Afterwards: Reminders and Run-ons

There are words that stick with you. Some that have, not that I particularly want them to:

The day after the performance, one thing just niggled. It had been the lead up to a sketch in the middle of the set, where you’re meant to ask the audience to randomly provide a word and a sentence. The word would be the title and the sentence the first line of a ‘poem’ that would be made up on the spot. One member of the improv group would do the talking, their arms folded behind their backs; another member, their hands on either side of the first, would provide the gestures to punctuate the delivery. It’s designed to be flippant.

Can anyone give us a title?

The Wasteland, one man calls from the back.

Well, there’s a poem that already exists. Anyone else?

The Wasteland, he repeats with a certain smugness. Continue reading

Advertisements

The Collectors

IMG_9972 copy

Human Biology display, Natural History Museum, London, 2018.

So, over thirty years later, these things are still pretty close to the surface:

The translucent chest of the Transformer in the shape of a Tyrannosaurus Rex opens up, letting you fold the shiny head of the techno-beast into the cavity. But none of the other limbs or parts go anywhere; all it seems to transform into is a headless mecha T-Rex.

Adam, He-Man’s princely alter ego, is notoriously cowardly. But then why does the toy of Adam have such a broad chest? Such massive biceps? He-Man, conversely, is a slender, trim barbarian. When Adam calls on whatever power the castle Grayskull donates to him, does it exchange muscle mass for strength? Continue reading

Adventures of the Orange Square

mag-03WMT-t_CA0-superJumbo

Once unwrapped, the surface is diffusely shiny, reflecting only a dull haze. Millions of this minimalist, monochrome sculpture exist across the globe: a thin, floppy bright-orange square, almost eight centimetres across, representing a race against the sun, a denial of time. It is made up of around 97 per cent dairy, or more accurately solid materials that were once dairy: whey protein concentrate, anhydrous milk fat and dried milk powder. The other three per cent is a cocktail of hydrocolloids, emulsifiers, preservatives, additives and dozens of other intermediary ingredients that don’t legally need to be listed, including a vitamin D supplement derived from Australian wool.[i] This consumable ready-made is the true icon of our era: the processed cheese slice. Continue reading

Tour of the Question

Screen-Shot-2017-11-27-at-19.15.41

Detroit airport is a long, skinny tube that takes around half an hour to cross end to end at a curious stroll. There’s no shortage of food for the hungry: newsagents with bags of flavoured pretzels, bumped-out coffee shops with stacks of sandwiches, and more than a few sports bar-cum-restaurants.

I pass by the steakhouse and the fast-food court with pizzas, hot dogs and fried chicken, eventually doubling back to one; it had a hockey theme, and the smallest thing I could order was a serving of nachos topped with the requisite orange-tinted cheddar on a plate about an arm long.

It was, as it turns out, exactly what I wanted. The first flight had been booked in an unthinking rush to try to get to St. Louis in time to see my grandmother. Up until a week earlier, she had been a non-stop chatterbox with a sly sweet tooth and taste for Irish whiskey, who would lead her care home on day trips out and try and spike the weak juice at ‘cocktail hour’ when no one was looking. The nachos were a comforting re-centring through the familiar tangle of gummied corn crisps bearing dollops of tinny salsa and unnaturally thick sour cream.

The last time I had visited, we had gone to my grandmother’s favourite restaurant where she went at least once a week. Crusoe’s is a ‘family restaurant’, that American invention and gastronomic catch-all, with pancakes to burgers to cheesecake, as if this is the standards of a continent rather than a specific interpretation of Dutch, German and Italian dishes percolated down through cities, suburbs and highways over a few short generations. The weighty beige of starch hovers in the air: trays of garlic bread, breaded mushrooms, and in St Louis, crumb-coated toasted ravioli. Food arrives crowding of those oversized trays equivalent to another table. I think I ordered a fish filet, my aunt some type of creamy pasta and Grandma a Reuben sandwich; all were liberally topped with white shreds of Provel cheese.

Continue reading

Pass

We all too frequently seek to save the emotional content of past epochs, without first thinking what use it is to us.

Hans Poelzig, “Fermentation in Architecture”, 1906

  1. A highway:

A young girl sits in the back seat, staring sideways out of the golden Volvo at the highway and landscape going by. She’s developed a game of sorts to amuse herself, watching the electricity wires that run parallel to the highway bob up and down from pole to pole. The game is simply imagining a line, or beam, projecting from the string of wires out into the landscape, a line that would cut into any tree or hill that it encountered. It would take elliptical slices out of tall houses, trim the tops of pines, and remove semi-circular chunks from outcropping land. Continue reading

The Mutants We Will Become

Rolf Nowotny, 'Sur Pollen' installation view, Tranen Contemporary Art Centre, 2015. Image courtesy the artist.

Rolf Nowotny, ‘Sur Pollen’ installation view, Tranen Contemporary Art Centre, 2015. Image courtesy the artist.

A man contracts an unknown illness: rainbow-coloured, rotting boils begin to cover his face and body. Afraid of being infected, his neighbours cast him out of the village, to live alone in a hut in the nearby forest. There,  he swells and mutates into a reeking, globular mass, his distended form almost seeming to merge with the mushrooms and moulds that have grown in his fetid dwelling, as he spends his days painting flowers and animals. Hideshi Hino’s manga fable Zoroko no Kibyou (Zoroku’s Strange Disease, 1969) culminates in the villagers marching into the woods to kill the deformed man. What they find in his stead is a giant turtle with a magnificently bright shell – the colours of which match Zoroku’s psychedelic pustules – who then disappears. All that remains is a series of luminous landscape paintings made with blood and pus. Continue reading