Failure, history, and the Brick-a-brac Emporium

Here is the poster for the Rude Mechanicals next full band London Gig, I might make a limited number of A3 linocuts posters for it, perhaps

The book on tidying has failed.

It was too harsh.

I was brought up not to throw things away. My family were very poor when I was a kid, everything could be “made use of”. This book on tidying has had an odd effect on me, rather than throwing things away I am making things out of the old throwaways even more. All rubbish has a history.

My artwork usually involves recycling old things, and this book has made this more so. I cannot throw a piece of cardboard away now, because it could make a good paint book cover, box, altar. Glue two pieces together and it makes a good paint board. Other rubbish inspires curiosity: What was it? Was it useful? Had it emotional connection for someone?Was it once loved?

On the good side it does mean I am making more stuff out of some of the rubbish I had stored in cupboards, on the bad side my house is still a cluttered tip and I can’t walk past a bin without thinking “ooh that would be useful”.

I’m very pleased with the sketchbook l’ve made entirely with rubbish, cardboard boxes and thrown out paper. It is Coptic stitched so easy to leave open on a particular page. It is blank but has my occasional doodles throughout.

Thought I might try selling some Coptic stitched sketchbooks from waste products in my Bric-brac Emporium , for yes I now have a small emporium ( that is intentionally contradictory) on this website. As you’ll see from the buttons at the top. I call it Bric-a-brac because it sells art and objects made from recycled and reused materials. Not that there is much for sale in it at the moment, but with time…

I might even take my Bric-a-brac emporium along to the gig with me on the 21st.

It will fit in the suitcase.

The Cockroach God is very angry

Cockroach illustration on handmade paper

Cockroaches are a highly disrespected group, that is very true, and this could be why when I let the cockroach god enter my head and possess me there was so much anger there I had to stop. I was very surprised, hadn’t expected so much aggression to suddenly enter me, it scared me and I had to end the ritual before something dangerous happened, before I lost control of myself and hurt someone. Instead I lite candles on fairy cakes and gave them to the audience to give as offerings to the god, along with the moulding mushrooms and banana skin brought by participants earlier ( thanks to Dr Cos for the cockroach like sound track). I’m told cockroaches are particularly fond of slightly rotting sweet foods.

Cockroach’s are exceeding useful creatures in the wild. They are scavengers that eat almost anything. They are the dustbin men of the Forest cleaning up everything’s waste, transforming it so it can go back into the ecological system. Like dustbin men they are unappreciated. We all like to turn away from our own dirt and what happens to our waste, which is possibly why it is now causing such severe environmental problems.

I admit to killing cockroaches myself. I’d moved into a new flat which had concrete floors and no carpet. I couldn’t afford to buy carpet at the time, so a friend said he was clearing out his old shed and there was an old carpet in there I could have. Great, I thought, but I had not appreciated the wildlife that came with it. The cockroaches were huge! And it seemed they just wouldn’t die no matter what I did. I remember trying to wash them down the sink and flush them down the toilet, but they just kept climbing back out.

It is thought that cockroaches would survive a holocaust they are so tough. In tests they’ve been found capable of surviving far more radiation than a human ever can.

They have been around for millennia, they are well evolved into their job. But humans are very talented at laying waste to whole species and insects are dying off.

We all rave on about the bee now, and how she must be saved, but what about the humble cockroach? Without ’em to clean up the forests are in big trouble, and without the forests we are in big trouble. Yet I don’t want cockroaches wondering around my flat. Even though tests have shown they don’t carry all the disease popular culture bestows upon them, I still don’t want them crawling across my kitchen. Somewhat of a dilemma.

I remember reading once the writings of an anthropologist who stayed with a family in a remote part of the world. Every morning the family would leave food outside in a particular spot as an offering to a god, by the next day the food would have disappeared. Curious about this the anthropologist stayed up one night and watched what happened to the food. He discovered that ants were meticulously taking the food away. On further inspection he realised that the family home was in fact on top of an ant colony and that leaving the food out every day made sure the ants did not come into the family home and take the family food. Cunning.

Perhaps a similar solution could be found for creatures like the cockroach by giving them more forest to inhabit?

Yet as we all know this is an old request, more local woodlands would help solve many problems, but seeing as my council seems to particularly enjoy chopping down trees, even in parks ( to stop homeless people from sleeping there apparently, though me thinks finding them somewhere to sleep in, say, those very many empty buildings, might be a better plan) I can’t see this happening fast.

Last night I dreamt I was riding through a forest on the back of a giant flying cockroach. It was very good fun. Here is a poem/riddle that an anonymous blog reader sent me, in a further attempt to placate the Cockroach God:

In my kingship I like gold, in my kingship I am armoured

little forest lord, 

                         

drunk on cochineal.

Like the wafer I am each and I am all

Indissoluble

In my kingship I like it here, to defile your homes with my russet.

 

From the bulb a golden rain,

and a black one.

Altar to the Cockroach God

Sunday Gods

The colour black absorbs all.

It is hungry.

It is the god of darkness and death, but it is not bad or good, it is just itself

and it has a dark sense of humour.

( yes I’m getting a lot of seizures at moment)

It is in the carpet and the wallpaper, in my mouth and under the bed.

I think the colour white reflects all and is the god of life.

(I’m talking as a painter, don’t ask me about physics!)

Everything I see is given from it

Life rejoices in its presence

It is not good of bad, it just is itself

It is in the wallpaper and the carpet

In the emulsion paint covering my bathroom walls

And the white of your eyes

It has a very innocent sense of humour

(My head hurts)

Metamorphosis

Today I’m finishing a book sculpture called Metamorphosis. It’s done on paper I made out of old bills and bank statements. I imagine the papers forming a pupa in the filing box and then bursting out as a new art work. The piece has pictures of plants and butterflies apron it. I was struggling with painting those last night, difficult on recycled paper.

Metamorphosis fascinates me. Biology, in this state, is a very magical thing. What is going on in there to make this big change? Now with new technology we can see inside the pupa and know that the creature entirely breaks down and reforms. To me this makes it seem yet more miraculous.

It is science that thinks it knows everything that irritates me, because we don’t and hopefully never will, for that would take the magic from life. I think we will never know everything because the more we find out the more mystery there is. Science thought the deep oceans couldn’t contain life, turns out they are full of the stuff, science didn’t think trees could communicate with each other, turns out they are constantly “talking” through networks of roots and fungi underground. Such amazing discoveries and the new mysteries they unearth, along with the sheer beauty of, say, a butterfly feeding on a tiny blue flower, are what allow me to love life even when politics makes it seem grim, and my bank statements make me cry.

According to Maya Deren’s book I’m reading on Voodoo, 1+1 does not equal 2.

1+1=3.

This is because you need the 2 ingredients and then you need the catalyst to get it going. The magic. I think it is common to make the mistake of taking things apart to find out how they work and then assuming that’s it, it is just the pieces. As I remember my Nan saying to me when I was little “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

I tried to get the blue colour for the flowers by oxidising copper in a jar of vinegar (as instructed in a beautiful book given to me) but so far no luck. I must be lacking a bit of something…

Ancestors

I’m in Wales visiting my family, leaving my flat and cat in the faithful hands of Dylan and Cos.

This part of Wales is very beautiful, and it makes me wonder why on earth so many of us choose to live in grey pollution ridden cities. I will move one day.  I’m a little limited as the epilepsy means I can’t drive so proper countryside is out. I like the idea of a boat, they’ll let me drive a narrow boat so I could just take myself off.

Today I’m going to wonder through the woods and walk across the cliffs, talk to the trees and sea. They talk back sometimes, it is a matter of being in a state to listen.

I’m reading Maya Deren’s book the Divine Horseman at the moment. It is on Haitian Voodoo, it is fascinating. Ancestor worship seems to me a very practical thing to have, I think perhaps we  miss something in our culture by loosing our personal ancestors so quickly. I have only the vaguest notion of my great grandmother who read from a crystal ball, concocted herbal remedies and talked to ghosts. She sounds like she would be a fascinating person to know and could help me deal with the hallucinations I get in a more imaginative way than the GP.

We do tend to disregard the wisdom of the elderly in our culture, always looking for the new and exciting. Although this has brought us great developments in technology it has also placed us rather on a cliff edge in terms of the environment.

i was pleased to discover yesterday that my little niece Violet really likes the book I brought my brother on herbs and herbal remedies. I’ll have to actually learn more myself so l can talk to her about it. I got her a children’s book on witchcraft a year ago and she got really into that as well.

i find visiting my family very difficult, as I’ve written about before, I think part of it is because I can’t have children myself and the family is very family orientated.  It cheers me up to think that one day I could have a role passing on knowledge to my nieces and nephews. When my nephew Ernie was younger, before he became the hidden-away teenager he now is, I taught him perspective and drawing 3D objects. He loved it, drew lots of 3D furniture with arms and legs. I don’t suppose he remembers me telling him now, but I think the basics have stuck, which makes me feel… not totally redundant.

 

The art of tidying – or not

As a child I shared my bedroom with my brother. The room was always horribly untidy, the floor scattered with torn apart toys. We argued endlessly about whose fault it was. Turns out it was probably mainly mine.

My mum never liked housework much. She was good at building and gardening and creating things, housework was just too mundane for her. My dad would often nag her to tidy up more, and I remember promising to myself at an early age that I would never be anyone’s housewife. The various boyfriends who have gradually expected me to do the majority of the housework have found themselves living in a dump.

I’m not as bad as some, I usually wash the dishes and sweep the floor and clean the bathroom, though a girlfriend did once find a severely mould encrusted cup next to my bed.

It occurred to me of late that in our culture we do look down on housework, and that perhaps this is a slightly foolish thing.

Cleaning and tidying, like gathering food, is a fundamental activity, something we’ve been doing since back before we were even human. Perhaps this is why it is seen as lesser, because it is required. Hunting food and creating artefacts, although useful, are not necessities. It is more exciting and potentially dangerous to hunt, it is more challenging and entrepreneurial to create, and perhaps this is why they are much more attractive to peers and potential sexual partners. I think however it is now perhaps time to remember the worth of the necessary tasks, for, like trees, without them at all we cease to be viable.

I recently got myself a book called the Japanese art of tidying by Marie Kondo. I thought “art is what I do, so perhaps if I can convince myself that tidying is a part of my artistic practice perhaps I can find it easier”. It is kind of working, though my love of the old threadbare cardi may prove my downfall with her “keep what sparks joy” motto. One of the first tasks she sets is to write why you want to tidy. Well that’s easy I thought, so I can find things more easily, then she says “ask yourself why you want to do that”, to be more organised, “and why that?”. Well eventually I get right back to my psychologist’s last remarks- I’m terrified that I’m loosing my memory due to my the brain malformation, and therefore my independence. The only way of preventing this is by carefully organising my belongings and my life, to be more in control – Well this was a bit heavy for a Sunday morning at breakfast.

So now I have very good reasons for tidying but that doesn’t take away the mundaneness of it. I need tidying to have something interesting to it, some magic.

My eyes focus on an old book of mine on Hoodoo. It is years ago I read it and I can’t remember much about it, but i do remember talking about it to a friend who is a Hoodoo practitioner. At the time I was in the middle of moving home. Quite a lot of unpleasant things had happened to me in that flat and I was worried about them haunting me in the new place. I wanted to leave them behind. My friend suggested that before leaving the flat for the last time I sweep the place. Sweep it well and as I do move backwards through the house towards the door, sweeping away from me as I go. I did this and found it gave me a great feeling of release, of moving on. The ghosts stopped haunting me. Now you can say that is psychological hockey pokery if you like, so what, it worked.

If housework can have power like that then it becomes much more interesting to me. Much more like an art work, and I can be an active manipulator within it. I am already becoming aware that a tidy organised room makes me happier and the tasks I carry out inside it more successful. It feels like the room is more content somehow. Certainly my cat is.

Of course I’m writing all this to avoid doing the tidying.

But what happens after she marries the prince?

After all my woe at the start of last month it actually turned out very good indeed. Had some good gigs, as mentioned before, played another one with just Cos at Scaledown, which was enjoyable. Then some American friends came over from the states and took me out wining and dinning. We went to Ronnie Scott’s and Battersea Art Centre, the Tate, and had Sunday roast. If only there were more months like this.

One of the art books I sold this month was definitely a bit of a witch’s creation. It took me six years to finish, it’s made from hand made paper, old tissue boxes and string. On the surface it is the story of a failed love affair, underneath it is about the continual cycle from life to death, from death to life. It is an original handmade one off. Made from thrown out Mills&Boon books from a local Library. I’ll stress that again as I always get someone upset about me reusing books – the Library chucks them out, if I don’t use them they go in the waste disposal!

This book takes its name from the Mills&Boon book it is made from “The Marriage Project”. There was something grating about that name, and deeply sad. For me relationships don’t work if they are too consciously planned, for some reason those that are carefully planned go stagnant quickly. I think it’s because the fairytale stories never say what happens to the peasant girl after she marries the prince.

Strangely enough, around the time I was making this book I was doing an art project with a recycling centre and one of the things they had plenty of was dress patterns for sowing wedding dresses, so obviously these had to go in the ingredients to make the book. White roses symbolise innocence and purity, but in the centre of this book they are white rose buds dying before they reach full bloom.

I remember the relationship mentioned in the book ended with him buying me a bunch of white roses from the local garage, a sad goodbye. I took them home and painted them and that is how the book started.

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