Friday, September 30, 2005

Comfortable walking (billboards Bosnia, Banja Luka)

*please click on the photos to enlarge

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tuesday 27th, I believe. Back in Sendai Mediacentre after 3 incredible days in and around Matsushima Bay. Oh such a relief to see trees, water, an open sky! I would love to post you pictures, but can`t do that, so you`ll have to check my website ( some time after I return. Immensely fat Japanese schoolgirl in the normal short, plaid flouncy skirt just waddled past. I would love to send you some pictures of Japanese women and what they wear, Margareta, would be so interesting to compare your Bosnian princesses with the Japanese! Some Japanese women are absoloutely breathtaking )have to break off!)mmmkjh ahh back on, I smiled at the desk girl and she gave me another 30 min.

I come through the main gate (actually a roofed gate like in .. oh dancing dragons, smarmy tiger film, you know). The entrance to Zuiganji, the oldest Zen temple in Tohoku, lies 200 metres straight up a cedar-lined path. I have done this before, I have walked up the path to the Zen Temple. Cedars line the route, dead straight, moss under them. Enter the temple gate - the temple is, of course, `offset` to the left. Why `of course`? Because Zen, life, is offset. Because humans dance to the left. Because life taps you on the left shoulder and says, `look!`. I have done this before. I put a 1000 yen note in the entrance machine and get 300 back. So it costs about 3.50 entry. The temple lies just like I remember it. I have never been here before. I have been here before. The temple lies just where it should, no, just where it has to, no, it just lies. There is no other place it could be. The Japanese have this incredible sense of `THIS!` and nothing else. When the archer releases the arrow, it is already in the target. There is no other place it could be. There is no other place Zuiganji could be, other than here, right in front of me. I have been here before. I take off my boots, place then in the wooden rack in front of the main bit and go up the steps onto the verandah. The Japanese are absolute masters of WOOD, of SPACE, of PROPORTION, of ahhhh.... It`s raining lightly, a taifun curling round in the Inland Sea, so the YH warden tells me, dragging rain alongside it. I pause at the corner, look out onto the hips of the slope behind and to the side. Rain drips lightly of the eaves of the roof into the moss. I know why I`ve come 10,000 miles: to hear rain drip into moss from the eaves of Zuiganji.

10,000 miles is not too far
to hear rain dripping into moss
at Zuiganji

The roof, the roof! The roof curves, overhangs by a good 4 metres. The one I`m looking at is excessively complicated. The guide says that the add-on to my left `was built for a visit of the lord` - presumably Date Masamune, the feudal lord around here. It was built in 3`s (each section offset (!) from each other, so, again, things cannot be approached directly, you frame what is going to be, hide each section so a new frame opens out when you round the corner.

Now, the roof: the descending line is not straight, but subtly curved. The tiles are also curved, like a cylinder cut in half. The ends of the cylinders at the edges are then stopped with round chrysanthemum shapes. Because of the offset rule of three pertaining on the add-on structure, the roof builders have to combine the incredibly complicated shape into that below. These guys didn`t think in 3 dimensions but in 3-to-the-n! I follow the verandah round to the back, the female swell of the mossy banks, trained maples, another structure behind. The eye is lead by the sense of rightness. In a space round the back were laid `the bodies of 36 samurai who folowed their lord into the next world` on his death. Date Masamune squats on his stool in full samurai dress, one eye baleful, the other half-closed, hands on knees in commanding pose, sword in right hand. His helmet has a golden crescent - offset (of course!), so one side is longer than the other. Do not forget that`perfect` in Japan means `as it is`. Perfection is offset. I realise later that the golden crescent is, of course, the sickle moon.

That night, and the following, I dream consecutive dreams of women. I go to sleep, dream of one woman, wake up, write poetry for 2 hours, go back to sleep, take up the dream where it left off, dream of another woman. This goes on for two nights. Why? Then I remember: Basho, landing atOjima Beach, Matsushima, writes: `alighting at Ojima Beach, one is almost overcome by the sense of intense feminine beauty in a shining world`.

Sands of Nobiru Beach
I write the name of every woman I love

The shadow of my bunk
measures the slow hours of night;
the voice of the sea-goddess beckons from the waves:
come drown in my body!

Island dotted after island;
piggy-backed, mother-baby, father,
grandfather. Careless goddess-strewn islands
fertilized by sea-god sperm. Red pines ache to
connect heaven and earth. The ancients have left messages.
Oh Matsushima!

Not to forget my baleful friend Date Masamune:

Godaido, feudal lord Date Masamune`s
worship hall on the island of Godaidoji (him of the `16
wives`). `Only open to the public once every 33 years ...
the nexttime one can expect to view the interior
will be in 2006.` Don`t go there.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

bloomin hell all the instructions come up in Japanese! By pure guesswork I`ve got to my blog. I`m on the 5th floor of the AER building in Sendai, well north of Tokyo, where there`s free email access. I got here by night bus from Shinjuku (modernest skyscraperish part of Tokyo) at 5.30 this morning, dossed out on the floor of the bus-station (well, I`m a great hairy Northern Barbarian, so what do you expect?) until the tourist office opened at 8.30, then got them to book me into the YH at Oku-Matsushima for the next 3 nights. I`ll be heading over there soon, want to stopover in Matsushima itself (bay of a thousand islands) to visit a Zen Temple. After a horrendous flight arrived in Narita, Tokyo international airport totally geknackered. Was sitting next to German-speaking Japanese woman who`d studied in Berne (Switzerland) - poetry, drama, writing etc (!) so had many conversations comparing Swiss, German (I lived in Germany and speak German), English and Japanese systems, or lack of them, for supporting artists and writers.

This is all very informational at the moment - give me some time to get to grips and I:ll get more poetical! The twin hammers of jetlag and culture shock def had me in their grip over the last two days! I hadn`t realised how unconsciously omnipresent our cultural reference points are, the things we orient ourselves by. I`m suddenly in an environment where I can`t relate to any of the cues. Can`t read the writing, can`t understand the language, don`t understand what is expected and what not. Come out of Sendai Station and am confronted with a 30ft high plasma screen on an office block with 4 bears doing the tango and singing (loudly) in Japanese. I`ve no idea where North, South, East West are. The women are all a different shape (!) and walk entirely differently from Western women. Then, another shock is how racially homogenous Japan looks - foreigners stick out a mile. But then ... I was out shopping in Akihabara,Tokyo, yesterday and had to wait 1/2 hr while the card transaction went thru. Got to talking with the sales assistant (who spoke excellent English) and found out he was actually Mongolian. His wife was studying in Tokyo, so he had come with her. They were from Ulan Bator. The other sales assistant was French, another was Mexican and the two cashiers were Chinese. Their common language was Japanese! I gave the Mongolian guy, who I got on very well with, my email address and invited him to Bristol and he invited me to Mongolia! There ya go...

Looks like you`re doing a great job, Margareta! I put in for postprod to Picture This (Small Wonders) - that`s what I was doing in Akihabara in that shop - buying a miniDV video camera, so been having some filmic ideas I hope to realise. Avanti!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

and once more Beyonce (Graduation dresses)

Beyonce (Graduation dresses...)

Monday, September 19, 2005

The making of MARILYN

Sunday, September 18, 2005


The making of PINKO

Cosmopolitan (Graduation dresses...continued...)

Friday, September 16, 2005

from Arias Fernando

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Working atmosphere

Sewing Sounds
One of the women working for my mother, has been with her for the past four years. She is the person to the right, in a blue top. Every time I come to shoot a close up of her working she starts talking to me, which I found endearing. This time I tried to record the sound of the sewing machine, and she told me that "svaka se neiscesljana cura ne uda!" "every girl that doesn`t comb her hair, won`t get merried." In this clip, you can hear (I hope) our conversation over the sound of the sewing machine. She went on to explain that if a girl doesn`t get nicely dressed, and sneaks out of the house without looking good, and of course combing her hair, she won`t get merried. Having got married, I was relieved that I don`t need to worry too much about combing my hair ;-) To hear the sound clip please click on the Sewing Sounds link above.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Modus (local materials shop)

On route to photographing... (Banja Luka, Bosnia)

Friday, September 09, 2005

Graduation Dresses

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Buddha

After lifetimes of f-ing around
He was finally able to smile
- ineffably

Meet The Family!

My mother gave the ivory statues to me - said my grandfather on my father's side who lived in Accra on(the then) Gold Coast (now Ghana) got them off a sailor who'd been to Japan? China?

There's the old sage again, this time in a sea of bones. My father was Professor of Anatomy at the University of the West Indies. His research field was growth of the cranium. So the old sage is surrounded by (I think they're) pig skulls. Could be rabbits. I spent my childhood in Jamaica. My father died a year ago. I'm arranging and photographing all his bones, he's got cupboards full of them. Maybe I'll make a bone sculpture. A fitting epitaph for an anatomist.


My Japanese girlfriend, Miho, was quintessentially Japanese - but couldn't live in Japan. The Japanese guys who'd been sent to learn German at the Goethe Institute, Kochel am Kochelsee, Bavaria, where I met her, had been taught to sit up and beg. They were going on to be diplomats, bowers, scrapers. To them, Miho was just a 'Modern Girl' who thought 'the West' was where it was at and had thus rejected her Japanese-ness. They were wide of the mark. She was Japan. They were just performing monkeys.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

FAMILY BUSINESS (or a man has entered the scene)

On Monday, my mother`s sawing machine broke! She called on a machine reparer, who is in fact a distant cousin of ours. His wife also runs a tailoring business, and she came with him to consult my mother on a dress she is making for her client. Her and my mother are good friends, so they had a good chat about the state of the tailoring business, and I duly recorded the discussion. Meanwhile, her husband tried to repar the sawing machine, but to no avail. Alas, my mother had to call the second repairman, who is a cousin of the first repaierman, who, as I said earlier is our distant cousin. He is an electrician, and the bets were that the problem is of an electrical nature. Unfortunately that was not to be and my mother had to call in the third repairman. He was not related to any of us. He came, had a shot of Slivovitz (traditional plum brandy) and diagnosed that the machine needs a new motor. He offered to either take the broken one, repair it, and then return it, or just install his own second-hand motor (he doesnt have a new one) and take the broken one for himself. The second deal seemed better to my mother, so she went ahead, and the repairman came back in the morning. After sipping a strong cup of coffee (he said, "as I refused a coffee last night, I could have one now") he fixed the machine.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Afternoon in front of TV

On a lighter note, and having abandonded any burden of representation or misrepresenation, I have to share a phenomenan in the Balkans that really caught fire, it is TURBOFOLK. And to give those of you who haven´t come across it a chance to listen, I recorded a small clip, and also translated the words (Click here to listen). The music is a mix of folk and pop, cheapened by the lack of sophistication in the lyrics, and of course the presentation.

Bottom Picture, forgot the name of the singer, but his is the clip from a song titled ´razor blade` or Gillete - Zilet.

tvoja zelja moja je postelja
zato hoces samo mene il zilet na vene

ne sjeci vene, ne sjeci zbog mene
jos si mlada da te ljubim sada

sacekaj jos godinu il` dvije
zao mi je ja ne mogu prije

Your wish is my bedding
that is why you only want me
or rezor blade to your vains

don´t cut your vains, dont cut them for me
you are too young to kiss you now

wait a year or two
I am sorry I cant do it earleir

Top pict, Ceca, also famous for having been a wife of Arkan, the most notorious paramilitary leader and mafia boss of the Croatian and Bosnian wars.,13716,265501,00.html

Middle pict, Miss Republika Srpska, who is going on to the Bosnia & Herzegovina finals

So Far

Hi everyone.I have arrived to Banja Luka Bosnia on Tuesday. After a delayed start to the journey, with Croatia Air being late about 1.5 hrs, the rest of the journey went smoothly. Stayed with my cousin in Zagreb, talked till late at night, then completely mushed got on a bus in a morning and had a pretty uneventful bus trip. Arrived in Banja Luka, lunchtime, as planned.

I went straight into filming the following day, and have been consumed into the world of clothes making since. The work at my mum`s place is still gathering speed, as business is picking up now that the summer is over, and I am hoping to follow a few customers, as their pieces of clothing are being made, from the initial stages of choosing the cut, to trying it on, and to the finish.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The first customers

The pictures I posted, as title suggests are my First Customers. The girl in a cat suit is a dancer, and needed the suit fixed up with the tail, ears and fur. The outfit is for the European championship in contamporary jazz dance, she is going to, along with approx 20 other girls in her group, this weekend. In fact I went one evening with my mum to deliver the finished cat suit and had a look at their reharsal, which I really enjoyed, so much good and vibrant energy!

Second photo is of a customer and a friend of my mother, who brought loads of materials for various outfits to be made. I will follow the progress of all these outfits, especially as she is really keen on being filmed! And that always helps, as its not so much fun wizzing around with a camera like an annoying bee, if people are not comfortable with it.

Which also has brought loads of questions I am batteling with, questions of my right to record this intimate times I felt as though I am betraying the trust they give me by taking away these personal spaces into another space - that of a film.
questions of representation -misrepresentation, of Bosnia. People are quite self conciouss of the image Bosnia has in the minds of the West. Will I perpetuate the same predictable image of war, pain, poverty...? Perhaps. That may always be part of it. It is a part that also cant be avoided. I will record what is in front of me, but these questions no doubt will be reappearing again and again.
Can an artist have or carry a responsibility of representation?