Monday, 29 September 2008

Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hazard.

Gerhard Richter 4900 Colours: Version II, 2007
Enamel paint on Aludibond
49 Panels, each 97 × 97 cm
La Collection de la Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la création
© 2008 Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter:

4900 Colours: Version II

Serpentine Gallery, London

23rd September – 16th November 2008

German painter and photographer Richter is exhibiting 49 paintings at the Serpentine which are composed of hundreds of blocks of flat colour. They were composed by a computer programme which calculated created an entirely chance configuration of tones. The gallery note informs us that a dice was then rolled by Richter to choose the orientation and positioning of the works in the gallery.

Standing in the central space of the Serpentine the blocks of colour give me the sense of being in a nursery. The statistical operations they represent lead me back to thinking about the power of number crunching data to rip huge wormholes in national economies when put into the hands of investment bankers. It also reminds me of a title: ‘Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hazard.’

Richter’s dice operation makes me think about Stéphane Mallarmé rich and strange poem. I don’t pretend to understand it but I looked it up this evening and was stunned again by its beauty. It's criminal to try and typeset it or translate extracts out of context so here are a few pages from the original French booklet:



even when cast in the eternal circumstance

of a shipwreck's depth

You can see the full image of the book here:

The full text in French and English here:

Sunday, 14 September 2008

David Foster Wallace 1962-2008

David Foster Wallace: Courtesy Little, Brown

Writer David Foster Wallace, my (near) namesake, was found dead in his home in California on Friday 12th September. It seems that he committed suicide. He was 46 years old.

I spent most of January this year reading his 1000+ page novel Infinite Jest. It is probably the most technically virtuoso modern novel I have read. Set in a near future Boston it intertwines the stories of a school for young tennis prodigies and a halfway house for recovering addicts. The book presents these strangely parallel worlds in psychotic, breathtaking and humorous detail.

I don't feel any sense of closure about the book. It's a bundle of live wires sparking all over the place. Across the thousand pages it is Wallace's beguiling prose style that kept me wrapped. It is this that will also ensure that I will return to his writings again and again. The prose style is so personal that I feel I spent pretty much every spare moment in January with Wallace as my companion.

I usually keep notes in the back pages of books I read, but the complexity and length of Infinite Jest made the labour near impossible. Nevertheless I kept a few notes on themes that interested me: addiction, gaming, illness, dreams and some of the wonderful linguistic constructions Wallace uses in the novel.

One of the great Wallace phrases used throughout the novel is 'The Howling Fantods' a comic coinage that characters use to gloss a genuine and absolute terror. Looking up this reference it is used by addict Kate Gombert to describe her gut feeling when hearing the banal, incomprehensible stories of other suicides (p692). I guess this is how a lot of David Foster Wallace readers are feeling now. Suicide: always irreducible to the rational.

I wanted to quote one of the dreams I just read from Infinite Jest. This is a dream of the novels main protagonist, the young tennis player Hal Incandenza:

In this dream, which every now and then still recurs, I am standing publicly at the baseline of a gargantuan tennis court. I'm in a competitive match, clearly: there are spectators, officials. The court is about the size of a football field, through, maybe, it seems. It's hard to tell. But mainly the court’s complex. The lines that bound and define play are on this court as complex and convolved as a sculpture of string. There are lines going every which way, and they run oblique or meet and form relationships and boxes and rivers and tributaries and systems inside systems: lines, corners, alleys, and angles deliquesce into a blur at the horizon of the distant net. I stand there tentatively. The whole thing is almost too involved to try and take in all at once. It’s simply huge. And it’s public. A silent crowd resolves itself at what may be the court’s periphery, dressed in summer's citrus colors, motionless and highly attentive. A battalion of linesmen stand blandly alert in their blazers and safari hats, hands folded over their slacks’ flies. High overhead near what might be a net-post, the umpire, blue-blazered, wired for amplification in his tall high-chair, whispers Play…

…We sort of play. But it's all hypothetical, somehow. Even the ‘we’ is theory: I never get quite to see the distant opponent, for all the apparatus of the game.

p67 Infinite Jest (1996)

A great blog for information on David Foster Wallace is also named 'The Howling Fantods'. This will be a good place for updates on the details of Wallace's sad passing away.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Summer Lightnings

video stills, Summer Lightnings, 2004, (c) Victor Alimpiev
All images taken from

Encounters: Victor Alimpiev
Modern Art Oxford

15th June - 31st August 2008

Whose is this Exhalation? The title suggests a whodunit. A group of eight performers bunch together before an evacuated space. They sing: an improvised series of ascending chords. Yet one of the group remains silent, holding their breath and resisting, until their body propels them into a desperate life assuring exhalation. Each phrase of the music climaxes with this release. We watch the group comfort the sufferer whose face moves from agony back to composure. This member of the group will now join the seven singers and another member will gather their reserves to deprive themselves of air. The delicate combination care and suffering within the situation that make the work utterly compelling.

Summer Lightnings takes me back to the class activity of creating a rainstorm by scraping, scratching and knocking on school desks. Here we see a young class performing this same communal effect before the video cuts to the lateral bursts of lightening across cloud burdened skies.

Together the two videos show Alimpiev working with a diverse and intriguing vocabulary consisting of ideas of community, abstract sound, silence, and sinister or powerful natural forces.

I am curious by the idea of silence in both video works. Summer Lightning offers us an audible event that we perceive as silent. We know the violent crack of lightening but disassociate it to the name thunder. Effectively we silence the lightening.

In Whose is this exhalation? Although we are listening to the singers ascending octaves they emerge as a cruel taunt to the silence that forms the vertebrae of each phrase. We watch and listen for silence amongst the sound. Silence is more verbally potent than the prattle of sound in both pieces: it measures and orders the other forces at play.

For a short clip of Summer Lightnings go to

Video Stills, Whose is this exhalation? , 2008, (c) Victor Alimpiev

Monday, 1 September 2008

The Other Day

Richard Prince - The Other Day 1988-99
(c) Richard Prince

From Continuation - The Work of Richard Prince
The Serpentine Gallery, London
26 June - 9th September 2008

The text reads :
'A girl phoned me the other day and said come on over nobody's home. I went over. Nobody was home.'

Other exhibitions visited through the summer:

- Chantal Ackerman / Anya Gallaccio - Camden Arts Centre - til 14th Sept

- Street & Studio - Tate Modern - A bit scrappy!

Had some images and texts by Laurie Anderson. She used cat calling in NY to dictate the people she would photo. Interesting approach to chance operations, with a sense of risk. The project also realised the camera as a tool to turn the tables - make the victimizer into a victim. hmmm.

- Victor Alimpiev - Modern Art Oxford -

Summer Lightenings (2004), Whose is this exhalation? (2008) The titles say it all. I'm going to put up some pictures from this. It was utterly beautiful.

new term

Oli told me that the Japanese have a word for discarded blogs. It translates as 'pebbles'.

This is not the fate of im-material! I'm back after a summer of discontent for more obtuse blogging.

To get this clear - I'm interested in any collisions/experiements/adventures that involve the eye and the tongue.

I also post other stuff here because it's like my blog yeh?

Any contributions welcome:)