Monday, 29 February 2016

Dada Under the Octagon

I didn't know much about Dada until I attended part of a Dada celebration - it's been 100 years since the movement first began.

When my friend Jenny mentioned she was reading poetry for the local celebrations of this event, I had to rack my brains as to what knowledge I had of this movement.
The image that immediately came to mind was of a melting watch or a clock, but that turned out to be Dali I was thinking of and his painting, 'The Persistence Of Memory' (aptly enough as it turned out, considering I was searching my own memory).

I now know a little more, so here are my random thoughts in no particular order (which is possibly very Dada).

Dada is French for hobby horse; or maybe means rocking horse.

The movement (Dadaism) itself started in Switzerland during the First World War.

It is against war and anything that smacks of dictatorship or sense of entitlement.

It is an avant garde movement associated with radical leftist thinkers.

It is associated with Cubism and surrealism.

Dada intersects with art / literary, politics and culture.

There are no rules in the Dada movement; rules and reason are anathema to the Dada movement.

The Dada centenary exhibition and performance space was held in a cool (literally and figuratively) underground building that stretches underneath part of the Octagon in Dunedin.

New Zealand poet, Jenny Powell


Down in the depths of the underground space, we couldn't hear the skirl of pipes from the Octagon, so it was fittingly surreal to come up into the sunshine and be greeted with another world within worlds.


Dear Reader,

After my short exposure to a little Dadaism, I sat in the Octagon with a handle of Pilsner and chatted with friends about how frustrating life can be for some people, and how underground movements, like Dadaism, are a good antidote to the confident heavies weighing in and causing wars (which can come in many forms; large and small) and generally raining on your parade. (The Lucys v the Charlie Browns).
Movements such as Dada are the quiet revolutions.
For me, this attitude is partly reflected in what (the rather stern, despite his curly hair) Schopenhauer says on the subject of reading: 'A pre-condition for reading good books is not reading bad ones, for life is too short'.
In his writings Schopenhauer also mentions the Latin saying: 'Dies diem docet'; 'One day teaches another day'.
I like that. 
I don't know that I would like Schopenhauer if I met him in person, but he does make you think. I'll give him that.


Monday, 1 February 2016

Planned Neglect


Round hay bales in paddocks at Morton Mains - looking towards Hokonui hills in the distance. 

This is the district where my great-grandmother Alison Butler (nee Riddell / Riddle) was born

Hoping to make some sort of connection, with the area, my aunty and I made a visit to where her grandmother (my great-grandmother) spent the first seven years of her life, before moving to the southern coastal town of Orepuki, where she lived out the rest of her life.

It is a rather nondescript place (plain, comes to mind - maybe because of its flatness). It is a place of quietness. Yet, I sensed a depth in the silence of the land where the straight roads; crossroads, fence-lines and railway line moving through, mark a starting point; a potential spring-board for many futures. 
Morton Mains is a place of plains, of straight lines. Even its name hints at a stand being made for measurement. 
Even thought the definite is marked out here in the form of road-signs, hedge-rows, gates, straight-as-a-dye flax-plantings and sunken roadside verges; I sensed an eerie indefinite; of possibilities; of a constrained freedom; of something more, just off to the right, or to the left, or straight ahead.
My aunty was particularly impressed with the fact that it was possible to see across the plains right over to the Hokonui Hills, where at the foothills, her hometown of Gore is situated. 

X marks the spot ... was this a sign that here is where my great-grandmother once stood looking out to a future horizon?
(It is in fact a marker for European and American tourists to keep to the correct side of the road. In New Zealand, we drive on the left).

My aunty and I travelled on to where our grandmother & great-grandmother also moved on - to a road that leads to the Longwoods - a range of hills forested in native trees; now protected, but not before the bush below its foothills, was turned into rolling pastures

Looking over towards Te Waewae Bay and Foveaux Strait at the back of Orepuki



Another day, different weather, different location and with different people ... a wander around a cemetery ...

A row of toadstools - poisonous. 
We have very few edible fungi in New Zealand, but the ones that are edible, the field mushrooms, are very tasty and often free for the picking

From where we were staying, for the first two days, we looked out over a rather rainy camping ground and bay at Moeraki 

A visit to nearby Oamaru. This vintage truck is parked in the historical, harbourside precinct of the town of Oamaru, where most of the buildings are made from a type of limestone that has come to be known as Oamaru stone. This area of the town has been slowly transformed into an artisan area, with many of the large store-houses and warehouses converted into art galleries and studios.

At dusk we went to a spot where it was possible to see seals and yellow-eyed penguins settling down for the night. (Failing light meant that the penguin shots didn't turn out).

An even closer encounter the next day at a place farther along the coast ... Needless to say, we swiftly moved ourselves away ...

The rocks were festooned with fauna of the flipper-kind ...

... and the feathered kind ... (in this case, spotted shags)

Yarrow & yellow lichen

Petite perfection


An ocean of grass 

On our way home, we called into a forested area with caves and rock formations. Looking up from our spot in the sun, where we were watching out for birds, we spotted this grotesque rock.


Dear Reader,

I have started the year firmly focused on finishing the novel I am in the middle of.
Unlike other years, when from February on, the year skewered off into all sorts of other directions never to right itself again, this year I am committed to keeping it fixed on course.
I shall treat it like a yacht, with myself as the solo yachtie. I will do my best (failing the occasional unexpected squall) to follow the course as charted and in this way, reach my destination - in this case, a finished first draft ready for shaping into readiness for publication.
Rather than set myself the impossible task of working on my book every day, I have worked out a time-table of planned neglect. That is, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, I shall neglect everything else that is not to do with writing my book.
I've called it the T.W.T. Offensive.
On my neglectful days (Tues.Wed.Thurs.) I shall take myself off where no-one can find me - to un-disclosed locations - where I shall immerse myself in the quiet world of my novel and its characters.
By giving myself permission to be neglectful, I can relax into my writing days, knowing anything else that needs to be done; the urgent and the important; the needful and the necessary; can be done on Mondays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; four whole days to pay attention - which, by the way, I think is extremely generous of me.


Clocking Out

 I have been neglecting this blog for some months. I think perhaps I should face facts and accept that it is indeed time to retire this blog...