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SUSAK EXPO, AN ACCOUNT AND RECOLLECTION

I present this account and recollection of my experience as a participant of the Susak Expo 2006. The text is really a script and helped inform me of how it might read. The criticism, in the main is directed at the project’s failures and as a group member, I do not exclude myself from this. Furthermore, I feel that it would be rude and ungrateful to write this account without crediting Daniel Devlin: his efforts in getting everyone there, making sure they had accomodation and good food during their stay on the island. The texts quoted are … a piece of … from Bruce McLean. Descuors Susacki and the social contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau – the book I struggled to read on the island.

 

Eddie Farrell (August 2006) 

 

 

It’s a train  drunk   flight   boat            No expectations

Theres a chase: a drunken taxi  too fast too fucking fast

Then a wait a delayed ferry wait   more beer smoke smoke beer

Ferryon Ferryoff  another taxi drunk in the back too loud too loud

A Madangry driver   too fast too too too  fucking fast

I dont want to die on these dark roads being forced to listen to very loud rock shit cds

Theres a bar   theres booze  then an hour and another then drunk drank swim swumming

Then sleeping on the pavement  and crawling on a ferry

Then sleeping on the open seas  an irritating cold breeze up the back of the shirt

7.30am  and we are there

Fuck its hot

A  tiny square toast breakfast – I could eat another four

Up steep stepped slopes steep steep  Then this and that then sleep

 

A shower then a walk then a shower

Down the hill and up  then a shower

Down for coffee cigarettes then a shower

At the hour of six thirty an address……a talk!

Am I back in the schoolroom   is it time for another shower

No   Ideas circulate the dripping heat  air conditioning concepts take off  up and down the steps

head inside the chapel bell    pissing on mosquitoes

sprinting past the nuns

Water in your lungs   thoughts between your toes

Kkkkkierkegaard and Freud

sanding and scraping and painting wheelbarrows

Like a hand car wash they wait in line

then leave branded orange- Tate a tet or easy jet

Grub- up in a garden  one misplaced Croatian painter

too much wine  threes a crowd

 

Four and five in the morning then Done Dwo Dee Dour Dive Dix – the bells back on

Shower  Steps  Osmans  Coffee and a toast

nodding off  nose in a book

Born as I was the citizen of a free state and

a member of its sovereign sovereign sover…nod nod

Born as I was………………Borrrrrrrrr

The shops open : fags twentyfive largo  the odd bit of fruit

no newspapers

(there are no newspapers) and water-

water water she gave me water

Fuck its hot

Off up a hill in the midday sun to find north   shit this is hot

shit this is hot  shit hot this is not

An isolated gable end window ledge shadow is all that stops drowning in your own sweat

This is north  no that is north  which is north –

ask the cat with worms   im too dizzy

staggering through beautiful wild grassland

dangerous white patches invade the vision

a billion butterflies flip and wibble in hedgerow heaven

I am crying blinding tears of salt sweat

The end is near my friend  the end is near

a cemetery bleaches into view

 

The path splits : one is home  shower  then a shower

a sleep and a shower  and  read  nod nod

The other a short trip for a dip in the sea

cooling and caring and kindness itself…the sea

The sea the sea walk walk through vineyards  the sea the sea walk walk around vineyards

The sea the sea walk walk walk walk oh fuck its hot walk walk  look  snake tracks walk walk

clouds of dust walk walk walk stop : look way way down that dangerous descend……the sea

 

The sea is pure and bluer than the bluest blue

your beautiful blue eyes have ever seen

but the sea has rocks of angry razor teeth  to slash your skin    The sea will not let you in

Its either ascend the descend again  or round the coast…

the village must be round the next ridge

Walk stagger balance totter trip stagger balance totter trip stagger balance totter trip over rocks

The facter 400 sun block applied earlier in the day

is sprouting holes

Red nose red cheeks red neck

and blistered hands stroke sun stroked skin

The last of the plastic bottles harbour stagnant tepid frog spit       Fuck its hot   its really hot

The village is not round the first corner

the second third fourth or fifth

Slowly but with increasing density

a welcoming party of blistered bodies herald civilisation

A ruddy hairy arse from Austria

winks a sphincter of support in crispy bacon

A burnt umber family barbecue tits fannys cocks and arses-

nude jersey style

But a stagger balance totter trip over body beach is the village and a coke and another  with ice

then for a sleep and a shower but first  those fucking steps

 

Diogones is on the 6.30 menu tonight

served on a bed of healthy discussion

Is this a group dynamic beginning to form

is the magic of the island beginning to work

Perhaps the shit shack gallery in hoxton

and guildframe signatorie of cork street are behind us

But wait some words

SHOW  GALLERY  PRESS  PUBLIC OPENING  DEADLINE  UHH!

Flicking mental pages of Extended platforms:

no plans, just a time and place

What about all the new tracks and paths to share

and explore that can crisscross one another

This is single track railroading and certainly

no escape from margins of the studio and city

The dinner goes down in more worried lumpful forms

The mosquitoes are making themselves more visible

by handing out more lumps

And theres a sense of enemy guns rumbling just over the horizon

The absence in Susakian of this word “art” is a gift

It was becoming increasingly clear

not all here would agree with this statement

For my piece im going to .im going to make a piece that will….my piece……your piece…

His piece and her piece  A piece a peace a piece of shit

Off the island tomorrow

 

Mali losinj is only forty minutes from Susak

on the anti clockwise route of  the Jadrolinea

Sitting up on deck air is plentiful

like a lost friend returning  it tickles cheeks and eyebrows

Most of the people on board seem like old friends by now

they all live and work in Susak

We have all spotted each other

countless times on the island in the past three days

Nose in book i am determined to read a passage before dozing off

Born as I was the citizen of a free state

and a member of its sovereign body,

the very right to vote imposes on me

the duty to instruct myself in public affairs

 

Harbour side is buzzing when we tie up

cafes and bars are baited with canopys of shadow

Hooked immediately I sit and order coffee and a croissant

The drink opens my eyes

The pastry opens up on first bite and spurts sickly yellow custard        its all too sweet

I order an espresso and plan the next five hours of shore-leave : things to get  then read

In a hardware store I hear Croatian

morph into broad Nu Joysy Einglish

It beats Americans shouting

Jambon goddamit Jambon!  At Parisian waiters

I fancy I spot a sausage roll in a bakers window

ah ha  no more custard and chocolate shite

I point grunt look vague and somehow order it

its warm chocolate and nut mush I discover later

 

A large blonde lady newsagent with a swollen chin

and a scrunched up paper tissue pressed to it

charges a trillion kunas or something

for a collection of  Croatias daily newspapers

This extortion is temporarily undetected:

too relieved am I  at having communicated my order

Sitting quayside at a bar- cum- bookies  I prepare to read

at a small round table

loaded with espresso  water  cigarettes  ashtray  notebook  glasses-case  matches & lighter

Fuck its hot

How many times can you read the same line over and over again and then wake up

Under a bad government this equality is only an appearance

and an illusion, it serves only……

How many times can you read the same line over and over again and then wake up

A pattern is established: I read from top of the page

nod off  wake up  start again from the top

nod off wake up  promise myself to get to the end of the page  start again   nod off wake up

the land is heating up   this bastard sun is finding elaborate ways to come and get me

what was once a cool dark shadow of shade has been eaten away into a pallid  flickering strip

the harbour feels like its on the end of a pizza paddle thats gradually being shoved into the oven

How many times can you read the same line over and over again and then wake up………….

 

Back on the boat the reviving breeze is welcomed

like wafts from a seconds towel on a boxer

my camera card is full of  Susak shadows

flicking through the familiar dark images

I realise how fond of the shapes I am

they come with the sun and leave with it everyday

They snuggle against doorways and windows and lie under tractors and barrows

They prop against gables and hang over alleyways  all this while providing shelter for man and beast

This generous and essential service leads me to reappraise some old saying about being

Kept in the dark

 

THIS SUNLIGHT BRINGS DARKNESS

SEEKING SHELTER IN SHADOW THAT ALLOWS ILLUMINATION

DODGING BETWEEN ZONES OF SANITY

ALL AROUND  – CONSUMPTION

NAKED    BURNT    INSANE

MOPPING UP ALL RESISTANCE

THIS HEAT WILL NOT ALLOW ME TO THINK

 

At  Susak harbour theres an unruly pile of  paper :

a ream of 500 A4 sheets stuck together end to end

On being constructed it has been notated and scrolled upon

it contains its own history

An attempt to lay it length wise on the road ended in it

catching the breeze and flying off

Perhaps tomorrow will be calmer and better for laying it out      but then something strange

Its getting dark   the atmosphere is suddenly dead

not a puff of air    perhaps the moment is now

In no time at all the line is laid out

from the harbour to Osmans  a new pathway is opened up

Children balance along its length  tractors and wheelbarrows crisscross and dogs bark at it

As quickly as it appeared  it is rolled up again

seconds later the rain comes

Sitting under cover    beer in hand   soft smiles recognise the sharing of a very special moment

 

Saint Jo Melvins last talk tonight

her presentations have offered us a crucial focus and context

They have been open and questioning without trying to conclude in order to leave a tidy package

This flies in the face of  other pressures that appear to be demanding results   that will give

Croatian TV a story  and the locals a typecast  role of smirking and scratching their heads..Artists!

someone said   if we fall into that trap we will be letting ourselves and the locals down

I think that is the case

Fuck its hot

The rain had stopped    its beach barbecue night tonight

and not the arse tits fanny kind

Downing the beer  I struggle out of the chair and begin the lengthy trek to the beach

Im going to be late and I don’t want to miss the last presentation   I pick up a painful pace

The beach was deserted    the rain must have changed the plans   im exhausted   I feel like shit

 

Jo never did do her  presentation

 

The last group of people had just arrived from the UK

when I finally got back up those steps

They must have been trying to weigh up

what the hell they had walked into

A beach party  a monster truck fest

or the Royal academies summer show

I ate little  drank nothing

it was time to use the most expensive newspapers in Croatia

with the help of friends  a template was made

of the room were our discussions had taken place

(I had brought another template to Croatia

from the Torriano meeting room in Kentish Town

This was unfurled later in the week at Osmans

and then at the harbour    it remains on Susak)

I had thought it would be interesting

to move this new template    around the island

the beach   a vineyard  on the steps   up a slope

at the harbour  on a boat

there we could continue to meet  visible and audible

thirty two artist in conversation and action

Naked  without sunblock or an all over tan to hide behind –

a piece a peace a posing pouch piece

I got drunk that night  talked until daylight

 

BUMBUMUMBUM BUMBUMBUMBUM

Oh my head  my red wine head

S h o w e r  S t e p s  O s m a n s  C o f f e e

and a toast  and another coffee and another

F u c k  i t s  h o t

This afternoon we will attempt to draw

with an old wheelbarrow   thats not the drink talking

It was agreed last night  admittedly through a drunken haze

We will knock a hole in the old barrow we found

and fill it with a sand/soil- water/pigment mix

As the third hangover coffee is ordered disturbing edits of last night conversations filter through

cv portfolio correct documentation name size and medium contact details artist statement cv

I was shocked at such blatant conformism

in ones so young  on this  experiment island!

You say  Susak [expo] will become a platform enabling all the different elements to combine

I say  Fine why not also  invite the Pope /a murderer / a military general and a prostitute

Not just lame artists pawing over limp sketchbooks and their deadly dull pieces [ myself included]

An irritating situation was developing  aggressively boxing some people in [myself included]

it lay somewhere between the openness feeding the opportunity for something very special to happen

And a variety of pressing obligations dragging everyone towards a very dull and formalised exhibition

Now if anyone tries to claim that  that was the chance polemic set up to determine Susak Expo

I would tell them that they were being a little ingenuous with me  and perhaps worse with them self

A lot of shrewd and intelligent people had come to Susak in good faith [id like to include myself in this ]

I came to learn and share ideas with others and in doing so perhaps learn a bit more about myself

I did not come to be just another piece in

some undirected stage-managed romp

I am serious about this Very Serious

BUMBUMBUMBUM   BUMBUMBUMBUM

Fuck its hot

Im off to find a healthy dark fat shadow to read under

Under a bad government, this equality is only an appearance and an illusion, it serves only to keep  the poor in their wretchedness and sustain the rich in their usurpation. In truth, laws are always useful to those with possessions and harmful to those who have nothing ; from which it follows that the social state is advantageous to men only when all possess something  and none has too much.

The wheelbarrow drawing was a technical disaster

but in every other way very funny

It was filmed : the flopping speeding tyre is reminiscent

of the chariot scene in Ben-Hur

We meet as usual at 6.30pm in the upper room  with a newspaper template on the floor and without Jo

Whos piece is this   is it staying   I attempt an explanation

but where do you start?

We dont seem to have even clarified a context

for us all to be in the same room together

Whats more is this a room to meet in

or is it a gallery as some are now calling it

And what is more the newspapers taped together

on the fucking floor are not a fucking piece

A rather limp attempt is made at filling in the new arrivals with    the expos progress

This is then countered

by a set of rules and regulations of military issue

Advising us all on how we must engage with the press

as professional soldiers

Theres unrest in the ranks

It is agreed that our energies may be better spent

speaking to each other first

Who knows maybe then we could  produce

something a bit more challenging

Both for ourselves and the islanders

The air is cleared a little   a fresh start

We shall assemble here at dawn [well 10am]

Someone points out that a troopship of DJs are heading towards the island this evening To entertain us

An open air SusakFest :

drugs and sex and double decks in a vineyard

In that case  tomorrow mornings 10am gathering is perhaps a touch optimistic   Not at all Not at all

The citizens of the new republic of Susak

will gladly crawl out of their pits for an early morning chat

With that we part  some assemble to dance themselves dizzy others  go to bed [ myself included]

Six oclock reveille is struck on the chapel bell

all around you sense the sound of artists going to bed

A glorious morning sky idealistically beams

but is that the dull murmur of cannons in the distance

Outside I pass a miserable looking nun  her I told you so glance is directed straight at me     what

On the steps the fattest wormless black cat  is sitting with a wriggling gecko clamped in its mouth

Apart from these three   the place is deserted

I must deviate a little here  for ive just realised my recollections have somehow missed a day

The morning I have just been talking about

is the Saturday of  the Expo event weekend

that was the day that the Croatian press arrived

and in my view  any chance of development ended

The day my chronological recounting has missed contained one event I feel I  must document:

The  re and de construction of the template that had covered the upper floor were we all met

In some disturbingly frenzied territorial dispute I chose not to witness until the deed was done

The original whole was hacked up into a pathetically sad little island that lay to the right of the stairs

It would seem that   unimpaired space was required to view

THE PIECES OF ART

This act of segregation  although nothing to me

in material terms    spoke volumes about the

serious lack of dialogue between those participating

as to what the expo was or could be

had we really all just come here to hang our shabby little art trinkets in a cynical cv building exercise

and was it also being claimed that the situation were

some had come with those intentions

and  some had not  was an intriguing polemic that would make the expo a unique event

Bollocks   count me out

Fuck its hot

There is no gainsaying that Adam was the king of the world, as was Robinson Crusoe on his island, precisely because he was the sole inhabitant ; and the great advantage of such an empire was that the monarch, secure upon his throne, had no occasion to fear rebellions, war or conspirators.

 

Seven people turned up that morning

I was late after hobbling back up those fucking steps

For some it was the last straw:

the only thing left for them was to abstain

by defiantly spending their last day on the beach

enjoying themselves

A few of us waffled on

as a number of latecomers tripped up the stairs

By 10 .45am it was all over

The new republic of Susak had collapsed on its first morning …………Artists!

 

The rest is a mishmash of unconnected events

Some good some not so good

There were times when I began to quake at the feeling of being in some kind of duran duran or jamiroquai beach party video

But then the unforgettable experience of a group of us going for a midnight swim under a clear starry sky in the warm sea was out of this world

Maybe its me  perhaps I just cannot mix work and pleasure  but I have to say hand on heart I fucking hate summer beach holidays Body fascism and burning skin make death a more attractive option to me

The third floor suicide plunge of a watermelon onto the pavement below was an intense moment

However my spirits sank at the slide show that was constructed and shown in the upper room

nothing against the images  but I did feel it rang hollow and had an air of the arts council when  they desperately cobble together evidence to secure another years funding for some dodgy community arts event that they have not taken seriously

at source  The thing was we had nothing to lose or prove and that was the beauty of expo   with that came a truly exiting challenge  a challenge I  have to say we did not measure up to and no slide show will convince me otherwise

The informal discussion that a small group of us had around some work and ideas that had come from being on Susak was the closest it got for me as to what the Expo was   it did not take much effort to organise but to see what fellow exposees were thinking  making and finding-out seemed to be a  more fruitful and generous activity than the precious polishing and window dressing going on in preparation for the arrival of the Croatian  press and tv

On the penultimate morning I borrowed a spade went down to beach and using the shape of the reconfigured template  dug an island while the tide was out  a folly to the artists farty little need for attention perhaps

The wheelbarrow parade looked great and due to Daniels close relationship with the island and the locals should have possibly been the Susak Expo itself   had that have been the case it would  be less confusing for everyone taking part to know before they agreed to participate that they would be expected to do no more than paint some ones wheelbarrow and the rest of the time would be there own to swim shag sunbath sketch drink  draw wank walk talk think or read  but then   that would have been Daniels show

 

On Jo Melvins last evening  someone had commented

that it would be a sad state of affairs

If  we could not sustain a group dialogue without Jo being there to hold our hands

After all she had begun the dialogue and together we had started to developed the conversation

It was sad!

that the moment she left the will was not there to explore and enact on an evolving conversation

A Schools Out atmosphere set in allowing everyone to do exactly what they would do at home

Only this time with a lot more sun and sand and toilets that did not flush

Susak did offer a huge potential for us all to step outside the narrow margins of the studio and city

And that’s what makes the pedestrian response that resulted hugely disappointing for me

At sunrise as I made my last trip down to Osmans before boarding the catamaran for Rijeka

I snapped a photo of what was left of the island  I had cut into the beach the morning before

It was very satisfying to see nature doing what it does best to mans solitary monuments

The newspaper template [ whos shape and dimensions were determined by ignorance indifference and territorial greed] was packed away in my case and sits on top of the plan chest in the room were Im typing this now

 

HAVE I COME TO THIS ISLAND

TO CREATE AN ISLAND

ON AN ISLAND  ON AN ISLAND

SEPERATED AND ISOLATED

LAND – A LITTLE LAND

FLOATING AND UNCONNECTED

I CAME TO THIS ISLAND

AND LEFT WITH AN ISLAND

in my bag