Train horror as ever, who designed these trains? 4 empty 1st class carriages and 5 packed others stinking like a sewage pipe on wheels filled with impossible luggage that doesn’t fit in the store (clearly the designers didn’t imagine people would want to carry heavy suitcases onto a train and quite right they were too, I am sure they don’t, but they do), the toilet alarm being pressed every 5 minutes - still after 3 years of these ‘new’ trains that problem hasn’t been ironed out. And of course the staff who might as well wear a uniform emblazoned with slogans, like 'it’s got nothing to do with me, I didn’t design it, I don’t work for Virgin, I hate you, there’s nothing I can do about it, die passenger scum' and my favorite Cumbrian catchphrase ‘I ve got absolutely no idea’ and of course the perennial torturous, mean and vindictive ‘is everything alright?’ a question which one never answeres in anything but the affirmative - it's all part of the pain and the zen of acceptance.
Alistair Huson (deputy director Grizedale, Fiona Boundy (director of the A Foundation) and myself spend the 2 days explaining and rexplaining what the TV project we are planning is all about. By the end of it we have refined a much clearer idea of what we are doing and provoked several arguments amongst ourselves - so that’s useful. We also have a long chat with YES the graphics company that Fiona wants to work with. They are arch minimalists, concerned with paper weights (not that kind) and qualities and unusually for graphic designers very upfront about their own critical process with material they don’t personally like. I had suspected as much as they did a fantastic and clever job of destroying a series of 4 pages we did for the A Foundation newspaper in 2006 – I had wondered if it was accidental but clearly not, quite impressive, they made us look like idiots. It’s going to be a challenge working with them but they are nice, perverse and sharp people so whatever, it’ll be engaging.
Giles Deacon (designer for uniforms) is busy but we say hello and meet briefly also with Jeremy Deller (he is working with Alistair on replacing the Greasy Pole - a folk event that requires the climbing of the aforementioned). He - Jeremy - is his usual slightly abstract self, off to look at a colony of greater Horseshoe bats in Devon (they of the nose shaped like a horseshoe), he’s making a bat house! The man doesn’t knowingly go with the money projects.
The interviews for a project manager (TV project) are interesting of course. It's always interesting to hear what people are up to, one interviewee has a particularly remarkable job developing online discussion space for voluntary sector and local government groups, fora for cross fertilization – government funded! We all get really interested in this but sadly we can’t really employ her as she has little experience of working with artists and their ilk and the project has a long and difficult list. We end up in the usual horns of dilemma trying to decide between two people with very different but excellent experience and all that.
On this visit I am particularly shocked by the price of things in London and actually how bad they are. One bar we are in charges 32 pounds for a jug of margarita, a jug entirely filled with ice and charmingly served in a lightly worn/milky plastic jug. The poisonous hotel run by understandably suicidal Poles offers a motorway service station styled breakfast at 17.50, a coffee and a warm flannel of a croissant comes in at a very reasonable fiver. All this after paying 200 for a room in a cardboard warren with a broken TV. Maybe I just don’t get it and this is all an ultrastyle statement reclaiming the 70’s dog eared chic of my youth (Crossroads, The Brothers etc).
The way the UK economy seems to work is that everything is massively ramped up cost wise to provide everyone with huge surpluses of money to buy endless houses around the world. The cost to us being the lowest quality of life in the known world (if you include how vile we all are to each other).
The train return revisits the horror – 2 hours standing on a platform waiting for the delayed train and then having to sit opposite my least favorite thing, a couple who’ve just met (on the platform) and are trying to get to first base by talking incessantly about the minutia of their lives, portraying themselves as the worlds most reasonable, observant and caring people, Jesus 10 minutes into this and if I was them I would be considering a joint suicide pact. ‘The thing with me is I really like old people, call me weird but I just think they’ve got so much to offer, I mean you know they really have experience of life’ and this moments after they had refused to give up a seat to an elderly woman who seemed a little lost. It’s strange conversation, kind of intentionally super dumb so as not to threaten/scare off one another, mating morons.
Fiona tells me Virgin Trains are sponsoring the project.
Café Artistique in Leeds aims to get conversations going about art and art making - see www.axisweb.org. Artists in discussion is becoming of a bit of an end in itself, practically ‘the work’. This one is in a pub and is aimed at being a conversation started off by me – my week had been fraught and my time strained so I hadn’t written anything (so ashamed) – although I think such strategies don’t really work to stimulate conversation - probably better, (which is what I ended up doing) to ramble incoherently about various of your current ‘ideas’. So a mini diatribe from me against freedom, dishonesty in art practice (especially language – please no more hyperbole for events in far flung corners of nowhere Ville – no more use of words like major, innovative, pioneering, ground breaking, international for events in backwaters attended by a local pebble artist and a bored council officer). Also touched on a new moral code and artists becoming embedded useful members of their home communities - no more roving art star ambitions. It all ended up a bit me, me, me, a kind of audience with Dame Adam Average, in an extended question and answer session – mainly courtesy of me holding the only mic and rumbling into it at every opportunity. Actually I would like to have know more about the people I was talking to and to have initiated more discussion with the crowd – it’s a hard one to make happen, we all easily revert to the norm, i.e. one person going on a bit.
During the discussion Laura Quarmby from Artist House suggested that Grizedale favoured the underdog and why was it we did’nt work with the over dogs, these in Leeds being the sublimely happy property developers and their friends, maybe these people are just the truly functional people of the world – it was a poin. I have to say I am drawn to/identify with the underdog, it is such an ingrained component of art culture, all in there with the romantic notions of being an artist that I so abhor, but on the other hand working for the powerful and happy is normally called the luxury goods sector and how would a publically funded organization rationalize that sort of behavior.
After the talk another of the questioners raised the point again with more reference to the notion of well being, to reinforce wellness/happiness. I admitted that at heart, the ambitions I am too embarrassed to express publically are pretty much those of a Miss World contestant - to make everyone happy, end war and world poverty, unfortunately I could not reasonably expect to achieve this by wearing a bathing suit (might start somthing though). It’s hard to find a comfortable way to be positive, to sustain that direct forward propulsion of wellness without the odd caustic aside. There seems so little complexity to happiness, so little opportunity for wit - Feed the greedy not the needy.
It’s going up, the new site office for the building project at Lawson Park gets its ribs. Parkamoor is also under the builders, it’s all springy and exciting, seeds germinate and leaves open, the miracle is on us again like a slow rolling mist the transformation unfolds, or as Christopher Lloyd used to rather more rudely say ‘the snouts go shooting’.
My Villages (see blog) are staying in Coniston in a classic holiday home we rented for them, it’s a perfect mix of materials and styles, a kind of flotsam of stuff nobody would want in their own home, all there and all wrong in some way, too old, too bright, to knobbly, too woody, too low, high, fat or furry. There’s a certain consistency to it all which I‘m starting to read and find rather attractive.
Kathrin Bohem and Wapke Fenestra along with Kathrin’s son Lawrence are researching Grizedale the organization, with whom and where we work. It’s a lot of fun to have them around being funny and interested in all things village and rural. Their own work with the villages they come from and their descriptions of those communities is fascinating, very different from an English and especially lakes experience of a village community. It makes me think about how extraordinarily disjointed and complex Coniston is in terms of actually being a community. All factions pushing in differing directions and all dealing with this bizarre sycophantic body of people called visitors, all that ‘your so lucky’ etc it's bad for you.
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