30 September 2008

The immortals

24 September 2008

Heresy and sorcery

To think differently than is customary is much less the result of a better understanding than the result of strong inclinations, of separative, mocking, and perhaps perfidious inclinations. Heresy is the compensation for sorcery, and is not at all innocent or even venerable in itself. In short, I don't like Sunday, which is not a holiday but a day of totalitarian boredom.

23 September 2008

Dada school

I first discovered dada when I was 12 or 13. I was in my first year of boarding school and not enjoying it very much. I went to Nelson fucking College. An indication of their pathetic aspirations comes from the school colours: light blue and dark blue, just like Oxford and Cambridge. (It impresses the Blenheim farmers.) I came from a nice liberal middle class family, and that kind of hideously authoritarian environment was a bit of a shock.

Cos I came from a city, I was put into a dorm with all the other city kids. The others had pretty much all been sent to the school cos their parents couldn't handle them. We were the punk rock dorm. Peter and the Test Tube Babies were a particular favourite. At the end of the year, it turned out most of the dorm was involved in a cannabis ring. I didn't know anything about it of course.

We used to go to war with the other dorms. If you drop a light bulb vertically, it'll bounce. We'd start by drop-kicking a bulb into the opposing side, then charge swinging pillow cases with knots tied in the end. Some of the more unscrupulous of us would put coins in the knot.

Boarding school is a funny place. They have stupid rules for stupid rules' sake. You can't walk on the grass, just so it can be a privilege for seventh formers to do so. They'd pick suitable seventh formers to be prefects. Suitable in this context means being not too bright, with a conventional mindset, an uncritical attitude, and an emphasis on physical strength ... you get the idea.

One time, the prefect in charge of our dorm heard us talking after lights out. He barged in and demanded we tell him who it was. When nobody owned up, or would rat anyone else out, he got really angry. We all had to get out of bed and go out on to the front field in our pyjamas. This was in the middle of winter. Then we had to stand there with arms outstretched making small circles with our hands. Try it sometime. It fucking hurts after a while. And that was just the start of it. I'm pleased to say that no-one did rat anyone out no matter what was thrown at us.

I have a line: The only things boarding school taught me were a healthy disrespect for authority and the ability to lie glibly. I've lost the latter due to lack of use, but there's not much chance of that for the former!

I didn't have many books to read, so I would read the Encyclopedia Britannica they had. I'd find an interesting article and then follow the cross-references (analogue hyperlinks!). I can't remember what the original article was, but one led me to both anarchism and dada. Needless to say, at that time and in those circumstances, both appealed to me a lot, but especially dada.

22 September 2008

Can't Play Won't Play homage to Picabia

I've just added a homage to Picabia to Can't Play Won't Play's myspace page. That's Mr Stephen Rowe on vocals, reading from a selection of Mr Francis Picabia's Poems and drawings of the daughter born without a mother, written in 1918 and dedicated 'to all neurological doctors in general and especially to' the three doctors who'd recently helped him with his neurasthenia and opium addiction. Picabia wrote the book after one of his doctors wouldn't let him paint cos it was interfering with the treatment too much.

My favourite line is 'That business in the local train would darken', which is a reference to Duchamp's clandestine rendezvous in a railway station with Picabia's wife Gabrielle Buffet for a few hours in August 1912. (Duchamp and Buffet would live together for a while in 1920 after Buffet gave Picabia the flick.)

Quote of the day

I consider belief of every kind, from astrology to every elevated religion and all great ideologies, to be superfluous and mortally dangerous. We no longer need such things. We ought to work out different strategies against misery and injustice, war and catastrophes.


Now that there are no priests or philosophers left, artists are the most important people in the world. This is the only thing that interests me.

- Gerhard Richter

18 September 2008

Notes towards book of advice for my god(less)son Theo

The world is horrible and insane. It always has been, and it always will be.

You only have this life to live. Make the most of it. Don't be a latrine-filler.

Watch out for those with a little amount of power, the petty officials. They come in all shapes, sizes, and guises.

Watch out for those on the make. They are distressingly common.


In the Boardroom Gallery upstairs at Thermostat, I've included a short biography to go with each portrait:

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
(1844–1900). Philosopher. Most famous for proclaiming the death of God. His philosophical ideas have been widely misinterpreted, partly because of the provocative and aphoristic style he used to present them. He said: ‘I want to say in 100 words what other people require whole books to say.’ In 1889 he witnessed a horse being whipped and went insane.

Kasimir Severinovich Malevich (1878–1935). Painter and art theorist. Founder of the intertemporal avant-garde art movement Suprematism, which uses fundamental geometric forms to produce abstract art. Most famous for his painting Black square. He said: 'I felt only night within me and it was then that I conceived the new art, which I called Suprematism.' In the 20s and 30s, his Suprematist work was suppressed by the Soviet Union for being too ‘bourgeois’.

Piero della Francesca (c. 1412–1492). Painter and mathematician. Best artist of the 15th century. Originally trained as a heraldic painter before working with Domenico Veneziano. Known for the neoplatonic stillness and geometric construction of his paintings. Devised secret alternative perspective scheme to rival that of Leon Battista Alberti. Most famous for The Baptism of Christ, which is the best painting ever made.

David Charles Bartholomew Cauchi
(1970–). Painter. Founder of the intertemporal avant-garde art movement Common-sense nihilsm. Known for being an idiot.

Francis-Marie Martinez Picabia
(1879–1953). Painter, poet, and provocateur. Best artist of the 20th century. Invented abstract painting, dada, and space tourism. Known for his wide range of styles. Marcel Duchamp said: ‘One does something for six months, a year, and then one does something else. This is what Picabia did his entire life.’ Most famous for his mechanomorphic paintings.

Rosemary Jane Miller (1964–). Graphic designer. Long-suffering partner of David Cauchi. Known for being sensible.

Max Beckmann (1884–1950). Painter. Known for his allegorical self-portraits and triptychs. Did not fit into any of the conventional categories of art history. Heavily influenced by his experiences as a medic during World War I and by mysticism. Featured in the Degenerate art exhibition put on by the Nazis.

Philip Kindred Dick
(1928–1982). Science fiction writer. Known for the themes of his novels. He said: ‘In my writing I even question the universe; I wonder out loud if it is real, and I wonder out loud if all of us are real.’ Most famous for writing the novel that was filmed as Bladerunner. In 1974, an interstellar communications network known as VALIS started beaming information into his head and he went insane.

Arthur Mitchell Ransome (1884–1967). Author and illustrator. Most famous for his Swallows and Amazons series of books. Heavily influenced by the anarchist Prince Kropotkin. Had many adventures during the Russian Revolution. Developed a very concise writing style when sending reports by telegram.

12 September 2008

Notes from a meeting

09 September 2008

Weather redux

I've been posted a nice link about the validity of self-serving email writer Ken Ring's weather predictions. My favourite comment is:

Mr Ring's weather predictions fail. When and if he is forced to explain his failures he mischievously reinterprets forecasts, suppresses negative forecasts and simply invents forecasts that were never made, all in such a way as to make it appear that his apparent failure was actually a success.


07 September 2008


Stephen Rowe snuck the framed skull in. There is also an intertemporal avant-garde group portrait upstairs in the Boardroom Gallery. The statement stuck up on the wall is:

Portrait of the intertemporal avant-garde artist (after Nietzsche)
My paintings are not serious: I have no ulterior motives regarding speculation. To succeed in making mankind ‘better’ is the last of my intentions. Naturally, I find knocking down idols much more amusing.

How is it that I am so shrewd? I have never stopped to reflect on problems that were not real problems, never wasted my time on such things. My ambition is to be completely sterile for others. Anyone who creates a following disgusts me.


Artists are afraid. They whisper to each other about academics and curators who could prevent them from making their bits and pieces of rubbish. There is only one way to save yourselves, and that is to sacrifice your reputation.

The incredibly grotesque spectacle of enthusiasm for one’s nationality fills me with distaste, accompanied by nausea.

Needing nothing

Never work. Live for your pleasure. There is nothing to understand, nothing, nothing, nothing but the value that you yourself give to everything. The problem is that in this reject world all we have are specialists.

I do not remember ever having made an effort to obtain anything. I am the contrary of the heroic nature. ‘Wanting’ something, ‘aspiring’ to something, or having an ‘objective’ are all things totally outside of my experience. But that is how I have always lived. I have never had any ambitions. In fact, I can say that I have never been excessively preoccupied with men, women, or money.

Thus, the relations I maintain with people test my patience to the utmost. My ‘humanity’ does not consist in sympathising with my neighbours but in putting up with the fact of feeling them so close to me.

The anti-chameleon

Needless to say, I am not a chameleon. I have proved this by always choosing, instinctively, the atmosphere that would first change my skin. I do not take on the colour of my surroundings, however, but adopt one totally opposed to them. On the whole, I have always been the same; superficially, I have changed on many occasions, to become exactly the contrary of all that surrounded me.

I have always condemned myself to being different at every moment, to being beyond all conventions. The pressure I put on myself to avoid ever being assimilated by anybody or anything shows that I possess the instinctive, absolute certainty of what I need on any particular occasion. I enjoy all the good things – and even those little things that others are hardly capable of enjoying. And thus, out of my will to continual change, my will to live against the grain, I make my art.

When everything is meaningless, you might as well have some fun.

04 September 2008

The fucking Puddle!

For more Puddle and George D brilliance, go here and here.

Ha ha

Some anonymous twit left a comment on my Piero della Francesca timeline post:

'can you put any of his famous quotes about how he regards his work, next time, I need it for VA'

Who the hell do you think I am? And why the fuck should I care what you need? Do your own fucking homework (I assume that's what 'VA' refers to).

I quite often get people coming to that post after searching google. The funniest thing about it is that the timeline may look authoritative but isn't. It's a compilation of historical sources and my own theories. The dates for paintings are almost all speculation on my part, and some of them are quite unconventional.

03 September 2008

Michael Baxandall is dead

Michael Baxandall is dead. There are several obituaries around, but the best one is here.

I highly recommend both Painting and experience in 15th century Italy and Patterns of intention. They deserve close and careful reading (and re-reading). I'd like to read some of his later books as well.

02 September 2008

A reminder

visitors since 29 March 2004.