Saturday, 29 May 2010

A Real Camp Cut

Had my hair cut in a tent once, out of boredom, it had rained for three days solid. I’ve had some ‘camp cuts’ in my time, but this was a real camp cut. My virgin hairdresser’s a Forester (he’d just missed the right vocation). Wish we’d videoed it. Not the cut, just an unedited view of the tent - pitched in a meadow full of sheep in need of a sheer - filmed from the outside. The footage would have shown me crawling, disappearing into the tent – longhaired - like a caveman. Then there’d be one long take – no cuts - of the tent rippling, sheep grazing. Needed sound though – loud; sound of sheep eating, competing with the noise of scissors snipping. After about twenty minutes I poke my deforested-head out. The sheep scatter in fright. Cut to credits.
I make a point of never going to the same hairdresser twice. The hair’s always greener on the other mower. Redder once. I’m in Deadlock and Barnett; I’ve declined wax and gel but don’t manage get out of the chair quick enough to avoid the tomato ketchup. Heinz. “I’m just going to give you a quick squirt”, said senior stylist, Gary; he goes on to assure me, "ketchup’s a wonderful conditioner". It looks like he’s split my head open. But Gary was right: ketchup is better on the head than on the plate; the kind of conditioner Salome should have massaged into the head of John The Baptist. So next time I need a haircut I break my rule and go back to saucy Gary, at Deadlock and Barnett. He finishes the cut, shows me the back of my head through a mirror, but then instead of saying tomato, he says, Main and Tail? But with the noise of the hairdryer I misheard him. I thought he’d said, heads or tails? What are we tossing over? I ask. 
That was seven years ago and I’ve been conditioning my hair with ‘Canter Main and Tail’ conditioner ever since (you can get it from all good equestrian suppliers). I might not know what not to wear on a horse, but I now know what to wear on my hair. Canter Main and Tail, for a glossy tail (hair) that remains tangle-free with a silky sheen: spray on top and brush or comb through well. For best results, shampoo first with Gallop Shampoo. It’s easy to use; results last up to two weeks, there’s no mess, and it doesn’t look half as odd a bottle of Heinz Tomato ketchup does in the bathroom cabinet. 

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Plagiarism By Anticipation: Like The Real Thing?

This morning I woke up to this: what an attachment – a false vagina. Makes a difference from all that Viagra. The strangest of attachments - strangely familiar: a real attachable attachment. Not the real thing, but like the real thing.
The email came in response to my ‘Picture Inspired by a Panda’ (23/5/2010). “Did you invent this? Or was it the other way round? Was your picture of a rider really inspired by a panda? It looks to me more like it was inspired by this - ‘like the real thing’ - vagina, the correspondent (and fellow Pataphysician) wondered. And being a disciple of Duchamp (how could he be my friend if he wasn’t?), he also included a quote from the great cigar smoker: “I want to make art to grasp the mind the way the penis is grasped by the vagina”.
Like The Real Thing, there’s a thing! No, I’m not the patentee of a pump-up vagina; what we’ve got here is a case of what Raymond Queneau coined as ‘plagiarism by anticipation’. Or to put it another way – given the horsiness of my original subject matter – ‘putting the horse before the tart’ (and I use the word original advisedly). But it’s wonderfully liberating to find possibilities in your work that often exceed those you anticipated. When a photograph that had been taken was found to have been taken before, the previous attempt could be called ‘plagiarism by anticipation’.
But which came first, the horse, or the tart (the panda inspiration, or the pump inflation)? I ask because the photograph was published in a book called 'Mrs Sharpe's Cracks', and a few years ago I came across a battered copy, in a secondhand bookshop in Earlsfield. Flicking through it I found someone had traced the jodhpurs and riding apparatus in the photograph we've been discussing: ironically, I'd traced a copy of my own book only to find one of my pictures had been copied! I bought my own book. To think, the image could exist – on some bedroom wall - as an original painting? Who knows, it’s conceivable that the tracing could have been used as the template for a sex toy? 'The real thing' would take on a whole (hole) new meaning. I hope not. I don’t think art should be stimulating.    

Sunday, 23 May 2010

A Picture Inspired by a Panda

People often enquire what inspired me to take certain of my photographs. Very often the answer I give is, it’s usually another photograph I’ve seen, or something I’ve read; rarely do I photograph something that I just see, or come across.
As a (very young) child my favorite toy was a police panda car – a powder-blue-and-white mini - I can see it now. Much later - when was in my late teens - Flann O’Brien’s novel, ‘The Third Policeman’ - a book peopled (policed?) by policeman who are convinced that atoms can shift between objects, leading in extreme cases to cyclists actually becoming ‘part bicycle’ - had a profound affect.
But I would in all probability have never read the book if I hadn’t taken this photograph (a rare image of a real event - I was lost, following a formal route, when in truth all roads lead to content); and I only took the picture to fulfill, or defy – I can’t remember which - a written project brief, on the interpretation of ‘Disruptive Pattern’. 
Looking at it now, I still can’t work out if it fails or succeeds; all I know for sure, is we had no mudguards. I exhibited the photograph at 'The Photographers' Gallery, London, and some insightful soul left a comment in the visitor’s book: “Lucas’s cyclists would be at home on the cover of ‘The Third Policeman’”. Flan O’Brien was Irish and his novel was set in the Irish midlands – a landscape of bog - and the Irish police are called the Garda. One way of understanding The Third Policeman's 'part-bicycleness' is to visualise him as a mudguard (in stark contrast to the English police, often verbalised as ‘filth’).
But it was early exposure to filth like this panda that inspired (if that’s the right word) me to photograph a horseless horse rider: to become, as O'Brien's mentor, Joyce, would say, ' a rear-regarder'. And I thought the sight of a panda mating (let alone masturbating or clown-dating) in captivity, was a sight more rare than rocking horse shit?
Part horse, part panda?

Thursday, 20 May 2010

God In Corduroy: Corde Du Roi

A Prickly Relationship
Spent the morning scratching around amongst my records for a corduroy-clad-crooner (see last blog). Still considering the correspondence between the grooves of a vinyl record and corduroy fabric. The nearest I can find: Gentleman Jim Reeves – a legend sitting cross-legged, fingers crossed - outside a gas station, contemplating 'the hand of God', in a cactus. 
Or is the cactus standing in for Christ on the cross? We arrive at another crossroads (cross-cords?)  He’s got a ‘far-off’ Godly look in his eyes, but his hands are saying cactus; and the cactus says corduroy.
Cacti = corduroy. Scratching + records = needles, and cacti are known for their needles - and don’t you ‘cut’ a record? And if you read nails for needles, and Reeves as thieves - two thieves were crucified either side of Jesus, but the bible doesn’t name them – you’ve found God; and if you can find God in a cactus, why shouldn't he exist - if not be seen - in corduroy as well? Corduroy in French is, ‘Corde du roi’ (‘cord of the king’): God’s own fabric. Where are my (late) Elvis records? Bring me The King in a corduroy jumpsuit with sequins.
Consider another prickly relationship: ‘Moonlight and Roses’ (released the year I was born). No corduroy, but it’s Jim Reeves again, and it’s a Dynagroove recording. 
Dynagroove records have "a realistic presence – sound projected in ‘photographic' perspective", and any "inner-groove distortion is virtually eliminated". I bet it sound’s heavenly. I’m going to wait till it gets dark, data-project it big on my wall, and distort my dancing shadow in front of it. And I dance like I'm being crucified on a cactus. 

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Doors Of Perception

Vinyl records are double-sided, are paper-thin yet, it’s their insides we’re interested in: the often long-dead voices speaking out of the black grooves (graves?), I’m thinking of Roy Orbison and Kathleen Ferrier. And I’m always on the lookout for an album-cover with a picture depicting a dead singer clad in a corduroy suit (such an album must exist): the grooves of the record containing the dead/alive vocal cords: the cords of the corduroy suit containing the dead/alive crooner.
Doors say, yes and no: keep the outside out and the inside in, but some doors are paper-thin. Walls have an outside and an inside – are double-sided - and as everyone knows: walls have ears. Doors have a letterbox, and records used to be played on the jukebox (voice-box). Who could forget Kitty Lester’s “Love Letters Straight From The Heart” or the Carpenters cover of “Mr. Postman”?
It’s possible to speak through a door, and records speak to you (if sung in the right key). 
What’d happen if doors go the way of records? As Perec says: “If there wasn’t a door there wouldn’t be a key”.  And for me the key to the record is the cover: bring me a groovy, corduroyed crooner on an album cover. 

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Mirages And Mirror Images

Imagine the arousal caused by a camera, dancing, tap, tap, tap, on the lap, whilst traveling over the dunes, on a camel’s back: would make for some blurred mirages! And if a puffin landed on the camel’s head, and you traced both of them – the camel’s head and the puffin, in situ: would you – when, back home, examining your holiday-tracings - be able to tell the difference between the two? 
Tracing a puffin can be tricky, and you should always use a very long pencil (like Matisse) when tracing a camel’s head. Pencils are used to being bitten. The Dulux dog doesn’t bite, he’s whiter than white. Let’s trace him, as well.

But none of these mirages or mirrored heads matter, the happy couple, they've been usurped by a sailor. What's an old sea dog - a seaman - doing in the desert? Looking for a lost puffin that reminds him of the Dulux Dog? 

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Bring (Come) Me The Head Of A Millionaire

Two smells I miss getting a fix of: fix and glue. First, fix, the chemical used to preserve a photographic image. When you develop a black and white photograph – in the old-fashioned way, in the darkroom - the print goes through three trays of chemicals: developer, stop bath and fix, and fix smells like Brie. No: fix smells of sperm.
Long before eBay I bought a photographic enlarger from a millionaire’s widow in Chalk Farm - saw it advertised in 'Amateur Photographer' magazine. When I first set eyes on the enlarger it was wearing a black bin-liner on its head, as if in mourning for its millionaire master. The widow told me this was not the case, that the enlarger had been bagged in the cellar for ages (like a hostage); her late husband hadn’t used it for thirty years or more. I paid her and struggled across home across the river with it. We made for an odd couple on the underground. I very much doubt whether you could travel – on public transport – with such a sinister object nowadays, what with hoodies, the impending burka ban in Belgium and all. And if we had have been stopped-and-searched I would have had some explaining to do. Under the bag, inside the enlarger’s head was another kind of head: a dead head. I was rocking around on the Northern Line with a deathly exploding penis on my lap.
When I got home I discovered, in the negative carrier of the enlarger, what I could only presume is the moment a millionaire ejaculated (sometime in the mid 1960s - about the time I was conceived). This explosive image only appears on one of a strip of six negatives. The other five negatives depict his wife - the widow I’d just met - thirty or so years younger, riding a camel in the desert. By the look of things (he’s kept his socks on) it must be a self-portrait (headless, but not strictly speaking, a headless self-portrait). Much of photography is about control, yet here’s an image that demonstrates pictorial control over a loss of control; what Cartier-Bresson would have called, ‘The decisive moment’.
And I’ve heard you can have such a thing as a blinding orgasm: this image could have been taken, but not seen. And it’s only right and fitting that the exploding penis was found in an enlarger; a machine with a head at the top of a column; a device that spits-out light.
Oh, and how do I know it’s a millionaire’s dick? I’ve since done some research. He was quite well known in fact. But that’s for another day, another blog. And I didn’t send his widow a print. Perhaps I should send her this drawing instead - it’s the nearest thing to it, and a sticky end too: I used to sit on top of this dick-like rock and get a fix of glue. 

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Bra Outlived Two Dogs

The bra maid married the fireman and her bra outlived two dogs. But it doesn’t do to hang on to things. Towards the end I took to taking the bra out climbing - used it as a chalk-bag(s). But when the going got steep – and I started to breathe deep – I inhaled more chalk than I put on my fingers; coughed harder than I climbed.
Even though I was only climbing on small rocks (bouldering), when I was exhausted, when I lay on my back and looked at my chest, I had a view of the Alps. And when chalk spilled out of the cups – due to the coughing fits - I witnessed my own avalanche.
And then I read about two women being killed by a bra in Hyde Park. It was a balmy summer’s evening when a solicitor, walking though the park on her way home from work, happened to notice two women asleep - close together - under a tree. Next morning the said solicitor, taking the same route back to work, was surprised to see the women were still there, hadn’t moved an inch. She raised the alarm. Both women had been dead when the solicitor first set eyes on them the day before. The cause of death: electrocution. They’d been sheltering from a thunderstorm, under the tree, when lighting stuck. One of the women was wearing a wired-bra. The tree took a strike; the bra acted as a lightening conductor and the shock was directly transferred from one woman to the other, instantly killing both. It doesn’t do to cling on to people through their bras: I’ve never worn a bra since. 

Wedding car - bra photographs, Professor Paul Hill MBE.