Archive for the ‘Visual artists’ Category

Vendredi matin, le roi, sa femme et le petit prince…*

In Absurdlandia, Animals, Artists, Food, Hautvoir, proto drafts, Sundays, Visual artists on July 17, 2016 at 11:03 am

*the title refers to a traditional French song in which the king, his wife and their little prince come visiting the singer on every day of the week. Since the singer isn’t in, the little prince says: in that case, we’ll come back tomorrow. And so on, until the singer runs through the days of the week.

Friday morning my sister and I went to the supermarket in Gaillac. So did a whole bunch of people on holiday for whom the supermarket visit was something of a family outing. Crowded parking lot, impatient parents, blocked alleys while grandpa waited for grandma to choose the one essential flavored tea among the seventy-eight varieties on display. All par for the course – and the main reason why I visit supermarkets as little as possible.

Can you call it a moment of zen when the experience borders on disgusted amazement? Zen of sorts, I suppose, that landed on me in the yogurt section.

Yogurt. A double alley lined with refrigerated containers. Yogurt for children, one label read (this meant either slurpies  with cartoon characters on them or containers with – yes, cartoon characters). Next, you had organic, health (different from the organic kind, presumably), lo-cal, flavored, with fruit at the bottom or fruit mixed in. Did they have yogurt for boys and yogurt for girls? Not that I noticed. Maybe I should complain.

In other words, senseless glut, aisle after aisle after aisle.

Yesterday, before she left for Canada my sister and I took in a exhibition of ceramics in neighboring Giroussens. With all due respect for the potter who finds fulfillment in reproducing stones out of clay, my preference went to a large amphora in the courtyard. Shaped like a traditional receptacle for oil, wine or grain, it is decorated with leaping goats, flying fish and fowl blowing on trumpets and other friends of dance and music. A small sample?

DSCN3076 With thanks to the potter Thierry Basile, whose name lurks at the bottom of the jar, along with a pair of used work gloves.

Both unexpected and predictable

In Artists, Current reading, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Visual artists on July 6, 2016 at 8:35 am

Sorting through electronic files about local refugees this morning, trying to get some grip on my sloppy filing habits, I have to smile at the persistence of another habit: my decision to shelter the one who’s annoyed me the most – and, in all probability, will continue to do so. I’m a bit old to change some of the more basic attitudes in my makeup. In this instance, my need to understand what annoys or jars or disturbs. Plus, as Henri Michaux once wrote: don’t be too hasty in discarding your bad habits because, what will  you replace them with? (this being an extremely loose translation from the French).


My main problem as a writer right now: reality is proving more interesting than my fictional take on it. More interesting, and invasive too. This is a high-class piece of annoyance, obviously. At some point, the fiction writer will rebel and insist on telling it her way. So I guess I’ll let the fiction writer stew until she starts sputtering or breaks loose as she is wont to do. Beddy-bye for now, fiction writer, the door’s unlocked, you can walk in or out anytime you please.


So, for this next bit of living, a seventeen-year old joins me and the dog for a stretch of the trek. He’ll stay with one of my friends next week while my visitor arrives from Canada.


Reading two things in tandem at the moment, as I often do. The first, Boris Cyrulnik’s Parler d’amour au bord du gouffre and Kandinsky’s Du Spirituel dans l’art, et dans la peinture en particulier. 

The first part of the Kandinsky isn’t an invitation to read on. Writing in the Russia of nineteen ten, he seems quite taken in by the theosophists. My personal appreciation of the likes of Madame Blavatsky doesn’t lead me to any rush to further enlightenment. While I understand Kandinsky’s dislike for materialism of the acquisitive kind, I’m not a huge fan of mystical eye-rolling either. So why don’t I put down the book? Because it annoys me? No, because I’m getting to the good part: his reading on the language of forms and colors and his insistence on what he calls the principle of inner necessity that makes an artist’s work resonate with something basic in humans which he calls the soul. I don’t know what a soul is, but that part of what he writes makes sense to me anyway.


So, back to this business of annoyance. Better annoyed than bored? Yes. Especially when annoyance is just another name for curiosity. What’s causing the ruffled feathers? What is it about so-and-so that grates so much? Why can’t you let that particular sleeping dog go on snoring?

Story, in other words. Out in “real” or in fiction.

For now, back to real I go.

Context: a story of

In Artists, Collage, Contes d'Exil, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, Revision, Story material, Sundays, Theater, Visual artists on May 15, 2016 at 8:07 am

Something like finding the right word order for a sentence. Or where to hang a painting to best effect. Bits of scenes: where best to introduce in the flow. There’s a strong visual element involved in the space where one of the characters hides out. The visual element blocks further development into words for the moment. Image in transition from the visual to the verbal.

Context of another kind: in their first version, the words and sentences occurred in something I wrote over fifteen years ago. They were part of the final scene in a series of interlocking pieces. A few months ago, a musician friend asked me to speak a few words in the mix he was composing, based on Beethoven’s Allegretto in his seventh symphony. I used some of those words, spoken by a fictional old woman walking her way from Crimea to a point beyond Lake Baïkal.

Last night, my friend had me listen to those same words spoken in Soninke in one of the final pieces of his composition called Pérégrination. The speaker: a young man from Mali. The words I walk, I walk, I walk take on yet another meaning, given the iterations that brought him to our street five months ago.

Triumphant highs – brief. Crashing lows – always too long. No point in being told I’m “too intense”. What can I do about it, except acknowledge the intensity of the highs and the lows, and manage my life as best I can with the head I’ve got. I have no idea how life fares from inside someone else’s head, no matter how much I may attempt to imagine such in fiction.

Story: Bits of living – my own, that of others – like pieces of puzzle or bits of paper getting shifted around for the “best” fit, whatever best means under the circumstances.

Still re-reading Joyce Carey’s The Horse’s Mouth. At one point yesterday, chapter 13 felt like an odd piece of autobiography, save for the fact I never was a painter, let alone someone by the name of Gulley Jimson. But still in my mind’s eye from long, long ago: Cézanne’s painting of men playing cards. Something like a page holder in one of the unfinished scenes.

From a place where soaring strings make me laugh

In Absurdlandia, Animals, Artists, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, Revision, Scene Prep, Visual artists on May 12, 2016 at 6:47 am

Food happened somewhere after nine pm last night after a most volubile General Assembly. Not that the folks at Volubilo are more talkative than others. Words tend to flow before, during and after meetings here.

This morning, the dog wanted out at five thirty am. I relented at five forty. Climbed into my house clothes (paint-spattered work pants and T). While I did so, a singer by the name of Frida Boccara broke into her rendition of one of her hits from the seventies. In my head, that is. Minus the soaring strings, I sang along: “Il y aura cent mille chansons quand viendra le temps des cent mille saisons…” etc. Upstairs, near the exit to the great outdoors, the dog moaned along. At any hour of the day or night, surrealism may strike. Best enjoy it while you can.

A bit of rain fell overnight. Under the street lamps, the white blooms on the black locust trees twinkled with wee drops and the parked cars looked like a wedding party covered with confetti (none of the parked cars had smashed windows and none were charred heaps – things are quiet on place du château at the moment. Or were, have  been, or had been, whichever verb tense now applies.)

Numbers. Vast subject. Spent a good part of yesterday afternoon drilling school kids in the nine times seven and six times eight routines. Followed by the General Assembly of a collective forever teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. We’ll keep my personal finances out of this. This is no time of day to discuss issues such as minimum living allowances or minimum wages or any other minima whatsoever. Suffice it to say I’m not alone in the contingent of precarious livers. Maybe all the talk is a way to vent anxiety. I saw a photo of young people demonstrating under the banner Génération Précaire, and felt a strong urge to invite them to make that a plural. But I had other things to do, such as drilling school kids in seven times nine being the same as nine times seven.

No wonder then that I reconnected with Joyce Cary’s Gulley Jimson for a few minutes last night. Gulley’s just stolen a few tubes of paint to pursue his latest artwork, and packed newspapers into his shoes and trousers so as not to freeze while devising a paintbrush out of a bit of rope. He’s now attempting to discourage a little kid from becoming an artist. But the kid’s persistent. I’ve read The Horse’s Mouth several times already so here’s a spoiler: the kid sticks around throughout the story.

Which brings me, the long way around, back to my ongoing draft revision.


In Drafts, Hautvoir, Sundays, Visual artists on March 27, 2016 at 9:13 am

A moment of fascination, thanks to a posting of illustrations from a document printed in the year fourteen hundred and ninety three. Wood blocks, I think, illustrating the seven days of creation according to Judeo-Christian cosmology.

At first, out of nothingness, a circle that looks like a ship’s porthole. Inside the circle, the elements appear, circle upon circle like electro magnetic waves. There’s no explaining what fascinates and what doesn’t. I feel the itch to draw in my arm.

A day away from the computer means a day in which writing happens in long hand. Personal writing, for the most part – letters not meant for sending but for clarifying issues that will never find resolution otherwise. Hold on – am I saying a letter never posted or even torn up after writing – can resolve something? Yes, if only for the writer. It can clarify motivations, for one. It can point the way to likely reasons for rushing forward or refusing to budge. It can lay bare sources of incompatibility.

One such bit of writing yesterday turned on my staunch refusal to maintain contact with an ex-spouse. What others make of this, not being my concern. I know the tyranny of good manners dictates smiles, while the opposite tyranny commands fight-to-the-last in proving your principles are way more principled, etc. Neither attitude feels appropriate.

How will the fictional ones make use of any of this? I don’t know. At any rate, I was surrounded by people much, much younger than I, yesterday. I recognized a lot of the posturing, the way you recognize a hairstyle or a piece of clothing as representative of an era or a decade.

The clock reads nine am (it would have said eight, yesterday). The table on which I eat and work: overrun by files, books, dictionaries, scribbled notes, empty bottles of mineral water. Perhaps the character will speak up while I sort through the chaos on my desk. He might be involved in the same kind of clean-up, although for other reasons.

Boot straps

In Absurdlandia, Circus, Drafts, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, news coverage, Sanford Meisner, Visual artists, Wine on March 25, 2016 at 8:31 am

I know for a fact that thinking too much isn’t a good idea (thought/idea: no getting away from it, is there).

At any rate, the person wants a script for a seven-minute long puppet show. I’ve never written such a thing. That’s A. B: even less have I ever written a script for a puppet show to be presented to a non-hearing public and mimed in sign language for their benefit.

C: the theme (and subsequent action) must demonstrate the power of stick-with-it-ness in surmounting life’s many and unpredictable obstacles.

My own life playing in a thoroughly absurdist mode these days, I’m finding both the concept and its realization challenging.


The sculptor raised the hem on his pants so I could see the piece of leather he was describing. This was done so I could find its cut-out representation in the bull he’s soldered out of die-cut remains of  metal used to manufacture patterns for shoe-making. He’s also made another bull out of chicken wire – barbed wire being tougher to work with. The man’s parents entered France from Salazar’s Portugal with faked passports, so you see what kind of low-life I hang out with.

The day was cold but sunny. We ate out in the yard of a disaffected tannery now occupied by street and sundry other artists – whether famous or obscure, all of them are struggling. Everything is hard to come by, including agreement on a plan – any plan. On some days, nothing else but stubborn will keeps you going. On some days, you curse the stubbornness. Seeing as it’s stubbornness, you can curse it all you like. If it’s pulling uphill, it’ll keep on. If it’s lying low, it won’t budge.

Boot straps. You know, the ones in the saying. The frayed or new ones with which you’re supposed to pull yourself up. Forget them. They’re incidental. You’re an outsider? The misunderstandings will never go away? Your finest dreams will never rise up in a triple, shimmering rainbow? Relax, you’ve got plenty of company.

And just so you don’t forget what a crazy species you belong to: seems there’s someone working on a brand new device that should be out this fall. According to this person, what the world really needs right now is a two-shot pistol that folds up to look like a smartphone. (Read in the sidebar feature of the online TNYT).

Given which I say: I’ll take pasta and wine next to a chicken wire bull, and accept the fact opinionated, argumentative types drive me nuts – possibly because I’m as opinionated and argumentative as they are.

Does this make the writing of seven-minute script for a puppet show more appealing? Not one bit.

Irrelevant and a shade off-key*

In Artists, Current reading, Film, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Visual artists on March 12, 2016 at 8:59 am

This will be a day for a dual purpose notebook. Up-ended: personal notes in longhand. Reversed to the standard side: notes from a work session on the latest concerning legal rights and hurdles for asylum seekers. With a choice of an early bus or a late one, I opt for the early. A morning of Albi bookshops and library on my own. Afternoon and evening with opinionated others. Someone has offered to drive me home since, if you don’t own a car, you don’t stay in Albi past five o’clock on a Saturday – unless you plan to sleep over until Monday.

Aldous Huxley, Antic Hay. Chapters XII, XIII and XIV, read last night after an obligatory passage at the local cinema for an exhibition and the showing of three short animation films. Followed by the slow walk home with a fictional character or two, searching for the crumbs of experience on which to feed. Would this character accept to go down without protest? Would he or she fold and disappear just before winning the prize? How would he or she limp on when all possible roads had been explored, and the garden maze kept leading back to the same spot?

Voilà, more or less, where the proto draft stands at the moment. Plus one bit in Chapter XIII of the book mentioned above. “Irrelevant, irreverent, out of key with all that has gone before. But man’s greatest strength lies in his capacity for irrelevance.”

True? False? I don’t know what my characters have to say about it. I guess I’ll find out.

* if applied to the upstairs neighbor’s singing, this should read: astonishing consistency in flat-off wrong key to the same, very same song at least three times of day. (I must acquire a pair of headphones.)

Ordinary stuff

In Artists, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Visual artists on March 10, 2016 at 8:09 am

The advantage to handling several near-unsolvable problems at once: when you tire of looking for solutions to one of them, you can switch over to another. I guess the same applies to writing fiction with multiple points of view. The major advantage of the fictional over the real: nobody dies for real. Nobody suffers for real (except for the writer, at times, but that can always be put down to hysteria).

Unsolvable, meaning what? Meaning no satisfactory solutions are at hand. The only available ones are: a)more of the same or b) worse.

Maybe this is why I enjoyed the hour between two and three pm yesterday. The boy and I sat side by side. He drew geometrical figures. I drew the same in the copy book I’ll give him at the end of the year. He instructed me in color schemes he wanted. He talked about his trip to the mountains – such options are still available here for  some low-income families. One full hour of pleasantness – granted, there was nothing spectacular about it; headlines need not apply. Except, I’ve noticed, when things go spectacularly wrong (wars, draughts, famines, the plagues of Egypt, etc) people do most of the reminiscing about the quiet, pleasant times. C’est comme ça.

So, before taking on this day, a stroll through some of the fabulous imagery assembled by one Stephen Ellcock on his Facebook page.

On to the good, the bad, the ordinary; the boring, the inspiring, the annoying, the funny, the witty, the really stupid, the… etc etc.

A fact among others

In Artists, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Visual artists on February 15, 2016 at 10:12 am

The French writer Colette was one among others  to make the following observation : you can’t make love and write at the same time. Anyone attempting to do so would probably discover both activities suffered from the divided attention required by multi-tasking.

Speaking of which (multi-tasking, that is): two agenda reminders pop up on my screen. Monday, yes, and not all phone call obligations jotted down on the computer calendar either.

The sun’s out, the wind has abated. The church bell strikes nine for the second time (is it nine am on the first peal or on the second? does it matter?)

How does a story grow? I mean, how do the vague bits roaming about in search of their landing place make the journey from the brain pan to the page in a notebook, or to the computer screen? How do images  -whether recollections of real events or fantasies – rise to the top of the heap of impressions and claim the privileged status of Awareness? Why do some words insist on their priority status while others shuffle about  with the equivalent of a hm or a uh?

Bodies are strange entities, whether they be your own or someone else’s.

On these less-than original musings, I step forth into this day out in the “real” world. Promises to keep, and all that.


In Animals, Artists, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Revision, Visual artists on December 31, 2015 at 9:07 am

No further news from the boy who hoped to spend the night in the Albi train station.

When, after bone x-rays, they were told to leave the Home because they were over eighteen (notwithstanding their birth certificates to the contrary), each boy received fifty euro and the Toulouse address of a national organization that runs public awareness campaigns on the plight of refugees – but doesn’t provide any first hand emergency service whatsoever. Those of the boys who attempted that route lost at least twenty-five euro in the process, and then got lost in their attempt to find the building, let alone a live body to give them a hand.

I suspect the boy who made it to Albi ran out of money for a new calling card. The boys’ basic survival tool, the one and only item all of them cherish beyond everything else: a working cell phone.

It rained during the night. I know because I cursed the dog when she insisted on going out at three AM.

A dog peeing in the rain is one thing. Humans trying to sleep in the rain, quite another. I’m holding back a lot of anger – can’t afford to waste precious energy in ranting or sputtering when a problem is of such incredible magnitude. All the social services are overwhelmed, I can well appreciate their difficulties. But “batch-processing” in order to make room for more candidates to the clearing house approach? Sorry, no one will convince me there aren’t better ways to allocate funds for decisions based on something other than short-term political expediency.

Expediency of the kind that says: some lives matter, others don’t. Clear out batch A pronto, I’m sending Batch B down the chute.


Stepping back. Way back. I don’t know if the book exists in English translation. But since the two characters refused to move on last night – and after I stopped cursing the dog – I picked up Didier Anzieu’s Le corps de l’oeuvre again, this time with crayons. A blue crayon seemed the only way to go for underlining in the fifth phase of the process i.e. letting go of the work, be it a painting, a piece of fiction, a sculpture, an essay… The only color that made sense to me, at any rate, as I stumbled across two of the denizens of my own imaginary world in Anzieu’s writing –  the brother I considered my “dead twin” (although this brother died when I was about two years old), and the other, the first-born, still-born one. Giving voice to them both, one way or another, elsewhere than in my inner world. Letting them go, one way or another, for whatever else still lies undiscovered.

Writing is a pretty idiosyncratic business.

So, as I told someone last night: phone off, this morning. Whether something useful will emerge writing-wise, I don’t know. The crayons are out, in case there’s need to scribble some more. At some levels, words don’t seem to show up unless I scribble them out of my head, and move them down into my fingers.