At last the studio is feeling like somewhere that I can work

It has taken longer than I expected and it is not yet totally as I want it, it is however much much better and well on the way to being a working space. Unpacking, re-packing and sorting has given me the opportunity to literally and metaphorically go-through things. I am pleased that I have saved not only documentation of realised works but also notes, proposals and sketches for “as yet un-realised” pieces too. Of course some of these are now quite dated, others maintain a certain relevance, and one in particular could be seen to have taken on a new significance since it was first drafted in the late 1990s! In the light of the very positive reactions that I received to the performative aspects of Following Eugène it was interesting to look at some of my earlier performances and live works. Finding notes and photos from the gay performance workshops and show that I and several other men did with Tim Miller at the CCA (Glasgow) in the mid-nineties(!) reminded me of the process that we used to devise a piece that combined autobiographical, cultural and historical content. Our ways of working were not so different from those that shaped Frozen Progress with Nic Sandiland’s Ambler group several years later. I want to develop something else out of the city walk and the subsequent short monologue at Fylkingen (Stockholm). Being unsure of what exactly it is that I want to achieve is exciting and means that the eventual form that the work takes will be shaped by the content and the process. At the same time I getting ahead of myself and am starting to imagine something quite theatrical with a set, props, lights and music. It feels important to allow something to develop between these realms of the unknown and the known – perhaps this is what all artists strive for.

Could it also be that my ‘new’ studio is influencing how I see myself working? After both the studio at Wip and the one in West Norwood it feels very different to be “working at home”. It is easier for me to imagine working on performative content here than it is for me to consider working on sculptural objects or even installations. In the longer term I do want to find a studio that feels more industrial and more suited to physical materials and fabrication, in the meantime perhaps this room in my flat is a good place in which to conjure up ethereal and fleeting scenes. It is not lost on me that I spoke of the significance of the artists’ studio on the Following Eugène walk. I wonder if there are rehearsal rooms to be found in Enköping?

Collage: the collage work of two American artists: Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) and Jess (1923-2004) makes me want to get out my scalpel and glue! Something for long winter evenings?



Do I believe that everything happens for a reason?

My journey back to Sweden has given me much to mull over.  What is essentially a short flight – about two hours fifteen – is of course just one part of the longer trip.  However on Wednesday the whole thing took an exceptionally long time, the total door-to-door time being a little over 12.5 hours!  During this time three particular things happened one of which resulted in nearly three hours sitting in a plane on the tarmac, and all of which would have individually struck me as noteworthy but somehow taken as non-related but sequential events they acquired a greater significance and offered fascinating glimpses in to others’ lives.

On arrival at the airport the man on the check-in desk asked if I would be prepared to take a later flight in return for some vouchers as the plane was potentially over-booked.  It was a good offer so I agreed.  Part of the deal was that I did not go through security until the last minute and in return for losing duty-free shopping time I got a lunch voucher.  I decided to spend this at Carluccio’s and took advantage of the lunch deal.  A nice waitress served me and as I was short of time I asked for my dessert and bill at the same time.  As she put my card in the machine so that I could pay the difference between the voucher and my bill she looked at me and with great serious said

“Now I have a big dilemma.”

There was silence and my mind scrambled to work out what I could possibly have done to have put this young woman in such a position.  Unable to come up with an answer I asked what her dilemma was.  Standing with my credit card in the machine so looked straight at me …

“I am seeing this man and we have not said it to each other yet but I love him and I want to say it to him but in my country it is not the woman who does this but I am ready and want to say it.  The man must say it first and the woman must say it back, that’s the way it is, but he has not said it and I want to say it, I love him.  What should I do?”

Her earnestness and the directness of her question took me by surprise.  I had only a minute or two before I need to be back at the check-in desk and to get to security if I was still booked on the earlier flight and yet here was this stranger asking my advise on what could be of vital importance to the rest of her life.  After a few seconds of waffle and a brief exchange of details about where she and he boyfriend both come from – Poland – I said that she should tell him.  I explained that I thought it better that she be clear and open about her feelings (despite her cultural traditions), that if he did not feel the same or was outraged by her saying it then it was better to know sooner rather than later.  I quickly put my card back in my wallet and grabbed my coat and bags, she started to take the order at the next table.  As I turned to leave I looked over to her and wished her good luck.  She beamed back and said thank you.

It seems very unlikely that I will ever know if Anna tells her boyfriend that she loves him either without waiting for him to say it first or not.  In hoping that she does, and that he not only says the same but respects her courage and honesty, I realised that many of the conversations that I had Kim while I stayed with her were about being true to oneself and taking risks.  It seemed fantastically appropriate that I should be given such an obvious, virtually cinematic, opportunity to give a stranger the advise that I so often need to give myself.

30 minutes later I was boarding the original flight feeling slightly cheated that I got neither ‘bumped’ to the next plane nor the significant amount of vouchers to use on future flights, and yet at the same time it felt good that Anna and I had had our brief but intense encounter.  If I believe in fate I could suppose that I was never meant to get on the later flight, I was supposed meet Anna.

And so we began to taxi towards the runway.  I thought that things were taking longer than normal and as we continued to taxi along turning off the runway approach and on to a remote stretch of tarmac the pilot made an announcement.  A passenger had been taken ill and paramedics would be attending, in the meantime we would be waiting here.  It was the first time that I had heard such an announcement and I found myself wondering what kind of ‘illness’ could come on so suddenly.  As an Archer’s listener I know only too well what happened to Granny Heather on her journey from Prudhoe to Brookfield.  Stroke? Heart attack? Whatever struck my fellow passenger it must have been unexpected and serious.

While waiting I read a little and then decided to take a nap.  I do not think that I was asleep for long (if at all really).  When I opened my eyes I noticed that the man in the seat diagonally in front of me was holding his phone so that I could see the screen.  He looked to be in his thirties, casually but well dressed, good looking in a traditional clean-shaven middle-class kind of way.  He had sent a selfie to someone – for some reason I read the text that he sent with the picture.  In it he referred to the man asleep behind him – and I could see from the photo that that was me!  For a few exchanges he and his friend discussed me!  I was apparently “sleep-neighbouring” him.  Though their conversation moved on I continued to read the texts from over his shoulder.  If I had not seen that I had been mentioned I would have stopped myself from doing this, however I felt as though I was already involved so …  I know that I was being spoken ‘about’ rather than ‘with’ but we were still stuck on the tarmac and I was trying to work out the man’s relationship with his correspondent – the top line of his screen told me that it was “Tracy London”.  Their texts were chatty and a little flirty.  Things became more interesting when he swiped away from Tracy on What’sApp to send a text to Emilie.  He carefully explained to Emilie that he was held up on the plane, said he would be arriving late, and signed off with five x’s.  He returned to his chat with Tracy and asked if there was any chance that she could send him a selfie, before she had time to reply he suggested that hers could be a “cleavage shot”.  She demurred on grounds of what she was wearing.  Suddenly the captain’s voice filled the cabin.  The passenger, their family and luggage were now safely off the plane and we would be taking-off soon.  We were instructed to switch all handheld devices to flight-safe mode.  The man in front of me sent a final message to Tracy and put away his phone.  As he ran his hand through his hair I noticed the wedding ring on his finger.

I had received impressions of three separate and distinct lives, each of which gave me something to think about in relation to my own:

  • You cannot expect other people to know what you are thinking if you do not tell them.
  • For good or bad the unexpected and uncontrollable happens.
  • Life is a simple or as complex as we want to make it.