Saturday, 29 July 2017

We shape our tools and our tools shape us

The mobile phone can take photos. 
We shape our tools and our tools shape us
Really detailed instant photos. 
We work out too and our tools shape up
So posing for a selfie is a reflex mode. 
We shape our truth and our truth shapes us
Hugging a friend in an instant well drilled repose. 
We shape our tools and our tools shape us.
We live in a realm mapped by the snaps we take. 
We shape our tools and the tools shape us
But what if mobile phones had been really good at testing air pollution as a side product?
We shape our tools and our tools shape us.
Or were easily adapted to being phasers set to stun?
We shape our tools and the tools shape us

Or mind reading devises?
Or instant Voice translators?
Or peace negotiating ambassadors?
Or lie detectors?
Or instant truth deliverers?
Or Ghost revealers?
Or God messengers?
Or parallel dimension portal openers?
We shape our tools and our tools shape us.
Instead we have learned to live with the ever-present photo opportunity
Narcissus what in our wisdom terwit terwoo do to deserve this?
We shape our tools and the tools shape us

Monday, 6 March 2017

Auto-destruction. Who or what are the Deadends?

The Deadends are perhaps a view of ourselves through the cosmic microwaves of time via a post-apocalyptic primordial telescope. We live in a state of self-hypnosis to permit our disavowal to frame our lives with perfectly engineered precision. We are all akin to the footballer who inhabits a Caravaggio painted mask of pleading sincerity to indicate that he played the ball despite having been pulling his opponents shirt for ten seconds. He believes he is correct in pleading to the referee’s sense of reason. This is clearly an evolutionary glitch that has us in its grip. This separation is what keeps us estranged from the very part of us that would reconnect us to the immediate embodied responsibility to each other. Each and every other.

Now here we will remain until more idiots claim to have a soul. This is Ginsberg saying something similar in the TLS in 1964

"The individual soul is under attack and for that reason a “beat” generation existed and will continue to exist under whatever name Rosey generation lost or as Kerouac once prophecied Found until it is found. The soul that is. And a social place for the soul to exist manifested in this world. By soul I mean, that which differs man from thing, i.e. person,—not mere mental consciousness—but feeling bodily consciousness."

The language of the soul is what will reconnect us but even the artists persist in speaking in the strangulated adenoidal mewl of the systematic mind. The systematic mind that insists on its right to disavowal and moral righteousness fuelled by charity donations and truthful communications on social media. As long as we know right from wrong we can go on maintaining this system of separation perfected.

Gustav Metzger makes art that addresses our separation and consequent lemming like movement towards self-destruction but this conceptualising as moving in a state of progress is part of the problem. More art needs to be speechlessly thunderstruck rather than reasonably ordered in such a way that we can carry on living in disavowal albeit with a feeling of self-satisfied detachment. Its a thought and we can speculate all we like at the Deadendings event on 12th March from 2-5pm at Studio One Gallery Wandsworth Plain SW18

Why should I care about the role played by the imagination in shaping reality? Such is our faith in the systematic convergence of data via the senses that we insist upon the illusion factor when confronted by the falsehoods the senses can muster at any time. Instead we might realise that actually it is collective imagination that shapes the world and consequently a sense of communality. We don’t trust the idea that the imagination is central to reality and having jettisoned it we are left instead with disavowal and self-deception, which we soothe with fantasy – the surrogate version of the imagination. Fantasy is an adjunct we see as being an escape from the harsh reality of black and white data. This is a trick we have played on ourselves in order to forget the idea that our imaginations could shape utopia. Yes utopia is nowhere but so is the universe without the imagination of the beholder.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017


Getting on for ten years ago my friend Barry recommended I read The Master and his Emissary by Iain McGilchrist. Another left-brain right-brain tract I presumed and thought it would hold little worth beyond the usual character insights – perhaps there would be some of Jung’s personality types thrown in. How wrong I was. This book addresses, with its specific thesis, the problem addressed by any recent critical theorist of note – namely the distortion caused by systematic or mechanistic modes of thinking. Most of these theorists eventually have to break free of the mechanistic mode and end up writing something like poetry – Deleuze, Derrida, de Bord, Adorno even Foucault to an extent. That McGilchrist doesn’t do this is perhaps why his book is so lasting and resonant. It’s tough going but if you stick with it the evidence marches forward like the massed ranks of one of the civilisations he reveals to be self-destructing. The reason for this self-destruction is that systemised or left brain thinking is what allows the power of the system to be maintained and expanded. Eventually though the systemic or data accruing function forgets that it was collecting the data on behalf of something else namely the over-arching whole and the systemic or broken up and dissected version of events becomes the normal or consensus idea of how things really are. To boil this down further in order to categorise, which is a vital function of mechanistic thinking one must employ a subject/object split. This in itself is fine as a method of analysis but to actually believe that things (people included) exist in an isolated separation is absurd. This, however, is the state that we and other hyper successful civilisations before us, find ourselves in. For me the exquisite part of McGilchrist’s thesis is his making clear that in allowing the mechanistic mode to saturate our sense of ourselves we have lost the voice/language/vocabulary/means of solving the problem facing us, which is namely that we have totally lost the voice that would once help us to connect and therefore allow ourselves to put the system to one side that we may develop the empathy required to live as evolved and intelligent beings.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Fungus Foray and Rhizomatic Living

The Fungus Foray and Rhizomatic Being

Before setting off on today’s fungus foray I’d been thinking about memory. About how memory is perhaps not simply within the brain waiting to be picked up off the shelf but rather is in the objects around us. I was standing in the back garden looking at my neighbour from hell’s ladder. I found it hard to look at the ladder without relieving the various kinds of abuse we have suffered at his hands. (Thanks to a police visit he seems to have gotten the message that everyone has a right to live without fear of abuse). Still I was ok and it seemed to demonstrate how objects in the outside world don’t just trigger memory they help embody it.

Ever since attending a lecture about consciousness by Marcus du Sautoy (Professor for public understanding of science at Oxford University) at The Barbican I’ve had a sense of unease about the way we conceive of our consciousness from a machine-like perspective. It’s similar to visualising the cosmos with the earth at the centre. Technology and the systems it creates to maintain cybernetic stability force us further into picturing ourselves as individuals or outward looking roving units. This is not good for mental health and not good for world peace. At Marcus du Sautoy’s lecture a lot seemed to be made about access to higher definition of neuro-imaging. I thought then is this really going to help us understand the mystery of consciousness? It's still like looking at the brain as if it's a machine albeit in finer detail and higher definition. Still this is all just base camp background to the fungus foray.

 I went with my mum and we waited in the tearoom at the nature reserve with other fungus fans. There was a shelf of cheap books, which led me to ask my mum if she was reading anything good. (Something about the Jeremy Thorpe scandal and a book on Dawn French as it happens). I mentioned a book I’m reading called Proust was a Neuroscientist that I had picked up in a charity shop on a visit Harry Pye’s in Ramsgate. The book takes examples of how artists pre-empted the discoveries of cutting edge neuroscience - namely that there is no mind/body divide – remembering creates memories – memory is fluid – humans are essentially random junk code. It still puts neuroscience in the driving seat – this is what neuroculture does and this neuro-centricity might, may I add, be what prevents us escaping the repeated traumas we inflict on ourselves. Being is not a series of static analysable coordinates but an onflow of experience. Perception is ambiguous and the battle of science to make it unambiguous is false. If, in Proustian fashion, real memory can be a mixture of fact and fiction then lived experience is a continual process of imaginative engagement. Thankfully in the world of real practicalities no one asked to see my membership and we were ticked off the list of attending fungus foragers. I do have membership by the way, I just forgot to take it. set off en masse into the nature reserve and at first things didn’t seem too promising. It felt like a fairly fungus free zone. Everyone had the requisite walking shoes and cagoules making it hard to spot our guide Morris Moss but at our first stop it became obvious as he subtly became the focal point. The first stop wasn’t until we’d cut away from the usual route and headed off to the walnut grove.  As soon as Morris started to talk about the fungi you sensed his connection with the ground. His clothes felt lived in and practical not signifiers of his specialist (outdoor) prowess, which is so often the case with specialist clothing. Early signs of expertise were a little unsettling and Morris struggled to enlighten us with the names of the initial specimens. “My poor old memory” he said at one point clutching a very well worn guide to Fungi. The Mycena genus alone seemed to have dozens of variants that all look the same so I could understand him being slow to offer up the exact names.

Walking this way into the walnut grove however seemed to bind us together in the act of looking at the edges of the path. I normally find striding through the nature reserve produces a sense of well-being but this was quite different. I started to enjoy getting my tongue around the various technical names that began to sputter out – scleroderma bovista the little ball-like mushrooms in the edges by the rough of the neighbouring golf course. Did you study Latin a fellow forager asked me? I did I say but at a comprehensive. I just like the sound and the absurdist fun of connecting that to the object. As the group shuffled on, stopping every few yards to examine a new specimen, Morris’s memory seemed to hit its stride and his confidence grew. His tone became clearer and the anecdotes flowed – one variety with a typical dense dark set of concentric rings was called King Alfred’s Cakes (for obvious reasons!). Morris handled the toadstools and fungi like a craftsman; he seemed to know just how they were made up. Some, which looked soft, were rock hard (you can sometimes stand on the artists fungi – named because of the white blank underside) and others, which looked alive, were dead and therefore impossible to name (my only off piste discover). So Morris seemed to be demonstrating the link between memory and the objects outside of us that don’t simply trigger the memory but embody it as if we are casting our minds into the world and catching what returns. Looking at each new specimen in Morris’ palm or betwixt his thumb and forefinger was transfixing. The path was transformed into a voyage into the indecipherable and random world of the ineffable via the vagaries of fungi categorisation. Clearly the Latin name is a devise for putting science in the driving seat but Morris Moss’s passion and expertise meant he was happy to leave some examples as undefined. 

Friday, 9 September 2016

King's Place

Kings place.
Oh my god I’m back
You finally did it
How can I be so curmudgeonly as to deny the seduction at play?
Oh the pristine vintage cobbles
The plate glass fronted warehouse arches
Framing slim silhouete of new student
Who sips coffee
Totally amazing tote bags
University of the Arts
Tram lines flow encased at floor level
As archival patina
Of an industrious past
It’s all good
How can I fail to see that this is betterer
Double plus gooderer
I visit an exhibition of Soviet childrens books
Encased in glass
Remember the smell of mildew?
Its freezing here comrade.
I grasp and gasp
Hoping for the oxygen of something actual
The fleeting memory of a real experience
An actual event.
There is a hand printed lino cut cover
For A Russian book of Walt Whitman’s O Pioneer.
Is this it?
The moment that evaded the death grip
The strangulation by equivalence?
Asphixiation by reproductive thingness.
I think it is
And a part of me celebrates inside
Then I walk back onto the street
where victory parades are in full  flow
This of course entails
Perfectly arch  vintage window displays
Litter free cobbles
Perfectly assembled nutrious marginally overpriced fast food
And lots of trolleys pulled over cobbles
23 accidents on the escalators this year citizen
80 percent due to luggage
4 percent due to running
I break into a sprint
Laughing softly
Or perhaps I am gently sobbing
My chest heaves but at least
I am wearing appropriate foot wear (ten percent)