Monday, August 31, 2009

morning walk

Feet on the ground, head in the clouds - but heart under the water, as usual, this morning. Under the water.

Kiyosato, Yamanashi
31 August 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

never too much to repeat to yourself, like a mantra... (2)

Taking the lids off things (and off people)

Nothing is, I feel, more vital than this. And, at the same time, nothing is more difficult to incorporate into our habits of thought, attitudes, actions, rhetoric, routines, relationships. Yet, despite ourselves, we do it all the time: while differentiating certain things and people, we do not - we cannot - really separate them; we mix up everything, because every thing is a 'going on', as Tim Ingold puts it. I cannot separate what I am from what I am thinking and saying and doing, because:

"The wind is its blowing. Similarly, the stream is the running of water. And so too, I am what I am doing. "

If things occur, as entanglements within a texture, rather than existing as discrete, self-contained entities, then as we follow the materials from one thing to another we cross no boundary. Some critics may find this hard to understand. I myself have been accused of 'conflationism', of muddling everything into everything else. Surely, it is argued, a first prerequisite for any kind of action in the world is that the actor is able to tell one thing from another, or to distinguish a phenomenon, P, from what is not P. How could anyone who did not recognise such distinctions get on with their lives? They would be forever adrift in blundering confusion. The mistake, here, is to assume that differentiation implies separation, that to recognise the difference between A and B is to place them on opposite sides of a categorical boundary. Let us suppose that A and B are places, and that we take a trip from one to the other. We know that we are at A when we start out, and at B when we arrive. But if, somewhere en route, I were to stop and ask 'are we still in A or have we crossed over to B?', you could reasonably reply that there is no cross-over point, no boundary, but that we will be in B once we get there. For each place is identified not by its contents, enclosed within a perimeter, but by its positioning within a field of relations that continually unfolds in the course of people's inter-place movements.
I think it may be more helpful to imagine the world not as a giant museum or department store but as a huge kitchen, well stocked with ingredients of all sorts, and where things are continually on the boil. In the kitchen, stuff is mixed together in all sorts of combinations, generating new materials in the process which will in turn become mixed with other things in an endless process of transformation. To cook, containers have to be opened, and their contents poured out. We have to take the lids off things. Indeed, faced with the anarchic proclivities of his materials, the cook has to struggle to retain some semblance of control over what is going on. So does the gardener have to struggle to prevent the garden from turning into a jungle. However much we try, through feats of engineering, to construct a world that conforms to our expectations - that is, a world of discrete, well-ordered objects - our intentions are confounded by the life's refusal to be contained. We think that objects have outer surfaces, but wherever there are surfaces life depends on the continual exchange of materials across them. If, by 'surfacing' the earth - as in the construction of a paved road - we block that exchange, then nothing can live. In practice, however, such blockages can never be more than provisional. Attacked by roots from below, and the action of wind, rain and frost from above, the surface eventually cracks, allowing plant growth to mingle and bind once again with the light, air and moisture of the atmosphere.

Tim Ingold, in Overcoming the Modern Invention of Material Culture, eds. Vítor O. Jorge and Julian Thomas (Porto: ADECAP, 2006/2007), pp. 315-17. Emphases added in the second excerpt.

Image source:

(Originally posted in January 2009.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

never too much to repeat to yourself, like a mantra... (1)

Walking and waiting, waiting and seeking, patience and despair, movement and stillness, silence and song are closer than one might think. Well, at least to me they are part of the same continuum of perception and desire. And being in transit is precisely this: walking, negotiating the boundaries that at once comfort and constrain you, constantly searching for something that forever eludes you and turns into something else. Arriving at seemingly new, unexpected places that turn out to be familiar ones, even though transfigured beyond hope or reach. Encountering people that nearly always reveal themselves a baffling amalgam of promise and disappointment, shallowness and depth, suspicion and trust, distance and intimacy. The mystery remains and deepens in the course of time, however, since it is impossible to separate all those things from one another. Everything sticks together like a dough.

People unfold themselves slowly (but never completely) like a long, heavy, intricate tapestry, recoiling at times in fear, but eventually stretching out towards a fuller shape, in a process that requires time and space, patience and waiting. Yet, (and there we go again), most people, in their hectic, mechanical, self-absorbed routines, seem to have less and less time and space for the other(s). Magnificent tapestries may never unfold, alas. Such a waste.

Anyway, there is nothing else to do in the meantime but walking and waiting, waiting and searching. Stirring stillness. "Walking is a mobile form of waiting", indeed, as Thomas A. Clark so rightly puts it.

(Originally posted in December 2008.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fuses, or: inhabited bodies

Until we solve the mystery of sexuality, contemplation of kaleidoscopic genitalia - from glossy and nubile to lank and withered - will remain an interesting and important exercise in human self-discovery. . . .

Far from poisoning the mind, pornography shows the deepest truth about sexuality, stripped of its romantic veneer. No one can claim to be an expert in gender studies who is uncomfortable with pornography, which focuses on our primal identity, our rude and crude animality. Porn dreams of eternal fires of desire, without fatigue, incapacity, aging or death. What feminists denounce as woman's humiliating total accessibility in porn is actually her elevation to high priestess of a pagan paradise garden, where the body has become a bountiful fruit tree and where growth and harvest are simultaneous. "Dirt" is contamination to the Christian but fertile loam to the pagan. The most squalid images in porn are shock devices to break down bourgeois norms of decorum, reserve, and tidiness.

The Dionysian body fluids, fully released to coat every gleaming surface, return us to the full-body sensuality of the infant condition. In crowded orgy tableaux, like those on Hindu temples, matter and energy melt. In the cave spaces of porn, camera lights are torches of the Eleusinian Mysteries, giving us flashes of nature's secrets.

Camille Paglia, 'No Law in the Arena: A Pagan Theory of Sexuality', in Vamps & Tramps: New Essays (London: Viking, 1995), pp. 66-67.


While I do acknowledge the cogency of Paglia's argument - porn has no doubt a 'ritualistic' and didactic role to play and will always exist and be in great demand - there is something about it that deeply upsets me because so impoverishing. Sex seen in the crudest of lights and stripped of everything that makes it meaningful and worthwhile: intimacy, tenderness, the ambiguous play of light and shadow, the sense of an actual lived and shared life. A fully inhabited body. There is indeed a huge difference between something done to you or something that you do to someone and something you do with someone.

For a glimpse into the sheer beauty of the joyful chaos, naturalness, emotional and sensuous intensity of meaningful, inhabited sex - an inhabitedness no amount of porn or occasional intercourse between strangers will ever, ever replace - I can only vividly recommend Carolee Schneemann's Fuses [click to watch], an experimental erotic film that should figure prominently in every history of avant-garde and feminist film.

Fuses, 1964-67.
Film still.

A silent film of collaged and painted sequences of lovemaking between Schneemann and her then partner, composer James Tenney; observed by the cat, Kitch.
"...I wanted to see if the experience of what I saw would have any correspondence to what I felt-- the intimacy of the lovemaking... And I wanted to put into that materiality of film the energies of the body, so that the film itself dissolves and recombines and is transparent and dense-- as one feels during lovemaking... It is different from any pornographic work that you've ever seen-- that's why people are still looking at it! And there's no objectification or fetishization of the woman." –Carolee Schneemann

Friday, August 21, 2009

advice to a friend (and to myself)

Goya, Saturn Devouring his Infants (1821-23)

Yes, you who must leave everything

That you cannot control

It begins with your family

But soon it comes round to your soul. . . .

Listening to Leonard Cohen's good old Sisters of Mercy, I feel tempted to add that there is a time when you must leave behind those who, with the best of intentions, block out your daylight, suck your very lifeblood, your will to live and seek a little happiness and self-reliance, devouring you alive.

It's whether you or them, no matter how painful or cruel it might seem to others - and especially to yourself. The most important choices have never been easy, never. But there are times when we must summon the strength and turn the tables. The turning might take very long, or perhaps not. The important thing is that it happens because you prepared yourself for it and need it in the same way that you need fresh air to breathe properly. No one can live under the water for that long.

And, yes, remember: sometimes, to find yourself, you have to get rid of yourself...

Friday, August 14, 2009

'somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond'...

On the eve of travelling somewhere, amidst all the hectic preparations, I spare a moment to think that a voyage always takes you elsewhere different from what you were expecting.

The most interesting things are the unpredictable, the unexpected, the unrehearsed - those unscripted moments that change everything, and in relation to which all preparations are in vain.

A word, a gesture, a way of walking, a light, a smell, a sound you have never heard before - even a different silence can so utterly change you.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

the delicate boy (2)

When he was five his kindergarten teacher wore silk stockings and he sat next to her as she read and with his boy hand felt her legs. The legs felt so smooth and soft and he kept his hand on her leg and slowly moved up her leg. He had small hands and he loved to touch soft things, because he was never touched at home. He loved his kitty. He loved his blankie. This was the first time he had been away from his mother, and sitting next to the soft legs, stroking the legs, was like holding a wild animal, it was like holding himself, because it was he who needed to be held. The reading and the softness of her voice. The timing, the rhythm like a hearbeat, a breath, and he wanted to touch and be touched so much.

The teacher didn't pull away, but allowed the boy to hold and stroke her leg. Later, she called the boy's parents and told them that there was something wrong with their son. No longer was there anything wrong with the mother, but now there was something wrong with the boy.

From then on the boy desired legs. He was so fascinated, so curious about them.

Whenever I see you I always wear stockings with garters and seams, French hosiery with velvet cutouts of lacy patterns, black teasers with seams that go up my ass with garters and white lacy frills, shoes black and pointy and heels that dig and penetrate and make my long legs longer.

I let you fuck me standing up under a peach tree against a brick wall in the courtyard of an Irish tavern, next to a church called St. Dymphna. And I can feel you for a week and then you are gone.

Karen Finley, from Shut Up and Love Me, in A Different Kind of Intimacy: The Collected Writings of Karen Finley (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2000), p. 306-07.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

the delicate boy (1)

I have mixed feelings about Karen Finley's work, and all too often find that overflow of female rawness and rage and despair in her texts and performances way over the top. Some of her works, however, deeply move me and bring a moment's respite from all the cringemaking excesses. Here is a favourite one:


The boy, delicate and good and fair, blue-eyed and laughing and sensitive. His mother stopped touching him when he was two. For she had hit him. He did something that children will do. But her hand went out of control and she had hit him, in a way that she woke up and went to sleep with, and after that she never held her son. The boy was never held, never touched, never cuddled, never stroked, never cooed too, never kissed, never shown love.

When I see you, there are moments I want to be your mother and hold your head on my lap and stroke your hair while the moon rises, and it is a full moon, and I will rub the small of your back and hold your feet like little cookies and take little bites of toes. I'll roll you into a ball and hold you on my belly and rub and smooth your shoulders, and I'll kiss your forehead and tell you you are the sweetest boy, the loveliest boy, there is no other boy like you, no other boy I love as much as you. I will rock you in my arms and coo in your ears and make the monsters go away, the creepies go away to places far away, and you're safe in my arms, and my bosom breathes deeply, and you may cry if you like. I hold you, my child. I hold you til morning light and kiss your cheek, for it is day now and my boy has woken and I wash his face and behind his ears and bathe him gently with softening scents that loosen the sand in ears, and I wash his hair and massage his scalp and I wait for him to make his pee while I gather up the big bath towel that is bigger than he is, and I dry my boy down and I tickle him. We fall to the floor laughing, giggling. I love my boy. I love my boy. I love my boy.

Karen Finley, from Shut Up and Love Me, in A Different Kind of Intimacy: The Collected Writings of Karen Finley (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2000), p. 306.

shut up

It might be a sign of growing up, of growing old, or of going mad, I don't know. What I do know is that I increasingly find myself returning to the same poems over and over again. And the number is getting smaller with time. Precious. They are like a gentle mantra you recite, strangely disquieting, strangely consoling. So here it is, once again:

Shut up. Shut up. There’s nobody here.
If you think you hear somebody knocking
On the other side of the words, pay
No attention. It will be only
The great creature that thumps its tail
On silence on the other side.
If you do not even hear that
I’ll give the beast a quick skelp
And through Art you’ll hear it yelp.

The beast that lives on silence takes
Its bite out of either side.
It pads and sniffs between us. Now
It comes and laps my meaning up.
Call it over. Call it across
This curious necessary space.
Get off, you terrible inhabiter
Of silence. I’ll not have it. Get
Away to whoever it is will have you.

He’s gone and if he’s gone to you
That’s fair enough. For on this side
Of the words it’s late. The heavy moth
Bangs on the pane. The whole house
Is sleeping and I remember
I am not here, only the space
I sent the terrible beast across.
Watch. He bites. Listen gently
To any song he snorts or growls
And give him food. He means neither
Well or ill towards you. Above
All, shut up. Give him your love.

W. S. Graham, 'The Beast in the Space', from 'Malcom Mooney's Land' (1970), in Collected Poems, 1942-1977 (London: Faber, 1979), pp. 147-48.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

'Can women ever be whole?'...

Max Ernst, The Word or Woman-Bird (1921)

...'Can mothers and daughters ever be united in a sacramental "mother-and-daughterhood" without going back to the womb?', asks Mary Jacobus in First Things, in an interesting essay on memory and feminist nostalgia.

Adrienne Rich responds in a poem full of loss, longing, unsatisfied desire. While I've never been able to identify much with this brand of lesbian feminism that always seems in need for consolation and self-victimization, and by far prefer more raw and combative approaches, the poem does mean a lot to me, for reasons I can't even begin to verbalize - here in particular:

But in fact we were always like this,
rootless, dismembered: knowing it makes the difference.
Birth stripped our birthright from us
so early on
and the whole chorus throbbing at our ears
like midges, told us nothing, nothing
of origins, nothing we needed
to know, nothing that could re-member us.

Adrienne Rich, from 'Transcendental Étude' in The Dream of a Common Language (New York: Norton, 1978).

Knowing it might make the difference indeed, but nostalgia and regret are all too often a dead end. They change nothing, nothing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

brass-balls feminism (2)

I have always relished intelligent provocations and iconoclasms, and seldom miss a chance for one. In this respect, Camille Paglia remains at the top of my list, no matter what others might say about her being well past her prime. Some books are immortal indeed, and I know of no other woman who has managed to piss off so many know-nothings and their politically correct pieties and complacencies and empty rhetoric at the same time - mainstream feminist scholars, queer theorists, gays, lesbians, conservatives, liberals, and so on.
Here's an all-time favourite passage, which breaks all anti-PC records at a stroke. Needless to say, I endorse each and every line:

Is gay identity so fragile that it cannot bear the thought that some people may not wish to be gay? The difficulties in changing sexual orientation do not spring from its genetic innateness. Sexuality is highly fluid, and reversals are possible. However, habit is refractory, once the sensory paths have been blazed and deepened by repetition - a phenomenon obvious in the struggle with obesity, smoking, alcoholism, or drug addiction.

The injustice and impracticality are in trying to 'convert' totally from homosexuality to heterosexuality, an opposition I think false. However, helping gays learn how to function heterosexually, if they so wish, is a perfectly worthy aim. We should be honest enough to consider whether homosexuality may not indeed be a pausing at the prepubescent stage when children anxiously band together by gender. Indeed, the instantly recognizable house voice of many gay men - thin, reedy, and pinched - dates from that pre-adult period. . . .

Gay men should confront the elements of haphazard choice in their erotic history, which began in the confusion, shame, and inarticulateness of childhood. Judeo-Christian morality, following the Bible, would call for a renunciation of all homosexual behaviour. I don't agree. Why shouldn't all avenues of pleasure remain open? But is is worthwhile for gays to retrace their developmental steps and, if possible, to investigate and resolve the burden of love-hate they still carry for the opposite-sex parent. Behaviour may not change, but self-knowledge - Socrates' motto - is a philosophic value in its own right.

If a gay man wants to marry and sire children [with the opposite sex], why should he be harassed by gay activists accusing him of 'self-hatred'? He is more mature than they are, for he knows woman's power cannot be ignored. And if a married man wants to pursue beautiful young men from time to time, why shouldn't he have the same freedom of sexual self-determination as husbands who patronize whores? Why must he be charged with vacillation or evasion, when his eroticism is the most fully developed? If counselling can allow a gay man to respond sexually to women, it should be encouraged and applauded, not strafed by gay artillery fire of reverse moralism. Heterosexual love, as Hindu symbolism dramatizes, is in sync with cosmic forces. Not everyone as the stomach for daily war with nature.

It is much easier for women to live bisexually, since their erotic performance is not measured by the unforgiving yardstick of erection and ejaculation. Men who shrink from penetration of the female body are paralyzed by justifiable apprehension, since they are returning to our uncanny site of origin. Lingering on the unconscious level in every act of heterosexual intercourse are two male terrors: that when the penis goes in, it won't come out again; and second that as he approaches the womb, a man will, as in a nightmare, be sucked back to boyhood and infancy and be reabsorbed into the maternal body.

These fantasies, detectable in the vampire legends of world mythology, have led me to argue that 'mysogyny' is one of feminism's more useless ideas. It is not male hatred of women but male fear of women that is the great universal. Gay activists who spout feminist rhetoric are usually the most mysogynous, for they love the idea of woman as victim, small, passive, and in need of their help. Such men, of course, are usually helplessly dominated by imposing mothers.

Camille Paglia, 'No Law in the Arena: A Pagan Theory of Sexuality', in Vamps & Tramps: New Essays (London: Viking, 1995), pp. 78-79.


*It is worth adding that she finishes off the essay by proposing bisexual responsiveness as 'our best hope of escape from the animosities and false polarities of the current sex wars', and a 'pagan education' as the philosophy that 'would sharpen the mind, steel the will, and seduce the senses'. A philosophy that should be 'both contemplative and pugilistic, admitting aggression (as Christianity does not) as central to our mythology':

The beasts of passion must be confronted, and the laws of nature understood. Conflict cannot be avoided, but perhaps it can be confined to a mental theater. In the imperial arena, there is no law but imagination. (p. 94)

Again, I'm with her all the way...


An unexpected moon-viewing moment last night conjured up these lovely lines by Thomas A. Clark which I cling on to more than ever:

Into an economy of desires, the arrogance of the days, the compromises and complacencies, is introduced a silver light, a delicate stream of irony.

To come out of the house, to come out of yourself, to be subtle, clear, extensive, is the moon's invitation.

Darkness is not closed but open.

The impatience with which we seek the confirmations of light is a flight from information brought by all the senses to the evidence of the eyes alone.

When you see a new moon, uncover your head, turn over the penny in your pocket, and lay yourself open for inspection.

Anything that is secretly glad comes under the auspices of the moon.

Who has the courage to go into the dark places where there is nothing but feeling?

Thomas A. Clark, 'A Walk by Moonlight' in Distance & Proximity (Edinburgh: Pocketbooks, 2000), pp. 77-80.

Image: Caspar David Friedrich, Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon (1824).

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

between worlds, or: a profoundly uncomfortable place to be

Photo: Jim Brandenburg

This recent post has brought me back to another short text I posted a while ago here, in response to a poem by Lorine Niedecker:

Fog thick morning –
I see only
where I now walk. I carry
my clarity
with me.

--Lorine Niedecker

Reading this poem by Niedecker reminds and reassures me of something I all too often tend to forget. That the things you most long for, such as warmth, clarity, or the very sense of home, do not exist in themselves. They are carried around with you and overflow, emanate from you whenever some thing, some place, someone responds and sparks them to life.
I suppose that is the meaning of finding a place for yourself in the world without depending too much on unrealistic expectations or on others. It is also the meaning of true, tranquil friendliness and affection.


The view still holds true for me, no doubt, but I would perhaps add that such things allow you to find roots wherever you go, in places where you were not born and did not live for long (or did not live at all).

That's the appeal of travel (physical, mental, literal, metaphorical), I guess: you escape the confines of a fixed identity - geographical, national, gender, sexual - and gradually learn to live in and love the interstices between worlds.

Because the most improbable places and people are the most lovely. Or, as my favourite anthropologist, Tim Ingold, puts it, 'home is often a profoundly uncomfortable place to be'.

Monday, August 3, 2009

replying to a friend who has recently scolded me for not being on Facebook

Vanitas, by Peter Claesz

While I usually shun the moralistic, self-righteous voices of religion, especially Catholic ones, I couldn't agree more with the preachers on this one. Spot on. Call me old square, stick-in-the-mud, whatever, but I'm with the Archbishop: there's nothing like an old-fashioned rendezvous and the hardships and ups & downs of genuine friendship.

(By the way, and in reply to a recent invitation to become Facebook "friends" with a so-so-friend: I would never, but never accept an invitation to become virtual "friends" with someone who doesn't have time for a lunch or a coffee, nor even for, say, a miserable three-line how-are-you-doing e-mail, but who wastes hours & days narcissistically compiling meaningless lists of "friends." Capisce?)

Sic transit gloria mundi...

Facebook criticised by Archbishop

Social networking websites, texting and e-mails are undermining community life, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has warned.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols said MySpace and Facebook led young people to seek "transient" friendships, with quantity becoming more important than quality.

He said a key factor in suicide among young people was the trauma caused when such loose relationships collapsed.

"Friendship is not a commodity," he told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

He added: "Friendship is something that is hard work and enduring when it's right".

'Transient relationships'
Archbishop Nichols said society was losing some of its ability to build communities through inter-personal communication, as the result of excessive use of texts and e-mails rather than face-to-face meetings or telephone conversations.

He said skills such as reading a person's mood and body language were in decline, and that exclusive use of electronic information had a "dehumanising" effect on community life.

Archbishop Nichols said that social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace encouraged a form of communication that was not in his words "rounded", and would not therefore build rounded communities.

The Archbishop also warned of the danger of suicide among young people who threw themselves into a network of friendships that could easily collapse.

He said young people were being encouraged to build up collections of friends as commodities, and were left desolate when these transient relationships broke down.

"Facebook and MySpace might contribute towards communities, but I'm wary about it," he told the newspaper.

"Among young people often a key factor in their committing suicide is the trauma of transient relationships.

"They throw themselves into a friendship or network of friendships, then it collapses and they're desolate.

"It's an all-or-nothing syndrome that you have to have in an attempt to shore up an identity; a collection of friends about whom you can talk and even boast."

Source: BBC News

Sunday, August 2, 2009

no one loves a smart woman (2)

A recent article on The Guardian, sensibly titled 'Don't tell women how to give birth' , has reminded me of another powerful piece by Karen Finley on an experience that, as a woman and as a mother, has changed me forever. An experience that has all too often been de-sexualised and sanitized by being regarded from a coldly clinical standpoint.

TODAY, MOTHERS-TO-be are expected to attain the 'perfect birth'. The expectant mother is made to feel that she is responsible for this, her baby's first experience of the world. The reality is that so much happens in the pregnancy and birth process that is beyond anyone's control - no matter how aware, responsible, and healthy a woman is. Nevertheless, if a woman has one glass of wine or one cup of coffee during pregnancy then she is made to feel that she is ruining her child's health. She must deny herself totally and give everything to the child. And if she has a C-section, she is made to feel that somehow she didn't do her best. I think this is a backlash, a punitive response to the fact that women increasingly have been putting off childbirth in favor of their careers.

And pregnant women today are given extensive instructions and coaching geared toward allowing them to give birth without expressing pain. There are relaxation exercises, Lamaze techniques, yoga, meditation. The idea of being serene and relaxed during childbirth is absurd to me. Labor was the most excruciating, painful experience my body has ever gone through. I had a natural childbirth and I broke my tailbone pushing my nine-pound daughter out of the birth canal. The idea that pain should not be expressed during childbirth is a cultural misogyny, a way of trying to control women's emotions.

After giving birth, I wanted to push the image of childbirth in my art. I realized that there aren't many images of childbirth in this culture. There are plenty of magazines where you can see a woman's pussy, of course, but you're are not going to see a baby coming out of it. I wanted to do a piece that would expose the sexuality of childbirth, and that would confront viewers with the P-U-S-S-Y - that would say, 'This is what it can do'. I wanted something that would be visceral and vivid, like Frida Kahlo's childbirth paintings, but I wanted it to be a real picture, and I wanted it to be big.

My good friend Dr. Virginia Reath, a gynecologist, had found some photos of childbirth. She gave me three of them and I blew them up to 4 x 6 feet. They were graphic images of a baby's head crowning and emerging from the mother's vagina.

I hung the photos side by side in a room at the SFAI, near the 'Moral History' installation. I stuck 'Post-Its' with relaxation instructions ('Pretend you are floating on a cloud'. 'Picture yourself on the beach with your favourite beach towel'. 'Stay relaxed. This is for your baby'.) all over the photos. I found these instructions so paternal, so patronizing, and under that, I felt there was fear: fear of the female expressing her emotions.

This installation, 'The Relaxation Room', also included a video of me squirting breast milk onto black velvet. I am in my studio, and I take my 40D milk-laden breasts out of my smock and lactate on to the velvet in an abstract pattern. It's hysterical. It is my response to Jackson's Pollock's film I am Nature.

Karen Finley, from A Different Kind of Intimacy, pp. 187-89.

Image: Frida Kahlo, My Birth.

changing beds

Every time I move to a new house (as I'll be doing today), with all the initial idealism and fuss and excitement and expectation for the new, I come to my senses when recalling Baudelaire's predicament, which I fully share:

This life is a hospital in which each sick man is possessed by a desire to change beds. One would prefer to suffer by the stove. Another believes he would recover if he sat by the window.

I think I would be happy in that place I happen not to be, and this question of moving house is the subject of a perpetual dialogue I have with my soul.

Charles Baudelaire, "Any Where Out of this World!"