The bascule chamber is the large, brick-lined space that houses Tower Bridge’s huge counterweights. As the saying goes, festivals abhor a vaccuum: I am delighted to be working with composer Tom Wilson on a commissioned new work that will attempt to take full advantage of the bascule chamber’s unique acoustics. Inspired by the history of the Royal Menagerie at the nearby Tower of London, we are lucky enough to have the Ben See Group performing the finished work for the Totally Thames Festival, curated by Iain Chambers.
The piece will be performed as part of a great programme of contemporary music on both Sat 24th and Sun 25th Sept at these times: 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, 7pm, 9pm. Tickets can be bought here (but please do note performances are subject to change up to 24 hours before due to the working nature of Tower Bridge — some terms & conditions here.)
I’ll be appearing with the Generative Constraints collective as part of Vault Festival 2015, a six-week exhibition of performance, music, workshops and panels beneath the railway arches near Waterloo.
Our show’s blurb doesn’t give much away: Nik Wakefield, Prue Chamberlain, Kate Potts, Nisha Ramayya, Diana Damian Martin and I will be offering a brash, immersive and finickity exploration of what the term ‘Anti-Body’ means in terms of practice-based research. From the site:
Anti-Body is a performance at the meeting point between poetic practice and live art. Six writers and artists work together and against each other through a series of predetermined processes. We ask questions about our individual and shared positions, disagreement and exchange, and commitment and difference, through investigations of material, social, and critical/creative bodies. The performance involves queer troublemaking, disembodied writing, voice drawing, Tantric rituals, time-specificity, and mountweazels.
On 16th October I had the opportunity to present some of my PhD research with a talk centred on ‘alphabetical indexes and narrative’ for RHUL’s Practice-based department.
‘Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex’s admonition, against Allen’s angry assertion: another African amusement… anyhow, as all argued, an awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa’s antipodal ant annexation.’
– Walter Abish: Alphabetical Africa (New Directions, 1974)
Seed catalogues, telephone directories, war memorials’ lists of the dead: alphabetical indexes provide a simple, consultable system of collating written data. When the model of a follows b follows c is disrupted within a text by an author, it automatically signals a refutation of such artificial demarcations. I hope to discuss the ways in which various creative works, from children’s battledores to Ron Silliman’s thousand-plus-page poem, challenge traditional claims of abecedary structure and permit an expression of reality’s unruliness. In terms of my own practice, my novel’s central character works at a dictionary house; as his inability to perform with and within the codes required by his employers increases, the reassurance he found in alphabetical taxonomies and lexicographical strictures begins to fall away. Correspondingly, the novel’s architecture and content becomes disjointed and disarrayed. My talk and reading will examine my work and research into texts’ adherence to or purposeful subversion of conventional alphabetical order, and the ways in which the use of the alphabet as subject and procedure can affect narrative.
And so on and so forth. This was followed by a corresponding talk by Amy Cutler; an expert on everything that is interesting, this evening she gave an account of ‘forest trauma’ and cultural geographies of the coast and wood. You can catch her award-winning Passenger film project this week at Somerset House as part of The Culture Capital Exchange’s Inside Out Festival. Do’t.
Earlier I mentioned that composer Steven Jackson and I had collaborated for a new exhibition piece in Manchester, courtesy of the Royal Northern College of Music. The festival is this weekend at the Victoria Baths; details of our and others’ pieces may be found on the flyer here.
In the renovated surrounds of the old bathhouse our project slots in as part of the Second Class Males collective (named after the sign above the changing-room doorway) comprising of composer David Futers, saxophonist Kyran Matthews, composer Aaron Parker, poet Eileen Pun, poet Sam Quill and composer Laurence Tompkins. I have an appropriate back-up disguise just in case I need to saunter in casually.