Wednesday, September 27, 2006



We’re here in Los Angeles. I wasn’t looking forward to L.A. much but now we’re here I really like it. Maybe as Heather says it’s because it’s full on America and it sure is. We’ve travelled down Santa Monica Boulevard, fought our way through the frights and visions of Venice Beach and eaten burgers in Hollywood Highlands Mall. We’ve put our feet in Humphrey Bogart’s feet and our hands in Bruce Willis’ hands. He’s got small hands that man. I’ve got way bigger hands than him but am nowhere near as famous. Somethin’s going on there. We’ve driven past the Hollywood bowl and through UCLA frat house territory. One of these was pumping gallons of water out of a first floor window to fill up a smashed up truck on the lawn below for a beach party. (This would make sense in Birmingham but here there are of course miles and miles and miles of perfectly good beach just down the road).

I say down the road but these are long roads. There’s a lot of driving in L.A. and there ain’t much perambulating. We have walked a bit, but it doesn’t get you very far. Walking is banned in some neighbourhoods. Violators are prosecuted. Move away from your shoes … don’t even think about it … get off your feet and into the car. One of these long roads the 10 lane 405 looms past our hotel. Open your window and you could be standing in the middle of it. Our hotel though is swanky but also provides a little taste of home – it looks like a taller version of The Rotunda and lights up at night like Tyseley Waste Incinerator. But Tyseley Waste Incinerator hasn’t got a pool, more of a pit, and isn’t just off Sunset Boulevard, on the edges of Bel Air and Belmont. (No offence to the Small Heath Highway).

We’ve been making full use of the Hotel Shuttle bus which will take you anywhere within 3 miles of the hotel. The last couple of nights our driver has been Brian. Brian is great. He’s got some good stories, mainly about celebrities who’ve let ‘emselves go and catering. He showed us the ‘In n Out’ burger restaurant. All they sell is burgers. You go in, you get a burger, you go out again. Simple as that. As Brian says – you want a fish burger, forget it; you want Chicken nuggets, you’re in the wrong joint.
There’s a guy in there, his job is just doing the buns - all day, the buns. There’s another guy, he’s frying onions all day - they smell him a mile off when he goes home. Another one he does the tomatoes, another he’s flipping burgers all day. Brian tells us he used to work in a restaurant. He would be steaming the hot dogs, frisking the fries, frying the corn dogs, all kinds of stuff. And flipping the burgers of course. It sounds like a great restaurant. It served a double banana split (not one banana split but two) in a wooden pig trough. If you ate it you got a ribbon. You got a ribbon and then you got a fanfare and a drum roll. Then everyone in the restaurant would oink at you. So there’d be drumming and oinkin, drumming and oinkin, drumming and oinkin. And then you got a certificate saying “I made a pig of myself today!” He was also telling us about the zoo. This restaurant served a ‘zoo’. A zoo is a big old bowl of ice cream, with all the toppings, every topping. It’s for kids parties and is supposed to serve about 10 kids. One night three guys came in – “they were all red in the eye, they’d been smoking something”. They demanded a zoo. Each. Brian said, “Come on … you guys are high … these are supposed to feed 10 kids … on their birthday” “We wanna zoo man. Come on … we wanna zoo … we wanna ribbon. Just give us a zoo man” Brian managed to talk to them down a bit and persuaded them to share two. One of the guys though, he was determined – he wanted one all to himself. And he ate it. Brian was impressed. “I wanna ribbon man. Where’s my ribbon. I ate the zoo man!” Brian went to get him a ribbon. He figured he’d earned it. When he came back to pin it on him and get the drum out he found that the guy had filled the bowl up again. “He barfed that zoo straight back into the bowl. Man. Can you believe that?He ate it mind. Just couldn’t keep it down”. The restaurant also served a six foot sandwich on a log but we got back to the hotel then. Tonight Brian told us about a pick up truck he’d seen flipped up on it’s tail, “like the leaning tower of Pizza, but the leaning tower of truck” Brian still can’t figure how he got it there. I hope Brian will drive us again soon.

The show opened today to enthusiastic responses from the Skirball faithful today. Tuesday seems to be the day for the older visitor. They came to see us and then a free showing of Jaws. Well it is L.A.

POSTSCRIPT: This entry is way too long. But this is a big city.


Monday, September 25, 2006



On Friday Ana and I interviewed candidates for a part-time temporary position processing the documentation thrown up by five terms of work in Frankley and helping coordination of a celebratory even showcasing the work of those schools in the New Year.

We were in the fortunate position of having a shortlist of six people who, it turned out, could all have done the job well. It was fascinating to see the possibilities of the job morphing in the presence of each candidate. We got caught between two conflicting visions, the experienced, questioning, thoughtful possibility presented by Carolyn or the sparky intelligence and enthusiasm presented by Jess. In a deft twist we hope to have made these conflicting visions complimentary by employing Jess but booking some of Carolyn’s time as an advisor/curator.

Meanwhile, Jake has been grafting away preparing two City Adventure Days, early research for our outing to Stoke next month and the nitty-gritty of Thursday’s encounter with 58 staff from Castle Vale School in Birmingham. Today was mostly spent labelling and stuffing envelopes with instructions for Teachers.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006


The End Of Glamour

Wholesale Portland open wi-fi helped me stay on top of things and with Charlotte in charge everything works more smoothly when I’m a couple of time zones away anyway; unable to stick my oar in.

Credit is due on the home front. On 9th September, whilst we were sleeping, Ana and Liz were constructing Fruit and Veg Cities with Kids at Artsfest alongside Ed and Kier who were supervising Take It! the self-portrait project. Meanwhile, in Norfolk Graeme was leading a kind of Stan Next Generation knocking out Of All The People In All The World: UK.

Feet back on the ground. Jetlag rendered meaningless by Childlag. Tuesday and Wednesday were office catch-up. Thursday was spent in Frankley helping Graeme and the High School kids shape their Rice Show. On Friday, before performing the show, those kids who are joining us in Leipzig met the Lord Mayor and we all had our photographs taken; a brazen attempt to get a picture in the Local Paper. That evening, later than hoped, Graeme and heft 1,000kg of rice into a transit van and drive it across town. With the Goods Lift out of action we park-up miles off and start the long office haul. Glamour, such as it was, stops here.


Saturday, September 09, 2006


Lecturing and Nodding Off

As you can see by clinking on the link below the show is up and running smoothly.

Portland has impressed us with its cultural scene. Our opening night was a First Thursday when galleries are open free late into the night, as a result the streets were busy and every other unit was revealed to be a gallery of some kind. The Pacific Northwest College of Art is a wonderfully open and engaging place to work and everyone is curious and voluble. My lecture was packed and seemed to go smoothly, honed has it had been though hours of sleeplessness. It's been described on the festival blog as both 'scattershot' and 'wonderful', so take your pick, what I really need for the set is 'wonderfully scattershot'.

I missed the opening massed guitars event in the City Centre but Charlotte I raced to the river with Robin to see a floating sculpture created by one of the College’s lecturers for the Festival. Unfortunately the river was so wide that the sculpture was lost in the distance and, whilst we could vaguely hear some text emanating from it, it was difficult to tell if what was supposed to happen had happed. This disappointment was mitigated by seeing the huge central section of the Hawthorne Bridge, after much flashing of lights and many Tannoy warnings, rising vertically using a vast counterweight system.

Last night Charlotte, Heather, Karen and I caught the Free Tram across town to the University’s well appointed Lincoln Hall to see Vivarium Studio/Philippe Quesne perform a show called The Itching of the Wings whose extremely low key performance aesthetic combined with a warm venue to leave me in head nodding snooze mode. It’s difficult to critique a show you’ve failed to stay awake through. Ultimately I feel responsibility in this matter must be shared.



Thursday, September 07, 2006


Time To Weigh Rice

Jetlag still has its grip. For a second successive morning I'm up and awake at four. As a result the lecture I am giving on Saturday will be as well prepared as any I've ever done. This is no bad thing as, to my shock, flicking through the TBA festival programmeI discovered there's only one other lecture, that's by the Festival Director. He's free and I'm $10 bottom wack. The pressure is on!

Yesterday we made good progress, we got the space cleared and ready, then laid out seven chunky stats.

The Population of Spain.
Customers of McDonalds world wide each day.
Victims of The Holocaust.
Everyone who is HIV positive in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Everyone in the USA without Health Insurance
biggest of them all
Everyone who tuned in to watch the last episode of Cheers.

It's very instructive being here with this show. There's the sense abroad that this country is insular and rarely looks beyond its own boundaries. Now we're here and the place is so vast and exciting and with such a busy recent history that even we are struggling to see beyond its boundaries. This challenge, to open things out, should make doing the show even more fun than usual.

We open to night at five. It's time to weigh rice.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Jetlag Portland

So the heavy touring is really underway, images and reports from Norwich say Of All The People In All The World is going well there as part of the Science Festival. Jake and Graeme are there with the new recruits.

Our trip to Portland started inauspiciously with a taxi driver lost off Birmingham’s middle ring road. Marvelling at a lack of local knowledge remarkable even by Birmingham minicab drivers I talked him in, in real-time from Highgate to Wheatsheaf Road. Only when he arrived did it emerge he was from Heathrow and his Sat Nav had bust. Fortunately that was the only glitch, we glided through all kinds of security and customs and passport control, rocking up in Portland at 15:00 Eastern Standard Time (or whatever it is) 23:00 GMT. We hung on to try and blag the jet lag, a delicious salad and beautiful beer, by the time we’d been up 26 hours straight we called it quits and turned in sleep the sleep of the righteously knackered.

Pacific Northwest College of Art is a fine place and the show is going to work brilliantly in their main foyer / gallery space. The atmosphere is lovely, reminiscent of the Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver up the coast, we should be in for a fun time. The staff here and the PICA (Portland Institute of Contemporary Art) crew are all friendly and efficient. The only people who can stuff it up now are ourselves.


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