Wednesday 9 July 2014


Adj. Analytical- using or skilled in using analysis (i.e., separating a whole- intellectual or substantial- into its elemental parts or basic principles).

Let me separate my response to this picture into some elemental parts…

1.     What a beautiful response.
2.     I have no idea how to respond to this.
3.     Is it bad that I find myself thinking that Sue got the easy part of this deal and I got the hard part…?
4.     I don’t understand what analytical really means.
5.     How can I have suggested it as the title of a strand if I don’t know what it means?
6.     So what did I mean when I wrote the word analytical?
7.     I meant theory. I meant ideas. I meant comment and criticism and response. I meant something kind of like philosophy, even though I’ve never really been able to grasp philosophical ideas, even when I’ve tried.
8.     I have a feeling I’ve trapped myself in a corner. Can I still make it work for me? Maybe it can take me somewhere- even if that ends up being another corner.
9.     Maybe I should just analyse the picture…

Fine. FINE- on a red brick wall. Green grass at the bottom. An addition to the top of the building that reminds me of Tate Modern. Is Tate Modern made of brick? Given that the origins of this project came out of a discussion about the Turner Prize, and how we weren’t ever going to get it, given that this is, after all, art, then if it were Tate Modern- how fitting. But I don’t think I’m going to look up photos of Tate Modern to see if it has brick elevations. I’m just going to let it be a kind of Tate-Modern-in-my-head. It’s a nice picture, but my response to it, my feelings of huge admiration, an urge to laugh, a sense of being floored, beaten, certainly provoked, come not out of the picture, but out of the way the picture responds to the text that I wrote. Which of course is the point of the project. Nice.


Looking at the keyboard- just like now. A computer keyboard- though different. Not a laptop exactly, as it wouldn’t quite have fitted on my lap. An oblong thing with a small screen that opened up, an early portable computer my dad got for me. Looking down at that keyboard. It would be morning. Probably around ten. I would have squeezed every last minute I feasibly could out of breakfast and reading the papers. I would have climbed the stairs. Opened up that stupid computer. Opened a file. Remember floppy disks? I would have put in one of those. Look at the screen. Look at the keyboard. Attempt to follow my thought as they move slowly, without focus, as though through a thick and viscose agent, something between custard and snot.

I was eighteen, the only girl in my year at school who hadn’t applied to university. My parents were very relaxed, but I remember huddled talks with my form teacher Miss Russell: “Are you sure?”. I was sure. Not even the disastrous and painful set back, when I realised the job in theatre that I thought had been promised me wasn’t going to materialise, made me question my decision. I was done with school. I was going to-

-going to make great and amazing work. I would direct plays and write novels, paint pictures. Be incredible. Be talked about. Be a glittering magnet, the centre of every room like Noel Coward, only more serious and less funny. I was going to get out of that little world and be real. Be really me.

And it really was me, there, looking at the keyboard. Looking down at the keyboard. Looking up at the clock. What was I trying to write? My first attempt at a novel, the sadly unfinished Louisa dates from after this time. Short stories? There must have been something. Possibly, like now, looking at this picture, I knew there were ideas in there but I simply couldn’t swim out to them. I can’t remember.

But I remember the clock, its round face, its position, exactly, on my desk in relation to the screen. The hour hand The minute hand. The second hand. Round and round it went, that little second hand, faithful but ineffective because it was always just a little past ten. Which would make it two hours, minimum, until I could consider lunch. Then what? Another four till the working day might be considered over. And then what? Out on the town? Hit some clubs? Dancing at the Savoy? A whole evening and every single one of my friends was at university now and I was scared of strangers. I could watch television. I could dream about my future, though where was the fun in dreaming about the future when it was now supposed to be happening. And then I could sleep, but I would always have to wake up again and restart the cycle: the toast, the papers, the stairs. Looking down at the keyboard and getting eaten alive by the clock.

It didn’t take long for me to crack. To find myself in my parent’s study, squeezing my body into as small a space as possible, desperately reading. I remember the belief I had that the circuit made by the contact of my two hands with either side of the book was the only thing that stopped me from imploding. When my mother came home from work and asked me how my day had been I cried. I called my father at the office and asked if he could come home early. I still believed that he could fix things. I don’t remember what he said to me that night, but then next morning, and all subsequent ones, I went swimming first thing with my mother. That was good. Even so, I couldn’t help notice that it only delayed briefly the papers, the breakfast, the stairs. I wonder how the whole things would have resolved itself if the telephone hadn’t rung one morning and a red haired angel hadn’t been flown down between the painted wooden wings of my real/imaginary life to whisk me away to a whole other universe.

Something would have happened of course. Back then I wouldn’t have believed it. The clock had such a hold on my imagination that it obliterated my belief in change. Now I know change’s inevitability, but the hours still dominate. Not as deserts I need to crawl through but as something I mostly waste. Mostly. Since I finished the books, my time at the studio, that I had been so hungry for, has become almost intimidating- a place to call people without knowing what words to use with them. I enjoyed looking at this picture though. Good blues and reds. Redcliffs- right? I enjoyed how, even though I know it’s Finn, it made me think about Ben, walking along the beach in California parallel to us but not with us, on New Year’s Day- what was it-  fifteen years ago?


I’m going to give them names now, because otherwise this whole thing is going to start to get complicated, what with the him’s and her’s and he’s and she’s- not to mention all the backstory, all that stuff I could never quite figure out how to get into films without a load of clunky time consuming dialogue. But back to names. I’m going to call her Diana. He can be Noah. And the ex girlfriend, the one with the straight blond hair and the hard blue eyes, she’s going to be Nina. Or Louise. No- Nina. Noah and Nina. Yeesh…

So Diana. She has a Masters Degree in Latin American Studies from Cambridge. When she was 12 she started writing to a pen pal in Mexico City, Gloria Vargas. She and Gloria exchanged visits over the years, and Diana learned Spanish both at school and independently. She comes from a left wing family with a keen interest in politics and social justice, which she inherited. She’s a protester. She's spent time camping in trees to fight road building. She’s an active member of all sorts of groups. Her contact with Gloria came out of her and her family’s involvement with the Stop The War Coalition in the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

At Cambridge (her first degree was in Bristol, French and Spanish) she made a particular study of Indigenous Groups in Mexico, and formed contact with various people in the Zapatista Movement in Chiapas, where she made two separate visits and where she still has friends. She works as a translator now, while slowly completing a PhD. That’s how she and Noah first met. He’s a documentary producer, and was making a film about kidnappings in South America.

He’d been impressed by Diana’s knowledge and passion, and he’d liked her sharp, ironic sense of humour. He found her passion and involvement in politics slightly galling. He thought of himself as left wing, but he rarely got involved. When they talked she’d made him feel like he really wanted too, though he never did anything about it. He was focussing on his career. But he enjoyed the couple of times he’d met up with her after, once at the screening of the film and once at a conference. She’d been his first choice when he needed an interpreter for a new project, and again she’d done an excellent job. But that was just after Nina had left him of course, and he was in a sorry state.

Wednesday 26 March 2014



The Rules of the Game.

1.     A game of call and response. One person posts something in each of the three strands. The other person responds with their own three posts, that are both response to the last call, and a new call in themselves.
2.     The Three Strands are as follows: A: Analytical B: Autobiographical C: Fictional
3.     On the whole, the assumption is that Tamara provides text while Sue provides images- generally in the form of photographs. But we can be fluid. Sue can post text, Tamara can post images, in fact, either of us can post anything the site is able to host, as long as it is always an honest response to the previous posting.
4.     We attempt to respond in a timely fashion. We attempt to be understanding when such timeliness isn’t easy.


What I noticed first was that all three women were beautiful. And also, that they were young. Not that young, just younger than me. I live my life in a bubble, with my friends that I’ve known forever and the other lovely mothers at the school. I don’t think I’ve sat down for a long time, if ever, with people who were younger than me, a whole generation down, and it was strange. I’ve been feeling old for a while now but this is the first time I’ve seen it confirmed. Not that I’m actually that old. Just old enough for there to be strata below me full of smart lovely women in the middle of their work. A was a scientist. B was an artist. C was a curator.

They began to talk about my website. We really didn’t know each other so that was a good way in. They were surprised at its slightly chatty feel. They found it unusual, and refreshing. It’s true I haven’t seen any other artist’s website that uses language like mine. But I’ve done that deliberately. It’s a kind of experiment: let’s see what happens if I simply try to be completely honest. A, B and C talked about how unusual it was to see an artist describing the difficulties of work and life as I did; the admission that work stopped when Riva was born. And of course, what made us separate, as much as age, if not more so, was the fact that none of them had children.

None of them seemed to be planning to either, though they talked about what they would do if- as though the phantom baby hovered somewhere in the air to be plucked down with a butterfly net, or not, as the case may be. One of them said that simply doing her job left her without time for anything else- she didn’t understand how people managed with children. Another talked about the loss of the community as extended family- how mothers weren’t ever meant to be doing it all on their own. I was with her on that one. One described her colleague’s struggles with childcare. Another talked about how babies weren’t really human till they were two, how they were like larvae- born too soon with those over-large brains. If only you could take them on later, when they were more interesting and ready for some childcare. I told them how deeply alive, how full of feeling, how absolutely human a newborn baby is, and continues to be. How interesting and magnificent. They listened but I’m not sure they were convinced. Riva had been on the phone to me in tears a few moments before. That morning I had dropped her off weeping at school, and I still felt bereft and deeply sad.

It is hard to talk about the joy, about the blessing (I really don’t worship my children, but the nature of that joy is quasi religious) of having children. It’s hard to talk about the joy without it sounding fake, sentimental, brainless and repulsive, all the things it is actually the opposite off. With the other mothers you don’t need to describe. From the outside you see parents regarding the not-that-interesting activities of their offspring with the cliché of a ‘fond smile’ and frankly, I can see how that might seem nauseating. But the initiated can see what’s going on underneath, the miles and miles of root structure- aching, endless, magnificent- deep in the dirt below the smile. How do you pass that on? How to illuminate the thing beyond what’s so visible about being a mother; the drudgery, the boredom, the limits on time and movement, the worry, the tiredness, the compromise, the slapped down careers?

I couldn’t do it- I didn’t even try. And why should I? I don’t need to evangelise childbearing. I never regretted it but I can see what I lost. Magnificent, fulfilled and productive lives exist without children, and when parents (particularly the newer ones) suggest to me that this isn’t the case I always think they are trying to convince themselves, trying, by making the alternative look barren, to comfort themselves in their confusions and difficulty. I won’t let myself go there. But still, it was like a weird apartheid, a radical separation that I felt between myself and A, B and C.

I don’t feel a bit better or wiser or anything-than A, B or C. Mostly the opposite, sadly. And older. I remember saying pretty much everything they said once, the thoughts rushing through my head like a stream over pebbles, glinting with what seemed like truth but too fast moving to be really examined. And why examine it anyway? It’s not relevant till it happens. I envy those women their ability to let their work consume them, their ability to think about what motherhood might be like with even a moment of certainty, and then dismiss those thoughts and move on. I envy them the missing pain-shape that a crying child inscribes.

I love my children and my husband, and I love the work I do, I love it and I love the making of it. But even without children I doubt I would be as successful an artist as B seemed to be. And here’s another of those refreshingly honest things it might be unwise to be saying in public (not that I can really bring myself to care about any of that): while I know my work to be good I’m no good at all at trying to be out in the world with it. Walking to the Underground Station after lunch with C she told me about the programmes at the Institute she worked at. Should I have talked about my work? Should I have asked if I could be a part? Of course I should. But I didn’t. I didn’t know what words to use or how to get them out of my mouth without sounding like a 12 year old. I’ve never understood how you close a deal and it makes me feel stupid. And besides, I just wanted to get home and see Riva.


In my application to CalArts the first words I wrote where “I want to tell stories” but now I can’t seem to find any. I’ve got no stories to give- so I’m going to plunder the past. I have had so many stories, and I know now that very few, if any, of them will become the films I once dreamed off. So here’s the start of a story I worked on at Cal Arts, but that actually stretches back to the days when we lived together Sue, at Shakespeare Walk, and I dreamt of Danny Cohen. My private title for it was MEDKX.


A girl and a boy, in their mid twenties. Let’s say they meet at work. She likes him at once. She’s interested. But he’s in a relationship so- ok- they become friends. They work together. They get on well. The project ends. Perhaps they call each other a few times. Meet for a drink. But nothing much. A little while later they work together again. Now he’s split up with his girlfriend. Interesting. But he’s sad about it- too sad for her to think they could have anything romantic together, so instead the friendship grows. And grows. She never looses the feelings she has for him though, the not-friendship feelings. And as time passes, he starts to have feelings for her. And maybe a year or so on, at his instigation, the friendship becomes romantic- becomes sexual. And she is delighted. She is over the moon.

For a while everything is lovely. They are friends, they are lovers, it’s exactly what she’s imagined a relationship ought to be. It’s alive and sparky. It’s fun. From almost the moment they met she had a sense that she loved him. Now she knows it. And it looks like he loves her too. After about six months they move in together and everything is great. Almost.

There’s just one thing. She can’t stop thinking about his ex girlfriend. The one he was with when they met. The one who left him, and made him so sad. Would he be so sad if I left, she wonders. Somehow, she thinks he wouldn’t, and the idea is unbearable. She can’t shake it. Perhaps he isn’t over her, the ex. Perhaps he still loves her. Perhaps he loves her more than me.

The relationship they have is open and good. It isn’t long before she tells him what she’s thinking. He tells her it isn’t true. That girl is part of the past. She is the one he wants now. She is the one he loves. He believes this, but she can’t. Not quite. And suddenly things aren’t so lovely. He feels frustrated and hurt at her refusal to believe what he says. She feels betrayed, even though she knows he hasn’t done anything. She is consumed with the fear that he will leave her for this other woman, and nothing he can say will convince her otherwise. As the shadow grows, their relationship starts to wilt. The memory of how lovely it was and the strength of their genuine friendship makes them try to work things out, but neither knows how to navigate around this impasse.

Then, one day they are out for a walk. It’s spring time. The trees are in blossom and when the wind blows the blossom falls down like snow. Someone calls his name and they turn. It’s her, the ex girlfriend. She is with a group of friends who hang back as she goes to talk to him. He’s still holding her hand, her, the girl he’s with now, but he seems unaware of her existence as he talks to his ex. He doesn’t even introduce her. It’s very clear. She was right. Whether he knew it or not, he isn’t over that girl. He isn’t over her at all.