The fourth in an occasional series of ‘zombie resurrections’ from this site’s mostly offline 2002-12 archives. Current debates about a potential post-UK flag have been fascinating and reflect to some extent the phrasing and imagery explored in this 2010 post.
Last week, I went to see the Estuary exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands. Initially attracted by the ever-striking image of a Maunsell fort on the exhibition’s poster, it turned out that the most compelling piece for me was one that least emphasised the estuarine nature of its subject.
John Smith’s ‘Horizon (Five Pounds and a Belgian)’ is one of those utterly satisfying pieces of work: simple and engrossing. The kind of thing that makes you want to emulate it immediately, in the vain pretence that you also could have come up with something so timeless and profound.
I can’t conceive of any written description of mine bettering the above video. Imagine watching this on a screen the size of a double-decker bus, in a space the size of a living room. I was transfixed. It’s a 16-minute film. I watched it three times, then returned two days later to do exactly the same.
“Most of my work really involves filming the real world, but in some way fictionalising that…”
I feel a kindred spirit in the suitably generically-named John Smith. Most of the things that I (occasionally) write about spring from specific origins. However, the approach that frequently interests me most is the abstraction to universality; the challenge of preserving relevance with the details removed.
“… I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.”
- Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem (via)
I was sad to hear of the untimely passing of Chris Austin this week. I knew Chris initially as a member of Lupen Crook & The Murderbirds. I continued to follow his ongoing adventures in Hospital Bombers, Burn Paper Tigers and Tape Error, as well as numerous guest appearances with others. I’m glad to have witnessed and recorded so many of his gigs. Retrospectively, I learned about his prior projects, such as Bonzai Reservoir.
Chris was part of the circle of friends that I’ve made in the Medway music scene over the past five years. Apart from the pleasure of his company – a frequent fixture in many happy memories of getting under Medway’s skin, and it under mine – more than anything I’ll remember his musical talent. Picking a favourite song becomes harder the more I consider the enormity of the task, but the performance above was especially memorable.
RIP, Afro Chris.
Other web tributes added as I find them:
- The SoundCloud playlist embedded below (compiled by Markomen)
- Used To It [cover version] (Leroy Horns & Cate Ferris)
- A poem dedicated to the memory of Chris Austin (Louise Micklewright)
- Burn Paper Tigers recordings [free downloads] (compiled by Chris Taylor)
- Blankets [cover version] (The Flowing)
- Well-loved Medway musician Chris Austin dies day after being told of liver cancer (KentOnline)
- R.I.P. ‘Afro’ Chris Austin (The Barge)
- Crooked Smile (for Chris Austin) (Luna Lacuna)
- Remembering Chris Austin (The Medway Broadside)
- Family pay tribute to talented Rochester singer Chris Austin (KentOnline)
- Day of music to celebrate singer Chris Austin (KentOnline)