Sunday, 29 June 2008

Cy Twombly

Images: Cy Twombly
Text: Cy Twombly with errors, emendations, inclusions, and collaging by David Foster

Cy Twombly , Ferragosto V 1961


Please remain behind the line. cross the line. line of trees. line drawn up.
letters wake, shake out the sleep begin to resemble


Ferragosto paintings

touching flesh
body tastes
water interludes
U U U days age

fruit juices
wanton sky
feria lights

hardly a
noun all
big sex
huge cunt
almost waking
lift my head

Cy Twombly, (Untitled) Bolsena 1961

Bolsena Series

cloud 9. sun. bulb. 335. 3 1/2. 1 67. 144. 17 ½ . 2. by 2 by 3. number II. CT. 67. 2. 3. 7 ½ . 92. void (3) (3) w. w. w. bulb. sum.

38. 2 ½ . 4. just. 1 ½ . 7 – 11. 3 ½ . brushing. orbits. 124. 200. 126 – 700. 180.214. overlay. clearing 14 O E. 12662870. error 0 3 x.

sssssssswch. ssssssssssswch. 2/8. 2 over 1 2 2 stage 2 4. 1964. raise vertical. N028. ½ . 3 4 2. 4 < 4/5. 1801. 224. 14x20. 18x20 lay. stem and out


Veil Paintings

shuttle. rails. convey.

sheets along the plain

one moment also proceeds

conveyance purring trail. chalk grates

mail pouring. commute

inside the falling veil.


Untitled 1971

roomful and not even . so

rain . rain from the east

rain through the day. rain at dusk.

Cy Twombly, The Wilder Shores of Love 1985


grid bubbles sur-wake
as if glass mirrors. the surface of the
scatter. In the hall. rain leaks
pigment. braile. sur-wake. drowns
breathing. tow gondolas through the. rake sifting
channel dredge up. notes scatter. window
blows open.

Cy Twombly, Quattro Stagioni: Primavera

Quattro Stagioni

1. And you who thought of happiness fleeing would feel the
illumination that almost overwhelms and will.
motes suture happiness pulling little falls

2. goodbye cumulus. high on light and white youth. forever touching it melts and faints. goodbye Catullus. you made me realise.

3. Autumn sweet breads. passenger, you’re Priam B.S.E.E.M.S you beetroot fog.
and yet in the south and exceeding moon like

Cy Twombly, Cycles and Seasons
At the Tate Modern , London
19th June - 14th September, 2008

Here’s an introduction to Twombly’s work

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Left to Care for Themselves

Mae Almonicar - Nurse, Hamilton.
Copyright David Foster 2008

If you spoke to Mae on the phone then you’d simply assume she was Scottish. Her vowels are rounded with the familiar warm tonality. She’s actually Filipino, and arrived in Scotland for the first time in 2001 to work as a Senior Carer in private nursing homes where she has worked first in the Highlands and later just outside Glasgow. It takes listening, practise and patience to adopt a foreign accent. It’s a signal of her deep seated desire to really integrate with the surrounding culture.

Yet her experiences in the UK illustrate the vulnerability of an overseas worker: ‘When I went to sleep I had nightmares. I was a mess wasn’t I?’ She says to Shelly, her Scottish friend who has accompanied her. ‘Crying all the time. Just the thought of losing my nursing registration, losing my job. 2007 was the worst, worst year of my life.’

Mae moved from a staff nurse position in the Philippines and arrived in Scotland for the first time in 2001 to work in as Senior Carer in private nursing homes, an occupation that was, until 2006, on the government list of occupations suffering a labour shortage.

Like so many of the 80,000 Filipino nurses and health staff working in the UK. Mae initially arrived in the UK, hoping to find economic and social security in her new role.

‘I worked in this nursing home in Hamilton for over two years, everything was fine until at one point summer last year there were three new staff who, how do you say it, made stories about me, about things I haven’t done.’

On her morning off, after working six night shifts in a row as senior sister Mae was called in to defend herself in front of management at her care home.

‘There was a major complaint against me. And it was about abuse. They accused me of twisting this man’s hand on a regular, regular basis. This man is a very physically aggressive man but he never had any bruises. It took two or three staff just to get him ready for bed, just to put on his pyjamas, you know and seemingly it was me who abusing this man. There was no report of any injury but the management threatened me saying that it was a police matter. I never got any support from them, I was guilty in their eyes.’

Despite Mae having permanent residency and over 5 years UK work experience, on the basis of these accusations Mae received a letter of dismissal, was threatened with the loss her UK nursing registration for gross misconduct and was told she would not be paid. At no point was she advised that she needed representation or told about the procedure for appeal. It was only as a result of her membership to the trade union Unison and a independently organised off-shoot group, the Overseas Nurses Network that she was able to get advice and backing to fight her case.

A clear picture of the prejudice surrounding Mae’s dismissal is given by the surrounding events. Mae tells me ‘During the accusation another staff member from the nursing home phoned me… It went through my voicemail… racist remarks. My managers said she couldn’t help me so we went to the Police with the concrete evidence that it was all about racism.’ It was only at this point that the nursing home reluctantly started to pay Mae again. Mae tells me that the man in question was taken to court and found guilty of racial aggravation. He was sentenced to a fine of £400 by Hamilton Sheriff Court.

‘They offered me the job back. I said ‘I’m sorry I don’t want the job back.’ When I applied for another agency my manager gave me a bad reference. So how am I gonna start work?’ With her nursing registration and a leave to remain Mae has all the necessary requirements to work in an NHS position. Mae clearly is the type of person whose determination is only magnified by the tribulations she has faced.

From the article 'Left to care for themselves' Published in Bad Idea Magazine Summer 2008

Saturday, 14 June 2008

trans - sylvania

Copyright David Foster 2008

I am travelling on an eight hour train journey where the carriages are separated into compartments, a type of train I have not travelled in since childhood.

In my compartment a foreign conversation ebbs and flows between two women. I try to catch words of their conversation. It is difficult to establish if they are colleagues or strangers who have met on the train.

The train climbs along the base of a sheer walled valley before opening out into rolling, verdant hills. With the heat of the day and the rhythmic lullaby of the tracks we all drift from reading to gazing out of the window into sheets of sleep.

I am watching the woman opposite curled up with her eyes closed. Is she sleeping? Should I take I photo of her? Would the shutter wake her? Is it wrong to steal the moment? Will the photo really retain the moment? Perhaps my memory will retain it without the need for a photograph.

The moment reminds me of a Cartier-Bresson image of a young couple sleeping in a train carriage. It is one of my favourite Cartier-Bresson photos because it voices the paradox of stolen intimacy. Intimacy is further confounded by the man’s grasp of his partner. Is this affectionate, protective or tyrannical? The image offers us the prospect of intimacy but conceals its true narrative.


In the compartment I sit in the combination of the afternoon sun outside and the shady interior will make the moment impossible to capture. I take separate photos of the exterior and interior with the intention of stitching them together later.

Here I am working away at the image trying to recover the memory. But as usual my haphazard post work botches the job. The memory reasserts itself in the unlikely cleave between the two layers. The final image does not co-here. It has the logic of a dream.

The Seats Opposite, Romania 1975
Courtesy of Henri Cartier- Bresson, Magnum Photos

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Monvmentvm MM by Tim Sullivan

Image Tim Sullivan copyright 2008

A family of Megalosaurus amble through the overgrown parkland of a Welsh visitor attraction. Sullivan’s camera captures them like the breathless wildlife photographer hidden amongst the foliage. The Jurassic Park moment is short lived. These are one of the many regional edutainments funded by the millennium commission. These extinct dinosaurs were surely deemed suitable millennium monuments in their embodiment of the transitory nature of time in an aura of non-specific reflection.

Looking through the Sullivan’s findings reveals the beguiling variety of monuments and projects deemed suitable to impress upon the viewer a similar sense of nostalgia. Sullivan’s photos allow us to reassess this recent historical spectacle. The millennium commission may have invested somewhere in the region of two billion pounds on countrywide initiatives but after eight years many appear discarded and forgotten. In this way an image of drab plaster dinosaurs re-casts itself into an elegiac narrative to a spectacle driven culture. Extinct creatures left to inhabit the corners of the country parks in South Wales.

In the same image tree buds begin to blossom. Nature continues the same perennial cycles regardless.

Tim Sullivan's project Monvmentvm mm is exhibited in London as part of the University of Westminster's BA photographic degree. For info see

Free Range
T1, Old Truman Brewery
Brick Lane,
London E1

Private View: 19 June 6pm-10pm
Exhibition Continues: 20-23 June 10am-7pm (weekdays) 10am - 6pm (weekend)

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Bad Idea Publications

My article 'The Architecture of Illness' is now published in the Bad Idea anthology. A new piece on the experiences of foreign nurses and care workers in the UK is in the new economics issue.

Both available now in bookshops or here

I'll put some extracts from these pieces on the blog shortly.

Bucharest Biennale: In-Between Cities

Sabine Réthoré, Lovely Romania, 2008, color print, 135x135 cm. Courtesy the artist. A map of Romania turned on an East - West axis.

Bucharest Biennale

Various venues
23rd May - 21st June 2008
Information Point: Sos. Nicolae Titulescu nr. 1 (Piata Victoriei)

Entering the Unibank Pavilion at the Bucharest Bienniale I am greeted not by the smooth interior of a commercial gallery space but by a series of gutted rooms. Walls are stripped to bare brick work and electricity cords hang down from the ceiling. The space has just been given to the biennale organisation group, a signal that Bucharest is beginning to emerge as a commercial location for art. Speaking to Ravzan Ion, Biennale director, I comment that I like the sense that this gallery is an in-between space. He responds: ‘It’s an in-between city.’

It is suitable then that the subject of the Biennale should be mapping and cartography. A theme devised by the Biennale curators Jan Erik – Ludström and Johan Sjöström. It’s a theme made very real to me as foreigner who has not visited Bucharest before. Like any tourist I am consistently gazing at walls to look non-existent street signs, trying to figure out the tangle of bus routes or looking for conference rooms that doormen and receptionists have no knowledge of. It’s impossible to create a map of an in-between space; the map will almost immediately be outdated.

Books, posters, documents, websites all find a place in the materials on exhibition across the city. This both adds variety and suggests that curation was dictated by what was available.

My impression is that the work roughly divides into artists either approaching mapping in a personal, speculative manner or in a research led 'objective' approach. For the first group there are maps in rugs, maps made from food or distortions and reshaping of maps. Lukas Einsele’s extensive One Step Beyond project would be a good example of the second approach.

In One Step Beyond Einsele has documented the experiences of civilian victims of landmines in a number of war torn countries. Photographs and testimonies of victims are placed next to personal maps that eloquently describe the arbitrary geography of their tragedies. Lukas has also created his own map of Angolan capital Luanda from his memories. He described the map as full of mistakes where he had forgotten details. The work combines to make an engaging illustration of the fallibility of mapping in a location where uncertainty is always there in the ground beneath one’s feet.

Lukas Einsele, One Step Beyond, texts images and multimedia formats 2005. Courtesy of the artist. An illustration by 12 year old Angolan landmine victim Rebecca Mujinga. The picture illustrates where she stood on a VS50 anti-personnel mine.

The Biennale director Razvan Ion tells me that the Unibank gallery will endeavour to be a research led space, commenting that the people of Bucharest need to be involved in the art to be exhibited in the gallery. The scene in the city is clearly at a stage where it needs to build an audience and develop debate. It will be interesting to see if the city and its artists can use the generic moment and the weight of a troubled history to produce engaging work and new propositions.

Lukas Einsele: One step Beyond, The Mine Revisited