May 31, 2014

Nick Laird - "All writing is political"

Sketch of George Orwell by Ralph Steadman
George Orwell said:
"The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude."
He also said:
"In our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics.' All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia."
Northern Irish writer Nick Laird said:
"I think all writing is political. All writing shows a preoccupation with something, whatever that thing might be, and by putting pen to paper you are establishing a hierarchy of some sort—this emotion over that emotion, this memory over that memory, this thought over another. And isn’t that process of establishing a hierarchy on the page a kind of political act?"

May 30, 2014

The writer can never really stop, Ctd

Edna O'Brien said:
"I think that all writers are like that – your mind is always galloping, trying to write the thing you cannot write. That is one of the characteristics, one of the norms of writing."
Northern Irish poet and writer Nick Laird said in 2005:
"When I was a lawyer… I never stopped writing reviews and poems and articles. I’d do it in my lunch hour or after work. It didn’t matter how tired I was.
In January 2014 Nick said:
"I’m working on poems all the time. I was writing a poem this afternoon, before I came here. I’ve got other work—teaching at Princeton, writing articles and so on—but I’m pretty much always working on a poem." 
Precious post with Christopher Hitchens here.

May 29, 2014

Unhappy when working. Unhappy when workless, Ctd

I often feel guilt for my bohemia. Guilty that I can sit in a coffee shop and read and practice my art while others have to slave around. Guilty that I can go to a Live Drawing event for a few hours and get paid what those coffee shop works get paid in a few days. Northern Irish poet Nick Laird said:
"I still feel a deep sense of guilt about writing. At least when I was a lawyer I felt useful, now I can waste whole days not doing much at all."
He also said:
"The writing life can be difficult. Time just dissolves away to nothing some days, and it is sometimes hard to believe in the validity of the enterprise."
Oscar Wilde wrote about the contrast between the bohemian and the lower echelons that make their bohemia possible. In The Soul of Man Under Socialism, he wrote:
"The fact is, that civilisation requires slaves. The Greeks were quite right there. Unless there are slaves to do the ugly, horrible, uninteresting work, culture and contemplation become almost impossible. Human slavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralizing. On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the machine, the future of the world depends." 
Kevin Drum wrote an article in Mother Jones, 'We Shouldn't Denigrate the Diginity of Work, Even Accidentally'. In it he said:
"Even people who hate their jobs take satisfaction in the knowledge that they’re paying their way and providing for their families. People who lose their jobs usually report intense stress and feelings of inadequacy even if money per se isn’t an imminent problem (perhaps because a spouse works, perhaps because they’re drawing an unemployment check). Most people want to work, and most people also want to believe that their fellow citizens are working. It’s part of the social contract. As corrosive as inequality can be, a sense of other people living off the dole can be equally corrosive."
Eric Stough, producer and animation director for ‘South Park, said:
"The key to a great life isn’t just happiness. It would be a boring life if it were."
Previous post in the series here.

May 28, 2014

Ian Knox - Unionists aren't going to save the Union by shoving flags down people's throats

To mark the end of his December 2013 exhibition, 'Lifelines and Deadlines', Ian Knox spoke about his work and life with a local film maker. At the end (48m30s) Ian Knox shared a profound and deeply relevant insight about unionism and Northern Ireland's union with Great Britain. He said:
"As a political cartoonist, there's no defined criteria for what one does and what actually a political cartoon is. I think I tend to the school of dealing with realpolitik. That is the interests, the real motives of why people act. I always found it very strange as to why sections of unionism seem to perpetually want to shove the Union Jack down the throats of those who don't regard it as their flag. The big truth which unionism doesn't seem to want to talk about, let alone face up to, is the fact that when a border poll does come, it's going to be Catholic votes that decide on the constitutional position. Not Protestant ones. We know which way the prods are going to vote. But if the prods want a substantial number of, nationalists stroke Catholics, to vote to stay as part of Britain, they have to be nice to them; they're not going to do it by shoving flags down their throats."
Video in full here.

Other posts on Ian Knox. Slideshow of Ian Knox riding his Penny Farthing here. Ian Knox riding his Penny Farthing during the Giro 2014 here. Ian Knox and friends on their Penny Farthings for the Hume/Dunlop anniversary cycle here. Ian Knox speaking with the Detail here. Chatting with Michael Smiley here. My blog post on Ian Knox's cartoons of loyalists and republicans, here. Ian Knox and I drawing together in the Black Box, Belfast in 2013 here. Ian Knox and I drawing at McHugh's, Belfast here. My coverage of Ian Knox's December 2013 exhibition, 'Lifelines and Deadlines' here. A selection of photos of Ian Knox at work here. My article here on why an Ian Knox prize to encourage satire and political cartooning like the Herb Block foundation in America which rewards and encourages future talent. A notice about my joint exhibition with Ian Knox on Slugger O'Toole is here.

May 27, 2014

David Baddiel - Writing is hard, Ctd

In May 2014 David Baddiel (@Baddiel) spoke on Radio 4, Open Book with Mariella Frostrup and said:
"I am very distractable. I could get empires built in literary terms if I didn’t constantly get distracted. Constantly look at the Internet."
He wrote in 2010:
"I make sure I write something every day but it comes after hours of p***ing about, making tea, reading stuff on the internet and taking the children to school. A lot of the time I just look out the window. I listen to music on Spotify a lot, which takes 25 minutes to choose what to listen to then another 25 minutes of listening to Spotify's suggestions. Dave Gorman said the problem with writing now is the internet is there, it's a window on the world and you want to look through it especially when there are a lot of naked women through that window. It's incredible anyone gets anything done any more."
Edna O’Brien said:
"[The book] was hell to do. They’re all hell to do." - 

May 23, 2014

The cult of university, Ctd

James Delingpole reminds us of the growth of university. A growth that I might add, needs corrected. He said in an article in the Spectator, 'The gilded generation - Why the young have never had it so good':
"Education: Of course it’s harder for graduates to find jobs — but that’s partly because there are so many more graduates. In the 1960s just one in 20 people went to university; now around half of all young people get to know the joys of freshers’ week, essay crises, late-night kebabs on vomit-spattered pavements and other formative further education experiences."
Jenni Russell backed up the figures and shared some commentary in my post here.

Julian Opie - Art is theft, Ctd

On the left a painting from Julian Opie's collection. The right is one of his own works called 'Maria Teresa with sequined dress'. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Mark Brown, the Guardian Arts correspondent spoke with Julian Opie. Julian explained how people perceptions don't match the reality behind the paintings of the masters:
"With old masters there is a slight tendency to go, ‘Wow, look at that amazing craft’, and it seems to be outside anybody’s imagination quite how the flowers are painted. But actually it was a fairly standardised system as to how to do cloth, how to do flesh and so on. People would have learned it in workshops.”
Mark brown said:
"Some visitors [to the exhibition] will be able to spot more direct connections. The blue curtains in a portrait of an unknown woman by Cornelius Johnson – a court painter to Charles I before Van Dyck – inspired the blue curtains in a 2008 Opie work, Maria Teresa with sequinned dress."
He then said:
"Opie said he often used the poses of sitters in old masters as templates for his own works."
He then explained how Opie works in a east London converted warehouse studio where his keeps his collected works on display. Opie said of this:
"I find myself feeding off them as I'm working. You never know what you need or will find, so I do learn a lot."
Article in full here. Opie's exhibition opening on Wednesday 21 May at the Holburne Museum in Bath. The exhibition sees the artist display examples of his own work from the past 20 years with works also from his private collection, as you can see from the image above.

May 22, 2014

Public Exhibition - 'The People Behind the Masks'

Too much red tape and bureaucracy exists in Northern Ireland. Too much red tape in the mind. Too much green and orange tape in the mind. A reluctance, reticence and aversion to spontaneity - that ingredient so crucial to creation and innovation. Creativity doesn't do tick box exercises. Cynical, skeptical, defeatist. These are words that describe the common condition. An unthinking monotony that accepts the monotony of under performance and delinquency. Don't unthink. Think anew act anew. Less unthinking - more unflinching enterprise. Pick yourself. Don't wait.

The world is not bipolar but multipolar.
"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."
- Jon Minnis
This public exhibition was a reaction to politicians forcing themselves before the public. This was in the public and for the public and against those politicians. Check out a full selection of the faux-election posters I created.

Ian Knox - "Ride with the Giants" #HumeDunlop125

On Sunday May 18 cycle fans came to the Botanic Gardens in Belfast to see the 4 men and their Penny Farthings, Ian Knox, Pete, Sam & Dave (pictured below) to "Ride with the Giants" for the #humedunlop125 anniversary. The Irish News reported on May 3 2014:
"In south Belfast yesterday, Ian Knox unveiled an artwork he has designed, left, to mark 125 years since Irish cyclist Willie Hume won a race with the world's first pneumatic tyre. Scottish vet John Boyd Dunlop made the invention while living in Belfast in 1888 after a doctor had recommended cycling for his ill son. He wanted to find a way to minimise the jarring of the city's cobbled streets and so tacked linen to the wheels of a tri-cycle, which in turn held an inflated tube in place against the wheel. The artwork by Mr Knox, himself a keen cyclist and penny farthing enthusiast, hangs on the side of Hatfield House on the Ormeau Road, where the race passed on May 18 1889. Kieran Cassidy, owner of the bar, said:
"With this fantastic event coming here we wanted to remind people of Northern Ireland's contribution to cycling through a comic and fun piece of art. "We hope that the artwork will not only welcome cyclists but also remind... visitors to the city that the first pneumatic tyre was invented in Belfast."
See a full selection of photos from the Sunday cycle below.

Other posts on Ian Knox. Slideshow of Ian Knox riding his Penny Farthing here. Ian Knox riding his Penny Farthing during the Giro 2014 here. Ian Knox speaking with the Detail here. Chatting with Michael Smiley here. My blog post on Ian Knox's cartoons of loyalists and republicans, here. Ian Knox and I drawing together in the Black Box, Belfast in 2013 here. Ian Knox and I drawing at McHugh's, Belfast here. My coverage of Ian Knox's December 2013 exhibition, 'Lifelines and Deadlines' here. A selection of photos of Ian Knox at work here. My article here on why an Ian Knox prize to encourage satire and political cartooning like the Herb Block foundation in America which rewards and encourages future talent.

May 21, 2014

Glenn Greenwald - Islamophobia in the United States is pervasive and intense

Scene after fire at the Islamic Society of Joplin, Missouri
Glenn Greenwald wrote in Salon magazine:
"In a trend largely ignored by the American media, hate crimes against American Muslims are at epidemic levels."
He continued:
"All of this reveals a broader truth: Islamophobia in the United States is pervasive and intense, and worse, is as ignored and tolerated as it is destructive The greatest harm from these incidents is not to the property they damage. It’s the climate of fear that is created for Muslims living in the United States. As I’ve written about before, it’s hard to put into words how palpable and paralyzing this fear is in American Muslim communities. It’s infuriating to behold: perfectly law-abiding citizens and legal residents feeling — rationally and accurately — that they are subjected to constant surveillance, monitoring, suspicion, denial of basic rights, hostility and worse solely because of their religion and ethnicity."
"This happens because overt expression of Islamophobia is, far and away, the most accepted form of bigotry in mainstream American precincts. Now and then, certain expressions of it are so extreme as to embarrass mainstream circles — Peter King’s Congressional investigation into The Enemy Within or the Michele Bachmann attacks on Hillary Clinton’s Muslim aide — and are thus roundly condemend, but more often than not, they are perfectly acceptable."
"And, as I wrote about yesterday, America’s foreign policy is, and for the last decade has been, driven by endless violence against Muslims in numerous predominantly Muslim countries, sending a message loudly and clearly to the American citizenry about the Real Enemy."
In full here.

May 20, 2014

Polygamy is doublespeak and irrelevant to the equal marriage debate

Lord Wilson of the UK Supreme Court said:
"The introduction of same sex marriage is largely designed to avoid discrimination against gay people, whereas the introduction of polygamy would create discrimination against women even if some of them felt driven to escape poverty by marrying men on that basis."
The irony is that it takes religion and the religious to bring in polygamy. Where in the world can a man hold multiple wives, but in religious communities. Point in hand: Kenya has just legalised polygamy and you can thank the religious for that. Arit John reported in the Wire:
"The argument for legalizing polygamy is that the practice is part of Kenya's pre-colonial heritage, as well as sanctioned by the Bible. "Solomon never notified anyone," as one male member of parliament said while the bill was debated. "It is in the Old Testament."
Further, German Lopez explained here how the institution of marriage has long evolved and changed.

May 19, 2014

Martin Rowson on William Hogarth

To celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Hanoverian period, Radio 3 presented a mix of essays on key figures of the Georgian era. Writer and political cartoonist Martin Rowson provided an essay on the satiric genius of William Hogarth and his lasting influence on the development of the political cartoon. His essay wrote:
"In his history of the first Australian penal settlements, "The Fatal Shore", the art critic Robert Hughes described the standard modern perception of Georgian England thus: 
"A passing reference to violence, dirt and gin; a nod in the direction of the scaffold; a highwayman or two, a drunken judge, and some whores for local colour; but the rest is all curricles and fanlights. Modern squalor is squalid but Georgian squalor is ‘Hogarthian’, an art form in itself." 
Note that adjective. By now it’s so well entrenched we instinctively know what it means, though it’s probably not the meaning Hogarth himself would have wanted. He had definite ambitions for his name to be associated with his practice, and yet the paint strokes or engraved lines and slashes aren’t, of themselves, "Hogarthian". 
And however much he wanted - pretty successfully - to found an entirely new school of British art, there’s nothing really "Hogarthian" in his proto-impressionist study "The Shrimp Girl" or in his innovatively realistic portrait of the philanthropic sea-captain Thomas Corum, or his portrait of David Garrick or his murals in the Inns of Court or for Bart’s Hospital. These are all by Hogarth, for sure; they might even be "Hogarthish"; but

May 18, 2014

Gary Mitchell - When it's cool to be dumb, Ctd

Gary Mitchell spoke with the belfast Telegraph and shared his experience of school:
"I left with nothing. It's strange because in primary school I excelled. I passed the 11-plus. I didn't go to grammar school but went to Rathcoole Secondary School. We did mid-term exams and I was first in almost every subject. But people wouldn't play with me. I wasn't allowed on the football team. I was on my own. 
I got this idea in my head that I could be bottom of the class in every subject if I really tried hard, and believe me coming bottom in some of the subjects was very difficult because they got really low scores. But I managed it, and I became popular."
Let's repeat what Gary Mitchell just said: "I managed it - [to be bottom of the class in every subject] - and I became popular." This is horrendous. Then he said:
"I realised that learning things was a bad idea, and being dumb was a good idea. Being stupid was the smart thing to do."
He explained here his journey from chronic worklessness to famous playwright. He then explained his life after becoming famous:
"Things were going great – I had a family, plenty of money, plenty of opportunities and plenty of work. Everything seemed perfect. In fact, I remember standing outside our house one day with my wife, and she told me it was like heaven. Nothing ever went wrong – just before everything did go wrong.

May 16, 2014

@TheJohnHewitt Exhibition - 'Troubled Into Utterance'

John Hewitt is the "conscience of the planter tradition". The "father figure" to a shelf of Irish poets that includes Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley. W.B. Yeats wrote, "I owe my soul to Shakespeare, to Spenser, and to Blake". Heaney can surely write that of Hewitt. By his own words Hewitt was "troubled into utterance". Troubled by the terror and tensions of his Northern Ireland.

He used the written word - an "incredible instrument, half wand, half weapon" (Martin Amis) - to address these troubles and to articulate a greater context and vision. In a verse portrait Robert Greacen said John Hewitt 'defined the issues of our time... [and] tried to break the mould of bigotry.' He flew "out and beyond those radar systems" of Protestant and Catholic. Offered a creative hand

May 15, 2014

Barack Obama - "The drone president"

Jeremy Scahill called Obama is "the drone president". He said on Democracy Now:
"On this issue of the drones and the permanent war footing, I mean, Obama has been the drone president. And his line with liberals is sort of "Trust me. I know what I’m doing. I’m monitoring this. I’m doing everything I can to make sure that civilians aren’t killed." But time and time again, we see incidents where large numbers of civilians are being killed, and there seems to be no public accounting for how this happened. They say that they investigate when civilians are killed, and yet we are now two years, almost, removed from the killing of this 16-year-old kid, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who appears to have been killed because of who his father was, was killed in a drone strike while

May 08, 2014

Ian Knox and his Penny Farthing, Ctd

A selection of pictures of Ian Knox on his Penny Farthing. Enjoy. Previous posts of Ian Knox on his Penny Farthing here and here.

Other posts on Ian Knox. Ian Knox speaking with the Detail here. Chatting with Michael Smiley here. My blog post on Ian Knox's cartoons of loyalists and republicans, here. Ian Knox and I drawing together in the Black Box, Belfast in 2013 here. Ian Knox and I drawing at McHugh's, Belfast here. My coverage of Ian Knox's December 2013 exhibition, 'Lifelines and Deadlines' here. A selection of photos of Ian Knox at workhere. Slideshow of Ian Knox riding his Penny Farthing here. My article here on why an Ian Knox prize to encourage satire and political cartooning like the Herb Block foundation in America which rewards and encourages future talent.

May 02, 2014

A good blog is your own private Wikipedia

Writing in the New Yorker, Ian Crouch (@iancrouch) wrote an article with an interesting headline, 'The curse of reading and then forgetting.' Ian Crouch explained a recent experience of reading and suddenly remembering:
"Recently, a colleague mentioned that she had been rereading Richard Hughes’s “A High Wind in Jamaica,” which was first published in 1929 and is about a group of creepy little kids who become the unwanted wards of sad, listless pirates. She praised it, and her recommendation sent me to Amazon. The title was familiar, as was the vibrant cover of the New York Review Books reissue. One cent and $3.99 for shipping, and the book was on its way. A couple of weeks later, I opened to the first page and started reading. By the fifth page, I realized that I had read this novel before, and pretty recently, about three years ago, when another colleague had also praised it and lent me his copy."

May 01, 2014

The Cult of university, Ctd

On BBC Radio 4's programme Zeitgesters, Will Gompertz, BBC Art Editor, meets cultural entrepreneurs who are shaping our lives. People who know what we want, even when we do not. The men and women whose impact goes beyond mere commerce, people who shape contemporary culture. On programme 3, Gompertz met Theaster Gates. A man with two degrees in urban planning (and a further one in religious studies), who worked for the city's Transport Authority, but now uses sculpture, installation and performance to bridge the gap between art and life. Will Gompertz travels to Chicago to meet the the artist who is using collectors' desire for his artworks (they sell for anything upwards of several hundred thousand dollars each) to transform the rundown Southside where he now lives. Theaster Gates said of vocational work:
"We have to make labour more skillful and more sensitive. We gotta bring dignity back. We have to assume that the entire world won't be a tech invested world and that the more we can create a skilled hand, we'll create new sectors of opportunity. Because the tech dude doesn't know how to change his plumbing. And so I don't think that there's a dignity issue in being a plumber. When I watch these guys sauter copper, I realise that they are much more sophisticated people than I am. Keeping water out of places were you don't want it is a big deal. For the roofer, for the plumber, for the electrician I'm paying these people 100s of thousands of dollars to do this work and these is no way I can argue with there value. [This goes deep with me, my dad was a roofer] and
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