Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Still Lilies

When we arrived in this house there was a pot in the backyard with some green leafy stems in it, which looked nice. The previous owners had placed them there for the inspections, to make the yard look pretty, and had kindly left them for us when we moved in. I watered them for months not knowing what they were, imagining they were a kind of plant that had no flower and would just keep shooting its leafy stems up towards the sky, and perhaps fan out, before dying. But suddenly one day there was a large tight bud on the top of one of them, then another, then another. Kiki and I watched in curiosity. One hot day we came home and two of the buds had opened into glorious pink and white lilies. We were astonished - how did something so extraordinary just make itself, with so little input from us? The third lily bloomed, more compact but even more magnificent than its sisters.

I couldn't figure out why despite their beauty I felt repulsed. Were they too beautiful? Then a puff of breeze directed their scent into my nostrils and I saw it - a hundred vases on our childhood back lawn. That week after mum's death - the doorbells and the vases and so, so many lilies.

I had awoken one night with a start, stomach clenched. A strong scent was in my nose, in my soul. I was sleeping in the dining room with lots of cards and cakes and vases. I took the vases and put them in the kitchen, pulling the sliding door closed. But the scent was still there as I tried to sleep. It was the lilies, I realised, their powerful scent I normally loved so much. In concert the effect was nauseating. I tried to sleep. Couldn't. Eventually I got up and moved all the vases into the living room, past sleeping siblings, aunts, friends. On top of the harmonium, behind the big floral couch, beside the stereo.

Then I went back to the dining room couch and closed my eyes.

Still lilies.

It made me want to scream. I buried my face in the embroidered cushion. Tried suffocating my nose with the sheet. Still lilies. Lilies everywhere, up in me, all over me. Lovely lilies, cheery lilies, kind lilies, caring lilies, sweet lilies. My stomach turned, my head felt like it was going to explode.  

I couldn't take it any more. I went out and collected every single vase from all over the house - downstairs, upstairs, the bathrooms, the entranceway - and covered the back lawn with vases and vases and vases. It took an hour to collect every one, heavy ones, small ones, ceramic ones, glass ones. Even outdoors all I could smell was lilies.

I climbed up on the outdoor table and sat looking at what I had created, a landscape of tilting and toppling structures, castaways in the moonlight.

It is a year now since the surprise lilies burst open in our backyard, and today, despite being utterly neglected and forgotten, a brand new lily has appeared, boastful and defiant. 

And I'm back on the table in the moonlight. Madeleine de Proust.  

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Spark Joy

HBO bought the web series High Maintenance, which we loved, and they made 6 new episodes, which we watched, I think, in one sitting. It was good, especially the story told through the eyes of a dog. The characters in each episode kept referring to 'Sparking Joy' and we got so annoyed we googled it and found Marie Kondo's book 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up'. 

We giggled out loud as we devoured it, especially at lines like 'At school, while other kids were playing dodgeball or skipping, I'd slip away to rearrange the bookshelves in our classroom, or check the contents of the mop cupboard'. 

Then we threw out a lot of stuff from the house, and felt quite good.
From 'The Life Changing Magic of Decluttering in a Post-Apocalyptic World',
by Tom Gauld in the New Yorker 10/1/17

Saturday, January 14, 2017


We watched a documentary the other night called Hypernormalisation. It was so riveting and unsettling I got depressed and didn't write for two days, because - what's the point?

One of the aspects I can't stop thinking about is this idea of us all retreating from engagement with politics and the community into individualisation; building up our houses, our bodies, avoiding taking part in a system we've accepted as corrupt and unchangeable. Retreating into our caves, away from the depression that comes with hopelessness, the inability to change things, or even be heard. Jane Fonda, from social activist to aerobicist. Brexit. Trump...

Now we live in bubbles, getting our information from sources that tell us what we want to hear so we can rebroadcast it around our networks that see things exactly the same way we do. 

Last night, watching Sam Bee's Full Frontal, I turned to Mr Rabbit and said - 'What is the point of watching this? We're in a bubble echo chamber. Look at her passion for change, for truth. And yet - she's just exhausting herself, preaching to us, the choir. Nobody that needs to watch this will ever, ever watch it. So, what's the point?' 

We turned her off and watched When Harry Met Sally for the eighteenth time. God it felt good.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Bunny Stares at Stars

We forgot to put Fluffball in her hutch and I just ran out there to find her. Expecting to go on a search I found her instead smack bang in the middle of the lawn, looking up at the one twilight star. The small white ball of her body was dwarfed by the immensity of the sky and yet she looked quite empowered, back upright, ears down. As I walked towards her she didn't move, and for a moment we looked up at the star together. 

Then she sensed me and did a full 360 on the air, sprinting beneath the quince tree for cover. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Universalizing the Personal

Something else Hannah Wilke said:

If women have failed to make the 'universal' art because we're trapped within the 'personal', why not universalize the 'personal' and make it the subject of our art?

Just thinking about that.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Do The Shadow

In The Tools, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels talk about this part of you called 'The Shadow' - something Carl Jung named. The Shadow is an intrinsic part of you, something you can't get rid of, which is hard, as it is the culmination of all the things you hate most about yourself. It's everything you desperately don't want to be, but fear that you are. We try to hide it, shame it away, especially in public, we're terrified it will come out and humiliate us in front of everyone. So we continue trying to be perfect, hiding that most embarrassing part of ourselves. In Brene Brown's talk about Shame she talks about exposing this icky, uncomfortable part of ourselves. She says, contrary to what we think, it's this part of us that everyone wants to see. 

Initially, I pictured my Shadow as this depressed, disgusting, swampy, reclusive, ugly, hopeless, lazy, flabby, weak, wasteful, flawed, dreadful blob of shit in the corner. In the book, they say you should try and picture the Shadow, draw it, try and really see it. And I sort of could, but the outlines were never really there. I figured that was because my Shadow was itself so lacking in definition. They say that when you connect with your Shadow and let its imperfections truly reveal themselves, it changes form and becomes a source of creativity and confidence. This seemed very far fetched. My Shadow couldn't get out of bed, let alone inspire confidence. She was in direct conflict with creativity: slothy, unmotivated, depressed. A squashed banana in the bottom of a bag. 

I forgot about The Shadow. This was months ago.

Then the other morning I woke up from this dream. I was standing in front of a mirror, arm slung around my big cousin BJ. We were giggling and staring at ourselves. I was the biggest Dork that had ever lived. My heart was full of joy as we stood there laughing our heads off at ourselves. The mirror was big and plain like the one on my dresser, and I can't remember what her face looked like, but mine was very ugly and contorted. My nose was big and sausagey and my eyes were way too close together. My face was long and weird. I had my hair pulled way back. I was a complete Idiot, and the thing was - I felt so so happy. My chest burned with it. The feeling stayed with me when I sat down at breakfast and told Kiki and Mr Rabbit about the dream. I could see the picture so clearly, and recreated it by pulling and contorting my face. The effect was bizarre, stupid, unexpected.

Wehhh! Mama! Look at mehh... I'm Mama! 

It's your Shadow!, said Mr Rabbit, eyes wide.

'Oh my God,' I said. 'No. I like her.'

I thought the Shadow was something you wanted to hide, something you hated. And then it dawned on me. That's exactly the part of me I do always hide - or at least want to hide. I just so badly wish it wasn't me. Even the fact that in the image it's me and BJ in the mirror, here at the beach - how I've been trying so hard to keep up my Paris life, never quite letting the true joy of the simple life down here in deep enough. That picture in the mirror is the absolute definition of the thing that I know I am, but never wanted to be.

Do the Shadow!, said Kiki.

This went on for days. And is still going.

Do the Shadow! 

Do the Shadow! 

Do the Shadow! 

Do the Shadow! 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Shut Up

As I arrive at that familiar place in this writing where I think - why and what for and for whom, I keep thinking of Chris Kraus and the idea of speaking anyway, even if (it feels like) everything and everyone around you is telling you to Shut Up (especially yourself). I really want myself to Shut Up today, and especially with regards to those Hannah Wilke photos, but I can feel this in-built little tick inside me saying It's when you want yourself to Shut Up that is the most important time to speak. Is this true? I dunno. Dick Hebdige asked Chris Kraus to Shut Up, but he didn't realise the book had nothing to do with him, and speaking up made him look like he thought it was about him and thus a real Dick. He should have Shut Up, ignored the tick. In the book he comes off fine, it's her spiralling, icky, ugly self-humiliation we see, she lets us glimpse into her soul. Her passages about Hannah Wilke, who like her allowed us to witness her ugly (and beautiful) truth, have entered my psyche and are making me feel sick, to a point I don't want to write about them or post them, and so I am, because the tick is telling me that means I should. I can't stop thinking about her, how brutal her career was - precursor to the revered and 'more impersonal impersonation' artists like Sophie Calle and Cindy Sherman. Her beauty holding her back, even when documenting her gut-wrenching demise from cancer. The wall of Shut Up she faced, people writing things in the Village Voice like 'Hannah's vagina is now as familiar to us as an old shoe.' Dismissing her work as narcissistic, exhibitionistic (while complimenting it at the same time):

Even her series of photographs self-documenting her cancer-ravaged body were described as: 'A deeply thrilling venture into narcissism.' As if the only possible reason for a woman to publically reveal herself could be self-therapeutic, says Chris Kraus. As if the point was not to reveal the circumstances of one's own objectification.