Things have felt quiet around here lately. Settling into Newcastle has taken precedence over most online writing these past few weeks. I’m still hard at work on Narcissus in Bloom and want to get that finished within the next few months, so a lack of activity here also means more work elsewhere, but I’m also just taking time to have fun and make new friends.
Previously, I might have blogged about this more openly, but I don’t feel the need. After the recent Tusk Mini event at the Star and Shadow, a friend who lives up here said they visited the blog expecting to see some sort of write-up. The photos were enough. The photos above feel like enough too (all taken on a few recent nights out, including a mad night at the World Headquarters with leg-buckling sets from Coco Bryce and Eminence.) It feels nice right now to just be with friends and enjoy each moment for what it is without throttling it to death afterwards with a personal debrief.
This is something that’s been coming up in therapy a fair amount. (I’ve started keeping a diary of what is discussed there, and it may be the first instance of habitual writing in years that I’ve kept up with no intention of ever sharing it.) We started speaking about the work I do day to day in a recent session, and I was struck by a critique of Roland Barthes that could just as likely apply to myself.
In Camera Lucida, Barthes wrestles with the death of his mother and photography’s relationship to death more generally. A now-classic work of photo theory, it’s nonetheless had many detractors over the years. It’s at once theoretical and romantic, studious and careless. There’s a great deal in the book that just seems wrong or superficial and it has made some critics wonder why Barthes actually wrote it. On the one hand, he seems to suggest that he writes as a way to express and formulate his thoughts and desires, but in practice, it feels like what Barthes thinks and desires above all else is writing itself. It is less a means to an end than something to fill in a gap he can’t quite suture. In addressing his grief, he doesn’t write his desires but desires his writing. It becomes a kind of prophylactic that stops him really feeling anything too much.
I recognise this tendency in myself. Though I like to think I write about many of the more difficult parts of my life in order to process and internalise them, writing is also a kind of externalisation and compartmentalisation process. It dilutes things, orders them in a way that is artificial. That’s not to say it doesn’t help, but it’s not to say it’s a particularly healthy compulsion either. And it doesn’t stop me writing. But simply asking why is an overdue preoccupation right now.
This is something that also emerges in Barthes’ essay on the “Death of the Author”, extended into more interesting territory (I think) by Foucault in his essay, “What Is An Author?” Writing, like photography, maintains a close relationship with death, but as Kate Zambreno puts it in, if “Barthes wants to kill the author, Foucault wants the author to take on the appearance of a dead man.” The new book makes a similar case, as it turns out — it’s always interesting and discombobulating to find someone has articulated your own point far more succinctly than you have — but whereas Foucault is taking about writing, my book explores how painters and photographers have been doing the same thing since the Renaissance and the dawn of modernity respectively.
I’m still reading Zambreno’s book on this topic, To Write As If Already Dead, which might be my favourite book I’ve read in some time. It’s incredible. And readers of Egress will know I love the paradox of writing about things that far exceed the bounds of writing itself. But it is changing how I relate to my own compulsions of late. I’m getting back in touch with photography and also music, and finding the daily practice of those two mediums is offering me far more than the space of the blog right now. It’s a nice realisation. I’ve wanted to redress the balance for years.
So expect more posts like this for the time being, and maybe a few DJ mixes in the future as well. Having spent a magnificent evening with Kitty and Archie of Incursions, it feels the three of us are really excited about playing music together and dancing at the moment. I feel back in a space that I haven’t been in since 2017, and it was the loss of that space that made me turn to writing in the first place. Now it’s a question of how to still keep this thing up whilst having regained something I’d somewhat accepted was gone forever. Friends are good. Cherish them.