From the London to Edinburgh train

On Tuesday I went, for the first time, to a place that has been previously mythical for me: the Live Art Development Agency study room in Tower Hamlets. I say previously mythical, because it was the sort of thing one has heard endlessly of, been on the website of, bought books from, attended talks by people who work there, but I didn’t have any friends who’d actually been (is this the true definition of myth?). Just tutors. And the Internet. And the people who work there, but they don’t count.*

It is, without a doubt, the place most resembling the Dartington library that I have ever been to, although smaller, and with less pop CDs. Its been a while since I’ve enjoyed perusing shelves as much as I did in there this week, and despite my vague worries that ‘I don’t really know where to start with performance art/ live art’, I whiled away a very enjoyable 5 or so hours digging, reading, and watching DVDs.

Amongst other things I got the chance to look through a very nicely produced book about the work of Marcus Coates, devoured a chapter on nationalism from the book Blasphemy: Art that offends, and watched the film The Yes Men Fix the World in its entirety. I also started reading Nadine Holdsworth’s Theatre & Nation, which I was just getting into when it hit six o’clock and I was politely reminded that, well, I had to go home now because they were closing. I’ll probably buy the book though, so I think it’s okay.

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A ‘sub-project’ that I’d like to accompany this one/ be a part of this one, is to make a series of merchandise for an imagined future in Scotland. The idea comes from living in Turkey, where there is so much Atatürk ‘merch’ everywhere: flags, wristwatches, t-shirts, wallets. The list is never ending, but what is more surprising is that people actually wear it. The prevalence of Atatürk worship over there has to be seen to be believed. So what if in fifty years time we worshipped Alex Salmond like that – The Father of The Scottish Nation. Unlikely, yes. Impossible? I don’t know.

I was therefore very excited to come across an artist previously unknown to me, with a similar project. Zbigniew Libera’s LEGO sets offer opportunities for users to build ‘popular Holocaust sites’ It made me think about the way some very gruesome or appalling things can be made acceptable by the form they take. Atatürk, for example, was actually a really nasty piece of work. He was responsible for enormous massacres: Armenians, Kurds, Greeks, Atatürk didn’t want ‘em, and so they had to go. Whatever it took. But it’s ok, because basically, he won and got away with it. Hitler on the other hand, well it all fell apart in the end, therefore his massacres aren’t ok. If he’d ‘won’, would holocaust lego be ok?

 

I’ll probably write a whole load about this another time, it’s very interesting, and I think relevant somewhere down the line.

Alexandra Zierle, who is my supervisor for this project, suggested I take a look at the Yes Men’s early project of creating a false website for George W Bush, saying that my Void project reminded her of it. Alas, the website is no longer online, but this has made me interested in hacking and the web as a space for performance. We once had a lecture at Dartington from Stephen Hodge, who uses the online ‘world’ – Second life as a performance space for Avatars, but here I mean performance more in a sense of live happening, rather than of people performing. Anyway, it’s a fascinating platform…

This is getting long, so I’ll end here. I’d like to leave you with a guide on how to be a fox, that I found in Marcus Coates’ book.

 

STEPS A HUMAN COULD TAKE TO BECOME AN ANIMAL OR BIRD
From notes made by school pupil’s visiting Marcus Coates’ ‘Wild Animal in it’s Den’ billboard in Grizedale Forest (see below)

FOX.

1.     First go down onto your hands and knees
2.     Buy a mask
3.     Place a tail on yourself
4.     Practice your howls
5.     Practice hiding behind rocks
6.     Drive to a shop and buy some ears
7.     Get some brown trousers
8.     You have to learn to catch a rabbit
9.     Dig a hole in a wood and live in it

*I actually found out afterwards that my friend Sebastian has been there ‘quite a few times’ and ‘loves it’.