Thursday, April 17, 2014

the interview

A lovely curator had referred me. She told me he would be happy to talk. The only thing is, it can be hard to get him to stop.

In the end, he was quick enough to part ways, to get on with his day, but that was 9 in the morning, and we had started 4pm the previous day.

He told me to meet him in the library across from Victoria coach station. He would be wearing a tie with the map of the world. I had wanted to talk to him about the Festival of Misfits — he wasn't in the exhibition, but he was there, an eye witness. Of course, in the end, he had better things to discuss.

And of course, the very best things were all said when I turned the tape recorder off. I didn't mind. I didn't put the machine back on. It felt different. Riding the bus to Liverpool Street, he regaled me with tales of his life in an aristocratic family in the Philippines, of translating Shakespeare as a child, attending Columbia University at age 12, of sitting next to Anthony Perkins in class and dancing for Martha Graham. We passed Trafalgar Square, with its current installation of the giant blue cock on the fourth plinth. So boring, we agreed. At least do something avant-garde, he said. Make it lay an egg, and the egg lands on people or something… We passed a woman being photographed on the grass, her white skirts splayed about her. An homage to Yoko, he sighed. I didn't have the heart to point out it was actually a traditional wedding portrait being taken. He'd told me about Bridget Riley and the Woolmark logo. Now he was letting me in on how he took care of some of my favourite Brasilians: Mira Schendel. And when Caetano Veloso famously emigrated to London, guess whose couch where he did sleep. He told me about friends and more friends who died of AIDS in the '80s, but his sister, a doctor, had posted him boxes of rubbers, and he played safe. He calls himself a transcendental hedonist.

I carried his heavy bag full of books across town. He alternated between feeling guilty about this and deciding, it's ok, you're from LA.

That's a Richard Serra, he pointed out at Liverpool Street Station. Do you like it I asked? Yes, he said. It should be taller. You know a Richard Serra killed a man? We agreed that Richard Serra sculptures are rather terrifying.

We arrived at the gallery opening and sat near the entrance. The director of a very large museum approached us warmly. Eventually I was cornered by women of a certain age, the widows of artists of a certain regard, and they told me breathless stories and talked about each other and suddenly everyone seemed to know the Misfits.

The one thing missing was the couple that was meant to host him for the night. He had arranged to sleep at theirs. They just didn't show. It's so mean, it was decided. Enquiries were made: was there a flat in the gallery available? No, all the beds are taken. It had to come down to me and Jamie: he would sleep on our couch, everyone agreed.

The party adjourned to the upper floor at The Bell, where women were talking to me like extras from Blow-Up, everyone seemed close but faraway, frantic, art mad and mod. I am so happy, said one, exhilarated and posh, blowing air on my neck. I had my piano lesson today, she cooed. I am getting a master class!

Surely I was getting a kind of master class, too.

A moustachioed lad from Brooklyn had grabbed the artist's attention and was showing him snapshots of his own sculptures — zooming in on his iphone. The master obliged, putting on his glasses to better see.

I began to think about getting him out of there. I was getting a little overwhelmed by the scenario, but when he launched into a lecture about Freudian sublimation, I was strangely calmed. Eventually, a taxi was booked. At our place, over yet more beer — his request — and the Turkish pancakes I get for £2 each across the street, he told me and Jamie about "everyone": Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, the rivalry between Yayoi and Yoko. Francis Bacon liked fish and chips. We laid on the rug and listened and listened.

I listen, he had said at one point. People think I just talk, but I listen. He never forgot my name. Not just names, he insisted. I listen.

As we tired ourselves out, he asked for a cup of coffee, with lots of milk and sugar, to send him to sleep. I asked, really, coffee makes you tired. Somehow that makes sense, said Jamie.

Before I went to bed, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. In that moment, I perceived myself as pure and glowing. It's not an impression, I assure you, that happens regularly. In fact, the only instances I can recall experiencing this particular feeling are once or twice, years ago, after smoking strong California weed. I wonder if I wasn't somehow under the influence of this psychedelic artist, the transcendental hedonist, his presence liberating something beautiful in me.

I left him in the lounge with three tea lights burning in their plain glass holders. I said, is it ok if we just let these burn and he said yes. He fell asleep to the soft light of the street lamp through the window and the three flickering flames.

The next morning, I was maybe the most hungover of all of us. (I had taken a whisky when he switched to coffee.) He looked at me in my vest and proposed we make a film of my tattoos. Sea creatures, he said. He knew the right poem to read.

In the meantime, we took some quick photos. I'm sleeveless and in long johns and he's grabbing my arm and gesturing; talking, talking.

He is so full of positivity.

A man had scoffed at me as we left the pub the night before, myopic and drunk: New York is a shithole, he spit out. LA is a shithole, too. Some people, said the artist in the stairwell, are so full of hate.

I was forced to demonstrate how I restart my dying laptop by standing on it. It's a good way to start a computer, he said.

He told Jamie to keep making art, and to put it out there, and to be willing to face the criticism that may come its way.

And, keep on with the Misfits, he told me over and over, calling this person and that a misfit as they came up in conversation. Now misfit was the word of the moment. Make a book, he insisted, a book about the Misfits. I finally admitted as I was washing up mugs that after this paper I was probably ready to move on from the Misfits. I told him I wanted to write next about plaid. That's good, he said. You know, like tartan, I clarified. I'm an honorary member of the clan of MacBeth, he smiled. Or madras in India, I continued. That comes from Buddhism, he explained. He told me I must read Symmetry by Hermann Weyl.

There are a lot of must's. You must, you simply must.

He told us so many stories. I'm not a fantasist, he insisted. Of proofreading Andy Warhol's A to B and Back Again, and why it's called that. Of how he is somehow responsible for the inception of Frieze. But maybe my favourite story was one of mistaken identity: He arrived some years back in San Francisco, and saw a man holding a card, and on it his first name. That's me, he said. You have a stretch limo waiting outside, the driver explained. A stretch limo! He was surprised. And, sorry, we could only get you a room at the St. Francis. The St. Francis! That's a five star hotel! That evening, he was picked up for dinner. All of the city's wealthiest were there, Charles Schwab and the founder of the Gap. They were fundraising for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He hadn't realised such a thing even existed. I'd been in Hawaii, I didn't know what was going on in San Francisco… It came to pass that a Hong Kong investor by the same name was meant to arrive, to be wined and dined, but he never did. This is crazy!, he laughed, delighted. I'm just an artist, he told them. Are you in the museum? No, not this museum. I didn't even know it existed.

He was delighted — truly concerned, but delighted — when Jamie locked himself in the bathroom. This is crazy, this is a play by Harold Pinter!, he called out. Jamie, are you in there? Are you ok? You see, you see how stories are made. People don't believe me, they think I'm a fantasist. They wouldn't believe me if I said, here I woke up and this guy Jamie was locked in the bathroom.

People wouldn't believe me. But I've got those crazy photos. I'll show you sometime.

Jamie got out safely. I said, sometimes you just need to start your morning differently. It's so great, or something like that, is what the artist said.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

around the house, pt. 2: thursday morning

I swear they're all different.

The punctum is that photograph of Mira Schendel with her daughter, weirdly balanced on some electrical equipment. I picked this photo up and Hauser & Wirth and fell for it. It's not often I find something new that I want to "display."

Jamie putting on his own desert boots. This is funny, I shouted, grabbing his phone to take a snapshot. What, he snapped back, conspicuous consumption? You can tell by his hands he's just humouring me.

more than halfway to mid-April

That adolescent time of year, bright yet reluctant. I'm sneezing from its green and pink.

I feel like I've forgotten something, but I'm just carrying less stuff.

I'm lighter.

Jamie likes wearing linen but I struggle with its crumple and droop. Home feels like a holiday. A goose glides across Hyde Park, impeccably smooth landing. Even doing the laundry seems nice.

The boys are stumbling around, itching for summer, walking like newborns. Our sweet, skinny neighbour came over for dinner and I told him he had baby monkey feet. Curious and roving, they inched across the coffee table and grasped at his Blackberry. It was if his toes were about to start typing.

I'm in slightly thinner socks or at the best moments bare feet. Out in the world, suede chukkas make me tread lightly. I'm listening to Actress albums and birdsong and the skateboarders across the street. Eating blood oranges. The moths are here. I like the look of them but still ward them off with cedar. I swam in near-light at almost 8 in the evening. Throat clogged with dust and whisky, I'll tell you about Amsterdam soon, or what happened in its peripheries.

In the meantime, I'm at home working at papers. Call on me, I've got Joni on vinyl and a few different kinds of tea.

It's hard not to believe that the day wants to be sunny, and clouds over only despite itself.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

around the house

Packing for spring.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

after the old ship

Nina sent me a text. She is listed in my phone as Niña for her childlike ways. The text said, of course you're hungover. When you danced with that boy from dusseldorf all that was solid melted into air.

I thought, I have no idea what she's talking about. And she wasn't even there.

I woke up with glitter on my cheeks and around the eyes. I had just said the other day, I hate glitter. But if anyone could get me into glitter face paint, it's Hans. And we were dancing with Hans. (And his friend from Dusseldorf, it's coming back to me.) Don't leave London, Hans! You are bringing away sunshine. I just know it's going to be an awful summer. Hans is a fully grown adult who looks great with his hair dyed faint blue.

Jamie said, that drag queen last night, though, was quite tabloid. And I was like, I know. The things she was saying were pretty Daily Mail. Something about scientists wasting tax payers' money, amongst rants against animal rights activists and things from television. The Old Ship felt like it was in the past. Everything in there was like the '90s; unfortunately, including the drag queen's "mild" racism and misogyny.

But in the good ways, too, we shouted, it's like the '90s! Meaning: glitter! And having your photograph taken with a massive camera for a small magazine.

And that campy guy with the incredible cackle. When I said I'm sorry because I kept having to squeeze by to get to the bar, he said, you don't have to say I'm sorry, the way you're backing into me with that gorgeous ass. I laughed and balked, I've got my wallet in my back pocket! I thought, he must think I have such firm cheeks but that's just a billfold full of overdrawn credit cards. He said, don't ruin the mystique.

He laughed, we all laughed, I spit a shot of whisky out, we danced, we danced badly, this is why I rarely go out. You know you're in trouble when I start the evening at the bus stop trying to harass Jamie with lounge jazz variations on "Tomorrow" from Annie. Trouble, trouble, trouble. Contagious Hans, even before he arrives, it's his party.

I had a second coffee. Niña said, eat sugar. She wrote, a glittery hangover sounds not so bad, though.

Friday, March 21, 2014

on parade


The change in weather is a mnemonic. The same things smell — sound — different.

A car tire on concrete sounds different. It sounds like summer, maybe even California. What doesn't sound like California: the horse hoofs on the street.

I'm remembering the second year I lived in LA. I had an awakening that made me realise I really do live in LA. It was a Saturday morning and I was meant to rise leisurely. I was disappointed to be awoken by a male voice. I must, I thought, have accidentally set the radio alarm. It took me a moment to arrive at the conclusion that it wasn't that at all — my window was ajar, and the voice was coming from outside. It was being broadcast somehow, through a microphone or megaphone, and soon enough I pieced together it was Arnold Schwarzenegger in front of the premiere of his new film, greeting all comers with welcome, everybody; welcome everybody.

Last Sunday had to be the hottest day London's felt all year. I saw people applying sunscreen by 1:45pm. I know this almost exactly because it was in Hyde Park before we went to listen to an iteration of John Cage's 4'33 at 2.

I thought the musicians must be mildly annoyed that they had to get smartly dressed to play nothing on this perfect day. At least it's over quickly.

We walked from Hyde Park through Green Park through St. James's and the crowds swelled. The parks in the centre of town feel a destination for tourists, not a refuge for locals, and we knew in our bones we must get back east.

As we walked along The Mall towards The Strand, we began to see outsize green hats. Jamie said, I hate St. Patrick's Day. (The next day on Radio 4, I heard a commentator proposing an English equivalent for St. George's — a festival built on low expectation.) By the time Nelson's Column was in sight, so were a thousand hats almost as tall, and then appeared the ones that look like Guinness cans. Oh my god, oh my god, we cried in near sync, reminding me of that moment last month when we were on the peak in the hail storm. Jamie pulled me towards sneaky back alleys. I pulled him away from a pile of sick. From a group behind us we heard the cries, I want to go to Ibiza… I want to go to Ibiza.

Did I ever tell you about the time Teebs got caught in a parade? But it wasn't a parade. She and Joy — do you remember her, she was crazy from her goiter and recreational drug use — were on the front steps of one of their houses, drinking vodka, I think. And a march went by and they thought, a parade. And there was dancing and drums, this was San Francisco, and the two of them decided, ooh, a parade, and they joined in spontaneously. They were wearing platform sandals and no jackets. Soon enough they realised it was a protest, a dumpster was set on fire, and the lot of them was arrested.

I can remember Teebs phoning me to tell me what happened. She began the conversation, Jeremy, I think I'm a lesbian. That because of the butch dyke with whom she spent the night in a prison cell. I remember Teebs saying there was lots of faff when all the women were asked to remove their various body piercings.

When Jamie and I finally got to Monmouth Coffee — our plan being to stock up on some Brasilian grounds — we found it to be closed on Sundays. And all molecules in each of us were aligned as if pulled by the magnet of the east.

So we caught a hot bus and we got off at Mare Street and took the quiet roads behind London Fields. For a time we saw no one. We passed a playground with a few children playing sedately. Space, space, we cried, now giddy with relief. Midway through our first pint, I believe I used the phrase let's get shitfaced, and we got the start-of-spring officially out of our systems. But crowds gathered here too, of course: the patch on London Fields where all the junkies sit was going up in bbq flames. There were of course beards on faces and tattoos on calves and all that. We committed ourselves robustly to an indecorous evening. We snuck a beers in a bag into a cheap pizza restaurant. We sequestered ourselves in still hot pubs amongst boys smelling each other's armpits (supposedly bonding over the day's high temperatures but surely a carnal mating ritual). We saw Ian, who had in fact just sniffed someone's pit, and I told him we've been listening to Joni Mitchell for spring — Ian is Canadian too — and he said lately he's been into her jazzy stuff. Why not appreciate it. Ok, I thought, probably not, but whatever it's sunny. We took phone pictures of the top of Jamie's head to check for male pattern balding. We tried to start games and soon forgot. We generally behaved not in accordance with our age but the season.

Monday, March 3, 2014

day glow


It brightens. The tree outside yields its surfeit of white blossom. It is popcorning.

On the still-damp pavement, witness some early shorts worn by impatient jocks on their way back from heat-causing sport. There are safety colours on cyclists and runners: hi-vis, day-glo, orange, yellow and green.

It's like everyone is standing in front of a Stan Brakhage projection.

Everyone walks a melody line sung sweetly by Linda Perhacs.

Don't you start thinking about legs and feet. Longer days and long playing records and saying yes not no. To distraction, open windows, one more whatever, staying out late. And feet bare on the floor. That's when I can show you mine are different lengths.

I was listening to Dots and Loops by Stereolab [Fig. 1] and scrolling through the newest collection by Dries Van Noten [Fig. 2]. As usual, except for the fur, I found plenty to like. Fashion isn't my nation but Dries speaks the language well.

Under the influence, I picked up the brightest bouquets I could find at the flower market. I found a pair of blue and yellow striped socks for Jamie; the shades would befit a tropical bird or a tab of LSD. I swapped my army green watch strap for one with four different colours. I decided to get into acid house. I got out the New Order album with the oversaturated sleeve [Fig 3].

I'm feeling very frothy.

And a bit spring feverish. My mind is wandering to places like,

Unrealised Tumblr themes:

Hot Guys at Art Events in the Long 1960s.

Male Companions of Post-Structuralist Philosophers at Well Appointed Night Spots in the 1970s.

We toured around London catching the last day of exhibitions: Hans Arp [Fig. 4]. Josh Blackwell [Fig. 5]. Eventually we wound our way down to South London Gallery; the drawings and sculptures by Richard Fleischner made me feel like I was in Oakland. South London in general makes me feel like I am in Oakland. We walked streets between Peckham and Camberwell watching the sky darken and looking at interesting buildings. We were killing time waiting for Kelly Nipper's performance. I ate spicy plantains out of a plastic bag. When we got back to the venue, the crowd had gathered. There were art types wearing clothes to be appreciated: sweaters were colour fields and coats were biomorphic sculptures. Jamie has a tendency to locate some boy wearing sea foam green.

I explained the concept of seapunk to Jamie and he sighed, well, that just seems like a stretch.

The performance was stunning and disorienting.

And dark. So afterward we drank dark beers — a 'chocolate porter,' and a 'smoked' one. It is still winter, after all.

Is it?

A little girl on the Overground was wearing reindeer tights; I pulled up my jeans and showed Jamie that I was giving my Christmas socks an encore, too.

Behind the scenes from the bright feelings, some kind of worry must linger. I had a grotesque dream in which I met my friend's baby: split down the middle, half his face was bleached and splotchy, and half his body was baked beans. It's really wet, said his father with a trace of disappointment, when you have to get your hands in.

The bright flowers now sit in a chipped vase like an empty promise. I never get flowers, or very rarely. But I am feeling determined we've encountered some hint of spring.

I had said, don't you like Arp. And Jamie was like, I do… It's just so resolved.

But Hans (Jean) Arp could never possibly resolve his lofty goal — to transform the world. He spoke of art that make life more bearable, simplifies, identifies with nature, grows the stars of peace, love and poetry in the head and in the heart. Arp wrote of an art that appears, and melancholy leaves, dragging along its grey suitcases full of black sighs.

It's bright but it's raining.

Plans are unfolding like maps across tables, plans for summer or at least spring. You unfold the map and it has its creases so why can you never put it back the way it is meant to be?