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Acedia
week of 21 October 2017
 

Hi, I’m still here. It’s been awhile – sorry – and I won’t make excuses about how I’m going to try to write this more frequently. 

The fact is, I’ve started writing a new issue of this several times since the last one, but circumstances always conspire to prevent it from being finished. So in the interest of just getting back on track, I here present a collaged, fragmentary Acedia compiled from current thoughts + the aborted drafts of previous ones.

WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING 
Temporary closed at the end of August. The building has been under renovation since July and the renovations are very “heavy”, to put it mildly. Faced with the reality that the venue is extremely unpleasant to be in for six months (with un-openable, plastic-covered windows and constant construction sounds), we decided to quit while we were ahead – or while we were not too far behind. 

In the meantime we’ve been building out the Biathlon concept as an extendible, replicable toolkit for collaborative creative space operation. This means taking all of the various components of Temporary (some software-based, some more conceptual) and universalising them, or at least making them replicable for others to try. This has involved a great deal of coding on my end, such as creating a second version of our Ethereum contract (with proper test specs), the check-in kiosk, and other software bits.

The goal now is to find other people, organisations or initiatives who would like to use Biathlon. Are you running (or interested in starting) a shared space, whether to be used as a cultural venue, open workspace, creative lab or other experimental purpose? Our tools emphasise participation at all levels and are designed to link into a network structure, all while minimising the administrative efforts involved. Write me privately if you want to know more. [End of advertisement]

In my spare time (ha, ha) I have been working on music, again, somewhat, driven perhaps by the goal of shaping the years of post-Boat Trip recordings on my hard drive into a larger concept, and an abstractly narrative one at that. This has been in the back of my mind since, oh, 2010 or so - but I’ve rarely dedicated much time to it, except for a little bit of dabbling here and there over the years. Now I’m hellbent on finishing it, ‘it' being something I still conceive of as an LP release, even though the world has clearly moved on from physical media. But I have genuinely been enjoying the editing/mixing process; when recordings still sound exciting to you after seven years, you know you have probably done something right. And I’ve worked some new material into ‘it’ as well. If it’s ever released it could be subtitled The Ptarmigan-Pixelache-Biathlon Years, or What Happens When You Decide on a New Practice But Still Have a Soft Spot For Making LPs

EXCERPT FROM ABORTED ‘ACEDIA’ DRAFT, 13 AUGUST:
Since the last newsletter I spent a few weeks in the UK on a working holiday [ed: This was early in early-mid July]. The main purpose was to facilitate a workshop in a week-long summer lab called World is Sudden, organised by my old friend/collaborator Giles Bailey and a curatorial group called Circa Projects, based in Newcastle. Throughout the week, everyone took part in a different workshop each day in various locations across the Northeast: Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland, and a rural collective called the Burnlaw Centre located in the North Pennines.

Over the years I’ve participated in a number of similarly-structured activities; I would say that the multi-day collaborative workshop is one of my favourite formats. The gold standard was probably the few times I went to AVAMAA at MoKS in Mooste, Estonia. I’ve also gone on a number of Migrating Art Academies labs, including one last month that coincidentally also took place in the North Pennines, which I stuck around for and participated in as well. But World is Sudden was undoubtedly the peak of these experiences. Now that a month has passed [ed: three months, now], I’m still trying to figure out exactly why.

There’s a certain joy about being back in the UK, back in my native language, and back in the presence of Giles, with whom I could easily pass 20 hours per day talking about ideas, language, music, food and complete nonsense. But it wasn’t just that which produced the glow - it had something to do with how WiS ticked all the boxes that I want from collective creativity. 

One important component was how lightweight the production felt, even though it was put together with an amazing level of precision by Sam, Dawn, Adam and Giles. I’ve never been treated so well, so professionally — yet it didn't feel overproduced or rigid, like so much culture production in Finland does. And there was absolutely no hierarchy - the artists, producers, and participants (who were spread across various ages and professions) were all equally involved, and by the end I felt we had really grown together as a group and gelled into something unforgettable.

The programme was diverse but circled around a theme of site/place and collaboration. My own workshop was maybe the creative peak of my career to date, even though I tried to have a light touch and (as usual in things I do, besides this newsletter) remove traces of my own authorship. Maybe I’m just seeing it through rose-coloured glasses, but creating a fictional 1990s art collective together was hilarious, fun, and also a way to explore our own personal dreams and ideas of belonging. I wrote a tongue-in-cheek report on our phoney symposium on my personal website (www.johnw.fail) though it may read to outsiders like a series of unfunny/inside jokes.

During the wrap-up chat, someone said that this experience worked so well because everyone involved was extremely generous, which was perhaps the perfect word to describe it. Generosity is not something I tend to think about when collaborating with others, even though it’s a common sense approach. I’m not sure if it was just a perfect mix of personalities, or that we didn’t stay together long enough to start to developing factions and resentments, but I’m going to try to remember that feeling of generosity the next time I’m sitting around in a circle listening to people introduce themselves. [ed: I failed to do this.]


MEDIA INTAKE
Well, a lot, since it’s been four months. At the moment I’m deep in 2023: A Trilogy by the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (aka Drummond and Cauty); it comes at the right time as I’ve been thinking about Discordianism as a philosophy and life outlook, and wondering how to make it a bigger presence in my creative life.

Patrick Lundborg’s Psychedelia is a 500 page study of psychedelic culture that felt more like 1000 pages due to its density and small print, but that’s not a complaint. It’s a stunning work of scholarship, combining anthropology, chemistry, and cultural studies into a tome that’s mega-informative while also maintaining a strong personal viewpoint - and without the pseudoscientific tendencies that pollute a lot of literature on the topic.

There’s been a lot of TV (American Vandal!) but nothing has hit me like the fourth (and last) season of Halt and Catch Fire. I enjoyed the previous seasons as they moved through the personal computer industry in the 1980s, and I guessed where it was headed. But nothing quite prepared me for this final season, which was set in 1994 during the dawn of the web, or rather the dawn of the web in popular culture. Because this came around fully to touch my own life, I really related, particularly to the 14 year old character, who mirrored my own experience so accurately that I was occasionally paralysed, as if the writers had seen into my own mind. I can’t recommend this enough, even though it’s ultimately a show about personal relations and not about technology itself - but it’s all the better for it.

I haven’t watched as much film; saw Blade Runner 2049 which was pretty limp in terms of the writing but had enough amazing visuals to justify the exorbitant Finnish cinema ticket price. I finally got around to watching Step Across the Border, the 1990 experimental documentary about Fred Frith, and was floored by it. I also finally got around to seeing the rest of Mai Zetterling’s 1960s films, at least the ones she directed, which were all quietly radical and occasionally awe-inspiring.

OTHER STUFF
I usually put a link to a longer web-based article here that I enjoyed, and even though it’s been months since the last newsletter nothing really jumps out. If you follow me on Twitter you’ll see everything I favourite, which is pretty much all I post to Twitter these days. Instead I’ll just put a link to Luc Sante’s remembrance of John Ashbery, who my poetry professor considered to be tied with Robert Creely as the greatest American poet ever: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/10/12/john-ashbery-1927-2017/

This is getting long so I’ll get it off now before some other excuse crops up. As always, I’m interested to hear what you’ve been doing, and to try to communicate more with you on a personal level. So please check in!

Best,

John
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