the text and images below are posted from beijing, berlin, hong kong, new york, sado island and zürich. there are a few of us, and this is the space in between.

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anything fun going on


Is ‘Anything fun going on?’ a funny or weird question? I thought it was quite quotidian——’怎么样?’、’What’s up’——but if it all sounds too rhetorically polite and this context of digital correspondence should eliminate inquiries into some IRL, please accept my sincerest apologies.

unwarranted aside into anecdote. i was in a shopping mall the other day and while browsing a selection of a proud to be Texas-born international company’s fine wristwatches, the perky shop assistant asked, ‘So what have you been up to today?’, the unfortunate response being my fleeing the store. What should be reported of my day to a pouncing stranger tracking my eyeball movements to see which watch i’m attracted to——or as if now the policing and surveying has become so diffuse that everyone, even the shopgirl, is a viable check and measure on the status update of each and every consumer. Because yes we are all consumers now, taking precedent over ‘citizenry’, no more obviously felt than by way of those worldly practices people are able to maintain relatively easily in every place (latte, hamburger, uber ride). Of course, this is an observation of privilege coming from an (un)fortunate frequent traveler of ‘destinations’ that bear Starbucks logos as opposed to those other greater parts of the world still lacking decent infrastructure and education for its inhabitants, parts of the world that are still war-torn or ‘uncivilised’, parts of the world where the imperatives for freedom are not yet measured by the variety of packaged goods. And even if you don’t frequent Starbucks, or McDonald’s, or hitch uber, the fact that there are equally plentiful ‘organic’ and ‘artisanal’ backups is another minima moralia.

That is the fun going on, actually. We’re having so much fucking fun everyday we don’t know what to do with ourselves. Asking ‘anything fun going on’ is offensive, maybe, you’re right. Like swiping feeds, goddamit, information bloodsucking, ‘consumers are always right’.

‘Anything fun going on’ is like the airline attendant at the check-in counter who, since I’ve told her my profession is ‘artist’, asks where my most recent favourite exhibition has been. She is curious to know not only the city but the name of the institution, and for a moment i imagine her honestly believable sincerity. She proceeds to ask me which show was my favourite. A show that I have participated in or any show in general? Yours. Okay, hmmm… trying to be quick and effortless (speed and style as truth), I tick off a show that took place at a gallery in a different city. What is the name of the gallery? And as I name a name, I wonder about her interest in the institutions of culture, about the casual sophistication of big brothering these days, at this makeshift tin terminal that appears to have been built specifically for flights to the United States and Israel. This is perhaps due to the extra demands for security, both from the increased chance of malicious attacks and from the U.S. imposition of preemptive security measures abroad to prevent such attacks. So when a young Italian woman in uniform asks me about the fun details of my life, a subjective displacement has already taken place, and cynicism says it’s not a person talking to me, but the mechanisms of a system which have already striated us into one of a few alternating roles: policing agent, perpetrator, victim or just another piece of data. Friendliness as an appropriation for smoother extraction. Consumer interaction as marketing as profiling as social control as endless production.

You always put the state and the spy as counterforces, but I am afraid ‘the gravitational force of what is bourgeois’ within us entertains the story in its complexities of rendering forces ambiguous. Spy works for state. What is the name of the state? And how do you do today?

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the light of day – or, the most intense fiery sadness inside the palest of blue

the difficulty of writing. therefore words become physically written entities. are animated by the postures and movements of the hand. the word becomes image. is placed in perspective. the natural rhythms of speech and of reading contorted. a video on writing:

act 1:
the street is where it finally played out, no confining corners of a room, simply a street and a doorstep and a door. a door that remained closed. closed that night and all the nights after. closed for several years. there were a few words there on the street, an evening chill picking up, words uttered from mouths tightly locked into position, not once breaking out into smile, no more spontaneities. now i remember it was an iron. the last object that passed between us. an iron. your iron. my iron. no ironing board. the irony. an iron with no more spontaneities. all those years summed up into the exchange of a single iron. a pink iron.

act 2:
you entered the studio that day and it filled the room. eyes locked and we understood. a kind of understanding that was hard to come by in those days. “we paid people 50 kuai to cry”. leaving the party early i cycled to the apartment that night, shared by several, it was only you there, you and a dvd menu on loop, the same jingle over and over again, you kept emphasizing the word ‘taken’, ‘taken’, ‘taken’ – i guess it was the opposite of what i was getting – the other word that night ‘transgressive’ – you and bataille – he and whitman – i couldn’t do it – sorry bataille – sorry whitman – i couldn’t do it – so much for ‘transgression’ — whenever i revisit the room, you are both there, bataille and whitman, bataille, whitman and me and the king-size bed. the torrent of words finally gets me writing on afternoons alone in the house, just before the onset of twilight.

act 3:
a gallery space, half emptied out, i keep going back there, the mounted and framed photographs are placed on the floor, leaning against the wall, a few are supported by the pillar in the middle of the space, you try to get them to leave, to let them leave us behind, but there is simply no subtle way of doing it and you mutter at them clumsily, they leave, we are left, the afternoon sun is slowly disappearing, the lights are left off, we talk, walk around and shout, until we settle behind the reception counter, a chair and a wall for support, we can do this but we can’t do that, what do you want from me? don’t ask that of me! she tells me his knees were shaking all the way on subway ride back home, i was never shown shaking knees. now, i only ever meet you in that gallery space. we don’t exchange words just glances and parts of our bodies in a deafening silence, the afternoon sun perpetually setting.

act 4:
an early spring evening, i keep trying to leave: “i have a party,” “a party to go to,” “a housewarming party”, but something keeps me at your side all night, first we sit at the “less important people table” and are seated next to each other, after more guests stream in we are both upgraded to the “more important people table”, again placed next to one another. what luck! finally settling into a comfortable position we continue our conversation, your leg brushes against mine a few times, i recall her remark about “woody men”. and i can’t stop staring at the eyes. can’t stop. the whole night – no rooms here, but the chambers of eyes to revisit “an intense fiery sadness” i describe to her later “inside the palest of blue”.


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treatise on the university of disaster

I had no idea what he was talking about, really. Reverberations pass away easily, behind the ears, at pressure points, when cooking. Roles are performed in adequate fashion, resulting in countering feelings of inadequacy, words flow, nothing is communicated. The treatise is about performance, perhaps. Insinuation of a guise, this is not real, whichever how you really feel. No, really. Keeping it real.

Had no idea what i was talking about really. Sometimes the emotions would arise, and one would find oneself unable to act appropriately, a subjective propriety, a nicety. Trying not to look too hard at his pimples. The palimpsest of his pimples, because even thirty-somethings get them, oh yes, renewal, we can feel like teenagers again and again and over again.

Your postmaturity, maybe. Treatises that we haven’t written yet, half-thoughts, names dropped, another drifting off on the bus again. No, there. When the girl with the ponytail steps on my foot in the bus, I notice her, her captivated audience of fellow passengers, a spectacle in action. She is playing paper-rock-scissors with a boy shorter than her, perhaps that is what it makes it more obvious that he is cheating the game, as his eyes steal glances upwards on every count, towards her poised hand, ready to draw. If he is quick he can change his draw at the last moment, just after he’s seen her paper or rock or scissor coming down like an absurd call of judgement. His is fickle and cunning at the same time. Paper wraps around rock. But each time the breath before the draw is prolonged just a bit longer; she knows his game. He knows she knows his game. And the game shifts a little bit, bus ride bumpy, to a different battle of suspense: who will cheat on the other first. the classic grid of one to another strategy, don’t call it war, it’s just the way things are. remember that lecture that we went to where you didn’t understand? Punnett for non-pundits, I’m on the bus and I could observe this moment for hours. fault or fancy? their fists are suspended in mid-air, holding on a bit longer than forever. this is a treatise on the university of disaster.

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kind of, sometimes

to the old lady working at the internet cafe, whom i could slam a hundred times in aftermath but only saw my childish smile in backwards retreat, we could make an example of you in our courteous, civilised new metropolis, as per a certain someone said i was often wont to do, some sort of ethnographic approach to what lack of humanity there may be in world of screens and headphones, of blank faces and pounding hearts, why in the world should i wish to make an example of you, sickly woman with cracked face who sits in the dark by day, your rule this world perhaps and i am mere observer, a hasty brushing off sends me away, without being able to engage in the very services that you offer. or the mistake that we make in this situation is that working for the money (the system that creates low wage working conditions, the worker that desires to fill this position for lack of better opportunity, because it is easy, because it is simply what is there) eliminates the very ‘you’ of this equation, for You, Other, are simply no longer there. This is not an issue of being looked down upon or prejudiced, it is the disappearance of another all together. Combined with the last 61 years of our lack of self, we come back in full force with an overbearing subjectivity that oppresses all not-self as well. it leads us to a form of exchange without humanity whatsoever, but what sort of presumption was that, anyway.

i cringed when he mentioned that words had been missing of late, but the lack of literature could have been a parallel to a similar decline of the sense of being. i am present, perhaps, in some way, a childish half-smile, but it’s only half-shock, a blinding before anger sets in, what was that about to solidify, hard-set equations, exchange is never all that, i kind of hate you sometimes, kind of, sometimes.

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we start talking to no one in particular, a no one without properties

what a lovely name for a street.” feeling. still. yes. no. nostalgia. for something that will never be. alas. so we walk. we walk. with the need for dreams to commit suicide. sometimes. “c’est la chose la plus horrible à faire“. or is it. again and again. and an afternoon in the sun. tracing and retracing and walking anew. circles perhaps. fly. yes. fly again. it’s good to be in a place without lists and rows. construct to reconstruct or an economics as a doing. in the city. it would be nice to see what we cannot see. “precisely to fill the emptiness with emptiness, and thus to share it.” you do with it what you will. never a prescription for life. and yes we are left ‘inconcluded’. always. upon arriving home a message overheard from the new york subway through to london: “everyone knows. that love. belongs in the microwave. for two minutes.” 哈! thank you maria.

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i sincerely wish this for you

“you said you didn’t care when people were not talking to you but in your films, your characters are actually always trying to connect with somebody — following someone, or trying to make contact — but they just don’t seem to be able to connect.” “i prefer some distance. i don’t decide what the best distance is — how two people can get close and not feel uncomfortable. my films treat human relationships like an experiment. there’s no real conclusion. they are always experimenting, experimenting with that distance.” from an interview here

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ideas about karaoke

recorded at Lee Kit’s “Someone singing and calling your name”, december 2009

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Zürich night

Photo courtesy of Nic Shepherd

Some 15 minutes after having been abandoned at the Perla Mode by an American living in Zürich, I found him again at another opening at a small exhibition space called Les Complices. He made some comment about how I was typically Canadian because of the desire I expressed (which admittedly had structured my last 5 years) to keep going out rather than back to North America. I had not assigned value to my statement, and in my view it could indeed be taken as a lack of control and capriciousness. The space, which had a DJ playing, was a queer art space. I was not sure if my jocular, drunk brotherness was appreciated, and I was in the mood to joke. Out front one of the drunk women, who turned out to be a Canadian from Montreal, tried to convince her acquaintances to go out to a non-gay place to dance. She appeared to be quite drunk, and unless I was mistaken, the other two were not very fond of her. She had pimples. The other two returned to their friends inside and I was left, so she asked me and I thought, why not, I’d like to go dancing. We walked arm in arm down the street to a place right on Langstrasse. She joked with the bouncer who tried to remain stern, they were obviously familiar with each other, and it made me feel that this was a small town. Inside it was hip hop night, and various large men rocked back and forth in the red velvet surroundings. She knew someone (although they claimed they hadn’t known each other before) and they began talking. She asked me to buy her a drink, but I really had no money on me. This other girl seemed to be looking for someone to go home with. They asked me if I wanted to fuck, said that it was what everyone in the room wants. I joked that I was a virgin and the girl believed me, appeared to take pity on me, which made me uncomfortable – when I retracted the statement she asked me what kind of lover I was. I motioned to some of the large men standing near the turntables “maybe they want to fuck.” She considered this and went to see about it. When the lesbian’s back was also turned I used the opportunity to slip out the front door with my backpack on. I walked home along the vacant street car lines. I kept thinking of the girl’s sad expression when she said she came to the bar quite regularly, but no one had interest in fucking her. It made me kind of sad too.

[courtesy of Michael Eddy, October 2009]

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