I really am the world’s worst time manager; I had been hoping to do a weblog of the poetry collaboration but time keeps slipping away. I have however managed to find out how to upload an MP3 track for it, so let’s hope I can do get it down again!

A long time ago I agreed to a low key exhibition in a theatre that had just re-designated itself as an Arts Centre. The promised exhibition space is pretty disastrous, but we plough on. The exhibition has become ‘Three artists, Three sheets, Three Weeks. The hope is that we can use the time to progress our individual interests and that the choice of support will push us out from our normal practice. We now have only two weeks left and apart from having managed to purchase fitted rather than flat sheets all three of us are now truly engaged with the project.

My recent reading- Rodinsky’s Room – a collaborative nonfiction story by an artist and a writer – has reawakened my interest in 1940’s Jewish life. There is something unbearably poignant in the fragile ordinariness of the lives that when photographed were about to be erased by a ruthless political machine. Maybe that emotion is present in all situations where looking back we – the viewer- retrospectively knows an outcome that the viewed did not.

Rodinskys shadow is still on me and making an art work seems somehow a necessary part of breaking that spell. I toy with the idea of using my sheet as a Tallit. The tallit is a short tabard worn by some orthodox Jewish men man under their outer garments. At all four corners of the Tallit are tzitzt – woven and knotted fringes that remind the orthodox of their religious duties. I am not sure why I feel the need to use this format and am still unsure. I am cautious and afraid of causing offence.

I have arranged to visit my elderly mother to trawl through some family documents with her. I am hoping to connect with something from my grandfather’s past, from the days before he was deported to Riga Concentration camp.

I have reservations about the project on several scores but one is that by involving my mother in this intense way I will invest it with a greater significance than the quality of work will be able to bear.

While researching I discover a T-shirt for sale on the internet:

‘My grandfather died in Auschwitz’ it declares across a graphic depiction of barbed wire. ‘He fell off a Watch Tower’.

My surge of anger subsides as I realise what it actually says. How strange that this Comedy Night humour which I can plainly see for what it is and actually find quite clever and amusing nonetheless follows me around all day.

I think I am still unsure as to what my reaction actually is.


I send R. my most recent photos of the bones. The bones have temporarily taken on a new personalities adorned with lace and long, sharp black pins.

In my sketchbook I write; Artist to make artwork- imaginary grave goods – using goose bones that look like something they are not.

To be presented as if from an imaginary museum.
Good discipline – write now about the concept behind my work. Equals integrity and ultimately makes for strength and clarity. So- I think we need to look again at the concept. We have the basic artwork concept So – how to proceed with the poetic element of the collaboration?

My feeling is that the poetry should also follow the concept– the bones look like something they are not, the grave goods are something they are not, from a culture that doesn’t exist, and all ostensibly from an imaginary museum…….

I write to Rowyda: Would this help us meet in the middle?Artist to keep the concept of the non – existent culture but to work within the constraint that nothing in the materials used would exclude the pre Islamic Arabian world. This would allow you to interpret the grave goods with reference to an imaginary/ historical Arabic culture of your choice if you wish………………

5th February I send Rowyda new photographs of the bones. They now feel finished to me but then again maybe not.

In my mind I am moving on to how to display them. I think every nuance of what one chooses matters. I tend to be more anal about the exhibiting than the work sometimes. I have no idea if R. will understand this!

7th February We meet in the Fleapit in Columbia Road with all the other poet and artist collaborators. Rowyda is feeling unwell but has struggled in. There is a huge buzz in the room. This is such an exciting project and listening to everyone talk is awesome. So much talent and goodwill.

Anika and Ellie announce we have a venue in Stoke Newington for April. Now the exhibition feels real and there is a time scale. I have bought the bones with me and Rowyda goes home with them. They are so fragile that leaving them with her is a definite act of trust. They are not an artwork that could be remade.

At home I feel as if I have forgotten something………………presumably the bones.


25th January ‘I have begun a test piece of scrimshaw on the goose bone bangles. More difficult than I thought. I hope practice makes perfect.
Have set the eyes in the bangles – they look good. I will send photo when I have a second. I have spent the day writing a Q&A interview for the South East Open studios newsletter. More bothersome activity that gets in the way………….’

I also send a fascinating article on Loek Grootjans at S.M.A.K. Museum Gent, Belgium. An exhibition called ‘Leaving Traces’ – it is good to share things I find during the day. 27th January

During our day at the British Museum Rowyda told me of her research into the last of the Beothuk, an extinct race from Newfoundland. Trawling the internet I find a lullaby recorded in 1910 in the now extinct language. I send it on to R.

1st February. I spend the day collecting fishbones on Dungeness beach to try and make nests with them- as you do! I then sit down to think about the project.

R. and I have been discussing how to progress the central concept:‘I hadn’t realised that in writing down what I intended to do to the bones I was also silently telling myself about the woman’s character.
Having something written down has been very disconcerting I have discovered. It as if that first person kept slipping away from me as I worked and someone else took her place!
The bones now speak to me of a woman who was wealthy, powerful, able to instil fear, overtly sexual and very feminine’………………..

I am also now mulling over what I am actually doing by making these imaginary grave goods [belonging to an imaginary woman], from an imaginary culture, that I have ‘put’ into an imaginary museum…………………

The idea of the artwork as a fabricated museum object has a tension – in that we look at both art and museum objects primarily to feel and discover but we also look to the museum object to have a basis in fact.
By putting an artwork into a museum [even an imaginary one] I think I promptly transmutes its aesthetic value- but I am not sure into what.

Similarly the fabricated mythology of the artwork mocks the fact that the genuine museum object will have had other associations which are lost when the object is put into a museum; whereas the artwork has had no previous existence outside the museum………………..

I think we have reached a really interesting [and difficult] bit of this collaboration, namely the character as she lives in my head and as she lives in yours. Who is she to be?
I hadn’t realised that you too were working on making a story for her before you saw the work.
This leaves me with a problem;
Do I offer you the finished work and you respond to that?
Or do I now change it to meet your thoughts?

[If I do the second the work will cease to be imaginary grave goods in an imaginary museum and will become a work in response to a historical culture and deity]……..I still love the idea of uploading your poem onto Youtube/similar so it could be downloaded as an audio guide. Maybe we will have to get to the very end of the project to know if that will have any resonance with your final work. I think it important the two works have a related interface somewhere……….

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6th January R. responded that she thought the bones beautiful and inspiring and that she liked the idea of an imaginary museum. She suggested we met up somewhere that might be inspiring. The British museum perhaps or the John Soanes? ‘Your butterfly drawers sound interesting, so strange that there should still be creatures living in them’ she said. It was a revelation – I hadn’t thought like that.

6th January. I receive a Facebook invitation from R. to a poetry reading. Yet again I wish I lived in London. The last train from Victoria is no fun nowadays …. 6th January

‘How about we meet at the British Museum on Monday 18th January and do a trawl around the museum and then a relaxed lunch? Talking about masks has reminded me that when I did my A level we had to do a unit on African art. My final piece was based on the Benin heads in the British Museum – around the fact that they were displaced – I felt a sadness for them that they were so far from the culture they belonged to.
Amazing how our creative core seems to be like a magnet. It just resets itself each time even though we think we are doing something quite different.

When the snows have gone I will photograph the butterfly boxes……
Until then here are some photos I took of a tethered balloon in the fog when I was in Berlin. Not sure how to use it yet. Maybe I never will find a way but I love their fragility and sadness’.
18th January We finally meet. Rowyda is just as in her e-mails: bright, sensitive, relaxed and good company. We set off to join a free tour of an Arabic gallery. It seems like something we would both be interested in and gives us something to do together.

Then lunch and chatting and more chatting and a relaxed meander around the museum taking pot luck on what we find.

And coffee and more chatting. I have bought the bones – it seems important for Rowyda to see and handle them.

We talk about the bones and the death of cultures, of museum artefacts being far from home, of turtle doves and owls and where we live and books and being vegan.

After we part I go into the museum shop and see an owl postcard. I buy it and send it to her. 21st January. R. writes to say she has just come back from the library with some books on archaeology and tombs. ‘I’m quite interested in exploring the idea of your objects as grave goods – thinking of a context and an owner ‘

Accident and Emergence organise a meeting for all the Pistols and Pollinators participants. R. and I check we can both go and I really look forward to meeting up again. 22nd January. A & E send out a call for artists wanting to perform at Fowle Hall Features [their Kent based contemporary exhibition now in its fourth year]. I wonder if R. might be interested and send her the details. She says she might well be. It is good to be able to pass her an opportunity.


20th December. Running around trying to sort out Christmas for thirteen people, but still fixated in my head on the collaboration. I send R. images of some drawings on the theme of Pampliset and a poem by Graham Greene that seems to fit the mood:It was like a life photographed as it came to mind…’

21st December. Rowyda sends me some of her poems. They are stunning. 23rd December. I am still sending R. things- this time images of ‘Requiem for a Lost Language’ – my insect installation.

Obviously I am in the Christmas present – giving mode!

I also send on bits that I recall from the research I did at the time….’Have you seen a luna/moon moth? They are huge and an unearthly green…………….

The luna moth lives only about a week. It doesn’t eat, doesn’t even have a mouth. It only reproduces. And when it is exposed to daylight, its green colour slowly fades…. So sad’.

23rd December. Standing in the Christmas check out queues I stand doodling and writing in my sketchbook. On my return I write to R: ‘I have not been wasting my time in folly and idleness – even in the half hour queue for the tills! I filled a page of A4- the back of my shopping list- with spider diagrams and ideas around Diaspora and our Jewish/ Arabic divergent heritage.I am now ‘interrogating’ as they say in the best art schools- the concept of ‘diamond papers’.
I used to be a jewellery buyer and most of the diamond dealers the world over are Jewish. They carry their wealth in diamonds – in tiny, specially folded papers [with inner transparent linings].

As a race that has had to move from place to place fast they can hide these about their person or property and escape with their money. Anything paper we can of course print or emboss with poetry…………….It might be interesting to marry a Jewish diamond paper with a poem about the Arabic diaspora ……… especially as whatever is carried in the paper is usually deemed incredibly precious.Just a flash of thought at the moment……..will be good to meet up.
After Christmas and New Year I went down with flu but I had bought back with me treasures which were much on my mind. I write to R:

‘I am slobbing about feeling sorry for myself………………. The Welsh party contingent demolished two geese for supper over new year- with the result that I have come back with the most amazing bones; they look like a mask, two skulls and two bangles. I intend to bleach them and then plaster and PVA/decorate/write on them……….
We could inscribe poetry on them if anything about them fires your imagination.
I am thinking of them as imaginary objects from an imaginary museum at the moment- relics or tribal…..somehow the lost art of the Nubians keeps coming to mind’.
5th January 2010

‘Herewith the goose bones for your perusal………..!
Do tell me if you might be interested in working with them. If they don’t intrigue I will use them to produce work for an exhibition in June.

Today I was given six beautiful butterfly drawers by a neighbour. They are extraordinary. Thirty years ago they held a collection which has turned into dust.
In some of the cases there is only dust and labels left. Unfortunately in others the specimens are still being devoured by something – tiny larvae- so I have had to leave them in the shed until I can get them to my studio. I have a fantasy that if I open the box they will devour my house contents too………

I will photograph them and send the photos on- not sure if I can capture the spirit of them though.

The snow is now falling thick and fast so I guess there will be no gallivanting about for a while’.