20 October 2012


Don't worry, it's not a post about Sarah Palin. Hmm. Why did that feel like a *really* old reference?

Lately, I've been doing lots of cool cultural events in Manchester. I have been keeping myself too busy to think at all about the fact that I'm not dating anyone, and I'm nearly 31, and I have never even been asked to be a bridesmaid. Yes, I know that part of the reason for that probably has to do with the fact that I make friends and then I leave the country, so I am never in the same country as my friends' weddings. Still.


In the past few weeks, I've been to a lot of literary events, as you might expect. After all, the Manchester Literature Festival is on!

I got to see Michael Chabon give a reading/interview! He's one of my favourite novelists. When I read his books, I find myself slowing down through the last few chapters, forcing myself to stop reading, just because I don't want to get to the end. I don't want to say goodbye to his characters. With Kavalier & Clay, I had read the entire book in a fortnight... and then it took me another fortnight to finish the last two pages. I just kept thinking, "If I keep reading, it'll be over..." And I never want his books to be over. And he was a great speaker, as well, though I suppose after over 10 years as literary wunderkind, you must get good at talking. Or turn into a hermit. Regardless. He was funny, and honest, and serious about his writing.

I also saw Jon Ronson give a talk at our local giant book-selling chain, and he was brilliant, though not part of the MLF per se. He was funny, too, but in a different, kinder, friendlier way than Chabon. Luckily, I got to meet him a few moments before his talk, and he was kind and friendly. Exactly what you'd expect. He told me his son had just met someone from Atlanta. Because we're everywhere. Go buy his new book. Then call me on Skype or something and we will giggle about it together.


My world is mostly filled with words, it's true, and if you find me on Words With Friends (psst! I'm nijabird!), I will try my hardest to *murder* you with my awesome wording. But I have not only been bookish these past few weeks.

In fact, I have also been arty. It turns out that the old, seemingly derelict warehouse across the street from my place is actually an undercover art hive, called Rogue Studios. (Whoa!) The entire warehouse is filled with artists' studios, and they occasionally hold open nights. They sell wine for £1/flimsy plastic cup and let you wander through the studios. Sometimes the artists are there to answer questions and sell work. Sometimes, the art sits in its studio, alone, abandoned, with no one to answer for it.

The change in light is the first thing to strike you, as you step into the warehouse off the street. From a sunny afternoon, you find yourself in a dark, damp, cold and gloomy stairwell, layers on layers of thick paint peeling off the walls and ceiling. There is so much paint, you start to wonder if the building even has walls. There are five floors of studios, each one a slightly different size and layout. You get overwhelmed. You won't be seeing everything tonight. You will be lucky if you see, really see, one floor tonight.

My flatmate Natalie (of the amazing Shrieking Violet) has a very sweet boyfriend, Daniel Fogarty. I know, some people get the best surnames. Dan's one of the artists at Rogue Studios and he works mostly in concrete, making strange abstract shapes. I like his stuff, though I admit, I don't really understand "what's it's saying." I think it's just mostly about abstract shapes. Or... maybe it's about using a material that's designed to be useful and making it into inherently not useful things? Maybe it's a whole statement about the usefulness and validity of art! Oh, I am on a roll here!

Feel free to correct me, Dan!

I also really liked Naomi Kashiwagi's work. It's really playful art, experimenting with what materials can do and evoke. For example, her graphite dust drawings, to me, are about Rorschach tests and mirrors and shadows. But also, the images created make me think of otherworldly creatures, aliens, SciFi, and the surface of Mars.

Andrew Lim's kinetic sculpture of a fan with a loop of regular old household string had me mesmerised.

I thought it was a metal hoop at first, made of very thin metal twine. Everyone thought so. But it's just the magical concurrence of a wall, a fan of a certain power, and the perfect circumference of the perfectly weighted string. Of course, whenever any of those things were nudged, even slightly-- say, by a door slamming down the hall, the magic failed. The string fell. But Andrew, like a sorcerer, could just bring it back.

Here's another angle.

I didn't get to see as much as I would have liked at Rogue Studios that night. Like I said, there were 5 floors of studios to see, and I suffer art fatigue easily. So I'm looking forward to their next open night!

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