Near Window 18: Far Window

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!

Continue reading “Near Window 18: Far Window”

Near Window 17

The body is a cathedral

It is easter week.

For all lapsed catholics its an interesting thing, to remember the traipse to mass, the week long vigil you spend running back and forth to church. The emotional release of maundy thursday, weeping in a pew for all those whove gone before, holding vigil like youre in gethsemene yourself. Good Friday when you try not to put your lips to the feet of jesus because you cant bear the thought of all the lips on jesus’ wooden feet so you make a parody bise. You stoop and you pucker your mouth, and then you get up quick before anyone can stop you. To arriving on Saturday night, to find the tabernacle open and all the lights extinguished. Then, one by one, candles are lit from the bonfire, from the easter candle, spreading throughout the church until youre all bathed in the amber light of the flame, a symbol of the rekindling of faith after all was lost in grief and pain and death the night before.

I feel emotional just thinking about it. I sometimes miss the ritual, i miss the comfort and surety of faith. But i have none, and the doctrine sits wrongly with me these days.

The coming of spring is like the lighting of the candles for me. Illuminating each day more and more as the candles illuminate the faces of the congregation. What a beautiful sight it must be for the priest, to see the faces of your flock flare into becoming from the darkness. What a beautiful thing it is for me to see light restored to mornings and evenings, and watch new leaves and new flowers spring from where there was nothing before.

From my confinement hole, i feel like as the spring becomes, i flare into becoming myself. Awakening from the slow death of winter, like Juliet from her fake death, Except only to find Romeo dead by her side. I awake from mine to find the spring is dead, too. It might as well be, because I can’t access it. The blackbird has stopped singing for some reason, i feel like another little piece of the spring has died with it.

Ive got an ivy plant a friend left in paris for me. He’s survived the whole winter. A couple of days ago he started to look sad so i watered him and popped him out on the windowsill for some sun. Today i saw he’d died. Once green leaves are now shriveled and brown, rustling in the breeze. The amber hush of an unseen sunset blushing a wall in the distance. A square of springtime allowed to me, so brief, so fleeting. Empty and void as the tabernacle after a good friday mass, i hold vigil in the hope that some good may come of it.

I wrote to a friend about Marconi’s notion that sound never dies. I talked about the notion that, if that were true, it would mean that every word you have said or heard is recorded in you, reverberating on your skin or in your blood. She said, then, that triggering things must reverberate on the same frequency as that which they trigger. I said that that was like how in cathedrals, when choristers sing, they have to sing in a certain way to bounce the sound. She said, then, if your body were a cathedral, how would the choristers sing?

On easter sunday, the spring is allowed into the church. Its been becoming on the outside for a long time, but the church in its lenten austerity has barred it from entering at its heavy doors. On easter sunday, though, the church is resplendent in gold and green. Daffodils bob their merry heads, and green gold leaves spill over from the alter. Even the priest dons green and gold on his cassock to welcome it in.

Maybe spring is a sound, as well as sight. Maybe throughout lent, it sings in mass, but not in a way to allow it to reverberate fully within the cathedral. Maybe On easter sunday it opens its lungs and sings fully. Maybe throughout the long winter, the spring sings in the cathedral of our bodies, and with each flare of spring-flame lit, on each candle of a day, the spring sings louder within and without us.

If this is the unsprung spring, one which came into being only to be shut out, then perhaps it awakens in me the singing of all the springs which came before it. It is spring in me as much as it is spring out there.

It is spring in me as much as it is spring out there.

Disclaimer: took this snap a long time before confinement. Don’t start thinking I’d take my lapsed self out to mass during confinement when I haven’t been in about 10 years ✌️

Near Window 11

… an interesting question.

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.

Of his video essays « what would be the soundtrack to my life? An interesting question » is my fave on YouTube – I’d urge u to watch it. It’s only about 5 minutes long.

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.

Near Window 10

Atlantis

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:

Helicopters overhead

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

“That’s how Atlantis fell”

Near Window 9

Caribou, confinement, and the coming of spring

“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, 

Breeding

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.

He sings:

“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.

And yet, it always ends to early

Near Window 6

It ain’t over ‘til it’s over

Do you remember what it felt like to lie down on grass and smell it’s green freshness underneath your face, and feel the slight dampness of spring soil under your palms? Or Better yet, can you remember the dry feeling of tickly grass on your legs and the firm resistance of sun baked earth?

For some reason this makes me think of Lenny Kravitz’s “it ain’t over til it’s over” and I could probably say the same for this quarantine if I’m honest: it ain’t over til it’s over. It’s day 6. It’s Sunday. Last Sunday I was lying in the grass drinking a vedett that I feel really guilty about since Macron got all “nous sommes en guerre” about sitting in the park. I understand why I can’t sit in the park tho, and I do feel bad about propagating the spread of the virus by normalising not social distancing. As Kylie Jenner said: “hey guys – corona virus is a real thing”.

I’ve been having a lot of very vivid dreams, and they’re all about the same sort of thing. I’ve been having them for a little while, probably for about a week and a half, but I just read a really great post by my new pen pal a little while ago. She wrote about dreaming of her ex, in the dreams they’re in various scenarios of relationship, but mostly they’re friends. Mostly the dreams are about the bitter sweetness of endings. I wrote a similar thing about an ex and sent it to her and now we’re penpals. Anyway: you can read her beautiful piece here. It is poignant and touching and it made me want to cry.

After I got over my nostalgic response to her post, I got to thinking about the fact that recently I’ve been dreaming about all the boys I’ve ever liked. I’m not kidding, I have been dreaming about every boy I’ve ever liked – AND CRUCIALLY mostly about the boys I like/liked that I have not told I like. This has included, but is not limited to, a boy I fancied in year eight and wrote (still fucking terrible) poetry about on bebo and PUBLISHED for the world to see (awful), a friend I had in year 11, a boy I met on the tube,a boy I met on the bus in 2014 who asked me what book I was reading, boy I met in LA: so many boys. So many dreams to be had.

In these dreams, what happens is, I live a whole life with one of these boys. We meet, we date, we get together, we stay together. Sometimes the dream jumps ahead and we’re making dinner on a June evening in the garden with a Chablis talking about the neighbours we hate (boy in LA), sometimes we’re 65 and the dream is us watching it’s a wonderful life at Christmas with a huge extended family (boy I met on the tube), and other times I have a huge lavish wedding with the person (year 8 poem boy – awful, truly awful. I’m cringing. Dream me loved it)

In those dreams I almost invariably feel really happy, like head over heels happy, like first sunshine of the year, vedett in the park, sunning myself with my friends and getting a damp arse cos the ground is still damp from the rain the previous day. And then I wake up and remember nous sommes en guerre and I am just like: “oh. Here we are”

The one with the Chablis was the most interesting, because it was just like I was living my life, except dream me had a nagging drive to check her watch. Dream me knew something was up because dream me knew that I am too much of a wimp to fess up to LA boy that I think he’s a dreamboat and I want to drink Chablis I’m our beautiful garden in high summer and bitch about the neighbours.

What’s a dream? Flo(my new pen pal) wrote about it being brain garbage, a way of processing our thoughts, but she also wrote about dreams maybe being weird little portals to worlds of possibility. Maybe my dreams are time-slips, rips in the fabric of space-time where all the versions of me who weren’t MASSIVE WIMPS managed to actually talk to people they fancied. Except I did admit my feelings about year 8 poem boy in FUCKING POEMS about how the sunlight coming through the tower block window shone on his chestnut hair in the middle of maths, and “what good is long division, when I can’t divide my love for you”. Yes, I know. Fucking cringe. I’m so glad Bebo is dead now.

Anyway back to the Chablis dream. I lived a whole life in that dream, albeit at an accelerated rate inside the 8 hours and 26 minutes of sleep I got from that night (thanks Fitbit). But a whole life: we were like 40odd in that dream scene. I died at the end.

In Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason He puts time as not a thing acting externally from us, like a Newtonian would; or as being entirely based on relation to a system without a physical existence, and only really existing conceptually like the Liebnizians (that’s a mouthful, jesus- the be-Liebniz-ers might be more catchy – tho a bit of a rip off); but as being something in between. For Kant Space and Time aren’t really things in and of themselves (conceptual or physical or otherwise) but rather they form a part of our own sensibility. Space and Time exist as they are experienced by the individual. So time, then, exists as we are experiencing it. Does that mean then, that on some other plane somewhere I have lived a full and joyous life with LA boy in which we wind up drinking our Chablis in June 2039? Does June 2039 already exist in dream-land?

Even though it felt like 30 years in dream-land, I’m not going to lie to u, Kant would not say that means it was real. In Critique of Pure reason Kant spends a long time saying that the experiential nature of space and time do not apply to imaginative play based upon experience. Transcendental idealism, whilst implying that time and space are subjective, doesn’t negate the reality of objects, and therefore kind of negates the reality of the unreal: dreams.

Kant would tel me to wake the fuck up and stop mooning about over a boy (or boys, keep up Immanuel, I fall in love multiple times a day! Shout out to the boy I saw on Rue Montorgeuil whose beautiful blonde hair will stay with me forever – wish I’d said something 2 u before the quarantine – alas now u r gone forever)

I’ve stil got “baby it ain’t over til it’s over” in my head. It sounds like summer in the distance. Lenny, what you doing to me? The dream is that over but is my dream happy life over? the answer is like most definitely yes, but the question still remains why am I dreaming about it?

in an essay called “What is the creative Act?”, Deleuze writes that a dream is a dangerous thing, both to be the dreamer, and the dreamed. It’s a really cool essay that you can read for urself here. “The dream of those who are dreaming concerns those who are not dreaming” – which is interesting,m: it seems Kant would tell me the dream is all in my head, and Deleuze would (using Minnelli – not Liza ) tell me that it’s not about me at all, but about them. (this is both very Deleuze, but also really validating, so thanks Gilles) “beware of the dreams of others” he says, “ because if you’re caught in their dream you’re done for” – Hi boys 👋

This particular essay is really good, and it will be revisited in other posts soon, but these lines have been revolving in my head since reading Flo’s post so I’m knitting Deleuze into my banal dreams of Chablis drinking mediocrity with a boy I met in LA, talk to occasionally, and who almost deffo doesn’t fancy me back.

The dreams make me feel like I’m lying in the sun after a long winter. On slightly damp grass, with a beer in my hand. God that’s pathetic, man. I’m gonna cringe so hard when I read this later- I think this might be worse than my Bebo Poems. RIPme. Maybe I’m dreaming about them bc it is rlly hard to date in the apocalypse? Maybe I’m dreaming about them Cos I’m in love with them. Maybe it’s a rip in space-time.

Tune in for Near Window 7 to find out about what I think about something else exciting like maybe potatoes or Matisse’s use of blue. Or maybe I’ll write about the neighbours. Or maybe rear window… W h O KN o w 5

PS. LA boy, if you’re reading this and you’ve figured out that it’s about u, I am available for a Chablis en terrasse (or another beverage, I don’t mind) as soon as confinement is over if we’re not dead.

Here’s a pic of my Vedett in the park last Sunday, the guilty Vedett that Macron is angry at me about, and the visual representation of the way that these dreams made me feel. I did not break curfew for this picture tho so ✌️ don’t @me


Upward spirals – cultural returnings, and depressive ontology.

I think it’s very interesting that whilst I’ve been returning to the late 1990s and early 2000s through my writing, all of a sudden things that were popular then, are reappearing everywhere for me now – and I’m speaking specifically about popular things from between 1998, and 2003, rather than the general 1990s nostalgia that’s been pervading the current cultural production for the past few years now (do you know anyone who doesn’t own a pair of mom jeans now?)

This year, two albums are coming out that seem to be speaking to me from that time too. When Mum drove up to Yorkshire to give us the news that dad had died in 2002, we only had two albums in the car for the return journey. Dido’s No Angel, and David Gray’s White Ladder. These are now my ‘sad music’, so I only really listen to them when I’m in the mood for some catharsis. However, it is really interesting to me that Both David Gray, and Dido are releasing new albums now, that seem to rehash the techniques and styles of their previous ones, just as I’m delving into the history and happenings of that same time period. As though the universe were conspiring – or I was unwittingly bitten by some zeitgeist-like bug that is making me think I want to write about the early 2000s.

We’ve lived through a lot of cycles through culture, the re-birth of the 80s around 2008 where I happily bought a ra-ra skirt, wore a lot of frost pink lipstick, and was obsessed with synth-pop and British New Wave. The 90s/70s revival which we’ve been living through now: sliders, and mom jeans, and rave culture, and flares, and flannel – although grunge has been conspicuously absent. I wonder if we’re about to enter into a rebirth of early 00s culture. Whilst this could be quite funny (everyone is now thinking of low-rise jeans, and footless tights, and putting foundation on their lips instead of lipstick – I can feel it) I wonder if it is part of the seismic returning and recycling of culture that has come to define the last 50 or so years – and what will happen when we come to try and recreate the 10s? What will we re-appropriate for the new decade ahead, when a lot of the cultural expression has been recreation of old ideas, in music and fashion in particular?

I wonder if my current fixation on that period of time, being obsessed with my dad’s movements in the months preceding his death, the depths his depression took him, and the concomitant production of my own depression born out the fissures created by that trauma still resonating within ‘my life now’, are symptomatic of a return culturally to the products and feelings of the late 1990s, and early 200s. The twin voices of Dido and Gray, which are synonymous for me to the production of my own grief, and became a way of coping with that, are now present in the surface landscape again – spectral weathers from the deep. Yet their albums were produced at the same time as these feelings of inward reflection, and time travelling memory were brewing in me.

‘watch from the wings as the scenes we’re replaying’, Mark Fisher quotes Ian Curtis’ lines from ‘Decades’ by Joy Division, as an illustration of depressive ontology. In that we always return to the same simulations, ‘like a junky hooked on every kind of deadening high.’ Yet I think it is perhaps a little more pervasive than that – I am a depressive, but it is not just me cycling through the last five decades of cultural production. There seems to be almost a sense that everyone is saying ‘but there is nothing new to make.’ but there must be always something new – otherwise what is the point of it all? what are we doing?

Obviously, it seems to me that it’s just the production capital over all else, that drives the production and reproduction of old products. What is the point of making new things, if you can get people to buy something that’s already been made before, and call it retro. We’ve got tonnes of old radios at home. Dad used to refurbish them, patching up their bakelite, and replacing their valves. Yet, I’ve got a new Roberts digital radio that I was given for my 21st birthday, and it looks like the old ones, but functions like the new ones. ‘Classic Design’ you’ll say – yet everyone’s house is starting to look like a reproduction of some Swedish writer’s retreat in 1961, all midcentury modernism and pale woods. I went to the London Art Fair this year, and even there the Piper and the Nash paintings were in full force: so out of fashion about 15 years ago, and yet returning. Fisher says that Ian Curtis wrote with the iron certainty that everything we do is pre-scripted. I don’t know if that’s true – or if it’s just that everything we do has already been done, but we do it anyway just to be seen to be doing something. These are like the upward spirals I wrote of in ‘An Open Letter to a Lost Future’: a constant returning to the same moments, but layering them each time with new iterations of those moments.

This is the first time that the cultural return cycle has reproduced things that I remember from the first time around (which in their turn are probably just recycled from the time before and the time before and so on) – but it is odd to me, it doesn’t seem to bring about the happy nostalgia, which I saw described on The One Show as the newest business model of the coming year. They had cultural theorists there saying that nostalgia, as big business, points to a need for the country to feel safe within memories of childhood – like fully grown men building late 80s gaming rooms in their basements. It was comforting, they said, to return to the safety of youth, and the cultural pastimes of that time recreated that feeling of safety.

I don’t know that they do make me feel safe, though – they make me feel unsettled, caught in stasis, preserved artificially for testing later.

Perhaps the cyclical returning is more indicative of the pervasiveness of the will to live, though. I wondered if that’s what Mark Fisher was getting at when he wrote that ‘whatever you do, you can’t extinguish it, it keeps coming back.’ But then Mark died too, so the truth in that is sort of marred anyway – because quite clearly, with Mark, and Ian Curtis, and countless others, it can be. Maybe it’s not the life-will that is always returning, but some kind of force to keep us going as long as we must, until we needn’t anymore. That feels a little like i’m saying there’s something guiding it, and I’m not sure that I think there is, but I can’t work out why we’re repeating moments over and over. I remember watching K-PAX for the first time, where Prot says that, due to the expending and condensing of the universe – we’re doomed to repeat everything over, and over, and over again, in exactly the same way – so we’d better make sure we get it right the first time. But if we’re repeating it, always, then how do you know that this is the first time you’ve done it? How do you know that there isn’t an alternative to what you’re doing already? How do you know, that you’re not doomed to fuck it all up in the end anyway?

Fisher states that depression is just a way of looking at the world, which it is. But he also positions the state of depression as a production of capital – and I think that this cyclical returning is so clearly symptomatic of that. Jodi Dean spoke, in Mark Fisher’s Memorial Lecture, that so often an alternative to the production of capital in this way, is ignored because we can’t see the alternative. This is also symptomatic of a depressives way of addressing issues – or at least I have found it to be so. There’s an alternative, should I be able to think without the ontological lenses of depression obscuring everything – but I can’t, because I can only look through those lenses.

Dean spoke tirelessly of ways in which we can combat capital. She’s right, there are ways to combat it – and her Q&A, though battling people who seemed just so Goldsmiths about their approach to Marxism, and their etymological issues with the word ‘Comrade’ seeming to dominate the discourse, continually expressed that there are routes of exit, should we wish to ‘dice with death’ and undertake them, and the involve a radical dissection of our actions within capitalism, despite our raised voices decrying it.

My issues with Dean’s lecture aside, I think the core message, of coming together politically to mobilise against the machinations of capital is inherently positive, and entirely possible if we are to move against the dissociative slide towards the depressive. Depressives, inherently, isolate themselves. I know that I cut out the depressive sides of me, and give a sunny face to everybody else. Combating the depressive’s view of the world as something that cannot be changed will only come if we unionise depression. That sounds mad. But I wonder if there’s something in it. I’m not calling ‘depressives of the world unite’, or maybe I am… But the view that the world turns without care back onto things that have already happened, and that we cannot interfere with this cyclical returning is what capital relies upon. It has to. We have to remain hooked in, feeding off of the ‘safety’ message that monetised nostalgia is offering.

What if we didn’t?

The question: ‘Is there alternative’ from Mark’s Capitalist Realism relies upon us to answer it.

 

 

Illustrating Grief-Space

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I drew the above diagram in a seminar after the death of Mark Fisher in 2017. I was trying to explain how I felt about my own losses previously; and how I felt being in the university environment without Mark there.

Grief-space is a term which I coined for the space, or hole, that is created by absences within a place. It is the notion that something, or someone, might be present through the vacuum created by their absence.

For Doreen Massey, ‘Space is always under construction … a simultaneity of stories-so-far,’ so then grief-space is always under construction and is stacked in a similar way. Each unfinished thread of story is layered over the next, and over the next. Each space precariously balanced against each other and kept tethered by tenuous threads between the two.  The stack exists as a totality  in which all the things that have been lost from landscape still exist, and shall always exist in a strange sense, in the layers underneath. As each new moment of progress or change adds a new layer, that which has been lost is interred within a previous layer. Each new loss creates a hole in the surface down to the strata below. A hole is an interesting idea, for whilst it suggests an absence, and is touched by connotations of the void, it is nonetheless present within a landscape. These holes allow that which has been lost to be accessed from the surface. Grief-space is characterised as a place that is full of these holes. It is a surface that has been perforated by a kind of anti-presence: you notice a hole precisely because it doesn’t contain the solid. 

The notion of ‘absence’ becoming a kind of ‘anti-presence’ is what marks the grief-space as something other to the other levels in the stack. They permeate the stack itself almost creating anti-levels: holes, or cracks in the strata. So much so that, if personal grief for the individual is felt inside, but is formed of ‘the sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside’ then it is possible to suggest a cartography for loss that extrapolates those sudden blows into a spatial capacity. However, it is interesting to note that, for F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his short story ‘The Crack-Up’ there is ‘another sort of blow that comes from within’ that cannot be explained and sends out ruptures and cracks from the inside-out. Whilst Fitzgerald claims that the rupture from the inside, and the great blows from the outside have separate sources, Fisher would claim that ‘there is no inside except as a folding of the outside.’ This is perhaps the simplest explanation of loss, or trauma – as a great blow that comes from an outside which is buried and repressed, only to rupture upward from the inside at a later point. 

I am reminded of Mark Fisher’s seminal text The Weird and the Eerie, which was integral, really, to the formulation of this idea. Whilst I had been thinking of the world as a kind of holey stack within which I undulated for some time, it was Mark’s writings of the inside as a folded up outside, and the ‘hints of an outside, of something beyond the ordinary world’ glimpsed through gaps and openings within the system itself that caused me to envisage grief-space thusly. In the final chapter, ‘the eeriness remains’, in which he enters into an exploration of the eeriness at the core of Joan Lindsay’s novel Picnic at Hanging Rock, Mark quotes quite extensively from Yvonne Rousseau’s essay on Linday’s novel : ‘A Commentary on Chapter Eighteen.’

She says that a hole is ‘a thing in itself, giving shape and significance to other shapes. […] a presence, not an absence.’ This is the distillation of the idea of grief-space. In the final unpublished chapter of Picnic at Hanging Rock – the aforementioned ‘Chapter Eighteen’ – Lindsay offers an explanation of the disappearances that take place in the novel. The women, unperturbed by the notion that they will be leaving forever, pass through a hole in the rock. According to Mark they ‘cross over’, and the hole itself is ‘a gateway to the outside.’ Those we lose through the holes within the landscape, those who pass over, ‘leave haunting gaps, eerie intimations of the outside’ upon the surface. It may be possible for them to emerge back through as ghosts, or intrepid interdimensional time travelling spectres; or it may be that those eerie intimations of the outside cause us to imagine them there. It may also be that, should we choose to dive into the holes ourselves without consideration of the consequences, that we might not be able to make our way back.