Above, my submission to BOMB Magazine’s ‘Looking Back on 2017′ feature, asking for responses to the question: “what films, music, books, artworks helped you process 2017?” Because that question is fun, and because I enjoy these exercises, these minor documentations for past and present selves, some more variations on that theme. Things across the year that I have enjoyed engaging with, or that have been helpful in some way, or simply pleasurable, my year-bullets, and then, right at the bottom, three favourites from the year, across all sorts of categories. People talk about these End of Year ramblings as offering closure on the year. If that is so, by now I’ve stretched 2017 out and wrung everything out of it.
Going to exhibitions, looking at things without any expectation and making little demand of them. Walking about, taking it in. Making idiotic observations with friends. Two big shows at The Barbican. The Japanese House, a mix of video, images, drawings and models, all based around Japanese architecture, upstairs, and a life-sized home to walk about in below. More recent, the Jean-Michel Basqiuat show Boom For Real, a hodgepodge of the artist’s work and life that was a bit mis-curated, but interesting regardless. Two of equal scale at the Tate Modern, Soul of a Nation, black art in America from the ‘60s on, and 2017, a really well put together selective retrospective of Wolfgang Tillmans, (yep, him off the Frank Ocean album). Photography, of all styles and techniques, some fantastic, and not all of it entirely successful, but remarkable considering how variable and diverse it was. Alongside a phenomenal career in fashion, some naff political work, thousands of super cool abstracts, photos in the park on a disposable, a big picture of some balls. Do it all! Curation of life and things, maximum productivity, maximum relaxation. ALPHA/ISIS/EDEN, a single room installation at The Showroom, with scribbles, annotations and imagery by Laura Oldfield Ford, and sound design by Jack Latham (Jam City). Small but absorbing to stand within. π, e, ø, a small Ryoji Ikeda show at Almine Reich. Small neat patterns, electronic whirrs and data crashes. A controlled explosion within the an all too perfect white mass.
Going to people’s houses to play on their Playstations. Not having to talk necessarily, but just enjoying sharing a space and going about our separate activities in a way that I have not been able to for a number of years, and that I have greatly missed. Playing What Remains of Edith Finch, an immaculately well put together interactive storytelling experience (packaged by Annapurna Interactive, the same investor behind almost every mid-budget semi-arthouse film out there at the moment, offering an indication of where things are, and where they might be going, games are movies now) in a single sitting. Playing through Night in the Woods in few more. A terrific (non) game about friendship, mental health and returning to a place and finding that it’s changed without you, and one of the smartest, funny and best written games I’ve ever played. Far From Noise, a super chill relaxation experience, of the type I am a sucker for. David O’Reilly’s Everything, a non-game / art-project thing that is so much a non-game that if you put down the controller for a few minutes it proceeds to play itself. Maybe the best of those since Journey, in which you play a little robed character who traverses the desert and sees wonder, travelling alone but interacting non-productively and fleetingly with connected others. In Everything, you can become everything, from the smallest atom to the largest star, dancing ants, hobbling frogs and rolly mammoths, exploring, touching and looking, doing nothing and feeling it all. I’m a pig now. I’m a tree now. I’m sodium now. I’m a pig again.
Reading things, thinking about the words. Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart, an extraordinary collection of short stories that landed as hard as anything else I’ve read in a while. See also her advice for living and writing, new this year, and her interview/profile of Mitski, and her essay ‘How It Feels’, not new but which I returned to multiple times. Durga Chew-Bose’s essay book Too Much And Not The Mood, a stunning collection lead by a belter of an opening essay. Odd things online - Kristen Roupenian’s story in The New Yorker, “Cat Person”, which, regardless of it’s literary merits, cringe-pummelled me to my very core. Dayna Tortorici’s thoughtful, considered and absurdly erudite essay “In The Maze”. Others, which I’ve now lost and forgotten. A book that stunned me, and that I keep buying for other people, Mark Greif’s Against Everything, an essay collection from the editor of the n+1 magazine that should be cynical and tiresome but proves stimulating and rejuvenatory. Sometimes, it is a wonder how well people can write, with such clarity of expression, such exacting choice of words. Lastly, a small mention of the work of someone whose work wasn’t released this year (his final completed book came out at the end of last year, just before his death at the start of this one) but certainly defined it, Mark Fisher, whose two books for Verso, Capitalist Realism and Ghosts Of My Life, were probably the best things I read all year, and probably also texts I will repeatedly return to and draw from.
As I like to do each year, some personal bullets for 2017. Things that happened that were good, bad or neither. On reflection, this year looks pretty good.
Visited Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Birmingham, Stockholm, Sheffield, Madrid, Locarno, Bristol and Amsterdam, visiting film festivals for all but two of those trips. (I’d like to go places without seeing movies in 2018.)
Wrote 35 things: 27 festival reports and features, 5 interviews, 2 reviews and 1 essay for a festival booklet (!), getting my work into 9 new places and strengthening my relationship with my primary outlet. Asked to write a couple of things. Was selected for the Locarno Critics Academy, something I’ve applied to for 3 years and always wanted to be a part of.
Made a film with a friend on Super8, which, completely absurdly, given what it was and why it was made (a bad film planned as a joke, shot in a single take, with a camera we didn’t know was working, let alone how to use) screened in Picturehouse 1. Friends came, had a blast.
Programmed a series of short films for a festival I’m very fond of. Pre-selected for another. Started a #brand to cover programming projects, then struggled to get any further ideas off the ground. (2018 tho…)
Abandoned (paused?) a few #projects, to save space for the primary ones. Posted too many tweets, and not a single tumblr. Made a couple of zines. Made no video diaries, scrapbooked rarely, newslettered less frequently, took almost no photos. All told, there is very little time.
Read 25 books, watched around 375 films of varying lengths (many shorts), listened to music almost every waking hour. (Need a MUJI mist diffuser that plays ambient music for sleeping in 2018.)
Got a bit of my confidence back, which has only taken (5?!) years after a few hits. Calmed down quite a bit, after a bit too strenuous previous year (2016) and a rocky start to this one (2017). Learned the limits a little better. Friends did all of this, not me.
Didn’t do any exercise, eat very well or take all that much care of myself.
Was mostly a good friend, I think. Neglected some long standing relationships, perhaps, but not at all beyond repair. Met quite a few new folk, got on well with people. Said things, made jokes, listened.
Got a new job. So This Is The New Year (2018).
It’s art and it’s life, and it’s life and it’s art, and I don’t know what I’m doing, or if all this is worth doing, or why I’m so obsessed with doing it all to the degree that I keep doing it, but I can’t help myself, and I’m often pulled and compelled, and then I can’t remember where I began and where this new thing ends or this old one begins, and much of it seems often to be a good thing to do, so I’m going to continue. Love animals. Make art if you like, absorb it where you can. Cherish good things. Champion that which isn’t praised enough. Support others and try to avoid competition. Understand the world wasn’t made for you.
Night in the Woods (PS4)
Far From Noise (Steam)
What Remains of Edith Finch (PS4)
Durga Chew-Bose: Too Much And Not The Mood (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Mark Greif: Against Everything (Verso)
Jenny Zhang: Sour Heart (Bloomsbury Circus)
Anna Haifisch: The Artist (Breakdown Press)
Jillian Tamaki: Boundless (Drawn and Quarterly)
Tillie Walden: Spinning (SelfMadeHero)
Laura Oldfield Ford & Jack Latham: ALPHA/ISIS/EDEN (The Showroom)
Richard Mosse: Incoming (Barbican Curve)
Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 (Tate Modern)
Sock Dart Triple Black (Nike)
Vinyl Cover Monthly Weekly Diary B6 Dark Grey, Dark Grey (MUJI)
All Butter Croissant + Banana Combo (Sainsburys)