Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Slate (Fuck the Movie Industry)

Quarrymen hung in an old slate hut

I swear there are elements of cosmic collision happening on enormous personal vibrations- events that are so entangled that the outcomes sometimes seem like they are fired straight into your person by design.  There seems to be little point for an average thinker like myself asking, why? The answer almost always is what you want it to be and therefore, objectively useless.  The following paragraphs acknowledge all the flaws in this author’s rickety galleon floating in its universe of cack, quagmire and beauty.

There is a place in north Wales that I have always had a chesty affinity for- the Dinorwic slate quarries above the village of Llanberis and (crucially to these events) just outside the border of Snowdonia national park- ‘One of Britain’s breathing spaces’.  Since first going to these quarries to climb on the slate, I have sensed the negative space where the mountain once was like an invisible weight.  I have touched the rusted chains and machinery and sensed the lives, lived and killed of men who worked in radical conditions.  For me, Britain’s breathing space most definitely extends throughout the quarries and while you breathe the air, seasoned by the damp, the grey, the rust, the tunnels, the devastation, you breathe in the heritage of souls who lived and died in these vast holes.

And so it was, living abroad I booked a trip back to north Wales for a visit in June.  I found images of quarrymen from the early part of the twentieth century from which I made stencils to install in the quarries.  My idea was not to make a big splash, but to place the images with reverence, unobtrusively where they might be seen by the observant, the lucky or the adventurous.  I spent many hours becoming acquainted with the features of the quarrymen while cutting the stencils.  Fuck me, I could even be related to one of them!  My mind drifted around the quarries while I worked and I thought of one area in particular, a hole known to climbers as, the Lost World.  This was my favourite place in Dinorwic- a place accessed by some adventure with rusted ladders to a hole known as Mordor and then a tunnel leading to Lost World itself and the most humid of quarry bottoms.  Spagnuhm moss, huge ferns and rhododendrons enjoyed decades of growth beneath imposing walls of purple grey angles, streaked with wine stains and stabbed with rotting orange ironmongery, hanging from its sides like decayed attack.  Which was how I found the place on my recky hike.

A slate hut, obscured by lush greenery until really quite close, had over the years been maintained and somewhat weather proofed, becoming an aloof shelter for the discerning visitor.  Behind its glossy red door, redundant machinery stood silent- an exhibition of the past while the evidence of modern communion- candles, half full camping gas cylinders, a broom suggested the ongoing use for overnight visits.

 I pressed on, considering sites to paint and it was on the way out, back on the public footpath where I saw a sign, informing users of the path that the quarries would be closed to the public three days hence, for filming of a Warner Bros. movie. 

I returned two days later to install the paintings and began in Lost World.  The first image I did was on a piece of slate which I positioned inside the hut.  I considered the ghosts of the men I was painting-did they work in this very hole? Was this bad ju-ju? Or good? My motivations were sound. I judged tribute. I placed a few more paintings in Lost World and Mordor.  And sprinkled a few throughout other areas of the quarries, visible only to people off the main drag.  I did however leave one in full view- a thin rectangle of slate propped up in the slag, just above the public footpath.  How long would it last, this un-secured and easily moved piece? I threw some venomous hex unto it, should some cock sucking oppurtunist take possession.  I laid it good sail though, too.  Just in case a local, whose connections reach far into the quarries nabbed it to put on the mantelshelf next to the clock.

Two weeks later my sister and I came to the quarries for a hike about to check out the work.  Hollywood had been and gone.  Sure enough the piece near the path had been and gone too-  probably in some movie-twat’s London bathroom.   Resigned, we made our way to Lost World.  Emerging from the tunnel anticipating the lush prehistoric greenery, my perception was thrown awry by the absence of it.  Quite stunned, I refocused and panned around the quarry.  I saw total destruction of the quarry floor from massive rock fall.   The chaos of dry destroying angry slate boulders laid waste to life and heritage beneath it.  The hut had been crushed beyond use and appreciation, its legacy now void.

In the time between installing the work and coming back to witness the destruction, there had been some rain, but no significant weather event.  The only abnormality was the closure of the quarries for filming.  Don’t tell me those fuckers didn’t blow up the quarry. For a fucking Tarzan movie.

The quarries belong to First Hydro and the local authority and are not quite in Snowdonia National park.  This likely means no one will raise a stink. I guess the heritage of the area, of the local people is just not as valuable as an explosion for some bloated and forgettable Warner Bros. movie.

Lost World
Quarryman in Lost World
The piece in the Lost World hut. Now destroyed.
Quarryman blowing the blasting bugle. The tunnel to Lost World is the  black area, lower left.

Lost World prior to destruction.

Friday, 24 January 2014

MaryMary’s Christmas Letter
2013: packaged and stored.

Much as I’d like to be a flowing being aware only of seasons and the solstice, I’m not immune to the arbitrary devotion and containment of time through a calendar.  I remain on the rails of years driven by religious festivals and tax returns.  So, in celebration of my unremarkable outlook, I roll down a condom over the year, tie a knot in it and fling it in a bush along with the green bags of dog shit.

Metaphorical condoms, because of course, I had my nuts fixed in twenty thirteen (see previous post).  Unless some axis shift happens to my sex life I will only ever be tying these analogous knots in contraception.  Right about the time when my goat bag got the knife and the completion of my fortieth year was celebrated, I fucked myself up on a snowboard-  a brand new ride, given to me by my considerate partner as an accolade of two score years well lived. I was only four hours into steering a board the equivalent of a 2013 Audi after I’d been butchering turns on the snowboard version of a ’93 Honda Civic for the last ten years, when I lost control in a steep wide gully. The god of mercy sliced of a morsel of pity and whilst I was rag dolling seeing sky, board, snow, sky, snow, I missed all the rocks and finally came to a stop, spitting out snow while coming to terms with what a knackered knee might mean, and how shit I looked just doing it.  Sushi that night on crutches.

Still, I wasn’t that bovvered- the weather was shit for climbing and really, the ski hill kind of pisses me off- all those saps vying for the best run of the day, the best experience, the freshest pow and generally dressed in the most hideous of fashion- the young’uns all punk rock, skiing in their own mental video, middle aged vacationers keen to get back to the hotel room and upload their unedited head cam footage.  Please, can someone jam our culture with more crap, self absorbed video? (I’m only doing it in writing)

I was then, not distracted by outdoor recreation and that afforded me more time to get some stencils cut for a couple of shows.  The results, as ever did not meet my expectations but suggested the possibility of achieving something satisfactory if I keep labouring at it.  Those punk rock skiers mostly filled up the opening night of the show I participated in at Whistler.  I got really baked before going, which usually gets me all chatty.  It was a cliquey self congratulation party though and I felt unclean gabbing on about my work, desperate to sell something.  So, I shut the fuck up and felt embarrassed for the ‘breakdancers’ ‘throwing down’ in front of the DJ.  Why can’t these events have decent tunes?  Hang the fuckin’ DJ allright.  I sold one piece for cheap and got 50% back from the corporation putting on the show.  Fuck it.

Art work withered, receding like a vampire from the good weather.  Forcing the knee to comply I took my time to the rocks for the drier months.  And who wouldn’t?  I’ve been climbing rocks for so many years, its like doing self acupuncture to my brain.  I think I’ve stylized levels of fear and excitement to a point where I can palpate my mind with quite accurate levels of adrenaline.  Often I’d work toward just a taste of doubt and risk lobbing off a cliff in more or less safe conditions.  And I’d always sup up the flavour, check myself looking primal, but vogue y’know- with mah pumped muscles claustrophobic in a t-shirt, too small with a picture of a girls’ ass on it.  Then ride our newly acquired moped home, road raging big trucks in my way, trying to pass them with 50cc’s pinned.  And then, barfed out of my afternoon and into the house to make a semblance of healthy dinner for two small children before bath, teeth, stories, song and kiss.  All the time trying not to lose my shit with a screaming three year old… processed, done, off the clock.  Downstairs: hands through hair, examine bagged eyes and flick through records, decide what aural candy should replenish my psychic cannons.  

My ill mood though, was oft cajouled down the underpants of my mind, where the demons of bitterness tried to bum me out with thoughts of how bad shit the graffiti is around Squamish. 2013 certainly was a banner year for fuckin’shitty graffiti in this town.  But, after an evening bifter, soon my psychic energy began refueling to the likes of Carlton Melton, all shivering wavey riffs decorated with pyramid infused stretchy guitar solos, I left the grime and ascended back to the correct vibration.  And from there I could address the music I was hearing and ponder what was it that I was going to put on next that could be rival.  Western, privileged , first world problems.

I got into several new bands and discovered old stuff that was knew to me.  If anybody wants a DJ 2014 in 2014, that’s me. That’s my DJ name, DJ 2014.  It’s going to be a big year.  Just don’t expect a professional.  Expect someone who might be freshly haunted by a Vice report about Syria, or Afganistan.  Things will probably look up after a couple of lagers however.  Not that crafty honey lager shit though.

2013 saw another year click by in our claustraphobic slice of  high density Canadian town-house living.  Most of our neighbors burrow deeper into their winter jackets to avoid acknowledging each other.  Loud guy is still about though. ‘MIIIILLD’ he said- shouted the other day. Yup it’s mild alright.  Thank the gods we’ve got weather to talk about, because sure as global warming, no one gives a toss about anything but the most boring of modernity in our neighbourhood- mortgages, payments, retirement.

So here’s to 2014- one foot in the grave, the other on a blinding beam of infinite light.  I’m going back to the cutting bored.  New work up at the Kozo Sushi in Squamishtown for Febuary.

Love marymary.