Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Great Expectations



"It is the ghost of a wedding cake...




...and I am the ghost of a bride...



Time stands still and yet everything turns to dust..."

Sunday, December 4, 2011

No Man's Land


Must-see in Jersey at the moment is Mishka Henner's exhibition No Man's Land at Jersey Arts Centre until 10 December, part of this year's excellent Jersey Amnesty International Human Rights Festival. 



At the exhibition preview someone said that this was their favourite photograph, because the woman looks like a ghost in the landscape. 

There is something other-worldly about many of the images - women, alone or in pairs, at roadsides in Spain and Italy, probably sex workers.  This is partly because they have been captured from Google Street View, which blurs features to preserve anonymity, unintentionally creating a poignancy. 

Mishka's framing of the shots emphasizes the disparity between the women (brightly and occasionally scantily dressed) and the sometimes barren, sometimes lush roadside locations.  The women's presence is at times bold, plying for trade seated on plastic chairs, at times discreet, like icons at roadside religious shrines.



I'm a bit of a Google Earth obsessive myself so I love the layering of this work, how it explores our digital world and its liminal places, and also the stories it unearths, what it says about exploitation, surveillance and voyeurism, anonymity and transience.

Missing of course are the men, the punters and pimps, ironically alluded to in the title...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

This Is How Ghosts Are Made

Looking forward to This Is How Ghosts Are Made - the new EP by The Glass Child, released 5 December.



http://theglasschild.bandcamp.com/album/deluxe-box-this-is-how-ghosts-are-made-bonus-ep-songs-of-an-insomiac-the-glass-child-diary

Love this nocturnal, ghostly Hypnic Jerk:





'Tell me are you see-through?

This ghost you’re turning into

I shut my eyes, and you’re no longer here...'

Monday, November 21, 2011

Jersey Girl


                                                               falling

                                                                        falling

                                                        it's harder than it looks

                                                            snapshot   kamikaze

                                                                        no net    free fall

                                                                    skinny dipping

                                                                dead drop

                                                                   plunge dive

                                                                         tumbling

                                                          night ride into blue

      

 
                                                      plucked bird

                                                                 curled light

                                                            mute

                                                                   wind hung

                                                             the naked toe glide

                                                     this is how love looks

                                                            a leap of grace

                                                beauty from the air

                                                       falling

                                                              falling



 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

ghost bikes

painted white


locked near a crash site


ghost bikes


are memorials
    

to cyclists who have died or been hit


in the streets


the first ghost bikes were created in St Louis, Missouri in 2003


there are currently over 450


that have appeared


in over 150 locations


worldwide...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Espaliered Woman




               legs crossed

         bad housewife

                           crucified to damp stone

here I stand


                                       trained & trimmed

                          hair long pecked away by crows

                      buds rubbed smooth

                        scarified carapace of skin


                            squab & sweet

                    there's a gorgeous letting go

in splitting   sloughing

tasting rain


         at night

                                                 dreaming I can take off

                                        fly blind over the estate houses

                              your leaden angel



Sunday, August 21, 2011

fern



fern
ceremonial
headdress
the green fuse
coiled
lit
light sprung
                               unfurling
don’t say unfurling

                    beautiful

no - don’t say beautiful
it’s symmetry
just a trick
a pattern repeating

to me it is beautiful

it’s a code
just repetition on and on

Dylan Thomas…

aaah – please don’t mention Dylan Thomas again
and definitely definitely don’t bring God in at this point…



fern
beautiful fern
god in the fern
god in the beautiful fern

childish

fern fern fern fern fern fern fern fern fern fern
happy now?



Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wavelengths



 
Wavelengths: New Poetry in the Channel Islands

chosen by Alastair Best and Linda Rose Parkes

published in 2011 by Holland House Editions

featuring 31 poets:


 
Robert James Anderson
Alastair Best
Livia Bluecher
Sharon Champion
Simon Crowcroft
Richard Fleming
Carol Gaudion
Martin Greene
Juliette Hart
Barbara Joyner
Alan Jones
Christine Journeaux
Judy Mantle
Penelope McGuire
Nicky Mesch
Jacqueline Mezec
Diane Moore
Sandra Noel
Hazel Nolan
Chuma Nwokolo
Linda Rose Parkes
Richard Pedley
Adam Perchard
Martin Porter
Alex Rice
Colin Scott
Shaun Shackleton
Pippa Simpson
Nathan Thompson
Samuel Thompson
Tomas Weber

£9.99

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Blanket Play

Daniel Austin’s new play ‘in-the-making’ was inspired by Continuum: Blanket Stories an exhibition by Marie Watt at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York in autumn 2004, which I also saw.

Marie Watt: Blanket Stories

Her twisting columns of blankets were immediately striking because of the familiarity of the objects together with their unusual display, evoking totems and storybook ladders to the sky, as well as all the connotations of the blankets themselves – of warmth, comfort, community, intimacy, honour, ritual, memory and above all stories – gifted and gathered from thrift stores they might have been given in friendship, wrapped around the newly born and the dead, or traded between settlers and indigenous weavers.  They represented a link between past and present generations and their scents and signs of wear, the moth holes and cigarette burns and distortions (as if taking the shape of their owners) might have been clues to their stories.
Walking into St James this evening to see a giant tipi almost perfectly fitting the central space can only be described as magical.

photo: Daniel Austin

The piece of theatre is presented by four young performers, who have spent the last week or two with Daniel experimenting and creating its 24 ‘blankets’. 
These encompass poems, storytelling, film projected onto the canvas sides of the tipi, readings such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and found material from current newspapers (including in this performance humorous comment on the Royal Wedding and Aung San Suu Kyi on her father: ‘parents would take their children up in their arms and say, “Look!  This is Grandfather Aung San’s daughter” from The Guardian) as well as many beautiful blankets and quilts and ‘treasured’ objects brought in by audience members (which this evening included childhood toys, photos, jewellery and an intriguing notebook from 1941).
I particularly liked the description of the ‘spirit line’, the deliberate flaw introduced by Navajo weavers so that their work would not be perfect, a concept antithetical to typical Western notions of art.
The piece avoids being too, what Daniel referred to as, ‘earnest’, by using a wide range of universal material, such as Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, by a freshness in the performances - particularly from the youngest cast member who, at nine, is still naturally inquisitive and playful, by the beautiful simplicity of American Indian poetry which encourages almost a meditative mood, but also through the physical embodiment of a work that is part installation, part site sensitive.
This almost homespun physicality is the play’s greatest strength.  With the audience seated in a circle in the tipi, a real sense of community and intimacy is created.  Objects are passed around and blankets displayed and a space for sharing created where new stories might evolve or be disclosed – evoking a sense of past times and of the handing down of memories between generations.
This was a first showing of a play still at the experimental and ‘playful’ stage prior to a longer run - 28 June to 2 July at St James, which I look forward to experiencing again.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

crows




               crows gather

on the shore

                  as I pass


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Attempts on Her Life



According to Aleks Sierz (Theatre of Martin Crimp) 'it's no exaggeration to say that his 1997 masterpiece, Attempts on Her Life, is one of the very best plays of the past quarter-century.'

Michael Billington described it as  'a prose-poem that implies our notion of the individual ego is being steadily eroded by a mixture of rampant consumerism, global capitalism and technological advance’ and  'a work which implies virtually everything in modern society conspires to reduce our sense of self.'

In its 17 scenarios for the theatre, an irreverent postmodern chorus of voices deconstructs European Everywoman Ann/Anne/Anya/Annie/Anny/Annushka, who may or may not exist, even within the fiction of the play – she’s a central enigma, a lover, an actress, an artist, a porn star, a suicide, a terrorist, even a brand of car.

The text of the play is prefaced with a quote from Baudrillard:

No one will have directly experienced the actual cause of such happenings but everyone will have received an image of them’

and this is a brilliant description of both how the play works and also the experience of audiences/participants at Jersey Arts Centre youtheatre’s production at Grand Jersey this week.

The text is all refraction and resonance: answerphone messages, marketing-speak, translations, descriptions of photographs and exhibition materials – an assemblage of postmodern ennui, ideology, parody and angst, by turns romantic, sophisticated, callous, sinister, cynical, ironic, acid sharp, playfully funny, gossipy, sentimental or self-deceiving - a second-hand barrage of fiction, perceptions and insights, bizarre and mundane, with product placements, hearsay, a skit, a poem, a rap…

The play could be described as all chorus and no action – so it was an inspired decision to locate the Jersey Arts Centre production in the Park Suites at Grand Jersey, a luxurious assortment of conference rooms (including a private cinema) with inspirational and motivational quotes on the walls. 

From the moment we were greeted with canapés and drinks in the lounge (director Daniel Austin is always solicitous of audiences comfort!), then led by youtheatre members (very sophisticated in black cocktail dresses and suits) through a seeming-labyrinth of business suites, to be confided in, lectured to, whispered and shouted at, until the final scenario holding hands with the actors in a circle on the hotel terrace (at night, in front of a busy road, and no doubt to the bemusement of some hotel guests!) the audience was truly embedded in the world of the play, so that it became a site-sensitive work.

Yet the cast remained true to the text with its overlapping voices, silences, poetic rhythm (the beautiful 100 words) and languages (in this case Roumanian and French) with just the addition of  a few props; a dinging bell between scenes, classical music played on a laptop, black blindfolds for scenario 12 STRANGELY!

It’s an ensemble piece and one of the strengths of the Jersey Arts Centre youtheatre has always been its ensemble work, and in this they excelled again to produce a very mature piece of theatre.   I can’t unpick this to do justice to all of the actors who worked together so professionally, but I did find Fleur very powerfully moving in scenario 3 Faith in Ourselves, and Hermione, tipsily giddy with self-love in scenario 5 The Camera Loves You, was a comic scene stealer.

I already admired Martin Crimp’s text, so this opportunity to experience the play was a real treat – I noticed how subliminal meanings were exposed through being stated explicitly - the racism coming out of the marketing spiel about the Anny car in scenario 7 which makes you flinch; or through being exaggerated - the hype about the Porno Anne who could change the world, end animal suffering, end human suffering, popularise psychoanalytical theory, dance with the particles of light etc.. 

It’s an early 'Attempt' at a new type of theatre to penetrate and exploit the media saturation we take for granted, which makes us blasé and almost unreachable because even atrocities are pre-packaged for us;  an 'Attempt' at describing our experience of the world through language, while simultaneously exposing the fallacies of this.  It seems to parody itself in the critics scene:

It’s funny.  It’s sick.  It’s sexy.  It’s deeply serious.  It’s entertaining.  It’s illuminating.  It’s dark.  It’s highly personal and at the same time raises vital questions about the world we’re living in.’

The work cheats us of a conclusion – it slyly trails off in the last scenario, with a whimper rather than a bang – it has to really, and our audience was left appropriately wondering if the play had really ended, following the cast as they strode back into the hotel, ignoring us.

But as in the Baudrillard quote, all those words left after-images in my mind of things which I hadn’t actually seen – photographs reducing to just little dots, Anne’s red bag filled with stones, the child in two bags…

And the refrain of it is still stuck in my head the next day like some catchy pop tune:

She’s the girl next door
She’s the fatal flaw…

The camera loves you

THE CAMERA LOVES YOU

Wonderful!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Frankenstein






This was my first NT Live experience, but a long fascination with all things gothic meant I couldn't resist Danny Boyle's Frankenstein, screened live at Jersey Opera House.

Mary Shelley's novel is a seminal work and the play encapsulates themes which have become mainstream now - the dangers of science, playing God, responsibilities of procreation & parenting, nature vs. nurture, enslavement, disability, social acceptance & exclusion and Christian allegory.  The strength of this production is not in Nick Dear's somewhat pedestrian script however, which seemed to falter under so much symbolism, but in how the themes are given physical embodiment.

In a tour de force visceral opening sequence. the creature (tonight Benedict Cumberbatch, alternating with Jonny Lee Miller's Victor Frankenstein in other performances) breaks out of a womb-like pod and gradually gains control of his body, struggling to raise himself, to walk and make sounds, to eat and drink.  There is a child-like joy as he discovers the world, the heat of the sun, grass, rain, snow and fire.  He will learn to speak, to quote Milton, debate his condition and feel emotions - beautifully expressed in a dream dance with a female creature.

Charles Spencer in the Telegraph described it as "like watching a speeded up version of human evolution" and for me it evoked memories of Dudendance's Spaceman, (performed at St James last year as part of a Jersey Arts Centre residency) as did the play's final exit through an Arctic doorway of light.

The NT Live experience itself is a curious hybrid of theatre and cinema.  The liveness of the event, (broadcast to 400 venues in 22 countries), creates a sense of anticipation and excitement.  There is also a feeling of intimacy, of sharing an event with a particular audience.  One can't fault the camera work either which is excellent - unobtrusive and moving easily from aerial views to close ups and giving access that you wouldn't get in the theatre.

I did miss the freedom you have in the theatre to read visual content and discover meaning, to let your eye frame a scene, rather than a lens do it for you.  The design of the production is beautiful, particularly the large canopy of hanging lights flickering with frissons of galvanic energy - but there's something different about seeing light rather than being in the room with it and experiencing the light and dark yourself.  And although you are with an audience, it is a different audience to the one the actors are in some kind of symbiotic relationship with.  The screen itself acts as a kind of fourth wall.

And I did wonder why the creature was wearing a flesh-coloured loin cloth in the opening birth sequence when reviews and production photographs suggested he would be naked, which would seem more apt - some kind of caution to not offend global sensibilities or invoke cinema censorship restrictions?  Curious...   

But this feeling of being at one remove, of 'secondhandedness', doesn't make the experience not worth having, it just makes it a different experience. And importantly the broadcasts widen access to those who wouldn't be able to make it to the National Theatre in London or to buy a ticket, to a global audience.


Monday, March 14, 2011

A Prophet


French film A Prophet (Director Jacques Audiard), screened at Jersey Arts Centre this evening, manages to intercut a viscerally realistic and violent portrayal of prison life with fleeting and mysterious images of ghosts and prophecy.

Stripped of its supernatural dimension, the film would still be impressive (and some might argue tighter); the interplay between naive convict Malik (Tahar Rahim) and Corsican gang leader Luciani (Niels Arestrup), as one gains in understanding and power at the expense of the other, is played out with subtlety.

But it is the images of Malik's dead victim Reyeb (Hichem Yacoubi) - bathed in flames, some kind of prison mentor, ghostly companion or conscience - that linger in the mind.

I like films that plant images in your consciousness asking to be interpreted and leave you wondering about what happens to the characters as they exit the final frame...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

blossom



today

                             the flowers

are my song




Tuesday, March 8, 2011

grave song



 
                                              a bird sings in the forest
                                              its song is invisible

                                              i hear you daughter
                                              your words are invisible
                                              the echo of your words is invisible
                                              the wind taking your words away is invisible


                                              you found my footsteps
                                              followed my invisible feet
                                              to my old man’s bones


                                              here among the trees
                                              soon i too will be invisible


                                              i see your red smile
                                              questions scar your face

                                              circle me
                                              push your feet in earth
                                              leave me your dance
                                              i will remember it

                                              take my dreams
                                              they are invisible
                                              hide them



Monday, March 7, 2011

Waiting for Godot

The Estate of Samuel Beckett maintains tight control over how his plays are performed, with productions expected to strictly adhere to his stage directions.  Maybe this is partly what makes Waiting for Godot such a classic piece of theatre, that it hasn't been constantly 'reinterpreted' according to the latest social trends or vogues of director's theatre.  There are a finite amount of elements to play with, maybe five characters (six if you include the unseen Godot) a tree, some boots, some root vegetables... However, this restriction also makes it fascinating to compare different productions.

photo: Daniel Austin

Jersey Arts Centre's recent Waiting for Godot was directed by Daniel Austin (17 - 19 February) with a refreshing lightness of touch.  Craig Hamilton and Andrew Oliveira were a younger Estragon and Vladimir than usually seen, but this helped to reinforce a dreamlike quality, a sense of the unreality of time which is in the text anyway.  Part clown, part tramp they were boisterous and still, poignant and lyrical, making the characters fresh.  I liked the way Vladimir scuttled across the stage with the posture of a farm labourer.

Richard Pedley's sadistic ringmaster/demonic patrician of a Pozzo was very sinister, wringing humour from each mannerism and tortured syllable, and Simon Macdonald's Lucky suitably cringing and bizarre.  And last but not least, Tom McGoldrick's boy confidently closed each act with news of the illusive Godot.

Graeme Humphries' exquisite design - white floor cloth and white cyclorama and a real tree (Himalayan Birch) looked good enough to eat, like a pristine iced cake, while giving a sense of enclosure.  His simple lighting design gradually suffused the stage over the course of each act with the corals and pinks of sunset, giving an air of enchantment, and ending with a cool blue moonlight. 

photo: Daniel Austin

It brought to mind this painting by Caspar David Friedrich which Beckett apparently attributed as a source of inspiration for the play:

Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon
Caspar David Friedrich ca.1824
A beautiful and high quality production.  Hopefully we can look forward to more such in coming seasons. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

tree



                                             tree
                                             because of the tree
                                             because of its branches
                                             because of its leaves
                                             because it is green
                                             because of your hands
                                             because of your hands in soil
                                             because you planted it
                                             because it is solid
                                             because it has roots
                                             because it will grow
                                             because of the wind through it
                                             because of the dawns and the sunsets
                                             because of the birds
                                             because of their wings
                                             because it will change colour
                                             because it will look the same
                                             because it will outlive us
                                             because of the earth
                                             because of the sky
                                             because of your breath
                                             because of the moon
                                             because it is silent
                                             because I hear wings
                                             because of the silence
                                             because of the stars
                                             because it's a symbol
                                             because it is fixed
                                             because it will grow old
                                             because it’s not me

Black Swan


Birds, wings, flight, dreams of flying & falling and metamorphosis into a bird are powerful as symbols, windows into the unconscious, in art and in language...We feel caged, have our wings clipped, fly the nest....

Darren Aronofsky's film Black Swan is a gorgeous dark fairy tale.  I love the way the meaning is layered and complex so that for those of a prosaic disposition there is a literal pathway to navigate the story, but the imagery also works on a symbolic level as the story of ballet Swan Lake, the competition between the white and black swans, and also as a metaphor for the creative process, what art does to the performer, what they do to themself.

Little girls' dreams of being a ballet dancer are brutalised in the transformation of Natalie Portman's character Nina, who has to release and almost rip-out an erotic and self-confident black swan from her body, from this fragile and vulnerable mummy's girl.  The film is also a staged conflict between perfection and passion and about what ambition does to you, what you will do for it.

The other women in the film serve as distorted mirrors to Nina: her possessive and controlling mother living vicariously through her daughter's achievement (Barbara Hershey) the older, jealous, suicidal and discarded principal dancer (Winona Rider) and sly and sensuous Lily (Mila Kunis), her doppelganger rival.  They even look like her, or how she might become, and she has to attack them or escape them to suceed.

The final image of her is almost post-coital, triumphant and bloodied, lying on a mattress...

World Book Day/Night

I've had a lot of time to read in recent months and it struck me this week, in thinking about World Book Day, how much of that reading has been about escaping into other worlds.  In particular the cold and gloomy landscape of Nordic crime novels. 



I've been to Sweden with Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson, to Norway with Karin Fossum and Jo Nesbø, travelled in Iceland with Arnaldur Indridason, and voyaged from Denmark to Greenland with Peter Høeg.

Literary qualities vary from the Rock and Roll Nesbø, to the soulfulness and social conscience of Mankell and the poetic Høeg (Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow) but there's something about those cold climes, people pitting themselves against the snow and ice and aware of the changing landscape and light, that is engaging and suits the crime thriller genre - lots of potential for danger and picturesque crime scenes...

Maybe it's because I've never really travelled to any of these places that I enjoy escaping there in books.  That sense of a different way of life glimpsed even through translation.

For a writer it's good to be able to 'adjust reality' slightly, to imagine a world slightly other, which is why I've also dipped into Japanese fiction recently as well.  In particular the bizarre and dark horror stories of Otsuichi (Zoo) and fiction of Natsuo Kirino - In her novel Out, four Japanese women with difficult lives, working the graveyard shift in a packed lunch factory, get drawn into a dark and murderous world.  It's very gripping and I couldn't imagine the novel working transposed to an English setting, with English characters, which is why I liked it - the behaviour and perspective are slightly twisted...in an interesting way...