Summa: diary (December 1-8, 2023)

I make sounds, so that I can hear myself; I make images, so that I can see myself; I write, so that I can know my own thoughts.

December 1 (Friday). 7.00 am: Brrrr! (-4°c)

8.15 am: Studiology. The final session for updating the main John Harvey and associated websites. 11.00 am: A long overdue Skype conversation with Stephen Chilton’s mum. Somehow, while trying to get her video camera to work, she managed to cast me into the great outdoors. How bizarre. An hour spent with her is never wasted. While having suffered the loss of two children and two husbands, she bears her sorrow without bitterness or resentment. A remarkable woman.

1.45 pm: Session complete. A new beginning. I’m experiencing compositional fatigue. One album remains to be undertaken before The Aural Bible series is complete (whatever that may mean). The album has already begun. However, I need to permit its ideas to ferment longer before re-engaging with the material. Otherwise, the new work will not move forward of the present work far enough. Change must be a constant. Inevitably, change involves casting off even those things that you’re good at; have been successful and lauded by others; and proved fulfilling. Space (and time) needs to be created for new things to occupy.

4.00 pm: The Friday ambulation. Wondrous!

December 2 (Saturday). Studylogy. 8.15 am: ‘Expect flurries in the next hour’ (0°c). (In the background: Advent hymns and carols.) ‘I must make a list of what’s possible in the short term and impossible presently’, I resolved. There’re some things that are absolutely impossible: For example, I shall never be a successful neurosurgeon, or free-climb El Capitan, or write the great American novel. I don’t possess the requisite and hard-won skills, training, type of intelligence, physical aptitude, temperament, background, and time to fulfill these ambitions. As crucially, I’ve no desire to either.

Some things are conditionally impossible: Presently, I lack the knowledge, aptitude, self-discipline, self-awareness, focus, and confidence (either about my capacity to succeed or in the appropriateness of the endeavour) to realise them. But I do have the desire. The strength and endurance of an intent can weep away all obstacles before it, and transform the impossible into the possible.

11.00 am: Studiology. An update of the online Aural Diary site. 12.00 pm: A mapping of the combined pedalboard array, and testing of individual components. 5.00 pm: Down tools.

December 4 (Monday). 8.15 am: Studyology. A review of the week ahead, and of projects begun and ideas floated prior to the latest album. What’s worth doing? How’s worth defined? Who decides? These days, my criterion is: ‘Do I need and want to do it?’ ‘Need’: in the sense that there’s a hunger inside me that can be satisfied only by me and the execution of that which I’m about to do. ‘Want’: in the sense that I anticipate the meal with relish.

I’ve a Facebook page that was set up for a conference on sound art I convened in 2013, called ‘The Noises of Art‘. Over the years, the page as attracted a more than modest following. The conference’s dedicated website also draws attention on my Academia profile. What to do? Continue to feed the page, or delete it instead? The conference embodied an idea which is far broader in scope and more enduring in relevance than that event. So, maybe, it still has some mileage. Before lunch, I surveyed several artists’ use of Instagram as a shop window for their visual art.

1.30 pm: An afternoon puzzling over Instagram’s multiple account facility and setting-up a direct feed into my analogue/digital interface from a stereo DI box. The latter proved far easier to negotiate.

December 5 (Tuesday). 7.15 am: A fitful night’s sleep, interrupted by burning eyes, headaches, and indigestion. A fragile state prevails. 7.45 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Studyology. A morning of small web-based enterprises that wouldn’t tax my limited reserves. I attempted to update my Academia site — which proved to be vexing rather than taxing, due to a conflict between my actual account and a phantom one. But all was well in the garden:

2.00 pm: Academia rationalised and modifications completed, I pressed on with adjusting the other sound sites to bring them in line with its format. This took some time. 3.30 pm: Enough! Enough! The release of Spirit Communication.

December 6 (Wednesday). 8.00 am: Studyology. A little online Christmas shoppery before the working day begins. The closing of the calendar year is my season of self-assessment. Perhaps the cold air and each day’s early onset of darkness encourages a melancholic and reflective frame of mind. It’s a time, too, for looking at the last twelve month’s professional operations, with a view to enhancing performance. It may be art, but it’s also business. Improving the mechanisms for self-promotion, networking, sales, and connecting with the audience, is a perennial challenge. Making work is only one part of the total enterprise.

12.00 pm: I returned to the adjunct-website project — related to my historic visual art work — which was first considered a year ago. Back then, I couldn’t persuade myself of its purpose. However, recently the overarching concept of ‘archive’ has presented itself to me with clarity and force. The structure and content of the new site will reflect this focus. The archive spans the period from 1977 (when I began attending a foundation studies course) to 2014 (when The Pictorial Bible III project, and the trilogy of exhibitions comprising the series, was completed).

Next year will be the tenth anniversary of a hiatus in my visual art practice. So, it seems appropriate that an account, comprising representative works made during that 37-year arc, should be given. (In part, this overview has already been begun in the following blogs: Foundations: 1977-78; Finding the Way 1: 1977-83; Finding the Way 2: 1986-96; Finding the Way 3: 1999-2015; and Finding the Way 5: Drawing Books (1977-2023).)

2.45 pm: Tea in hand, I reviewed the resubmission of a PhD Fine Art dissertation, which I’d externally examined at the beginning of the year. This would take me into the late evening to complete. 3.45 pm: I interrupted myself, and took a walk into town.

December 7 (Thursday). 8.30 am: Studyology. In the world: yesterday evening, the immigration minister Robert Jenrick resigned over the Government’s revised Rwanda legislation (forcing the prime minister Rishi Sunak into hyper-defence mode, this morning); today, Boris Johnson continues to squirm under the spotlight of scrutiny and accountability at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry; and it was announced that the poet and writer Benjamin Zephaniah has died of a brain tumour, aged 65. Some die long before they’ve given of their all; I pray that I’ll live long enough to give of my best. Meanwhile, Israel maintains its relentless bombing of southern Gaza. Some die long before they can either talk or walk.

On the desk: A morning and afternoon writing text for the new visual art archive website, updating my CV, vanquishing inter- and cross-website inconsistencies (as far as time and acuity permitted), writing down small bald ideas for discrete sound projects, and wondering what a return to making visual art would look like (if it could be justified, that is).

December 8 (Friday). 8.45 am: Studyology. I pressed on with the design for my ‘archive of visual art practice’ website. (In the background: Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (c.1688).) Visualising the website schematically reveals possibilities and problems that aren’t immediately apparent in the textual description of the intent and design alone.

After lunch I composed my instructions to the web designer, and designed the banner for the site. 4.00 pm: The Friday ambulation, though town and along the Promenade as the tide almost reached the bounding wall.

Forty three years ago today, John Lennon (1940-80) was murdered in New York, aged 40. I was, then, a third-year fine art student. The news came over the radio in my hostel bedroom, just before I went down to the refectory for breakfast. Lennon and the Beatles had been in the background of my life ever since I can remember. I bought their cover version of ‘Twist and Shout’ at the local Electrolux showroom, in 1964. This was my first record. The same year, my parents gave me a plastic ‘The Beatles’ guitar for my birthday. This was my first guitar.

See also: Intersections (archive);  Diary (September 15, 2018 – June 30, 2021)Diary (July 16, 2014 – September 4, 2018); John Harvey (main site); Instagram.

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