Then, in the dark hours of this morning, as a fox could be heard scavenging the bins outside, my wife woke from a dream. “There’s something we need to do, but I can’t remember what it is!” she stated urgently, half-conscious.
Very quickly she was asleep again and I realised that her slumber had been disturbed by one of the Kusama exhibits at the Miro gallery.
In a small room with dimmed light, a pentagonal columnar display case, a sort of TARDIS interior, contains a yellow spotted tentacle that appears to twist and turn into infinity. The effect is a trick with mirrors, but scarily threatening to any viewer suspended alone in the darkness.
📌 A fascinating pair of images appeared on the Edward Hopper Facebook page showing one of Hopper’s etchings of a lighthouse and a corresponding photograph of the scene today.
📌 In 1961 a field in Cambridgeshire was ploughed for the last time then abandoned to see what would happen. It was the start of a tentative experiment in re-wilding that has become the Monks Wood National Nature Reserve and a powerful reminder of how human activity has bullied the natural world for too long.
📌 At Barbican Cinema 2 we saw Summer of Soul, a documentary about the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969, which later became known as the “Black Woodstock” because it happened at the same time as the more famous Woodstock Festival. For 50 years, film of the event had lain neglected in a basement store room.
The Harlem Festival also happened at the same time as the first Moon landing. Concert-goers interviewed were in no doubt which was the most important event.
Standout sections of the film include a commentator who identified the Harlem festival as the moment in history when the term “negro” was supplanted by “black” – a real moment of liberation and empowerment for non-white people, he said. Performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & The Family Stone and Gladys Knight made it a music documentary that pulled in politics, religion and sociology rather than the other way around. The clothes are a show on their own.
The occasion and its deep impact on all those who performed or attended was anchored by testimony from the film-maker Musa Jackson, a mischievous child at the time in search of adventure in his local park. In a screening studio he sat and gazed intelligently at the film’s scenes. Tears of joy came to his eyes. One of the defining moments of his life, long written out of history, was finally up there, in bright lights, for all to see.
SUNDAY Shami Chakrabarti has come out fighting against Covid passports. And as always, her arguments make perfect sense…
“Covid passports are part of a strategy of smoke and mirrors for a government that would like to believe that ‘personal responsibility’ can substitute for sound and ethical public health policy during a pandemic that has already cost the UK nearly double the civilian fatalities of the second world war.”
The best line is the one in which she says the government’s current plan is to hand over control of the virus to “outsourced bouncers-turned-Covid cops”.
📌 It’s fun to imagine what the Conservative Party thinks Life After Boris will look like. The party has been so radicalised by the PM’s dodgy conduct in office that a return to the image of ladies in blue stockings bearing gifts of home-made jam at village fetes seems ridiculous. Their present leader is a character whose “sod that” attitude casually imperilled the life of The Queen, writes Andrew Rawnsley.
📌 Team GB has a talented 13-year-old Anglo-Japanese skateboarder called Sky Brown.
📌 We know people who at the moment are on holiday in various far-flung corners of the world, making the most of the opportunities available to travel overseas. We have no plans to leave the country anytime soon and cannot imagine ever wanting to step on an aeroplane again.
MONDAY I’m due to deliver an online hand-printing workshop in two hours and my anglepoise phone clamp, which I use as a close-up camera and has its own Zoom box, has broken.
📌 Gaffa tape and Gorilla Glue… the universal solution to all busted contraptions. The workshop went ahead successfully, but I never have the time while presenting to enjoy the exercise myself. The prints I make are always boring. I shall explore the method more carefully in future.
📌 The woman who hosted the printing workshop was repeatedly smelling her long hair. My wife disapproves of hair-messing at online meetings.
📌 The chef’s apron with stitchwork borough map of London is finished. Rotate through 90 degrees and a weird death mask appears.
TUESDAY There’s a reason I get all my zany crackpot ideas when I’m in the bath. According to an article on the Open Culture site, it’s because relaxation releases dopamine in the brain and more dopamine = more creativity. Psychologists call it “incubation”.
📌 Great Art Explained on YouTube is my favourite new discovery – superb, accessible, compact 15-minute tutorials on the acknowledged masterpieces. Alongside those from the Royal Academy, online learning has never been so good.
📌 Only just worked out that ROC in the Olympics is Russia, who have been banned as a nation after a drugging scandal, but have sneaked into the games on a technicality by calling themselves the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). All the commentators refer to this team as Russia, so the ban is effectively pointless. The only punishment is that the Russian national anthem cannot be played during the medals ceremony.
WEDNESDAY There’s a report in the Morning Star about Labour’s plans to reform the workplace with job shares, flexitime, worker directors, etc. It all sounds very reasonable. It would be nice to know if the Labour party itself practises what it preaches. I shall write immediately to ask.
📌 Joe Zadeh writes to promote a long-read article he’s written about Time. In it he refers to the ancient Greek dual concepts of time, Chronos & Kairos. Chronos is clock time and Kairos is a more intuitive, serendipitous type of time. I wrote back asking if photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson had been Greek, would his famous “decisive moment” have been the “kairos moment”?
📌 The Olympics always throws up fabulous examples of human fellowship among the athletes.
📌 Lakshmi posted a great quote from the Dalai Lama: “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.”
📌 I don’t think I want the Richard III mystery of the Princes in the Tower ever to be properly solved.
THURSDAY Matt Hancock has been given a slap by his local councillors in West Suffolk. He has “neglected the best interests of his constituents” and, as health secretary, “demonstrated hypocrisy and hubris in the pursuit of his own interests.”
📌 For Project Cuba, an art collaboration with the Riera Studio in Havana, it would be nice to make a film of the process and the artwork we produce together (inspired by Cuban and British postage stamps). A sympathetic video editor (ie, Dave Briggs) would be nice, but probably not in the tiny budget.
📌 Oh the agony of seeing and hearing yourself on film! The video for the work we did with the Barbican team for the Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty exhibition is out and my flesh is crawling with embarrassment.
FRIDAY The Morning Star predicts an Autumn of discontent, as the real cost of wage disputes and the end of the Furlough scheme hit the economy. Decent wages for an honest day’s work doesn’t seem unreasonable to most people, I’m sure, but until most people are prepared to fight for it, the rich will get richer and the rest will be left to suck it up in silence.
📌 We’re really enjoying the women’s rugby Sevens in the Olympics.
📌 Larry Elliott in the Guardian very cleverly detects a new variant of Capitalism in the wind. This strain is tough on the tech monopolies, shows big faith in tax and spend, and broadly makes the State a big player in the development of national economies. It has been bubbling since the 2008 global financial crisis but has now come to a rolling simmer as the only way to meet the economic changes wrought by the pandemic.
📌 A friend is currently on a circular cruise around Britain, aboard a ship heading straight for Storm Evert.
📌 Quote of the day comes from Séan, 11, who told his nattering mother firmly: “Brave women aren’t bothered about their hair.” That was just after he told Alexa that her 100 “random” fart sounds were not very good.
📌 The final Headway online Home Studio (for now?) was all about cats, so I attempted to draw one with my disabled left hand.
📌 Getting pinged by the Daily Mail is often a feast of hilarity. The name of Matt Hancock’s mournful dog is Hercules.