Colette
Downing




Did you know...

That in Norway, located only a few mountains along from the Svalbard Seed Vault, is an archive of NEW NOWS. This progressive archive is built deep into the mountain and was set up only a few NOWS ago by someone very relevant. Given the nature and dimensional qualities of NEW NOWs, storage is a complex issue, and as such the archive itself is extraordinarily large, and is indeed, ever expanding.





Did you know...

That the NEW NOW archive receives a new addition of a NEW NOWS every NOW.

In fact, with every passing NOW the archive receives 7.594 billion additional NEW NOWS. And the reality is this:

Each NOW is entirely different.

You wouldn’t believe how many NOWS we come across. NOWS as far as the ‘I’ can see!

In the history of the archive there have been a great many powerful NOWS, some sad NOWS, some sexy NOWS, and some frankly sordid NOWS, but the commonality of these NOWS lies in the fact that they are all remarkably NEW.

But only for a now.

For example, this NOW, is remarkably new, wouldn’t you say? I would go as far to say it is the NEWest now. Or is it the newest NOW?



Unfortunately, there is a growing concern from locals that the NEW NOW archive is expanding at such a colossal rate that within the length of a NOW it will have consumed a good half of the earth, and with the addition of only a single other NOW the whole globe will be entirely submerged in both unadulterated NEWness and subsequent NOWness.

But I wouldn’t worry about that…

for now.

Should you wish to send your NEWest NOWS to the aforementioned archive, please direct all correspondence to:

NEW NOW,
A stones’ throw from Svalbard Seed Bank,
Spitsbergen,
Longyearbyen,
Norway


Please be advised the NEW NOW must be marked ‘URGENT’ or else it might not be NEW enough by the time it arrives




reflections from something opaque

I am reflecting on a walk I had some months ago. It was March, and I had for two weeks been quarantined in my house in south London after one of my flatmates had unfortunately, and very apologetically, left the door open to Covid .


I am thinking about our luck; we are having a surprisingly nice time locked together, for which I count my blessings.

The two weeks that have passed have affirmed our love and care for one another; we have kept each other entertained and distracted from the fear of having an illness that no one knows much about.

Between coughs, we have spent a great deal of time laughing, becoming avant-garde make-up artists, getting dressed up for drag nights.

Before my eyes Ruben turned into Victoria Beckham, James into Angelina Jolie, Millie became largely nude, and I (very unintentionally) morphed into Gene Simmons.

I was soothed against my fears by Ruben’s choice of art house film (yet another David Lynch) and together we got drunk on wine that none of us could taste.

I painted your portrait and you painted mine, each a soothing gesture of care.



In these early days of government mandated lockdown, we are each granted one hour of precious outdoor time, which I am now eagerly taking up.

I am in the midst of my masters dissertation, and walking calms my nerves. It gives me a freedom of thought, which the smoky rooms of my house, while full of love, don’t always provide.

It is around 10 am and I am walking down a residential street near Crofton park.It is oddly hot for London in March, and people are walking armoured with masks and t shirts. I can see an old water tower a few streets away, and two rows of Victorian houses extend either side of me towards a small park.
Black lives matter posters are pinned to windows offering solidarity, and children’s paintings of rainbows give thanks to the NHS. I notice that some windows campaign to save the Lady Well that people used to flock to for its healing properties.

I have my headphones in, but I take them out when I see people gathering distantly from one another outside a house with windows painted pink, I see the two second floor windows open, a father and a son framed in each of them, one playing the piano, one playing the violin. People are swaying to the music like reeds in a breeze, strangers share smiling glances while the corners of their masks crinkle.


I am walking a bit further, to the park with the willow trees and where the old canal runs through, and my mind returns to my dissertation. I am thinking about a recent love affair I have struck up with one of the protagonists of my research, the 20th century Russian artist, Mikhail Matiushin.  I am thinking about his practice, his Organicist methodology as a means for approaching life, and I turn its meanings over in my mouth.
Organicism, approaching existence through interconnectivity, prompted by nineteenth century scientific thinking that for the first time saw a whole invisible cosmos. Cellular building blocks, light waves, x -rays, gamma rays, an ether, and even a human ancestral relationship to the non-human for a bigger system of being, for which everything that is, is a part. It was a revolutionary and utopian process in which the ‘I’ could be considered as a part of not only the world but an all-encompassing organism.

I am remembering his fascination for repeated patterns in nature. A few times he took a root and framed it in a gallery, nature's answer to the Duchampian ready-made. Matiushin looked into the root and tried to feel it using every possible sense. He tried to feel it beyond sense, with intuition, as a kind of metaphysical sensation that comes as a product of knowledge and experience. He wanted to feel the essence of what it meant to be and feel as a root. I am interrogating this which each step. For him this way of thinking was a tool to greet all facets of life, to feel the life of not only the ‘I’, but the other, the root, the plant, the forest, the city, the deep flowing breath of the universe.

I am thinking about the first painting I saw of his, a study for a hemisphere, and how he meant to locate all being in this painting. A self-portrait of a universal ‘we’, collapsed in motion, sensation and 1,

2,

3,

4 dimensions. He wanted us to experience the universe, our collective and unified self, from all points of view. All this at a time when the hinterland of his own universe grappled with civil war, world war, and pandemics.



I walk on further, I am crossing the bridge over the river with the swirly ramp on the other side, I nearly collide with someone, and we are both laughing as we awkwardly try to avoid one another’s bubble.

To determine the limits of Matiushin, I am thinking about a book I read recently, ‘All about Love’, by bell hooks. She writes of the failures of the hippy movement of the 1960s. I paraphrase her words in my mind. In the 60 people on the fringes of society worked towards social justice and tried to find a real way to make the world democratic and peaceful, where resources could be shared, and rich, meaningful life could become everyone’s potential.



I reflect on her conclusion that the failure of this blissful utopianism was that it was not born of the everyday lives of ordinary working people. Instead these ideas were born, nurtured and raised outside of the nuclear family, out of the 9-5, outside of a system of politics and a socialised system of culture, and, as she said, it is far easier to maintain a radical politics when living on the edge of society, but far harder to try and implement them in a long standing system. Eventually, to survive they had to adopt the conventions of the system they sought to subvert.

In a sense, the same was true of Matiushin. I am transfixed by his utopianism, as I am with many ideas of utopia, but I consider the nature of his work as being largely inaccessible. He too, while in a position of artistic power, remained outside a large proportion of ordinary society. His ideas and those he was influenced by likely appealed only to those who had read a great deal about his work, or extensively into nineteenth century breakthroughs in science, in a population that was still learning to read.
What is clear, is for a radical connection or shared feeling amongst people to survive, it must be born out of the everyday lives of everyday people. It cannot be imposed from without, it has to use tools available to all.
It is at this point in my walk that I start thinking about a book I have been recently introduced to by my wonderful friend, Alice, who I have been bonded to I’m sure for centuries, but in reality since we met at a Goldsmiths lecture in 2017, and who with ever since I have shared art and books, food, and wine with. The text is Audre Lorde’s Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as power. I laugh to myself when I reflect on my first reading of this book, jaw dropped, nodding violently, it was a worldview in a work. In Lorde I find a new sensorial leader.

I examine the text in my mind - Lorde redetermines the boundaries and etymology of the word ‘erotic’. For Lorde, the erotic is a fullness of sensation, wrongly associated with the pornographic, as that which is ‘feeling without sensing’. Rather, she determines the erotic as an internal ‘YES’; it is the sensation of sitting well with the body, the mind and the soul. I am thinking that in relation to myself, my internal yes can be triggered by sharing my passions with people I care about and giving space for people to share their passions with me, making food for friends and family, sinking into a work of art, a book, a bit of music, supporting loved ones and caring for my neighbours.

This honest eroticism struggles to find a place in a culture of accelerated capitalism, of superficial dreams and ideals, where the ‘yes’ we are often told we will find is in a life of surfaces. You will find it in your job, your ownership, your appearance. We are encouraged to strive after these external drives in order to achieve feeling, but this is the pornographic. It is the appearance of feeling without wholly or truly sensing. This is living from goals and achievements dictated from a capitalistic structure which is neither based on ‘collective human need’, or indeed, the needs of the individual, living outside of what Audre lorde describes as our ‘internal knowledge and needs’.

I am thinking of a means to combat this and sift through box upon box of the disorganised filing system of my mind before my mental secretary sinks exhausted to the floor, back against the wall clutching a crumpled piece of paper. On this paper is scribbled the names Joanna Hedva, bell hooks, adrienne maree brown, Audre Lorde, and many more but I can’t read them because the handwriting of my mind is illegible.

All of these thinkers have been at it far longer than I have, and they remind me that what is necessary and wholly subversive is a politics of care. Community care, an elevation in society of what care means to us, liberated from the underrated praxis of nursing, nurturing, teaching, healing, into the responsibility of everyone, so that we might do justice to the yes in every one of us. This is utopia, utopia is careFULL and meaingFULL radical interdependence.


I am lost in thought, and drift through my surroundings. I am standing on the top of a hilly field in Brockley, close to home now, looking over canary wharf. From where I stand, I can see strata, I am looking at the grass that supports me rolling down to a line of trees that edge the park, beyond I can see row beyond row beyond row of houses, and looming above, like a modern Olympus, is London’s financial district, Canary wharf.

I’ve always thought it interesting that the large majority of buildings in Canary Wharf are reflective, how you can be simultaneously encased within the architecture, seeing yourself as a part of it, and repelled, the mirror of these buildings only allows you superficial access.


I walk on and think to myself I shouldn’t have worn flip flops, I am watching a person stand at a gateway. On the porch in front of them is a package filled with food, yogurts, pasta, biscuits. A fashionable elderly woman opens the door and smiles, I watch them converse as I walk past, smiling.
I am thinking of how Matiushin fits into all of this, of how as he attempted to paint self portraits of the universal ‘we’, he saw every person as a part of a universal system. In his art they were already unified, already working constructively in unison. But his theories were so abstract and outside of the  populous that it was like he was grouping a global population together in art but he couldn’t see where they were.

I open the front door and walk through the house. Its still, no one is awake yet, apart from James, who is stood sleepy eyed in his pyjamas, smoking outside of the kitchen door, he didn’t know I’d left the house, so he’s already made me a coffee and rolled me a cigarette.
References:
Audre Lorde, Uses of the Ertotic, 1978
Bell Hooks, All About Love, 2000
Adrienne Maree Brown, Pleasure Activism, 2020