July 10, 2007

The long green light of a July afternoon


A profoundly moving moment for me: the private view for the Retro/Future exhibition at Fulham Palace last week, which has recently converted into a very convivial art venue... John Foxx playing treated piano over a recording of Scanshifts reading 'The Quiet Man'. Introducing the piece to the audience, John describes this as an attempt to re-construct what Scan and I had done with the story on 'londonunderlondon'.

Profoundly moving, also, because I first read the story when I was only about fourteen years old and it affected me greatly: a pre-echo of London, all the place names carrying a hauntological charge even before I had visited many of them. I read the story then, but talked to no-one about it - for about twenty years, until Scan and I started working on 'londonunderlondon'. Scan responded to the story much as I had, and his reading of it is perfect; he achieves a tone of fascinated distance which draws out all the uncanny emotion in the text, the strange poignancy of old photographs and films, 'all these characters of his past moving in old daylight, waving and smiling and moving on', London as a city of spectres, a hidden connecting corridor of quiet places, of numinous sites where mourning, melancholia and subdued rapture can occur:

    He felt as though there were someone standing next to him, a woman. He could feel her warmth through his shirt, seemed to catch a hint of perfume. He dared not turn to look because he felt that even a small movement would dispel the achingly beautiful sensation, and he did not want that. So he stood alone in that room in the deserted city as the warm darkness fell, remembering the faint rumble of underground trains passing beneath his feet, music from distant radios, voices, old conversations, feeling the radiant closeness of someone intangible and gone.

Gratifyingly, the audience seemed to be rapt.

John explains to me after the piece is finished that the gorgeously distended, decaying sustain effect on the piano is achieved through a reverb unit. 'It forces you to play slowly,' he says. It forces you to listen slowly, too; to discover slowness as a speed, to suspend urgencies on a flatlined, anti-climactic, plateau: 'an unusual state amidst all this rush and ambition'.

The previous week, as Scan records the text in a studio in Ealing, John and I talk about Iggy Pop's appearance on Jonathan Ross - a sixty year old man grotesquely aping the swagger of an eighteen year old - while Vertigo is playing silently on the DVD player. We agree that there was something almost sublime about Iggy's act; it fascinates even as it repels. The contrast with James Stewart , a romantic lead in his forties, is instructive. Where have all the adults gone?

The Fulham Palace show continues until the 21 July. Some beautiful prints fromCathedral Oceans, the DVD of which is playing on a loop, are on show.

Posted by mark at July 10, 2007 12:23 AM | TrackBack