Collisions and Collusions

I wrote the following text for a group exhibition at Catalyst Arts, Belfast. The exhibition included artists who collaborate in both art and life: Kim Coleman and Jenny Hogarth, Tommy Grace and Kate Owens and Ortonandon. Here’s a link to Catalyst Arts fantastic website and archive featuring images from the exhibition >>> Go see…

Here is a PDF of the exhibition handout Together – Catalyst Arts


Collisions and collusions

There is nothing I can tell you to furnish your experience. This is not information. Our minds are already meshed, communication without speech, commonplace thoughts pooled and identities merged. But people are often suspicious of alliances, questioning their function, feeling excluded, always seeking a singular, doubting that you complete me. You are here with me now in an unwitting collaboration. Together momentarily on the page, until we go our separate ways. Then we’ll have walls and space.

Look out of the window; you notice someone else has done the same. Smile at the boy, put your hand in your pocket and take your place in the room. Point out some of my mistakes with your critical thrust.

Sitting here in the smokeless bar waiting for more people to arrive, I feel an urgency alien to me. Maybe they won’t all turn up, as disillusioned as I am discredited. Three of us would suffice, each connected by a date and a time. They knew that we had a plan, decisions had to make, pamphlets and posters to print, something to start. Time passed slowly and a third person entered the scene. Shaking her umbrella inconsiderately she soon noticed all eyes fixed on her. Stray rain droplets dispersed throughout the room, forcing us to reflect on what we had escaped by coming here. I smiled and glanced around at the others trying desperately to register their thoughts on our new arrival. For us this gathering is a refuge from the pointless bustle of the outside. We don’t meet often and when we do it is brief. The proceedings are not always smooth and there are those that seem fraught with doubt. I felt this uncertainty as he focused on me with blank eyes; he was somewhere else, lost in pointless musings about what people thought of him. He was formless and would rebuild himself perpetually. So that when he takes his seat with the rest of the gang, although happily out of the driving rain, his presence distorts the atmosphere. As I catch your eye you look away. Dipped down and deadened. Dialogue between us is a bit thin on the ground and we have begun to enact curious rituals using various static media. Yet our relationship persists.

This particular gathering of people was not united by chance; instead each relationship based on a web of connections. It was a coalition of unlikely bedfellows. It is true that we have things in common although this wasn’t the thing that brought us together. We only become something through each other. Nobody understands it and this is our strength. So the conversation ebbs and flows, but the distance between you and me always seems to close. I think I notice you listening to two conversations at once. The music is ever so slightly tinny but pulsating so that every thought that crystallised in my mind, including the very thing I want to communicate, shatters on each thin beat. Whilst collecting my thoughts you have drifted elsewhere. Vague sounds fall away to background noise; people interrupt us and we eventually get back on track. Now is not the time you say, but this is our place. Someone is crouching next to you, her ill-fitting court shoes creasing severely at the toe. Showing no signs of pain she moves ever closer, whispering something unknown into your ear. After about an hour of conversation she knew that the seed was planted. You looked so beautifully agreeable, and as I catch myself peering into a mirror-less frame; it occurs to me that I wear the same look. We quietly left the smokeless bar, careful to erase any trace of our meeting and fell out onto the smoke-filled street.

Rapidly and in unison the people decide on the following. We would meet at the roller disco. The situation set and the trajectory between us aligned. Imagine this for a moment; figures moving freely around a space, linked arms, flailing or deliberately colliding, gliding without constraint in unforced motion. A temporary railing frames the room, supporting people whilst fencing them in. Images project onto the walls over pasted billposters, splayed out from the center like a voyeuristic mirror ball capable of reflecting something other than light or images of itself. At this stage, this stage is also the orbit around which we gravitate; a centrifugal forcing us apart and holding us together. As I hold on tightly, not quite daring to let go of the railing, you skate off without so much as a backward glance to take part in the roller-ride action. A large group watches over this spectacle from the plastic seats, all of us equal in contemplation. Now we are getting somewhere, back to the vital bit just before something happens. That night we banded together in various collaborative ways, most of these relationships gathering strength with a little time: a family, some friendship and ample fidelity. A spirit of togetherness forged through intuition and fights, love and rivalry. We held out a steady hand to the collective other and reassemble ourselves. I take my time clumsily on the floor; the tempo of experience measured only by the speed of my skating. What is rendered in space is left open-ended so that all our future activities engineered in an attempt to destroy boredom, or just endure boredom or just enjoy boredom.

It is all too easy to become complacent, imagining that you are always already waiting for me, telepresent in the midst of a sheet of paper, some nodes and a screen. The solitary becomes the sedentary. We could meet in the smokeless bar; we could meet on the page, but let’s meet in the roller rink, the social sensorium.