Returning to Blogging? Thinking of Blooking?

I’m hesitating before re-starting my Blog, as I know it can be quite a weekly demand, and is also yet another expression of generous creative energy and time for which the rewards can seem very slight. Nevertheless, I have also loved it and feel proud now I look back over several years of my Blog. I’m glad I did it.

I’m also interested in finding any evidence that I might have become a better person, a better writer and communicator, a little older, wiser, more honest etc. since I last Blogged. I know I have changed.

Blogging is also a very particular kind of writing – of which more below.

I suffered some huge disappointments recently, and these led to a ‘loss of confidence’ – a phrase I’d often heard without realising the severity of what it really means.

Since then, over a year ago, I haven’t managed to complete a single piece of professional writing, I cancelled a couple of conferences at which I would have given papers, and I haven’t been able to find any traction in reading either. I took some time out from teaching for the first time in 23 years, but today I feel that rejuvenating my Blog might be one part of my multidirectional manoeuvre to win back my lost confidence.

I’ve also been looking at what kind of book I would next like to write. I recently published a slightly more academic-style book, and might write about that here on another occasion. But I was recently looking at my Blog and wondering if I could perhaps convert it into a Blook. But then, would there really be any point in doing so when a Blog is best off just being a Blog?

Well, anyway, following this line of thought got me started, and re-started Blogging. So, here’s what I’ve written:

I’d like a Blook to provide an accessible selection of my Blog posts, these responses below – written over a period of seven years (!!) in the form of: part review writing / part personal journal – responses to art and life in (mostly) London. They document a series of exhibitions, works and events, contextualised within the everyday life of the writer.

My relationship with art writing has been rich and varied. For over 30 years I have experimented and expanded my interest in many directions, and yet, as such, never really consolidated any particular approach.

This partially explains my tentative and hesitant relationship with the Review format, with editors, and with the purposes and motives of Review writing.

I never wanted to be thought of as an ‘art critic’, and for this reason moved away from writing and publishing a lot of Reviews in the late 90s, after hearing myself described as a ‘critic’, one evening at a private view in the 1990s.

Nevertheless, I have continued to enjoy the more or less private adventure of walking out into the city, entering an exhibition, and responding to the experience, in memory, in writing, and (for example) in this Blog, writing for and to an imagined public, including information about the writer and the writing, along with a degree of description of the art, the venue, the times, the day, the writer, all lightly laced with judgements (mostly carried by the adjectives used).

Gathering these writings together and turning this Blog into a Blook might provide an enjoyable experience for some to read, as well as a model or example for students or emerging writers and critics.

I would choose not to illustrate the Blook, for logistical and financial reasons, and I would  also try to avoid it becoming academicised (despite my deep embroilment in academia).

A Blook would be one of my first adventures into my large archive of otherwise unpublished writings and artworks; a shallow dive into a collection that I strongly believe deserves some attention.

 Perhaps, my slightly maverick and outsider status: as an autodidact, who taught myself to write by trial and error in my 30s; as a ‘class migrant’ from the first generation of a migrant family to have gone to university (and whose partner is also from a working class family on the other side of the world); as someone who left school with just one ‘O’ level (and therefore really has no basic maths, science, geography, history, English etc); as someone who took ten years to complete my first degree; as someone who spent decades of my life in labouring jobs or unemployed; as someone who spent their first five or six formative years as one of a family of seven in a tiny two-bed council flat, before moving to a slightly bigger, but still crowded little house; perhaps, as someone like this (like all of the above), I tend to overvalue my achievements (being, as the English jokingly say ‘a legend in my own lunchtime’), but I can’t see any alternative to taking myself seriously, as I have little or no alternative support of financial or cultural capital to rely upon.

I feel I have only my difference (which is also invisible, as I look to many like any other white middle class, middle-aged man – although not sufficiently ‘like’ to ever actually be or become that same middle-class man). I feel that I have only my particularities and peculiarities, or, as I say, my differences; only my personal skills, my honed intuition, my hunches, my energies, my aspirations, motives, and my creative output with which to sustain myself and allow myself to fulfil the potential and promise of my life in art.

I have never had any careerist guile, guidance, or strategy other than to first do my very best work, and then to try to draw some attention to it, hoping and wishing and waiting for a response, often dreaming of, and in fact wholly depending on, an imagined ‘snowball’ of interest in my work that might one day deliver me from an unjust sense of striving in vain and battling against that invisible foe called indifference.

My archives weigh upon me (I don’t care if that sounds precocious or pretentious, as it is true and very important to me); weigh on me more and more as I get older and as I feel more afraid of my archives being simply wasted, discarded, unknown and unacknowledged. There is so much that I  feel I have achieved and which has gone unacknowledged or simply unseen.

Success, I have found, relies upon forms, on finding appropriate , resilient and convincing forms (or ‘vehicles’) by means of which to deliver your ideas, your feelings, your value, and in way that others will take seriously and might therefore preserve and disseminate.

Any archive balances on the brink of destruction, and only a certain art can perhaps rescue it for posterity; rescue one archive while another perishes; rescue one piece from an archive that otherwise perishes.

When I first started writing professionally, I remember asking myself who my audience might be, who I was writing to, and for. To help, I cut a little silhouette of a row of figures from the cardboard of my cereal packet, and I put it in front of my keyboard. Strangely, it helped, and I was able to move on and grow.

Today, new hardships and disappointments lead me to believe that I have to take more and more responsibility for more and more of my practices. This means, not only inventing an idea or image of an audience, but also inventing a milieu, and inventing that ‘champion’ whom I have sometimes heard about, often needed, but always lacked.

I will be my own champion if I can. I will provide my own deadlines, my own ‘residencies’ (albeit in my own here and now, perhaps in my own head), my own ‘funding’, my own context, archive, and my own reflection and review.

The Blog, here and the 200 posts below, titled ‘ONLY YOU: A Few Words a Week on Art & Life in London’, has been written, mostly between 2014 and 2021 and published weekly, with a few long hiatuses of over a year. At best it was already a step in the direction of a 21st century writing that may yet one day give up on books and replace most or all of them with screen-based writing.

At worst, however, the Blog is compensation for not building enduring professional relationships with paying editors of leading art journals, by means of which I could have established a successful profile and augmented my income. I feel sad that, after all the years and all the talent I have shown with my art writing, I remain somehow an outsider (perhaps, ultimately due to that mysterious ‘class’ divider – in society, in my head, in others …?), and therefore remain marginal and vulnerable, but also, I suppose, ‘different’ and with something different to contribute.

Blog writing is of course less scrutinised than a peer reviewed article for a journal (which I also write), or even a review for a print journal. Blogging is intrinsically less formal, and this makes it weaker and worse, but also stronger and better in that it is so free, accessible, universal, light-touch and fast to read and to write.

Looking back, my Blog hasn’t yet stepped far enough or soon enough in the direction of Blogging’s 21st century technologised autonomy. I wasn’t brave enough, or didn’t hurt enough (didn’t hurt as much as I do now) to make the move towards a greater autonomy before, perhaps because I was hoping that my Blogging might attract editors to me.

As for the ‘You’ of the Blog’s title, its target and meaning has shifted during the story of the Blog. ‘You’, in English can have a strangely ambiguous tone, sometimes seeming to mean ‘one’ (e.g. ‘ … you go down here and turn right …’), at the same time as meaning the other or an other. I believe that if you read-on, you will discover your own relationship with this ‘You’ – as I have done.

When I first published my writing, and when I even got paid for it sometimes, I felt so pleased, so freed, so empowered, so justified and so hopeful. Perhaps that was already my greatest achievement that I can never surpass. Meanwhile, I was also making art, in a flat converted into a studio, but which I could only afford to live-in by unsustainably relying on state benefits. I was especially interested in analog photography, but this too was far too expensive for me to pursue. I had no clue about applying for funding of course, and even if I had would certainly not have qualified for it.

I had nevertheless made a publicly recognised and professionalised art out of my writing, which could be done with no more than a pencil and paper (though admittedly it was my first computers and word processors that gave me the confidence to process and present my writing – something that my appalling handwriting or inept typewriting could never have done).

That first published writing (circa 1997) led to my first teaching, and ultimately to 23 years now of paying the rent and bills with my creative skills. This, to me, remains a huge achievement, even though to many up and coming artists and students it might seem a long way from what they would think of as ‘success’ as an artist.

I still use a fountain pen for a first draft, and a pencil or ‘Uni-Ball’ for filling pocket notebooks with ideas. And of course I use the computer and its screen, which makes my writing look like everyone else’s. I use my WordPress template, again like everyone else’s, and yet, despite and within those parameters, now looking back over years of these Blogs and their hiatuses, I see a lot of value accrued, a lot of output, a lot of ideas recorded and that I want to preserve, develop, share, here and now, and there and then in some future, either on a screen or perhaps converted to Blook form – though that looks like an increasingly formidable task.

As I say, I have experimented for 30 years with writing, and would like to unearth and present much that is hidden, in addition to this Blog.

I also notice that, in recent years, I have started to enjoy a more straightforward and simply clear communication to any more self-consciously ‘creative’ or ‘experimental’ writing. I do feel a little as though I have ‘been there and done that’ and now aim to simply get the reader as quickly, clearly and cleanly as possible, through the writing to the ideas that lie within and beyond the writing. Recently, I seem to be trying to share and communicate as generously and rapidly and easily as possible.


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