Tuesday, 29 November 2011

a field student of Busby dreams

Of what does a lowly aphid dream? This is what, as Field Study's Man in E17, I have been asking (and trying to remember?) while going about my humble and bumbling business in the mists and fogs of a season which otherwise feels so unseasonal and discombobulating. I have been worrying about the persistence of the leaves on the trees. Shouldn't more of them have fallen by now or rather, at the time these photographs were taken several days ago? So much withered green and dessicated yellow hanging overhead - a marcescent nightmare or sweet dream for a roaming aphid; the most recent guise of Field Study's Man in E17. I could be in heaven amidst all this yellowish autumnal senescence to which I am so strangely attracted. In the canopies which know no abscission I have sought comfort in the floriferous vision of Busby Berkeley choreographed to the strains of Artie Shaw. In this lack of a windfall it is by a waterfall I have dreamed of flowers past and to come. 
Here are the remnants of another Berkeleyesque vision pasted on the dereliction of Newington Causeway not far from Elephant and Castle. It is a reminder of my recent dalliances with other visions of scantily clad rites of spring and summer. How fruitful and sweet will the honeydew of this far flown forage be?

Sunday, 20 November 2011

a field student of haunted mists

yesterday at the allotment

a field student of spurious origins dines on a parasol mushroom

FRP Hornbeam's Insect Hotel

It is a long way to travel, from Bunhill Fields to Walthamstow, when being a creature much more small than great. Field Study's Man in E17, in the guise of a tick, failed miserably to latch on to any sanguineous psycho-geographers in the course of his journey. Add to this problem of scale the evolutionary problem of having acquired six more legs with which I scurried in a ridiculous fashion. 8 is just too many. With the blood of ancestral poets long gone I faced a crisis which required seizing a shape shifting opportunity. In the supernatural twilight hanging over Walthamstow Marshes I became with the barely audible (to human ears) proclamation, "I am become Fungus Gnat!" In this form I drifted on the haunted breezes of the marshes and so made my progress a little more effortlessly towards home.
Having stayed in the grand habitation which was 'InnVertebrate' I found myself at another insect hotel in the borderlands of E17. This hospitality was of a much more thrifty character although I confess to having some doubts about the place. There was a curious and disturbing resonance which I struggled to put one of my six legs on until the screeching brakes of a bus propelled me into the shower scene of Psycho and Bates Motel where Janet Leigh as Marion Crane met a grisly end. Bernard Hermann's stabbing sound effects were created by stabbing a melon (you know).


It being Saturday morning, all this paranoia, psycho association and macabre musing was swept away by the conviviality of Organiclea's wholesome, local and organic produce stall.     

Organiclea Stall, Bakers Avenue E17 - Saturdays, 10am - 3.30pm.

Is this serendipity? How was it I chose the form of a fungus gnat in my journey of tiny significance? Field Study's Man in E17 is reading, The Stream, by Brian Clarke. In this story, it is the law of continuing that decrees provenance. And so by the law of continuing Field Study's Man in E17, intrepid fungus gnat extraordinaire, was greeted by a sight of humongous sustenance - thanks to Ru K, parasol mushrooms foraged in the Broxbourne area. Oh great law of continuing, you gave me food and shelter from the blazing November sun.    

Field Study's Man in E17 being enticed by a parasol mushroom.

As I hovered about Roger, preparing to plunge into his parasol, I was distracted by the noise of heated debate - the cladistical ructions of a Springtail or Collembola conference taking place in the Bakers Avenue Bug Motel. The parsimonious debate concerned the classification of their species. Some of the springtails asserted they are insects while others something else, more ambiguous, more 'inter-cultural'. Cladistical purists were having none of this identity politics. Central to the ruction is the issue of mouth parts. Insects have external mouth parts while Collembola have internal mouth parts. Quips about insects never being able to keep their mouths shut murmured in and out of the assorted shafts of bics and biros. Sensing this dispute might escalate I adopted the role of mediator - peace maker. We are all mycophyles and here is a stall of earthy mycogastronomic delight. Let us engage our mouth parts in the noble art of eating. 

As we sat down to gobble on our dish of fried parasol mushroom seasoned with coarse ground pepper the parsimony abated and we began to tell the tales of our ancestry in a quest for a universal origin. I scratched out a cladogram in the mud. Here is a diligent student's diagram of my 'tree'.

As I waxed lyrical on the ancestry of Field Study's Mandibles in E17 there was a decidedly irritated and objecting voice calling out, "Spurious, totally spurious psycho-cladogrammatics!"  

Friday, 18 November 2011

a field student of Blake, Bunyan and Defoe stays at a bug hotel

As Field Study's Man in E17, I made for home via the ravines and gullies of Bunhill Fields; some of the time being the size of a blood sucking tick tucked away in the tunic of the pilgrim, Christian. I waited to latch on to any unsuspecting psycho-geographers who had come to pay their respects to the fore-fathers of their discipline. Would they rub up to me? Many years ago, while at college, I attended a slide show and talk by a visiting lecturer. He was influenced by tombstones and memorials and had been to Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris where Oscar Wilde is buried. The slides included an image showing how pilgrims to Wilde's tombstone had rubbed at the genitalia of the statuesque angel; the gesture rendering them distinctly polished. Along with the lipsticky kisses and graffiti the devotion overall has caused some distress to the family of Oscar Wilde. Back in Bunhill Fields there was, thankfully, no evidence of such attention at the tomb of John Bunyan and I was there in a strictly platonic vampiric nonsense. I continued my journey, a blood thirsty creepy crawl, across the way to where William Blake and Daniel Defoe are remembered.

Tomb of John Bunyan at Bunhill Fields.

Merlin Coverley sees Daniel Defoe as the provider of 'the prototype psychogeographical report' - this being, A Journal of the Plague Year. I considered paying imaginary gothic homage to Defoe in the form of a flea in order to make a thematic connection with the source of the plague of 1665; fleas (on rats) carrying Yersinia pestis - the bacterium that causes bubonic plague. I opted instead for an arachnid - the tick, another purveyor of horrible pestilence. I made a link to The Guardian, so in the interests of non-bias here is a link to a report from The Daily Mail which tells of an invasion of blood sucking ticks able to induce (hypothetically) a mass outbreak of hallucinations. This seems to be a rather prosaic psychogeographical scenario here in the shadow of Defoe's grimy memorial. The grime, perhaps from traffic pollution, has rendered the inscriptions all most unreadable. I was tempted to rub them clean but thought better of it. 

Tomb of Daniel Defoe at Bunhill Fields

Attention to the grave of William Blake was less gaudy than that for the tomb of Oscar Wilde although a person or persons had left an assortment of items on the stone (17/11/2011) perhaps as a part of a ritual gathering around the stone to remember and celebrate his life. The things appeared innocent enough.

Gravestone of William Blake at Bunhill Fields
(the actual grave is a short distance away)

As Field Study's Man in E17 I've had cause to think about dance recently, in particular, the painting, La Danse II, by Henri Matisse. When applying for a job as an art teacher I was required to give a lesson on the theme of movement. La Danse II was one of the images I presented in a slide show. I was asked by some of the students why the figures had to be (or were) naked. I began to answer while also thinking of how I might creatively turn the question on the students so they might give their insights. I faltered as I realized my interpretations were potentially contrary to the edicts of the Islamic faith of the students asking the question - a situation for which I was not prepared. Having attended the DV8 performance, Can We Talk About This?, at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, I have been reflecting on relevant situations in which I have censored myself. I was interested to read Matisse may have been influenced by Blake's, 'Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing' . Blake's figures are less raw and more diaphanous. William Blake produced a body of works based on Dante's Divine Comedy, for which there seems to be a complex relationship with early Islamic philosophy. I do wonder how Blake's depiction, (along with many others) of Muhammad in the 'Sowers of Discord' could be appropriate in a setting where I feel compelled not to offend. A picture I think more closely related to La Danse is Lucas Cranach the Elder's, The Golden Age - click on this link to view some painstakingly protected modesty.   

Scuttling quickly on, as darkness began to close in on Bunhill Fields I wondered where a creep and crawly such as I might find safe haven in that neighbourhood?

Field Study's Man heading for E17 can recommend the 'bee boutique' having spent a night there snuggled up with all sorts of fellow spineless creepy crawlies.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

a field student of facts, fatsias and falsities

"Size of a honey bee!"; the incantation from Arabian Nights by which, as Field Study's Man in E17, I began another evening ramble or forage. Here from my black box of digital tricks is an image of a mysterious forest encountered not far from Base Camp Beere. The lack of focus is an indication of the density of the forest and the difficulty I had navigating my way through and out of it. The experience was fraught with mortal danger however, as is obvious by this testimony, I lived to tell, or rather, spin the tale. Below is an image of the forest from a more distant hovering vantage. What misidentifications lurked in the darkness of that fig leafed canopy? Ominous vibrations; the buzz, rub and scuttle of mini beasts waiting patiently for the likes of foolhardy lily livered liberal psycho-geographers such as me. Not for Julian Beere, intrepid trespass into the out of bounds bowels, tunnels and tubes of London's underground. Too risque. Would you find Field Study's Man in E17 blagging his way into the viscera of Westfields, east and west, savagely chatting up security guards for the sake of a cutting edge psycho-geographic class critique? No way! I shall commune with the bees and the birds in the parochial paradise garden of E17. In this, the Great Aralian Forest of Walthamstow, (the E17 Aralia) there is the sanctuary of palmately lobed false consciousness - the sense of security to be gleaned from nice plants in nice front gardens in nice neighbourhoods with lots and lots of nice people. Oasis? Mirage? Even estate agents windows here have been sites for poetry to sooth the prospecting brows of weary house and flat hunters. 

By what misidentification might this Garden of Eden 17 become a Poison Garden of E17? Yesterday evening I observed wasps and honeybees clambering about the flowers of this plant. I was surprised to see the wasps. Shouldn't they all, but the queens normally, be dead by the 12th November? The weather has been so mild of late. Being the budding apiarist I decided to check on my identification - the facts and fatsias of this plant. Is it a fig leafed palm, a flowering aralia, Japanese Aralia - Fatsia japonica? What nourishment is to be had for the pollen foragers at this fly through take away? Will they be getting the right balance of fats, proteins and carbohydrates (with trace minerals) to maintain a healthy ...... lifestyle? A little further up the road, flies were opting for the junk food choice of discarded but still fleshy fried chicken bones with dog excrement sauce. Yum. 
I have yet to find the nutritional information label for Fatsia japonica or the fig leaved palm - if that it what it is. In my flits and flights between various internet 'flowerings' of information I came across a link to a plant by the name of, 'false castor oil plant'; another name for the fig leaved palm. This is where the garden of plant names takes on something of a toxic character. The (true) castor oil plant is Ricinus communis - a source of the toxin, ricin - allegedly the stuff of sinister and alarming terrorist plots originating in north and east London. I recommend this web site, 'the poison garden' for a wealth of information and links about the truth and falsities of castor oil plants amongst many others.

Last weekend I went to see, 'Can We Talk About This?' - a play by DV8 Physical Theatre. While I was in thrall to the spectacular invention of the dance and acro-balance I squirmed about in my liberal seat as the same dancers orated on the subject or contemporary history of multiculturalism and extremism, in particular Islamic extremism. In my nice world of flowers, birds and bees it was a challenging polemic to endure though one I recommend going to. Was the latter comment one I feel liberally bound to say? 'Can We Talk About This?' deals with the persecution, intimidation and censorship of individual artists, writers, educators and other public figures as a succession of theatrical inquests. The show does not address acts of mass terrorism although they lurked in my mind as part of the culture of fear about what is free speech for some and unacceptable heinous blasphemy for others. I am heading for the allotment in flight from the urban graffiti hornets whose nest I disturbed earlier in the week.      

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

a field student of paint splatters

8th November. As Field Study's Man in E17, I took a break this evening from studying the complexities of honey bee nutrition; in particular the purpose of proteins in pollen. Vitellogenin (Vg) seems to be one of the most important proteins for the well being of a bee colony because it is used to produce brood food that is a substance akin to an elixir of bee life. Some more insights about vitellogenin can be accessed here. In 'a field student of October forages'  there are some images of bees returning to their hive well laden with pollen. This is encouraging as it suggests they may well be building up stores of pollen and thus the reserves of Vg which will help them re-establish the colony early next year.

But what about the paint splatted images above? Is the ghost of Jackson Pollock at large in Walthamstow? Unlikely. As Field Study's Man in E17 taking my evening constitutional I reflected on my efforts to summon the spirit of Joseph Beuys' dead hare so that it might explain the plethora of pictures to be enjoyed via the E17 Art Trail 2011. Beuys was also a great artistic proponent of fat. Did my circuitous ramble in the form and outline of a hare, the character of which was determined by the shapes of E17's highways and byways, actually succeed in evoking the ghost of Beuys' hare? I have scoured the Guardian looking for reports of sightings of ghostly white hares. It is possible a larval white hare - in fact a liquid lipid body of ethereal white paint - appeared briefly on Wadham Road before, alas, being splatted into abstract expressionist post existence by a driver distracted by the task of texting a message to say he would be home in less than a minute.