Clayton Eshleman: THE WHOLE ART

The Whole Art Clayton Eshleman The Whole Art is a book of essays homaging the work of the American poet/essayist/translator/editor Clayton Eshleman.

It is brilliantly edited by Stuart Kendall and superbly produced by Black Widow Press.

Contributors include James Hillman, Eliot Weinberger, Michael McClure and Rachel Blau DuPlessis.

Having met Clayton Eshleman in London at the Nancy Spero exhibition at the Serpentine, having later interviewed him for The Wolf, having corresponded with him regularly, and having published some of his poems in International Times, I was invited by Stuart Kendall to contribute an essay to the book. It was suggested I write about Eshleman as a political poet, which was a good brief for me. Eshleman’s engagement is one of the things I admire most about his work, as well as his eye for the shamanistic.

My piece is called ‘The Outright Lie”: Clayton Eshleman and the Rules of Engagement. It discusses the problems faced by political poets, with reference to Blake’s America a Prophecy and Robert Duncan’s ‘Up Rising’.

As an old Beat, it was gratifying in the notes on contributors section to see my blurb just below that of Michael McClure, who has contributed a poem of homage called ‘Smile of the Beast’ which is dedicated to Eshleman.

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Photo: Julie Goldsmith

http://www.claytoneshleman.com/books/the-whole-art/

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OPEN LETTER TO ARTANGEL 2

First published in International Times on Dec 21 2013

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Dear James Lingwood and Mike Morris

Thanks for taking the time and trouble to respond to my open letter, which you did on Dec 20, just before news that the Artangel proposal had been turned down by Southwark Council.

Thanks also for the photo you sent by way of explaining the thinking behind the project’s controversial shape. I quote: “Firstly Mike Nelson’s proposal is to build a ziggurat rather than a pyramid. The ziggurat form makes direct reference to the Jespersen system used to construct the Heygate Estate, as can be seen from the attached photograph taken during construction in 1973, as well as other associations.”

Fascinating as this is, I feel it is disingenuous. For starters, a ziggurat is a pyramid. Secondly, the general public would not have thought of it as a ziggurat but as a pyramid. Finally, your own application to Southwark Council twice referred to the artwork as a ‘pyramid’. At no point in the 8-page document was it referred to as a ‘ziggurat’. I quote: “The physical appearance of the structure will be a pyramid.”

The problem with pyramids is their hierarchical and freemasonic connotations. It is well known that much of our urban architecture and engineering is created by people who also happen to be freemasons and that they reflect freemasonic interests in ‘sacred geometry’. Cleopatra’s Needle, for instance, was erected by freemasons; its obelisk form includes the pyramid shape at the apex. Hawksmoor, architect and mason, used obelisks and pyramid forms. It happens all the time in all major cities. The most glaring modern example is the pyramid at the top of 1 Canada Square in Canary Wharf with its glow-in-the-dark ‘Eye’. The Shard is also thought by some to resemble an elongated obelisk-cum-pyramid form.

The practice seems habitual, and the building trade has always been connected with freemasonry, not to mention its many prototypes throughout history.

Some of this architectural engineering is beautiful, but it also a way of colonising space, of subliminally advertising, and ultimately of sending out messages about power and influence, wealth and ownership. To use the demotic, much of this type of building – such as John Soane’s headquarters of the Freemasons’ Grand Lodge – is simply saying ‘Fuck off’.

That in your Artangel logo, the ‘A’ is substituted by a chevron, suggests that you too are interested in sacred geometry.

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The chevron is also suggested in the Paolozzi statue of William Blake’s ‘Newton’ in the courtyard of the British Library – in the form of a compass – which is also seen as a provocatively masonic public artwork. In many cases these masonic symbols are erected with public money. The masons are one of the thriftiest organisations of all. Rather than spending their own money on these projects they prefer to siphon off funding from various governmental-cum-charitable sources.

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Thank you also for letting me know that Lend Lease were not sponsoring your project. I wonder who was?

Of course, sacred geometry is a wonderful subject, and not the sole intellectual property of any secret society. But Egyptian kitsch is everywhere. and it arouses suspicion whenever a new edifice goes up. It is a modern cultural meme – Sinclair/Ackroyd/Moore etc. – that such architecture has a malignant effect on its environs. You did not consider this.

I’m personally relieved to hear the project has been turned down. Southwark Council have clearly chickened out of what would have become a cause celebre for art-activists, and an expensive pain-in-the-arse for local government.

I wonder what your project’s ‘educational and learning’ dimension would have been? You say you have no idea of what I meant by ‘aesthetic airbrushing’. Perhaps aesthetic ‘brushing under the carpet’ would have been a better metaphor. There is one story that matters above all others when it comes to Heygate, and that is the dispossession of its ex-residents. The Artangel project was not designed to tell that story and its net effect would have been to divert public attention away from it and onto something else. That might have been its initial attraction to Southwark Council with whom you have had a prolonged conversation about the Heygate Pyramid; but they could clearly feel the tide was turning and that the game was up on their see-through ruse.

Your reply was arrogant in that it welcomed further discussion only after the pyramid had been erected, but your timing was unfortunate in that the project was cancelled almost as soon as you’d written to me, literally within office hours. I have not sent this letter to you as an email. I am publishing it online for all interested parties to see, including yourselves. The public should have a say in matters of public art, and in this case it did have a say. If Artangel had listened to the many protestors and withdrawn the proposal, the organisation would have won plaudits. Ambition overrode sensitivity. Artangel has done great things, but the Heygate Pyramid was a bad idea of Spinal Tap proportions and has been deservedly laughed out of town.

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Yours sincerely,

Niall McDevitt

http://southwarknotes.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/southwark-dump-heygate-pyramid/

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OPEN LETTER TO ARTANGEL

First published in International Times on Dec 17 2013

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Dear Artangel

I’ve read with concern about your proposal for a new work of art on the site of Heygate Estate.

It’s not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with art exploring local areas that have gone through such a traumatizing experience as mass eviction.

Heygate, after it had been almost fully emptied, was turned into an imaginative playground by a group called Urban Forest. Where ‘regeneration’ is often a word used by developers as a euphemism for ‘social cleansing’, Urban Forest offered a genuine vista of regeneration by planting trees on the estate and growing food. At one of their many in situ events, I read a poem based on the depopulation of the mansions and the artist Richard Wentworth gave an inspirational talk. Many other artists and intellectuals have been drawn to Heygate. It has become a symbol of the social cleansing that is happening everywhere, a symbol of social injustice.

To object to a work of art must be a carefully considered act, as otherwise one may be allying oneself with a long line of philistines, ignoramuses and spoilsports.

However, to create a work of art – especially a public work of art that is to be associated in the public mind with such an important issue as Heygate – one really has to know what’s at stake.

My objection is twofold: 1) the idea of turning one of the emptied mansion blocks into a pyramid is surely ill-conceived. Not only is the pyramid a symbol of hierarchy, it is also a symbol associated with freemasonry, a secret activity which is widespread among local councils and in many areas of the construction trade. What happened between the poor residents of the Heygate Estate and Southwark Council/Lend Lease was nothing less than a battle. It was a battle decisively won by the council and the developers. Listen to the voice of a former resident whose parents lived in the very block that is to be shape-changed from rectangle to pyramid:

“We were the first people in, at the start of 1974,” John Colfer said. “My father made the home a home, fitted new floors, everything. My parents never planned to leave the estate. So when you’re talking about using those same materials to make a pyramid, you just think: what is there to show that this was a well-loved home? These are our memories being turned into an artwork.”

2) that the proposal might be sponsored by the developer in question, Lend Lease, is also very worrying. Artangel has met objections to the scheme by claiming that it does not wish to take sides, that the work of art will be neutral. The thing is: if the work of art is sponsored by the winning side of the battle – the wealthy powerful side – it cannot be neutral. A Lend Lease sponsored pyramid on the site of Heygate will be a monument not to the former residents of Heygate but to the people who evicted them. Aesthetic airbrushing at best, crass triumphalism at worst. As it happens, the Southwark/Lend Lease deal has been discredited by a leaked council report as one of the most corrupt land deals in living memory: http://betterelephant.org/blog/2013/04/09/report-uncovers-corruption-at-the-elephant/

By a sheer co-incidence, my own imaginatively flighty poem on Heygate from 2012 includes the line: “Did you know the anti-pyramidal city had been built by gypsies riding on Indian elephants?”

I wish to make clear that I have no vendetta against a prestigious arts organization such as Artangel or an outstanding artist such as Mike Nelson. It is the idea that is objectionable. I appeal to the artists and angels behind the proposal to withdraw it.

No one doubts that the project will be artistic, but it is highly unlikely to be angelic. Artangel has not, in this case, given enough thought to the suffering of the victims of social cleansing or to the symbolism of the pyramid.

Yours sincerely,

Niall McDevitt

http://www.peoplesrepublicofsouthwark.co.uk/hold-news/news/3271-the-heygate-pyramid

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/12/heygate-pyramid-london-estate-evicted-condemn-artwork

Photo: Max Reeves

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AN ADDRESS TO SCOTLAND

Originally posted on POETOPOGRAPHY:

AN ADDRESS TO SCOTLAND

AN ADDRESS TO SCOTLAND

Scotland you belong to your painted people, a people that paints itself, a people
that paints its own fates. The pictures on the skin of the ancient arms and torso
of Scotland are pictures of a naked unimaginable wildness coming before
and standing before an unimaginative bureaucracy in a suit.

They picture your interglacial landings and Ice Age axes, your boats of wood and bone, your drystone roundhouses and wheelhouses, your chambered cairns for the dead.

They picture your blue-coloured warriors overspilling the giant walls of Antoninus
and Hadrian – a two-hurdle sprint – to take on Empire.

They picture your Alexanders, Constantines, Duncans, kings that fought against
a succession of overlords who sought to tax, burn, rape and kill you into submission,
an abjectivity without end.

Always from below there have been onslaughts and outrages, incursions and invasions; always from below there have been subterfuges…

View original 97 more words

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CHATTERTON’S DEATHBED

Thomas Chatterton Brooke St 2014-08-04

Chatterton died on August 24 1770 on Brooke Street, Holborn,  and was buried in a paupers graveyard in nearby Shoe Lane. The graveyard and his grave are lost.

Photo: Valli Rao

 

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THE BRAVEHEART YES CABARET

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SATURDAY AUGUST 23

THE BRAVEHEART YES CABARET is a commemorative gathering on the site of William Wallace’s execution on August 23, 1305, to allow Londoners to show their support for Scottish Independence with a month to go before the vote.

It is an outdoor event and open forum, but there is no platform for nay-sayers. This will be a magical antidote to all the south-of-the-border unionism we’ve been over-exposed to in recent times.

Poetry, music, oratory, history etc. Scottish artists are especially welcome.

The William Wallace Monument, Bartholomews Hospital, West Smithfield, EC1 (Farringdon tube). Free.

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Image: Andy Hillhouse courtesy of The William Wallace Society

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DEATH

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sun hits the wall
sun hits the wall at the eleventh hour
you’ve been here 
but once before

not the prettiest walls
but they’ve protected the real
for a hundred years, red-brown
as blood and earth

the voice of the Asian
Down’s Syndrome boy
hollers
pure as a horn

you’re in the east now, my brother,
the west has seen its final sunset,
the city is baked
from frozen

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Poetry: Niall McDevitt

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Photography: Max Reeves

 

(N.B. This poem was posted on August 12, William Blake’s death day)

 

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