Sunday, 18 November 2012

Each species is a totem

A shaken, dusty filament
Rusted iron filings
Anxious acid

Wounded planks of wood
Cracked stone
Splintered fibreglass

That's how I felt when I found out you weren't here anymore.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Welcome to the future

Apparently the future arrived quite a while ago.

It seems I missed its entry. But it's here. And I'm here. Two awkward strangers, forced to share a slightly-too-small space. Neither of us quite sure how to feel about it all. 

Though I suspect I am the least indifferent of the pair.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Transmitting tonight

A drifting delusion disproven
A subsonic drowning dream
Has set off a series of failings
Inside this infinite thing

Now the craft that held the illusion
The container I put my trust in
Is just a trifling series of splinters
Stuck in the ocean’s skin

And beneath the waves and the turning of days
At the bottom of everything
A submerged beacon calls and calls
The empty silence on in.

Friday, 4 May 2012

A lesson that the hills taught me

The perfect colour is not one colour at all.

Passing hills. Soft round mounds. Velveteen rugs with bread loaves tucked tightly, awkwardly, underneath.

The scene meets the eye soft and deep olive green: completely convincing; a faultless argument, made with ease; a serene and simple certainty, settled in a sea of convolution; an unconscious cradle that coddles, that cares, that comforts. Deep, soft, olive green.

But really it ranges from pale-grass yellow to glass-bottle green. Sun-bleached emerald to gunmetal-rock and countless shades between. Lonesome bushes of sage and sea mix with crisp sand and orange-sunburn-dirt. And charcoaled sections – spark-scorched – mingle with worn patches where giant knees and feet have scuffed and left their dusty russet mark.

Beware the perfect colour. The perfect colour is not one colour at all.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Silent Fall

Let me explain something that's been on my mind. I’ll try to be clear.

I am surprised that there hasn’t been a stronger creative response to our global environmental predicament, the self-destructive course of our civilisation, the general state of the world. In fact, when I stop to think about it, I am shocked.

Collectively, we are tearing the life-support systems from beneath ourselves and future generations. This is well understood. I won't repeat the science here. I won't remake the arguments. The issues on countless fronts are more alarming than ever. The trends are clear.

Yet you could be excused, upon entering a music store or the fiction section of a book shop, for instance, for thinking that there was nothing extraordinary underway in the world - 'nothing to see here'. Aside from a handful of niche examples of responsive art, there is a whole lot of silence going on.

And the impact of this silence, I think, is profound. We are surrounded by a cultural fog; a soft, warm miasma that is at once symptomatic of the challenges we are living through while also reinforcing them.

I intend to explicitly explore this topic more on this blog over time. At very least, it will be a useful way for me to process some of the important thoughts and feelings that inform my work.

In the 1960's, a Silent Spring was what people feared. Today, I'm troubled by the idea of a Silent Fall - and I intend to chart a different path.

Note: I am interested to hear from other artists - particularly musicians - who are exploring this terrain, or from anyone who can point to good creative examples. I know of some (here, for instance), and will write more about them in future, but would love to connect with more.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Spotting, watching

I do not know the names for clouds. But I know what I saw.

Today a pod of drooping white whales hung low in the sky. Some silent, some sighing. A mobile mass, heading off showers of krill, following the course of the wind.

I watched as their presence turned tall towers of convective air, bundles covered with blankets, into submarine coral mounds – shadowed, mysterious. Watched as it turned bird flocks into flying-fish schools; surfing the high air, skimming the low slung cetaceans’ upturned tails.

I watched this underwater, overland show play itself out on a layered stage with a bright, back-lit glow. Someone spying from the hills behind would have seen me sitting patiently underwater - a stone sunk heavy and calm, settled driftwood in a valley on the ocean’s floor. They would  have observed the cool current gently ruffling my hair, seen my light shirt buoyed by the salty surrounds.

And they would have seen me linger as the scene eased itself apart; almost-real whale flesh returning to formless vapour, water to air. 

But they certainly could not have detected the small twinge in my chest. Nor watched my eyes close softly over. Nor seen me sense that if I sat there long enough, the very same end would be mine; almost-real human flesh turned sand or soil, blown on wind, washed in waves.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Signs of life

NASA's latest mission recently launched. Apparently we’re heading back to Mars to search for ‘signs of life’ with a rover named Curiosity.

To me this enterprise feels almost like a parody. The more I learn about the planetary crisis unfolding around us, the more it colours everything I read. With that in mind, news of NASA's mission presents as absurd, with the craft's name deeply ironic. 

When taken in the broader context of our times, it is actually symbolic of how limited and specific our curiosity is. And it shows how powerful social inertia can be; how willing we are to continue unquestioningly following the pre-charted path to 'the future', despite all new evidence.

Human missions to Mars began in 1960 and have continued relatively regularly since then. So this voyage is just the latest in a line of many – following our gaze and our dreams out beyond our planet’s atmosphere, into the mysterious void above. But at what point does this sort of activity become redundant, misguided or distracting from more critical things? As the poles melt and our planet enters an ice-free future, will we still think it is heroic to send ships into space to ‘explore’?

The purpose of the mission, on the surface, is to find ‘life’. I would expect, with around one quarter of all mammal species on Earth presently at risk of extinction, with the fabric of our own planet’s life being torn apart around us, that our inter-stellar exploration for minuscule signs of ancient life might become a lower priority.

This is a reminder of how powerful yesterday’s dreams can be. We have told ourselves for decades that our strength and intelligence is measured by our highest achievements in space; that by 'stretching ourselves' in this way we can achieve collective greatness. More than that, the idea of humans exploring and conquering 'the final frontier' sits deep within our culture – with decades of novels, films, television shows and other tales shaping our collective imagination. 

And yet, driven by such ideas, we’ve found ourselves in a place where our actions no longer match reality. How can we let our past dreams persist unexamined in the face of all that we know? These days we need to act with more humility, with a renewed sense of our smallness in the scheme of things. Those, ironically, are some of the things you might expect to get from a visit to space.

Despite possible appearances, this isn't really a dig at NASA or science or space travel - rather an exploration of a different kind of awareness. Considering this example makes me wonder what other activities and future visions are similarly redundant – that we just haven't called ‘time’ on yet.

At what point do we say that our 'curiosity' - our seeking, searching and reaching upwards – may be aimed in the wrong direction or might be the wrong kind of inquisitiveness? At what point does it start to look like we’ve, to borrow sporting parlance, taken our eye from the ball? I’d suggest that moment came a long while ago now, for a whole range of human pursuits.

Yet in some ways things are starting to feel less like a sporting event than some kind of strange pantomime. Perhaps that's why, as the NASA craft heads off into the sky searching for LIFE, I am tempted to cry out, “It’s behind you!”.

I hope they find some perspective up there.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012


Here I lay out a skeleton story, only bones. 
As with any tale, the flesh is yours.

Here I place inside its rib-cage a phantom-heart, beating. 
Here I lay over it a spirit cloak.

Do not presume it human. 
Don't dare dream it done.