During the period now known officially as ‘the proper big boy lockdown’ earlier this year, I decided to go through old files and do a bit of a clear out. Well, apparently in March 2016 I decided to try to log “what I see, hear, and read.”
The intention, presumably, was to do this forever. I stopped in…March 2016.
I have no idea whether my memories of any of these things are accurate, because I never intended to publish any of them. Diaries, eh?
Botticelli Reimagined | V&A, London, 07 March 2016
It’s rare that an exhibition impacts me on its own terms. I can remember only one, also at the V&A, about cold war propaganda.
Usually I remember an exhibition because of the people who were there, or the context for me being at the exhibition in the first place: a disagreement at a Damien Hirst show Tate Modern; an excellent exhibition on conceptual art at LACMA. That one I remember because, as I walked through the exhibition with my wife I thought about whether I would live in LA, enjoying the seemingly infinite expanse of possibilities that felt available at that time, on that trip, in that part of the world. I remember the art less.
‘Botticelli Reimagined’ I will always remember on its own terms (though it being on my 29th birthday does make it easier to remember). The conceit, that Botticelli’s pervaded our culture beyond the point of being Botticelli, appealed to my own feelings about free culture, cross-pollination and so on. And, thanks to the well-put-togetherness of the exhibition felt — well, like it was not conceited but true.
As I walked in and saw Honey Ryder emerge from the sea in Dr No, I knew that I was hooking onto a real idea; that as I delved further and further into the past, I’d arrive at Botticelli himself from the perspective of his imitators, and that Boticelli’s greatness lies in that imitation more than in his work itself. Because the exhibition went from the present day backwards, arriving at two expansive rooms of Botticelli’s works. To learn that such a master rarely signed his own works, and so were contentious, was revelatory to me; to see, in the opening rooms (showing the 21st and 20th century) many examples of works that unconsciously copied the Birth of Venus was sobering and exciting.
To see the vast number of copies produced in centuries preceding our own rights-driven, ownership-obsessed times was saddening, and a reminder of the role of the imitation in the art of the past.
I’d like to see the exhibition again but fear the impression it left would dissipate. Because I too am touched by the image of Botticelli more than the man himself.
Tuck Everlasting | 9 March 2016
I’d like to write an alternative version of ‘Tuck Everlasting’, in which Mae Tuck is sent to the gallows and hung for an excruciating period of time, unable to die.
The book would focus on the days following, not unlike Saramago’s ‘Death with Interruptions‘ in its investigation of the material and practical concerns around such a thing. How many days would it take to pardon her, since she cannot die? Should she be pardoned, given that she cannot die but has committed manslaughter? Would it need to go the supreme court?
Consulting Detective | 10 March 2016
In the first case, I sit alone at my dining table with a tea and pour through the newspaper, visiting every name on an elite list of Benson & Hedges Imperial smokers — the stub of one being found at the scene of the crime.
As I follow leads, I look at the board game’s beautiful London map, and try to make geographical connections. I visit the central cabstand. I think that the killer is, or is connected to Richard Camp – since he lied to me about smoking B&H. The newspaper tells me that, in a shooting game, Camp, Marlowe and Zobar were all there; so perhaps the murder is a conspiracy.
I love that as I tackle each case in this beguiling board game, the city will develop, grow, come alive.
Adaptation | De Uitkijk, Amsterdam, 11 March 2016
I went to watch this for the second time in my life, remembering basically nothing about it since the time I watched it on release.
At that time, I was very young and neither liked nor understood it.
I also remembered it as being supremely weird, with Nicholas Cage’s character having a doppleganger with which the film played to supremely confusing effect.
I remember leaving the film being confused as to which Cage had done what, and why, and feeling that the “happy go lucky” Cage represented something that I couldn’t grasp.
Of course, it is simply his twin brother – though he does represent something. Indeed, the mixture of the “real life” film and Kauffman’s own writing of it seemed much more elusive at that time but my adult mind found it simple. As I’d hoped when I bought the ticket, ‘Adaptation’ has transformed in my adult mind in the way that ‘The Truman Show’ did (I was 15 when the former came out, 11 when the latter was released) now that the world has gotten big enough for me to understand the film.
“You are what you love, not what loves you”, says Kauffman’s brother Donald as he dies. This is true of these films. It is true in many situations. Despite my memory, this is a great film: down to the infidelity, car chase and manslaughter that ends the movie, after Kauffman speaks of needing such resolution with both Donald and a screenwriting guru – something I didn’t understand, and found ridiculous at the time.
Now, the beguiling mystery of the Florida swamp (as a youngster I did not know anything about Florida) seems perfect. The film both easily and uneasily (the uneasiness being deliberate) blends the various layers of its adaptation together, and Cage is a great Charlie Kauffman. It makes me want to re-watch ‘Synecdoche, New York’.
The Causality of Hesitance | Steleijk Museum, Amsterdam, 12 March 2016
I love this video. I have nothing to say about it now except that it’s hit me profoundly both times I’ve seen it and I’ve liked to find it once somebody puts it online.
(The piece was part of the exhibition ‘Seth Siegelaub: Beyond Conceptual Art’.)
Room | Somewhere in Amsterdam, 12 March 2016
I wanted this film to last ten hours. Nothing in it felt wasted.
And as Jack escaped the clutches of Ol’ Nick and ‘room’, my heart pounded more violently than I can remember in a long time. The mastery of the film, though, is in the hour that follows his escape, looking at Jack in the real world.
A very good film it would have been if it had ended after his escape; like an exceptional short story.
It’s brilliance is that it goes further, into Jack discovering elements of his world outside of room, and exploring how both he his mother Joy adapt to life outside their over-time-acceptable hell.
I could have watched so many more hours of this. I could have watched Jack’s sixth, seventh and eighth years, and if a sequel were announced (a sure impossibility) I’d be happy just to watch two-and-hours of Jack and his mother at home.
13&14 March 2016 | Emily is Away
This game is short enough to be interesting and to want to play more than once. So far I’ve gone through twice, and semi-tempted to a third run.
It replicates the feeling of being on MSN Messenger nicely (I should know), and brought a pang of bittersweet nostalgia with its accurate rendering of sounds, colours, and profile pages full of early 21st century lyrics.
The first time round the game, I found it a little conceited — and yet had read everywhere online that the game was “heartbreaking”. I didn’t think so but on second playthrough got more of that feeling — perhaps because in the first round I played as a woman, and had no idea that the game would take a romantic turn — and in the second played as a man. Not that a girl wouldn’t fall in love with a girl — but knowing that the “protaganist” would become romantically involved, and then playing as a man, brought back the pangs of pain that came with sitting on MSN messenger for hours, pouring myself into unseen women.
Because that’s the thing: I don’t feel sorry for the protagonist; I don’t find it heartbreaking. It just feels like both the protagonist and Emily project something into the blank space of the chat window — and get something in return.
The game isn’t brilliant. But it’s brilliant enough that I would love to see a fuller game from the same mind. It touched me, somewhere and somehow.