Thursday, 20 September 2007

Serbian Adventures

So I am just back from Belgrade where I had a wonderful time and many strange adventures. Amongst my urban exploring and consuming of much coffee and beer I managed to fit in a reading of my work at a lovely cafe. The evening was organised by Dan who runs Treci Trg a great Serbian literary magazine ( so thank you to him, as well as extraordinary amounts of thank yous to a wonderful friend and poet Ana Seferovic who translated two extracts of my work in advance to read, as well as simultaneously translating the talk I gave about my work on the night. I mainly talked about the importance to me of creating an intuitive emotional response to prose, which is normally associated with visual art, music and poetry. I also talked about how memory relates to place in my work and explained some of the "and the ghosts so silver" projects. Some of my miniature books were also hidden around the cafe and I am looking forward to receiving these back (on that note thank you to the people who sent mini books back from Port Eliot - they were wonderful to read). I hope to go back next year and do a collaborative project with Ana.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Port Eliot lit fest

This weekend come down to the wonderful wild westcountry for the Port Eliot lit fest in St Germans, Cornwall. I'll be doing various things including miniature books and hidden stories, as well as a cabinet of story curiosities on display in the house containing the miniature books sent back to me so far. There are loads of amazing people there this year including Joe Boyd and William Dalrymple, who I am particularly excited about. Come come come! Also thank you to everyone who came down to the treasure trail last thursday.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Treasure Trail

As part of the North Kensington arts trail Intransit exhibition there will be an and the ghosts so silver treasure trail this Thursday 12th July. Starting point Westbourne Park tube station (Hammersmith and City line) and you can turn up any time between 1.30 and it being taken down at 10pm. Go to and click on treasure trail for a downloadable map of the route. Look out for miniature books, embroidered story mobiles, dioramas in shoe boxes, post-its, secret sound pads and tags all telling the secret stories of the area and leading you around the arts trail...

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Journey of Exchange Opening

The Journey of Exchange exhibition opens at Oxford House in Bethnal Green on thursday (5th) and runs for the whole of July. I have a print and miniature books in the exhibition and will be doing a post-it trail. Here's the flyer - please come!

Also don't forget the story treasure trail next week as part of Kensington arts council intransit exhibition series of artist led walks and events. It will be based on discovering the secret history of how the area used to be and the echoes of its past residents. More details later...

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Exhibition story.

So here is my story that will be split up into miniature books for the Journey of Exchange exhibition.

Tbilisi, Georgia.

The car twisted us high speed into the city I’d dreamt of since small. I’d never arrived here this way in my head – there I kind of drifted across ruined balconies and landed on one to gaze out over all the others as they spun along the water’s edge like wooden cobwebs.
We got out by an old bridge and watched the cars trying to keep the people on foot from passing through. It didn’t work though – people just walked across in front of the speeding traffic and it miraculously missed them in a mist of hooting horns. We got out and said goodbye to the guy who’d driven us here. Paid him back his border bribes and sat on a small wall by a new flash bar, as the city crumbled around us and a bride walked out of the bar to family cheers. It was easy to not notice this place was falling down it was so beautiful. That hadn’t changed from my preconceptions. I was finally stood amongst the buildings I’d stared at in books as a child.
The windows hung from the balconies like square bunches of glass grapes. I felt that if I raised my hand I could pick them they were so frail – that they might crumble in pieces into my fingers and I could filter through the dust to find the stories that this city was hiding from me. It was hiding something still.
I dragged my suitcase into a taxi up the steep hill to the hotel. Up some stairs and onto our new balcony that seemed to taunt the old ones with how well it stayed up. I hardly noticed though – was floating above a view I had seen many times before. The old Metekhi church rising out of the city and the trees around the hills that tried to hide the buildings. The domes of the sulphur baths burst like bubbles from the cobbled ground.
He turned and smiled at me and we sat on the swing seat and rocked gently, up a little higher to see if we could peer over the hilltops where Mother Georgia stood with her sword and stared in stone at the tall spike of the communications tower. Its red and white stripes reminded me of seaside life rings, and a giant Soviet shell of a building hovered next to it, staring over the city with no purpose other than that, or to remind people that it was still there, somewhere in the background of this changing city. There were many different histories struggling to be remembered here. I never thought that our history would join them. Hovering happily through the broken wood and pastel painted stone. I smiled and walked back inside the room.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Upcoming events.

I'm back from my adventures in the Caucasus and missing both Armenia and Georgia and the wonderful people me and William met very much... However it's inspired lots of new ideas and a new series of miniature books was hidden around Tbilisi (see below), and now it's time to throw myself back into work!

There are three big and the ghosts so silver events scheduled for July:

July 5th - Opening night, Journey of Exchange exhibition, Oxford House, Bethnal Green, London. This exhibition will run till the end of July and feature many hidden books and a post-it note story in the neighbourhood on the opening night.

July 12th - Treasure trail as part of North Kensington Intransit exhibition arts trail.

July 20th-22nd - Port Eliot Literary Festival, St Germans, Cornwall. Treasure trail, miniature books and a cabinet of story curiosities.

Please come and join in!

Tbilisi, Georgia...

Thank you to the wonderful Maka for the Georgian translations!

Friday, 23 February 2007

Southern ghosts...

"A place that was ever lived in is like a fire that never goes out. It flares up, it smolders for a time, it is fanned or smothered by circumstance, but its being is intact, forever fluttering within it, the result of some original ignition. Sometimes it gives out glory, sometimes its little light must be sought out to be seen, small and tender as a candle flame, but as certain." - Eudora Welty - introduction to her photos of Mississippi.

I've just come back from staying with my best friend William in Nashville, Tennessee, and we drove down to Memphis and then through Mississippi. I was struck by how the whole state had this atmosphere that felt like what I've been striving for in my work, yet I had never been there before. Where the spanish moss or kudzu clung to the trees it felt like an echo moving its way through the country to land somewhere else and tell its story again, rather than the new plant I knew it to be, almost, in the kudzu's case, suffocating the plant underneath.

It reminded me of how when I was writing my novel "We lay here slowly sinking" I began to realise the hidden parts of the city that were its memories - the echoes, even in empty places, of what had happened there before:

"I am trying to work out how to reach the inaccessible places of the city I saw from the train. They are the link. They seem inhuman, but I am now thinking that they are more so. Than the obvious places in the city that is. This is why nothing came to me in the museum – a place which should have been a monument to memory. I was sure I’d bump into Sam at first, but monuments are too obvious. They are put up to remember something that is not there anymore – like a ritual cleansing so it is okay to forget what something was really like. It has its public image now in stone and carved lettering. And those people I became aware of the other day – the ones almost like echoes – fading into the past they were waiting to come back to them, well then I know it is not in the middle of Oxford Street, or outside the Houses of Parliament that I would ever see them. I’m not sure I would ever notice memory there – it has been shut out by too many people that don’t care. It is in the places where people really spend their time that try and come back – throw their memories out into the city again. Old knocked down Victorian terraces or a scrap of land kids used to play on. And in the houses I can only see the front of, well the people who once lived there could have spent all day sat in the back garden, or gazing at the bits of land only the trains normally touch. They could have traced a few outlines with their fingers or marker pen on the window glass – outlined the cityscape they really knew. These drawings probably got cleaned away, but I like the idea that there are always traces once something has been marked. It’s hard to totally wash things away. Some things intend to be permanent from the start.

I think once people have moved on they leave a little bit of themselves behind, and it is this part which is then free to roam wherever it likes. It is not that there is someone, people as such, freeing the memories I or other people try to leave behind, store away, but rather they are parts of us wandering around the city. The empty buildings and industrial scrap land are now inhabited only by the people who really want to be there. Our echoes. They have come back to see their old area with new eyes, because this is where they really live. And these memories that came before what stands there now, well I’m not sure the new cityscape will be there for them at all – things will go back to how they were before. It is in these places that everyone can meet again. Where I could find you dry and full of things to say. I wonder if you really lived here all along. Whether I have been to your house."

Perhaps and the ghosts so silver, if nothing else, can encourage people to find these hidden echoes in their cities or villages - to look at a place they thought they knew so well and see if they can create its alternative history through its atmosphere. What truly hits you when you visit a certain place? One of my favourite places in London is the Crystal Palace park (you can't really go wrong with ruins, Victorian dinosaurs and a good view - there is also a pedalo graveyard - see if you can find it...), but what I feel is there, is very different to the wonderful but somewhat run down reality, and I'm sure it's because I can sense the different histories this park held. Here is my description of the main character Bella's experience of this place in "We lay here slowly sinking":

"There was a palace here once. They say it was made of crystal. I still think of how it might have shone out over the city and let the whole sky be lighter. Cleared the blackened buildings with light not soapy water. Nothing could be more powerful at cleaning than light. I wonder if the bricks were tinted with sunshine those years. The palace didn’t last long. Burned to the ground. Must have got too hot in all that sunshine. It slipped down the road like a volcano made of molten glass. Not the ones that explode but just melting to the ground, it oozed glitter. Can’t have been big enough to cause that much damage, but I like the idea that the city could have been wiped out by light, have made its own Pompeii out of glass and sunshine."

She creates her own fictional future for the city out of her experience of its past. Maybe with the and the ghosts so silver treasure hunts and miniature books we can try and create more of these imagined futures, to really absorb the city and create new multilayered experiences of how it could actually exist. The next story treasure hunt will be on Hampstead Heath and involve memories of highwaymen, so we shall see...

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

More stories lost and found...

Three miniature books hidden at the Port Eliot LIterary Festival, July 2006:

(please excuse the blurred photos...)