hello & welcome back to ✨WHAT I SAW LAST WEEK!✨ – my digital critic’s notebook, a lil online moleskine that i leave open for you to peer over my shoulder at.

i’m a bit behind on weeks (what’s new) but i got some bit n bobs. rather than do an XXXtra long bumper pack double bill, i’m gna split them up so i have a personal way of understanding time. apologies for confusion to whoever (god bless u) is reading these :)

we r gettin straight into it bc 19th Feb is now very long ago, i don’t remember what i was doing/thinking.


i love eliza clarke, i actually do. i’m a stan, a fanclub member. i think her books (the 2 i’ve now read) are just very good. they’ve got this quality to the writing that makes me think she’d have written really good (comprehensible) fanfiction back in the day. i’d have followed her on tumblr n been like ‘woah, wish we were mates’ bc yeah – the prose or narrative, the way the words are ordered and shuffled about on the page are so quick n smooth and such a delight to parse through. i enjoy the act of reading bc it is sooooo silky smooth, caress, i just side on through the story.

and the stories she seems to tell (again, going off a sample size of 2) are batshit. between boy parts and penance, i feel like eliza clarke is very good at writing about BITCHES in a way that humanises them. like, yeah, these characters are terrible – but she does the scalpel incision and pops her writer-head into the body gap to see what’s going on in there. there’s a real psychological interest (for me) in Bitch Analysis. i know there’ve been all those stupid listicle thinkpieces about how Fiction About Terrible Women is EVERYWHERE – but good? i love terrible women? and how many books about terrible women do the thing where they split hairs on what kind of terrible, how are they specifically terrible in all their myriad terriblenesses. and if we’re asking WHY they’re terrible, can we also ask what made the why – wot are the terms of the social and political context that justifies or explains the terrible-ness. i’ve made it all sound quite dry bc i’m typing this quickly – looking at a cigarette i’ve jsut rolled, knowing i can only go and smoke it once i’ve written this bit. take my hurried words with generosity for the person typing them pls.

but – BITCH ANALYSIS. once you analyse The Bitch you realise most terrible people are actually damaged, yeah that’s humane and empathetic. but it’s also fucking INTERESTING. because there are all these bits of shrapnel that jangles about, makign a complicated person who is being humanised in front of us while being simultaneously TERRIBLE and actually not too bad – in all these ways. it’s very ALIVE. i loved boy parts. was OBSESSED with it and for a couple of nights, i had dreams that i was looming like a suspended ghost, hovering in the air over irina’s garage studio archive with all these plastic boxes as some girly that looked like lily collins? pulled bits and bobs out of the boxes and arranged them on the floor.

also the way Eliza Clarke wrote about photography made me really feel like i was turning a corner WRT to the artform. never been a Photography Enjoyer, but i’m undergoing a real moment of personal growth in relation to that position. PERSONAL GROWTH!!! ok brb off for my ciggie he he he :)

went back 2 da ballet

back from the cig, hi. i went back to the ballet! wrote about Dark with Excessive Bright a couple weeks ago, after going to their press preview thingy. i was very taken by the idea of immersive audio description, and since i didn’t get to give it a try at the press morning, i doubled back to check it out (thank you to the ROH press team for indulging my critic’s whims)

it was so cool!?!??! it did indeed shift and change as i moved through the space of the performance. moving thorugh the space was actually a bit harder during a scheduled and ticketed performance, obvs more people there than at the press morning, so i don’t know if i got to have a proper go at testing the limits of its full Shifting abilities. but the descriptive text was really cool. kinda want a linear verison of it as printed edition – it’s a text that stands in its own right.

i also want this for everything. descriptive immersive audio text for makin dinner. crossing the road. popping to tesco metro for a snack. it’s a way of looking at the stuff around you with a gorgeous kind of attention to detail that makes very banal normal things feel sparkly and interesting and glossy. i wasn’t bored watching a performance i’d already seen bc the text was describing it in a brand new way. more immersive audio description!!!


i hated this???? the preamble i got was: my bf said his best friend (my bf’s bff he he he) watched this film and said it was the best film (Bf’s bff’s BF hahaha) he’d ever seen (or at least the best one he’d seen in a while). and – high praise. always be wary of high praise. i set my expectations well below Best Film but i did go into this expecting to enjoy it. sorry to my bf’s bff. i disagree w ur assessment!!

Past Lives is a film about two childhood bestfriends that take different Life Paths and then meet again in their 20s – and they’ve got the hots for each other, but SPOILER: they’re too different to make it work out beyond that attraction. they grew up in Seoul together, the main girl was a Weird Kid and the main boy was Her BFF. the girl’s family decide to move to Canada and so they go on one last playdate that’s actually A Real Date – with their Mums looking on and watching them? which was fun and odd. the girl is excited to go to Canada bc she wants to be a writer and — non-North-Americans don’t win Nobel Prizes for Literature. i mean, vibes. ok! fair. they do, but there’s an Anglocentrism to all those kinda global accolades, which i sympathise with. outside that Anglophone sphere, it must feel like you’re on the periphery of the world’s attention, even if what you’re doing feels important to where you are. Europe and N america are kinda still the centre, or they think they’re the centre, even though they’re kinda busted. it’s an undeserving centrality, is what i’m saying, and being outside of it must be really frustrating bc those in that centre probably don’t see their own centrality.

i think the girl (Nora) was really interesting. in a way i didn’t enjoy, but fair enough. she moved to Canada as a kid, not necessarily her specific decision, but her and her whole family system had this Western-facing attitude that just was not shared by the guy (Hae Sung) – Nora describes him as like SOOOO Korean, VERY Korean through the film. but yeah, they meet again in their 20s by chance – Nora stumbles across Hae Sung on Facebook and they get chatting, they Skype each other, reconnect. it’s a funny and modern way to have that kinda re-meet-cute, and i think that bit was done quite well. maybe bc facebook and skype are kinda vintage now? the re-meeting destabilises Nora’s life. She’s just moved to New York, she’s doing an MFA or a writing program of some kind, she’s living the beginning of the dream and then she meets this Old Friend who is a Hot Guy – it just throws her all off kilter. so she breaks it off. then years go by, they re-re-meet. now Nora’s got a husband who is just this New York Man, they met at a writing retreat, they’re well-matched and they love each other in a cosy comfy way. Hae Sung is VERY Korean and just In that mode, America isn’t his centre! He will travel n go to china, learn Mandarin and like – he’s not a bumpkin or provincial bc of this lack of interest in The West – it’s just that he’s part of a whole different hemisphere. But he still fancies Nora and Nora kinda really actually still fancies Hae Sung. they just can’t really be together because they don’t care about the same things. they also can’t admit that they fancy each other. they have literally nothing in common except this childhood connection, a feeling of familiarity that ties them together, despite the actual lack of familiarity.

i watched this whole film clenched. my bf was so surprised by how much i hated it, i really think he thought it was like a kinda psychological Unlocking, digging out some Core Memory about a childhood crush of my own or something. but i just ?? found myself deeply irritated by the storyline and the characters willingness to stew in their own situations, despite the fact the situations were making them unhappy. lack of action! impotence! as you’ll know from the I’m A Fan text, i have a real thing about it. i get it when people are held or stuck by circumstances outside their control, powers that are so much bigger than them – fine, well. not fine, but it doesn’t irritate me in the same way. but when people are so stuck! and unwilling to act impulsively or scared by the idea of being chaotic. especially in fiction!!!!! when destruction and self-destruction has much lower stakes (it’s not real, silly!) – ficiton is a kinda crash-pad! WISH FULFILLMENT!! the wikipedia for this film mentions that it’s semi-autobiographical, based on events in the director’s life. so, ok! why wouldn’t you live vicariously through the fiction and bring about a more satisfying kind of narrative closure!? why would you cover the brakes like that, when you can yearn for literally anything you’ve ever wanted. it feels like – it just has a lack of imagination. and i enjoy imagination, get satisfaction from and am rewarded by imagination. wihtout imagination i fidget and twitch, feel itchy thru the thing, restless. i wasn’t expecting to react this strongly, but it really was visceral!

Nora was so pulled in two directions: between her nice comfy new york man husband (who fit the woman she actually IS) and Very Korean Hae Sung (who fit the woman she thinks she WOULD’VE been if the events of her life hadn’t taken her to where she IS). here’s the thing tho – she was in the right place, wasn’t she? she didn’t have something ripped away from her, hae sung was just a reminder of what she once was, the person she would’ve been if […] hadn’t happened. but if […] hadn’t happened, would she have been as happy and successful and fulfilled as she actually was before he came back along to re-re-meet her? idk! i j think they should’ve had a threesome. her, the new york husband and hae sung. or he 2 of them, they should’ve just fucked, at the very least. all that yearning for something actually very intangible was giving me a headache. i don’t think poor impulse control would’ve taken the wind out of the narrative momentum, i think it would’ve made it less of a cerebral psychological narrative, more of a weird rip-roaring bonkers unhinged one. one of action rather than interior.

i also think that somewhere in these complaints, i’m identifying that this film has got a diasporic yearning i just cannot countenance. Nora is destabilised by Hae Sung bc he represents a reminder of what she lost in moving, leaving, remaking herself. but: Immigrant in West Yearns for Essential Self that died in transit – fuck that! i don’t think the Self in Motherland is any more authentic or essential than the Self in Diaspora. i do not think that dwelling on the conflicted idea that the Self in Motherland would’ve been more authentic, but stymied by lack of opportunity and agency – i don’t think that’s particularly emotionally powerful or hard-hitting. that’s not a site of emotional contention or resonance, that’s just shit. i also think it’s a kind of western exceptionalism? idk, it’s kinda like: women in diaspora maybe look back at women in the motherland and think ‘god, how awful. i’m so glad the west gives me opportunities, but it also takes away from my essential self! i am half my self but also free!’ like women in the motherland don’t also have freedom agency and opportunity? patronising! paternalistic! Western exceptionalism. women in the motherland are doing what they fucking like, regardless of whether diaspora recognises it as their definition of freedom. i don’t think my motherland self would be any less of a version of myself and i won’t patronise her by assuming one of us is more or less than the other.

it’s just… multiverse possibilities based in the immigrant story! give me a BREAK!!! i want to shout everytime i encounter an understanding of coming/going from a country that harks on about the emotional resonance of the moving. i don’t think it’s an inherently emotional thing. i think there are other things: about borders that are deeply traumatic, violent and fucked. and sometimes, the upper/middle class in the immigrant class system, they confuse that traumatic experience with their experience – conflate the 2 and merge their experience into a trauma that actually isn’t theirs. but the truth is: some people choose to go, they choose to move and it is neutral. or it is good (for them and the system they exist within). i had the same emotional kneejerk NOOO when i watched everything everywhere all at once and my eyes rolled all the way back into my head because – i don’t think there is inherent trauma in the immigrant experience! the immigrant experience isn’t necessarily definitively by its very nature traumatic and i think it is dangerous to conceptualise it in that way because that means that the state forces that actually make it traumatic get off scott-free, un-analysed and un-resisted – they pass by invisible and without direct address. borders shouldn’t exist and shouldn’t be policed. some of us passed right through them and we’re fine. others drown, and we should take up their injustice as terms for resistance, not adopt it as our own and THUSLY assimilate it into normal banal acceptable life. it’s not normal banal or acceptable, it is an aberration. WE SHOULD TREAT IT AS SUCH.

yeah – ok, long entry for this. i’m not editing it! there u go, powerful unexpected emotional reaction. not this film’s singular exclusive fault, more the fault of how immigrant classes are merged into each other, homogenised, n so we then homogenise our understanding of our own experiences in turn. it’s shit!!! we should resist that. no more diasporic yearning!!!

did a lecture at UEL

with offical Friend of TWP, Alexis Harding (ooooO name drop okokoko) – storytime: i actually had a tutor on foundation who shared a studio w alexis back in the day, and he’d namedrop him allllll the time, every chance he got. look at me now. ha!

but ye, never been to UEL, actually don’t think i’ve ever been out that far east (in london)!? the campus looks out onto the water and you can see city airport on the other side. did a lil quick talk in a very hi-tech lecture theatre – it wasn’t quick in actual overall duration, it was about 45 mins/an hour but i j had so much to say, so i talked really quickly. too quickly, maybe? idk i think i was bamboozling the audience a bit with how quickly i was talking. trying out a new lecture format where i run through what we’ve done and written every year since 2015 and i think it’s just too much content for an hour long lecture. i just want to make sure i say something really useful and helpful, educationally valuable in these lectures. am very self conscious about students getting something out of it beyond just ‘so this is what i get up to monday-friday’ which can be fun, but i think lectures have gotta go beyond just like general nosiness. if you’ve ever been to a rly good artist lecture, lmk! i wana have a peep at what a good version of the format is, n split it apart maybe to reverse engineer my own version.

but after! the lecture! Alexis showed me round the studios on a whistle stop tour and that was great! they’ve got so much space out there, and i was walking round stuff that was stimulating, interesting, i felt very able to be enthusiastic about what was in the rooms bc there was actually so much going on. it’s j nice to be back at an art school once you’ve left.

look at this perfect dollop of mayo?!?!?!

say no more, this is very pleasing :)

i vandalised my boyfriends notebook

this is old, from back when we first started ~seeing each other~ n it made me laugh when he showed it me recently. like ?? the cheek of me? just scribbling any old nonsense in some random lad’s personal notebook? mortified for myself aaaaaaah. but also yes fine cute to find it now with hindsight :)

he also liked his personalised embroidered socks

do u remember this feature about 10 FOOT in the FT? it’s so good?

if u haven’t read it, here it is, unless ur my bf, then don’t read this you’ll ruin the surprise!

re-read it recently, for something else (a secret) and it’s just well written and very interesting. very interested in urbex-ing (if that’s how you split that particular noun/verb) – not to the point where i’d want to go do it myself! i’m too scared and bad at climbing over things. but i think i’d like to chat to people that are into it. would wana hear their mad stories and feel very personally curious about it in a vicarious enjoyment way. so if you are into that, please slide into our DMs, i wana be ur friend!