Sunday, 30 August 2020

Saturday, 22 August 2020

First Podcast Episode. The DumpCast #1

First (brief) episode of what I hope to be a weekly outing. In this case, concerning joggers and Steve Bannon; with brief remarks on the "centrist" wastes of space who called themselves The Independent Group - remember them?

Sunday, 22 March 2020


It will come as no surprise to anyone that this event previously posted about and scheduled for next week has been cancelled, for all the obvious reasons.

I hope that you're all staying safe and well out there. These are unsetlling times; but they have been for quite a long while.

I just wanted to add a couple of thoughts whilst I am here:

This virus is frequently being described as an enemy. We are at war with it. This language has been used by members of the UK government as well as French and American ones. This is patently ridiculous and insulting. What we have is an enormous crisis in public health. There's been the “wars” on terror/drugs etc. for a very long time now; though, oddly, what happened to Iraq or Afghanistan in the earlier part of this century (still ongoing) was never declared, nor the obvious war on Libya more recently. Prosecuting a war on another human regime or nation is at least logically coherent. But nonetheless, it has to be a “war” on Covid, despite the fact that it has no uniforms, flags or territory beyond the individual human body, wherever that body might happen to be. It has to be this way because, in accordance with the emotional blackmail of the so-called “blitz spirit” in the UK, the total mobilisation of civil society, commercial interests and government in order to promote individual survival and the public good can only be understood via the metaphor of war. Peacetime is defined by individualism and endemic competition; solidarity is rare, or even regarded as unhelpful to economic growth or the nation “punching above its weight” in trade and other such banalities. 

Because our society is emphatically not predicated on mutual support and solidarity, protecting the vulnerable and promoting the public good in its “normal” operations, the extraordinary condition must be invoked: that of war with its connotations of existential struggle, sacrifice for the greater good etc.

It seems that the proof that this "enemy" is defeated would simply be getting back to screwing over the vulnerable and each other in a collective-yet-individualised frenzy of business-as-usual? That's something to exercise the virtues of public spirit and self-sacrifice for?

If this current situation is an unprecedented threat to our collective and individual well-being what can be said about what preceded it, the normal background against which this now stands in such supposedly stark contrast that it must be described as a "war"? That this virus is a serious threat to our collective life I do not for a moment deny. It is. I just want to point out that what passed for “collective life” prior to the outbreak - taken as a whole - was also a serious threat to our collective life.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020


I am delighted to be included in the following event, with a whole load of other great people: 26 March in south London. Come if you can...

A testing ground for new live artworks, collaborations and chance meetings.

artists working in or across the borders of:

experimental music, sound art, noise, performance, live art, live A/V, artist video, spoken word, poetry, rants, rituals, lectures, workshops...


Mother Disorder

Steve Wrong

Nicola Woodham

Tom Bland


Robin Bale

Luke Jordan


Richard Crow


Talitha Bell


with new loud speaker system from:
Cheeky Soundsystem

art / book / record stall
cheap bar

£5 suggested donation


Improvised spoken and music/noise performance. Presented 17th July 2018 at the Spread Eagle pub in Croydon as part of Tempting Failure international festival of performance and noise.

It was an apocalyptically hot day. The streets smelled of drying piss. The one-stringed instrument deployed via a harmoniser pedal is one that I made. The Blanket/robe I wore is covered in texts from the Bike Cemetery wall, surrounding a sigil derived therefrom. Below are some clearer images of it, from Bad Blood, an improvised performance at "Frivolous Convulsions" show at Turf Gallery, Croydon 11 January 2018.

Bad Blood 2018. Photo: Pouya Mota, 2018

Bad Blood 2018. Photo: Pouya Mota, 2018

I am also wearing, of course, the titular Mural Crown, which is essentially a representation of the walls of the polis that is placed on the head of an allegorical representation of that polis, or an aspect of it, often a tutelary deity. This was commonplace in the ancient world and persisted for many centuries when allegorical public sculptures were made.

I cannot now remember where I got the idea that this deity/personification was placed on the city walls whilst simultaneously wearing the city walls but I suspect it must have been somewhere in Marina Warner's excellent Monuments and Maidens: the Allegory of the Female Form. In my view, this figure both supporting and being supported by the boundaries of the polis is a concrete illustration of the dual nature of example and exception: the exemplar and the outcast, as described by Giorgio Agamben -

[...T]he exception is situated in a symmetrical position with respect to the example, with which it forms a system. Exception and example constitute the two modes by which a set tries to found and maintain its own coherence. But while the exception is, as we saw, an inclusive exclusion (which thus serves to include what is excluded), the example instead functions as an exclusive inclusion [...].

By Lonpicman - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Pictured above are some more recent(ish) examples of the mural crown. These are to be found on the Holborn Viaduct adorning allegorical representations of activities important to the city. In this case "Agriculture" and "Commerce".

Unsurprisingly, Brexit was much on everybody's mind at the time, including mine. Beyond the bare result, nothing much had happened at that point, but there was a lot of crap being talked about sovereignty - in the dual sense of that of the nation-state and of the individuals who chose to vote Leave. It was rather as if these two concepts had been fused; so the piece begins with a recording of Nigel Farage early in the morning of the day after the referendum when first reports came of a probable victory for Leave:

This […] will be a victory for real people, a victory for ordinary people, a victory for decent people. 

This remark gives an insight into the sort of fantasies at play in at least some quarters. "Reality" ("real people") is achieved insofar as subjects align with the “ordinary”, the supposedly familiar, yet unspoken, substrate of the social. This emblematic “real” was assigned by many national haruspices to the “white working class”, a demographic supposedly hitherto ignored and despised, who were presented as being the core Leave-voting demographic. However, contrary to this fantasy, Leave voters were not overwhelmingly Northerners and neither were they exclusively, or even mostly, working class. Why working class Northerners should be more "real" than anyone else was, of course, never explained any more than a clarification of what would actually constitute "realness" in a person was given or why this fantasy of the "Northern Working Class" should be exclusively white, for that matter. The purpose of this caricature was to enable numerous actors in the media/political class to ventriloquise this phantasm of an ur-Brexit voter, to treat them (although a fantasy) as simultaneously, some sort of "left behind", or what Alberto Toscano calls "non-synchronous people" whilst also being the avatars of some "real Britain": both abjected residuum and elevated exemplars. That vast numbers of people have been thoroughly screwed over by the post-welfare statist, post-Fordist iteration of capitalism in the UK is undeniable. That they all voted fervently for Brexit is bullshit.

The piece was intended to allegorically combine the exemplary sovereignty of the (head of) state or the city walls - the boundaries that mark out the exception or provide a plinth for the exemplar - with the abjected subjectivity, space and time of the Bike Cemetery (hence the blanket/robe and the incongruous West Ham chant at the beginning). I wanted to present the paradoxical strands of (welfare statist) liberal democracy in confrontation with the supposed autonomy of the empty space of performance. The ambivalence Rimbaud expresses in the poem Bad Blood towards both the bourgeois democratic society against and within which he lived with his role as artist whilst acknowledging the mutual complicity involved. This appeared apt to me at the time (and still does) so found their way into this and other pieces:

Not a single family in Europe I don’t know –– By that I mean families like mine, who owe everything to the Declaration of the Rights of Man

 As Lauren Berlant remarked"[…t]here are no unmixed political feelings, there is no unambivalent potentiality for the social"; this is accurate and useful. The whole Brexit debate was at that time and as far as I know still is (I have given up all news and current events in disgust) marked by performative fervency on both sides; allowing no room for ambivalence about the EU or either  staying in or leaving it. It was all pretty unedifying; a cartoon of politics. The whole thing looked and looks like the denoument of a power struggle between two factions of the financialised ruling class, who called themselves "Leave" and "Remain" for convenience. A crucial aspect of liberal democracy, as we knew it and didn't exactly love it, was that ambivalence was a structural element to it.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Hell or High Water - What Wondrous Love

Improvisation for voice, one man band rig and home made guitar. Limehouse beach, London. Conducted under the disgruntled and suspicious eyes of Canary Wharf private security. Winter Solstice, 22 December 2019. Part of the inaugural "Hell or High Water" event curated by Sarah Andrew, Anne Bean, Hayley Newman, George Pringle. The songs are the hymn "What Wondrous Love" and the folk/music hall song "Sam Hall". These share the tune of an older folk song "Captain Kidd".

Monday, 3 February 2020


Improvised spoken word and percussion. 18 June 2016, Middlesex University, London.

The scraping that can be heard at the beginning is a the head of a rusted pick-axe that I attached to my ankle with string, so I had to drag it behind me as I moved. The stage was bare, except for a dais on which there was a tight spotlight. Sitting on the dais was a stool on which was a mural crown made out of brown paper. At the end of the piece, I picked up the crown and raised it above my head, then the lights went down. For a large part of the performance I was behind the audience, who were seated looking towards the stage.