From way back when to the here and now – hereunder an Alphabetarium of Kötting – created to coincide with the cinema release of Lek and the Dogs – the third and final part of The Earth Trilogy which began in 2001 with This Filthy Earth (hereon) followed in 2009 with Ivul (hereover) and concluded in 2018 with the aforementioned Lek and the Dogs (hereunder).
But we know, we devotees who have followed the Earthworks project over the Flemish panels of this illuminated and libidinous triptych, that the filmmaker cannot bring himself to sanction endings. He is a maker like a wine-maker, a grape-crusher, not an aesthete or nervous counter of frames. There is always another season around the corner, a better vintage. Boots filled with suppurating pus. Trenchfoot, his proud boast of authenticity. Look at my wounds. Smell my reek. – Iain Sinclair 2018
K is for Kötting and way-back-in-the-beginning with Klipperty Klöpp. Arcane and manic and definitely not pop. Performance in the Great-Out-Of-Doors recently reconfigured with a slowmoving female force to the fore.
L is for Language, lingo, gramlöt and slang – a formulation of the current mashed up with the historical. Rap and grime and hip hop. L is for words as a new strain of image-making. Visuals as much within the sonic as in the seen. Never just the Oxford English or Thames Estuary, but multilingual hodge-podge. L is for the biodiversity of tongue and mind. L is for Leila Dorcas, without whom much of this would not have been possible. She ignited my fire. The Sibyl in the Badbloodandsibyl and the one that helped pulled me out of the mire. L is for Lek And The Dogs and lists as minimalist libraries.
M is for making and making-dö and making-it-up-as-you-go-along and also maps, South East London, the British Coastline, the French Pyrenees and South America. M is for Margins, the Edgelands and Mongrel. M is for Multiple realities, audio/visual dysfunction, fissures in sequence, and cutting away from the linear to discover that most things are possible. M is for Michel de Montaigne and Man Ray but definitely NOT just man – more ManWoman and all things thereabouts.
N is for never a finite narrative, neither one thing nor another. N is for hither and dither within the Neverneverlands of spillage, post polemics and critical histories. N is for NEW and Nomadic and keeping the creative human story turning. N is for new tales from the end-zones and night-time fire-yarns for folk to dig into like the darkest peat.
O is for ö, Umlaut and Kraut. Obviously Germanic with pig farming genes but more importantly of Occitania and the Cathar memes. O is for the Albigensians and the French folk of Oc. Peripatetic bandits wandering Overland to Oz. O is for Orient and exotic and not just the Express, moreover O is for alternative culture; Moorish spices and Turkish delight, mashed potatoes, pickled onions but not Coca-Cola lite. O is for Off Ground He which eventually became Ivul.
P is for places and contemporary art practice. A polemical discourse within the historical context. Post-modern and pre-eminent evaluation of the impact and role of the artist as teacher; always has been and always will be. P is for Place and the co-ordinated zones that we move through on our ceaseless journey towards understanding. P is for consciousness as it might look if it were dimensioned into a painting or a film. P is the search for works that have been to the edges and looked over, shamanic flights, returning from the far reaches with word of the void’s whistling rim. P is for Pan’s people. The school of anarchic Arcadian genius loci Pan. Work that can challenge pretty Pastoral, never the Merchant Ivory or chocolate box painterly, always a streak of debauched fertility and the wildness of outlaw woodland. Road kill or stagnant ponds. P is for Performance. It might start with the body’s business and work out. Live Art and multi-media japery, the staging of self and others, perhaps as an acknowledgement of certain confessional tics in the social order and P of course is for Politics. BUT it does not have to be placard politics or armchair anarchy. Less the megaphone politics, more the hope of ‘politics’ and perhaps one day getting it right. P is for Process. The work is as much process as framed product. P is for flawed and unfinished.
Q is for Queer as folk. Allsorts: straight bent and crooked. Q is for people as bedrock for the landscape, from which grow flowers and trees and ideas. Q is for family, friends and strangers and the stories and histories they inhabit. People and the world breathing through people. Through what they do and fail to do; what they reach and fail to reach. From knackered home-movie to Imax spectacle.
R is for real and integrity and sincerity and authenticity. R is for Regional. No place lesser than any other place. And Ritual. Ritual as the psycho-geography of personality and community and its layers of identity so that it can be read and misread. R is for reflection as an attempt to rationalise and locate the work within an historical canon. R is for Richard Rorty and his Final Vocabulary and the pre-emption of Zygmunt Bauman’s Liquid Modernity. R is for religion and the need for superstition. R is for the lovers of prophets and their misconstrued belief systems. R is for the two thousand years of hurt and discrimination whereas R should be for Shakespeare and his visionary humanistic genius or for Roberta Flack and her silky voice or even Rita Tushingham and her role as Tanya Komarova in Dr Zhivago. R is for anything other than Manmade monotheistic mansystems.
And so, to S and Scale. Scale shifts, which are central to the work. The spectrum of sensual awareness that acknowledges continuous flux from the macro to the micro. It is less an aesthetic choice than an accurate response to things on the ground. It’s in the nature of attention. The attention to detail. S is for Society and its seamless story. The Mobius strip of relations. The hall of mirrors. And S is for Sound and the sound the world makes. Not just music, not just ambience, not just voices, not just found sound but archive and echoes and signal interference and technical accidents and hisses, guffaws, wind and the radio. But all of it and the silence…. And also, what cannot be heard. It’s the sound the world makes; glaciers moving and rock eroding. Without sound, vision is stumbling in the dark. And besides Noise Drives the Devil Away.
T is for Time…. Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s body time versus geological time, the rock against the public clock, the seasons stirring it up with ‘living memory’. Sculpting in time is the aim of the game, whether from within council house close or vast international reach. T is for the timepiece as human hands, its face is the sky at dusk and its numbers a tree’s banded years, ringing in the changes. T is for Deep Time. And T, is for Things: Objects. Bodies. Matter. Clutter. Flotsam. Jetsam. Consumer ephemerals. Landfill. Mindfill. Stuff. The Real. Where ideas live. Traces and smidgeons, a little bit of this and a little bit of that and T is for Tarzan, Tritan Tzara and This Filthy Earth.
U is for anti-übermensch and useful and the undermine The ongoing tension between seriousness and nonsense. Serious nonsense. Certain doubts should prevail in the work. They help humanise those lofty intentions that make the project, they protect from those that take everything that little bit too seriously.
Therefore, V is for Vagabond, hither and dither, upstairs and downstairs and in the lady’s chamber. The rationale is not to locate the work within any historical bloodline. V is for Virus (benign), it’s cross-media ambitions: the idea is out and spreading. Hosts are numerous and the virus can survive in the harshest environments. In fact, there’s a sense it can turn adversity to its breeding advantage infiltrating diverse paradigms and tested in experimental fine art practices. V is for Voices; in the head, throat and chest, on the tongue like varieties of honey.
W is for Words that are important and that have been gathered here as a means of inspiration and confusion. W is for these words that I’m using in an attempt to explain the work. W is for these words as the Work.
X and then Y: You don’t ask to be born, do you? You’re born, you live, you die. You’re not, you are and you’re not. And that’s the end of it. Y is for the rivers not wide and we’re all crossing it to get to the other side.
Z, well that’s always been the difficult one so onwards to the beginning.
A is for… the beginning and the buzzing of the bees. Two fat ladies clickerty click. A is for a world in which ambiguity reigns supreme. A is for Aphorism as an historical context. An aristocratic genre of creativity. A is for the wisdom of concise thinking, of experience compacted into essence. A is for the fragmentary and the ‘unfinished’, the fleeting and the found. A is for Academics and Advisors: Couldavists and Shouldavists, Historians and Herstorians. They are there not because they have special access to truth but because they have been around and have taught themselves to profess from the lectern. And A of course is for Art, which varies in its sources of inspiration and in its modes of execution. And A is for Atheist and the art of seeing with one’s own eyes.
B is for borrowed importance and borrowed significance, B is for believing and B is for caring, B is for being …. Being as in the layered reading of territories, urban and otherwise, via signs of all kinds and without prejudice as to the source or status of the prompt. Being as the eyes and the ears and all the senses of a conscious drift through space, time, architecture, experience, history and the latent future. B is for a Psyche and its’ geography.
C is for Collaboration – Eden Kötting, Jem Finer, Sean Lock, Mark Lythgoe, Leila McMillan, Claudia Barton, Lesley Hill, Helen Paris, Sarah Lloyd, Toby McMillan, Andrew Mitchell, Russel Stopford, Nick Gordon-Smith, Mark Wheatley, Ben Woolford, Iain Sinclair, Ben Rivers, Alan Moore, Stewart Lee, Philippe Ciompi, Conor Kelly, Toby Jones, Freddie Jones, Adelaide Leroux, Aurelia Petit, Jean-Luc Bideau, David Burnand, Hattie Naylor…. and onwards into the-too-many-I-should-mention. C is for the soul-aids to a persons’ work. Without other’s the self that is known might stop. C is for Commas, semi-colons and colons: springboards of suspense, breath-held a beat…. But never the full stop. Rather a trinity of stepping stones to futures. Assimilation, collation and then regurgitation, contingency a must. Cut-ups are closer to reality. No singular grain of truth. Just Reality Hunger. Collaged bits and pieces gleaned from a set of contexts and practices. They are no longer bound to any prescriptive reading of the term, but instead exist on the edges of the discipline. No longer grounded in the foundational certainties associated with ‘modernist’ philosophy.
Thus, D is for Difference. The work as a difference engine. A vehicle into otherness and revelation. Aesthetically, bodily, mentally. Everything working normally? No. D is for Digression. If you don’t leave the path, you won’t see the waterfall. D is for discrimination between colour and form, material and context, ideas and spontaneity, artists and era, truth and fiction…. D is for being drowned at birth like the runt of the litter…. (sic) D is for all the Dead dads In The Wake Of A Deadad.
E is for Experimental technological, narrative, expanded, performative, theatrical, sculptural, structural, formal, participatory and the opening up of possibilities. And then there is Eden. She offers thresholds for ventures into the very core of consciousness and perception. Eden, as both disabled and abled daughter, agent, collaborator and catalyst, how she opened me up to reveal a stamina for instinctual tolerance. E is for Experience. Sleeves rolled up and forearms plunged into the pulsing tissue of existence. Work it like a miner, your very life a part of the seam. Not head down, thumbs banging in exasperation at text and numbers on a telephonic keyboard.
F is for Family. Tribal without the fences. F is for the facts or lack thereof. F is for universal values and conflicting demands; the right intention may contain the wrong action and therein lies conflict. F is for the-admitting-to-the-not-knowing none of which begins with the letter F. F is for Funny ha-ha & funny peculiar.
G is for Gallivant. The first proper long project. The desire and faith to explore family and autobiography. The littoral truths of an island as perambulated in a shaggy circuit activated by a family across three generations. G is for the wide-of-ear and the wide-of eye, when embracing folk, their ways and their signage. G is for making the personal a generous filter into the social, melding the subjective with the objective.
H is for Happenstance and humdrum bricollage. Structuralist, post structuralist, essayist, non-sequiturist, modernist, post modernist, late modernist and hyper-modernist, actionist, narrativist, anti-narrativist, implied narrativist and thus Hybrid.
I is for Imagination. The more you imagine, the more difficult it is to find words for what you’re imagining. So, the less said about that the better.
And then there is J, J is for Jarman, Derek Jarman. Proof positive and evidence of a commitment to the experiment outside of the industrialised pantomime. An index and register of work in all disciplines, media and weathers; with no fences between life and work. And finally there is J is for Joy, the joy of family and friends and the glue they provide to hold the work together and give it meaning and memory and the joy in knowing that this alphabetarium might actually be over.
PS – The first Kötting Alphabetarium was undertaking by Gareth Evans and Andrew Kötting, way back before either of them had the knowing in the 2000’s.
Images: Gary Parker – Nick Gordon-Smith – Leila McMillan – Andrew Kötting
Lek and the Dogs is out on 8 June 2018. To book, visit: https://homemcr.org/film/lek-and-the-dogs/