New print- Sheep Skull

So here’s a new illustration I did. It’s actually based on a drawing I did when I was 17 that I found while sorting out some paperwork recently. You can buy monochrome and colour prints for £3-£30 over on the shop.

I’ve also uploaded the artwork to Society 6 to create tshirts, vinyl stickers and other goodies– please note, if you order, the goods are printed and shipped by the printing company rather than me.

January Playlist

The second half of January has been a bad time for me, with a lot of very difficult things to deal with. I’ve been low on energy for doing anything much creative. Here’s a playlist of songs I’ve been listening to lately though.

 

1) Queen of Borrowed Light- Wolves in the Throne Room

I was really disappointed with the most recent Wolves in the Throne Room album. I mean I guess it’s nice that they stopped trying to be a pale copy of Brian Eno, but the new stuff was really generic. Enjoy this instead.

2) Mouth Breather- Jesus Lizard

This song is about Britt Walford from Slint. He might be great at drums and songwriting, but don’t let him mind your house. There will be plumbing incidents.

3) I Am Living Death- Institute

Great new punk/post-punk from Texas.

4) Real World- Hüsker Dü

Great old punk from Minnesota. RIP Grant Hart.

5) Cross the Breeze- Sonic Youth

6) Закрой за мной дверь (Zakroy za mnoy dver’ / Close the door behind me) – Kino

This song from the 80s is incredibly well-known in Russia. Viktor Tsoi is kind of their Bob Dylan and Kurt Cobain rolled into one. In the early 80s he was repressed for his music- they had stopped sending people to the Gulag or falsely imprisoning them in mental institutions, but if you did anything to displease the authorities suddenly you would lose your university place and your job applications would always be unsuccessful. Tsoi was kicked out of art school and given a job as janitor of his own block of flats for lyrics like “well this train isn’t going anywhere anyone wants to go” and continually pushing the very tight limits of what was allowed in public performance. By the late 80s under Gorbachev he was allowed to get away with lyrics demanding outright political change and became hugely successful in the USSR, but then died in a road accident less than a year after the Berlin Wall came down. You can see the lyrics in Russian & English here.

7) Abschied (farewell)- Nico

Nico on the other hand was a deeply unpleasant person, even if I enjoy her music. I’ve never really understood why people call the Marble Index “unlistenable” or an “ordeal”. It’s quite a soothing album really. I like the baroque style of this song- which extends to the lyrics, full of old-fashioned literary words like harren and verzehren. The words and translation are here.

8) Master Song- Leonard Cohen

I listened to Leonard Cohen non-stop when I lived in Budapest, and it fits the city and its atmosphere pretty well. I miss Hungary a lot, but no way could I live there under the current far-right (and increasingly actually fascist) government. The sooner Viktor Orbán is out the better.

9) Translate- Suuns

The soundtrack to walking over frozen rivers in the Czech Republic last year

10) Oh Yeah- Can

11) Pig- Sparklehorse

It’s still sad what happened to Mark Linkous.

12) Corpse Pose- Unwound

13) Night Goat- Melvins

14) Chromakey Dreamcoat- Boards of Canada

15) Etna- Sunn O)) & Boris

Around the Winter Solstice I always seem to want to listen to nothing but Sunn O)) and Earth. Let your ears take a soothing bath.

16) I Troldskog Faren Vild- Ulver

I like Ulver but am also aware that they are in some (many?) ways cheesy. The lyrics on this album are in Ye Olde Fairy Tale Norwegian and are actually pretty ridiculous (but let’s let them off, they were teenagers when they did this album). Enjoy them here.

Die grade Linie ist die unschöpferische Linie

 

Just before Christmas I ran a Hundertwasser-themed workshop as a fundraiser for 101 Social Club. (If you are not familiar with Austrian artist, architect, environmentalist and cranky old hippy Friedensreich Hundertwasser, I have written about him quite a few times- you can find the entries here) People had food and drink, learnt about Hundertwasser’s work and philosophies, and did three different casual art activities- collaborative line making, resist painting, and creating architectural models of Hundertwasser-style buildings out of recycled materials. All while listening to the fine selection of Can, Neu, Fennesz, Cluster, Faust and other artists from the playlist below (I had it on shuffle on the night)


The severed hands and wall paintings were fortuitously left over from another event.
Collaborative line-making. Everyone draws at the same time, traversing the paper back and forth. You can’t take your pen off the paper, draw straight lines or cross over any lines.
Resist painting with wax and watered down black acrylic (indian ink works better, but I couldn’t get hold of a big enough or cheap enough bottle in time)
Creating architectural masterpieces in teams.

Domestic Abuse Support All-dayer fundraising gig

(Tuli from Gang)

I recently went to a local gig put on by Art’s Cool raising money for the local domestic abuse support charity. It was an all-dayer, with half the lineup being local Kent bands, and the other half being from Leeds. The next day they did it all again, but in Leeds, and raising money for an education charity there. I missed the first band, but they were kind of a supergroup made up of members from the different Leeds bands. The promoter also handily made this Spotify playlist of all the bands.


 

The lighting was a bit difficult, being mostly magenta and strongly focused on one side of the stage. How easy it was to photograph the band members depended strongly on how much they moved and where they happened to be standing, and varied dramatically from act to act. When I take gig photos I like to try to have at least one photo of each band member (which can be hard with drummers positioned far back), and as flattering as possible, especially when it’s smaller bands who may not have many nice live photos of themselves. So I took, and deleted a lot of photos (and didn’t get as many usable photos of some of the bands such as Chest Pains as I would have liked). Here they are, in order of running on the day. There are links to each band’s facebook fan page in each title.

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Trying to be nicer to myself

Today is the last day of my 32nd year on the planet. As someone with a mid-January birthday, I particularly hate how January is assigned to be the hate-yourself-and-vow-to-change-everything-about-yourself-in-a-punitive-way month. Rather than futile and harmful diet and gym plans, I’m trying to be nicer to myself and less viciously self-critical about my appearance.

It’s hard though when you live in a society that actively wants you to hate your appearance. As a woman you constantly receive the message that the only thing that matters about you is your appearance, and it isn’t good enough, and will never be good enough. I try my best to avoid harmful media, whether it be traditional or online, but it’s a constant onslaught, and you’d have to be a hermit in a cave to avoid it completely.

I was going to write a lot more in-depth about the topic and was drafting and thinking about things all afternoon, but it was just exhausting and made me feel really sad, and I ended up deleting it all, especially as it was stirring up memories of some horrible, horrible things men have said to me over the years (such as “you are so horribly overweight, I’m embarrassed to be seen with you in the street” when I was the same weight I am now).

So yeah, I guess all I’ll say is be nice to others, and try to be nicer to yourself, despite the onslaught of messages telling you not to be.

Büren-Harth

Here’s some more photos from Germany. From Harth in Nordrhein-Westfalen to be more precise. It’s a small village in the Sauerland, a scenic forest region about a hundred miles east of Cologne, popular for hiking and cycling. I was there for a week to teach a holiday course in a school in the local small town of Büren. It was a pretty good week- nice weather, good kids, and cheap food and drink in the inn we were staying in. The only real fly in the ointment was when one of the parents tried to put me down on the insurance when his child broke her phone. Casual insurance fraud (and insurance policies/claims for everything) is a national sport in Germany though.

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2017 in photos

In 2017 I went to ten different countries, and was rarely in one place for longer than a week between January and September, which is both exciting and unsettling. Here’s where I went and what I did, using my Instagram photos (because I don’t have camera photos of everything, and even when I do, I haven’t edited all of them). Obviously loads and loads of images under the cut. If you’re wondering how I went to so many countries, I work for an agency that sends me to teach school workshops abroad, my mum lives in France, and I won the plane tickets to Japan.

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Some thoughts about having left London

(A sunset I saw on the beach about a month ago)

So I returned permanently to the UK in September and moved to Margate. I grew up in Kent, but haven’t lived here permanently since I was 18, which feels like a long time ago. Settling in has been both good and hard. I travelled non-stop essentially from January to September, and adjusting myself to being in one place and the idea that I live somewhere has taken a while. It’s also kind of weird pretty much only being surrounded by people I’ve known for 1-2 months- you feel like the awkward new kid at school.

I spent the last four years mostly in London, and frankly living in London is brutal. I came to the realisation recently after a conversation with a friend who returned to Leeds after years in London, that you just get used to this continual background low-level rejection from people in the capital. Whether you are worth talking to or acknowledging as a person depends on where they place your value in terms of status or connection. People speak to you with one eye over your shoulder for someone better to talk to than you. People you have met and spoke to many, many times claim they don’t recognise or remember you, I guess because you weren’t important enough to remember. People would look eager when I said I worked somewhere prestigious (museum) and then their face would drop when it turned out my job was extremely unprestigious (tourist information desk and tickets). If you’re not status or money-focused (I’m not) it can be quite a grim social environment. Even so-called “alternative” places could be like that- very focused on whether you knew the right cool people or not.

Of course I have/had like actual friends there (most have left or are planning to leave) I like and enjoy spending time with, but with busy schedules and everyone only being able to afford to live in peripheral areas, there’s a whole lot of logistical wrangling and booking things in a diary two weeks ahead to actually get to see them.

Also it seems pretty much the only way to meet people for relationships was via internet dating, which is extremely depressing. No-one speaks to you in places like pubs or gigs. Some people find dating sites a wonderful expansive use of technology, I find them a depressing neo-liberal way to commoditise people. My few very short and depressing attempts at using them gave me a strong impression that people felt they were ordering up some customised person off a catalogue. They weren’t looking for a real human, just a nice lifestyle accessory with every feature to their satisfaction (and probably very unrealistic expectations). Aside from the nasty harassing messages that most women get, even a good chunk of the men who were ok in messages were nasty in real life, and because they felt it was anonymous and we’d never meet again, it was ok to be nasty. (Either a lot of people have been reading those terrible MRA pickup guides, or they have independently become an arsehole). For example, who does things like look into my noticeably green eyes and then start telling me at great length that of course the most attractive eye colour is blue? Why? What result do they think that will get other than pissing me off and making me leave? You also of course have no reference or background for this person, and have no choice but to believe what they tell you about themselves, making it ideal I guess for compulsive liars. It’s better to retire from the field.

Socially and logistically, living in a small town again is pretty different, and I’m still adjusting my brain (I still mildly panic when I look at a clock and it’s an hour before something, because I would already be late in London). I’m still always so pleased at the way that people seem to genuinely want to talk to me as a person though. They remember meeting me! I keep getting hugged! I get introduced to people’s friends. When I initiate conversations with people, they are happy to chat to me, rather than making it clear I’m essentially filler material until they spot a better person. It’s actually pretty sad that I notice this, and makes me wonder what the hell I was doing in London.

In pretty much every way, my life is easier, despite the fact I have way less money. I can just about afford to live alone and not have to live with a million housemates, everything is in walking distance, and people are nice to me. I should have left London way earlier.

Düsseldorf

I spent most of August in Germany, teaching some school workshops and going to Documenta art fair along the way. My first assignment was in rural Nordrhein-Westfalen. The agency has a tendency to book you on flights at brutal times early on a Sunday, so instead I booked my own flight to Cologne on a Friday evening, and claimed it back off them. I have been to Cologne loads of times, and my colleagues were flying into Düsseldorf, which I had never visited. So I decided to stay in Düsseldorf, do a bit of sightseeing, and then meet up with the others before heading to the Sauerland. (A delayed flight and the questionable joy of rural DB trains on Sundays meant that that turned out to be a bit more complicated than planned, but everyone got there in the end).

I can’t say I knew much about Düsseldorf. It’s in the Rheinland, the most densely populated part of Germany, it’s a rich place with a big financial industry, Kraftwerk come from there, they say isch rather than ich (check out Kraftwerk’s Neonlischt), and they have an intense rivalry with their better-looking and more famous neighbour Cologne (to the extent of selling postcards everywhere saying “Düsseldorf statt Köln”- Düsseldorf instead of Cologne. Nice try Düsseldorf).

The centre of Düsseldorf is very posh- the Königsallee is full of expensive designer shops, and there are lots of expensive restaurants and gleaming modern corporate headquarters. It wasn’t really my thing. There are a surprising number of Japanese restaurants too- which I did avail myself of. There was cool looking modern art museum, but I got there too late for it to be worth paying to get in. The rest of the city isn’t quite so gleaming though, just kind of bog-standard Germany, and I stayed in quite a nice hotel for €30. There were a weirdly high number of stag and hen-dos/exam celebration groups in town too. There was an annoying group of Bavarian boys in lederhosen at my hotel. The sarcastic manager pointed them out to me and said “look, there’s some Bavarians in their famous sexy lederhosen. As a free gift from the hotel, you can pick one. None of their mothers will mind”. I declined.

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They only want you when you’re seventeen

(My ID photo from 2003, the following year)

I made this playlist a while back, and the post has been languishing in the drafts for a while, so I thought I’d finish it off for the end of the year. It’s all songs I liked when I was 17, which was in 2002. It’s a fairly roughly put together playlist, because it’s an attempt to make a jumble of songs fit together rather than to create a flow of songs (my usual way of creating playlists). I can’t remember why I made the playlist in the first place, but I think it was sparked by reading some article or the other. It was a while back, as I said.


 

The dominant music at the time was Nu Metal. The Strokes et al had just started to come in. I wasn’t particularly enthused by either. I used to go to a really shit alternative night in Chatham because it was something to do and they didn’t care about legal drinking ages (and was the only place open after 11 where my friends wouldn’t get beaten up). One room played indie, the other metal. Whatever song you asked for was too heavy for the indie room, and not metal enough for the metal room. So I rarely heard anything I liked there. Some of my (male) friends were in post-rock or post-hardcore bands, and that was more fun. (Some of them later set up a piss-taking night they dubbed post-core and claimed it was a legitimate genre).

There’s a big mix of stuff on here I guess, but nothing too embarrassing. Most of it is probably typical of people of roughly the same age. When I lived in Brighton however I seemed to be surrounded by crust-punk types, and in London more straight up HxC types. These weren’t the people I seek out, but they just seem to be there, surrounding you. They are also people with incredibly narrow and restrictive tastes in well, everything. They are certainly people who would judge this choice of songs embarrassing. I’ve leave the verdict up to you.

Brief comments about each song under the cut.

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