Balaclava: Carlylse St from The Wall Café

My old local. Many afternoons there post-climb, or with Emile, Jo, and others. So much coffee drunk in this sitting, Emile said I was shouting at anything with wheels. “Trolley man! Why one upside-down on top of trolley? Gravity change?” Also, there was a bike across the street with a pineapple on the handlebars. We decided like a bell but full of lemon juice that would squirt the rider in the eyes. “Oooo! Self Sabotage!“ Also, many boxer engines going braaap, just for me. Also, Old woman all dressed in white, white hair, driving an Italian Red, Fiat 500 Abarth, peeling off from the corner. Five coffees. Is too many?


Neo-Grotesk Crypto-Brutalist

End of March, right when I’m throwing finally together my design portfolio (I swear I resisted, and now love having one), Emile asked if I might want to hurl together something for him. Something Web1.0, something like we’d handcode in HTML in the late-’90s, not quite something MySpace in the days of its browser-crashing gif-frenzy inferno, but definitely something that would be in its lineage; something tuner Nissan Skyline, unassuming on the surface, but all Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift when you pop the hood. Something Helvetica, Neo-Grotesk, what’s getting called Brutalist right now, though not traipsing behind a fashion; this is Emile and when I was looking through years of his work putting his new website together, he has a deep love and understanding of the aesthetic, and the art and philosophy underpinning it.

First things first:

Emile: I have two websites. Can we make them one?
Frances: Yes!
Emile: Can we do all these other things?
Frances: OMG Yes!

Lucky I’d just done my portfolio, cos that gave me the framework to build on without having to bodge together fifty different functions and stuff. Saves a few hours there, which we made good use of in timezone-spanning conversations on typography, aesthetics, and usability.

First off, getting all those years of blog posts and work projects into a single database / website / organism. I used the hell out of interconnect/it’s Search & Replace DB script, merging, shuffling, shifting, getting rid of old code, jobs that would take a week or more to do by hand, done in seconds. We’d pretty much sorted out structure and functionality in a couple of afternoons; for a website that looks so simple, it was most of two weeks diligent work, back-and-forth conversations, picking away at details, (stripping and rebuilding, stancing, slamming, tuning … we are very good at turning all this into hoonage, especially with 24h Le Mans in the middle).

Obviously it had to be ‘Responsive’, look hella flush hectic antiseptic no matter what device, and for me (recently taking this stuff proper serious) it had to also be ‘Accessible’. I put those words in scare-quotes cos they’re kinda bullshit.

It occurred to me as I was finishing, that for a website to be neither responsive nor accessible — for example it looks crap if the screen size is too small or not ‘right’, or you can’t navigate with keyboard or screenreader — you have to actively remove this functionality. You have to break the website and override browser default behaviour. It’s a very active process to systematically remove basic functionality that’s been in web browsers since the beginning. You also have to actively not think, not empathise, intentionally not do or not know your job. Me for probably all of my earlier websites.

The funny thing is, it’s not really any additional work to make sure basic responsive and accessible design / functionality is present; the process of testing it always, always, always brings up usability issues, things I haven’t thought of, little points that become involved discussions about expectations, interactivity, culture, philosophy. Like ‘left and down’ is back in time, and ‘right and up’ forward; 下个礼拜 / 上个礼拜. Next week / last week. Yet the character for ‘next’ is xià, down, less than, lower; and ‘last’ (in the sense of ‘previous’) is shàng, up, more than, higher. So how to navigate between previous and next posts or projects turns into an open-ended contextual exchange on meaning.

And ‘responsive’, ‘accessible’? Basic, fundamental web design. Not something tacked on at the end.

Back to the design. System fonts! Something I’ve not done in years, being all web-font focussed these days. Another trip through the wombat warren of devices, operating systems, CSS declarations. It’s crazy impressive how deep people go in exploring this stuff. Emile Blue! A bit like International Klein Blue, and a bit like Web / HTM 4.01 Blue. But not! We worked this in with a very dark grey and very slightly off-white, bringing in and throwing out additional colours, and managing in the end to sort out all the interaction visual feedback though combinations of these three — like the white text on blue background for blockquotes. Super nice.

As usual, mad props to DreamHost for I dunno how many years of hosting (it was Emile who said to me, “Frances. Use DreamHost.”), WordPress for running Emile’s old and new sites (and all of mine), and Let’s Encrypt for awesome and free HTTPS. And to Emile for giving me the pleasure of making the website of one of my favourite artist.

Emile’s new website is here:

Emile Zile — Mining the Cloud

And another performance. You’re not in Moscow for Isabelle; you’re in Collingwood for Emile Zile and Desktops! Part of the Mining the Cloud: a series of desktop documentaries performances put on by Interval Projects.

Disembodied voices. Home Altar eternally altered. You wont believe what happens next.

Building on the recent body of work Desktops, Emile Zile’s performance creates narratives from computer screen captures, search term collages and algorithmic portraiture to explore human mediated communication and the circulation of digital images.

Emile Zile


Vienna Panorama from Graf-Starhemberg-Gasse

A week in Vienna and no photos until today. Two years ago, Dasniya and I stayed in Mayerhofgasse; this time, we could see our old apartment from the rooftop garden of our new one. Yesterday seeing Ivo in the morning, then Hans at Café Prückel, and Guido for dinner. Today, after returning my bike to Arsenal, lunch with Hans, Giacomo, Dasniya, and Florian, at the café around the corner with the vomiting man fountain. Yesterday also was expressions ’14, where we made some strange shibari performance thing for 6 1/2 minutes. After lunch, finishing packing and off to the airport with Jared and Angela. In Berlin, unpacking, and dinner with Emile who is making AMG sounds while blasting through town: the shortest measurable duration in the universe is the time between us seeing each other and laughing. We also agreed next year shall be us at Nürburgring 24h in Mayhem t-shirts.

And so, one photo from Vienna: the view from the rooftop garden, all 360º (plus a bit of overlap) from the chimney cleaning platform above the terrace. North is slightly to the right of the circular blue table. I spent less time here than I wished.


Antwerpen after

(Written last night in the Brussels Airport; a little incoherent.)

Antwerpen ist schon vorbei. Already sitting in Brussels airport, an afternoon in St Gilles with Gala and Giacomo, a late lunch consisting of red wine, potato and mozzarella, Dolce Porcine (ok chocolate sausage, but I forget the word for sausage) with Advocaat, coffee, Limoncello, yes, I felt woozy after, lucky Gala saw me all the way into the train to here, now with late sun angling into the departure lounge.

Prominent absence of blogging the last few days, inflicted partly by lack of internet in our apartment, and long hours in or around Monty, which I shall make some amends for now, having the requisite undistracted hour or so, plus a new battery in my laptop spelling freedom (or at least a moment of unfettered writing). A week in Antwerpen, from rain and cold and winter to warm summer evenings with the spill of people onto the streets, glossy convertibles, leather-clad boys on their road racers, it reminded me a little of St Kilda.

For Isabelle and me, daily we arrived in Monty, into the cool and dark theatre, warming up with a mix of easy, unstrained techniques together, wandering footwards for some Tai Qi and Qi Gong, perhaps a break for lunch or to continue into the fabrics of Der Bau, later into the wrapping, me joining in on the side, a tall shadow to Isabelle, mostly with the fabric also, occasionally with ropes as an idea or approximation, sometimes watching and discussing what was going on; a week to see how we enjoy being in a working space together after some months of dinners, bars, eating, drinking, talking.

Friday, Emile arrived from Amsterdam. Many years of not seeing each other, and the stupidity commenced before he was through the door. A very necessary catching up that night, and us three together on Saturday (me with a revolting insomnia hangover) wandering the city (alas! both Walter Van Bierendonck and Yoji Yamamoto have closed!) and through the house and atelier of Rubens.

Some architecture from Antwerpen, then. The view from our apartment was, well, a little uninspiring, but top floor meant we had some view to a tower nearby with vertiginous spiral staircase. Daily pigeons also. Monty itself, a classic Belgian work of narrow bricks and ’60s modernism, mostly seen from the inside without sunlight. The Steiner school nearby, a joyous riot of art nouveau, somewhat leaning in my photo. Compare with the geometric façade of glass and concrete, or the 17th century merchant rooflines superimposed on 20th century flying buttresses.

And of course Emile, Isabelle, and myself giving it up for Darkness in the garden of Rubenshuis.


Isabelle & Antwerpen

Antwerpen! I missed spending time here with Daniel because Tilburg to here, despite being a mere 40 minutes or so drive, by train is closer to 2 hours. Lucky I’m back again, so symbolic trips to Walter Van Bierendonck is possible. And here with Isabelle Schad, who has thus far introduced me to the amazingness of Barrikade, Unbezahlbar, and now Monty, where lunch is had every day, and sometimes dinner also. I am somehow helping her with her solo, Der Bau for the next week, working on the stage till early-evening. And Friday, Emile comes down from Amsterdam. All-round excitement, no?

Abjection Rehearsals – Brussels

Neither Gala nor Ivo are in Brussels, which makes this decidedly weird being here; eating Piadina alone, sitting on the Metro alone … Hans and Anuschka are here though, and we had an excellent dinner on Thursday, and at least three coffees in three days, and I saw what they’ve done to their studio in Renold Space: wood-fired heating! It’s really, really beautiful, and I’m very envious as well as inspired. And now I depart for the impossible Tilburg. A mere long hundred kilometres away, it still takes 3 hours to get there. But once there, I get to see Daniel for one more time on ADT’s tour (and maybe Emile, fresh off the jet-lag run from down under).

In the meantime, I’ve slipped in a couple of days rehearsing in a secret location which shall remain nameless. More of the same from me. I think my ‘warm-up’ now constitutes much of the actual rehearsing, and it seems to be useful. It’s very methodical, and honestly if I turned up to a class of this, I’d probably hate it (unless it was perhaps Benoît or it was what I expected). I’m still turning up strange, lingering habits from when I mashed my knee last year, something to do on one side with whimpering meniscus not wanting to go into certain positions, so Gluteals don’t work and Psoas takes over, and a straight line between wonky Achilles tendon and Piriformis really not knowing what it’s doing.

The interesting thing is that all of this is quite small and built up from years of habits, but the process of finding these peculiarities and minimising them requires this methodical, patient workflow – spending an hour just working out what happens in my hips when I’m in child pose and would be about to roll from one side to the other.

And it’s never absolute either. What works in one situation at one speed isn’t entirely applicable to another, or even a different rhythm at the same speed, or different initiation of movement or attention. What is possible though is a phase space for particular movements, for example if I’m walking, there’s a variety of possibilities in how the movement happens, and through repetition I can build up a general representation of this, and subsequently which ones tend towards aberrance.

As for what constitutes aberrant movement for me at the moment, I just keep thinking of walking, which is more or less uncomplicated for anyone to do, whereas dancing is complicated, and so keeping in mind the uncomplicated physical feeling or perception of walking (which is not to say walking is simple or easy), I try and find what this is in any dance movement. Which leads me to lie on the floor for an hour analysing whatever is going on when I roll, or endless combinations of arm-swinging, leg-swings, or embarrassingly simple movement patterns.

Mainly I think that if walking is swinging, as in a pendulum movement, then so too must dance be, because it’s done with the same body. What’s come up so far is that it’s applicable across levels of complexity of movement; not just the ‘more things happening at once’ complexity, but the perhaps more interesting edges of movement, the ones where things get weird and awkward and usually get bashed through or otherwise cause horribleness. It also seems to allow for significantly more speed with less effort. All of which is the obsession of contemporary dance, and I don’t really want to contribute to that with some essentialist ‘natural’ movement programme, which is why I’m pointedly not reading or looking at any of the obvious similar techniques, be it release, or Klein, or whatever, even though I can’t escape them because that’s my training history and I can only ever work within what I know, or in reference to what I know.

Maybe to say it’s just me working out how I move, which is curiously something I’ve not done so much of; yes, plenty of thinking about it, but doing has largely been confined to other people’s classes and techniques. So it’s a little like messing around with a musical instrument and teaching myself to play, and it’s really not a technique or a style or a process or any other dressing up of what’s fundamentally me fucking around on my own for hours in a big room.

Which segues into my rehearsals. Which of course was most of my rehearsals. Music! From Abruptum and Gorgoroth and Mayhem to … Pulp! Jarvis Cocker. Oh Jarvis Cocker you are a dirty rocker. And the album is Different Class, which did lead to some useful reconsiderations of what I’m doing with my fingers, and also illuminated how distracting it is to work with popular music. Distracting as in it takes me out of my body, I no longer can feel moving because my ears are too busy. Black metal doesn’t suffer from this so much as it’s pretty incomprehensible and not very melodic. Which then made me think of all the classes I’ve ever done where the teacher puts on their favourite music and we dance to it, and that we’re not really dancing because we’re just doing the equivalent of Pavlov’s dogs drooling response because the music interrupts the physical process of experience of dancing. As nice as it was to dance around to Common People and Sorted for E’s & Wizz, it was unsettling to think that this habit of using music like this actually got in the way of training one’s self in moving.

All of which merits further musing, but I have a train to catch. More rehearsing next week, and quite a bit of going through videos and assembling stuff before then.


Kirschblütenfest in den Asiatischen Gärten

Journeying far east to Erholungspark Marzhan and the Gärten der Welt for the Cherry Blossom Festival. Much apartment-stack architecture reminding me of China, though more sparsely spread. Eating cheese, Emile visiting from Amsterdam. Trees and Japanese gardens, much sun and brightness. Spring. Some photos.

perform your grief

Emile in Sydney! Then in Europe on tour with Curseovdialect! Then doing Masters in Amsterdam. See you in Nederlans for Kunst, Brot und kaffeeklatsch.

‘Clip Art’ Group Show

Performance Anxiety’ a new short video on Bindi Irwin and the death of Steve Irwin, YouTube mourning and grief in the twenty first century will be showing at Firstdraft Gallery, Sydney – opens Wednesday 8 August, 6-8pm exhibition continues to 25 August 2007

“Clip Art”
Ben Frost, Deborah Kelly, The Motel Sisters, Elvis Richardson, Kate Smith, Soda_Jerk & Sam Smith, Grant Stevens, Emile Zile
Curator: Daniel Mudie Cunningham as part of the Firstdraft Emerging Curators Program

” Clip Art showcases artists who make work about clips formed from fragments of moving and still images or through a combination of graphics and sound. Clip Art investigates the oppositional nature of meaning made from clip-based work and responds to the recent fascination with applying aural terms like sampling and remixing to the visual domain. Whether witty interrogations of popular culture or nostalgic trips through the visual archives of the recent past, Clip Art champions the analogue and handmade as much as it does daring things with digital technologies. ”