smoke over a field at dawn. Would have once filled me with intensely pleasurable emotion, that this is the sort of experience one should be having, rich, sharp, textured, every sense activated, primal, suggestive – plus regret that one hasn’t always had such experiences daily, plus frustration that this is not a daily experience now. Unhappiness that one’s life is not as one would want it, i.e. not optimal, not as full of peak experiences as it could be.
Now, it’s just smoke over a field at dawn. Senses highly stimulated, in part by unfamiliarities, in part by extremes of lighting, temperature, awareness of contingency of the moment. I can get the same thing from a mid-afternoon lamppost if I want.
What can I say? I was 18, it was 1985, it was Liverpool, I was about to do A-levels in Greek, Latin and English literature, and I was avoiding home. What could I do? Romantic grandeur in the fading light (orchestral manoeuvres in the dark?) was very appealing. If there’d been a T-shirt, I’d have worn it. Out of sight.
I’ve already posted this picture and said I took it on my first ever morning outside Europe. And that now it makes me think about what’s wrong with the idea of “exotic”. This morning I remember that I had in my hotel room a slim volume of E. E. Cummings (thanks, Stephen). I liked the drawing of him on the cover and perhaps thought it would be quite good to look like that. I loved the poems.
I don’t remember seeing myself as some romantic Traveller, and I don’t think I even tried to write poetry on that holiday, only long postcards. But was there somewhere in the back of my mind a model of some Patrick Leigh Fermor-style young man that I was trying to emulate? Not that I’ve ever read him, but these memes infect you via unseen vectors. Maybe that’s how Jung’s collective unconscious works.
I also remember that on that holiday I also saw through the exotic: in a souk in Tunis, I remember thinking that this was as close as I could get, probably, to how I’d imagine a scene from the Arabian Nights, but it wasn’t magical, it was shabby, and I didn’t want to linger.
I’ll be introducing a somewhat abbreviated version of my film about Tuareg nomads in the Sahara at the Mali in Transition conference on the afternoon of 29 May. Details here.
Liverpool One still trumps any parody I could make of it. This time, it was the ice rink on that high, artificial grassy hill. Behind security barriers, under a light, cold rain, happy shoppers skated round an Audi on a plinth. At least I found £1.22 in wet change in the grass.
My visit to the Liverpool Biennial began with the bafflement I’ve come to expect from encounters with a certain strand of contemporary art. It ended with a less predictable and explicable unhappiness. Continue reading
Lately I’ve been smelling flowers where no flowers can be seen. It’s like being in The Course of the Heart.
A traffic policeman who was an artist without realising it, in Frieze. Thanks to Adrian.