The Cubic Structural Evolution Project

To get to the Quaker meeting I left the house before eight, and cycled up steep hills and into stiff winds. Then at the station the replacement bus was full, and a man had suggestions of what the incompetents managing the service should have done. Do we get compensation? Yes, but only £6.75.

A woman offered me a lift in her car. She’s off to see Romeo and Juliet, at Sadlers Wells, choreographed by Matthew Bourne. He always manages to surprise her with new ways of expressing story in dance.

“You’re obviously very creative,” she said.

Yes, that’s why I wanted to tell you of her.

“I’m not creative myself,” she said. I protested. You talk to your grandchild, don’t you? You’re interacting, sparking off each other. She agreed and enthused.

“The 9.42 will get me to my meeting on time,” I announced.

“No pressure, then,” she said. She got her silent husband to let us out at the drop off point before parking. If they rowed about her generosity they did it after I left.

On the train the big shaven-headed bloke in jeans and white t-shirt talked of going to Mass and his grandmother’s power of attorney. At Meeting I looked at the food bank box and thought of connection- mine with these people, through them with my fellow benefit claimants.

I had not known what was in the Turbine Hall, and went over to look. I had not intended to join in but got chatting to a mother and daughter who explained it to me.

“I want to go back to the bar,” said the mother.

“How old are you?”

“Eleven,” said the child, who looked younger.

Oh, she’ll be alright! No one will mind!

“You have to take towers down or there will be no bricks to build with,” says the mother. I joke about playing Godzilla and the daughter is horrified.

The future city is very beautiful now. Those are huge towers, wonderfully varied, from only a few different brick types. I have not really noticed adult Lego hobbying before. I was aware of its existence but only seeing what is possible in real life makes me alive to it. Children make structures at ground level, but I want to contribute and be Noticed. When the towers have taken so long to build, and such inspiration to imagine, how can I compete? I will build a bridge.

That’s difficult with the short bricks available. The round towers can only sit on the table, not build on bricks. I am Creating: constrained by my materials, inspired by other work. My bridge has a hinge in it, making it considerably weaker but more able to place between towers. It is irregular, Brutalist among these neo-classical forms. Inadvertently I knock the top off a tower as I try to affix it, and am abashed; but I do not have time to rebuild it even if I knew how.

It is ungainly, detracting from the Beauty! No, it is a piquant or picaresque contrast, adding to the whole work. I hadn’t seen a bridge there before, but noticed someone creating one later. Future cities need bridges! Writing next day I don’t know if my bridge still exists, but my posts are web archived, and perhaps archeologists will find silicon with this photograph, just before the Sun as a red giant engulfs the Earth.

Then I go to gaze into the eyes of the Goncharova Christ, which is why I came to London. I can’t find it in a postcard or online- possibly like an icon it is holy, so restricted. The grapes on His vine are rich and strong.

I want to take a tower apart and put a slab of blue bricks in! It would not need to be large, and it would stand out like the Sun in Impressions- Sunrise!

With biscuits and cheese, and two cups of tea at Meeting, I don’t need to buy food in the gallery. I am with Christ and the Queen of Heaven when I am chucked out.

London Pride

The affirmation of Pride may live with me. Walking as people cheer is a wonderful experience.

I started seeing people on the train to London. That sequined coat is surely for Pride. Walking from the station to Portland Place I saw t-shirts with pride slogans, and felt I was there already. We met in a park, and settled in to worship, some sitting on the grass, some on a bench because of mobility issues. We are inclusive.

One introduced herself by her male name, then offered the female alternative as an afterthought or apology. We are rueful, often, taking our first steps of transition. It feels like failing to make a go of life as a man, or failing to be a man like other men can. Even now I feel some ruefulness though I have been living as myself for seventeen years. It is so difficult! Yet- this is who I am.

We go to point C near the front of the procession. We are behind a group from a university, students and staff together. The group behind has amps playing music of LGBT influence: I’m gonna make a supersonic woman of you….

As we march there is a constant sound of cheering. Some put out their hands to shake or high-five. Along the route announcers give the names of the passing groups and each are cheered. A man behind me takes the microphone briefly and gives their campaigning message. Gill knows about it, discusses it with them and this delights them. They are not alone.

There is a huge group of affirming Christians, some dressed as angels. The church will not drive us out.

We got to the end by 3.30, but some at the back were hanging around for hours and not finished by 6.30. That would be dispiriting, especially if you connected it with being trans.

I also think ally groups like L with the T are diluted if there are too many trans women with them. The point is that cis lesbians support us.

We went to the Westminster Quaker meeting house and hung out. A woman of Canadian origin told me that until she came to the UK she had thought sweets were for children, and had been amazed to see chocolates marketed at adults. And parents stuffed their kids’ faces with sweeties. Another told me when she says “I’m an immigrant” people demur. But she is, in the sense of a person born abroad, who has made her home here. The word immigrant has developed connotations of interloper, outsider, even untermensch, while as from the white areas of the former Empire she is seen as acceptable. It irks her. It irks me too.

I wandered off with Y for a drink. Unfortunately she had picked up a street bicycle, and now could find no stand to return it. Not could she ride it, as the streets were heaving. Eventually I waited sitting by a statue while she went off to find a place to leave it. I saw a man in full stage armour on a cycle-rickshaw.

Then we dashed round the Natalya Goncharova exhibition. I loved the huge peasant Christ, blessing with both hands. He shines. His gaze is overpowering. On the tube we saw drag queens in wedding dresses.

As I unlocked my bicycle at Swanston I chatted to a man in rainbow tights of how wonderful I had found the day, but what I mean about the railway carriages being mine is this. There was a man with a sash saying “It’s my Birthday” trying to get the carriage singing. We all know Wonderwall. He wasn’t too rowdy, as such men go; at one point he was chatting to a group of strangers, as they were all teachers. Quite civilised, really. But as I got off he apologised. Usually I find rowdiness threatening, but at that moment, even in aged wig with a rainbow streak still visible on my face, I felt invincible.

Pride in London

London came out to party. The city is mine. The railway carriages are mine.


I marched with Quakers, specifically the Quaker Gender and Sexuality Diversity community.

It’s difficult to take photos when you’re holding a banner. We had two of these:


There were 30,000 wristbands issued for the March, but many thousands more watching. Some of the entertainment was in the audience.


The noise was too great to hold a conversation, and the affirmation was stunning.

Behind us was XXL, campaigning Save our Scene: against a developer taking over and shutting down one of the few remaining gay nightclubs. But why? Find a partner on an app then dance with the straights? That’s a Bear flag.


There were a few scattered Repent! campaigners, but at a corner lots of affirming Christians, some dressed as angels. I photographed that bloke because he was so beautiful.

There were lots of people with A4 signs saying “Trans people to the front”. Watch out for transphobes, alert people, block them from view and don’t engage, as they want attention.

I didn’t like the F-ck terfs signs, though. And one saying “I love my lesbian trans sisters”- I don’t insist on the word lesbian, which angers the terfs so much. Leave it for them. My sexuality needs no label.


I love the collonade and rhe pride flag. London old and new together.

The asset-strippers

I love the Duveen galleries at the moment. Mike Nelson’s The Asset-strippers fills it. Wooden walls and doors from factories make corridors through it. The machines are beautiful, and forlorn, not needed in our modern, services finance and consumerism economy. Knowing the prevalence of industrial deafness I would not want to work on such machines.

I see how important sharpness in the photograph is.

I also feel photographing inside the item, so that it stretches beyond the picture, makes my picture more intriguing.

I am happy to go along with the institutional definition of Art- art is anything shown in an art gallery, or even called so by an Artist. It may be good or bad art, morally or in terms of expressiveness, but it is still art. Richard Anderson says Art is culturally significant meaning, skilfully encoded in an affecting, sensuous medium. The skill, here, is finding and arranging things to be affecting.

Then to the Don McCullin. He photographed new corpses, with their relatives staring at them. He says he tried to catch the eye of the relative, to gain implicit consent for his work of documenting the atrocities. Just, no- I would not be consenting, I would be too shocked to take it in, leave alone to object. Possibly some others might relieve anger and despair on the photographer. He photographed people in Berlin, looking at the other zone, and homeless people in London. A man sleeps, standing up. He photographed a battle in Vietnam. I have seen half of it: I hope to go back to see the remainder. I decided to walk round the outer wall of the exhibition space, pay at least a few seconds’ attention to each picture, and more time sitting before some of them.

I met H on Friday evening. We ate in a Greek restaurant and went to Deborah Tannen at Tate Modern. I may get her poems. I cycled to the station, and was pleased to see my bike still there on Sunday evening.

The joy of demonstrating

At one point, I was not marching so much as shuffling, the crowd was so densely packed.

At another, I could enjoy the dancing and the costumes.

I marched with an Irishman, and there were Irish tricolours about. One good thing to come from a hard Brexit might be the reunification of Ireland.

I took this, a statue called “Flight”, as a deliberately arty shot. I had to sit on the ground, and the woman with the placard good-naturedly held it up, but I did not quite get the placard to appear in the sculpture’s hand.

I was uncomfortable, marching from about 12 at Oxford Circus tube until about 5 at Waterloo. I coughed till my back muscles ached. Domi brought along lots of sandwiches. She has also had to get six months’ supply of insulin, as she does not want to die of Brexit. She has dual nationality so will be able to remain in the UK, and retain freedom of movement.

On Sunday morning I felt low, as did H, who had put me up Friday and Saturday nights and gone ahead on the march. But, there were a million of us, and the videos from the helicopter are inspiring- they cannot just ignore us. Those of us who wish to Remain in the EU will be encouraged, and that includes MPs. I feel my morale improving. We have done something worthwhile.

Franz West

Franz West’s sculptures are playful and anarchic.

I brought my stool just to the point where I am standing, and looked up at the loop, back and forth at the waves of this structure. Then I found the point against the wall where, sitting on my stool, I could capture that virus-model or whatever it is through the loop. I had not really noticed how the other pink thing enhances the picture.

Then I asked a woman to sit on the stool so I could be in the photographs. She pointed out how colour-coordinated I was, so I took my jacket off, then really played the game, taking several, trying to make a composition. I don’t know how to alter the depth of field on my phone: it focused on the brightest thing, the light reflecting on the virus, and was slightly out of focus on me.

You may go behind the curtains to play with four sculptures of metal and plaster. The video shows what you may do. So I did, taking a plaster blob on an iron poker, throwing it about and seeing how far from myself I could lift it. Closing the curtains, so I was alone with the sculpture, was important.

Before, I went to Tate Britain for the last day of the Edward Burne-Jones exhibition, and a brief look at Don McCullin. I saw from a very different Finsbury Park two beautiful young men in a pub sizing one another up, ready for verbal rather than physical combat I think. Later, from a war, I saw a starving woman’s deformed breast given to her starving child. The whole will repay my sustained attention, and there are members’ hours every weekend, but I just dipped in to get a vague idea of it. I love the idea of feeling a photograph you take so that the audience will feel it too. I hear his wrestling with his privileged position, getting money and fame from others’ misery, yet being the necessary witness documenting that suffering.

After taking the boat, I went to the Pierre Bonnard exhibition. I had not heard of him! These pictures are beautiful, and I hated the self-portrait from around the time of his life-long partner’s death. He was crushed, and he showed his misery.

At St Pancras, I heard a pianist play Rachmaninov, the Bells of Moscow Prelude, Beethoven and Mozart, much better than the usual players. I played Metamorphosis II, though without repeating all the arpeggiation.

Being misgendered

-Are you finished with these, sir?
-I’m female.
-I apologise.

I am still irked by that. She could not see my face, I think. My waterproof jacket is fairly unisex but fastens the feminine way. That wig, again, is clearly a woman’s wig, the woman’s side of the line, even if it’s fairly close to the line. It’s a well-marked line.

Now, I am thinking some day I will have the energy for the follow-through:

-I apologise.
-Well, don’t “Sir” people unless their gender is clear! There’s no point in having “All-Gender Toilets” if you misgender people!

It didn’t really- well not really really– bother me until later, when I was in the Turner Prize exhibition, which this year is all video. They are close to documentaries, in parts. Naeem Mohaiemen’s work is a history of the Non-Aligned movement, worth seeing from beginning to end, though it is on three screens and has the feel of looking at an art work. To me; some commenters said that’s not art that’s documentaries.

Charlotte Prodger’s work is 33 minutes long, and consists of video taken on her phone, with bits of her diary read as voiceover. She had had a job near Banchory, and I wondered if anyone else in the room had been there, or at least through it, like me. She is lesbian, at least sometimes she presents Butch, and part of the voiceover says how at the ferry terminal she was washing her hands in the toilets and a party of women came in, and one went out again to look at the door, then said “I thought I was in the wrong one for a moment”. And how wearing it was when people asked her who her girlfriend is. “Is she your daughter?” Eventually she said “She’s my friend” and thought, now I’m closeted as well.

There is paradox here. She (I checked her pronouns) is misgendered repeatedly, and the thought that a woman could be her partner is seen as remarkable, yet she is up for a huge accolade, notoriety in the right-wing press, and £40,000 if she wins the prize. Highbrows like me, and the odd idiot who goes out and writes the comment “That’s not Art!” on the comments wall, (Actually that’s so stupid, surely it must be irony?)-

onywye, I am watching this Installation feeling intense powerlessness exacerbated by her frank admission of failing to respond to being misgendered, and the middle-class white straight men, well, it might just go over their heads. What’s this wumman on about?

On the comments wall, I took two pieces of paper marked in large letters

Power

and scrawled, “Charlotte was misgendered in the CalMac lavs. I was misgendered in the Tate Gallery Members’ Room” on one and “I have the

Power

to say I exist” on the other. Then I took lots of wee pins and stuck them all over these pieces of paper, skewering the word “Power” and each of the “I”s.

So there.

Waiting for the film/installation to start, I sat by a low table leafing through the books there. One is on queer art, another is a selection of the poems and essays of Audre Lorde specifically for the British market called

Your silence will not protect you

So now I have a book of Audre Lorde, to help me be an ally to ethnic minority people and, perhaps, help me survive.

What if I had shouted out in the showing that I had been misgendered? There were workers in the Duveen Gallery working with children, with suggestions as to participate in art, and when I said I too like to be playful the man gave me a pair of drumsticks. I noticed how the sound they made was different hitting with the tip or the middle of the stick, and investigated the sounds. I could break people’s absorption in the art work, and that distraction would be like Brecht’s alienation technique, they would see it in a new way. But the rooms showing the videos are carpeted, and I just hit the sticks together occasionally, very quietly. And if I had shouted, people would be too well-bred (or something) to show they noticed.

I had a fabulous day. I also spent hours with the Burne Jones exhibition. Pieces here come from the ordinary displays a few rooms away, and from as far as Stuttgart or Melbourne. Is not Madeleine Vivier-Deslandes utterly beautiful? There were so many beautiful things. There’s Perseus stealing the Graeae eye, on oak, and his armour is silver, and their dresses gold. The grey sisters are young, here. One has her pretty face and empty sockets turned to us. There’s a huge tapestry, of Gawain contemplating the Holy Grail and his two companions blocked by three angels from approaching. The trees are dark, and the wild flowers Botticellian. So, the Pre-Raphaelite descent into myth and fancy, before Freud, how ridiculous- except Madeleine is, perhaps, “chimeric, disordered and suffering”. All those buttons on her cuffs undone, and that bodice, so easily ripped. I went in ready for my irony to be exercised, and was entranced- and just a little disturbed. Just now and then.

The Clock

The Clock, by Christian Marclay, is a unique work of art, twelve thousand clips spliced together in twenty four hours of film from silent movies to 21st century blockbusters, from crowd-pleasers to art house and cult films, with stars and jobbing actors. In each clip, the time is shown, either because there is a clock somewhere on the set, or someone says what the time is, or looks at their watch. Write-ups say that it is accurate to the second, though when the hour is struck it strikes several times- wonderfully dramatically at midnight.

Would you want to watch a clock? asked someone dismissively. If it were nothing but clocks it would be beautiful- art-deco clocks and basic digital alarm clocks, elaborate silver watches with pictures inside, held with love or admiration, and grandfather clocks used as hiding places. But often the clock is merely part of the set, and spotting the clock in some clips becomes one of the many games you can play, on a comfortable couch, before a large screen at Tate Modern. It has three public showings of the whole thing this year, open overnight on Saturday 6 October, Saturday 3 November and Saturday 1 December. I went on 6 October at 8pm, and stayed until ten the following day when I wandered out for breakfast in the members’ room, looking out over the Thames.

Between six and eight there are lots of shots of alarm clocks going off and people getting up, showering, breakfasting, going to the factory or the office, or to rob a bank. It is so normal, or a cinematic view of that normal which drama or story twists or breaks. As with real life, people are still rising from sleep after nine, kindly allowed to lie in. In the evening there are far more people at home, even in bed before nine for sleep rather than sex, than in night clubs and places of entertainment, but dance halls rarely have prominent clocks.

Thousands of clips average seven seconds each, but they are much longer or shorter. A man hits Tom Cruise, ineffectually, twice before the Cruise character keeps cool- he gives his wine-glass for someone to hold- and deals out the old right hook. That was the first clip I saw, wandering in with no idea of what the exhibit was, thinking it might even be a huge digital clock resembling its advertising. I needed to read more before warming to it, as I do not much like films where a smooth hero is unstoppable, entering the guarded citadel killing dozens of useless guards whose machineguns never strike home- but the Clock has all kinds of films. I decided that such a huge, amazing art work deserved my sustained attention, possibly to watch the whole thing before it ends on 20 January. That would mean doing another all-nighter, as I put my head down for half an hour at one point and probably dropped off quite a bit; but the film energised me, and I was often grinning or open-mouthed at its beauty and creativity.

Marty McFly goes back to the future, and Terry Malloy goes back to work on the waterfront, with Johnny Friendly defeated and Leonard Bernstein swelling. There are clips from The Time Machine and Clockwise, but most of the films I don’t recognise, with shots of someone crossing a room or walking down a street. Then I see thousands of rooms, so many details of ornament, furnishing or decoration, clothes and hairstyles and faces. There are lots of phone calls, sometimes from different films spliced together, and someone from the thirties will look down at their watch then immediately after we see a Casio digital.

In the queue we met Grace, smiling, clearly keen to chat. She had flown over from the US to see her daughter, who was one of the research assistant watching thousands of films to catalogue possible clips. She told us individual frames could be dropped to keep the seconds quite accurate. At two am the queue wound down the stairs. At nine, before the main gallery opened, most of the couches had one or two people, some exhausted but others sat upright, engrossed.

There is little wildlife, though there is a scurrying rat and a few birds. Most is in English, though there is a little in French or German. I was there overnight, so saw lots of rumpled sheets as people could not sleep, and the nightmare as someone’s life broke down. What next? Was he crushed, or did he overcome? I don’t know, for life is not a drama.

Trump demonstration

I had thought a lot of what to write on my placard. This was it:

Truth
Reconciliation
Respect

What do we need in public life? I started with phrases, wanted something pro-choice, and to be readable honed it down to individual words, so pro-choice ended up as “Respect”. I thought of writing the things I object to, but want to be positive. “Oh, that’s very good,” said someone, appreciatively.

I liked the Women’s Equality Party slogan: “From the bottom of our hearts, Thank you Trump for giving feminism a little hand”. Meaning he radicalises opposition. I signed the huge card they were going to send him. There were many references to small hands, and a huge Trumphair-coloured fist, with its middle finger extended. One printed sign read “Trump racist liar cheat misogynist bigot baby-jailor chimp”, lots said “Dump Trump”, or “No to Trump, no to war”.

I did not pose for a picture with my placard. My photos were taken from within the demo, seeing what I saw:

There were several camera crews. Should I speak to one? I could say something pithy and articulate. But they are American stations I have not heard of, and might be hard-Right propaganda like Fox or Sinclair Media Group.

I did not get to Friends House in time for the Meeting for Worship, but had time for a cup of tea with Michael and to write out my placard. Simple mistake: I wrote it only on one side, so had to keep turning it round. I had a stout A2 sized card, no need for a handle. There were photos in the FH garden. Then we went to the start of the march, where we were up against the barrier outside a hotel. Hotel guests with cases and shopping somehow got through the crowds: we were packed in, but we were nice people, trying to make way for them. Then we started, with ELO then David Bowie playing: carnival music for a friendly atmosphere. My favourite sign was Peggy from EastEnders, hands on hips, with the caption “Get out of my Pub”. British. Having a lark, not taking things too seriously, speaking up for truth and justice.

I saw signs condemning the president’s transphobia, and went over to speak to a trans woman carrying one. I do not want to get arrested on protest, and this is not that kind of protest. Tens of thousands of people, with the onlookers mostly supportive. Above, a helicopter circled; I wondered how high-res its cameras were. I read the police had facial-recognition cameras to identify us. I have lots of photos on facebook. Soon, demonstrating will really mean standing up for a cause.

There are speakers in Trafalgar Square, but when we get there I am tired, and Michael invites me to Westminster meeting house, where he offers cake and tea. I bump into Lucy, down with Unite the Union. I stay for the silence. The only cheap train ticket I could get was 12.15am, so I went to Tate Modern. North of the Millennium Bridge I had a bread roll and some fruit, listening to a cello and violin play Pachelbel, Bach, Vivaldi. I stayed until the gallery closed at ten. Here is its deserted corridor.