Monday, July 03, 2006

Rendering unto seizure

Very possibly the hottest day of the year in London, I should think. And I've spent every waking minute of it (until now) slowly cooking in my room, trying to edit together a sort of showreel DVD which someone's asked me for. I haven't made a bad job of it as far as I can tell: but that's just it, I can't quite tell at the moment because the darn thing's still rendering. At the start of the process, it was reporting that it would take an hour and a half, which didn't seem too bad; but at this point more than three hours have passed and it now says it's going to take another hour and forty minutes. In other words, I appear to be using a video editing package modelled on Tristram Shandy. If I wasn't still ankle deep in the balm of post-Cork mellowness, I'd be chucking an industrial benny right now. Fish fiddle de dee, as our Aunt Jobisca taught us to say.

It's been a nice, quiet, ineffectual week, it's been too hot to do much more than potter so I've mostly been hot pottering. (Impossible to write that without mentally hearing Jim Gaffigan sing it.) Not much exertion of any kind till yesterday, when Theron coaxed me to the Barbican for their Future City exhibition. In all honesty, I know Johann Sebastian Bupkis about architecture, and left to my own devices I probably wouldn't have gone. But this is why I must never be left to my own devices. It's an absolutely sensational exhibition, a gorgeous bazaar of unmanageable visions and dizzyingly gung-ho life-enhancements. I was particularly seduced by the precariously kitsch, almost Spielbergian vision Will Alsop has for Barnsley (see here -- sorry, can't find it any bigger anywhere); and it was good to find out more about Cedric Price and about Debord's creative relationship with Constant Nieuwenhuys. It's an overwhelming show, in which it becomes thrillingly clear that (as is the case with scientists too, I guess), the metaphors that architects use for thinking about the city are not activated in order to bring their ideas closer or into greater focus, but to change what they are able to imagine in the first place. It goes beyond that lovely line of Roy Fisher's: "Birmingham's what I use to think with"; it really gets down into what is the city using me to help it think?

Anyway, it's all still very unabsorbed, and I suspect I'll go back once or twice in the next few weeks, so I might write about it again when I've taken it on a bit better. The route of the exhibition is almost a practical joke, you end up in a central area absolutely dwarfed by projections and displays, and yet towering over these little models of enormous (or scaleless) buildings. It's almost impossible to take in even at the level of which curatorial introduction is pointing at which model. So I spent the last twenty minutes going "wow!" and learning nothing. Which is fine on the weekend, I think.

And then a wander down to the river and a torturous three hours watching England go out of the World Cup. I'm glad it was a decent enough (or at least, entertaining) game and it wasn't hard to be overtaken by it, particularly after Rooney's sending-off and the subsequent long haul a man down. There were moments of stylishness, lightness, digging-in, which had been notably absent through most of the preceding games. But as the threat of penalties loomed it was impossible to feel even minutely optimistic (and surely the players must have felt the same foreboding -- they might as well have got Charlie Brown to take a shot, and Lucy to promise not to pull the ball away...). The immediate aftermath was desperately poignant; there can't be much in the world more likely to thrum at one's mirror neurons than the sight of John Terry crying. I'm sorry Sven's going, but that's almost certainly because I have so little actual interest in football; I liked England having a manager who didn't behave like a secondhand car salesman. But almost everyone with any kind of informed opinion seems to think he was ruinously bad. It's just hard to know that from the results -- I mean it's hard for a layperson like me to get any sense of what the potential of that squad, or the available pool outside the squad, actually was, because almost every (local) assessment of it travels inevitably through the lens of this weird notion that national victory in the World Cup is somehow the birthright of every English citizen.

I'm sorry to see Beckham resign as captain, too, though I'm sure it's the correct decision. He's been in appallingly lousy form for what feels like a dog's age, notwithstanding the sublime free kick in the Ecuador game. Still, it's been interesting to watch his transformation over the past few years; I've rooted for him, residually, ever since '98 when that sending-off resulted in an unbelievably savage lambasting in the press, and there were stories of Beckham effigies being hanged and so on. (...& I also loved him for agreeing to do the Sam Taylor-Wood piece: it made both of them more interesting.)

It was good, anyway, to see the game with loads of other people around, and it was a good atmosphere at the Founders -- I should think almost equal numbers of men and women, which makes a huge difference to the quality of the roaring.

I remembered today, stitching together some footage from his horses for this DVD, that Theron and I only made that piece at all because we'd been planning to do a small group production of Macbeth and couldn't get the funding together. (Much like how Quirkafleeg came about.) Which is why his horses is such a ragbag of ideas -- it was kind of a dumping ground, at least initially, for all kinds of displaced images that suddenly had no performance to house them.

(I think I probably remember that pretty much every time I think of his horses, and then instantly forget it again. ...There's a rat in mi kitchen at the moment which I think Dave put there, a lifesize model rat, as an experiment to see how long it would take me to notice it; of course Captain Oblivious here eventually had to have it pointed out to him -- but now, every time I go into the kitchen I notice the rat and am momentarily startled, as if it were a real rat. I wonder if I'll ever get used to it. Maybe the sensible thing would be to remove it but that seems unsporting.)

Anyway, so I'm wondering whether this is an indication that I should stop mithering about The Witch of Edmonton and The Young Disciple and just make something new with the same impulses behind it. I mean, they're both really unworkable plays, and The Young Disciple really isn't very good. What if I were just to write down a list of the twelve things that I've been imagining about each of those non-productions, and make a show out of those things instead? Would that get the bug out of my system? Or is there something about the (specious, in both cases) authority that the printedness of those scripts confers? -- Cowardly, but true. Nonetheless, J was trying to convince me of this approach -- "just do the bits you like", he said, in his low-falutin' way -- and now I wonder whether there's something really in it.

Mark Lawson was on Private Passions this morning (Desert Island Discs for people who actually like music) arguing -- again, in very simple but effective terms -- for the right to enjoy John Adams and Morton Feldman, both of whom he picked. In a way, John Adams wasn't quite le chap juste for me, because I really don't like very much of his stuff any more -- I was quite keen as a teenager but there's not much nutrition in him musically, though the ideas of Nixon in China and Death of Klinghoffer appeal, and I still feel fondly about his piece 'Christian Zeal and Activity' which I used in a show once. But on the other hand, I suppose that's exactly the point -- it ought to be OK to dig who you dig. Didn't it? I guess I think of it in slightly more vigorous terms -- that there's a virtue in being interested in as much as you can, and to locate your response in that, rather than in 'like' / 'dislike', or in 'our gang' / not... I feel more and more that some of the brainy people around me are actually really boxed in by a categorical or programmatic or (at any rate) ideological rigidity that they use to confirm or deny their availability to certain things. They're beautiful and inspiring people and their militancy is bracing but it's a very bullying mentality, actually, and I guess it's mostly a sort of outsize concretized fig-leaf to cover regions of ignorance and fear. I feel like I sort of want to stand up to it a bit more, perhaps. People take such absurd pride in thinking they know the difference between good and bad art. It's so brutish and insensible. Why would anybody prefer to not know anything, rather than know it?

I seem to be getting a bit ranty. I'll give over for the moment. Suspect it's too hot to sleep but luckily I've got another four hours yet of being ten minutes away from the end of the rendering process. It would have been quicker to take snapshots of each frame of the video, print it out onto glossy paper, and make a giant flickbook. Bugger. Why didn't I think of that ten hours ago?

No comments: