Yearning For Yerevan

One of the hidden powers of art is to make us want to go to places evoked in the work of the loved painter, writer, composer, singer or film-maker.

This Place Lust has nothing to do with holidaying or touring. It thrives on a different kind of engagement.

Oh how I long to go to Yerevan! Thank you Sergei Paradjanov!

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Monument to Paradjanov in Tbilisi

Yerevan is the capital city of Armenia. It is one of the oldest inhabited places on earth and has persisted through many shifts of history, during which the state of Armenia has existed independently, then been ruled by Turkey, Russia and Iran before re-emerging as recently as 1991.

In the not very distant future I hope to record here an attentive walk through the time strata of Yerevan to a large house dedicated to the memory of Sergei Paradjanov, the truly extraordinary film-maker and artist who delved deep into the rich imagery of his people.

Paradjanov Museum

The Paradjanov Museum in Yerevan

Paradjanov created four of the most beautiful, resonant and original films in the history of cinema: Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors (1963) also known as Wild Horses of FireThe Colour of Pomegranates (1966); The Legend of the Suram Fortress (1983); and Ashik Kerib (1988).

The gap in his film-making career was the result of persecution by the Soviet authorities, who took exception to his open bisexuality and his immersion in the culture of the Armenian people. He was imprisoned in labour camps and even when ‘free’ (usually as a result of campaigns by fellow artists such as Andrei Tarkovsky) he was not allowed to make films.

In some ways his life became a metaphor for the Armenian experience. The Armenian genocide, perpetrated by the Turkish government between 1894 and 1916, saw the death of some 1.5 million Armenians. The scale of the slaughter, combined with systematic rape, torture and property theft paved the way for the later horrors of the twentieth century.

Despite all this, the core of Armenian culture survived. Similarly, despite his persecution, Paradjanov continued to produce fascinating and profound work, mainly in the form of collage. He described collage as “densely compressed film”.

Paradjanov collage

Don’t Be Fooled By Saints

Some of Paradjanov’s artworks have been lost or destroyed but many survive, thanks to the efforts of his widow and a wide range of international writers and artists. To reproduce the odd one here doesn’t do his work justice, but there are now many images on-line. And the four major films are all available on dvd, though some censoring and external cutting has proved unrestorable.

Tarkovsky still represents the peak of ‘cinema as art’ and, during an interview with John Updike, he came up with some particularly apt words on the man he risked his own life to champion: “Paradjanov is making collages, drawings and sculptures in the form of dolls, hats, anything that works…but he is not just about design and beauty. No, it’s something else. It’s much more talented and noble. It’s real art. It’s secret is in its immediacy and directness. When an idea is born he’s not planning, constructing or contemplating a way to make it better. For him there is no gap between the concept and its realisation, so he doesn’t lose anything between the cracks. Emotion that was there at the outset reaches the final product in its pristine purity, without a single drop being spilled. That’s how it is in the best sequences of his films. I’m not even referring to his spirit of independence and his originality. For us all he’s completely unreachable. We’re not capable of what he does. We’re just labourers in comparison”.

The Colour of Pomegranates (2)

from The Colour of Pomegranates

After the prison years Paradjanov suffered from various illnesses, and his eccentric, defiant ways did not make him an ‘easy’ individual, but the work will stand tall forever. He’s a Mount Ararat, the highest point in the Armenian region and the spiritual home of that culture (though the mountain is still in Turkish hands). Mount Ararat is where the Ark was supposed to have landed: survival once again.

When starting to write this I checked on relevant dates and was amazed to see that the day I am posting this would have been his 93rd birthday…so Happy Birthday, Sergei, see you in Yerevan!

Sergei Paradjanov

Ted x

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Walking the Scratch That Itches

Some walks are dominated by one special feature: a summit; a lake; a particular building; a certain aspect of the rural or urban or wild landscape that stays in the mind.

Other walks have evenly spread events of attention and interest, a constellation of impressions rather than one stellar moment.

The first time I walked the North Wales Coastal Path westwards from Flint Castle I was expecting the latter. I was wrong.

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Approaching the bulky hulk

The walk is flat and easy underfoot, punctuated by occasional pieces of sculpture and decaying moorings, with the broadening estuary of the Dee a constant companion on your right hand side. The path hugs the river for a few miles with barely a sign of a village. The map tells you that the first community of any size will be Mostyn.

Then, a good mile short of Mostyn, you see a ship on the horizon, not out at sea but with its nose butting into the shoreline ahead. It has to be a pretty big ship to be such a dominant image from this distance.

And a pretty big ship it turns out to be. At a small dock area called Llanerch-y-Mor lies the rusting bulk of the Duke of Lancaster, one of the last passenger steamers to be built. In its day it carried 1200 passengers and over 200 vehicles, and had 400 sleeping berths. It makes a bizarre and thoroughly impressive spectacle in this bleak and featureless environment.

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Steaming down the footpath

It was abandoned here in 1979 and has been the subject of a slow grapple between the owner and the local council. About 20 years ago a move was made to turn it into a “Fun Ship”. Ambitious plans were drawn up and famous graffiti artists were brought in to decorate the sides, including internationally known names like Kiwie, Dan Kitchener, Dale Grimshaw, Snub23 and Spacehop.

A lot of excellent graffiti was completed, making for an even more fascinating visual impact. However, the wider project failed and the rust and dilapidation continued…much to the “Ruin Lust” delight of wanderers like me.

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Reaching out from the rust

There are many more details and photographs here: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/explorers-huge-abandoned-ship-welsh-11403118

The Duke of Lancaster became one of the great ‘unknown’ sights in the UK, with its own Facebook page and a small but dedicated band of admirers.

On my best visit on a sunny day I had only managed to get photos of the port side of the vessel, so I went back last month to get close to the other side. That stunning view from afar was different this time. This time a grim, grey battleship held the horizon.

In an act of officious vandalism the ship has been painted black, either by the owner or by the local authority. Apparently this was done in February 2017.

Graffiti occupies a contested place in our culture. The Duke of Lancaster gets painted over, whilst a new Banksy graffito on the wall of the Barbican (a comment on their exhibition of the New York graffiti artist Basquiat) gets preserved under an imperishable glass panel. Who is the vandal now? Is it just market value that has made Banksy part of the art establishment?

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Lichen tags by unknown algae and fungi

Humans have scratched the surface of their environment since the earliest stages of our evolution. It is one of the most fundamental means of expression open to the powerless, especially the young powerless.

Shame on the hand behind the blanking, blanding black paint brush that has tarred the Duke of Lancaster!

Ted x

Update on Cards

Just to say that all the Comicollage Christmas cards can now be viewed at

http://www.chrisgeorgecards.com/categories/comicollage

Chris George offers a wide range of cards on her website and is perhaps best known for her political, feminist and green series of cards, as well as photo cards of Shropshire. Chris also does stalls at conferences. Click on the link above or just put ‘Chris George cards’ into your search engine.

My non-Christmas Comicollages will also be available via Chris George’s website in Duke ‘orse.

Orders can be placed via me (in person at poetry events or wherever, by email, phone, Facebook or comment on the blog) £2.50 each or 10 for £20 plus £2 p/p if applicable, or via the Chris George website.

The cards will also be in the Visual Arts Network Gallery (VAN) in Shrewsbury, amongst other outlets.

Ted x

Order Your Comicollage Christmas Cards Here!

Yes, this is the hour that the Comicollage cards go universal, viral, and all over the shop.

I have had 30 different designs of these unique creations printed up as Christmas cards. They are irreligious, irreverent and irresponsible. Order from me now, via a comment on this blog site, or via email (tedeames@btinternet.com) or via Facebook.

TEF 01 Immaculate Deception

Immaculate Deception

My Comicollages are made exclusively from found images and text.

Each card comes with an envelope, kept pristine in a cellophane bag.

The cards are £2.50 each, 10 for £20. Please add £2 p/p if needing packs posted to you. They will be available from various outlets but ordering directly from me helps fund a print run of non-Christmas Comicollages.

Ted Eames has coined the term ‘Comicollages’ for his smaller, humorous pieces. Appropriate adjectives might include: surreal, original, inventive, very funny, subversive, thought-provoking.” (Mary Delany).

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Peace On Earth

If you are reading this post on Facebook or Twitter and have difficulty seeing the images, just click on the actual blog site: http://www.maintenantman.wordpress.com

Some cards contain the occasional sweary word, but those were made by my evil twin, who then ran away.

I understand that Ted’s friends and family have been subjected to these cards for a number of years now. I can only say that this confirms my view that human beings are essentially a tolerant and forgiving species.” (Raymond Glendenning).

Order now to avoid disarrangement…

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The Casting Crib

Ted x

Weapons of Mass Delusion

Poetry in the form of song lyrics can sometimes hit the spot when it comes to seeing things as they really are.

A few years ago, whilst in Vancouver, I went to a gig by a band called Destroyer. The name makes them sound like some hardcore death metal outfit, but they are not like that at all. The band is basically a musician called Dan Bejar and his output over the years has covered a variety of styles, often with interesting lyrical content.

So I was pleased to hear a new track by him on 6Music about a month ago. It’s called Tinseltown Swimming in Blood. It’s a track that suddenly seems horribly prescient in the light of the mass murder in Las Vegas. The expression ‘Tinseltown’ was originally coined to describe Hollywood, but it has shaded out beyond that over the years and it captures the nature of a place like Las Vegas.

The title of the song is a nod to an earlier piece by the Scottish band The Blue Nile, who did a beautiful song called Tinseltown in the Rain in 1984 (it’s about Glasgow).

The two songs soundtracked some feelings and thoughts about the unspeakable crime in Las Vegas, which is simply the latest event in the slaughter of the innocents that is condoned by American culture and law. The gun control issue in the USA is not some bizarre phenomenon in a tiny nation, it is a form of terror embedded within the most powerful state in the world. The cultural influence and spread of all things American has been a global fact-of-life for over a century.

Writing and making art are two ways in which I have fun, and they are also two ways in which I try to preserve sanity in the midst of bad stuff.

The title of my hybrid poem references another song lyric, Dylan’s A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall.

Tinseltown In the Hard Rain

 Bullets gush from a window-on-high

stair-rods of death-metal firestorm

bolting into bone

into concrete

into flesh

into wood

into iron

into denim

never-ending cataracts of anger

alienation and brute intention

 

here we are, caught up in this big rhythm

tinseltown in the rain

oh men and women

here we are caught up in this big rhythm

 

this constant fountain-jet

of lead and tempered steel

of coppered nickel spray drops

is valid

is approved

is enjoyed

is sacrosanctified

is immutable

though perhaps not that last word

for it will be worse tomorrow

 

what comes round is going round again

now let me tell you about the dream:

I had no feeling, I had no past

I was the arctic, I was the vast

spaces without reprieve

tinseltown swimming in blood 

 

The first set of italics are ©Bell & Buchanan, 1984 and the second set are ©Bejar, 2017.

Ted x

 

Passport Not Required

Border Economics is an attempt at prose-poetry.

The phrase “Last Chance Saloon” was originally coined to advertise the last chance to have a drink before crossing the border into a country or state with different drinking laws. It is a phrase that has shaded off into somewhat deeper meanings.

Last Chance Saloon

In some subliminal way “Last Chance Saloon” reminds me of a hand-painted roadside sign I saw outside an isolated café in the Yukon: “EAT HERE OR WE’LL BOTH STARVE!”

Anyway, here is the prose-poem.

Border Economics

I keep thinking this is my last chance

staying up late like there really is no tomorrow…reading prose like poetry…tearing the wrapping from meaning like a christmas-spoilt child…scrabbling for that beautiful terror of synthesis, that connective tissue of truth.

I keep feeling that this is my last chance

to close lips to lips…to kootch the warmth of body curve…to celebrate recognition of love…to fritter away desire like a tabloid-target lottery millionaire…to find new joy when expecting mere comfort of repetition.

I keep acting like this is my last chance

pacing mountain tops head-to-head with spinning constellations…tracking tides on desolate island-feel beaches…a gannet for adrenalin, for gut-ecstasies of fear and solitude and wild spirit-soaring grace.

I keep thinking this is my last chance

to hear that perfect tune, inhabit that late quartet…to engulf every atom of that wondrous painting, that thrilling sculpture…to bathe in every nuance-current of that film…to grow with each unique creation…to collect, file, fold, surround them all.

I keep feeling this is my last chance

touching the footsteps of my child in the world…intent on his grown-up breathing, as much as his newborn small hours cot-snuffling…upper-casing Friendship with the ones who are awake and alive, to themselves, and to faltered me.

I keep acting like this is my last chance

to make something that will survive a nano-second beyond me…to sum up a living assembly of dust…to play with all five senses one more time…to tell you stories in words, in pictures, until one final narrative forms then dissolves.

Tell me, what time does the bell ring in The Last Chance Saloon?

 

Ted x

 

 

 

 

Home Thoughts From Abroad

Wildfires have made this summer a hazardous and harrowing time for everyone in central and southern British Columbia. The small town of Ashcroft is very close to my heart and my thoughts are with good friends and acquaintances there.

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Hillsides ablaze between Ashcroft and Cache Creek

It’s hard to write about fire without thinking of the sudden, brutal tragedy of Grenfell Tower. That is urban fire danger at its worst, with all the implications for a political system that dumps human beings in high-rise ghettos.

Ashcroft and whole swathes of BC have had two months of rural wildfires: unpredictable outbreaks that move erratically around terrain that is difficult for firefighters to work in. Wildfires in hot, desert areas like central southern BC create an attritional backdrop of all-enveloping smoke, widespread ash deposits and 24:7 foul air.

Some fifty thousand people have had to be evacuated so far, and nearly one thousand separate fires have been identified.

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The First Nations community near Ashcroft has been badly affected

The vast Cariboo country to the north of Ashcroft is less of a desert landscape but has more forests. Many of the fires have taken hold in the Cariboo and there is no immediate prospect of a change in the weather. Lightning strikes account for most of the blazes and the loss of animal life, both farmed and wild, will be enormous.

I feel a ‘connection of the soul’ to Ashcroft. If you read back to some of the early posts on this blog you’ll get a glimpse of some of the reasons. Mostly it is revealed in Pick Up the Pieces, which you’ll read soon, I hope.

Elemental events leave us feeling powerless. However, I stand with my second home.

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Ashcroft huddles into the valley under columns of billowing smoke

Ted x