May 7th, 2006


My Saturday

Dear Diary, I wake up late due to a fraught Skype chat in the early hours. Woman trouble. Have to reschedule my appointment with Paul Mpagi Sepuya, the photographer who's taking my picture for Currency, a Dutch magazine which comes glossy hardbound, like a children's book. My Belgian friend Pascal Meuwissen is doing a little Momus feature in the next one. It looks like the kind of mag expressly designed to sell in the Colette bookstore in Paris.

I dress in plain t-shirt, as requested by Paul, but add an apron because I'm into them just now (how they change your shape). Apparently Sico at Currency has also requested that I be smoking a cigarette, despite the fact that I'm a non-smoker. Paul lives near my loft, just off Grand Street. This neighbourhood, which I once considered so dangerous, turns out to be incredibly bourgeois, the kind of place that stocks lots of organic produce in its groceries. Paul lives in a clapperboard house, and shoots me with a Mamiya RZ67, sitting on his dishevelled bed, against a white wall. He's chatty and very hot; this, plus sitting on his bed, makes me think that if I were gay I'd totally be flirting with him. He'd be just my type. I'm sure he thinks I am gay; I tell him about spending last night at Julius, the gay bar where I was hanging out with Matmos.

After the shoot I walk West and see a group show at a gallery called NURTUREart on Keap Street, by Lorimer Street subway station. Really like two photos by Matt Siber, one of a strip mall with all the language Photoshopped off the signs, the other with nothing but the language.

I eat lunch at the Asian deli on 3rd Avenue, beef teriyaki. The only trouble with this place is the commercial radio they pump in. Even with blu-tak screwed into my ears and my red Chinese ear protectors clamped on, I can still hear it. Maudlin, weary pop music that makes you feel industrially lonely.

On the bus to work I'm scribbling notes on "Blings v. Organics". The idea is that the very rich and the very poor are united by a Darwinian-materialist philosophy of Bling. The middle class are the "Organics", guilty, responsible, tasteful, environmentally-conscious. Trouble is, the birthrate amongst the Organics is low. The Blings screw more, and will screw up the world.

At work I'm on very good form, drawing quite large groups of people who actually follow me from room to room, laughing heartily. It's amazing what a slick comedian I've become, how smoothly my patter flows. I could reproach myself for having left the more poetic, ambivalent material behind, but actually I think "art comedian" is a perfectly acceptable role. There aren't many art comedians around, and humour is an interesting way to think about art.

An Asian woman follows me more tenaciously than the others. It's Vietnamese-Californian performance artist Lan Tran, who's appearing in her own one-woman show "Elevator Sex" in the Pan-Asian Theater Festival. We take tea together downstairs, and she invites me to see her show later. I leave the museum at about 5.30 and -- it's become a habit, and one of my delights -- meander through Central Park, sipping green tea and watching the life going on. Discover new areas, a pinetum where a Jewish wedding party assembles and lint falls from the trees like snow.

The Upper West side is an area I hardly know. It feels very Jewish this evening, and I imagine its residents shuttling regularly from these apartment blocks to places in Tel Aviv. I eat moussaka in some tacky diner; a handsome hippy kid carrying an acoustic guitar tells me rather breathlessly that he's currently "obsessed with your Hippopotamomus record, been listening to it obsessively for three months now". That cheers me up.

"Elevator Sex" is pretty good, Lan plays a whole cast of characters, catching the inflections of black people and Vietnamese immigrants especially well. The piece connects memories of 9/11 with tales of child abuse. I'm also fascinated by the church it's staged in. You have to walk along the upper story of a decaying church to get to the theatre. A man plays Beethoven on a viola on the stage. There are all sorts of dingy community center areas with noticeboards sporting conspiracy-theory-type rants against the Bush administration (detailing how Prescott Bush helped the Nazis, etc).

Subway home; as usual it's the oddballs and misfits who inspire me most. A black man keeps mumbling that he has to go back uptown because "there's a colour bar, coloureds ain't allowed downtown". And on the L train there's an amazing Ukrainian wearing a grey smock, fresh from some church service (I can see the leaflets he's carrying). He looks like he should be an art world intellectual, but he's clearly a committed Orthodox Christian. I like the otherness of his puritanical dress, and somehow imagine him carrying a sheep over his shoulders. The L train hipsters, in contrast, tend to evoke less exciting images of skateboards and surfboards. Apparently I'm fairly shocking looking tonight, though, in my apron and red headphones; some girl at Union Square shouts at me "You're the craziest shit I've ever seen!"

Back home, I watch a lot of old videos by Scritti Politti on Bibbly-O-Tek, a new Scritti fan site. The only one that really touches greatness is Absolute, a really transcendental song with a great video in which "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (with Green as Bottom) is being performed in an early 80s New York dance club full of robotic body-poppers.