I feel a bit like an aunty or a big sister. I can recognise the same anxieties, the same ambitions and the same desires. I can see the same pitfalls and the same excitements. I am learning through my education and through my age the skill of guiding people and not telling them. Supporting and sharing opinions but not trying to predetermine or foresee. It really is a skill.
We met at Rosie’s studio the first time and talked about quitting jobs, starting new careers, time, commitments, self-preservation, privacy, opting in and out, withdrawal, money, presentation/preservation of the self, humour or lack of and trauma.
We met again at my flat because I was expecting a delivery because I can’t stop buying things since I stopped making things. I am wondering when this will become an issue. Maybe it already is.
We had tea and some raisin biscuits and talked about buffering. This was an idea that I really liked. Frustration. Stasis, not moving, stuck, redundant, round and round, movement, non-movement: feminism. I can’t paint women anymore I always make them too sexy.
We talked about going somewhere to have a conversation where we could be buffering. Exercise bikes? Rapids at the swimming pool, dodgems, roller coasters. What would happen to your mind when your body is stuck in a perpetual-going-nowhere-ness?
We met again a third time and I drove us in my new car to Victoria Park on Glasgow’s west side. I said to Rosie this name makes me conflate two places as I used to live next to Victoria Park in Bristol and now I live next to Queen’s Park in Glasgow, and every time I have thought about this meeting I get these parks mixed up in my mind and we are going to neither. I have just found out at the age of 34 I am dyslexic so this now kind of explains these kinds of linguistic and visual transpositions.
In Rosie’s performance at House for an Art Lover (HFAAL) she used architectural transposition to build up one imagined building from many. Our bodies were situated in one faux Mackintosh (replica), which feels and exists as a corporate wedding/ meeting room as well as a tourist destination, whilst our minds were travelling to the late (great) Glasgow Art School (genuine Mackintosh), Glasgow Women’s Library and to the Winchester House in San Jose, as well as many others…
I felt like there was some kind of horror happening in this performance. Low key horror. There were buildings and there were women and there were a lot of unpaid or unrecognised or just plain obliterated actions. Lifetimes of actions.
It’s like a low key anger, a passive aggressive anger. It’s an anger that builds up day by day, with the smile becoming thinner and more stretched across the face. I get it, I feel it too.
We talked about obedience, people pleasing, doing something because you know you can… An ex-boyfriend once said to me ‘I don’t know why you are complaining about that application, you know you will get it.’ He was right I did get it, but he didn’t need to be such a jealous little shit about it.
We talked a lot about gender. Of course. She talked about inertia and I talked about tiredness. Exhaustion, in fact.
I have withdrawn from two major influences in my life: men and art, and the outcome has been life affirming.
Leaving abusive relationships takes a looooonnnnnggggggg time.
Imagine a female art practice as a criminal case: building up evidence over months and months. Making it watertight.
We talked about the law a lot. About court cases, about courtrooms.
Grainy black and white CCTV footage of McDonalds will forever haunt me. Her hair extensions had been pulled off her head and they hung in lumps down her bare back. Sat in a cubicle on her own, waiting for the police.
It is Halloween today. The children in my school wore the most amazing costumes. I helped one boy get his hands into his Grim Reaper gloves. The gloves had extra-long creepy fingers that were filled at the ends with padding, tapering off into a point which trailed down by his sides. As I helped him pull them on, I could smell the sweat rising from under his synthetic dress. Pungent! Which was also our word of the week.
After a few minutes’ walk, I found myself at the edge of the forest. As I stepped onto the path, I noticed the old, twisted trees reaching out and cockroaches scuttling through the autumn leaves searching for food. In the distance, I could hear fast feet running through the trees. The crunching leaves beneath my feet lay scattered on the stony path. Suddenly I caught the scent of dying embers from last night’s campfire and the damp, warm, pungent scent of earth gently drifting up to my nostrils.
I felt my heart racing like a cheetah! As the sun just started to peep through the branches, I could almost taste the fear and the smell of damp earth.
I was playing with the magnetic shapes with TC and VM and you came over and joined us and sat next to me. I asked you, ‘would you like to like to play?’ and you stared at me as if you did not understand.
I asked you if you would like to build a house with magnetic shapes and you, again, looked like you did not understand. I showed you the house I had built from magnetic shapes and you looked interested, I offered you the house and you took it.
You seemed unsure of what to do, so I offered you a square shape from the magnetic shapes and said, ‘do you want this?’, you looked excited and took it.
You said, ‘what, what, what is it’ and I said, ‘there are cards here that show you how to make Humpty Dumpty and if you pick one you can follow it.’ I pointed to the card and you nodded and pointed at one of the Humpty Dumpties. You said, ‘that one’ and I said, ‘yes good let’s make that one, what do we need?’ You said, ‘don’t, don’t know’, I said, ‘what colour are his trousers’, pointing to his trousers on the picture and you said, ‘blue’, I said, ‘good yes blue, can you find some blue trousers from the box?’ you nodded and began to look for some blue trousers.
I gave you Humpty Dumpty’s body and you tried to attach the trousers, you were struggling a bit to get it the right way up and put the stick through the hole. I said, ‘which way up do you think his trousers go?’ you turned them and said, ‘this way’ and I said, ‘yes well done! Can you attach the stick?’ You were still struggling so I said, ‘look where the stick is and look where the hole is and try to line them up” and I showed you what I meant and you did it and smiled at me, ‘great job!’ I said.
I then said, ‘what colour are his shoes?’ you said, ‘red’ and I said, ‘yes, can you find them?’. You found them and stuck them on to the body and I said, ‘good work, what next? You said ‘his bow’ and I said, ‘what colour is it’ and you said, ‘blue’ and I said, ‘can you find one?’ and you said, ‘yes’. You found it and attached it more easily and I said, ‘well done you are getting really good and attaching his clothes now!’ and you smiled. ‘What is left?’ I asked, and you said, ‘hair’ and I said, ‘good, what colour is his hair?’ and you said, ‘yellow’ I said, ‘yes can you find some yellow hair for him?’ and you said, ‘yes’. You found and attached the hair. I said, ‘can you stand him up now?’ you tried and said, ‘yes’, I said, ‘shall we stand him on the table and we can sing the Humpty Dumpty song?’ you said, ‘yes!’ and looked excited by smiling more and jumping up quickly.
You put Humpty Dumpty on the edge of the table and I started singing, ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall…’ you joined in quietly, when we got to, ‘Humpty Dumpty had a big fall’ I said, ‘are you going to push him off?’ and you nodded and smiled and pushed him off and I said, ‘Oh no! Humpty Dumpty has fallen and hurt himself, shall we keep singing the song?’ and you nodded, so we sang, ‘all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again!’ I said, ‘oh no, poor Humpty. Shall we put him back together again?’ and you said, ‘yes’ and picked up the pieces and reattached them.
There is a security guard who works on my housing estate. He only seems to work between around 5pm and 10pm. He walks around the flats and the gardens in his hi-vis jacket and he has to check in electronically at different blocks across the estate.
Chantel Akerman? Link to Rosie, domestic burdens, rituals, isolation, withdrawal, female relationships.
Two close female friendships ending last year?
Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Camp hysteria, pop colour, Carry On style madness. Antonio Banderas is very young and beautiful wearing high waisted puffy trousers.
I am reading a few books at the moment by a celebrated male author. He is American, white, middle class, middle-aged. I had my reservations before I began but I was curious. Mixing reality and fiction, playing with language, voice and identity–👍.
Reading his writing I think was triggering for me. I continually flip-flopped between thinking he was charming, hilarious, smart and self-deprecating to thinking he was smug, arrogant, manipulative, abusive.
A deeply insecure writer writing about a deeply insecure writer. How do men circumvent their own extinction? IRONY. Knowing that you are a dick does not stop you from being a dick. Joking about how much of a prick you are doesn’t stop you from being a prick.
He had certainly embodied the worst and maybe the best aspects of contemporary masculinity. Sure he was sensitive, self-aware and crushingly self-critical but he was also a narcissistic megalomaniac–is this not how sociopaths are born?
Ben Big Balls: ‘That’s Hannah, she’s lost’
Don’t be suspicious, don’t be suspicious, don’t be suspicious, don’t be suspicious (TikTok video)
Watching a big ol’ male artist sit in a lecture by Nina Power on the use of female voices in public space, earnestly taking notes in his little pad and then walking outside and continuing to be one of the biggest 🍆 in Glasgow.
Meeting a WSM who works in environmental policy and him telling me he is jealous of Greta Thunberg. A middle-aged man jealous of a female 16-year-old.
This is the kind of exhaustion I am talking about. This is my inertia.
I got a book about dealing with anxiety from the library and it said if you are dealing with a traumatic event try to imagine it on the TV replaying and then try to imagine you are standing at the edge of the room watching it replaying on the TV but every time it loops it becomes more fuzzy and harder to define. The edges become blurred and the sound becomes muffled. You feel yourself moving further and further away from the image as it becomes more and more vague.
Hauntings, building, layering. Richard Serra banning aerial photography of his work. Serra’s sculpture killing his art handler. Other sculptures killing people? Something to do with the physical experience versus the image or the bird’s-eye view. Something being revealed slowly and seeing something in totality. Men trying to deny the total view…control. Piranesi. Eisenstein–madness in architecture.
Rupturing. The circular movement of the not moving, the stuck, the repetitive. A limbo, between heaven and hell? A tension, a possibility? A fruitful state, poised for action (the bikers) or a freeze frame of horror, a PTSD of a repeating nightmare? How to break a cycle and have a rupture?
Piercing of the skin. Eternal organs. It really is so easy to stab someone.
This week a young man threw a child off the viewing platform at Tate Modern. The child fell 15 floors to the roof of the gallery below.
Miss, Miss, Miss. Can I tell you a joke? Yeh. Knock knock. Who’s there? Lewis. Lewis who? Lewis Chalmers.
Maybe reference Mihnea Mircan: https://vimeo.com/114016874—around 41 mins he starts discussing the Lucas Cranach St Catherine painting.
I love Carol Rhodes paintings. I have loved them for a very long time and I think I always will. Creepy, comforting flatness.
She was a fan of the 50 Shades of Grey movies and had profiles on BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance and submission) websites.
After a few minutes’ walk, I found myself at the edge of the forest. As I stepped onto the path, I noticed the fading light and the giant, gnarled trees blocking my vision. In the distance, I could hear the faint sounds of branches snapping and the sound of an owl flitting from branch to branch. Suddenly I caught the scent of morning. I felt watched by someone as I made my way through the forest.
As the sun just started to peep through the branches, I could almost taste the fear, the pain in my legs.
A story about a boy—when his Mum was a child she was in the car with her Dad and someone came to the window and slit his throat.
Talk about Rosie’s way of making things as a curator, as a facilitator, administrator, putting things in motion and standing back. Labour—the library work? The camel, the crop circle. The professional. It is careful. I want to be clear: the work is very careful.
The lecture as a form of too much information. An overload. An excess. Excess as a strategy for disruption? When the court case begins to fall apart because the jury gets confused by the volume of evidence. Sifting through, trying to locate what is important, what is defining. Refusal. A refusal to be understood. To be eloquent, to be succinct, to be
Could you repeat that again? We didn’t quite understand your accent. I have told you before, you need to speak more slowly and only answer the questions that you are being asked.
I think Rosie is having her own moment of rupture at the moment. She is breaking from her own stasis. Disrupting herself through quiet, deliberate movements. Slowly but assertively creating a new space.
A quiet refusal. I would prefer not to.
A woman on my course thinks I am posh. She says it to me to wind me up. I hate it. I said I’m not posh I am just English. Poshness is relative I guess. A boy in secondary school used to call me posh too. He was very small and I was already one of the tallest people in my year. Every time I walked past him he would hiss posh bitch at me.
I am sat in one of those corporate rooms within a University where the lights turn themselves off automatically. I am the only person here and I’m not moving. Every 5 minutes I am in darkness again.
Words that are commonly misspelt: chauffer, cementry, assiscination, agression, argument, completly, ecstacy, farinheit, honoury, harass.
Communicative law is when two things can swap places and have the same meaning. Associative law is when three things can kind of swap places but you need to use brackets.
Your film has always reminded me of the fur of a cat very close up. Something in the way the wheat moves is very animalistic. I always liked that. My other feeling is that it must have taken a long time.
I haven’t seen you in ages. It’s been two weeks since I saw you and that is a really long time.
Hannah James is an artist, writer and primary school teacher based in Glasgow. She makes work on her own and with others to explore how intimacy, vulnerability and power affect all relationships. Her recent work has taken the form of writing, performance, film, drawing and textiles. Presentations and publishing includes: Visions, 2020; Mutters, 2018, New Victoria Gardens, Glasgow; ‘Among other things, I have taken up smoking’, 2017, Tent, Rotterdam; ‘An ear, severed, listens’, 2017, ChertLudde, Berlin.
Rosie O’Grady is an artist based in Glasgow. She was awarded the Glasgow Open Bursary for Glasgow International 2018, presenting her first solo exhibition ‘May Day’. She performed ‘The House that Spirits Built’ at House for an Art Lover in September 2019. Group exhibitions and projects include Mutters at New Victoria Gardens, Glasgow, 2018; What’s Love Got To Do With It? at Art-Cade Gallery, Marseille, 2018 and The Driver’s Seat at Cubitt Gallery, London, 2018
Text commissioned by Talbot Rice Gallery and edited by Daisy Lafarge as part of the Talbot Rice Residents programme https://www.trg.ed.ac.uk/residents-1
All images courtesy Hannah James