Category Archives: Somme Boys

Simpler blog part 2.

OK so I have stopped attempting to change the world (for what I consider the better…after all that’s only my opinion, innit?) and now I just do ma simpler blArt.

This one’s about:

My old windsurfer board, Colchester Art Society’s (CAS) forthcoming 70th anniversary show, a talk at Tate Brit, my pose for Benton Hall challenge, a general celebration of life, oh and a decision by 14-18NOW against supporting my work which I’ll put first as I don’t wish to end on a down note…In fact it’s not a downer, it’s a relief.

I asked 14-18NOW if they could see their way to support my idea for a book and a  Performance Art PA piece about the part played by ordinary folks in WW1. I am determined to do both things and, like I have always done, create them from my never ending personal financial store which presently is my pension. I have this crazy idea that at 65 I can do all the things I never managed to do (much, apart from 21 solo exhibitions including lots of new (PA) bits over the years between the 70s and when I retired hurt frae teaching in 2009 or should I say re-tyred, or even retried?) whilst I had to work a day job to feed my wife and 2 and a half kids…the half being the cats, hamsters, wabbits and occasional bird from budgies to those damn tweety little tings, oh and guinea pigs and silkies…

[Pete this is not being simple!

OK, I’ll not wander off the topic, I believe ‘digress’ is the correct werd]

So, my idea is to write a book which talks about all the folks in my home town who were scuttled off to war in 1914 and put images of them in from their obits in the Burnley papers of the day. Then I had this idea to build a ‘trench’ with two turrets, one each side of the stage and then I play Tommy and Gerry, scurrying back and fro giving the other waller some hell and getting myself blown up as both men. Then I had this idea to have dummies made of the aristocrats who created the war and machinated its continuous slaughter using donkeys to lead the lions in the trenches (as they say). Audience members would have been invited to throw tomatoes at the dummies whilst emitting slang low life curses about their megalomania. But it’s a stupid idea anyway and as 14-18NOW so aptly put it, “We … regret that we have decided not to offer you one of our co-commissions.  We did not believe that your project would have the reach and impact that we are seeking for our final season in 2018.” Neither did the plans of the generals on all sides in 14-18THEN!

What do I know about potential reach? All I do know is the men and women who suffered so much tween 14-18, then some more in 1926, then more in 39-45, then some in the miner’s strike…

(so well portrayed by Ken Loach https://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/jul/20/ken-loach-documentary-first-screening)

…all deserve to have their stories told. But not from the ‘official’ viewpoint which so often has belittled the millions who were sacrificed. It has not been ‘playing cricket’ to let loose on the war-mongers who would send thousands of men over the top to be mown down by machine guns, not just once then stop it after realising the fruitlessness of it, no but many more times. A dead strategy leads to dead men and annihilated towns etc. It is happening now in Syria. And Ukraine. And Tibet. But nobody talks about it. And that is what my ‘play’ would be about. So in a way it’s good to not get support cos it relieves me of sticking my neck out and getting banned for 40 years like Ken Loach did and I don’t have 40 years left to play with anyway. So, that’s it then.

a board s

My old windsurfer board:

It sure looks like I am trying to sell it butNO! In fact I am trying to overcome my reticence of clearing out unused tut. I have kept and accumulated everything that came into my life, except people of course, of those I just have memories, at least for the time being, until that goes too. So you can understand when I tell you that I cannot open my studio door let alone work in it. I had to stop windsurfing several years ago cos my hands were suffering and I couldn’t hold the boom. But there is the board, hoarded. Yesterday I plucked up the courage to put it out for sale on our front, it didn’t sell yet cos our front is quite obscured in a little village, but it’s the thought that counts (my ability to sell don’t count that’s fer sure, never has).

My pose for Benton Hall Olympic challenge photo?

Well who wouldn’t want a free month membership? They asked us to pose in sports gear and put an image up on the Benton Hall facebook site so I wore ma Tai Chi top and took ma Tai Chi sword and did a pose, see below. The photo what gits the most ‘likes’ wins a month free.

A show & tell talk at Tate brit?

Last Friday I went to Tate archive where this Irish lad brought out some letters written by Vanessa Bell, Michaels Rothenstein & Nicholson and some drawings by Paul & John Nash and Robert Graves from around about 1418then. I went up cos I were researching my Somme Boys idea (again) and I thought it may cast more light on those dark times which indeed it did. I heard the phrase ‘Lions led by Donkeys’ for the first time from the mouth of that very same Irish lad. And the phrase resonated with my synopsis that the war was created and run by megalomaniacal monarchs and twits from the so-called ‘Upper Classes’. It was good to see John Nash’s sketch of some fat generals coming round to inspect the troops. And fascinating to see how Vanessa fought to be able to give conscientious objector Duncan Grant a home and job during the war, if he’d been from a working class family they’d have just jailed him. I always saw it as crazy punishing people who didn’t want to kill other men but war is like that innit, you gets medals for killing when in peace time you’d get hung (in 1418backthen until hanging was abolished, in England, they still execute folk in some countries but.

[Too heavy Pete]

The Colchester Art Society’s (CAS) forthcoming 70th anniversary show opens this Saturday for two weeks.

http://www.colchesterartsociety.co.uk/page_2249082.html

It’s 48 years since I first submitted any work for an Art group summer show, that was back in me home toon of Burnley in 1968 where i had two portrait paintings (I promise to dig out the one I still have) accepted and mentioned in the Burnley Express, so I should be good at submissions by now but I found recently you still get those nerves as to whether your best efforts will gain the nod of acceptance from the group. Then I said to myself, that nervousness is a deep rut learning thing (see Guy Claxton on that) and it’s like a bad habit, have more faith in yourself, you’re no longer that 17 year old novice. I don’t like joining groups. Especially after my history of failed attempts at the RA show where after about 5 submissions I finally had two accepted by the panel and then they weren’t even hung. RA sent me a letter congratulating me and said it were an honour to be ‘awarded’ ‘Doubtful’ status. That had cost me about £120 to NOT be seen by the RA visitors etc, some honour. So I never bothered again. I know, the nation’s in mourning, but I can’t be throwing away 120 quid every time _carriage & submit fees). One year I know someone who paid to submit an artist’s book there and they cancelled the category after allegedly not having enough entries in the division, but they din’t reimburse her.

Recently I was persuaded to join CAS recently and submit some artworks fer their show which I did and much to my delight they’ve accepted 3 works and hung two very beautifully. My tribute oil of local writer John Atkins and national hero funny man Ken Campbell stands or hangs rather in a space which you can’t help but see as you enter the big main room and even tho I say it myself [Nobody else would you tweet] it looks real good. All those hours slogging away over a lot of turps, linseed oil and canvas on dark lonely nights has eventually paid off.

a CAS submit aug 16 jAt + ken sm

This was one of two painting as accepted by the RA in 2005 but not hung, that’s why I have RA Doubtful after my name on ma cards. [Now, you’re slippin back Pete]

I won’t mention the fact that my brakes failed just after I had delivered my work to the Minories in Colchester because that would worry you too much, but they did. And it’s funny innit how such a simple thing can have such unsettling consequences. Not that I managed to crash or ought like that, but just driving yer car up to th’garige to have them tell you you got a leaking brake pipe or summat and then you place the car in the compound and get a lift off yer wife to your business for the day and then at the end of the day the garage rings and says that you didn’t leave the key and you say I most certainly did and they say just check your jacket pockets sir and you do and there they are those sneaky keys what just must have jumped back into my pocket. So the car won’t be done today obviously.

What’s a general celebration of life then?

Well of course I didn’t have a prang, that’s enough to celebrate innit? And I took more photos of beautiful tings this week.

a chili guru 2 s

Guru cat contemplatin

aha shiney sword sm

Well he may not be so beautiful but he keeps trying.

snoop rainbows

Here’s Snoop having a rest unda a rainbow in our ‘ouse, which is a very very fine house, with two cats in th’yard…

sunset monster sm
sunset over West Ham ground at Stratford last Friday night.

OK I realise this was not a simpler blArt, I’ll try harder nextime.

Bye fer noo, I bid you good night, or g’day wherever you are.

 

 

 

 

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Somme Whelp In The Wilderness.

The Whelp In The Wilderness.(c) pete kennedy 2016

The image at the top is an incredible piece of synchronicity. I was planning this blArt and sitting early morning with my pen in my hand and I looked up at the fireplace, We have a crystal in the widow which sometimes sends rainbow patches of light across the room. THEN this apparition appeared. A gentle glowing on the candle which looked like it had lit up inside. As if i had lit a candle in memory of those who died, on all sides, in that onslaught known as the Battle of the Somme. I could hardly believe my eyes. This lighting effect has never occurred before. Eerie but beautiful. Bless them all.

candle eerie glow sm

This week the Burnley Express, the local paper which along with the Burnley News reported on the war at the time (1914-18), carried these words this week:

‘On the morning of July 1st 1916 men and boys from Burnley were among tens of thousands of soldiers ordered to go “over the top” only to be cut down by German machine gunners. More than 100 soldiers from the town were among the 57,000 British Army casualties suffered on the first day of the battle alone.’ (John Deehan john.deehan@jpress.co.uk 27.06.2016)

http://www.burnleyexpress.net/news/local/remember-burnley-men-killed-in-battle-of-the-somme-1-7983991

Throughout 2016 I have been working toward a commemoration for those who fought in the horrendous human waste that was called the Somme battle (1July-18Nov 1916). I create images & words which I use in my own hand made ‘artist books’ and in my own ‘performance art’ pieces (PAP) where I create scenarios and enact ideas + events using my body, masks and other props to illustrate a story. I wanted to do my PAP around 1 July in somewhere like Burnley my home town, or Newcastle, my mother’s home area where her parents lost (my grandparent aged) relatives two years before she was born in 1918 and I met survivors of the conflict in 1961 or Colchester which is my adoptive home of culture. I did put feelers out but, like Paul Simon in his song The Boxer (hear a beau rendition by Mumford & son- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAl-vZsswb4 ), ‘I get no offers’, not even a come on from the whores of 7th avenue!

The way I see it I have ‘til Nov 18 2016 to do a piece for it to carry true resonance for those slaughtered as a result of the total incompetence of the ‘leaders’.  Because these things take time to organise I don’t believe it’ll get done this year but then I have ‘til 11.11.2018 to at least fall within the compass of the century after WW1. I shall continue to find the venue and any backing to do my PAP but I am not holding my breath. I even approached the 14-18now group but I get no answer, maybe cos am not very famous, or maybe not very good! https://www.1418now.org.uk/

That’s no sour grapes of wrath it’s just a forlorn whelp in the wilderness!

Oh how history repeats itself; the ‘leaders’ of Britain’s government, Euro MPs (particularly Farage who rarely turns up to do his job and when he deigns to does so only to undermine the institution he was elected onto to represent the English people), the Labour(ing) and the England FA + their latest ridiculed manager all exhibit those same incompetencies today!).

I am going to blArt some of the words from my research and ideas about the Somme + the issues around those years of unnecessary carnage on which I would base my PAP. If there’s anyone interested out there please get in touch.

I found this startling blog called ‘In The Dark’ in which the writer mentions that the men were made to continue running towards machine guns-  “Rather than calling off the attack in the face of the horrific slaughter, the powers that be carried on sending troops over the top to their doom for months on end. By the end of the battle (in November that year) the British losses were a staggering 420,000, while those on the German side were estimated at half a million.”  https://telescoper.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/the-flowers-in-the-field-the-somme-remembered/ .

The imbeciles who organised these ‘battles’ (no, let’s call them mass murders) were the same social group that ‘led’ soldiers into battle in Africa against the brave Zulus at Rourke’s Drift and Isandlwana 37 years earlier, only in that case it was the Zulu leaders who sent their warriors in waves unprotected against the barrier of guns with the consequent carnage that ensued. (‘Isandlwana, the battle that rocked Victorian Britain; at which the Zulus wiped out a substantial British force’) Despite victory at Isandlwana the Zulu forces never recovered and they had to capitulate to the Europeans, who brought concentration camps to Africa during their internecine Boer War the victors of which then introduced apartheid.

Here’s the ideas I would base my PAP on BUT whereas the topic is of the greatest seriousness I do intend to add an element of sardonic humour, livening up the topic with surreal reflection as the famous sketch by Blackadder did, using the maniacal monarchs as objects of derision. I won’t say exactly how but think of fairground games like ‘ring toss’ and ‘bean bag tossing’ at tossers:

I have been reading about the Ancient Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians who all were involved in internecine wars and all succumbed to the Greeks (of Alexander The Vainglorious) who themselves eventually fell down under the inhumane slaughters that emanated from Rome. It seems to me (it’s not rocket science) that, like disease, war is a human condition, it goes with the patch!

I would have hoped (European) wars would have ended after Napoleon was incarcerated, or after WW1 or after WW2 but it never did. To name but a few; Burma, Korea, Vietnam, Biafra, Bangla Desh, Iraq & Afghanistan and now Syria’s war which is reminiscent of the carnage of the two ‘World Wars’. A triumvirate  of my heroes, the present Dalai Lama, G I Gurdzhiev (G.) & Lennon, (illus)all advocate(d) that Ubeings (my word for Humankind which is gender absent or all equally inclusive) stop doing conflicts, which G. called mutual self-destruction.

lennon war is over sm
Look what happens to you if you talk too much about ending wars, ask John.

The First World War was fabricated by monarchical maniacs who ‘ruled’ various ‘Empires’ which had been created by stealing land from and enslaving various indigenous populations throughout the world in the previous 3-400 years. When they turned their corporate venom onto their own peoples the carnage was incomprehensible. These “leaders” all thought they could use their mass-populaces as ‘cannon-fodder’ and they proceeded to do so and nobody was able to reverse, nor prevent, the carnage. The populations were led into the conflict believing it was for god & country when it was obviously for the dim-wits who ‘ruled’ them and the so called privileged ‘upper-class’ of each country to maintain their status quo, which many still maintain even in 2016, the present government of UK being a prime example.

 Their Moronic Majesties Maniacal Madnesses; Wilhelm II Kaiser Bill Frederick William Victor Albert of Prussia, George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert)GB, Nicholas II , Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov Russia, Franz Joseph I Austria- Hungary, Mehmed V Reshad (Ottoman Turk Sultan), & President Raymond Poincare (France).

Their Moronic Majesties Maniacal Madnesses led to the start of WW1 and its continuation despite the obvious insanity and mass murder it exhibited in battles like; Ypres, Verdun, Somme, Passchendaele & Gallipoli! The incompetence of the generals and the blindness of the political morons who manoeuvred the Brits into the mayhem and used the population’s (mostly) men* (from all around the ‘Empire’) as if they were like subuteo players, only this was no game but it was a deadly reality! Now I understand why I feel I was driven.

*I believe thousands of women also took part as nurses tending to the horrific injuries. “Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS). It was founded in 1902 at the time of the Boer war and in 1914 was less than 300 strong. At the end of the war four years later it numbered over 10,000 nurses.” from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26838077

My Performance Art about the Somme is a tiny but explosive reminder of the destructive power held by military forces. The ability to decimate has increased a million fold in the hundred years since 1916, so beware taking the armed solution.

haunted warrior ww1
ww1 veteran

[I have an ally in the German artist Otto Dix whose inspiring work I wish to incorporate into this piece. http://www.ottodix.org/catalog-prints/  On same website is explains most of his images are now in public domain. See http://www.ottodix.org/copyright/ ]

 

In my PAP (Performance Art Piece) A hundred yearns ago

I have ‘Tommy’ in the trench at the Somme*, July 1st 1916.

Ironically the word somme comes from a celtic word meaning ‘tranquil’!

Tommy gives a monologue in which he talks of finally having won this horrendous war.

‘No more maniacal leaders cos we won’t let them rise again! About a hundred years ago we fought Boney Fart & his Grenouilles in a war to end all wars. We have the Russians who beat off Boney attacking Gerry on the eastern flank and they’ve never bin beat and they forced General Prittwitz to run but they lost a million men. Someone has to halt the Huns and today is the day with God’s blessing it will be done. Today, this very day, we’re bombarding Bismarck & Bill the Bosch. There’ll be nowt left o’n ‘em. Later we go over the top to clean them up and this damned war will be over. Then I’ll go back home to my sweetheart and see ma little babe. There’ll be no more wars after this one.

Some madman called Lenin has urged our allied troops to turn their rifles against our officers and start a ‘socialist revolution’, but he’s no leader is he? I know our generals have made mistakes but now they got it right and this nasty trouble will be over by tomorrow. Listen. The bombardment has stopped……There’s the whistle, Over the top to victory!’

Over the top he went on July 1st 1916…and the rest is His Story.

There is a modern context to my PAP as well. War is still used by ‘leaders to attempt to gain ground physically and metaphorically. We shouldn’t ban the bomb, we should banish all wars.

ps if (& when) I get no offers to give a home for my PAP I shall hire somewhere and damn well do it out of my own devices. It’s the least I can do to commemorate the poor sods who were taken in that  horrific battle of the royal families and other elites of Europe.

Postscript

The recent ‘leaders’ who took nations into wars are still prevalent, some (or should I say Somme?) examples; Thatcher & Blair although they pale into insignificance against the Bushes snr & jnr, Saddam Hussein, Gadhafi, Putin, and maybe the worst of all, the man responsible for the mass of the population of his country leaving their destroyed cities to risk crossing oceans in small dinghies Assad. Believe me their moronic majesties’ bequest is still very very real!

In my old college town of Exeter I am impressed to see images of their commemoration of the Somme http://www.thesomme19240.co.uk/event/shrouds-of-the-somme-memorial/

This looks like a very moving installation. It gives a small powerful emanation of the hurt which must have been felt on all sides, in many nations.

Haig and the high command really messed up in more ways than one. They had intelligence reports that an area of the front was very vulnerable yet they attacked across the whole front. Ironically the war may have been ended and millions of lives saved if only Haig had been a more competent tactician and used that intelligence (gained from German POWs who told of a weakness in their defences) although it meant the Germans would have purportedly ‘lost’ the war (there could be no victors in that cataclysm!) the gain would have been an end to the carnage. Instead they added to it then added some more in many more such battles until 11.11.1918.

Also someone high up made a fundamental error at 3am that day by phoning a message of good luck for the impending attack. That message was listened in to and the German gunners were alerted across the whole front, with devastating consequences.

Haig and His Highly Incompetents must have seen the disaster unfolding rapidly but instead of calling the attack off continued it until November 18th. Men from all over the world deemed dispensable. Not to mention the many Germans who were massacred in the initial explosion (“A queer dull thud” as one soldier witnessed at the time.) from the mines laid by sappers deep under the German command at Lochnagar. The sappers were taken from those who worked in the pits of Britain, they dug down deep under the German line to lay the biggest store of explosives ever laid. The ‘job’ was fraught with danger as German soldiers were also digging deep.

http://www.greatwar.co.uk/somme/memorial-lochnagar-crater.htm

somme shrouds
Somme Shrouds in Exeter July 1st 2016

‘Thanks Pete

I think we need to make work about the war to help us understand the futility and the waste – and the fact that we never learn…’A Book artist from Australia

Thanks for your reaction ABafA.

I sent that out to about 100 folks, many quite good friends, since Thursday and do you know! You are th’only one that’s made any comment.(Ignore that I’ve had 4 now. Also my wife and son tell me I shouldn’t expect any reactions at all, ‘people don’t react to things they see in newspapers normally, so why should they react to your blog you old fart?’)

Just before i went to my computer i were tinking about my blog and my gripes about bad leadership and I thought, ‘d’y know, the same stupid stuck up twits are in charge today, and the same right wing thinkers (not, I don’t believe they can be called ‘thinkers’)) are i/c the Press. Nothing has altered’. In fact the 1960s seemed a time of HOPE. Atlee brought in the education act in 1945 which educated me, then I was taught to teach by intelligent humanists who said, let your students find their way to their passion and then take them to the top of the highest mountain and push them, LET THEM FLY. But since then it’s gone backwards and the public schoolboys (Like Gove, Boris, Cameron & Osborne) have a strangled-hold on the Asylum whilst Labour again display disarray and the LibDems are dead in the water, despite being instrumental in stopping the public schoolboys worst intentions whilst they were in coalition.  I think I’ll move to Australia, or Canada, or even France, anywhere to escape these clods! Pete

One friend’s reaction flags up a rather rude reaction to brrrExit: Look at these posters with Boris on by Billy Childish, be care full cos he used a word what is naughty. It refers to the sex organ on a pig and is originally from Old English (I think):

http://www.l-13.org/acatalog/BILLY-CHILDISH-RECORDINGS.html

 

 

 

Authors’ Authority.

 

Remember who you are, what you are, and who you represent is a good mantra.

I was born Peter D. O’Kennedy (http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/an-sloinne-o-cinneide-the-surname-kennedy/ ) in Glasgow Royal Infirmary most definitely of Celtic descent. My paternal grandparents came from Cork & Limerick.

Since I left school in 1969 I been trying to ‘make a name for myself’. But I already have a name, so really there’s no need to make another (anudda). Once again I have to tell maself to STOP, just be your-self. And that’s what I am best at.

Recently whilst negotiating an article for JAB about Dieter Roth and how he far outstrips most all other ‘artist-book’ makers they suggested I focus the writing around my own work. POW, off I went into a piece about some of the great German artists and writers who have impressed upon my work which was published in JAB 38 http://www.journalofartistsbooks.org/current/ . I watched Bob Geldoff’s tele-piece on W B Yeats last night. It was very revealing and helped me to understand the poet/writer better than before. I went to bed thinking, ‘Well that explains some of my own passion and drive…It’s the Oirisht in me…it’s a cultural ting’. I slept a couple of hours and at 02.30 hours came down and wrote this, “I was born in Glasgow Infirmary of Celtic descent. I have 3 books I must achieve:

  • The Shrewd Idiot (SI)
  • Squidgeratscrawls (Sqasc)
  • Genie Ass (G.ass)

I am collating SI. It’s a labourious process but that’s by choice.

Sqasc should be more joyfull.

G.ass is going to be done in 5 or 6 parts, should be ‘fun’.

Then I can re-lease my-self to do the other books that I wish to achieve, some more spontaneous, others from already existing notes & ideas. I don’t care about the audience, just want to achieve them. ASAP.”

Then I returned to bed til about 7.30 am.

a title page for si
an unusual page from SI cos it’s actually typed into the manuscript, most pages are pcopies of old typed pages.

Last week I spoke about my work on the new SI. Am onto page 22 of 252 jpegs to vire over into ma layout. It is quite slow. But I do keep doing other tings. On Saturday I ran off to Tate Britain on a mission where I was surprised to see a painting by Tagore done in 1939! I would like to show you it but, as usual, you cannot take photos in these exhibitions, so everyone loses. I wished to suss out the Susan Philipsz very touching and evocative sound material made on instruments damaged by wars. I had an idea to ask the Tate if I can use a space there to do my Somme Boys Performance Art piece, but you know what it’s like, they’d say who are you/ are you already famous? And there’s no room at the inn fer yo laddie. I have approached the set up that supports Susan Philipsz installation, 14-18now, but am not holding ma breath. Here’s what I sent em:

 

“A Commemoration of the Somme

haunted warrior ww1
ww1 veteran

Performance Art Proposal from Pete Kennedy

I have an idea for a piece of PA which I would like you to consider.

I visited Susan Philipsz’ lovely sound art at Tate yesterday and I noticed lots of empty spaces which I could use to do my piece. I am not thinking it could be done just at Tate but anywhere, in any town or city. I understand that you back things which commemorate WW1? I have also got an idea for an artist’s book about the Somme.

I have chosen the Somme because hundreds of men from my home town of Burnley were killed there.

I am an artist aged 65 who recently acquired an MA in Bookarts and have moved into Performance art after doing a course with Jurgen Fritz & Vest + Page at Glastonbury.

I shall make the book and do the performance art about Somme come what may but I would much appreciate it if you would support my work.

It can be done very simply with few props or a big BLOW-OUT version which would involve a mound of (something like) mud and a structure to represent a trench with inter-connecting ‘tunnel’. I have musicians who can create site specific sound.

This is developing daily as I realize more. For example, when I worked with Jurgen last October I realised I must not make it just a memory of the British losses, the Germans suffered too.

Yesterday at Tate’s ‘Artist & Empire’ I saw a double portrait by Philip de Laszlo of two Indian (Sikh?) officers, Jagat & Man Singh, who were painted shortly before they went to the Somme. It said that 1 in 6 of the allied force came from India. So now I must play ‘Tommy’, ‘Otto’ (and maybe ‘Singh’?) in my PA.

Namaste”

Then I moved on up to the British Library to see if I could find a copy of the Burnley Express that I saw in 1970 which was from c1916-18 and every page was full of obituaries to the dead men from the town. I want to use those pages in a ‘book’ I want to make for my tribute to those who fell at the Somme form all parts of the planet. I can’t trace the darned ting, I know it’s out there. If only they still had hard copy I could go to a library and rifle thru! I shouldn’t be considering doing books and performance art about the Somme, I got enough to do, but It’s The Way I Tell ‘Em!

Footnote to Joey B. “I was always told ‘Remember who you are, what you are, and who you represent: The Arsenal.’”  David Rocastle ex-player. I think young Joey Barton should listen to David. Concentrate on playing good football Joey not jumping all over the opponent’s leg.

 Planet of the Dolphins? (unabridged)

This is the unabridged version of my new blAst for those of you who are not too busy to read its dense detail and not a bit squeamish as it contains details about the results of high explosives in WW1 that some folk may find difficult. The reason I mention them is because I firmly believe, in my naïve and stupid way, that all war and any assault on other humans with intent to kill or maim should be banished. (I don’t mind hard tackles on the field of sport as in some ways that is a way of working off aggression and in fact competition in International sport has proved to be a substitute for conflict on the field of battle!)

 

Reporting on my contacts with the ‘outside world’, UWE have put out their latest Artist’s books Newsletter and am happy to share that they, Sarah Bodman that is, included the whole of my ‘report’ about the poetry library’s Open Day on pp 39 thru 41 which includes a couple of newstyle visual typo poems. Best to see them in colour http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/newspdfs/95.pdf

 

Also on p 42 the Book Art * Art Book 2 show in Colchester’s Slack Space gallery is flagged up. Some of the best Artist’s book makers in Essex will be showing new stuff from Wednesday 4th – Saturday 28th February. Slack Space is open Wednesday-Saturday from 11am-6pm. I am going to read from my poems at the opening on Thursday 5th.

 

I did offer to put on a show at firstsite whilst the gallery was empty and they did honour me with a reply in which they graciously pointed out “a 5-week long residency by Maria Loboda, during which time she will fabricate a new work in situ” is soon to begin. That is music to my ears because I felt it was such a waste of space to have the walls bare for the time before the next scheduled show in March.

 

In a way it’s good to have no demands on my time so that I can concentrate my time on preparing my own contributions to the world of artists books and more generally to my vision and creation of the outputs I perceive and wish to make like the new book for the forthcoming BABE in April.

 

I quote Rabindranath Tagore who wrote a beautiful poem Gitanjali:

‘I gave myself up for lost in the depth of a glad humiliation – in the shadow of a dim delight.’48.

He also thanks his god for ‘Day by day thou art making me worthy of thy full acceptance by refusing me ever and anon, saving me from perils of weak, uncertain desire’14.

‘All desires that distract me, day and night, are false and empty to the core.’38.

(the numbers refer to the ‘verses in his epic poem Gitanjali for which he received the Nobel Prize).

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Warning on the words that follow – “This blog gets a bit heavy man, it’s not exactly hip man,” said Neil from the Young Ones, (a great band).

In my last blog I mentioned Solzhenitsyn saying that just after the WW1 a number of old folk offered the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia (including what he referred to as the ‘ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people’ and I suppose the casualties of fighting Hitler): “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” I also related the recent incursions into Ukraine as treading thin ice under which loomed the possibility of yet more war scenarios in this our blighted planet, as if we, or ‘they’ the powers that be have learned nothing from the wars we look back on in this 100th anniversary of WW1 (and commemorations on Churchill who oversaw some heinous actions by British forces alongside his country’s heroic stance against Nazism in the second world-wide tragedy WW2).

Since I posted that blog Russian military craft loitered about 25 miles from Britain, apparently it was Russia’s show of contempt for manoeuvres by Nato forces in Poland after the incursions into Ukraine. There’s a strategic logic to ‘Russia’ wanting parts of Ukraine which could be overcome if Ukraine were to allow Russian access to the sea and Crimea on a friendly basis. Maybe that’s impossible, I don’t know, I’m no expert. But Russia’s moves in Ukraine only began after the Ukranians ousted what seems to have been a puppet governor who seems to have lived the life of an emperor, but he had Russian backing I would imagine because he allowed certain ‘privileges’ to his backers.

Last week I watched Fergal Keane’s report http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00vyrzh/the-first-world-war-from-above about the aerial photographs taken over the trenches and the unimaginable devastation left by effects of the then latest in a line of war to end all wars, WW1. The revelations were staggering even to me who had studied History to A level (in which we couldn’t study ancient history like I wished to because the exams only allowed coverage of the European modern stuff; WW1 & WW2), I had met WW1 veterans and had heard about interminable repeated accounts of the horrors of the trenches and the sending over to certain death millions of men from books, magazines and TV. This documentary blew my idea of those horrors asunder. I had not imagined a millionth of it. Death in conflict is nasty at any time by any method but WW1 created unprecedented massacres in what can only be described as hell-holes. My home town had lots of men killed in the war, particularly at the Somme. Some of the remnants would have become ‘sappers’, because of their mining backgrounds in the pits of Burnley. These poor bastards had to dig for a year under the German lines before Ypres and lay 450 tons of high explosive. They dug into a chalk soil and used their bayonets to take out tiny bits of chalk which they had to catch before it hit the ground because any sound would have alerted the enemy. They were indeed extremely successful. About 19 explosive caches were sunk deep under the ground beneath German headquarters. They were set off to explode one after the other in a line which ran toward the Germans who would have seen the previous ones going up and would have had no time to escape. The biggest part of a body found afterwards was a foot in a boot. All the rest of the people involved had been blown to smithereens ‘no bigger than a fingernail clipping…minuscule fragments’. The prize? 5 miles of ground and a determination on the part of General Erich Luddendorf to NOT give up but (he decided) to retake every inch of ground lost no matter what the cost. Therefore, Passchendaele. And that is the maniacal thing about WW1, from its unnecessary outset the ‘leaders’ of every side were literally ‘hell-bent’ on continuing the carnage with scant regard for human and material losses. The nearest thing I have read of the mayhem is Kenneth Patchen’s book, The Journal of Albion Moonlight which gives an inkling of the madness of all out war. http://ndbooks.com/book/the-journal-of-albion-moonlight

Why do I, a man renowned for his sense of fun, give such gory detail above? Because Keane’s documentary brought home to me the true horror of what happens when some men feel they have the right to wage war. That is occurring this minute in Syria. The ruins on the news are reminiscent of the ruins of France after WW1, although no matter how bad they look they are not the result of trench warfare, just more potentially damaging munitions. I am a sad bastard myself, I still agree with John Lennon, Ghandi and the Dalai LamaDa Lama in jug who wish(ed) to do away with war. That very notion, abandoning war, seems like madness to so many who perpetrate war and the manufacture of weaponry. War seems like madness to me. And I want to return to the top of this piece and talk about this absence of god. I don’t mention god in any attempt to push any religious doctrine or say one is better than another, remember Bob Dylan’s words that “the Germans they too had god on their side”. And the Arab world all say they believe in Allah yet they attack one another. And some cultures say their god is more important than any other god and indeed that there is no other god but theirs. Which is almost as mad as the two ‘world wars’ because it is so blind, so selfish, so blinkered so demeaning of the thoughts of ‘others’ who may themselves have perfectly good ideas on what is good and right etc, but to condemn them out of hand by saying theirs is below yours and indeed is ignorant in the highest state of idiocy.

Men have forgotten God? Yes almost undoubtedly. They had their own god but it was a territorial god, still is in many ways. Many out there are fighting purportedly for their version of god, but not any god who would embrace their actions. I believe any god worth its salt would not wish the devastation humans have wrought upon their own species as far back as the history books can go. The god they forgot is a universal well-being. A being well for all of humanity. Maybe humans could rename god, the WellBeing, or BeingWell? But I wouldn’t wish to start another movement.

For me there may be a god. There may be a something behind all existence. I am not bright enough to work it out. Greater humans than me have tried. BUT, I do think that most religions are at their base saying the same things; do not kill, do not covet, do not steal nor do bad deeds etc.

I am not certain there is any ‘after-life’ in any recognisable way, not sure we see our relatives on any ‘other side’, not sure if we come back as better beings, or as slugs if we do ‘wrong’. But I am certain there is part of me that was there when the Big Bang took place, apparently that’s true. And am certain that in my genetic make up, my DNA, there are parts that have come down to me from ancestors thousands of years ago. And that my genetic code is passed on to my childers and down to any who may be born in later times. We do re-incarnate in that way, that can be measured.

Also they can work out which part of the world my ancestors came from and research can find out where a skeleton dug up from the ground after being there for say 1500 years where that ‘person’ hailed from. We live in a marvellous world, let’s look after it, let’s try to safeguard what’s good in it and let’s push to end war. Even without war humans have a pretty hard task. But it’s worth it.

Here’s a beautiful poem by Tagore’s Gitanjali

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day

Runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean cradle of birth and death

In ebb and in flow.

And my pride is from the life-throb of ages

Dancing in my blood this moment.

 

Here’s It’s a beautiful Day, a great band I was lucky to see at the Bath Festival, Shepton Malet in 1970 doing their version of a song by Fred Neil.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqAd-kwTdxg

here’s Fred Neil’s original version ‘This old world may never change The way it’s been’

A ‘babyhowdy’ said, ‘this remains one of the most utterly exquisite songs I’ve ever heard! EVERYONE should hear this song, and it doesn’t matter how or where you first hear this masterpiece, so long as you hear it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8g_j5y2OK4

and Tim Buckley’s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FO6CNj5YVF8

Maybe one day there’ll be no humans and this will be Planet of the Dolphins. I’m still searching.