Monday, June 30, 2008

in which the fish is counting blessings

dear friends, just thought you might be interested to know

that the waves have been epic,,

the light too beautiful for any words I might scratch up,

and that I can hold a brush, and finish a sentence is a blessing.

To all out there in the world, I am sending

light and love and the beautiful sea.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

in which the fish is speaking to birds

Such drama, so cinematic your appearing like that!
Out of the eye of the sun, over the clifftop directly above my head soaring into my sight.
Sea Eagle,
wings spread so wide, wing tips with feathers spread like eager fingers. Motionless above me , just your head moves, looking down into my face.

Drawing a slow circle in the air, and I the centre of it standing with my face raised up.

All at once every single bird, from each tuft and cleft and crevice on the headland rises up, spontaneously as if every note from the page of a concerto lifts, at the taptap of an unseen conductor, lifts and disappears. Silently, up and away.
Sea Eagle, such a pretty white neck you have, but you are young yet, the dark brown of the shadows underneath give you away, but here you are hunting alone.

Out to sea: above the blue, circling over gulls who clamor away. I know
when I turn around I will feel the southern wind on my face and will be forced
to acknowledge the presence of the moon still hanging
pale and blue in the daytime sky.

In my line of sight
two Sooty Oystercatchers highstepping over the rocks: I spy you both from here in the water, wearing your red spectacles
and your redpencil party beaks,
you are both so solemn as you write, carefully fullstopping the rocks, I say
you sillies,

nobody will ever read that.


I tell you, as you dart beneath me, bedecked with airbells, 
more small black mammal than bird.
If you frighten me again damned cormorant, pied or otherwise
I will seize you by that bobbing neck and fling you into the waves: one minute you are snake, next seal, then something else again. I tell you
you scare the air right out of me when you do that. There are
fish elsewhere
than the ones in my shadow
go find them somewhere else: the sea is wide.

In Regards to Trembling:

It is as if you have somewhere a twin, and they are experiencing some form of angst or trouble, and you shiver along with them. That seems to be the only way to describe this.

Something else:
Something I do not like is cooking, but I love painting. Tis pity I can't eat paint.:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

in which great agitation is felt by the fish until light is restored to the kingdom.

in the week leading up to the winter solstice I kept myself busy.
As i have said, there had been strangeness and storms.

Last Thursday, the 17th, I had to walk out of a seminar mid morning,because I began to tremble unaccountably. I went to the university library and found I couldn't write, either. I ended up editing images for my animation, fading the images to white.

I couldn't explain myself: one of my colleagues, asks, "what's wrong? Why aren't you listening to Sean?"
and I have no satisfactory answer, just
"I'm too agitated" doesn't seem good enough.

That night, I find myself at the State Library, listening to folks debate Art, Mind and Beauty.
A strange event, really, with short talks from Imants Tillers, Ian North and Evian Gordon, which underlined the fact again, that there are no universal truths, and they will never find the chemical symbol for wonder.

I am trying to write about wonder myself.
Everything I think seems to evaporate.

Question time was about three seconds long and hijacked by the ubiquitous "fourth speaker", the retired intellectual who delivers a mini paper in the guise of a question. You know the one, he's at every conference in some form or another. I am reminded of the character in Nicole Krauss's book who feels so invisible he is compelled to drop things on the checkout queue so that people are forced to acknowledge his existence.
I run all the way across the domain in the dark. I am wearing black boots and my dress flaps as I run: this exhilarates me. Momentarily drives away the sense of breathlessness pressing on my chest.

Friday: I paint. I am using wax medium, and I am reminded that if it were only for the smell and the act of moving stuff around the surface of my canvas, I would still do it. I create blurs of light, I disappear into small relationships of blue and green. I consider that the colour crimson underwater becomes like a plum black, that is what blood must look like. I am suddenly feeling that I am affirmed in the act of painting, though what I wish to say could be so easily said using media images. Still: I like the referentiality to photos, but painting itself is insistent within me, I have to say.

I meet the dear Miss Boat at an opening at Gallery 4a. The reason I can't find her when I get there is because her and the other gals have seated themselves at a table at which they are making little objects out of white earthenware clay to place in a sand installation on the floor. When I spot them I fix my eyes upon them so firmly that I almost walk right through this sand installation.
I spend most of the evening fashioning little forms out of clay myself. The artist, Vipoo Srivilasa, a gleeful soul, takes photographs. This is a splendid opening, says the fish to herself.

He leads me over to his work, which is a captivating series of ceramic hands on a shelf before a mirror. Decorated in blue on white, he references imagery from both his Thai heritage and his new Australian home, so we find sets of keys on each finger, buddhist symbology imposed upon a kangaroo, random, strange, beautiful combinings. He leads me up close, and points out how there is always something secret to find on each sculpture, and the mirror reveals the reverse side.
Look, he smiles, there are lovers hiding in there,

And so there is.

At this point I catch sight of my own face in the mirror between all the delicate white hands and give myself a fright. Vipoo laughs, his face is so joyful in his bright red spectacles.
Clover Moore, I hear, is acknowledging the traditional owners of country, her distinctive voice floats over the crowd of heads. I drink two glasses of red wine and later eat uighur noodles with the boat girl and speak French with a French man. Which seems so effortless when you are almost-drunk.

Gallery 4A opening, June 2008
Originally uploaded by dirge

Tuesday: sydney biennale opening at the mca. Miss Jane, Miss Boat and the Guitar Lover. Miss Boat and I ate Pad Thai on the ferry across the harbour, and meet the Miss Jane outside near Tony Schwensens sausage sizzle.
We decide that just this once we won't wait through all the speeches, but escape into the galeries after drinks: we hatch this very cunning plan and all promptly lose each other. I unexpectedly come across Vipoo wandering amongst the cobras.
I am so excited to be amongst it all, like a child, really. So much to see.
One room features Olafur Eliasson with two Alexander Calders. I publicly shame myself with the mistaken belief that Calder is still alive and is therefore included: tis a puzzle. But he is long dead. for Gawds sake he was BORN in the 19th century, who'da thunk?
So why is he there?
I should have asked Caroline Christov Bakargiev as she raced by in a russet blur.

In the midst of my marvelling at the discourse between Calder and Eliasson, it occurs to me that I am rarely critical. I am always ready to interpret, happy that things just ARE.
Miss Boat is cross with the historical inclusions. And the room with the dead horse enrages her, the paintings by the video artist especially so.
She hates that gratuitous critical-self referential smartiness, that biting of the feeding hand, whereas I in my dumbass way was laughing at the deactivated old master style frames around the pseudo cubist artworks by the video artist.
But what she said was quite true.
Why doesn't the suspended horse exist in a room of its own? Surely, as she points out, it has far more to offer than the image of two glasses of water which has a whole space to itself.
My friend Michelle who is a TV arts producer tells me when she was looking at the horse sculpture Leo Schofield was ringing her to say he had missed his train in Vienna.
There's something poetic about that, but I'm not sure I can articulate what it might be.

On Friday I lsten to Mark Titmarsh speak upon his work at the UTS gallery. He has created wonderful objects which question the notion of painting itself, reject it, and then re-embrace it. He questions the act of painting, and yet celebrates it. Entirely outside of this, the works are beautiful,and speak outside of this discourse anyway: I love them.

I remind myself, as I do, that I seem to love everything.
I just love the elegance of an idea resolved, to be perfectly honest.
I return to my scratchy old paintings, and wish I could resolve my own things.

On Friday night I rewrite a short story I wrote nearly three years ago. I am happy with it.

The solstice,21st June.

Every dark and curdled cloud and splatting spit of rain is banished in a spectacular return of light.
Light returns, even though it is only two weeks or so, I am reassured by it. The sea has finished tossing and pitching, but early in the day the sun shines threefold ito my eyes from the entirety of ocean, sun, and a great wide stretch of mirrored sand:

I am blinded with it.

A new year. I am standing at the beginning of it, and wonder what it will bring.

Monday, June 16, 2008

in which the fish is given back her clothes

On Tuesday I expressed the regret that my top was being danced in by sea-creatures.

"I won that top, in the Mollymook Ocean Swim. This year, I won nothing. You would know, you were there both times" I told the sea.
"And what's worse, both Miss Jane and myself were thrashed out of hand by some Olympic swimmer, which is sort of not fair."

The very next day, up at the northern end of the beach, where the steam rises early in the morning, just before you get to the cliff, there was my Mollymook top, twisted on the tideline. Thoroughly embedded with sand and weed, which made it all the nicer.

"We want this not" said the sea and I smiled. I said thank you.
I looked on the label. It is made out of 100% recycled plastic, which cancels out any notion of aquatic philanthropy. I vowed never to leave such items anywhere near the edge ever again.

I washed it and dried it but it remains, permanently I suspect, interwoven with tiny fronds of seaweed, redbrown and pale cream, they are woven in so tight. I rather like the effect: I am wearing it now.

For the last three days the sea has been in a right temper and waves the size of tall buildings have been thundering in, but I have not wavered, and have entered the sea, temper and all.
It has been utterly terrifying
but wonderful.

Monday, June 9, 2008

in which the fish is shown a nasty truth and clothes the watery creatures

The noise stops: the whirling column connecting sky and sea closes. Light fills the air.

I did this not: it is not my doing.
Says the sea in a whisper, and  startled I am for a minute. But then I see what it is I am to know.

 One albatross, wrapped tightly in metres of fishing line, wings bound , head tangled all sides. Quite drowned. Dead, the feathers such a weight when sodden, wet. Those big webbed seabird feet stilled by the meanness of the line scribbled around them.

Nearby is the other of the pair, who must have watched in silence on the surface of the wildly rocking sea, watching the tangled become stiller and stilled.

Why do you not come? It says. Why do you not swoop for kingfish? I am hungry.

But they don’t part. It waits, until at last all breath leaves it also.

They are entangled together as surely as if that cruel line binds and stills that pair of wings, death does not part them. They are together forever.
The sea lays them there, on the smooth sweep of silver sand.

This time, I don’t place them back into the sea, for tiny creatures to tranform into sea-muck. I leave them there for all to witness, see what we have done.

Not my doing: all yours says the sea.
Love and death here tangled, I did this not.

A trace of polar ice surrounding them like an aura as they lie still and silent on the sand.

I return to the end of the beach. In one deft and fliud movement, the sea steals all my clothes. Lightning fast, it reaches up a transparent finger and claws my clothing, my keys, my towel, and sucks it all away.

The keys, I am relieved, anchor themselves into the wet sand. I wade into the water and cast about with my hands.
Give me back my things.

Only a black bra comes bobbing in like the carapace of some strange sea mammal which, I suppose, it is.

You can have this, I want it not, said the sea to me. I pluck it wet and dripping, and acknowledge my defeat. I should know better.

So I consider my message, I think about souls departing. The horizon is vast, but always there.
Some things conjoined forever, entangled with invisible webs.

And under the sea, I know this to be true: fish are dancing,
Fish are dancing with wild abandon, in my stolen clothes.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

sit still: something is happening

The rain downpouring, the sky stooping low, sinking  as if to crowd all space into a thin layer.
 I am immersed in the darkness of it.

I like the drama of rain, but this time it is not just rain, it is everything, and rain in the middle. I swim in water and do not know whether I have in fact taken off into the sky so greengray the air. Everything smells like ocean innards.
The sea has reached up and over the cliffs, hammers on my windows like a wild thing. The sky disappears.

Tis almost as if all is to become sea, sky and earth and water all. Like something weeping, wailing, gathering up strength for an almighty howl.

Listen. Out on the dark horizon: something.
My heart thumps.
 No sun rose, just strange light.

A salute to something passing: a strange atonal chorus: deep in their beds the whales lie low, strumming their bass notes while the wild sky drives its way toward them.

Something is happening: an ending, a passing, applause. Perhaps some elemental calendar marks this stormy uproar, perhaps it is honouring some unknown thing. I do not know.

I am not sure as to what
The water is trying to tell me: something.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

in which the fish speaks on another dress and a faraway river.

The sun sliding ever north, I take from behind the bedroom door my beloved charcoal grey coat.

When I slip my hand into the pocket, I find a printed page: the train timetable from Glasgow, downloaded from the internet, and kindly printed out for me. I look at the times, I run my finger down the column, remembering which train I finally took: the earlier one, as it happens. The colour of the numbers, blue and green.

Behind the coat is the English dress. It has hung on the back of my door, along with the coat, like a souvenir. Every so often I peep at it, and think of where and when I wore it: now time has come for me to put it on here, and thus it is like a touchstone from another time. Images and thoughts flood in. The hot few months passed, here I am back for my second dose of autumn in six months: a neat trick, I think.

The weather a glory: clear sunshine in a soft sky, bright enough that you raise your face up without squinting.
I am riding Sophy’s bike, since she is in Florence, and Damien has lent it to me. I am puddling around being an English person, so full of happiness that I am swollen with it. People feel this, and are drawn to it: I am constantly chatting to strangers who tap my arm, or look into my face.

I ride along the banks of the Thames: there are swans, which makes me want to cry just a little, and stately geese for whom I swing off my bike to peer into their black eyes. I park the bike on cobblestones and secure it to a railing, over near the river.

I carry out my small errands for Damien and Sophy, small bits of this and that. Scotland waits in my future, St Petersburg still flickering in my head. I wander along the street, with crowds of people I will never see again, when I reach a corner and look across the road.

There, hanging in the window, is my dress.

I must say here that I don’t buy clothes too often, I hate trying things on, the mirrors terrify me. So when the dress smiles at me I lower my eyes and scurry right past Fenn Wright and Manson. The clothes all seem lovely, but I tell myself, Australian pesetas will buy me little, and there is a hint of antique golden mirror, and swathes of white drapery visible in there from the door. I walk on. I have a sandwich. I talk with the girl in Neal’s Yard and buy something small, just for the blue of the jar.

But I walk back, pretending I haven’t seen a thing. The open doors suck me in.

I slip it over my head: The drapes shield me from the outside world, and the huge gilt mirror on the wall a thing to be avoided. I can’t look for fear of the sight of the hollows under my eyes and the broad expanse of my arse.
I smooth the dress down, it has a sash which I don’t know quite how to tie: the beautiful shop girl comes to look.
I feel like crying.
Such a lovely dress. She reaches around my waist, and takes the sash. She ties a bow on my hip.
I look from beneath my eyelids. I love it. I peep from the corner of my eye: I wish to be the woman in this dress.

I ask them stupidly, does it look alright? do I look stupid? Sometimes I feel that all clothes look awkward on me, I am just not the right shape.
I know they are paid to tell me I look great, but I ask them , seriously, really, how do I look? Just tell me, I say, do I look in any way ridiculous?

Of course, before they have answered, I have deliriously decided I am going to have it anyway, ridiculous or no.
They of course say I look wonderful, but I don’t care whether I do or not. They deftly wrap the dress in tissue and place it in a splendid bag with satin ribbon for handles. The metallic bronze, and the grand writing swing from the handle of Sophy’s bike as I pedal home, the pale chocolate satin of the ribbon against my hand in the breeze. I remember the way, by myself, no directions.

I pedal past lovely houses of red brick. I cycle through a pile of leaves, under a bridge, past a pub. Down all the way along the river. I feel strangely connected with its brown bulk: you have carried me somewhere once, river, I tell it. Once, bits of my being you carried to the sea, but this is a thing I can only feel , and sense, and never know entirely, river. The colour of the Thames, I note, is the same brown as my posh shopping bag, but splashed with pale blue from the sky.

I almost forget to collect Sophy’s parcel, so I swing by and queue up at the post office. I reach the window, and am asked for identification before I can have the parcel, but I have left the ticket at home. But lo and behold, because I am family, my name matches! I am given the parcel, I have the same name, all is well. I am able to complete my chore, because I am one of them. I can complete this task because I am me.

Small things, creating a momentary other life, one in which I feel far too happy: I fit too well. It is as if an empty space exists there, waiting for me to slip into. Small ordinary acts rather than the grandeur of standing in front of Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne, the “Hello, again” from the porter at the station, are just as wonderful:
the sound of bicycle tyres as they dip through the puddles, the creak of the gate as I push the bike up to the front door.

I wore that dress numerous times on my journey, and each time was magical. I presented my paper in Glasgow, and didn’t stumble on one word. I had dinner, I walked, I sparkled and sang. I sang on the platform of Birmingham station in it. I walked secret places with wonderful persons in my flowery dress.

That posh bag is in my study now; I look at it and feel a rush of joy, the satin handles hang down off the shelf. I took the dress down yesterday, because the weather is cool enough to wear it, and occasion dictated that I wear such a thing. I needed such a dress to cheer me up: the light is clear, the day is silver blue, but as always, my thoughts are far away.

I had to attend a funeral, so yesterday was a day of strange emotions, the grand shift of time brought into focus, the reminder of years passing at terrifying speed.

Though we go on and leave others behind, they are forever with us. We looked at each others worn faces, and saw the lighted faces of each other’s childhoods. We measured up our own lives against the one laid out in front of us.

One thing I take with me from yesterday, is that one should live each day as if it were your last, and that one should be passionate about things, while one can. Days such as this serve as a marker point, to take stock, to think.

Today, I will invite my girl to spend the afternoon with me, I think. We may stop our bickering and shouting. I will avoid the terse silences that my home contains. A dress is not the answer to life’s ills, but today, I may buy one for my girl anyway.
And my hand, in the pocket of my coat, can feel the folded paper of the Glasgow train timetable: trains come and go in Glasgow, whether I am there to see them or not, silently, so very far away. The brown water of the Thames makes its way to the sea without my gaze upon it, the sun shines on its surface.

I hang my dress behind the door, smooth it straight. Turn off the light, and leave the room.