Thursday 30 July 2015

Kindle highlights and Bachelard

I am relatively new to the kindle and the first book I am reading on it is The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, which was probably not the best choice as it is the kind of book you want to underline and scribble your thoughts all over. The kindle has this feature that shows you when a passage has been highlighted by many readers and tell you, while underlining a section, how many highlighters have selected it.

I initially felt troubled by this: is amazon trying to tell me what I should find important because others have deemed it important? Is this an intrusion of my capacity and freedom for independent thought? Is this also a serious intrusion of my privacy, collecting data on what has touched my soul and sharing it with others? My highlight is information collected and I am a participant of statistics. But perhaps I am being to cynical. What if amazon is just trying to establish a sort of book club virtual community? What if amazon is just facilitating a kind of togetherness and connectedness with like-minded strangers?

As I was reading the book on the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow, the following passage inspired my troubled thoughts, a passage which received 15 highlighters:

"For our house is our corner of the world. As has often been said, it is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word.'

Is reading not a similar experience? When we read, do we not enter a space that is ours, a home that belongs to us only even if others have read the same words time and time again? And each book we read is like entering into a new universe, and it is our first time entering it. So what happens when we become aware that someone else is in our universe, in our home? I think when you see how many people have highlighted a passage that you either fall in love with or wouldn't think twice about, you begin to feel self-consious, self-aware and you lose that lostness that you seek when you read. Your home has foreigners in it and you did not let them in. They are telling you what to think. And you are telling them what to think. You are in their home and you are a foreigner.

Monday 27 July 2015

Dialogue: The train station nearly four years ago

Dialogue: The train station nearly four years ago

- I wish we had our own language.
- Yeah that would be great.
- That way, we could talk just us and no one would understand.
- What would you tell me?
- I don't know. It would have to be in the moment. Something in the moment I didn't want anyone else to know.
- Would it be like, about you or about someone around us? Like, if someone smelled weird or if someone looked weird or pretty or something?
- I guess all of those.
- Or, would it be like, you would say when you had to go to the bathroom really badly or something?
- Yeah. Or if I was feeling something embarrassing.
- What kinds of feelings are embarrassing?
- Sad.
- Everyone feels sad.
- Yeah, but no one likes you when you are sad.
- That's not true. People are more understanding than that. You think you are the first person to ever feel sad and show it in public?
- No, but that doesn't mean I want people to see my cry.
- You're being silly. No one cares.
- Anyway, I just wish we had a language is all.
- Would it sound like any other language? Or be based in something else?
- No. It would be to be completed original so no one would understand.
- So no pig latin.
- No.
- Are you sad?
- What?
- Are you trying to tell me you feel sad?
- No, no.
- Are you sure? You look sad.
- I look sad?
- Yeah. Your face looks sad.
- I guess I am a bit sad.
- Why?
- I'm going to miss you.
- But we'll see each other again soon.
- But maybe not for a really long time.
- It won't feel that way.
- It feels that way now.
- You're the not first person to miss someone you know.
- I just wish I wasn't crying right now.
- I'll miss you too you know.
- I know.

Thursday 23 July 2015

Rachel Kneebone's ceramics

I first encountered Rachel Kneebone's ceramic sculptures as images online somewhere and thought that ceramics was definitely making a come back in the art scene. A few months later, I visited Breese Little, where I had interned last summer, and saw some of her smaller works included in a group exhibition titled CLASSICICITY that assembled ancient and contemporary art together in a really brilliant way. I have always loved the art chosen by Henry and Josie, the directors at Breese Little, and their incorporation of Kneebone's ceramics in this context was spot on (although the show was curated by Ruth Allen and James Cahill). CLASSICICITY was particularly interesting in the context of questioning how we might approach the classics and classicism today particularly with regard to the production of new art. While I really did love many of the works in the show, Kneebone's sculptures have really stayed with me, I think mostly because of their overt materiality. Her ceramics are incredibly intricate and dynamic. Body parts and things that look like body parts sprout from a locus in a way that brings these parts together to establish what really feels like its own unit or body. In addition, the whiteness of the works and their shininess from the glaze is typical of ceramics and designates the objects as such, but also brings in an element of kitsch, which is sort of in contrast with the white and the shapes of the things.

There is an element of excess in her sculptures and an interesting interaction between monument and fatigue. While in one respect, her ceramics appear to be grandiose and reference classical friezes and architecture, they constitute only fractions or fragments of this imagined larger edifice. The small bodies hang almost in a manner reminiscent of Dali's melting objects.

Having started to work at Glasgow Sculpture Studios and having learned about the loss of spaces dedicated to ceramics, Kneebone's works have found their way to me yet again. I'm excited by the inclusion of these kinds of sculptures in a contemporary art gallery such as Breese Little. In such a context, Kneebone's objects are classified and codified differently than if they were to be shown at a craft fair, which of course is a massive problem in the art world. While I acknowledge that often it is the context as well as within the institution that art is defined as such, and while Kneebone is represented by White Cube, I'm still glad to get the chance to see her objects, which I find truly special.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Slow Things

I've got a poem in this anthology published by The Emma Press called "Slow Things". My poem is about what happens to a person when the internet is slow.

Friday 17 July 2015


I've been thinking a lot about Ralph Steiner's short film "Hands" (1934) in conjunction with one of the Challenge for Change films that I discuss my MA dissertation called "A Woman's Place". While two intelligent women talk about the necessary changes that ought to be implemented within the Fogo Island community such as the improvement of education facilities and a merging of the schools which were, that at the time, run by different denominational groups, as well as the gaining access to better quality food and clothing, the camera seems to be distracted by the women's hands as they hold a teacup or gesture during speech.

While it may, in a sense, seem obvious that hands be a symbol for labour or for a labouring body, it seems to me that this is no longer a given and we no longer necessarily associate hands with work. Rather, the higher paying jobs today are those that do not depend on bodily exertion other than typing on a computer. What has become valued in this generation is the capacity for thought and for productive ideas. The genius constitutes she who thinks rather than she who is actually involved in the production of objects. While it seems that within a privileged Western society, ownership and wealth is often measured by way of objects bought and collected, there is at the same time, a dematerialization of wealth as physical money becomes data extractable by way of a card or even now through a fingerprint.

Steiner's film depicts both hands at work and hands receiving payment in the form of bills. Sometimes the hands are paired with tools that accessorize their movement, but at other times, the hands touch one another or tap an invisible surface. Hands pull a rope, saw a piece of wood, hammer a nail, man a drill, write on a paper, type on a typewriter. Perhaps in 1930s America, it makes more sense to associate hands with labour, with machines. Writing in the 1960s, Marshall McLuhan claims that media or the technologies involved with media can be considered to be extensions of our limbs.

But what happens when hands become involved in different kinds of laborious activity that might be considered to be leisurely, i.e. holding a teacup, expressing oneself gesturally. How can we come to define labour? How has labour changed from 1934 to 1967 to now? How is labour gendered? What does it mean to show women's hands engaged in this kind of labour? What is Low trying to say about these women when he leads his viewers to close up shots of their hands? I hope to come to understand more about this.

Screen captures from "A Woman's Place" (1967). 

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Leaving the Atocha Station

Yesterday I finished the novel Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner which I thought was fantastic. Lerner tells the story in first person of a young American man who is offered a creative writing fellowship in Madrid for a few months. Adam, the poet, struggles with terrible social anxiety whereby he lies to the people he meets, crying on their shoulders after sharing that his mother is dead and that his father is a fascist. Although both of his parents are psychologists and alive, he nonetheless proceeds to develop theses lies. He goes on to fall in love with two women, Isabel and Teresa in extremely different ways and deals with intense jealousy and the wish to make the women jealous so that he can feel their affection. He relies on these little white pills which tranquillize his anxiety as he uses them to different extents through the story.

In this book, Lerner succeeds in masterfully accessing the complicated emotional life his protagonist who struggles with his American identity, his self-esteem as an accomplished and worthy poet, and his feeling of being both inside and outside the Spanish culture. Adam's character and story is one that I feel I can relate to immensely for variety of reasons, one being the constant wavering of mercurial emotions that constitute my everyday reality.

Additionally, the time I spent in Madrid when I was 19, albeit only 6 weeks compared to Adam's several months, was probably the time I can best pinpoint where I became adult-ish, or at the very least, where I began to come into a self that has stayed with me until now. In Madrid, I fell in love with everyone I met in various ways and was excited to be a part of a community that resonated with me, with people who wanted to talk about the meaning of life, and who sought experience of all kinds. Although I had visited Madrid a few weeks ago to see an exhibition at the Reina Sofia with my MA class, I feel I must return again soon. While it is entirely possible that I am romanticizing my experience in Madrid, and while I know that I went through some painful realizations during my stay, I can't help but remember that summer as being a time of growth and exploration in the best ways. I'm so glad to have read Lerner's novel which, through some kind of comforting, returned me to the ups and downs of dealing with one's own self, one's sense of one's own artfulness and loving others.

Friday 10 July 2015

2 PM

2 PM

You joined the Navy
even though I asked you not to,
and I wondered if the sea
is different to people like you.

What happens to your lesbian girlfriend
and your pet ferret
when you are on a boat?
Do you see a lot of whales?
Are you afraid of war?

I’ve seen a lot of war
in the movies,
and have read a lot of words
that didn’t stay with me
in any significant way.

When your aunt died
I cried by myself in Glasgow
and remembered when she stuffed
olives with anchovies
for Christmas Eve dinner.

I said I want to help people
Dad said he just doesn’t see it
I’m too self-oriented,
no offense. I say I prefer the term
emotionally curious.

I wore brown pants
the day you asked me
to marry you, as a joke.

You said,
I can’t marry a woman who
can’t  sew on a button.
I said,
I understand.

But, let me sneeze in your mouth
I can do it on command,
that way, we will share our insides.

I wore my brown pants that day
I spilled ketchup all over my legs,
soiling the linen.

Its hard for you to understand
not getting up before noon
and why for some,
the world is a sensorial horror.

You knew my friend well,
the one who practiced life
on the computer:
sims or chat rooms and shit,
walking around virtual parks,
playing house, leaving bed.

Sweet mother of God,
the sky looks so beautiful
at 2 PM,


Consuming Your Rights, One Tooth at a Time


Watch it Again: Animation Mini-Series
This review was written by Jessica Schouela as a part of a mini-series project on animations played at previous Play Poland Film Festivals. Our aim is to continue to promote films that we have shown in the past in order to encourage excitement about future screenings. 

Consuming Your Rights, One Tooth at a Time

In Tomasz Pawlak’s “Glista Lucka”, upon graduating, a young man departs from his home in the country leaving behind his parents in order to find work in the city. He finds a bunk bed in a shared room with two men playing cards and a bedridden a crippled man with a single tooth residing in his mouth. Putting on his bowtie, he arrives to the office of a potential employer and shows him a series of documents. After getting the thumbs up from the boss, we see the man surrounded by machinery, manning a lever on an assembly line amongst other factory workers whose caps shield their eyes.

Back at the shared room, a large man speaks on the television with a sad expression, as he extends his arm out of the screen to tap the protagonist on the cheek as if to say, there, there. He tosses the worker multiple sausages that land around his neck like a necklace. Similarly, the card players are offered two bottles from the hand of the man on the television who instructs them to vote for him in the election. Without sparing a second, the four men, carrying the older fellow by his limbs, rush to the voting hall and cast their votes. The newly elected politician proceeds to stomp on a pile of citizens, climbing up to the sky and throws a skinny haloed God figure from his cloud, whereby he raises his arms in victory.

Pawlak masterfully makes use of the television in this animation, which is the source of information for the worker and his roommates as they gain access to the wrong doings of the politician. In addition, just as generous arm once extended from the television to offer food and drink, the very same arm sprouts from the screen yanking what was once given. While an attempt is made to board up the television with a wooden plank and four nails, so that the roommates might eat bread without risk of losing it, the endeavor proves futile as the politician, uttering monstrous sounds, eats through the wood and gains access to the room. Using the television as some sort of channel or vehicle to the citizens, the politician embarks on an eating spree, consuming everything in sight, including the immobile man and his bed, beginning with his last remaining tooth.

Pawlak’s animation is not just a cautionary tale on the deceptiveness of politicians. It is also a reflection of the illusions of work, technology and media as being necessarily progressive and fulfilling. It is a comment on the literal and metaphorical consuming quality of greed and the toughness of the lives of those whose socioeconomic rights have been misleadingly given to them only to be taken away.

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Dialogue: Pink Zucchini

- How do you not see the penis in the painting?
- I see it. I guess it just looks more like a pink zucchini.
- I guess. But its all shafty. And look at those round things at the bottom of it. Balls. Anyway, makes you think of a penis. Probably what the artist intended.
- Maybe.
- You don't think so?
- I guess I see something else when I look at it.
- What to you see?
- Have you ever had that feeling when you move house and all of your stuff is in your new place but you can't see any of it because its all in boxes so it doesn't really feel like any of it is yours. You know, when it doesn't feel like home yet because you can't see any of your shit around you and all the smells are different.
- I guess I can imagine.
- That's what I see.
- You think that's what the artist intended?
- Probably not.
- So do you think then that he intended to paint a penis?
- Probably.
- ...or a pink zucchini?
- Probably not.
- So when you look at this you see yourself in a new house with new smells.
- Yeah, I guess I do.
- Do you think you are just smelling the paint of the painting which makes you think of fresh paint in a new house?
- Maybe. But I think the paints are different. Art and walls you know. Different kind of canvas.
- Right... What do you see in that painting over there?
- The blue one?
- Yeah.
- Nothing.
- Nothing at all?
- Nothing at all.

Dialogue: Crohn's

- I can't sleep.
- Why?
- Because I feel sad.
- About what?
- You feel sad about AIDS? You don't have AIDS.
- I feel sad about people who have AIDS.
- Because it makes you associate sex with disease and death?
- Maybe. I don't know.
- You know... uh, did you read that thing on the news about treating AIDS for babies?
- What thing?
- They found a way to prevent mothers from giving AIDS to their babies during pregnancy so that the babies are born healthy.
- Who's they?
- Cubans, I think. Scientists in Cuba.
- Oh. That's really good.
- Does knowing that make you feel less sad?
- I wish it did although I'm happy for the babies and the parents.
- Is something else bothering you?
- Probably.
- What is it?
- Stomach cancer.
- Why stomach cancer?
- Well no, not stomach cancer really just stomach.
- Just stomach?
- Crohn's disease.
- Why?
- When I was a teenager, I wished for Crohn's disease so that I would always be skinny.
- That's horrible. That's really fucked up.
- I know.
- I mean, come on. People out there are actually suffering and you wish for digestive inflammation or whatever so that you will be forced to eat less? Don't you have any self-control?
- I was young.
- I know someone with Crohn's.
- I'm sorry.
- Go to sleep now. Just close your eyes.

Tuesday 7 July 2015

The Kindle Debate

Perhaps the Kindle debate has become somewhat of a cliche at this point after seven some generations of the product. Yet, it is probably still one worth asking about as even those who hesitate greatly as I did, will likely at some point be forced to relate to the machine and use it to do what they love, read.

I have just ordered my first Kindle on Amazon last night, which has left me feeling excited but also unbearably nostalgic. Although it is definitely some kind of romanticization of how I imagine I am to be remembered after I die, I have always pictured my children and grandchildren going through my impressive library, flipping through the yellowed pages of books that I'd read and marked with my notes, and having some deeper sense of who I really was. Its hard to conjure up the same scene occurring with a Kindle.

Convenient? Sure. Cheaper in the long run? Uh hun. Greener? I guess. Even so, I'm sure a lot of dewy-eyed idealists out there like me mourn the corporeality of a good novel. And anyway, I don't have to use it for every book I read... right?

Friday 3 July 2015

Photos of Ellis Island by Alfred Eisenstaedt

I've been really fascinated by these photos by Alfred Eisenstaedt after stumbling upon them in my research on documentary photography. I find them to be incredible images of people in between, Ellis Island serving as a liminal space between a past and the potential for a certain future. Not only do the photographs highlight the anxiety and desperation in the faces of the subjects, they also show hope with regard to the possibility of starting somewhere fresh. Whether the photographs portray faces that are completely grumpy, in despair or focused, the long travel endured by these people is palpable. 

Caption from LIFE. "Antonio Magnani copes with his children and fat briefcase holding his entry papers." Ellis Island, 1950.

Not published in LIFE. The Saturnia docks at at Ellis Island, 1950.

Not published in LIFE. Ellis Island, 1950.

Caption from LIFE. "In women's dormitory, separated from husbands, wives sit silently on their beds. At right is Maria Palmerini of Italy, here for a six-month visit. She receives same treatment as those who will stay."

Not published in LIFE. Rachel and Schulim Pewzner, from Warsaw, Poland, interviewed at Ellis Island, 1950.

Images taken from