I Still Fear the Silence

It’s 4am and I can’t sleep. Outside the wind is hitting 60, 70, 80mph and threatening to take the world apart. It screams through gaps in the windows and through the large oak trees behind the house. Intermittent showers stab their raindrops like needles through my bedroom window.

I am relaxed but my mind is racing. As my slumbering body sinks into the bed my thoughts rise. The gap between my conscious and unconscious being is stretched thin, and I feel the final disconnect between the paralyzed corpse beneath me and my hyper-aware mind.

My own hypnagogic jerks and sounds mingle with the very real noises of the tempest outside. I am repeatedly kicked back into wakefulness. There is no rest here, only screaming discordance. I look across and beyond. An eternity has passed but it is still 4am. I long for calm. I yearn for silence…

No…. No….. No.

I still fear the silence.

That dream is still very real. It’s been over a year but still it sits in the back of my mind. It regularly haunts me and pulls me back. April 7th 2018 is still just as vivid now as it was then. I dwell on it now in a vain attempt to try and draw my mind and body back together. Surely anything is better than lying here suffering the delusions of my own insomnia?

……. It’s 4am and something outside is howling. I wake up and find the front door of the house is open ….. …….. I try to close it but a hot Saharan wind is pushing against me. This is the UK in April so I know something is very wrong with the world. I step outside. All the sound is missing except for the cries of a homeless guy sleeping in my front garden. There’s the glow of fire coming from inside his tent…. ….. I know better than to see what’s there…. ….. I turn and head East. The wind is pushing silently, fiercely, against me now. I hear a cat behind me. …. Turn. …. …. Nothing….. Behind me. …. Turn nothing. ….. …..

……. Silence ……. Total silence……

….. Then the soundtrack kicks in and I know I’m fucked. The jarring strings tell me Mike Patton is scoring this night. I run…. …. Run…… RUN!!!!! Time warps …… …… ….. Slows ….. Stops.
…………. I wake up again. Is this my reality? The soundtrack remains and I can’t work out what is real anymore…..

This is real. It’s still 4am and I still can’t sleep. Outside the wind is beyond 80mph and threatening to take the world apart. Another hypnogogic jerk as the penny drops and I realize I know the score to last year’s dream. I have heard it. I know the accompaniment to my fear…. …. I know this is real… …. Images from Zak Hilditch’s 1922 race into view. I’m merging characters from the film into my own disjointed unconsciousness. I finally slip my mind back into my sleeping body and fall into my regular uncomfortable dreamworld. My familiar night terrors kick in but tonight I’m accompanied by Mike Patton’s 1922 soundtrack. It plays out, mingling Hilditch’s visions with my own across grey dystopian landscapes and broken minimalist scenes. Characters evolve, grow, and tell their story in my unconsciousness. Nothing in tonight’s dream will end well. It never does. But at least the images I see will, for the most part, be confined to my sleeping state.

Now it’s nearly noon on the morning after, and over breakfast I’m still stuck with the emotional residue of last night. I’m considering other soundtracks, other composers, other ways to accompany or explain what I experienced. I’m musing on Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Fabio Frizzi, Camille Saint-Saëns, Bernard Herrmann…. They’re great. Really. But they don’t even come close to Patton when it comes to scoring the personal relationship I have between terror and silence. He manages to explain with sound what I can only close my eyes and see.

I’m so tired. I am not rested. I need sleep. I need a better sleep. I’ll just close my eyes for a moment. I’ll just snooze a while before I attempt to deal with the day. … I listen as the sounds of the new day unfold…. The wind outside is still raging and screaming at the world to tear itself apart. I open my eyes. It’s still 4am …

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Time will tell…

Some are lost and decayed beyond all recognition now but they’re still there. My clay Good Pennies are still lurking in the woods nearby. I’m wondering if I go back in 6 months how many will have dissolved away to nothing and decayed back to the earth from which they came.

I think then of the other man-made things I’ve been passing for years. For five years I used to walk down a suburban back lane on the way to work. Every day I would see an Action Man hanging precariously from an overhead telegraph cable. He’d been launched with his parachute and become entangled in the wires. Every day he hung there, his plastic features permanently suspended in mid-air. Another three years it would take before a storm finally broke his cotton strings and he fell to the ground.

A wooden lollipop stick sat next to an old wall  was there for two years before it moved three feet down the road. What moved it? Why now? Then one day it was gone.

As I walk to work I always watch and wonder. Due to relocation my commute is now different. I’m seeing things that seem permanent and others that are in transition. An orange peel lay on the edge of a road for almost 10 days before moving on. A tiny yellow dinosaur moved 20 yards the other day and is making his way towards the graveyard.

I have ten clay Pennies left. They are a mixture of Good and Bad, rejects and demos, lingering in my studio without a home. I’ll be painting these up over the weekend in more unnatural colours and considering where I can leave them along my commute. This will be a long term venture. Perhaps I’ll just leave one new penny each week and see how they weather. Will they move? Will they disappear? Will they stay and decay? Only time will tell…

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I have no memory of this place…

This should get easier. I tell myself this should get easier. I should start to recognise key places and routes. But the forest has other ideas. Paths by the river are eroding and vegetation is springing up all over the place. Once a mud path was here…  Once a track was there… Where am I?

This is getting harder. As the weeks progress, I’m moving on to other projects mentally and physically. As the Good Pennies decay and fade from existence, so they fade from my memory.

More Good Pennies are now missing. Others are in a bad state, returning their clay back to the earth. I have no memory of this place. This is not the place I left, but here is the place I find myself in.

Track and Trace

Yesterday afternoon I went back to the forest to trace where my Good Pennies might have ended up. I left at home the location reference photographs I’d taken the previous week, to force my brain to try and track my Good Pennies from memory. To an onlooker I appeared to be doing some kind of bizarre movement exercise. One moment I would be staring motionless at a tree only to turn quickly and take three paces towards another. Later, I’d be slowly leaning as if I was doing Tai Chi. I did quite well, only forgetting the location of one of the ten Pennies. As I revisit over the coming weeks I’m hoping this memory exercise will become easier but I am sure to doubt myself as the Pennies gradually disappear.

After only seven days, two were missing from their original location. The others were all pretty much in situ where I’d left them. Some have been pecked at by birds. Others are gaining a coating of mud and are being slowly eroded by last week’s volatile weather. The photographs here compare Good Penny #5 from week 1 (on the right) with week 2 (left).

In my head I’ve planned a month of weekly visits to the Good Pennies forest. I want to keep visiting until they are all missing or decomposed beyond recognition. I guess Mother Nature will decide the duration of this project.

 

Found and Lost

A few years ago I found myself wandering down a leafy urban back lane on a regular basis to get home. I found an old key on the ground which I placed in the gaps between the bricks of an old wall nearby. As the season progressed this key was joined by found pennies, lolly sticks, twigs, and magpie feathers. I always wondered how long these items would stay in their new homes. I wouldn’t have to wait too long to find out. Just over a year later the wall was demolished and replaced with something new. My found trinkets were lost forever.

Back to the here and now and I’ve finally got to the stage with my Good Pennies that I feel I can release them into the wild. They are now very much at large in the local forest. Nestled among stumps and mosses my ten Good Pennies have become tree sprites; entities with energies unknown, guiding and beguiling, tempting and reassuring. I will be revisiting the locations in a week’s time to see if anything has changed. They are to be found, or they are to remain lost – destined to return their clay to the earth. I’m interested to see what state of decay they will be in as time progresses.

The two ‘placing’ experiments are very different in nature. I’m not sure my Good Pennies will stay around as long as the keys in the wall. As the surface of the white clay decomposes they will become more visible in their leafy locations and I think they’ll be picked at by curious creatures. I want to visit once a week and photograph what I find and consider what has been lost.

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…and this is why I can’t have nice things

In an attempt to make Good Pennies out of Bad Pennies I have been distracted somewhat. In fact I’ve totally lost my way. I just can’t do it. I just can’t make nice things happen in my art. Small cute smiles become contorted whilst twinkles and dimples become deep, distorted chasms.

I just can’t make nice art.

Every now and then I try and then I realise why my art always has a feel for the uncanny. The antithesis to my own easy going and sunny disposition is my art. The thing that keeps me outgoing and happy is making twisted dark creatures out of virtually nothing.

It’s better this way.

Imagine if this situation was reversed. Imagine I was a psychopathic monster making sunny happy scenes with my art.

No.

Accept the facts. Make the art. Scare the world. Be happy. These are my Good Pennies because they take the bad out of me and bring me good feelings.  Find your kittens and your landscapes somewhere else. This art is for me and not for you.

Failure is Part of the Process

I’ve been growing my art over the last few weeks; literally. I’ve taken the clay pennies that I created the other week and growing them in a mossy patch in the garden. These Good Pennies are prints from the 13 Bad Pennies I created at the end of last year.  The original Bad Pennies were released into the world as part of the Love Tokens and Bad Pennies  exhibition curated by Collect Connect.

Releasing Bad Pennies into the world unsettled my karma a little. Why would I release these little things of badness when I wish no ill will to the world? To restore the balance, I plan the release of my Good Pennies to work in harmony with the world. They’ve spent 12 days outside growing moss and decomposing a little before I take them further afield.

At least that was the plan.

I didn’t bargain on Mother Nature doing her thing so efficiently. We’ve had a fortnight of heavy storms here so the air drying clay I used has decomposed a lot faster than anticipated. Rather than a slow-growing project which I can photograph over time, I’ve ended up with something a lot faster than expected. The faces of these Good Pennies are all but destroyed and the moss has worked its way into every crevice. All the paint has deteriorated and these mushy lumps of white are all that is left.

I’m not deterred by this failure. Failures such as this are part of the process of learning. I’ve already thought of a few workarounds which should slow down the rate of decomposition. I simply need to remake the original Good Pennies and go again.

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