Rock Weave, home made play doh with found weave, 2014

Karl Jung is a Grass: Booze, performance with slideshow, 2012

I want to talk about the importance of booze in psychogeographical activity, so I'll tell you a story about boozing.

I've been walking with this artist called Laura Oldfield Ford. She has a blog about regeneration, politics and urban landscapes called Savage Messiah, and she also produced a zine of the same name all through the early 2000s which has just been published as a collection by Verso books.

She walks and writes, and then does these intensely detailed drawings of the landscapes that she walks through. I'd never seen any of her work in the flesh before I met her, and it is so detailed and large scale that in reproductions it looks like pencil, but it is all made with biro.

I got in touch with her for this project, thinking that I could maybe interview her about the way she works. I explained the project – that we were putting on an event about different approaches to using psychogeography in art - and she agreed to meet. In fact, we agreed to take a walk. I'd explained that I was fascinated with fringe politics – nationalism, political islam – stuff that happens in marginal areas of the city.

So she said we should walk to Walthamstow, which is full of BNP of EDL groups, as well as being a base for the various banned groups started by Anjem Choudary –

Islam4UK, and Muslims against Crusades amongst others.

We walked up from Hackney Marshes along the canal, with the Olympic site peering at us from the over the goalposts. She spoke about being part of a long line of English landscape artists, and trying to reclaim the idea of the pastoral from Conservatives.

Her political background is in Anarcho-punk and the free-party squatter scene of the 90s.

When you think about rave culture, it was a unique moment for the working class and the countryside. A kind of peasants revolt not seen in England since the Enclosure acts.

A reclaiming of land long since lost to the gentry, and a violent incursion of direct, realised politics, onto the formalised structures of private ownership.

She spoke about the criminal justice bill of 1994, which effectively outlawed rave culture, and disbanded the community she was part of.

The current Occupy movement is basically like a less fun version of the squat party scene, but has a lot of validity in terms of directly enacted, self-organised politics. Especially, I think, when its core members are no longer the self-aware, self selecting activists who say they represent the movement. My feeling is that Occupy could become a movement spearheaded by the non-societal, a truly unwanted underclass – long term homeless, street drinkers and those special paranoiacs who have gone 'off grid' to keep from being watched.

At the same time as toasting the politics of the rave, we joked about the nightmare of squat politics: the hardcore vegans who wouldn't allow milk in the shared kitchen, the hypocritical reality of imposed anarcho-syndaclism.

We walked, and we talked. She told me about raves in the basements of hideous pubs, pointed out places where she had spent the afternoon dancing to hard techno in family beer gardens and roofs where she had woken up blistered and burnt after falling asleep in the sun.

I had taken a few weeks off drinking, which had given me a strangely passive and clear view of the world. Everything you say when you are sober is owned by you, you can't attribute it to anyone or anything else, which makes the world seem blandly cold and obvious.

Laura wanted a drink, and I was happy to get back to the warmth and confusion of boozing, so we began to stop in pubs on the way.

A Wetherspoons at 3pm in Leyton, full of old white people, blank schizophrenics in jogging bottoms, and a woman in her 90s who bought two pints at the bar, downed one of them in three gulps, gave me a wink, then tottered back to her table to finish off the other one.

Laura said that you always know its a good boozer if there are mobility scooters parked outside.

Eventually we got to Walthamstow. Laura had found some BNP pubs for us to drink in

– places where meetings were held openly, and the occasional arrest was made for some racially aggravated crime or another.

I dress like a student, so the whole pub tensed up as I entered, but luckily, being a male/female pair, the staff and punters cut you a bit of slack. Especially after you buy a few drinks.

This pub was notable not only for its predominantly shaven headed clientele, but also an old Jewish couple, drunk on cheap wine. The old lady was dancing to Rhianna with a small child in the middle of the pub, whilst the old man clapped and sang along in Yiddish.

I started to tell Laura about my theories about alcohol; that alcohol is the entheogen of the Northern Europeans.

I believe that we use alcohol like other cultures use hallucinogens, or opium, or hashish. A protestant version of the shaman state. But here we are all shamans, or at least, on a Friday night, we are all apprentice shamans.

Maybe the high priests of alcohol shamanism are street drinkers - with super-strong lager and cider as the purest way to achieve transcendence.

To leave your body and shudder and shake and shout down to the street whilst floating above your head. To vomit and cry and see the future or the past in brown clarity.

Laura said she had a friend who performed Special Brew rituals for her, back when she used to hold launches for her zine. He would blindfold himself, and then down 3 cans of Special brew inside a magic circle and begin to shout and speak in alcohol-tongues.

Ethanol as a truth serum, vomiting as a cleansing ritual, hangovers as cathartic passages, training for a pissed monasticism.

We moved onto another pub, this time an Irish nationalist bar above a shop. Again, we were confronted by a failure of stereotypes. This bar, which was supposedly the last bastion of Irish Nationalists in East London, was populated by people waiting for the Friday night karaoke to begin, with a black lesbian couple sitting at the front of the pub, drinking pints of Guinness and looking at the song list, deciding what to perform.

For me, alcohol is a big part of city walking. I don't do drugs anymore. I had a nasty few years of tranquillisers and amphetamines. And after a death at a publicly funded art space, the police effectively forced me out of Newcastle where I was living, so I cleaned up and came to London.

Alcohol is the only drug I have left, and it allows connections to form that would or could not be made any other way, things that come out in the conversational ritual of drinking with another person. The feedback loop of agreements or disagreements which allows absurd conspiracies to form between drunks.

The convoluted conversations, full of misunderstandings and mishearings and looping diversions and digressions.

We spoke about the difference between street drinking and pub drinking, and by this time, about 8pm, we had moved onto The Goose, which was where a few EDL marches had started out. You could see why the EDL would meet there. If you don't know, Goose pubs are a national chain, a bit like Wetherspoons, but nastier. But it was Friday, we were pissed and it was busy with a mix of people, so it had a sort of edgy happiness to it.

There were groups of African men drinking cheap spirits and a huge gaggle of Irish girls who we ended up sitting with. There were people in Combat 18 jackets there – proper skinheads drinking cider on their own. Then groups of Asian students getting ready to go out in central London, drinking blue drinks through straws. Chinese couples, eating burger and chips and drinking orange juice. It was chaotic and disgusting. It was actually the only place where I saw any evidence of racism – some nasty graffiti in the toilet,

but with its incredibly diverse customer demographic, it seemed to be sort of hyper-tolerant as well.

London has a strange ability to support these places – where everyone has to get along. Maybe it was cheap booze, unifying across racial division in the area. Admittedly, we were there at 8 in the evening. I wouldn't want to be there at midnight for kicking out time.

The next time I met Laura, she took me to a pub called the Black Circle, which is in the hinterland between Beckton and Upney, between a few motorways and just above the sewage treatment works. It was a Wednesday afternoon and we were the only punters apart from a bloke at the bar on his own, who didn't speak, but just leaned on the bar making a low pitched buzzing noise, like he was talking to himself in another language.

Deal or No Deal was on the telly, which if you have ever seen it, is a game with rules so meaningless that it doesn't actually need to be played. The results could be read out in advance and it would save everyone the trouble of having to watch it. But gaming theories abound amongst the contestants. Noel Edmonds is obsessed with "cosmic ordering" which is where you order what you want from the universe by writing it down on a piece of paper over and over again. Like a magic spell. Within the context of Deal or No deal, the idea of cosmic ordering is a beautiful synecdoche of human reasoning - nonsense versus chaos – a reverse paranoia.

There are tales of the superstitious contestants not changing their clothes for weeks while they stay at the production warehouse waiting for their chance to play the game, apparently cadres and cliques often form up in the contestants - with 'bad energy' contestants being shunned by the group. There were even rumours of a ritual sacrifice, but they were quickly buried by Endemol with court orders and lawyer's letters. But, still, those contestants implicated were cut from the final edits of the season, costing the company hundreds of thousands of pounds for re-filming missing episodes.

We spoke about how “Deal or no Deal” is the perfect program to be on the telly in day-pubs. They should market it as an entire channel for commercial Sky subscriptions, edit it seamlessly - no ad breaks, and no end, just the constant expression of meaningless theories about how to win the game, whilst the real game carries on outside, beyond the walls of the TV studio and the pub. A perfect analogy to day drinking. Wistful and hopeful, bathed in impotence.

The pub was covered in handwritten signs, which reminded me of spells or mantras. I realised that the pub itself was performing magic ritual, cosmic ordering just like Noel Edmonds. It was a two way system, with the drinkers as shamans, but also the building. A living architecture, a magical paranoid ecosystem.

When we left, I grabbed some of the signs off the walls. Here are a few of my favourites.

Ambient Notes #6 (Hofesh Shechter at Sadler's Wells)

-I wait in Angel station for E., it is raining heavily outside. It's busy inside the station with people kissing other people on both cheeks. A man meets a woman, it is 19:01, she jokes 'You are one minute late', he looks at the clock and frowns, neither of them laugh.

-Walking towards the theatre from the tube, we realise we are part of a middle class flock. People are very well dressed. Their shoes are shiny and their teeth are white. I have a split in my jeans that extends from the front of my crotch down and round and up to my right buttock.

-The only previous time I've been in Sadler's Wells I was in the upper circle looking down on the stage from a height that made me feel nauseous. I had to keep reminding myself that it was really interesting to be watching something from above. E. has press tickets so we have seats near the stage. I imagine sweat flicking off the dancers and hitting us in the face.

-I remember going to see a theatre production of Button Moon when I was four or five and being scared of the theatre seats (I thought they were going to swallow me).

-The stage is massive and empty. We are in a physically huge space.


-The lights cut and a lot of people in the audience gasp.

-Suddenly the stage is backlit and a lot of people in the audience gasp.

-Loads of male dancers stride up to the front of the stage and are spotlit.

-E.'s friend, who is dancing, is not spotlit. E. gleefully points out that he has missed his mark, but is then unsure of whether or not it is intentional.

-All the dancers are wearing cargo trousers and long sleeved t-shirts.

-I once went to see Paul Daniels at a theatre when I was about nine, and Debbie Mcgee really scared me because I found her so beautiful. I thought she was going to invite me on stage and kiss me.

-The male dancers are doing really male dancing.

-One of the dancers has dreadlocks and is white and I inwardly cringe.

-The music could be described as 'tribal'.

-There is simulated dance fighting.

-In no way is this production worried about, or critically conscious of, its use of theatrical lighting, dance 'acting', or sheer spectacle.

-I keep thinking of the words 'normal sized penis' and imagining contemporary teenage boys doing google image searches (safe search: off) for 'normal sized penis'.

-The dancers do a move that reminds me of being on pills in a really bad drum and bass club in Bristol, surrounded by white people with dreadlocks.

-White noise is used to signify nothingness or emptiness.

-I think about oukontic and meontic nothingness. Oukontic nothingness is the nothing we can know - so like, 'What's in the fruit bowl?' 'Nothing' i.e., no fruit. But meontic nothingness is like the nothing that isn't even nothing, so like, 'what is outside of the universe?' 'Nothing'.

-The amazing thing about dance is that it points towards there always being movement, even in stillness. This dance never lets there be stillness (which is, as it were, an oukontic stillness - a stillness within movement which is never really still). When the dancers aren't dancing, they are sort of moving on the spot, as if to make a point of how there is always movement, even in stillness, which defeats the whole point of stillness inevitably making this point anyway.

-I am not bored at all. Not for one single second.

-A big problem for some philosophy is how to account for change, like, how do things move from one state to another without some external magical force? (It would have been God in medieval philosophy.) Dance points out the possibility that every object is always already interpreting and adjusting to other objects (so, the body is always already adjusting its position in relation to the ground). Change could be the constant, the immediate product of objects being in the world. So maybe the problem is how to account for identity, rather than change.

-I remember trying to wear a short sleeved t-shirt over a long sleeved t-shirt as a teenager and it making me look very thin. I also remember my mum buying me a special t-shirt that looked like a short sleeved t-shirt over a long sleeved t-shirt but was actually just one piece of clothing.


-In the interval I drink a beer very fast. E. has to review this show for a website and I talk loudly about the meaning of reviews, 'Who reads reviews?' I say. 'Who are they for?' I say. 'Why do reviews exist other than to perpetuate the system of production they pretend to critique?' I say. 'I might write a review' I say.


-A male voice comes through the speakers, talking about how his mother left him. I assume it must be the choreographer's voice, but then feel really presumptuous and think of it as an acted character. (Later I find out it is the choreographer's voice.)

-The voice makes loads of shouty mouth noises and screams, run through a distortion effect. It sounds like the worst bits of a nu-metal band I used to like called KoRn.

-This piece seems so explicitly fucked in terms of its attitude to gender that I assume it must be taking some sort of reflexive, critical position. The voiceover (disembodied male) is speaking about his attitude to women via the absent figure of his mother, and the female dancers respond violently and compulsively to these words and occasional noises. The lighting sometimes switches to single spotlights and the female dancers sort of put their hands up as though it is God.

-The female dancers do this movement with their hands banging on their legs which sort of looks like a swear word, or groin based cuss. Like how Italians have those hand movements that mean things like 'I had sex with your wife', or, 'I will open up your anus (and put my foot inside it)'.

-It is really impressive when lots of people do things at the same time.

-I've been reading about Lacan's graphs of sexuation, about how male sexual identity is formed by an external (mythical), contradictory, totalising force, but how female sexual identity is not formed by any external totalising force and is instead fuelled by an internal, directly contradictory set of conditions. I don't really understand it, but it seems relevant, as in, this piece explicitly imposes an external, totalising (male) force on a group of women.

-The female dancers do this movement where they lift up their dresses and half-simulate masturbation or orgasm.

-A single female dancer comes to the front of the stage and is spotlit and the voiceover says 'I won't forgive you' or 'I will never forgive you' or something like that and the female dancer looks scared.

-A woman in front of us is putting her head down beneath the seat in front of her. I assume it is because she is offended or embarrassed by the open misogyny of the piece, but later I realise she is crying because she is overcome with emotion.

-Sometimes its hard to remember that other disciplines have histories that they know intimately and are always responding to.


-I keep turning around in the lobby and seeing people do the hand on thigh, groin based cuss movement from the female dance. It happens like six or seven times.

-We crash the aftershow drinks and I drink three beers and eat two bowls of free food. I talk loudly about what I thought of the work and E. points out that the choreographer is behind me so I change tack and start praising the piece.

-E. sees her friend who danced in the male piece and laughs at him about him missing his mark for the spotlights. I am totally shocked that this is the first thing she says to him.

-I wrongly assume that every male dancer I meet is gay, and then feel really embarrassed and prejudiced when I realise they aren't.

The Thingiest Thing

I've been working with rocks as a basic form of non-human object. It is meant to be funny, and maybe  a bit stupid, because of the obvious reductionism of choosing something as 'The Thingiest Thing'.

But the seeming arbitrariness of my choice is meant to touch on a few things.

1. The inevitable anthropocentric nature of thought. By choosing a rock as the most objecty object, I'm positing objects as things as far away from humans as possible. So, objects here become the non-human. Which is reductive and dualistic and falls right into the collaborationist trap of separating humans from the world.

But even if I chose gravity, or a dream about flying, or a killer whale, or moss, then I'd be choosing something non-human. In OOO, humans are objects too - just like killer whales or rocks or moss - but to make this point is to inevitably flag up that a human is thinking it. Talking about humans as examples of objects is very alien to western, correlationist thought. So, it's easier to use a rock as an example of an object, because it plays up to the human notion of what an object is (present, inert, not sentient), even if this example is only to illustrate how objects experience the world in a similarly incomplete way to humans.

I'm interested in how a pathological corelationism could leech off of OOO. Like, using OOO to bring objects down to the level of humans because correlationist thought has trained us to believe that objects are more real and present and solid than humans.

2. Reductionism, or undermining, or the metaphysics of presence. Scientism (not the practice of science itself, but the idea of science having a privileged access to reality) suggests that the things we see aren't really things. So, like a sheep is not really a sheep, but is really wool and flesh and eyes and stuff. But then wool and flesh and eyes are really minerals and bacteria and amino acids. And then but minerals and bacteria and amino acids are really cells and cells are really molecules and molecules are really atoms and atoms are really quarks and quarks are a fundemental bit of matter and but also if you subscribe to certain bits of science all the fundemental bits of matter are just energy waves, which is what matter really is.

Which is not necessarily untrue (that quarks can be talked about and measured and described, for example), but OOO posits that all these bits of reality are just as real as each other. There is no metaphysics of presence. Or at least, that should be avoided.

And so, positing rocks as the most basic bit of matter is not only wrong in an obvious, literal sense (like, not everything is made of rock you idiot), but also wrong in the sense that there is no basic material. Things might be made of other things, but all the things are real.


What's really nice about this is that when Aristotle was around, the Greeks had no word for matter or stuff, so he adapted the world 'xylos' for his purposes. Hyle is still used as a term to refer to the most basic form of material - like, the abstract, primary matter of all things.

And in Ancient Greek, xylos, from which hyle is taken, is the word for wood.

So whenever you use hyle to refer to the abstract, primary matter that makes up all things, you are talking about wood.


[CORRECTION: I confused two terms from Ian Bogost's writing: What I call ontography in this post is actually what Ian Bogost calls philosophical carpentry. Ontography refers to cataloguing being in context. I like the word ontography though, and there is something about dance that is definitely to do with mapping space with your body. That's probably another post...]

I've been thinking about thinking about things. It doesn't ever quite work does it? All this translating, from object to mind to thought. And then from thought into words into writing.

Is there another way to deal with thinking about things?

Object Oriented philosophers, such as Ian Bogost, propose the idea of doing as thinking. Or maybe, doing instead of thinking. The idea is that doing is a direct intervention in the object to object relationships that make up the world.

Ian Bogost calls this doing ontography philosophical carpentry. For example, he designs video games as a form of ontography philosophical carpentry.

What are other forms of ontography philosophical carpentry?


I was speaking to Eleanor Sikorski about a week long contact improv workshop she'd been to. I asked her how it was. She said she felt very connected to her spine. She was taking the piss. But also, she wasn't.

If you spend a week doing contact improvisation - which is about bodily reactions rather than conscious thought - then you start to "think" with your spine and not your head.

So I asked Ellie to show me some good contact improvisation videos on youtube, and she did, and now I'm putting them on here.

These are good ones. We watched a few which were like every cheap joke about hippies you could care to make, but when it is done well, then it's incredible to watch. Visceral and uncanny, like a maths problem being solved.

The only bad bits seem to come about when the dancers realise they are performing for an audience. It seems that just like more traditional forms of philosophy, ontography philosophical carpentry can't be undertaken with an audience in mind.


Karl Jung is a Grass: Thomas Pynchon, performance with slideshow, 2012

I am reading a book by Thomas Pynchon which is called Gravity’s Rainbow

This presentation will refer back to it a lot, so I thought I'd talk about it first.

Thomas Pynchon is an American author. This is him. He is a reclusive character – hence all the question marks - he doesn't have any promotional photos for his books, and until someone ran a police check on him in the 80s, everyone thought he lived in Mexico. These are the only photos widely available of him, when he was in high school. Because of this 'recluse' status, there are loads of weird rumours about him, like that he was the Unabomber,

or that he had tried to kill the Executive Director of Peel holdings whilst on a trip to England .

In reality, his no-photo policy is just a mixture of shyness and contrariness.

Even when he appeared as a cameo on the Simpsons, he appeared with a paper bag over his head...

I guess he is like the king of the American post-modernist novelists – All these later writers like David Foster Wallace and Dave Eggers are really influenced by his style and the themes he writes about. Gravity's Rainbow came out in 1973 and is an anarchic sprawling, multi-layered piece of fiction which weaves together loads of different stories and ideas. It is sort of hard to summarise but I'll need to at least give it a go in order to do the talk so here it goes.

It takes place in London at the end of the second World War, and then in Europe in the weeks after VE day. The whole book is about the V2 rockets that were fired at London by Germany in the last year of the war.

There is this American Intelligence Officer in London, called Tyrone Slothrop, and he is being followed by these war scientists because it seems that he can predict where the V2 rockets are going to fall. Basically, where ever he has sex, that is where the next rocket will fall. The idea is that his erection is sort of sensing where the rockets will land.

The thing to know about V2 rockets is that they work backwards, in terms of how people perceive them from the ground. With the blitz, you would hear the planes coming, then see the planes, then hear the bombs dropping, then see and hear the explosion. But V2 rockets are faster than the speed of sound, so you would see the explosion, and then, moments later, you would hear the screeching sound of the rockets approaching. They reversed the causal chain in terms of your subjective empirical perception.

The book relates this reversal of causality to the possibility of predicting events. As in, V2 rockets reverse the causal chain of noise and thing-that-makes-noise, and therefore are, in a way, working backwards in time. Sort of like if you could bet on a horse race after it finished and you knew who won.

But the thing is that Slothrop, the character who is predicting these events, doesn't know that he is doing it. He just goes around London having sex, it is everyone else who makes the link between his erections and the V2 Rockets.

After VE day, he goes on the run, leaving London and going to Europe, because he realises that he is being watched by “Them”, but he doesn't know why.

“Them” is an important term in the book – the paranoid idea that there are people who are watching you, and who are controlling everything. “Them” is who you have to look out for, “they” connect the dots, without “Them” nothing makes sense

So “They” end up following Slothrop around post-war Europe – which Thomas Pynchon refers to as 'The Zone' - and Slothrop follows his cock, via a succession of sexual encounters with women, men, children and animals towards this Nazi rocket base – at the base is the next stage of the V2 rockets, which are faster and more powerful than anything ever built. This is what “They” are really after. They are following Slothop's cock to secret Nazi technology.

These ideas of prediction and causality and technology are also linked to Slothrop's paranoid theories about why “They” are following him.

And this really becomes the central theme of the book, because it turns out that everyone in The Zone has various paranoid theories about what is happening and who is behind it. Everyone is getting incomplete information, and this naturally leads to everyone having a different interpretation of what is going on.

Paranoia, in the context of The Zone, becomes quite a functional, useful thing. It helps the different characters make sense of what is happening. I suppose Post-war Europe was totally chaotic, so anything that explained what was happening was better than nothing, even if it was based on misunderstanding and falsehoods.

In the book, paranoia is seen more as an excess of reasoning, sometimes true and sometimes untrue, but never un-useful or unreasonable. In fact, sometimes it seems that paranoia is the only way that any of the characters can make sense of the chaos in which they are trying to live.

At one point someone is talking to Slothrop about the hierarchies of paranoias. There is your basic paranoia, which is all about Them, the “Them” that is watching you and out to get you and knows what you will do next.

But if you want to really get into it, then you need to move onto “Us” or “Me” paranoia. As in, the paranoia that even your own actions are motivated by other, mysterious reasons that you can't possibly comprehend.

Once you have cultivated this paranoia, says the character, then you can really understand The Zone, because you can rid yourself of the fallacy of reason, i.e. you can finally submit to the chaos of reality, without believing that you have any influence over it whatsoever.

So for my bits of this talk, I'd like you to keep in mind the idea that perhaps all human reasoning, all our understanding of cause and effect, and all our attempts to predict what will happen next (in daily life, in the economy, in politics, in everything) are just different levels of paranoia, different but equally ill informed psychotic hypotheses.