Tuesday 31 December 2019

Two pictures for New Year's Eve, quite different orders of reflection put together.With a preliminary political note.

Exam question for 31 December 2019: please feel free to answer all or no parts.
It what ways might it be better for people living in this country to have a Labour leadership of two white, northern working-class straight women with opportunistic voting records that stagger the faculty of judgement than to have a person of colour who is not a 'left patriot'. Is this not racism writ large? Might the white on white ticket be no more than the narcissus reflection of Johnson+Mogg??? Can we go beyond this? (a one word answer is a good start)

thank you Guardian for this other name for criminal stupidity

Memorising history as the phantasm of, eventually, becoming queer or having become something other. (I spent so much time leafing through the French Architectural books of the 18th century, wondering what was being worshipped, then as now, so I made a series of little works of which this was one, a few years ago; turned up on an old drive. (Another a couple of posts below)

Friday 13 December 2019

back cover for an issue of Block, or found critique

Jones chemist in Salford, my first camera came from here

20's oven in early 1800s kitchen, childhood warmth

one of me emblems, homage to Ledoux

On worlding chintz in leather (fetish)

This piece was written as an essay for Sharon Kivland at the HEC at Jouy en Josas, wonderful, perverse, critical installation. This is a queer meta-commentary on the show and will appear in its long delayed brochure.

Throughout a long period of time, over many years, I walked up and down the Rue Oberkampf. I looked at the buildings. I went to shop there, anything from quirky and outmoded pornography to green beans and hippy scarfs. So it was a long time, from one period of the contemporary transformations of Paris to another and, like me, it changed and bits of both of us remained much the same, but I never went by way of the Rue Oberkampf in Jouy en Josas. It took me embarrassingly long to put together the name of the street with the name of a fabric that was always much to my taste, which, even in its most banal versions diverts my gaze and in its older and most exquisite samples, my desire. What do I care if its production entailed so much suffering, such exploited labour, I who buy from Amazon, ethical products distributed through the structures of contemporary slavery, now at the point where slavery and wage slavery contend with one another in their differencing degrees of precariousness and enforced security. And so for a long time I wandered up and down this street and before, even I became aware of it I was now at the bottom of the Rue de Menilmontant and then again at the Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire, a route that I was to find was one that had been trodden time and time again by the youthful Maurice Chevalier. Ah the company I kept, though, in the end, going back to him, it is Jacques Hillairet in his vast Dictionnaire Historique des Rues de Paris, who lets me down. Such a constant companion in those wanderings, the light that glimmered in those dusty clouds of anecdotal history, he had, in now turns out, and although I could have known this at the time, almost nothing of interest to say about the Rue Oberkampf, other than to give an account of how, in its coming into being, its name replaced that of four older streets before a re-designation in honour of the great manufacturer in 1864, some 62 years after they had been levelled down  from having been a steep pathway up to the edge of Paris, and just less than a century after Rousseau himself had a notorious and well-known fall there that resulted in a temporary loss of memory, after being overwhelmed by one of the Danish dogs of Louis Lepeletier de Saint Fargeau,( L24 octobre 1776Jean-Jacques Rousseau est victime d’un accident à Ménilmontant. Il relate cet événement dans la « Seconde Promenade » des Rêveries du promeneur solitaire)whose own death was to be monumentalised by Jacques-Louis David in 1793, a painting probably destroyed by the painter’s daughter, but known in this relic:

Oddly enough this was to have been my route from the 11e arrondissment to 18 and 19th century Jouy, albeit circuitous compared to the more or less straight up and down of Oberkampf itself, a hill once lined by working class cafés and hardware shops, a service street of small industries and workshops, some of these places now lovingly restored and rendered as ruin to house hipster cafés and clubs and restaurants, fading away already when I first walked up and down and, before it became one street, when Rousseau fell, a place of herbs and trees and vineyards and agricultural delights for the writer and no doubt the readers of  Émile. Anyway the route taken by my research was not as such up and down a street, as one winding through the vexed unfolding of a relation between art and industry of a kind appropriate for a Revolution, the Great Revolution of 1789, that had both dismantled and inherited the monarchical structures of this relation, and that eventually led me to an engraving after a painting of the Emperor, Napoléon Bonaparte, alas an image that I can no longer trace, so lost that I wonder if indeed I ever saw it in the first place, visiting and inspecting the fabrication of Jouy en Josas, led by the proudly obsequious figure of Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf himself, now about to be awarded the Légion d’Honneur, in 1806. Something like these, I guess: but then I put together this fabric I enjoy so much with a man and with a place and toile de jouy at last made sense

Over a number of years, some of them coinciding or coterminous with those from recounting which I just set out, I often walked to and fro along the Rue Saint Maur, from where the Rue Léon Frot ended right up to the Hôpital Saint Louis, nearby to which was number 208, a long, shabby and romantic almost ex-industrial court, quite wide and very deep with all kinds of levels and heights of workshops and dwellings from one to five floors and, at the very end, a long residential block with a two floor workshop on the ground floor. This one, the first branch of what was to become a small chain, IEM, was an industry of our times, taken as the years, roughly speaking, of gay emancipation, a site of the ’confection’, to use the French word, and also of the bespoke supply of leather gear and bondage materials for leather men and bar standers, and later of latex when it became more modish and oh what bliss it was in that dawn to be a shopper! Around the beginning of this century, I think, the son of some close friends moved into a small apartment on the top floor of this building, without his parents, however frequently they might have visited him and despite their interest in the transformation of the city and the role of their son in gentrifying it ever appearing to have noticed quite where he had located himself, nor what a relation it might have had to who he was. Yet I do believe that they had toile de jouy in their house; but who does not. In any event, all this is anecdotal, but I do want to emphasise the post-rural idyll of IEM in those distant days, the implements hanging from racks like fruit in an orchard, or ex votos in Lourdes, the rows of all kinds of garments in glistening black with red and blue and yellow highlights, the other-worldly perfume of freshly worked materials and the sound of sewing machines at work, none of which you will see below, but below you will see the anecdote as a form of vision, of the utopian outcome of research, of the writing of a phrase, that might have any appearance in the end, or any conclusion, however dreadful but that remains and will remain at the origin of the phrase as such.


Decline and fall: Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist.

Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist. 

Seasonal Greetings

Inner Space without Inner Peace

plus ça change

Sunday 8 September 2019

Immanent Technology ... More decolonising notes.

Headline Question

you know that
Bobby D
Om K
started using electric guitars 
more or less the same moment?

Did we know anything
the role of Nasser
in this?

When the below picture appeared in the press in 1966
suggested to Grandma 
she add it to her family album.

There was a Scopitone in a poor Arab Café in the
Rue du Roi de Sicile,
still active in the early '80s
with a Scopitone filled with films showing
history of Egyptian Popular Music from Om until that moment, from belly dancing to an Oud, but entre femmes, to gyrating rock boys, a vivid
image of technology, style, colonial effects and their adapting to local taste and desire.

the painter Jeffery Steele and I passed hours riveted before it, when we should have been tripping drearily around the Pompidou with our students.
Wonderful coffee and tea as well.

Ah well......

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Decolonising..... and Music Migrations

A number of friends and colleagues in art history have recently been exercising themselves over the question of how to decolonise Art History, and odd phrase if ever there was as, superficially, it suggests that Art History has to shake off its bonds. After all, who colonised it? Jewish emigré(e)s in the 1930s, complex, intellectual lesbians on the 1900s or queer English gentlemen in the 30s and 40s, or marxists ... the list is endless, from chinless wonders to control freak philosophers. I've written enough on the idea of Art History as such to tend still to think that the question of how to decolonise it begs the question of what it is in the first place and gives it rather a lot of power to non-ironically following Kipling into saying 'you're a a better man than I am..(fill in any supposedly subaltern group whom you, the empowered art historian, have decided to save through your own well-meaning).

Take, within gender dominance, the case of Nicos Hadjinicolaou who wrote The History of Art and Class Struggle, hyper Althusserian and Françoise d'Eaubonne, Histoire de l'art et lutte des sexes, hyper lesbian separatist:   Nicos on a Rubens Silenus according to her remarks that the Satyr behind him 'lui pince la cuisse', whereas, she remarks, 'il le bougre'. She, thus, decolonises the image from NH radical and implacable straightness. In this decolonising is always a critique of the subject position as we called it in those days. 

But alas for this empowered enlightenment, alas alas freedom comes from elsewhere and in some ways was there in the already and always of the supposed subaltern's gesture.

One example then I am boring myself. There is a wonderful exhibition in Paris right now, and I do not mean the Black Model.
I got a third of the way round is as many hours, a lot of dancing on the spot to old tubes I heard and saw on Scoppitones in Paris circa 1963. The Ya Ya Twist, for example. Imagine it sung by Petula Clark (see youtube, you don't have to use any imagination) Then in the exhibition sung by Malika ( who was to die in police detention, I think)

but opening in a kind of Berber mode, the thing is in that gesture alone decolonised. You can dance to this for hours and dance differently to Chubby Checker, even, less queerly in some ways, more in others. Round the corner in the show, Desmond Dekker and 'The Israelites', and the gesture recurs in a different way.

Anyway, now I am boring myself so here are some old pis of mine from Paris following the big changes of the early 80s and other stuff.

actually the Marais.

me in Southsea

London W1

Southsea again, above and below