Most of my childhood memories are based on television. Forgotten television programs/films/adverts form a substantial part of my sub-concious. I was speaking to someone about psychoanalysis the other day, and I got on to the idea of nostalgic group conversations ("Oh, you mean The Raccoons? [sings theme tune] What about Trap Door? Do you remember that? NO WAY!!! Knightmare? Yeah of course!! etc. etc.) as a form of naive psychoanalysis, or group therapy.

We root around in our childhood, dragging half-buried ideas and images from our long term memory, we parade them around and re-position them as value-objects. We assign certain images trauma value, holding others to us like comfort blankets or pop-culture mascots.

Turns out I'm not the only one to think of this... is a website which encourages people to send in 'Traumafessions' about things that scared the shit out of them as children.

"KINDERTRAUMA is about the movies, books, and toys that scared you when you were a kid. It’s also about kids in scary movies, both as heroes and villains. And everything else that’s traumatic to a tyke!

Through reviews, stories, artwork, and testimonials, we mean to remind you of all the things you once tried so hard to forget…"

Like most websites recommended in the Guardian Guide, it sounds way funnier than it actually is. It is interesting to see how this idea of the trivial-as-life-forming is being played out online. I agree with the essence - that trivial things can have meaningful psychological impact. It is strange how these things become a form of 'sharing', where discussing your suppressed memories is deemed necessarily therapeutic, even if the therapy is based in humour.
Yesterday I made loads of work in the studio - it was raining and I got soaked on my ride to town, so there was no way I was going back in to the city with wet thighs - that is risking some serious chaffage.

So, seeing as I didn't do anything of blogging value yesterday (I'm trying not write about the work I'm doing - I'm scripting a performance so it gets a little self-referential if I write about writing...), I thought I'd put these photos up. I took them on my trip down to the Albert Dock.

If I looked up from here, I could see the Liverpool Big Wheel

When I looked down I could see this ominous black buoy, covered in tires and held together by chains. It looks like a naval mine, or a giant floating punch bag.

I like it when developed, tourist centred zones have 'wrong' elements in them. They look so out of place in a polished, clean, cultural attraction, and at the same time somehow manage to be made invisible to visitors through their incongruity.

I love the attitude of the placement of this tape. Firstly, there is no step, secondly these things are surely their own warning - their very presence tells you that you should not walk directly in to them.

They are objects deprived of their obvious meaning, and given a new, visitor concious meaning. These functional objects have been re-interpreted as obstacles to tourism. They have been de-objectified and reconstituted as referential signifiers; their meaning is subject to our presence.

Quantum objects, post-modern objects, impotent objects.
Yesterday I went to meet David Jacques at his studio.

All images are from his website, and the videos are from his youtube channel.

Penny and Dan were interested in seeing his new work, and thought I might like to speak to him - he deals very much with the edges of the city, the abandoned non-places that used to have meaning, such as the docks and industrial estates north of the centre.

His latest work, North Canda - English Electric, documented in this video (in two parts), deals with just such places, and has just won him the Liverpool art prize. He has also been nominated for the Northern Art Prize.

We spoke about the ownership of the city and private spaces (Liverpool One, Grosvenor, the church, university campuses). We also spoke about a collaborative piece of performance he is working on with two other artists and a drama group. The piece is inspired by Hansel and Gretel, and a book by W.G Sebald called, Austerlitz.

I won't say too much about what David told us about the piece, as it is being performed as part of this years Liverpool Biennial. It was a strange coincidence that the piece of work I'll be performing on the 9th of August at the Royal Standard will be loosely based on ideas contained within another of Sebald's books, The Rings of Saturn.
I went home for the funeral of Keith Colquhoun, my girlfriend Jessie's Father. I arrived back in Liverpool yesterday, with a throbbing headache and an unshakable sadness. Funerals are cathartic, but that sense of relief doesn't last for long.

Before I got my train (actually, I missed my train by about 30 seconds, which meant that I had to wait at Liverpool Lime Street for an hour, staring at the giant electronic billboard across the street), we went down to Crosby beach to see Another Place by Antony Gormley.

The piece consists of 100 cast iron figures, spread over two miles of coastline. They face out to sea, and, as per usual with Gormley, are cast from the artists body.

They were meant to go to New York in November 2006, but after a petition by local people and Another Body Place Ltd, a charitable body set up to campaign to keep the iron men on the beach, they were granted a reprieve and will now be permanently posted at Crosby.

I can't find much info on Another Body Place Ltd. Perhaps that might warrant some extra research in to exactly who set up the lobbying body, what funding was needed, and where it came from. Antony Gormley certainly benefited financially from Crosby keeping hold of the statues.

Crosby is pretty bleak. It was so windy that our mile long walk along the beach completely knackered me. Richard took his shoes off and almost instantly his feet were covered in a thick, black sludge. You could see the edge of Liverpool's industry, towards the south, and wind farms out to sea.

You could also see these, which I thought were much nicer than Gormley's men.

Maybe there should be100 of those.

I'd heard that the men closest to the shore had smooth heads and smooth penises, from where visitors rub the statues.

I like the idea that this could become the function of the men. Good luck talismans for a post-industrial mythology. Maybe in a post-cultural landscape, this could become their meaning. For now they are unmistakably linked to Gormley. A large sign at the entrance to the beach explains exactly how they came to be here, and what the artist was thinking when he proposed the idea.

As the tide comes in and out, the figures are submerged at various heights. It is both affecting, and also slightly absurd. People sometimes dress the figures up - one iron man we saw had gold underwear spray painted on him.

This is a jelly fish we found on the sand. Andy is poking it with a stick. This is the colour and feel of the British coastline: rubbish, dead jelly fish, mackintoshes, dog walkers, wind. The iron men fit in somehow. I'm not a fan of Gormley as an artist, but maybe public art requires a different sort of language. His work is certainly basic enough to acquire meaning without too much trouble. You can ignore it or place it within the landscape without having to modify what you are looking at.

Hamish Mclain mounted a man halfway down the beach. He didn't look too comfortable.

This is the local swimming pool as seen from the beach. It looks like a space craft. Maybe they could convert it in to a UFO museum if tourism picks up as much they hope it will.

This is the Lee Shan Kung Fu Club, as seen on the way up from the beach to the town. You can't quite make it out on the picture, but he teaches many styles. Impressive.

When I was finally on the platform for my train, (after a good breakfast, a missed train and an hours wait) I saw a glove on the roof of the station.

I suppose it got there from someone working on the roof. It's funny how the trace of something we recognise as human always intrigues us.
Right, I'm back in Liverpool. I'll do a proper blog tomorrow, featuring Antony Gormley's smooth penis. Until then you'll have to make do with this.

It's Sigmund Freud doing a wheely.
 I'm off to Crosby Beach today, and then I'm going back to Essex until Tuesday. I haven't really got time to blog, so you'll have to make do with these pictures.

This is a girl in a brain costume.

This is a girl in a brain costume on my bike.
A few additions to yesterday's post on the Beatles: Alan's surname is Williams, and you can see his artwork here. Kevin Hunt also sent me a link to this page about the Beatles' homes across Liverpool, which clarifies a few things.

I promise I won't write about the Beatles any more, though they do have a habit of creeping up in conversation. I was in the pub last night having a huge conversation about the Beatles with Dan, when we both suddenly realised that neither of us either a) cared about the Beatles or b) knew very much about them.

This is Superlambanana.

It is a piece of public sculpture, designed by Taro Chiezo, commissioned for the Art Transpennine Exhibition of 1998. It is seventeen feet high, and made of concrete and steel. I found all that information at the Superlambanana fansite.

The site promotes products related to Superlambanana, mainly mini-replicas, including this Beatles design...

Tasteful no?

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself really. The reason that there are products to buy, and people who would buy them, is because in 2008, a project called Go Superlambananas was launched by the public art production company Wild in Art as part of the Liverpool's year as the European Capital of Culture.

This is from the website.

"For ten weeks during this summer, hundreds of thousands of tourists, visitors and residents had fun exploring the city and discovering 125 Superlambananas, beautifully created by artists and communities from Liverpool." 

And I must also say that most of the information I have about this is from a piece of writing by Penny and Dan called Mutiny on the Periphery, which is published in Culture and Agency, Contemporary Culture and Urban Change, ed. Monica Degen and Malcolm Miles, University of Plymouth Press, 2010.

So basically, a load of fibreglass copies of Superlambanana were placed around the city, artists were paid to decorate them, and companies sponsored them, and were allowed to wrap them in company colours. They formed a sort of trail around the city, and people would walk around the city 'discovering' the mini-superlambananas in different situations.

Most of them were auctioned off - with a lot of the money going to local charities, but a not insubstantial chunk going back to the organisers, Wild in Art. Wild in Art are not a charity, and, I presume, were already paid for the production and management of the superlambananas.

Wild in Art have produced and managed several other events along the same lines as Go Superlambanas. Including Go Elephants in Norwich, another event in Merseyside called Go Penguins, and my personal favourite, a project with pigs in Lalin, Spain, called, Lalin Pork Art.

Here is another quote from the Wild in Art website, about the Go Penguins project.

"Liverpool’s Go Penguins event was a huge success, with over 500,000 people visiting the trail over the ten weeks, plus a further 4,000 more coming to bid a fond farewell to their beloved penguins at the special auction preview at St George’s Hall. Generating a whopping £5.6 million in media stories, the event enjoyed incredible celebrity support, with Paul O’Grady, Johnny Vegas, Graeme Le Saux, the cast of Hollyoaks and Liverpool legend Ken Dodd among those getting behind the event."

There are a few things I don't like about that statement. Firstly, when did getting Graeme Le Saux and Ken Dodd involved in a piece of public art ever make it successful? Secondly, what does '£5.6 million in media stories' mean? Those figures, at best, are invented, the worth of the project to the city is overblown, and the idea of parades of fibreglass animals being distributed around a city for seemingly no reason is presented as an intrinsically good thing.

Superlambanana was not a brilliant piece of art, but it did have a critical function - it was designed as a comment on the genetic modification of food (lamb-banana, fish-tomato). The Go Superlambananas 'event', and the other replicated Go events have no such critical basis. Wild in Art have taken a piece of art and turned it in to a palatable piece of marketing.

Ironically, the Go Superlambanas have become an unofficial, and unlikely, icon of the city. A few of them were 'generously donated' to local charities or community groups by Wild in Art (a direct quote from the website - by generously donated I assume they mean paid for by the local council and centralised government funding), so some of them are hanging about, generating publicity for the company who were paid to make them.

Liverpool council must have bought one for Liverpool Parkway (which I wrote about yesterday - sort of a fancy bus shelter-cum-train station for people travelling from the airport to the city).

I suppose I did take a picture, but hopefully it won't become part of Wild in Art's perpetual marketing cycle.

Later on, we were in a take away, and I noticed this.

I did actually have that deal. I also bought some chips, but I'm not sure how relevant that is.

I suppose all this sounds a bit curmudgeonly (I always wonder where that word comes from, is the curmudgeon a medieval grumbling bird?). I'm not trying to shit on the superlambananas, or their adoption by the people of the city as a mascot. It just seems unfortunate that the way the 'events' were managed benefited Wild in Art - a private company - in real, monetary terms, way more than they benefited the city, despite all the talk of 'media value'.
Yesterday, Richard Proffitt gave me a Magical Mystery tour of all the Beatles' related sites in the city. Sam Venables drove, and Kevin Hunt and Alan Williams came along for the ride.

On the way to pick up Richard and Alan from Tesco (egg and cress triple sandwich + tropicana), we saw the actual Magical Mystery Tour bus. People pay a lot of money to get on a bus and drive round suburban Liverpool. But we did it for free (apart from Sam's petrol, and the fact that Richard had previously done the Magical Mystery Tour so that's how he knew where to take us...).

First off we went to George Harrison's house in Wavertree. I didn't take any photos because, frankly, I was scared of the children.we stood there for a minute and Richard told us about a childhood friend of the Beatles - when they became successful, they bought him a supermarket somewhere down south. After a while, they could afford to give him a job with the band, but he freaked out and went back to running the supermarket.

Next stop was Strawberry Fields. Again not much to see. Richard had brought a stereo and played the relevant song as we drove up to the gates. There was quite a lot of bad graffiti, and it looked as though people had stolen parts of the gate, which reminded me a bit of the guys who stole the Auschwitz sign, only less impressive.

Through the gates we could see a development of new build homes - yellow bricks and uPVC windows. It was hard to get excited. I'm not a big Beatles fan anyway, but it must be pretty depressing to travel from Japan or Brazil just to stand next to a red gate next to a busy road.

Next up was John Lennon's house (at no point did we get from one place to the next without missing a turning or having to perform a dangerous/ridiculous manoeuvre in the car). John's house, as you can imagine, is better kept that George's, and definitely Ringo's (I still can't work out whether or not it's been demolished). It is owned by the National Trust, though someone does live there. We saw an old man peeking through the curtains, and there was a Ford Fusion in the drive. Just like the one John drove.

We saw this woman outside the house. We were at a bit of a loss as to what we should have been doing when looking at the house. She seemed more dedicated to the task, but after a minute or so of reverential looking, even she gave up. She walked across the road, probably to Paul's house, which was also our next stop.

I'm already really bored recounting this. It was quite enjoyable, but probably only because we all recognised that the whole thing was completely absurd. Also, Richard promised us that in Paul McCartney's house, there lived a camp alcoholic, who not only regaled tourists with invented tales of the Macca's last visit ("he brought his own PG Tips, he likes to check up on the place" etc. etc.), but also looked exactly like Paul McCartney, if Paul McCartney was a camp alcoholic.

He didn't appear, and again, we were left wondering what we were meant to do. Luckily a car full of tourists turned up and asked us if we knew which one Paul McCartney's house was. We pointed at the sign and told them that John Lennon's house was much nicer. He had a Ford Fusion.

This is the topiary sculpture of the Beatles that stands on a roundabout at Liverpool Parkway. We probably wouldn't have bothered, but it was close, and I wanted to see how Ringo's head was doing since a vandal had decapitated it last year. Poor Ringo. I'm not sure if you can see from the photos, but instead of growing a new head, the gardeners have just chopped off a bit of his shoulders and sculpted a new head from what was his neck. It looks totally insane, like they hired a Goomba to play them the drums.

The sculpture (or feature, or whatever. What do you call it when it's made out of hedge?) also had a single CCTV camera pointing directly at it. I'm assuming it has been installed since the vandalism attack, but it seemed like overkill. I suppose the tourists won't notice just one more camera.

Actually, the whole Liverpool Parkway development seemed absurd, it is such a small interchange, but such a huge building. So much technology for what is essentially a bus shelter. I suppose the idea is that tourists are impressed as they are carried seamlessly from the airport to the city. Lots of metal and glass and automatic doors.

Finally, we went to Penny Lane where we startled a man and his child by playing the song Penny Lane at full blast from the car window. We were meant to be playing it at a group of lost looking tourists, but they didn't take any notice. Sam thought they weren't Beatles tourist, and might just be looking for the carvery.

With our last job finished, we drove to the pub and talked about non-Beatles related things for a while. Then we noticed that the whole pub was covered in bad oil paintings of the band. It is hard to escape their presence here. Richard spoke about how they overshadow the city. He spoke about how no one from Liverpool will ever be as famous as the Beatles were. He is right in a way. The shifting economics of pop music mean that no musician will dominate western music in quite the same way. And, as Richard said later in a different pub, with less Beatles paintings, but more alligators on the walls, the Beatles were actually a product of the last phase of Liverpool's industrial period. They were a product of a city that had wealth, before the bad old days of the 70s and 80s. They were confident and able because of Liverpool's success as a city, and in a way that is why people are still so reverent of them. They are a hangover from Britain's industrial past.

The Beatles: A story of Victorian Britain's industrial prowess.You don't hear that very often.
On the 10th of July of this year, my girlfriend's father, Keith Colquhoun, died at the age of 82. He was an incredible man, full of facts, fictions, and tales of his journalistic travels. He also sported a particularly fine beard, and though it took me some time to gain his approval with regards to his daughter, he always appreciated my attitude to facial hair.

His wife, Sara, has written an obituary which appeared in the Guardian. There is also an obituary in The Economist, where he had worked on the Asia section and where he had also been, strangely enough, in charge of the obituaries.

As well as a journalist, Keith was a novelist - his most successful being Goebbels & Gladys, first published in 1981. You can buy his latest book, Five Deadly Words, published just before he died, on Amazon.

Whilst I was reading Goebbels & Gladys, I used to read Jessie my favourite lines from the book. She asked me if I could remember any of the passages that I had quoted from. I couldn't. So, today I have been going through the book finding bits that I like, in the hope that I'll stumble upon the quotable quotes that I discovered on my first reading. I thought I'd present a little selection here.

"Noel looked particularly pink this morning, although it might have been the light. I wondered if I would be doing him an ill-service if I took him to the pub this early. It would probably make little difference. Only an expert could tell Noel pissed from Noel unpissed. It would be a rare chance for Noel to do something useful for the newspaper. I raised my eyebrows interrogatively and made a drinking gesture. I don't know why I didn't just ask him to have a drink. I suppose television has made all of us visual."

"The operator said she wasn't getting any reply on Brooke-Kate's extension and she put me through to the features department. I spoke to one of the subs and asked him to tell Brooke-Kate that I was off to Tunis and would call him on Monday. 'My name is Verity, V as in virtuous. That's right. Thanks.' I hung up. To phone someone you don't want to speak to and discover he is out is a timely piece of luck."

"On the way back to the hotel I had a thought as we passed the crowds of Tunisians watching the caravan of cars. I said to Paul, 'A couple of owls like us have just shaken their president's hand and regarded it as part of the day's work. Yet had it happened to any of them they would have remembered it all their life.' Paul didn't say anything. He probably thought I was being facetious, but I wasn't.
  Smith said, 'I think that is a noble thought, Mr. Verity.' I hadn't meant it to be noble either. I sometimes feel I am misunderstood."

"Experience is pretty humdrum. It is art that gives it glamour. The spacemen made the moon sound like Little Rock. H.G. wells never went there and made it sound like Arcadia"

"Each one of us survives at the expense of others."

"The confidential euphoria inspired by alcohol is best left until the evening."

This is a photo of some road works near The Royal Standard.

This is a photo of some dirt in a box in the gallery space I'm using as a studio. It is left over from the last show they had here (an exhibition inspired by Robert Smithson - hence the dirt). I've positioned myself right in the corner of the space; jammed up against a window, back to the door like some Feng Shui nightmare.

The rest of the gallery is empty apart from the box of dirt. I'm in opposition to it. It feels notionally more real than me. Like a memento mori; dirt, burial, graves, etc. But maybe it's not a metaphor for death, maybe its just a metaphor for itself - like all objects, they just are what they are. We attach the meaning, the signifying arrows. In that sense all objects are metaphors for death, because when you die you become an object - you become meaningless to yourself, incomprehensible.

An obsession with truth is an obsession with objectivity - how do we see things as they are, not as we think they are? The thinking is inextricably bound up with the seeing - the perceiving. Objects inhabit truth, human subjects fail to perceive it. Once you die, you become an object, and you inhabit truth. You fulfil the dreams of scientific enquiry and cross the border from subjectivity in to objectivity.

I always think that ideas of God are bound up with philosophical ideas of truth. The very impossibility of knowledge is a direct reference to our belief in knowledge; our belief in the existence of objects, in the stability of physical laws, etc.
  For those who believe in God, the very incomprehensibility of an infinite, omnipotent being predicates his existence. One of Descartes' proofs of God's existence hinges on the definition of God as something that necessarily exists. The whole rationale of scientific enquiry is predicated on our definition of truth as something that exists, outside of our definition of it.

What I'm basically saying, is that I might keep the box of dirt.
This morning I bought a prawn sandwich from Asda (I've now tried prawn sandwiches from all the main supermarkets - Sainsbury's is the clear winner, but Asda's wasn't too bad. Tesco's has a shameful prawn to mayonnaise ratio.) and then walked to the bus stop. I like getting buses when you don't quite know where you are. I always have to fight the urge to jump off as soon as I see a recognisable landmark.
  I walked through town in the vague direction of The Royal Standard and noticed the usual things: empty shop fronts next to hyper branded commercial 'spaces', metal studs on street furniture to stop skaters re-interpreting its use, desperate, windswept for-sale banners hanging forlornly from new build apartments ("Bright, Modern Two Bed Apartment on this Popular Waterfront!").

I like the Radiocity tower that looms over St. John's Garden.

It reminds me a bit of the clock in Alexanderplatz, Berlin.

The communist government always claimed it was an atomic clock, but it was actually just a regular clock with some fancy detailing...

I strolled through the museum quarter and saw these meaty flowers installed in the balconies of the World Museum.

Apparently, at night their air-pumps are turned off and they slowly deflate.

I'm staying with Penny Whitehead and Daniel Simpkins (where I'm sleeping in a bed on stilts - incredibly comfortable until you smack your head off the ceiling), and Penny was talking about how the local council assigns a theme to each year, so 2010 is 'Year of Health and Wellbeing'

I noticed these flags in various places, maybe I'll try and search out as many as I can.

I don't know if you can read the text, but it says, "Connect... Be Active... Take Notice... Keep Learning... Give..."

It even has its own annoying website where you can meaninglessly pledge your support to "acknowledge the importance of the health and wellbeing of our communities".

The only other example of time being branded of which I can think is in the book Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Most of the action takes place in "subsidized time", where each year is known by its corporate sponsor - here is a list I stole from the wiki page on Infinite Jest.

  1. Year of the Whopper
  2. Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad
  3. Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar
  4. Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken
  5. Year of the Whisper-Quiet Maytag Dishmaster
  6. Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade For Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems For Home, Office Or Mobile [sic]
  7. Year of Dairy Products from the American Heartland
  8. Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment
  9. Year of Glad
Maybe if the recession really starts to bite up here, Ringo Starr could subsidize a year or two. It might make up for the comments he made about Liverpool in 2008, where he claimed he missed nothing about the city and was glad to have left. Ouch.

If he paid enough they might even put his head back on...