May 18

a. Glitch: a woman walking backwards.

March 17

a. Garden of Dreams, Kathmandu. I watch people take thousands of photographs and think about Sontag saying that this act is a way of putting the past in front of the present. Here more lucid than ever: the garden no longer a garden but a cemetery or a stage for people to look back at themselves tomorrow.

March 15

a. T. Fleischmann has the same notational slant to their writing as Moyra Davey, which I always look to when I feel my writing trying to reach too high and be more than it is. This isn’t a criticism, but it’s too easy to inflate yourself with pens and keyboards. T and M (and sometimes me) don’t, it’s just them.

March 8

a. Finish Hiking with Nietzsche. I liked it, but it felt self indulgent, as if the author was trying to justify his own actions and past and working too hard at it. Also, on first reading Nietzsche feels like another philosopher preaching about the virtues of radical self reliance and suffering whilst writing from the comfort of a velvet cushion. The author talks about this, although comes up with a somewhat contrived reasoning that Nietzsche’s decadence wasn’t real decadence. People who know a lot (including the author) about Nietzsche will probably point out ten flaws with this comment.

b. “A very long walk is, in some way, a form of owning up to suffering”

March 1

a. It always feels as if your plane is the only plane in the sky when there are almost half a million other people, all floating at the same time in the great big blue.

February 25

a. Writing is painful.

January 29

a. Rothko at LV Foundation, Paris with O: I like his self-portrait; not because of how it looks but because it says almost nothing about him.

b. O. says that it’s hard to tell if Rites of Lilith is a Rothko or an IKEA.

c. Rothko’s early abstract works from the 1940s feel less certain, as if he’s learnt a scale (colour) but hasn’t found a melody (harmony) yet.

d. O. says her perfect snack to accompany looking at a Rothko would be Strepsils (cough sweets). An unexpected choice but they may win on longevity, which feels almost essential for looking at Rothko.

e. Rothko’s colours never seem settled. Not agitated, just never fully resolved. If you look at only one colour and let your vision fizzle out around it, any similar colour nearby seems to take two steps back until you can’t tell them apart. If you let your eyes wander though, separation and difference appear from nowhere. Looking at Pink and White over Red.

f. If you look at a Rothko long enough you could probably fall over; it has moving power in a very real way. Even more true for larger works, especially the Seagram Murals.

g. Seagram Murals: vast and seductive but also frightening and maybe even spiritual.

h. Taking a picture of a Rothko that obliterates all difference (of light) kind of defeats the point.

j. Green and Tangerine on Red in the Rothko Room doesn’t work. It’s built too much on opposition and lacks the flux that makes Rothko Rothko.

k. Most of his paintings hum like the wings of a bee.

January 3

a. I often think about the underlines I make in books. Not because of what they sit beneath but because how they are just as much tiny seismic graphs that, inevitably, record the endless tremors of life. These are also known as bus stops, unexpected sounds and precarious reading positions.

December 28

a. “The problem is, she used the word “dialectic”, which, even after reading Walter Benjamin for years, I still don’t understand” — Moyra Davey

December 5

a. “To a collagist, all the totems, bugbears, flotsam, and clichés that crowd the visual world are there to be scrambled. Nothing is fixed; an image can always be made otherwise. This is the loping, optimistic thread on which the checklist is strung: an alertness to the possibilities of undoing.“ — Sasha Archibald

November 3

a. “If everybody likes it (an object I made), it means I have confirmed the existing reality and this is precisely what I don’t want”. — Enzo Mari

October 29

a. Most films in People Make Television were around ten minutes; a few were longer. Which, I think, is the perfect length, even as I flinch typing that word. If they were any longer, we (the audience) would do what Hiro Steyerl talks about in her essay on films shown in museums — leave. It sounds innocent, but her point is that leaving precludes real discussion. People Make Television did not fall into this trap.

October 23

a. “Crisis makes a book club” — Michael Rakowitz

October 21

a. Autumn is winter’s spring.

b. If we looked at autumn in this way (above), would we look at winter with brighter eyes? 

October 13

a.  “Now, political and experimental films alike are shown in black boxes set within white cubes— in fortresses, bunkers, docks, and former churches. The sound is almost always awful.”

September 17

a. Friedlander cuts books up so they fit in his pocket. He says, “sometimes you don’t want to take a bag.” 

b. He also often says “I don’t know”, which is refreshing.

August 16

a. Most of Judd’s writing feels as if he’s left his chair for a piss and never come back.

August 7

a. What makes a bad person? Can someone actually be bad, or are there only bad actions? Where is the threshold and who decides? Or is bad just another subjective idea, destined to be worked out through comments over the dinner table.

Written whilst buying walnuts in TFC Camberwell, London.

August 3

a. Don’t expect a standing ovation — Jack Kornfield

August 1

a. LSD (long slow distance).

July 25

a. Dead ends in London: absurd.

July 17

a. Do flies have a home or do they just wander endlessly?

June 30

a. “Colour invites us to imagine an open temporality”. Maybe this is why I find (many of) today’s images unsettling. Colour sets them adrift, unmoors them from time. In turn, it’s easy for photographs of the past to find their way into the present. For some, this makes them poignant, if not painful. At least without colour things are easier to forget.

b. At night colour does not exist. I remember talking about this with O. as we walked from the beach to her friends’ bakery, the pavement lined with hollyhocks.

June 23

a. Tavistock and Russell Square Gardens are sitting parks, not doing parks; comforting because of it. If I had time before or after a train (both are near Euston), I would sit in either and do nothing.

April 25

a. Finish The Sweet Flypaper of Life in the bath and think of Moyra Davey’s comment on books and photography: happy companions.

b. Find out that the flowers I thought were a clematis’ were actually from a winter jasmine. New tennis balls. 

March 2

a. Judd writing about James Brooks’ Ainlee is meticulous to the point of insanity. What would Sontag think?

February 26

a. Data masquerading as images. 

February 15

a. Mountains as therapy.

January 26

a. Washing up as meditation.

December 6

a. Pierre Sernet’s One is an elegant and abrupt meeting of cultures, brought about and made keen through the act of drinking tea.

b. Whilst Sam Contis’ Overpass is undeniably romantic, it will always be about ownership and access, both of which are not romantic.

November 20

a. “Nature is never finished” — Robert Smithson, 1972

November 16

a. Leiter just wanted to pay the bills.

b. “We don’t eat horse shit even though in certain places it’s very common.” — Saul Leiter

November 14

a. Running as radical self-reliance.

September 20 

a. When, in Drive My Car, Yūsuke moves from sitting in the back of his car whilst Misaki drives to sitting in the front, their relationship shifts from one of service to one of friendship. Drive My Car is full of these profound moments, played out in the smallest of gestures.

September 15

a. William Klein’s photographs are like matryoshka dolls: images within images within images.

b. Write the first sentence two hours after sitting down. Procrastination as incubation.

August 18 

a. Reading Second-hand Time and thinking how inadequate nearly everything I have read about war prior has been.

June 16

a. Luigi Ghirri loves Bob Dylan but hates Prince.

May 4

a. Standing next to someone who smells like a friend who lives in another country. Near but far.

b. Editions are the precursor to a photograph’s scarcity. Without them, photographs would live out their promise of infinite replicability. Paintings have no need for editions.

March 14

a. A clematis’ flowers smell like new tennis balls.

March 7

a. Bryan Schutmaat‘s photographs hold a reverance for the land like no other.

February 24

a. Roy DeCarava at David Zwirner: visceral, dark, emphemeral. Yet looking at DeCarava’s photographs against the starkness of the white-walls felt somehow wrong. His intimacy at odds with their distant ceilings.

February 9

a. Twilight mountains tipped with bright copper sun (17:48).

January 10

a. Reading Nairn to the sound of house sparrows.

January 2

a. Birds today: one magpie, one house sparrow, two blue tits, two pigeons. Maybe I should look harder.

December 20

a. “A state of energetic repose, which is the ideal condition for reading.”

b. Spider webs so thick they look like candy floss.

November 21

a. Space 1.8 is (I think) a perfect album.

November 2

a. Lichfield Road: the promise of a garden behind a wall topped with wisteria.

September 15

a. Words I read today: obeslisk, demonstrative, piquancy, friable.

September 7 

a. Walk past a house that used to be a home. Nostalgia kicks hard.

August 22

a. How could I believe that boredom exists in a world so full?

August 21

a. I don’t believe in God, but if I did, they would live in the mountains and clouds.

June 5

a. Look outside and see hundreds of dandelions float past. They are like summer snowflakes, although slower, more languid.

May 30

a. The word “use” came into being through itself.

May 29

a. Making tea: momentary respite from the incessant flow of Tuesday.

May 16

a. To leave one home and arrive at another is a wonderful feeling. 

May 13

a. When leaves come out, the world is fuller.

April 21

a. Can something emerge with more force, more vigour? And if so, what verb would accompany such a motion? 

April 20 

a. Ebb into irrelevance.

April 18

a. As Berger wrote, photographs cut across time, arrest it, as if the photograph was a vertical line across an unending and horizontal arrow. Yet a photograph’s arrest of time is, of course, a pretence — a dotted vertical line — and in its ostensible fixing of a moment, photographs make time’s persistence only more apparent.

April 8

a. When it floods, it is as if the sky has fallen into the earth; the ground full of blue and white.

March 26

a. Running: self-inflicted suffering.

February 2

a. Size is measurable, scale is relational.

January 29

a. The lengths between what a photograph is of and what a photograph is about.

January 28

a. The studio as a place of construction and formation.

b. The studio as a symbolic and literal erasure of what is outside.

January 18

a. Jorge Luis Borges’ prose is erudite, intimidating, seductive. Yet that last adjective overwhelms the first two, evoked by the complete conviction of what he writes into existence. 

January 12

a. Despite containing the word “book”, a coffee table book’s primary purpose is not to be read. It is to display, impress, decorate. No less a part of the furniture than the sofa, although less used.

December 8

a. Using a film camera to document a holiday is a conscious attempt to imbue memories with fondness — nostalgia in the very material of remembering. This is not a bad thing. 

November 30

a. The edges of a photograph give a false sense of completeness. It appears contained, manageable, whole, autonomous, but it is in fact the opposite. 

November 21

a. Luigi Ghirri — photographs of photographs, representations of representations.

b. I’m unsure what ‘sentimental geography is’ — a term Ghirri used to describe his work —but perhaps there is something to be said about the way in which some of the geographies he photographed were inscribed with visercal emotions. A toilet and an adjacent bidet surrounded by desert themed wallpaper seems a forlorn, kitsch attempt to satisfy something deeper than simply decoration. A symbolic landscape to desire as you sit on the toilet.  

c. The first three photographs in Walker Evans’ American Photographs establishes the idea that everything to come is an image rather than reality. He graciously sets up the book in this way so we are aware from the beginning.

November 19

a. Often, a private Instagram account is not to ensure privacy. In fact, its purpose directly opposes the idea of privacy — it is a bid to entice. Unable to see the photographs beyond the notification — but able to see the tiny face and the numbers that so many strive for — you are coaxed into imagining what lies behind. What are all those followers looking at? If they are following this person, should I? A desire to see and to be accepted is kindled, stoked, inflamed, until it is too much to bear. A tap of the screen. Requested. Not so private. One more follower.

November 13

a. The difficulty with writing is that it is never just about writing. To write about art, you must know something (although fortunately not everything) about art as well as writing. Unless you are writing about writing, like William Zinsser did with such grace, you must tackle two or more things at once, simultaneously, always. 

November 12

a. “ahh that’s right, yin and yang not yim and yam” - Ed Moses on John McLaughlin.

October 28

a. Photography fixes and fragments. It represents a certainty that shatters into ambiguity.

October 24

a. Grey in Lewis Baltz's Near Reno coalesces organic and artifical, levelling their disparate births. So much so that they become enmeshed almost beyond distinction — the shell of a blown out television appears no different than a rotting tree. Baltz's use of the word 'Element' to title the works further anchors the photographs in the primitive, the telluric. Everything here is the land.

October 21

a. Baudelaire was simply too early. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

b. Allan Sekula worked in a conflicted space, not a contradictory one. Addressing labour inequaltiy, globalisation and neoliberalism from within an industry that is often emblamatic of those ideas may seem antithetical, but Sekula knew the conditions of his own labour well. His work was a way to understand better, a prompt to know more, and not an attempt at activism, shouted through a megaphone behind thick, museum glass.  

September 30

a. Baltz was addicted to horizontals.

August 30

a. Who is in control? The person taking the photograph or the camera?

August 6

a. Badlands: trigger-happy Moonrise Kingdom. 

July 19

a. Gursky; complicit spectacle and excess.

June 28

a. It is only at the point of absolute openness that we are made deftly aware they are photographs.

June 11 

a. I like that Susan Sontag saw her writing as something different than herself. She knew the power and the privilege it was to rewrite thoughts a hundred times until they struck with her characteristic force.

May 17

a. Sameness points to difference.

May 14

a. Robert Adams’ work aimed to state the problems he saw in the landscape. What better way to do so than through the potent clarity found in his photographs.

b. “Life is ‘reassuring’ when it repeats itself, freed from the wild variations of local cultural difference.” - David Bates

I’ve never been able to articulate my anxiety towards holiday resorts until reading that sentence. Bates was talking about stock photography, an industry of omnipresent comfort, but the same ideas are found in holiday resorts.

Holiday resorts aren’t bad. On the contrary, they are built to ensure pleasure. Awake or dreaming, needs and desires are only a digit away. Familiarity and novelty are exquisitely balanced. Comfort can be found everywhere. Yet it is the surreal, heady proximity to comfort that gives it its sterile sheen. If you don’t enjoy the local cuisine you’ve come so far to taste, there is always an authentic wood-fired pizza behind you. The pleasing curves of the swimming pool mimic the lagoon only a mile away, but the pool guarantees an immaculate experience through chlorine and labour. A plethora of activities is compressed into walking distance as adventure is repackaged into convenience. And whilst the infinity pool overlooking the sea grants you the perspective of being at one with Amphitrite, there is no need to wash away the salt. 

April 28

a. Ed Ruscha finished the cover of Twentysix Gasoline Stations before a single photograph was made.

b. Joachim Brohm’s photograph made in Bochum in 1983 speaks of a landscape in all its complexities; social, technological, economical, environmental, political and topographical.

April 17

a. William Christenberry talked about his photographs with a rare tenderness. Teeming with warmth and humanity.

April 10

a. There’s a photograph in Teju Cole’s Blind Spot looking out of the rear passenger window of a taxi. Our gaze is led through the windows of the taxi in the next lane to meet the returning gaze of a taxi driver in the lane suceeding that one. It is a piercing, transient meeting.

Yet that moment is so powerful only partially because of the actual collision of awareness. What makes the exchange so potent are the four window frames – the four focal planes – that our vision has to reach through before settling on the taxi driver’s face, each one smaller than the last. Because of this contraction, we are made acutely aware of the fortuitous nature of this event. It is as if there is a hurdle track ahead of us, but one that is only aligned for an instant. Distance and serendipity realised in a few taxi windows.    

April 6

a. Stephen Shore. Holden Street, North Adams, Massachusetts, July 13, 1974. 1974. Dualities rendered in perfect clarity. The converging lines of muddied brick and shadow bookended by a landscape unsullied by modernity. Even the vertical achievements of commercialism appear meagre desires set against the boundless sky beyond. 

April 2

a. Takashi Homma’s Tokyo Suburbia is wrought with the uneasy banality of suburbia – one of manicured lawns, sterile facades and vacant dead ends.

April 1

a. “those goddamned stories with a beginning and an end.”

March 28

a. Murakami loves cigarettes. Writing about them so much must be like smoking by proxy for him.

March 27

a. Jason Fulford sounds like Edward Norton — especially if close your eyes. I just listened to a talk of his and found myself thinking of one of Tyler Durden’s pensive monologues. Fulford and Durden both have the same measured theatrical tone. It’s as if it’s been practiced a thousand times. But has it been? I can’t quite tell.

b. Looking at Dear Bill Gates and thinking how perfectly precariousness and stability are balanced.