Raining Blood

I'd had a serious few days of panic attacks and deep dread. I felt shaky and absurdly worried but I'd been in the house for too long. I knew I had to get out and do something. See the sky.

I decided to go see Patrick Keiller's exhibition at the Tate Britain. One of the few artists who makes the idea of a 'British' Tate less ridiculous by working with the connections between English landscape and politics. The presence of the Robinson character - a permanent outsider who is, at the same time, quintessentially English (Keiller writes about 'Robinson' being the sort of name someone would appropriate in an attempt to blend in) - is a framing device that allows Keiller to be both indulgent and wry in the way he addresses the political implications of the work. The show allows access to the art historical and literary references that Keiller alludes to in the films, which touch on so many things it can be hard to keep up.

One of my favourite images was this painting by James Ward called The Moment.

I've written about the genre of 'Animal Terror' before, and this is a particularly fine example. There is something magical about the almost Byzantine 'incorrectness' of the bodies of the animals. The coiled, bouncy serpent and the swan-like neck of the horse. The unreal, uncanny nature of the animals was once their symbolic power (which is lost on a contemporary audience - something about the power of the monarchy being challenged by the state). But it was also their downfall in the history of art. Muybridge's photos eventually swept away this illustrative style of the representation of animals, just like the Renaissance did for Mediaeval representation of humans.

I walked back from Pimlico, along Millbank, past Conservative HQ, where student rioters had danced in broken glass. It seemed like a silly place for a riot, blank and characterless. The Conservative party is a non-politics, a void swirling with capital where values should be. The surrounding area is severely lacking in amenities, unless you count Pizza Express. It is a depressing part of the river, you are followed by the gaze of the MI5 building on the other side of the river, watching as you walk.

The riots have been erased from the landscape here, though the outrageous convictions continue for the August riots (despite or, obviously, because of the widespread racism of the police and the strange officially manufactured 'moral outrage' that guides the judiciary).

But you find moments, gaps in the façade.


Or in this case, written on the façade.


Once I got past Westminster (again, it is the lack of politics that is striking here - security personnel, tourists and TV crews, but the MPs are on their Easter Holidays, so the cameras are pointing at nothing, getting cut aways and establishing shots for other things, another time. There was an in-between, airport feeling about the place.) I was on steadier ground, but a ground that was golden with bird shit.

It is not yellow, or golden-ish - it is metallic and shiny and actually golden. What are they eating here in Westminster? Which tree produces these golden berries? I am tempted to paint with it, or just to collect it, and smear the walls with it. It must fetch some sort of price. Or have some shamanistic value. Can we use it?

All day I'd been seeing Barclays/Boris Bikes - subsidised travel for city workers, pootling along taking calls on Bluetooth headsets. The slow bouncy hulks of the Big Society. Only someone as fat as Boris Johnson could see these as an adequate way of moving around the city.

And then, this.

Golden shit, rendering the Boris bikes impotent. Had it knocked the saddle round? The sheer weight of fecal matter raining down from the trees.

[Idea for exhibition: Boris bikes, smeared with golden birdshit. Kept in a gallery space and rented out for free. Idea for long term intervention: plant the golden berried trees in cracks in the pavement near Boris Bike settlements. Then wait 40 years for the birds to do their job.]

I went on, into the City proper.

Keiller's exhibition had been describing the Enclosure Acts, and resistance to them. But the City has been enclosed for much longer. The boundaries of the City were formed by a quirk of history, William the Conqueror granting it an independent status, its freedom from state control pre-dating the Enclosure Acts and the early stirrings of capitalism. Ironically, this prepared it for its contemporary role as an uncontrollable market vortex, unmoored from the ropes of reason or realism.

I was skirting the edge, keeping out of the way. I stuck to Upper and Lower Thames St, where the architecture is brutal -flyovers and concrete.

I found these fenced off trees.

Half planted, then blocked off with official street furniture. Barriers to entry. Protecting you from nature until its power can be fully controlled.

Earlier I had seen this 'No Pedestrian' sign by the side of the road.

The white paint had flaked off, and the walking man was surrounded by red. The crimson clouds closing in. A much more extreme warning than the original sign could ever suggest, implying that if you cross onto that upon which pedestrians must not tread, the sky will swell and it will rain blood.

I got to the Tower of London and skulked around the closed ticket offices and Traditional Fish and Chip Shoppes, accidentally photo-bombing dozens of tourists before getting the tube home.


Later on I went to the pub and saw this excellent example of Slayer graffiti. I've been documenting Slayer graffiti for a while. They are one of the few metal bands that have retained their iconographic power. Even I can draw the Slayer logo, and obviously, so could the person who did this.

Slayer wrote a rather excellent song called Raining Blood. Inspired by the sign maybe. This could be a new genre: Hazard Sign Metal.