Summa: diary (February 12-18, 2023)

It was my father who first showed me the stars.

February 12 (Sunday). We drove our sons to Newtown, Powys (the historic birthplace of mail order shopping) in order for them to catch a train en route to their respective cities. The Aberystwyth line was closed due to weekend maintenance work. A burger and chips at a local outlet were meagre consolation for our filial loss. Throughout the remainder of the afternoon, I vacuumed, mopped, and dusted my way through the house.

February 13 (Monday). Over the past year, as part of my stocktaking, I’ve been writing short accounts of the most significant periods in my artistic development and self-cognizance. ‘Finding the Way 1: 1977-83‘ describes my formative education from Foundation, through to my BA (Hons) Fine Art and, finally, MA Visual Art degree studies; ‘Finding the Way 2: 1986-96‘ describes my PhD Art History studies and early career as, first, a Tutor, then, a Lecturer and, then, a Professor and Head of the School of Art. Today, I began writing the third instalment, which will trace the development of The Pictorial Bible and The Aural Bible series.

February 14 (Tuesday). Finding the Way 3: 1999-2015‘ was concluded by ‘close of play’. It’s my late mother’s birthday today. In remembrance, I listened to a piece that was composed using one of only two extant recordings of her voice: And Also A Beloved Daughter (2014). Playback is a kind of conditional resurrection. The voice of someone, in the absence of their image, seems to me to presence them more tangibly than either their still or moving image in photography and video. Her ‘electric voice’ on the audio cassette is not unlike that which came over the phone when she called. In both mediums, she was in time, animate, and herself.

My mother (early 1940s) contact print.

February 15 (Wednesday). Balloons are been in the headlines. Several mysterious objects (UFOs, of sort.) have appeared in the sky over the USA and Canada. All were shot down. Still no one knows either what they are or who sent them. One theory is that they’re Chinese in origin, sent to spy on military bases. China is very angry. I recalled an aborted sound project of mine entitled Helium Evangelium. (EMI owned the copyright for one of the sources that I would’ve sampled in the piece. They refused to extend the rights to me, and made me sign a document declaring that I wouldn’t use the source. And I haven’t.) The theme of the composition is as follows: Since 1991, South Korean Christians have floated balloons carrying a printed Gospel over the border into Communist and atheistic North Korea, where believers aren’t allowed to practice their faith openly. At the beginning, border guards shot down the balloons as they entered North Korean airspace. These days, it’s reported, they let them pass overhead unhindered.

I was captivated by the idea of an aerial biblical text. The concept touches upon an earlier project which responded to an American tabloid article about a Bible that, supposedly, levitated above a bed at a motel room near Sacramento, California, in 1996: The Floating Bible: Miracle of the Risen Word (2015). I’m also conscious of a more amorphous relationship between the idea of Bibles in the sky and angels in the air, singing — a theme which I’m currently addressing in my art-historical writing and sound-art practice (See: ‘Summa: diary (January 22-27, 2023)’.) The heavenly angelic host were witnessed singing Scripture. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider this project using alternative sources. I put out some feelers.

February 16 (Thursday). 8.00 am: These days, I make my own busyness. I’ve now as many projects up and running as I can handle for the next year or so. These, now, need to be prioritised and allocated to a work schedule for that period. Around them, I’ll develop conference papers and articles based upon elements of the research. Conference papers, in particular, are a good way of consolidating and packaging ideas for public consumption by a prescribed deadline. On, then, with writing ‘Finding the Way 4: 2008-2022’. This will be the final blog in the series … for now.

February 17 (Friday). 6.30 am: I returned to the blog. By 10.00 am, ‘Finding the Way 4: 2008-2022‘ was complete. I’ve spent most of the week reflecting upon, and summarising, my past endeavours. One oughtn’t to spend too long in that distant country. Time spent there inevitably encourages remorse, misgivings, and regrets about things over which I no longer have any influence. ‘What’s done, cannot be undone’, said Lady Macbeth, resignedly. ‘Next time is the best time we all know’, sang Brian Ferry, confidently. In other words, the work that’s to come always trumps the work that’s done, because the fruit of that labour has not yet ripened. Anything may yet be possible. I picked up where I’d left off with the book and began constructing a notional twenty-minute paper on ‘the singing in the air’, in order to test whether I’d grasped ideas firmly enough to be able to communicate them simply enough. (In the background: Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem. Op. 66 (1962).)

11.00 am: A pastoral Skype-call to a former student of mine. ‘Stillness is motion in abeyance. Stillness is like silence. Silence is motionless’. 1.30 pm: I’d an appointment with a local physiotherapist to review my lower-back condition (which is much improved) and develop a daily exercise regime in order to improve my flexibility and muscle strength all round. The older I get, the more attention I need to give to my frame. 3.00 pm: I pressed a file recovery software into action, to see whether I could retrieve accidently deleted material from an old external hard drive that’s relevant to the Helium Evangelium project. In parallel, I continued with the notional conference paper.

February 18 (Saturday). 7.30 am: First breakfast in five days. 9.00 am: Domestics. 10.00 am: Accountancy. (The dark underbelly of self-employment.) 3.00 pm: Idling. I’d dearly like to visit the Vermeer exhibition, currently at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. The last major presentation of his work was at the Hague, some years ago. I never expected to see another in my lifetime. 5.00 pm: Close.

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