That’s some shameful shit

Despite a couple of weeks in which I have come across new and revisited old collaborations that have been:

· Difficult-but-rewarding (Carol Yinghua Lu discussing her work with Liu Ding at the Chinese Arts Centre, “There is a certain power in just thinking rather than making…the most important thing is the continuous self questioning” she said);

· Thought-provoking (Grace Coddington, Creative Director, American Vogue, thinking on her feet with incredible results in The September Issue, “Keep watching because whatever you see out the window…it can inspire you.”);

· Inspiring (Japanese B-Boy crew Ichigeki’s 2005 top scoring championship routine [men become turntables!]);

· Fledgling-but-going-for-it (Network Aesthetics, the “writing as performance” at Untitled Gallery) and

· Heart-breaking (re-visiting A Woman Under the Influence, after the death of Peter Falk, the perfect foil to Gena Rowlands’ difficult heroine)…

I was sad to see collaborative work that has undeservedly got a far bigger stage to appear on than several of the above: Allora and Calzadilla’s piece “Track and Field” for the American Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (click here for a photo and Jerry Saltz’s annoyingly neutral summary). The work surprises me – did it really take two whole minds to come up with that? I assume “Track and Field” is meant to be political, yet despite being the result of a North/South American pairing, it’s same-old, same-old – politics as “merely the decoy of perception” and, as such, provides spectacle, but shows us absolutely nothing.


A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.

This week, whilst finalising my piece for Mike Chavez-Dawson’s Re-Covering show (in which artists have been asked redesign the cover of an influential book onto a piece of oak reclaimed from school libraries and cut to standard paperback size), I learned of Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin’s Alias project for the Photomonth photography festival. Their idea was to get selected writers and artists to collaborate: each writer was asked to invent a fictional character and their artistic collaborator then inhabited this imagined persona and created work from within it.

For Re-Covering, I’ve designed a new cover for Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 (amazing ideas to work with – thanks Mr. B.) and when I heard about Alias, I thought, ooooh which author would I like to write me a character to inhabit, if I had freedom and power to choose? I wouldn’t choose Bradbury – it would be all too depressingly easy to imagine the world of Fahrenheit 451, as in some ways we’re already in it. I think I’d go for Donna Tartt and scare the crap out of myself for a little while.


My tendency is to reduce or develop everything to ‘single things’ — things which refer to nothing outside, but which at the same time possibly refer, or relate, to everything.
John McCracken

I am sad to hear about the death of John McCracken. He was an artist very dear to Tenneson and Dale’s heart. His Minimalist planks inspired one of our earliest works, “Lords and Commons”, and we subsequently returned to him in 2008 with our work “Poll to Poll” for Art Transpennine. In his desire to forge a link between painting and sculpture, between 2D and 3D, between the wall and the floor and between the thing and all things he was a fantastic role model for us as new collaborators who needed to find a balanced way of leaning our ideas against each other.

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This week I was reminded of the difference between collaboration and complicity:

1. On Tuesday night, TV On The Radio played live on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”. In a touchingly beautiful tribute to their recently dead bass player, they played “Will Do” minus a bass line, rather than drafting in a session musician.

2. On Thursday night, Haydon Boss gallery’s website streamed a live performance by Simon Davenport. As an addendum to his latest sculpture show, the artist was going to “amputate his left little toe with a chisel.”


You don’t raise your hand and there is
some essential beauty in your fingers
from “The Hand”, Mary Ruefle

As is often the case, my partner and I spent Saturday night and early Sunday morning playing music at each other. We use a battle type scenario and it’s quick fire – one of us plays a song, whilst the other scrabbles to find a musical reply to it. For some reason a lot of our choices over the weekend were cover versions and remixes. Why am I mentioning this? Because I think the collaboration I’m doing with painter Iain Andrews might have to take that kind of approach. His paintings “begin as a dialogue with an image from art history – a painting by an Old Master that may then be re-arranged or used as a starting point from which to playfully but reverently deviate” and my solo work “usually begins with a perplexing idea and an existing object through which this puzzle can be illuminated” and so, we are both interested in re-arrangement and transformation, which is a great starting point for a joint project. However, it strikes me that apart from this, what we have in common is actually far more fundamental: it’s the way we use our hands. He paints, I cut – the fact that we each work “by hand” is not just a working method, but something more akin to a need. For me, this comes from wanting each cut to be unique: I could use machinery to do a lot of my work for me, but I don’t. I want to be as much a part of the work as I can be. I don’t yet have Iain’s point of view on this, but I imagine that from the kinds of marks he makes, he has a parallel sense of physicality (probably even more so, given the fluidity of paint and how much more difficult it must be to work with as compared to paper). So I seem to be thinking about hands as the site where thought turns into action and hands as symbols of collaboration, connection, comradeship… hmmmm….

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