barnes singing “Baby I’m home, I’m home, I’m home”. The final time you hear this sample, it’s cut short with a gothic cut off, sending an echo like a door slam into the following guitar chords, pitch shifting like a memory. It’s like someone’s last words, like they’re ready to tap out: baby I’m home.
Perhaps this melancholia is part and parcel of spring, a cruel season, in that it rips us raw: raw winds, on new skin. This is how the wasteland starts,
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain
Like parents whipping us up and pulling back duvets to get ready for school, the world outside the cocoon of duvet is still too brutal, too cold, and too concrete. Winter, though brutal, is the season for dormant dreaming. I spend the three months of hibernation waiting for the spring, though – dreaming of bluebells. Is it as Emily Brontë says: that “there’s a spell in the purple heath” that burrows down inside us, “to wildly; sadly dear” that yearns for its partner found in springtime? Brontë mourns the coming of spring when she is without it. The “cold sun” with its “chill” beams, the “dreary sky” is “frozen”. The long winters make me feel this way, too. Chilled to my bones, warming myself at the first few rays of sun, almost kissing the daffodils and bluebells when they first show their bright faces above the mud. It’s driving me mad to be so separate from it. Yet even Brontë notes the “transient brilliancy” of spring, and of spring sunshine sliding swiftly over the garden wall. Spring is beautiful in its ephemerality. The Hauntology always revenant whose joy in arrival is tempered and haunted by the knowledge of its passing.
In “Never come back” the lines “and you never come back, and you never come back to” are repeated ad infinitum, it’s the feeling of losing the spring once it’s come, like being at the afters , intertwined on a sofa in someone elses’s house whose name you don’t know. Early morning sunshine beaming behind closed curtains, a sliver of dust filled gold breaking onto a table littered with beer cans and ashtrays.
In Williams’ spring and all, “dazed spring approaches” almost unaware of itself, with “the stark dignity of entrance”, dually reminiscent of Hilary Duff standing at the top of the stairs in A Cinderella Story, and of the procession of the cross at the beginning of mass, leading the priest from sacristy to altar.
“Magpie” from Caribou’s Suddenly is reminiscent of this duality, and of that tethered freewheeling sense I had walking to the boulangerie this morning; a loosening of the self, whilst still being tethered to home. The song wheels in circles, shining aurally like sticking an ear in a kaleidoscope. In a way it reminds me of the beginning of “Entangled”, the second track of Gensis’ A trick of the tail. At about the half way point, though, Snaith opens out the filter on the track, which takes it from 1975 to the present moment, and it releases you from the constraints of its first half. With the shift in tone, you’re released out into the depths of sound like into an ocean, or a huge crowd. The song de-isolates you, by disconnecting you from the self and connecting you with something outside of yourself, something that sleeps back to you, and almost cradles you.
The mood of Suddenly is almost entirely sweet, the chord progressions are so warm that, listening in my bed under a square of sunlight, I slip in between the grooves of the songs and hang there. Strung out on synths. Snaith’s control, and measured pacing, and restraint almost feels like he’s in confinement too. Like there’s something holding him back from unspooling himself into the tracks. That’s the feeling I had with some of the tracks on Our Love and Swim. In reality I feel like he’s in a space as small as mine, with the front door locked and the windows open only a crack.
The final track, “Cloud Song” is the only song that really embodies a release, a slack in snaith’s tight control. It opens with the close miced voice that seems to characterize the album, just him singing in my ears as the synths return to that cyclical pattern as found in “Sister”, the album turning and returning to the beginning as the chord progressions do. “When you’re alone with memories”, he sings, “I’ll give you a place to rest your head.” The place to rest your head is here. Not to be away from memory, but to converge in a collective practice of remembering. Dan Snaith’s personal traumas are writ large upon this album, but sung softly and quietly. His traumas become our traumas, and the act of opening them out allows us to share in them, and share ours within them.
The cyclic return of the chord progression is as smooth and azure as the water on Suddenly’s cover. Kaleidoscopic and rushing into the build of “Cloud Song”, the music slides in between me and the world: trills of synth like birds calling, or radio signals clogging the airwaves. Dissonant in repetition. Sliding.
“Nothing’s granted an eternity, nothing lasts it all will fade.
And yet it always ends too early.”
The spring outside the window rises like a Gershwin clarinet solo in response, so clean and clear I feel I almost pour out into it. What of the spring un-sprung, of the world unturned? Rather, what of the world turning without me, and me unable to break the winter chrysalis. Spring playing out there, and orchestra without audience – an unheard soliloquy – a film with the sound turned down.
The first spring of a new decade, unexperienced and lost. A necessary loss, one we must do, but a loss all the same.
In a way Caribou’s Suddenly is 2020s perfect spring/summer album. Seeking an escape, but confined. A spring sounding elegy to lost moments, lost memories, lost things. “I wish that you were here by my side”. “Do you ever miss me like I miss you?” I listen to it and I hear all the moments I won’t have, and I hear all the moments I am having, and all the moments I have had and will have, all existing in the cacophony of now.
In my apartment the spring turns his shoulder and shifts his weight away from the window, sliding himself into another crisp March night. The north wind blows chill through the window, and I close them. I put on “Sister” and begin the cycle again.
The day before the solstice and the coming of the spring brings birdsong into my windows. They are flung wide to bring some of the outside in. If I only have one small corner of sky I want it in here with me.
I have not been outside for four days.
Today I woke up thinking of all the times I didn’t take being outside for granted. Most of these are times I didn’t talk to people or felt anxious about talking to someone.
My alarm clock ticked on playing “everybody’s gotta learn sometime” on RTL2. There was sunshine streaming in, “I need your loving, like the sunshine – everybody’s gotta learn sometime” the soaring strings and at 73bpm I can feel it in my rib cage, underneath my sternum. “Change your heart, look around you”. Those plinky synths climbing the scale, the violin solo? (Or is it a cello? I’m not v good at strings. Sounds like a violin tho) it all culminates in this weirdly melancholic way of waking up. Looking at the sun that I’ve not seen since it put itself to bed in the autumn. Here it rises to spring, but to find no one here to welcome it.
I think about all the beautiful people I have spied on the tube or the metro or at bars, with whom I have made eye contact, but with whom I haven’t ever spoken. What if I had? Would we be friends now, or lovers or enemies, or would you be like most of my past entanglements, something I think about sometimes in the paleness of the morning?
I was watching some TV programme once where someone – I think it was Kathy Burke – said you never regret anything more than not shagging someone when you had the opportunity.
Not to be horny on main, but she’s actually right. I have spent this morning thinking about the things I was too scared to do, to scared to say. Thinking about all the people I’ve been too scared to admit feelings for, even if they’re fleeting. I’ve been thinking about conversations I’ve been to scared to have, or kisses I’ve been too frightened to bestow, or moments of inaction that with hindsight could have been moments of beginning. Even people I’ve been too afraid to tell they’ve upset me, or angered me.
In being forced to live passively, I see the passivity in my life. I cannot act now and I resent the times I could have acted.
Anyway after confinement I will be tell everyone I like that I like them. And tell everyone I hate I hate them. I’m just rlly bored of being inside.
Everyone prefers a film where people don’t declare their feelings: Remains of the Day, The Bridges of Madison County, etc etc etc. That scene where Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson’s hands break contact as the bus pulls away… oh I could pull my own heart out of my chest. To strangled by inaction, by inability to act. Too much. Is “every body’s gotta learn sometime” let’s all learn now. Don’t wait, don’t say nothing, don’t stand still.
If you’re confined with someone you love, tell them that u love them.
If you’re not – as soon as we’re outside, you can come tell me you’re in love with me and we can get started.
I’ve been thinking about something and I’m really fucking angry about it. I’m angry about Capital A Art. Art made into money maker. Art made into pontificating on a BBC documentary. Art made into summer insta moments whilst pretentiously making some statement on climate change.
Why is it that I often feel like I never see actual poor people, like me, in art galleries. Why don’t I see kids from different backgrounds in galleries? People who’ve got no money. Kids who’s mums and dads haven’t got any money. And I know, ur gonna say that you can’t tell when people are poor, or from a council estate or from the shit bit of the village, or the city, or from the big fat poncy houses on the Woodstock road when they’re in a gallery space..
Well you bloody can if you’re standing in the Olafur Eliasson show and a dad turns to his son and says: “oh hugo won’t it be lovely when you can tell all your new friends at Harrow that you came to see this show”
Despite the constancy of being told so, access to culture has not been made available to all. People in poverty, people from working class backgrounds, people without more than a secondary school education, are made to feel like art isn’t for them. Accessibility is a huge issue – as @cioconnor v. eloquently put in her massive twitter thread about disabled access at the Tate, that you should definitely read. Institutions rarely think about anything outside of the middle ground. This means anyone functioning at that level and above accesses things without any hindrance without realising their privilege. Anyone operating below this middle bar, either financially, educationally, on the basis of ability, or LITERALLY ANYTHING that means you find going to an exhibition d i f f i c u l t is at a huge disadvantage.
Further to this, the institutions which showcase art are actively made inaccessible to people without money, education, or free time.
This is, I think, because of three things:
the language used by the institution, the way the exhibitions are set up, and the prices for the paid exhibitions are engineered in a way to make art hard to access. I’m not saying we need to “dumb down” art – because working class does not equate stupidity. But I do think there needs to be less of an expectation that everyone in the world is gonna enjoy the stuffy, middle class, and quite frankly gate keeping way we talk about art. Like it’s church, or capital or something. Art is everything, and we should be able to talk about it like it was last nights episode of love island bc it isn’t far off most of the time.
Exhibitions are stupid expensive. How can u expect a family of five to take all their kids to go and see an exhibition at the tate when it costs £20 each for adults and can be another £15 for three kids? Even if you’ve got less kids, or there’s only one of you – sometimes finding £18 for an exhibition is too much. Esp. where the concessions price is £17 which is a MEASLY £1 discount. £18 is a weekly food shop for some people, man.
WHO has actually got time to go see a show, tho? Yeah yeah yeah – I know ‘you’ve got to make time for art’ – but if you’re working three jobs, or your job is physical and takes all the drive out of you and on your days off you’re recuperating – or you’ve a young family and taking care of them takes up all your time – please tell me when you’re able to experience art and culture for yourself in an institutional environment? Tell me. Mark it out on a calendar or something. I need to know.
Capitalism has made art a commodity. And it shouldn’t be. It’s for everyone. It’s a vital resource that everyone should be able to access without bars.
The fundamentals for a life without poverty are five things:
A job and the necessary education
Time to spend not doing your job or learning things directly to do with your job.
Without free time we’re not out of poverty.
Without a job we’re not out of poverty.
Without adequate housing (a home. Not a ‘unit’) we’re not out of poverty
Without healthy food we’re not out of poverty.
Without adequate clothing we’re not out of poverty.
TIME is something that’s not addressed. Time. so simple – let’s get everyone back in work again by giving them 0 hour contracts and unstable working situations… but that means no one can have any time to DO anything because they might be called upon to pick up a shift. or they might lose vital hours at work so they don’t have enough money to do anything.
time is so important. It literally IS money to a lot of people. The phrase isn’t just an old saying. I don’t get the bus to work bc If i did I may as well have not worked for half an hour that day. I ride my bike. I could take time off work to go see an exhibition – but I also could b at work earning more money to feed myself and to pay my rent. I worked out once that my rent costs 3 weeks of work. I only have one week of work to spend on myself and that’s also eaten up by bills. An exhibition at the Tate is two hours work for me. If I was on minimum wage it would be three.
Art should be there to alleviate the pain of living life. To reflect you back to yourself. To show you something new. To change your world view. To be beautiful. To make you cry. To make you hate it. To be ugly. To be amazing. To be fucking awful. It shouldn’t cost you three whole hours of your working day. An Exhibition should cost you one hour at the most.
What can we do about it, I hear you ask. We’re not legislators or big important people. But that’s just the point. The big important people are few. There aren’t very many of them simply because they don’t like to share. There are loads of us. Loads. Who don’t have any money, who don’t have any time, and who can’t do anything aside from scratch out a measly little living on the surface of earth. Life is about so. Much. more. Than that.
The Art World talks about art like it’s church. There’s a reason no one goes to church any more (apart from those of us who do but like that’s not v. many of us tbh) less than a million people turn up to their local CofE churches. English Christianity has a certain kind of doctrinal language about it that alienates people. I think that The Art World does the same thing. It’s like putting the bible in Latin when we talk about art using the next big word, the next big movement. It’s like saying ‘dont ask too many questions. Just believe. Believing is most important even if you doubt your belief.’ If God is real u should be able to question him. If Art is real (i am using capitals here. Capital G God. Capital A Art) then you should be able to question it and you shouldn’t be shouted down because you don’t know what the difference between Pop Art and Op Art is.
My sister’s a mum of three with a full time job and full time child care commitments. She literally doesn’t care about hauntology. She doesn’t know who Derrida is. She doesn’t care that Foucault is really important when you’re trying to understand Y or Z artist. What she does know if that she likes David Hockney and she thinks Rothko is beautiful and it would be really nice for her if she could see more art. I have friends I’ve known for years, who I’ve worked in Bars with, or in Sainsbury’s with, or at McDonalds with who all LIKE art when they look at it, but always said stuff like: “art is boring”, “art’s rubbish”, “art’s for girls, “I just don’t get art”. I used to think I didn’t get art. In my first year of uni i had this weird chip on my shoulder that I just didnt understand how you could read a painting because its not a book and thats because people spoke about art in a way that alienated me. People didn’t talk about books like that because books had stories. I could read them and feel things. I felt things when I looked at paintings, but I couldn’t understand the way people spoke about them.
One day it clicked in my head. I went to see some art show with my mum and we talked about art, and I realised paintings are like books and really there’s no fundamental difference between them. Everything is art. Music is art. Books are art. Installations are art. Life is art. You don’t need to understand this way of talking about art, that you get taught at university like it’s some big boys club and suddenly you’re allowed in, in order to LIKE art. Art is just there to be looked at and thought about and it’s okay if you don’t understand it because the artist is dead anyway what do you think about it. What does it make you think about. What does it make you feel? There is no understanding art. Art just IS.
If I’m honest, and this is one hell of an admission, I don’t think I really thought about thinking about art until I watched Mona Lisa Smile and realised that art isn’t stuffy old boys talking about the portraits of kings and queens, or paintings of boats. That you don’t need to regurgitate a textbook in order to look at art and think about it and E N J O Y I T
You shouldn’t need a masters in contemporary art theory from goldsmiths, and a big bank balance to take yourself and maybe your family to the tate to look at some paintings or some sculptures or any fucking thing thats on at a big museum somewhere. Even small places alienate normal people. You’re going to look at art to learn something about art. To feel something about art. To love it. To hate it. To have your mind changed by it.
If you already KNOW everything why would you even bother going to an art gallery?
Who fucking cares?
The more we keep art out of compulsory education. The more we tell people it’s not important. The more it becomes a “rich people thing”. The more people think it’s not for them. The more thay think it’s not important because it’s not business, because it’s not going to serve them any purpose in getting a job and being a good cog in the wider machine of “nation”.
Art is for everyone. Whether it’s a stupid sculpture in the middle fo a room. Or a painting of clouds that makes you cry. or , i don’t know, it can be literally ANYTHING. A poem that describes how you’re feeling. A piece of video installatio that makes you question your humanity. Something that shows you how someone you thought was completely different to you is actually fundamentally the same. Feels the same. Has the same responses.
The more we make art divisive. The more we stop and hinder people from being able to access it freely. The more enclosed and inhibited society becomes.
Art is for men who drive lorries.
Art is for kids who like football.
Art is for girls who climb trees
Art is for girls who like to go clubbing
Art is for swimming teachers
Art is for boys who aren’t v. cool. but is also cool enough for cool people.
Art is for single parents
Art is for the unemployed
Art is for those with six jobs
Art’s probably there for billionaires too, but they mostly own it all ANYWAY.
Art is for kids and mums and dads and aunts and uncles and grannies and granddads who’re just getting by.
And I am angry that right now it’s not being made available to everyone.