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The Radiator - November 2023
Welcome to the November Radiator: a mid-month missive where I share with you a creative prompt, recommendations and bits of inspiration that have struck me throughout the month.
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🔥 Creative Prompt
This month I’m pulling cards from The Minimalist Oracle deck. Here’s this month’s creative prompt - read on from some definitions for how to interpret this card, or just take it in your own direction:
The Minimalist Oracle booklet has the following prompts for this card:
🖊️ Blackout Poem
I am halfway through reading Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov. It’s a novel about memory, nostalgia, and how to build nostalgic worlds to enclose and nurture people experiencing memory loss / dementia. Since the summer I’ve had much less time for reading, so I keep forgetting where I am in this story (which is an interesting irony considering the theme). I created this blackout poem, as ever chosen from a page opened at random, and was really struck by how it pulls out the theme of nostalgia but sets it within an entangled relationship:
As I said in last month’s Radiator, if you’ve never tried making a blackout poem before, they’re super easy and surprising. Have a look at some of Austin Kleon’s work if you want to learn more about them.
I came across a recent project by Rosie Ferrier called ‘Quilt Bot’:
Quilt Bot is an app designed by Half Year Studio that can algorithmically generate unique patchwork quilt patterns. Think of the Quilt Bot as your "digital collaborator" - it takes an uploaded image as an input, and generates an abstracted version in the form of a patchwork design. The Quilt Bot gives you the pattern from which to create a meaningful patchwork quilt, which could commemorate, host memory or hide secret messages.
This really appeals to me as someone interested in novel ways to depict or play with narratives and stories.
Half Year Studio also have some brilliant other projects that exist on the intersection between coding and craft, like the Tartan Alphabet Machine !
I’m sure lots of you are familiar with The Blindboy Podcast (I’m new to it as of this year but have been soaking in its slow, poetic depths when running, sometimes when cooking). I have really appreciated Blindboy’s thoughtful explorations of the multi-layered connections between the history of conflict in Ireland and the history of conflict in Palestine. This episode, The Return To Yurty Ahernes Couch, has some really interesting discussion of the solidarity and shared history between Ireland and Palestine because of “deep specific roots” related to British colonialism, e.g. how the ‘Black and Tans’ were also sent to Palestine (the discussion of this starts around minute 28).
He also, in classic Blindboy style, muses on seeing the ghost of his Dad while meditating, and giving places meaning through stories that might perhaps outlast us many years into the future.
This month I’m listening to Youth Lagoon’s recent album Heaven is a Junkyard
The audio, like with earlier albums, has qualities of being underwater.
I feel like this fits with the nostalgia theme of this Radiator because Trevor Powers is exploring memories of his childhood, growing up with his brothers in Idaho, telling stories that feel like collages built from impressions of his surroundings and the mythologies of its residents.
This, from ‘Rabbit’:
No one ever saw the house
Through the pine trees on the belt
Only Alice starin' out
No one ever saw me out
In the junkyard by myself
Only Alice really felt
And no one saw real life
In the television light
Broken television white
The Devil's in the word-of-mouth
When the Cowboy learned to shout
Right before he threw me out
Trevor Powers wrote this album while emerging out of a period of chronic illness which temporarily ruined his voice and forced him to take a long break from music - he speaks about it in this recent Guardian Interview.
🌀 Something not to do with the internet
I found a small book hiding in the pile on the edge of my ‘illustration desk’ (I have two vintage desks that don’t match, joined together in a corner shape, one with my computer and iPad, and the other with books, ink, paint brushes, and a variety of other nonsense). The book in question was A Book of Surrealist Games by Alastair Brotchie and Mel Gooding. This is a collection of drawing and writing games (amongst other things) invented by various surrealists - I was looking for fun ideas for workshops and flipped to the section ‘Langugage Games’, where I was tickled by the following:
In case you can’t see the image above, here’s the text written out:
Using the style and format of the directions to be found on the labels of household products, D.I.Y. kits and other ordinary items, apply them to items that do not require such instructions.
THE GREAT MYSTERY
Directions: For Middle-aged or Young Novices
With the addition of platitudes, apply THE GREAT MYSTERY, ensuring the spirit is well steeped in it , and store away in a dark place.
Leave the novice for at least twenty or thirty years to dry out, or until all his opinions are fully blackened, His spirit should then be a mottled grey colour. If whitish marks appear, due to an excess of salt, it is possible to remove them by rubbing lightly with whatever comes to mind. If lumps appear, brush to revive and make a second local application.
The novice is then in a position to begin speechifying, employing all the words customarily used for external purposes. Instead of speaking directly he can use a protective screen. Our screen (colourless or black) may be used indefinitely.
WARNING: Stains resulting from THE GREAT MYSTERY coming into contact with daily life must be removed immediately with running water.
For elderly novices a preliminary scrub with the wire-brush of cynicism is necessary to remove scales and as many prejudices as possible.
I’ll be back in early December with another long edition of The Slow Burner!
Thanks for reading,