The gap / unblocking

Posts below this one are from over two years ago. In that time Petrol Girls released our second EP Some Thing and wrote, recorded and released our album Talk of Violence  , with artwork made by the computer cool cat and art wanker fox dream team, Liepa and I. We’ve toured relentlessly resulting in my decision to stop trying to pay rent properly anywhere and try out snail lyf, living out my rucksack because I don’t have a car or a van. It’s easier for me to take this risk than a lot of other people, because if I fuck up (and when I have done) I can go to my parents’ home, where I am kindly, but firmly, encouraged back onto my feet and back out the door. I think its important to acknowledge that I’ll never be materially homeless, and the times I’ve been hungry have been because I wasn’t ready to admit defeat.

st

tov

My zine MWMW – Moving WoMan Writing – grew out of my decision to try living this way, and to try and sustain it. I genuinely lived off the money from the first issue for a couple of months last summer. It’s now sold out but is available to read online here. The second issue is available directly from me at gigs but may also from time to time be up on the Petrol Girls merch page. The other reason I stopped trying to cover rent, and a key contributor to months of writers block, was the time I spent out at the Refugee Camp in Calais during the autumn and winter of 2015. Of course it was harrowing, problematic, inspiring and deeply unsettling. And of course I had no idea was I was doing, nor would I know much better now. I did a written interview about it with my friend Bryony for Spark Mag, and a spoken one with another friend, Ron, for Noisey. I have a lot of reservations about speaking about it, and am repulsed by the idea that speaking about other people’s suffering might contribute to my ‘career’ in music, art or writing. But silence also felt like cowardice, and so I spoke. There are a lot of reasons that I haven’t been back, none of which I find fully acceptable. It is a point I keep writing myself back to.

The endemic sexual violence within punk and activist communities, which, because of my outspokenness on the subject, I have found myself increasingly, and not always willingly, tangled up in, redirected the majority of my energy away from migrant solidarity activism. I am furious about it, and I am figuring it out. In some ways, its an easier topic for me to speak about. It is certainly far less problematic for me, as a young woman who has experienced sexual violence to fight back against it, than for me, as a white British person, to relate to migrant struggles. But problematic does not mean ‘don’t’; it cautions us to think about what we’re doing. One reason I haven’t been back is because I was sexually assaulted by a white British male volunteer in a caravan in the Calais camp: I didn’t speak about it because he drove a van that transported heaps of essential donations to the camp from the warehouse every day, and whatever I was doing there was not making such a tangible difference. I’m not interested in outing him as an individual (I believe the grilling I gave him the following day was sufficient to make him think twice about doing it to anyone else, and he was not working in close contact with refugee women.) I remain interested in, and committed to, speaking about the patterns and structures that produce and maintain this bullshit. I wrote a chapter for NASTY WOMEN, named after a Petrol Girls song: ‘Touch Me Again And I Will Fucking Kill You: Cultural Resistance To Gendered Violence In The Punk Rock Community.’ Honestly, it took me most of the winter to write it, as a number of external factors, including some I cannot legally write publicly about, intensified the depression and anxiety that, I’m pleased to say, I am now on top of. (GO GET THERAPY.) A sentence towards the end of my essay reads, “I want to fight for freedom of movement and stand in solidarity with refugees and migrants and I’m furious that so much of my energy is taken up with trying to make the community that I need as a base and means of support safe.”

bf31247696521029a6d876ecb6d8216e_original

I have probably not felt as honoured to be part of anything before the Nasty Women book. It’s made me realised that what I really want to do long term is writing, in the widest sense of the word, and that it why I have returned to blogging. I’ve also miraculously landed myself a place on the MRes in Creative Practice at Glasgow School of Art, starting in September, because I realised that I need some context and time to sort my creative shit out, and figure out what it means/ can do politically. (Also you can get masters loans now..)

I have done a lot of touring with Petrol Girls in these past couple of years, including some huge tours with Dead Kennedy’s and Strike Anywhere as well as more DIY tours around the UK and mainland Europe. I also, very recently, started touring solo again, with my friends Efa Supertramp and Jenn Hart as the ‘Wriote Tour,’ which Jenn has written a lovely account of here. I’m gaining confidence about the weird set I developed over those 8 days, mixing zine reading, spoken word and performances of material from my new project PASTE. So far, PASTE has mostly been a collaboration between myself and Pete Miles , combining his music with my words, drawn from various art projects. We perform it full band for the first time in a few days at Fem Rock, with Jaca and Josie joining us on drums and bass. I’m actually really nervous, and still don’t know all the words! This interview for Music & Riots gives some insight into the one track we currently have online.

 

I think this gives a fair overview of the last couple of years, and I’ll keep coming back to the points and projects mentioned. Chronological order (or arguably straight up order) isn’t going to be a sustainable approach to blogging for me. I want to thread and map my weird sprawling creative projects together, rewrite or publish essays that I print in my zine, and push myself to write about the issues I’m hesitant to approach.

(I have also finally passed my driving test and god fucking damn it, will one day, somehow, own a van.)

 

January – Back into the sludge.

collaboration

I’m not normally miserable in January. Generally I get the whole new-year-new-start-new-projects motivational push that sees me through to vaguely mild temperatures. I wasn’t going to mention it, but I got my annual dose of Kate Tempest last night and have her earnest face floating above my laptop screen going, “There’s some grim shit going on, its ok to not be ok – no-ones ok, I’m not ok” – so I guess I feel like I have permission or something, which is stupid because I’ve been trying to stop seeking that since art school. Its a political thing though – detachment, alienation – we shouldn’t be silent about it. Writing helps anyway, it always does, because loads of positive things have happened, plus it means I get to use my stagnating brain and explore some of the thoughts that pop up momentarily between mindless scrolling down social media feeds and boring menial tasks. Song writing helps as well and our new Petrol Girls song feels exactly like last month to me:

Back into the sludge// There’s less of me now// Less human somehow// Void of empathy// Void of energy// There’s less of me now// Less human somehow

The air is stale and thick with sleep// Black mould rises all across the sweating walls// The borders close defences rise// Hear no warmth in how some humans are described

These are the walls these are the words// I can see them forming blocks around my days

Go through the motion with no emotion go through the motion with no emotion go through the motion with no emotion go through the motion with no emotion go through the motion with no emotion go through the motion with no emotion..

These are the walls these are the words// I can see them forming blocks around my days// I won’t fear life while I’m alive// Even as the colours melt into the grey.

Back to sludge// Thick with sluggish things.

I wonder how that reads when you can’t hear the song in your head… It’s the last song we need to add the vocals on, for the new EP that we’re recording with our friend Marta Salogni, at Strong Room Studios, which is both warm and surreal. It’s been such a great recording experience so far. Being able to talk openly about what the songs are actually about makes a big difference to me and we had a great chat about Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a song that started forming in my head over the summer whilst reading Laurie Penny’s latest book. Penny describes how this (admittedly problematic) film theory can be seen to play out in real life, in terms of people’s expectations of women in alternative communities, especially in relationships. I identified so that hard that a song idea popped out (obviously given a shape/ life/ sound by the rest of the band) and now I get the pleasure of screaming “I’m a protagonist! SUUUUCK IT” at rooms full of people (sometimes, as I mentioned to my band mates the other day, with an emphasising boob grab, which I’ve decided was a subconscious reference to Bikini Kill, Suck My Left One, but now I’ve seen drunk Zock impersonate this I might have to drop it..). Its very pleasing that an idea born from such a geeky starting point can boil down to such blunt lyrics. I cannot wait to put this EP out into the world, its such a massive step up from our last one in so many ways, everything about it is more mature plus this time we have Zock absolutely killing it on the drums. I feel like we’re defining our sound more, and I’d say this time you can definitely hear Liepa and Joe’s music taste in it much more. Liepa wrote an outrageous bassline for Slug pretty much on the spot in the studio as we’d written the song whilst she was tour driving The Exhausts. I wiggle my fingers in profound reverence. We still have reamping the guitars to do as well, at which point I think we’ll lose Joe in gear twiddling euphoria.

spaceship

zockaroo

On the subject of excellent people doing excellent things for us, Liepa discovered Will Webb, a film maker who, having only met Liepa once and the rest of us never, agreed to come and film then edit a video for our Kickstarter. What a bloody hero. The Kickstarter is now live and aims to crowd fund enough money for us to manufacture our Thunder Thighs and Eyes On The Road reflective leggings in a factory – the sewing part that is, there is still the slightly daunting task of screenprinting both legs on 150 pairs. What this does mean is that the leggings will be better quality and produced more quickly meaning we can retail them at a reasonable price with it still making sense economically. More info on our Kickstarter page. We’ve reorganised House of Astbury and will be launching it as an official business when our Kickstarter campaign ends in March, hopefully under the guidance of The Prince’s Trust. We’re already stocking some products at Curve Deptford and No Guts No Glory with more shops in the pipeline.

table

A few of us dropped in at the Curve Deptford opening (to eat all of Cat’s cake..) on the last day of the month before heading up to Bethnal Green to play an acoustic show as a fundraiser for Tower Hamlets Food Bank. I find it really difficult to articulate my incredulity at our political situation being so fundamentally fucked up that people need food banks. I can’t understand how the increasing polarisation between rich and poor can be at all justified when people can’t afford to eat. The people running the food banks are doing a vital job but one that they shouldn’t have to, not in 2015. If the Conservatives get in this time I’m leaving. Burn them all and share the wealth.

perk and liepa

kitchen jam

Aside from it being an important cause, what I really enjoyed about the gig was that the promoters, line up and sound tech were all women, and it wasn’t a thing. At no point was it advertised or mentioned that it was an all women line up, it just was, and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that before – I really liked it. Perkie, Liepa and I played some tunes together, which is going to be the start of something feral and potentially electronic. And Dear Everyone were stunning and soul-soothing. I was a bit weirded out about playing songs about my ex in a cafe which was the last place we went out together before I left, and where I haven’t been since. He was wrong about my experiences of sexual assault, but right about their vegan burgers, which are exceptional, not that the latter issue was ever disputed.

You can join the lost boys that I left behind, in the small towns, in the city, in the back of my mind.

I’ve been thinking about this issue of all women line ups a lot lately as I’ve been booking things for International Women’s Day and constantly questioning everything around it. My original plan was to get two bands from outside the UK with women in over to do a tour, as we can’t get enough donations at just a house show to cover travel, but this proved a bit last minute to organise in time for March. That plan is on the back burner for next year as a number of bands were interested, but for this year there are a few related International Women’s Day gigs happening around the UK which I’m hoping to tie together with a collaborative zine (submission deadline 25th Feb – renaldridge@gmail.com.) I’ve come across a great Leeds based workers cooperative called Footprinters where I can get it printed at a reasonable price and get a fancy Risograph printed cover!

I want to write about this more for the zine, but I suppose a starting point for what I’m thinking about would be a moment at a gig I was at just before Xmas, when a friend of mine in the audience whooped, “Yeah!! Women in bands!”, herself a woman who plays in a number of bands, and my other friend on stage, shrugged it off and said something like, “yeah.. it’s not unusual.” I completely saw both perspectives and I think that brief exchange illustrates a lot about what it can be like being a woman in a band. Also, as a feminist, I struggle with this tension between wanting to break down gender binaries yet drawing attention to them at the same time: I don’t believe in the man/ woman binary, yet it’s as my designated role in this binary – woman – that I experience the world, and all the sexist shit that comes with that. In order to highlight the sexism that I experience, I in some way reinforce myself as ‘woman’ which is a category I’m ultimately trying to escape. I chase myself around this circle a lot.

It’s also really interesting in the context of art and the question of all women art exhibitions inevitably came up at a symposium I went to earlier in the month called ‘CoHabiting: Contemporary Art, History & Feminism.’ The symposium was part of ‘A Woman’s Place’ which is, “a project that aims to question and address the contemporary position of women in our creative, historical and cultural landscape” through commissioning site specific work at historically significant venues. The panel included a bizarre mixture of feminist artists, historians, national trust representatives and Emily who runs Peckham Platform, the gallery that I volunteer at. Many of the women there actually outright rejected the label feminist, which for me just highlights the problem of seeing that term as a singular, as a lot of different people use it in a lot of different ways and I think its vital that those differences can be taken into account. To me its a plural so that women with a different experiences can also claim it in their own way. During the discussion at the end, a woman brought up a really good point which I think can be applied to music communities also: that multiple strategies happening at the same time is effective. Having all women gig line ups or art shows doesn’t have to clash with galleries quietly making an effort to show more women, or women dominated gig line ups where gender goes unmentioned – these tactics can compliment each other, as regardless, there are still a shocking amount more male artists than women artists shown in galleries, and more men than women being given a platform to play music.

It was also interesting to hear about Peckham Platform in terms of Emily’s career as an artist and curator. I hope to remain involved with that gallery as long as I can as I think the socially engaged practice and community involvement that it platforms is perfect for Peckham and hugely relevant to my own art practice. The current exhibition is ‘The Subject Index’ by Anna Best which essentially involves recreating the Southwark archive in the exhibition space, with primary material from the original archive. I spent a surreal afternoon cataloguing old pictures of Peckham, time travelling back to streets I know illuminated with gas lighting. It’s politically very relevant at the moment as Peckham is changing rapidly and the archive can be seen to in some way track its regeneration and gentrification.

I’m not sure how this has ended up so far down my blog post, but my commission for a metal version of ‘Give Us A Smile Love’ has been completed and the buyer sent me some images of it installed on site. I’m really pleased with how it looks and hope to go and see it in his sculpture garden at some point.

guaslinloc

Another great exhibition I saw was one about witches at the British Museum. It was an assortment of old etchings and drawings depicting witches, either as absolute hags or total sirens – nothing in between. I want to read more about the history of witchcraft – effectively the history of intelligent, magical, disobedient women via a patriarchal lens. There were at least two drawings of witches riding backwards on goats, and this has got to form the basis of some band artwork.

witch

witches riding

I had a lovely commission to do a tour poster for Astpai, which ended up being heavily influenced by the eagles carrying the Dwarves in the Hobbit. (All I really have to say for the last Hobbit film is that I did really enjoy the eclectic range of animal steeds.) I’m trying to band-poster-commission my way to Fest in Florida this year so send work my way (renaldridge@gmail.com.)

astpai poster 2 updated

 

We had a couple of great Petrol Girls gigs this month in Worcester and Nottingham – we even made it into the local paper in Worcester! There seems to be a really strong DIY community in both towns based around zines, and up in Nottingham at totally DIY all ages venue called JT Soar. It felt good to be out playing shows again – great start to a gig filled year ahead!

 

laydeee worcester news

pgot

 

Also, I failed at yoga.

Blog resurrection

phwoooarandme

It seems appropriate that I spent a considerable amount of 1st January 2015 hungover as hell and half asleep in the back of the car. Plans for the coming year are tour heavy, and if the latter half of 2014 is anything to go by this will involve a lot of time spent in vehicles of varying teensy-ness, semi conscious, whilst more competent people drive, navigate and operate the windows in battle with the desolation caused by my flamboyant digestive system..

I suppose excusing neglect of your blog is the equivalent of apologising for fucking up on stage: tedious and presuming someone noticed and/or gave a shit. I’ll do better this year, for myself, because doing this really does help keep focus, when most of the time I feel like legs on a body running down a muddy hill too fast. 2014 disappeared before I found a rhythm and it took too many good souls with it. I hope the next years kinder. And I hope I can be better at keeping in touch with everyone I care about; that’s my main resolution really, to stop using being busy as a shit excuse for neglecting my friends and family, essentially to just reply and to visit people instead of just demanding their presence when I play gigs in their town. My other one is to practice yoga daily but this has probably already failed as right now even corpse pose is giving me serious room spin.

IMG_6091

I did alright in 2014. Moving to Hamburg for the residency is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I figured out a kind of direction for my art practice, something to do with cartoons (in their widest sense), language and a weird kind of social research through collecting reactions to my public work. Once I’ve got House of Astbury to a more stable point, I can’t wait to get my head back into making some proper art again. The residency gave me the time and space I needed to let my brain be properly creative and I learnt that actually, I quite like being on my own sometimes, it lets me think properly. I also met some incredible new friends out in Hamburg who I hope to stay in touch with (NY resolution no.1!).

Printing

House of Astbury has been hard fucking work. I printed even more than our product a week challenge from January until I left for Hamburg in April including a ridiculous all-nighter where Ester joined me at Print Club to do the leggings. We ended up catching the first train home the next morning rather than the anticipated last train that night, and there have been plenty of occasions where other road users between Dalston and Peckham have received the brunt of my early-hours-of-the-morning bike road rage. I try to enter the screen printing zen where time disappears and I accept it’ll take as long as it takes – there’s nothing to be gained from cutting corners. Ester organised our first profesh photo shoot which took place around East London. I got roped into modelling last minute which was a shock for everyone involved but I quite enjoyed it in the end: a massive poser at heart. I joined team Hollaback London for a feature in Asos magazine in which I managed to sneak our Thelma and Louise t-shirt, which I designed to sell at the Hollaback Riot Nights Susuanna and I ran at ULU to raise awareness of Hollaback ULU. These were successful shows and the t-shirt continues to be a popular seller, raising money for Hollaback. House of Astbury has also been featured in the Huffington Post and Total Women’s Cycling, which has been excellent exposure for us. Since moving back to the UK in September I’ve been much more involved with the business side of things on top of printing. Remaining motivated when any reward is hypothetical and distant has been difficult, but I’ve learnt so much in the process that at this point I feel really clear about where we can improve and how to move forward. Having Liepa join the team has been invaluable – I’m not sure we’d have survived without her! I feel confident that 2015 will see all of our hard work begin to pay off.

photo (45) asos photoshoot hoasophiebackwlogo

Petrol Girls really solidified as a band last year. We released our debut EP in March and played a ton of gigs both in the UK and on the mainland. I particularly enjoyed the feminist festivals we played in Amsterdam, Hamburg, Sheffield and Camden and our summer tours were spectacular – all of the extracurricular tour activities! Some of the experiences I, my friends and people I’ve met since I’ve started talking about sexual assault have had, have further fuelled my urge to make feminist hardcore. At the start of the year I couldn’t even articulate my own experiences whereas now I’ve written about it and I can talk about it to anyone and argue with absolute confidence against any victim blaming bollocks (at whatever level of inebriation). I think our song writing as a band is progressing loads, with our different approaches to making music really complimenting each other. We’ll be recording another EP early 2015 and if our writing continues to accelerate maybe even an album towards the end of the year. The packaging for all of this will not be made by hand again!! We have some pretty big tour plans forming for the coming year; I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of support and gig offers we’ve had from people. Fingers crossed for a big year with lots of waking up in strange places and meeting fabulous souls.

petrol girls happy IMG_3014

My acoustic songwriting has slowed down a lot, possibly due to a lack of heart break, but jamming some songs full band with Tommy, Joe and Liepa got me so excited I genuinely saw colours. I want to break out of the C/G/Am/F rut I got stuck in and move back to the more experimental/ I-have-no-idea-how-to-play-this-thing sound I had before, it was more interesting to me. I also want to do some more feral things with the Perkinator – we’ve been plotting..

As Santa so kindly pointed out on his note accompanying the coal in my stocking, my financial state has very much not improved. I quit party pooping (life guarding) and took up poo removal/ hound management. I spend every morning being dragged around a graveyard with a pack of delightful stinkers. I’ve decided I like dogs a hell of a lot more than children and I think finishing my job as an art teacher was a fairly mutual decision following the spin painting with an umbrella and all of the poster paint incident. Many excellent new animals have come into my life. I’m very fond of Alfie the Jack Russell, Walter the labradoodle, Captain the rescue hound, Bonnie the Bassett Hound and our special kitties Iggy and Dog although no one comes close to Skye. I’ve also begun a questionable career doing tattoos for more alcohol and I hope everyone I did one on got it for the memory and not for the quality of the artwork. Its been a pleasure to do more poster and album artwork for bands – I feel like I’ve loosened up about this and can see a clear improvement in what I’ve produced over the year. I’ve also accepted that I will paint dogs for money, and it turns out, make them custom designed reflective bandanas – to be fair, this now makes it justifiable to include cute dog pictures in my portfolio. I also got naked for money, loved it, and put the drawings people let me keep up all over the kitchen.

I’ve figured I can look at things in different ways. I can focus on the embarrassment of throwing up on my knees at the front of a Ryan Air flight or congratulate myself on making it to Stanstead airport in record time after oversleeping whilst still drunk. I can cringe at taking out a pack of dogs in matching themed Christmas and Halloween costumes or think of the joy this can bring the internet and my slightly eccentric boss. I can worry about what all the different conflicting kinds of people in my life think of me and feel like an underachieving sell out or just potter on with it all and see where I get. I’m excited for my plans for 2015 and looking forward to the unexpected bits, like when Clemence and I ended up swimming in a lake in Berlin with a group of utterly beautiful completely naked dance students. If it happens this year I’ll take all my clothes off.

Petrol Girls – Fuck it. Let’s do it

Scene Better Days

Feminist hardcore is a fundamentally wonderful thing. If you don’t agree, then you probably think Julien Blanc is a harmless and maybe found Dapper Laughs just a little bit funny. And you can fuck off.

South East London’s very own Petrol Girls are just such a phenomena. They have a growing following and are a living breathing example of why DIY amongst the younger generation is really fucking exciting right now. We caught up with them (Lepa Kuraitė – bass, Ren Aldridge – guitar and vox and Joe York – guitar and vox) back in September. And this is what they had to say for themselves.


Good evening. How’s it going? I hear you’ve been out and about with our friends Guerrilla Monsoon over the summer…

Ren: Yeah all good, cheers. Yes we played a couple of shows with those guys and Traders in Swansea and Bristol – they’re…

View original post 4,891 more words

Project Hoist That Rag: exploring nationalism.

After considering both “Give Us A Smile Love” and “PHWOOOAR” in terms of knowledge production/ research into how sexism operates as a culture, I considered how this methodology might be applied to other ism’s and phobia’s that I see operating in a similar way. As mentioned in previous posts, nobody leaps from the womb a raging sexist or nationalist: these are cultures that we are socialised into, rather than inherent human qualities. It is these cultures that I’m trying to explore through my art practice, by looking at their lighter, less sinister ends to gain some insight into how the more disturbing parts occur. “Give Us A Smile Love” is at the lighter end of street harassment, but it still comes from a position that is demanding something of the woman’s body that it is directed at, and a belief that this is somehow owed. In a similar kind of way, the national pride I saw around the world cup was by and large symbolic and harmless (not that these two things necessarily go hand in hand) but nonetheless comes from the same bizarre notion of being proud of the achievements of others connected to you only by the pure chance you exist in the same land mass that designates itself whatever country. And I wondered about the euphoria of it all.. It was fun and promoted a sense of community, but on what basis? And how inclusive was it? In Hamburg there are refugees from Libya amongst other places that are being refused their right to stay essentially because they weren’t born here or in the EU. There’s a rise in far right nationalist parties across Europe. Immigration laws are tightening. I wonder about how it all connects, and what similarities of feelings there are in each situation.

 IMG_3120

With these thoughts in mind, I collected various items of German memorabilia from the streets during and after the world cup games. Luckily for my art project, they won the whole thing so I had a particularly good haul after the final match! Many of my German friends expressed discomfort at all the German flags. Apparently they’ve only become popular over the past 6 years or so, due to many German people having a constant critical relationship to the country’s history with regards to nationalism. One popular reaction amongst the radical left has been to cut the yellow section out of the flag leaving behind the anarcho-syndicalist flag (though a bit more horizontal.) This gave me the initial inspiration to cut all the yellow sections out of what I collected and start to sew them together into a new, purely yellow flag. For me the yellow section of the flag represents the more fluffy liberal end of German politics – the red and black feature in flags of both the extreme right and left. The yellow – or Gold as its meant to be – also symbolises generosity (poignant in the context of immigration struggles..) And yellow generally comes across as quite a child-like, innocent, happy colour, which fits with my desire to look at the lighter end of nationalism, and frankly goes fantastically with my bright pink PHWOOOAR sculpture! I think the multiple textures in the flag – made from inflatable batons, wigs, car flags ect – indicate its origins and therefore the implied action of cutting up the German flag; something that I arguably have no right to do as a non-German. To be concerned over my right to symbols of national identity however, would go against the position I’m coming from, which is firmly no borders, no nations. 

IMG_3400

These images are of my flag as it was installed for our group exhibition Surface, at Fight Club, Berlin. I decided to make it the shape of a long banner style flag as it suggests an upside down monument or phallic symbol – I see macho behaviour and nationalism as very connected. I decided to display it in the window to keep it as close to the street as possible. I think it does work in a gallery context in its own right, but I wanted to imply its initial function as a public piece and the origins of its materials. 

IMG_3394 IMG_3399  IMG_3401

The following photos are of the flag in various locations around Berlin. This was a meaning making project, exploring how the meaning, or intensity of meaning of my flag changed depending on context. A discussion of (/attack on) nationalism is one thing draped over a Berlin bear, and quite another next to a Jewish monument. It was a really intense day, I was constantly wondering if what I was doing was ok. Sometimes it was really funny and at other points quite disturbing. I don’t feel its my place to write specifically what I think each image means, clearly they are massively open to interpretation. Perhaps some of them are hugely offensive – its not really up to me to decide. As an artist, especially a public artist, I really feel at some point you have to give up control. I plan on doing the same again around Hamburg, possibly other German cities as well, and then making it into a book. I’d also like to do the same in other countries, in particular, the white section of the French flag – I think that could provoke a lot of questions. Some of these images are also purely aesthetic, exploring how the flag might work just as an aesthetic object in public locations – often reacting to other yellow things. I also really like the images where the flag is held up by Clemence and relates to her body. There are many different ways I could organise these pictures, so I definitely consider this just a starting point/ rough selection.  

IMG_3439 IMG_3441 IMG_3453 IMG_3456 IMG_3480 IMG_3486 IMG_3494 IMG_3507 IMG_3509 IMG_3514 IMG_3515 IMG_3526 IMG_3532 IMG_3539 IMG_3555 IMG_3572

Mainly pictures: Design jobs/ screenprinting/ HoA photoshoot results/ Sicknote/ punk rock bedding/ MEXCANAnanaYESMATE

 

chunkies angels

 

I give up on chronology. Amongst the end parts of my last blog post, other more uplifting things occurred. Martha, Ester and Chunks came to celebrate mine and Chunky’s Birthdays. No daytime objectives were fulfilled. Mexicanayesmate. At some point we went to Hurricane festival with Apologies and I got to watch Fucked UP – most pleasing. I went straight from the festival to a tiny basement gig at a housing coop in Wilhelmsberg, a film maker from Mexico gave me a savage tequila-esque shot and I managed to shout my way through the high parts of an acoustic set on shit all sleep and a week of partying. A fabulous entry into being 23. The show was with Landverraad – one of my current favourites. We finished off our party week with wine and a candle because we are nothing if not pure class.

IMG_2751

 

Petrol Girls tour preparation was underway. I forgot how much I despise tour booking, but we got there eventually. 2 posters and almost 2 weeks worth of shows later..

tour poster tour2 poster

 

We also had to face up to our decision to make our vinyl cases totally DIY. Needless to say this was a bloody time consuming process. Each vinyl case is a 2 layer screen print using metallic and reflective ink – I still haven’t printed all of them as its a run of 300 and the art shop keeps running out of black paper! They are printed 3 at a time for the metallic layer and individually for the reflective layer as the ink dries much more quickly. They are then cut out and stuck together, and the cracking insert Liepa designed is added and they’re packaged in a nice profesh plastic sleeve. They look fabulous and are available on our bandcamp: www.petrolgirls.bandcamp.com

IMG_2496

IMG_3015IMG_3014

 

I also did some bits and bobs of design work (email renaldridge@gmail.com), including this tour poster for Jake and the Jellyfish and The Forum Walters:

IMG_2754

 

And a basic logo for Sicknote Promotions. Sicknote is a new collective running shows in South East London run by Ester and Tommy (and I’ll join in when I’m back.) They’re running really strong shows, making a special effort to help out bands from outside of the UK and never running an all male line up.

IMG_3143

Another exciting project Ester and I are doing together (because we’re basically married) is Out Of Bed And Back Again (OOBABA) making bedding from people’s old t-shirts. Send us an email for a quote! oobabaoobaba@gmail.com

oobaba

sheet fold

 

House of Astbury is still going strong. We got the results of the photo shoot we did with Sophie Baboolal which are fantastic. This is my favourite shot, featuring both our Queen of the Mountain waterproof bags and crown print leggings, both available on the shop!

hoasophiebackwlogo

Played another dead fun acoustic show with The Autonomads, who now feature one of my best mates Perkie! They were touring with Braindead who are Hamburg based so I got to see Perk before their tour began as well. There was a beautifully dramatic moment where we ran down the street into each others arms and possibly shed a tear. I stopped listening to the dubby end of punk rock for a while, but The Autonomads are fucking brilliant! And its so good to hear bands singing about meaningful political issues instead of just whining about the ex girlfriends for a change. They absolutely have got to come and play a house show at Astbury. There is also potentially a strong collaboration in the pipeline between House of Astbury and Robbie Autonomads who makes really strong bags and cycling accessories.

autonomads gig

 

 

 

PHWOOOAR, its been a while.

phwoooarandme
I’m trying to resist the urge to cover every single thing thats happened over the past few weeks or I’ll never get this blog back on track. So this post is mainly focussed on my constant questions around art and its political potential. I’m looking at the space between this gigantic bright pink plastic PHWOOOAR sculpture I’ve made, and my thoughts about much bigger depressing political issues like this alarming rise of nationalism, and how all these ism’s and phobia’s (in their own distinct and specific ways) operate in society. Sometimes I feel like I’m just sticking my head up a pink plastic art hole (all imagery intended) to escape political realities or that I’m trying to align my art practice with politics in some desperate attempt to escape the guilt of privilege. Both definitely have some truth. But its art and music that have always informed, provoked or challenged a lot of my political opinions, and this art-politics-music triangle thats been bugging me for years, so I’m just going to carry on thinking myself in circles about it.
the punk singer

The half finished blog post lurking in my drafts from a couple of weeks ago starts with watching The Punk Singer, which still seems like a good place to begin. It’s interesting reading back over what I never finished writing; at that point I was utterly seething. Life accelerated again, and whilst I haven’t had much time to think let alone write, I’ve tired myself out too much to remain as livid. Watching that film again certainly marked a new phase, shaking me into seeing problematic chains of personal events and relationships for what they were and then act accordingly. That a film, as an art its own right, and a documentation of a woman’s creative life could work as such as strong catalyst for me personally, gives me hope about art’s potential, which is something I’m constantly questioning in the context of this political shit storm. The film documents the life of Kathleen Hanna, the front women of Bikini Kill and her fight against sexism in the punk rock community. I thought I was going to explode from identifying so hard. This is where I was at a month or so ago anyway:

I should’ve written about the Punk Singer two weeks ago when I watched it for the second time. Now what I’m left with is a memory of the physical effect it had; of my internal organs pulsating and that recognisable surge of difficult, restless energy. Across different social networking sites I saw a fair amount of women expressing the same kind of feeling – so whilst I started with this because its chronologically where I left off last blog, maybe it also makes sense in the context of me really struggling with the political ‘value’, or potential, of art and music. I’m simultaneously designing 7″ cases for the Petrol Girls EP, figuring out how to structurally build the sound ‘PHWOOOAR’ two metres tall out of some frankly inspirational pink bin bags, and reading about right wing politics sweeping across Europe like the unstoppable tidal wave of repeated history; another stupid boy brainwashed into misogynist extremism by our mind-blowingly sexist culture going on a killing rampage; and the UK education system being dragged back into the dark, or should I fucking say white, ages. Perhaps I can be excused a mild existential crisis wondering what I’m doing hunting for where to find pink bin bags (stadtreinigung apparently..) in the midst of this web of shit.

‘Web of shit’ is an undeniably useful term; accurate and satisfying (in the sense that I could call a bull a bull in the seconds before it impaled me on horns I sharpened, in a rage I made no attempts to subside). ‘Web of shit’ acknowledges that all of this crap, all of this hateful, ignorant, blind bollocks, is intertwined and fucking sticky. I suppose the point at which it falls short is that it implies some kind of looming spider, shelob lurking in the dark, like all these supposed mad monstrous “mentally ill” NOT ALL men with twirly villinous moustaches waiting to rape and dismember women silly enough to wander outside society’s limited terms for our existence. Let me clear up any concerns of a higher-spider-being – it cool, Samwise Gangee dealt with it. Our problem is the self-renewing, growing, sticky web of shit.

Zooming out of this surreal raging extended metaphor I got stuck and clearly transported off in for several weeks; what I was trying to express is how ‘isms’ and ‘phobias’ exist on a cultural level that we are all complicit in. It’s a way of thinking about these things that I came to via a Laurie Penny article (Nice Guys Rape) a couple of years ago, and has become a basis of a lot my political thinking ever since. It’s something I plan on trying to write about in more detail for my friend Alec’s zine but can explain it briefly in relation to some of the terrifying things that have happened recently. The misogynist extremist attacks carried out by Elliot Rodgers for example, did not happen in a vacuum, and nor did the brutal murder of a young Roma man in the suburbs of Paris. These extremities are facilitated by society; by a society that teaches young men they have a right to women’s bodies; by a government that fuels nationalism and the systematic oppression of Roma people. Nobody leaps from the womb claiming hatred towards whatever minority or liberation group they turn their attention against, but the media’s tendency to describe extremist events as the actions of lone “mad”/ “evil” individuals negates the socialisation that the individuals have undergone, whatever extreme this may have been taken to. This is why I’m so concerned by everyday contributions to these cultures: I make art about street harassment, for example because I see it as operating from the same presumptions that Elliot Roger held – that women fucking “owe men something’.

I’ve realised how central this political understanding of ‘isms’ and ‘phobias’ as culturally constructed is within my art practice. I’ve not always been conscious of it as a way of thinking but its clearly been behind my approach to making, dare I use the term, political art. Without falling into that particular minefield, I believe all art is inherently political, but not always politically conscious; much of it merely props up the existing establishment. So even if I wanted to I don’t honestly think that I could keep my politics out of my art practice.

Another base of my practice, which often clashes with the strength of my own beliefs, is that I don’t want to create didactic work that evokes a straight forward agree/ disagree response. I want to start conversations. I can be vehemently and loudly against patriarchy, nationalism and capitalism without having a detailed step by step guide of how to collapse it which I wish you all to follow. I’m politically opposed to the very idea of one individual holding all the “answers”, (especially as, lets face it, these characters historically were always both men and wrong). I’m more interested in exposing patterns and researching the way oppression exists on a cultural level in everyday society, making the intangible visible and thus possible to discuss.

We had a really productive tutorial with Hanne Loreck recently and one point she made is that declaring a position in some way sets out a territory that you then have to defend, which can be extremely unproductive. I completely identify with this, and am struggling constantly to find ways of working/ operating as someone who holds strong feminist far-left beliefs without having to continuously defend that position – it feels like an exhausting trap that only leads to burn out. Loreck suggested that a ‘Haltung’ might be a better place to operate from, which translates as an attitude or posture, relating in some way to the body. To me this linked to the way she described her approach to feminism within her writing, that it seeps in everywhere but might not always be explicit. Maybe its a tactical thing – instead of building a fortress you have to lock yourself inside, build some armour (get a dragon?!) and engage in more guerilla tactics. I have been watching way too much Game of Thrones..

I do feel like there’s some kind of liberal post modernist trap where the second anyone declares anything outside of this “middle ground” of claims any anti-establishment perspective this is seen to take something from their art or music. The art community reacts very strongly to terms like ‘political’ and ‘feminist’. And I’m deeply bored with older men implying that my music is somehow immature because it often deals with political issues (as though whining about your ex girlfriend is the height of maturity?). These attitudes to me imply an idea of a “neutral middle ground” where art can mean anything and everyone has room to speak – but this does not exist. This came up very recently in an argument I had with a friend about an all male band making rape jokes. He was pedalling the “free speech”/ “compromise”/ “middle ground” line, but for me a “middle ground” that creates unsafe spaces or otherwise shits on women or other liberation groups is not a middle ground, it is a dominant ground and frankly it must burn.

collage

 

We had a brilliant tutorial with Johannes Paul Raether a few weeks ago. To explain PHWOOOAR I went back to GIVE US A SMILE LOVE and what I found interesting about that project. Johannes pointed out that I seemed most interested in how people reacted to the sculpture and put forward the idea that sculptures like this in a public space might work as a form of research as knowledge production. This clicked with a lot of things I’d been considering about art as knowledge production since visiting the Berlin Biennale which was partially set in a museum – for me the lines between art and artifacts were completely blurred, particularly given that part of the museum was dedicated to Native American art, including screen prints made in the latter half of the twentieth century. The above image is a collection of reactions to Give Us A Smile Love from instagram – just one way of collecting reactions. Here it becomes evident how many people don’t even see Give Us A Smile Love as remotely offensive – and this fascinates me. I feel like it starts to give an insight at the lighter end into how sexism works culturally.

PHWOOOAR is in a lot of ways a furthering of the GIVE US A SMILE LOVE project. It explores similar themes but more openly because its just a sound rather than explicitly language. It can refer to many things besides an exclamation made towards women on the street: “phwoooar look at that car”/ “phwoooar look at the size of that!” – but I would argue that it remains a macho expression. Building it from plasticy pink material simultaneously emphasises and ridicules (in its truest sense – makes ridiculous) its sexual connotations. Its become apparent, now that I’ve built it, that it also needs to go in multiple public spaces for me to then record how people react – it absolutely has to hit the Reeperbahn. Portability is something I really need to consider more – I’m considering rebuilding it to make it inflatable.

IMG_6091

We did an exhibition ‘Remove’ just after my last blog post, but I feel so far removed (that was genuinely not intended, happened as I typed, amazing) from the work I put in it now that its not really worth going into detail about. The main thing I learnt is that I don’t have to do exhibitions just for the hell of it – I’d much rather focus on making some worthwhile art.

IMG_2564

Also had a great weekend at the Berlin Biennale with this excellent crew!

And I had another beautiful week where my iphone broke. I devoured The Colour Purple in about 3 days and felt very at peace with the world. I’ve leant it to my mum but want to read it again more slowly – how much wisdom can a writer cram into each page! It made me think a lot about forgiveness..

Returning to the tutorial we had with Hanne Loreck, she also really inspired me to keep writing this blog. It keeps my head straight. She suggested the idea of writing with, rather than about art. ‘About’ is somehow hierarchical, about mastering, whereas ‘with’ feels more about ways of seeing. It made me think loads about writing as a thinking process, and a way of writing your own narrative. I remember reading this Helene Cixous text, ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’, about feminine writing, its dated and a bit essentialist, but it got me started.. It made me think about how to write like a riot grrrl.

 

 

As a trend, as a friend, as an old memoreeeeee-e-e-ah.

photo (94)

This week I’ve been to the shire, London and Athens then back to Hamburg – pretty impressive right? I went home to the shire for a funeral, which isn’t something I’m going to write about specifically here, on my public blog, but it certainly forms the backdrop to what I’ve been thinking about  a lot this week which is memory, particularly in relation to music and art.

(It’s never real until there’s music.)

Between the funeral and flying out to Athens I went on a speedy visit to surprise my London family. Whilst I was there my friend Joe showed me a video of his final project for Uni. He made The Sonic Memories of Astbury Castle, which you can see a recording of here. He’s a music computing student, but what he’s made to me is site specific sound sculpture – I just think its brilliant. I wish I could experience it myself first hand. The sounds are triggered by bodies moving in the space. Just as we danced to the music when it happened, bodies now trigger sounds from videos recorded of those times. It’s like the way music might be experienced in dreams – just in snippets that sometimes are recognisable and sometimes slip just out of reach, just as memories themselves often behave.

Turn some restless nights to restless years.. photo (90)

I can’t emphasise enough how great it was to see everyone at Astbury even for just a few hours before I took off again. I had the best time surprising everyone in various ways – hiding under the cushions on the sofa and leaping out at Chunky/ emerging from under the bar at Ester’s pub/ just walking into Liepa’s room/ sending cryptic texts to Monika (ok she wasn’t fooled). I finally got my castle tattoo – stick n poke! That place has meant a lot to me and I think a DIY shitty tattoo is a very appropriate means of commemorating that time.

Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial.

(I’m having a heavily lyric captioned week.)

I wonder if aural histories can be a way of countering our image saturated landscape. Sound is so much less tangible. You have so much less control over it and how it sticks in your brain. That ‘only know you love her when you let her go‘ song is literally haunting me, across countries. It’s on the radio everywhere. The lyrics soak right through my skull. His voice is so irritating.

I’m thinking about processes that cannot be described adequately by language (as in written or spoken.) I was checking out Ciara Phillips, who’s up for the Turner Prize, and in one of the essays on her website it is put forward that: “making can be considered to have a language of its own, one which cannot be reduced to a series of letters sounds, vowels and consonants.”  Music works in the same way – “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture” – I can’t remember where I read this. That emotional connection is inexplicable. I want to approach making art in the same way I approach making music; more intuitively, without thinking about theory too much, that can all come after. It creeps in subconsciously anyway.

The reason this section made no sense is because its stupid to try and write about not being able to write about these things.

photo (93)

What’s the point in going anywhere if you know exactly what it’ll look like? 

Athens was such an interesting place to explore. I really wish I’d had more time to look around; so many ancient things! I mainly went to see Jack, but still managed to check out a few places. The Acropolis was incredible. Looking at ancient things is like looking at the stars; its all perspective, scale and time.

I’m very preoccupied with my own relationship to time at the moment. I constantly feel like its just slipping away (into the cosmic future.) I read something recently that, “our relationship to time is defined by the technologies we use to measure it.” Think about it! From the sun to static instruments that use numbers like sundials and clocks, to clocks you can carry around with you (watches), from analogue to digital, to the 24 hour clock – night time must have once been just ‘the unmeasured darkness’, and now I don’t even have a watch, I have a bloody iPhone that I never turn off, that can also tell me what time it is in whatever country my loved ones are in. I’m too scared to turn my night times into THE UNMEASURED DARKNESS, appealing as it is, because I’ll wake up too late and what if my family need to contact me? What is this insane state of paranoia? Why is THE UNMEASURED DARKNESS not a band?

The artist Ruth Ewan did a project called ‘We Could Have Been Anything That We Wanted To Be’ (- the title of which instantly time travels me back to year 9 and our lower school production of Bugsy Malone and yearn for a splurge gun..) She installed a clocks around Folkestone that displayed decimal time – ten instead of twelve hours. It’s been making me think a lot about time as a form of control; about the town clocks put where everyone could see them during the industrial revolution; about time = money; about time/ money/ control. I want to challenge this constant paralysing pressure that I have to be producing things all the time.

photo (97)

Here is my cheesy tourist snap from the Acropolis, also featuring a House of Astbury/ Great Cynics record bag (represent). Why do we feel the need to do this? It’s so bizarre. Why is it not enough to show our friends and family a picture of the thing we went to see without us blocking half the image? I’m completely fascinated by this desire to put ourselves into the frame, and the history of what that has meant in the context of art: from self portraiture to early feminist performance art extending planes of painting and sculpture into lived reality. What does all this mean now in the decade of selfies and social media? Is this desire even a new thing? What do selfies mean in the context of feminism? Is it a powerful statement of women controlling the gaze and how they are presented or its it just the male gaze gone viral? How does this play into capitalism – is there a growing market for women’s selfiesteem? I have too many questions. It’s one of the things that I’m trying to explore it through my art practice at the moment – experimenting with putting myself into the frame in various ways such as skype screenshots and cartoons drawn from photo booth face pulling sessions. At some point I’d like to put on an exhibition specifically exploring feminism’s relationship to the selfie, exhibiting artists that identify with feminism and play with these ideas. I feel like things that I’m uncomfortable with or uncertain about are more interesting to make art about. It makes more questions.

bemorefunny

 

When my parents picked me up from the train station to take me home for the funeral we found this beautiful baby fox in the middle of the road on our way home. It was sat completely still with a paw over its face and was likely to get run over any minute. We wrapped it in a blanket so our smell wouldn’t get on it too much and drove it to the 24hr vets. I held it in my arms like a baby, it was magical. I’m not religious at all, but in the context of everything that was going on I honestly felt like there was something spiritual about it, a life for a life, or something like that.

photo (91)

 

Travellers on an olden road. With all the baggage of our days and years. 

This is too long: CMYK screenprinting, fake beards, band merch collage, “I don’t really feel like talking about it right now :-(“

search

Last weekend did that thing where it was suddenly Sunday afternoon and I had my head in the toilet. The Muv and I concluded on Skype that it was definitely from going for a swim in the North Sea and not from trying to keep up with people who are seasoned to the fact that beer is so incredibly cheap here. The plus side of having one of those life reassessing hangovers however, is that I got much more done this week than I would have otherwise. I’ve now finished a run of prints, started some other projects and carried on having a lovely ponder about life, the universe, and smashing patriarchy.

photo (78)

photo (80)

 

This was my first time screen printing on paper (since doing the very basic method with paper stencils at school and for my first solo ep). I’ve done loads of textile stuff for House of Astbury and various bands merch so I understand most of the process, but on paper there is definitely more precision involved. The CMYK process feels like magic. I looked up loads about it on youtube tutorials and was getting quite confused over photoshop technicalities, entering specific data for specific inks to avoid over saturating the image ect, but it turned out that at HFBK the digital printer does all of this automatically so all I had to do was take in my jpeg image to the digital print room and then I got my traces to expose. I’m relieved I didn’t have to figure it all out this time, but still need to learn for when I go back to Print Club in October and no longer have access to HFBK facilities.

You can see from the pictures below how the image builds up cyan +  magenta + yellow. I decided to stop after these 3 layers because adding the black made the image too heavy and also feel less digital.

photo (76)

photo (75)

photo (86)

 

I’m really attracted to this technique as a way of hand printing digital images. It means that some of the perceived glitches in the image are from human error in the process of printing. I used a method that involved printing the first print of each layer onto trace attached on one side to the table, then lining up each print by eye underneath the trace. Its pretty much impossible to line it up perfectly, especially as you have to move fast before the ink dries into the screen, but I like mistakes and imperfections, they imply humanity and thats what this piece is about – striving for human connection in a digital realm.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about how far making prints can be a political position within the art world. Erik Ruin, in an interview in Realising the Impossible (AK Press 2007) describes printmaking as “paintings low-rent, unfinished cousin”, which is maybe a bit of an exaggeration but a nice idea. In the same interview Miriam Klein Stahl states: “I make prints for the populous appeal. I am in love with the idea of many people having ownership of an image. Prints are a threat to the idea that there is one precious piece of art that hangs for only a few to see.” This idea really appeals to me, it means in the context of buying art, with prints you buy the print and not, or at least far less so, the more conceptual financial value of rarity and the artwork as a potential investment depending on the artists career. For me conceptual money and forecasting are the most dangerous parts of our current form of capitalism in its widest sense, and certainly part of the more grotesque end of the art market. Colin Matthes adds: “Prints are largely accessible, can be made with simple tools, can be widely distributed and sold inexpensively or given away. Prints also retain the beauty of a handmade object and employ a relatively low tech process that complements the craft of the printer.”

photo (81)

That said, I’ve also been experimenting with painting into the print – with painting being this kind of desperate act to try and retain humanity or somehow bring the figure to life within a digital image. Below is my first try (the hair is horrible) but I think its quite a cool effect. I think I’d like to mess around a bit with painting different parts out of the different frames/ planes/ spaces in the image, eg paint in the rest of the hand. I think this would be a new piece in itself however, as the print completely stands in its own right. Maybe I need to print into a photo print of the original digital image then scan the resulting image and CMYK from that.. I’m still keen to produce multiples whilst playing with mixed media.

photo (82)

This kind of ties into a ponder I was having the other day about ‘Mastery’ in the Arts. I was wondering what it might mean to be a Mistress rather than a Master of Art. I was thinking about something along the lines of approaching different mediums in the same way a sex worker (distinct of course from a mistress) approaches men. It turns out the metaphor doesn’t really work in the way I intended it, plus it reinforces the idea of a gender binary, but it still got me thinking about disloyalty to any particular medium/ interdisciplinary practice and deskilling as a strategy. I’ve noticed that everyone I know who is “successful” (/self-sufficient and eating properly) has their one thing which they do very well – a band/ painting/ writing/ print making/ a clothing line. And this makes sense under the logic of capitalism – that’s what they pour their time (=money) and money into, and it then, along with their talent, grows/ increases in value. I just can’t commit like this, I want to be involved in about 4 different bands, contribute to House of Astbury, make massive text sculptures, make screenprints, draw cartoons, write, organise events and a heap of other projects, whilst eating and drinking what I want and supporting myself. So figuring this multidisciplinary strategy is kind of a necessity for me, or at least thinking about what it might mean as a way of working.

Along similar lines, I actually got quite pissed off the other day about the way people try and reduce art to these basic statements – like the ‘about’ sections we all have on our professional websites. It’s just a copy & paste option for marketing art events, making it all nice and digestible so people can consume it at the accelerating rate we are consuming everything. I’m not making art for someone to read about it, glance at it, agree/ disagree then leave. It’s reductive and renders the art itself pretty obsolete or merely an illustration. Art should be a means of making/ disturbing sense of the world, a language and way of creating meaning in its own right; I make art because it starts asking questions or suggesting things I didn’t think of while I was making it. It’s a process/ way of seeing. When I write songs, I look back on them afterwards and realise how I felt and what I knew subconsciously at that time, it helps me see myself clearly, and its this kind of thing I’m striving for with art. Also, of course its vital that its open enough that people can approach it with their own experiences and construct their own meanings. The artist or creator as some kind of authority is something I politically oppose: once its out there, you’re Frankenstein, in the loosest sense of that metaphor. Basically, the conclusion of this thought hole was that I should change the about section on my website to either an embedded link to the arty bollocks generator or “I don’t really feel like talking about it right now :-(” – Robert’s genius rephrasing of me wanting to just put “I don’t want to talk about it” or “I would prefer not to…” Refusing, in varying levels of politeness, is always fun.

Most of this pondering came about as a result of me shutting up and listening more. I’ve been observing (mainly men) who in conversations wait until you’ve finished speaking so they’re not perceived as rude, but then clearly have found the multitask of listening whilst retaining their initial thought all too much because they then take the conversation off on a complete tangent according to what they were thinking about and without reacting to or considering the other person’s contribution in the slightest. Holy shit, it pisses me off. As an opinionated person I worry I sometimes do this, so in class I’m trying to just write my brain down then only contribute what might actually benefit the discussion and relate to what others are saying. I’ve been watching the quieter people silently fume and physically reel and some unconsidered statements made and want to try and make space for their contributions as well, they radiate this feeling that they have something worthwhile to say. I’ve also been having this weird anxiety about speaking in these situations, sometimes getting physically shaky, maybe because I’m over-thinking it, but its made it difficult for me to challenge some pretty fucking problematic statements (eg “if they had education in Iraq” – *smashes face into table*) that were being made offhand. Gah, education.

photo (79)

Alice being very happy about seaside. 

Last weeks seminar was all a bit too much for me, so afterwards I met my friend Alice in Park Fiction and ranted myself into a nap with my beer. It is 65 cent for a bottle of Oettinger, which is actually pretty nice beer. This city. I had a very lovely weekend, Alex drove Alice and me to the beach on Saturday! This fulfilled being in the sea happy and being in a van happy in one go – an excellent day! We also caught the end of Downfall of Gaia at Rote Flora – definitely need to see their whole set next time, much epicness.

photo (87)

 

Now I’ve made some prints I feel much more relaxed about the exhibitions we have coming up. The first is at Dock 7 which over looks part of Park Fiction which Fabio and I might use for outside work. In a little meeting those of us exhibiting had the other day lots of things clicked together in my brain. The context for that exhibition had been troubling me a lot, its such a sensitive area with an incredible history for battling gentrification through art, when art is normally what is responsible for that process. It’s not somewhere I feel I can just go and plonk any old piece of art, especially if I’m selling it. I was thinking about doing some kind of community based project but this so complicated in terms of the position of the artist. Separately, I’d been working on the above image which is a kind of found poem sewn together from cut out bits of band shirts and patches. Robert had pointed out to me that the band tshirt quilt that I have on my bed is similar to this guy who makes collages from heavy metal tshirts and maybe I should try a similar thing. I’d been asking my friends out here if they had anything they could donate me to add to this project anyway, so it seems like a very logical basis for a community piece of art. I can start it with my stuff and my friends stuff, then sew it together in Park Fiction (in some kind of structure) whilst the exhibition is on and invite people to add to it. It’s in an area full of punk rockers, next to a punk bar and some of the oldest squats in Europe on the Hafenstrasse so it seems a good place to try it. I’d make 2 pieces, one with words and one with images. Collage and patch sewing are part of the punk rock culture I’m involved in anyway, so it makes sense to try and make things with it. Hopefully it will be quite big, and I think if anyone wants to buy it then the money should go to Park Fiction or a community project.

On the subject of punk rock, Broezrock, sorry my fingers slipped on the key board, Groezrock is happening this weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I still hatched several different plans for hitching there and blagging in to surprise Jack who’s running sound for Astpai and some other bands there and to see some of the bands playing; so its really not like I’m saying this from some high and mighty position of boycott. But apparently there is a grand total of ONE band with women in it playing the entire festival. I already have Broezrock down as a massive sausage fest from the one time I went 2 years ago. I spent the whole weekend watching my ex say HEY MAN to various guys with shit beards and assorted hats whilst being introduced towards the end of these very repetitive conversations as the nameless girlfriend. Also within an hour of arriving, some douche who I refused to share my beer with informed me that he hated women, and it took me a further hour to wrestle the guitar off of all the guys lining up to play weak covers at the acoustic gathering, such creativity..  So I have my beef. Apparently this year there is also a guy who beats women playing and a known rapist. Smashing! I have no problem with most of the bands playing, some of them are friends of mine and I’m really pleased they’re getting to play a quite big festival but I’ve been hoping (/twitter & fb agitating) for some kind of Dennis from Refused style rant on the issue of representation from someone with a mic there because that fully saved my weekend two years ago. That is precisely what men within the punk community can do to change things – use their stage/ platform/ privilege.

I have a very excellent plan that will require their cooperation for next summer. I basically want to do a feminist festival stage invasion tour of all the most male dominated festivals. This will need guys playing to blag us in free and then to give up 5 mins at the end of their set for us to rush the stage (wearing superhero costumes and fake beards), stage a fake cartoonesque fight, take their instruments and play until we’re dragged off stage. I think we should be called the Plus Ones, or Spare Gender Revolution Fuck Front, I guess I’m open to suggestions. If anyone would like to join me – renaldridge@gmail.com. Petrol Girls have a very appropriate song for this: HEY I’M THE FUCKING BIG MAN, YEAH I PLAY IN A BIG BAND I THINK I’M REALLY FUNNY, I GOT SO MUCH TO TEACH YOU HONEY. BIG MAN BIG MAN. I CAN SEE YOU LOOKING AT ME, IT MEANS THAT YOU WANT ME, HEY I’M THE FUCKING DADDY, I RULE THIS SCENE PRETTY BABY, BIG MAN BIG MAN. In fact I see no reason why there shouldn’t be multiple bands doing this. If we wear fake beards they will NEVER KNOW its us..

hair-life-of-brian-beards

(obviously minus the mildly offensive tea towels)

Being at such a distance from the music scene I was involved in in London has given me space to see how shitty it often was. Its problems were always swept aside, laughed over and rarely directly challenged. I’ve also had the space to find the confidence to send a message to a ‘friend’ involved in this community who sexually assaulted me a few months ago, which was something I was much to scared to tackle whilst still in the midst of that community. I feel a lot better about that now, and want to figure out what support networks can be made for women involved that I know often experience similar things. It’s so common. I also find that as a woman, the second you step out of line i.e. do not behave as the men who dominate that community want you to, you become peripheral, it doesn’t matter how many shows you run or what you do for people, you will be sidelined because the power structures within it mirror the power structures of society. If punk rock is meant to be antiauthority then it can start with smashing its own constructed hierarchies. I feel like misbehaving big time.

On a more positive note: Good Throb, Fuck Off. This is brilliant. Download it. Its so satisfyingly irreverent and is reminiscent of Crass. I need to see this band. At Storte the other night I also saw another great band who remind me loads of the Exhausts: Kenny Kenny Oh Oh from Leipzig. They were really energetic and old school. I’m pretty desperate to get a band going out here, I think I’ve found enough people and we might call ourselves Fenton, or Fenton JC after everyones favourite youtube video.

photo (88)

My Mayday failed because I woke up late and suck at maps meaning I walked a completely different route to the demo in the opposite direction to try and find the start, then eventually caught up with it at the bottom of my road when I’d given up and headed home. That night was brilliant though because Apologies I Have None were in town, and I took Robert to go see them. I am so excited about the direction that band is heading in. They’ve retained their signature epic build ups but made it bleak – kept the shape but whacked the saturation down and I love it. Loads of other bands including La Dispute and Brody Dalle played. I never saw the Distillers live, so for me it was incredible to see Brody Dalle live and I only got put on to La Dispute a week before the gig, but as a Listener fan it was right up my street. Their live show also involves projected photos which I really liked – anything that disrupts the standard gig dynamic.

I also saw my friend Susuana, which was lovely. We went out for desert and agreed that snacking and resting, new pastimes for both of us, are very underrated. She’s about to become NUS Women’s Officer and is basically leading the intersectional feminist charge in London Student politics.

Finally, send heavy undesirable things to ukip via their freepost because they are RACIST.

photo (77)

Art paralysis, pixels, cranes, and gigs.

photo (68)

This week (which turned into nearly 2 in the process of writing this) has largely consisted of punk shows, lying in bed eating chocolate whilst studying, and wandering down to the river to stare endlessly at the cranes. I really like cranes. The music-politics-art question triangle is still churning away and I feel like I might just have to start making work about that question rather than trying so hard to answer it for myself. I’ve been stuck in art paralysis from doing too much thinking/ reading and not enough making, but actually that’s not such a bad thing short term, I’ve been thinking through some big questions that I needed some time for.  I was floundering for a while on a perceived line between making work about difficult big political questions to do with immigration, and more personal and inherently privileged stuff to do with relationships/ intimacy being mediated by technology (that only some people have access to.) I’ve since concluded, fuck the line, I’m thinking in binaries again and three of my main principles as a feminist are to smash binaries, that the personal is political, and that privilege should be interrogated. So I’ll work on both things simultaneously and hope they talk to each other.

The desire to make work about immigration came at the end of a very heavy weekend of punk shows. On Sunday night I went down to Rote Flora for the Lampedusa benefit. Before the bands started some of the guys from Lampedusa in Hamburg, and some from other campaigns, spoke about their situation. Everything that was said was translated into German/ English/ French depending on the speakers initial language. This was the first time I heard anyone directly from the campaign speak about their experiences and I found it really powerful. It made me think about how rarely refugees are given a direct platform or voice within the media, therefore meaning they can’t contribute to the image of them that is constructed. I started thinking about how loaded the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘immigrant’ are, and how they in some way remove the humanity of the person that they are ascribed to. We relate to them as an abstract mediated term, whether that implies them as a victim or parasite (in the case of the far right) rather than other human beings/ autonomous individuals. I did write a massive paragraph about what they were saying but I worry I’ve got bits wrong, and its better you hear it as directly from them as you can, via their website: http://lampedusa-hamburg.info/ (use the translate option if you need English.)

Whilst they were talking, I remembered the title of the upcoming exhibition I’m doing with the other ASA students – ‘Removed’ – and felt really uncomfortable. For me, being ‘removed’ from the UK is really no big deal – I’m having a brilliant time – and whilst this is not the only reasoning behind that as a title, it resounds emptily in the context of the struggles faced by Lampedusa in Hamburg. Changing that title, to me however would feel like shying away from the issues that it might bring up, particularly concerning privilege. And I now feel like this uncomfortable feeling probably means that I should try and make art about it. Something Lebanese artist Rabih Mroué said in a youtube interview I was watching for seminar reading really resonated with me. He described feeling disturbed by questions about his work – “is this good/bad?”/ “do I have the right?” but put forward that it is precisely these doubts that he felt he should make work about. This is sensitive territory from my position as a middle class white EU citizen. But the position of “its not my struggle” is what causes people in all sorts of positions of privilege to not interrogate that position, and what part they play in cultures that enforce oppression. To say nothing, for me, is to reinforce the dominant ideology, which in this case refuses citizenship to refugees from a war torn country. The position of the artist here is complicated, especially as an ‘outsider’. Its something I’m still thinking about very carefully. There’s also always the danger of making really one dimensional propaganda type crap work, but thats secondary to the danger of potentially exploiting other people.

photo (69)

The other thing I want to make work about is the above photo I took whilst on Skype. (You can see how far away this is from what I was writing about above, it shrieks FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS quite beautifully.) I was flicking back through my pictures and found it really interesting. It’s a photo of the screen as opposed to a screenshot, so you can see the way the screen behaves and the device that the Skype call is on – there’s this fascinating combination of virtual and physical spaces making up different planes in the image. It also suggests some kind of narrative and is clearly to do with my personal life, which is something I make music about all the time, so why not make art about it? I’m really into a writer called Chris Kraus who plays with the exposure of personal life in a really clever way, it feels like she’s cynically writing about her personal life because throughout history people have generally been more interested in women artists personal lives than their art, so she’s exploiting this to draw attention to her films which nobody cares about. I’m interested in exploring the personal as political, in making art concerning my personal life to explore what effect technology has on people’s relationships/ ideas of intimacy and communication. I like the way the hand written words are both ways round and contrast with the devices they’re communicated on, and the way they imply the personal whilst the face is covered – personal vs anonymity. Although I took the photo, it wasn’t ‘for art’ so in some ways its between a photo and a found image. Plus its shitty quality – taken on a phone, and I enjoy this lo-fi thing. When I blow it up it will pixelate further, and this quality, combined with the swirls going across the screen in the image, emphasises much of what I’m thinking about. This led me to CMYK screenprinting as the perfect method to do something with the image. I feel like if I left it as just an image, some of the main things I’m considering would be overlooked, plus I love all the different signs and symbols in it which will translate great on the screen. CMYK screenprints are made up of angled dots in cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Its not something I’ve tried before but the effect really emphasises the digital/ pixellated quality of photos, and I hope will enhance the swirls on the screen as well as the feeling of distance and digi-ness (technical term.) Plus I’ve wanted to learn this technique for a while, so it’s perfect. The whole idea of working from a computer image is clearly inspired by my housemate Robert who tends to paint from images online or just on the computer, looking at glitches and how the screen behaves as well as the images themselves.

photo (72)

Between these intense bouts of navel gazing (maybe I’ll pierce it again..) I’ve been having a fucking marvellous time. Thursday night I went to Gängeviertel for the start of their punk rock weekender. I was going to head back there for day 2 on the Friday but Yannig told me there were some really great bands playing at Størte, I didn’t check who, I just took his word for it and headed down, and it turned out Jungbluth were opening – an insane hardcore band that I missed on their UK tour quite recently. My old housemate Chunky had been raving about them, and I’d been listening to their bandcamp but they’d slipped of my radar for a bit – most upsetting! It was brilliant to see them play finally – they’re a deeply satisfying level of technical with a pleasant balance between a desperately miserable doomy feeling and raaaage (yeah this is why I don’t write a professional music blog..). Had to get both their records, plus Yannig found me and him a Bikini Kill vinyl each in one of the other bands distros! Also, just heard that the night before the Julie Ruin gig in Hamburg there’s a screening of The Punk Singer and KATHLEEN HANNA MIGHT BE THERE.

photo (71)

Got to the show at Rote Flora on Saturday pretty late with some lovely people I met the last time I was at the Flora, just in time to catch Landverraad – dutch feminist anarcho hardcore, who were dressed as Jesus’s and had hidden easter eggs around the venue with their song, sorry prayer, names inside. They definitely spoke a lot more than they played but they were so funny. They’re organising a lady fest in Amsterdam which I really want to go to and I’m determined to hook them up with a house show at Astbury some time. Astbury had a house show last Friday! Ester did a fantastic job organising it and I’ve heard Liepa did a great job on sound with the new gear. Most pleasing!!

photo (70)

This week I also had a crack at writing a press release for House of Astbury, which I have since been informed is shit (I suck at capitalism) but I found it a really useful process anyway to think about what the company is/ can be. I definitely want to slow things down a bit and make bigger runs of even more carefully designed and considered products, with time made for test prints and developments. Esters sewing all the leggings together at the moment, so those and our waterproof queen of the mountain bags will be up on the shop soon.

photo (40)

I’ve been sending the Petrol Girls EP off various places for reviews and have been chatting to a woman that might use one of our tracks for a women’s skate video, which would be so cool! I’ve been testing different kinds of paper and folding methods for the 7″ cases, and I think I’ve found a paper which is a reasonable thickness, good tone of grey to hide the reflective ink and doesn’t work out too crazy expensive. It has occurred to me that cutting, printing 2 layers, folding and sticking 300 7″ cases might be a bit of a task, but I never learn my lesson about DIY packaging. We’ve been set back slightly on this as part C of the reflective ink burnt through its container.. so waiting to get that shipped over. But this gives me a bit more time to get the design perfect, I’m going to use reflective and silver metallic ink. Mmm shiny.

The way I’ve been writing this post, i.e every paragraph all at the same time over a long time, basically mirrors what my brains doing at the moment. Hopefully over the next week I can focus it on something and start producing some concrete work. And I keep meeting really great people who I feel like I’m on totally the same page as about loads of stuff – I feel like poser hill at Park Fiction could be a regular chill out place over the next few months.

(The sun disappeared and I gave up and went inside about 10 mins after this was taken…but lets pretend I wrote this whole thing like this.)

photo (67)