Monday, 31 August 2009

Loose Threads on the Fringe




Loose Threads on a Bead Attached to a Frayed Loop on the Outermost Edge of the Fringe.


Travel from Cahors to home only took about 30 hours, with little waiting in between trains and buses. Train to Paris, overnight bus to London, then buses home to Scotland.
This is London in early morning light.


While I was away in France, flowers I planted in pots bloomed, and leeks and one glossy green courgette were waiting for me.... and the slugs hadn't eaten all the lettuces...hallo lovely plants I said...
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Jane and Louise Wilson's installation at the Talbot Rice Gallery, Unfolding the Aryan Papers, stills from and commentary by the actress Johanna ter Steege who was to star in Stanley Kubrick's film, based on Louis Begley's novel, Wartime Lies. The film was never made, but it existed in the thoughts and imagination of both Kubrick and the actress, and now a film or installation has been made by J & L Wilson of her thoughts, of the archive stills, with their categories, which Johanna reads out in an even voice. 'Specific scenes' (we see A. Hitler with a child in a pushchair, a prisoner about to be shot by soldiers); 'civilian activities' ( people sitting having picnics beside vintage cars); 'Warsaw ghetto', 'slum interiors', 'interiors' – with huge bold- patterned wallpaper that looks vulnerable to me now, especially in these black and white photographs, no trace of real boldness, more a kind of patterned sensitivity, soaked with time and sadness.


When I come out of the exhibition, into the empty courtyard of the Old Quad, it is raining, and I feel I am still in a film set, the rain, the grey cobbles and Georgian architecture, the complete absence of any other human beings. I walk slowly, surrounded by these buildings that have been transposed to somewhere in mainland Europe in some place that I once knew so well, and again now, know so intimately, the camera of the Major Director tracking me, this moment, this empty courtyard in the rain.


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Fatos Lubonja at the Book Festival, talking of his 17-year prison sentence in Albania, for 'agitation and propaganda'. A warm person, who smiles easily, he talks of the sense of the double self, the inner one that says – you can't say that or write that – because of the dictatorship. He says it is a daily struggle, even now, to be truthful, to say the truth. Invited to give a talk in Belgrade, he was going to give it on what he thought Danilo Kiš, the Serbian writer had said viz. that if you can't tell the truth, say nothing. But apparently Kiš said if you can't tell the truth, use metaphor, and so what he tried to do was bridge the gap between silence and metaphor.
He spoke of how the past in Albania has not really been confronted – none of the former regime have been held accountable for what they did, never mind put on trial. The people in political power now are the same as the ones in power in the Communist regime. In his book, Second Sentence, Fatos wrote about two writers and journalists, Fadil and Vangjel, who wrote a letter to Enver Hoxha suggesting a reconciliation with Russia (Albania was more Stalinist than Russia, after Stalin's death, and so broke off relations with Russia, making the country utterly isolated). For daring to write this letter they were put on trial and sentenced to death. No-one, he said, has looked for the bodies of Fadil and Vangjel and given them a proper grave.


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R talks about the degree show at the Art College she went to. There was an installation consisting of a motor bike and beside it, the engine, and the artist was sitting beside the engine. She asked him what his work was about. Oh, I just love fixing motor bikes he says. Ah, so it's about love, says R. Uh – says the artist, who clearly hadn't thought of it in this way before - yeah, I suppose so. How wonderful I say to her, because of your question, he realised something about his work that he wasn't aware of before.

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