New Fiction: Nothing Happened in the Artinskian Age byRead it: http://theneweryork.com/nothing-happened-in-the-artinskian-age-tom-offland/
The newer york published my short story!!!
Last year I made lots of shabby, food based versions of works by Damien Hirst. Crumpet paintings, a fish finger in jelly (the impossibility of fish in the finger of someone living) and a sweet corn skull (for the corn of cob).
I was going to exhibit them, but the fish finger went mouldy pretty quickly and also I destroyed most of the crumpets in a fit of sadness and drunkenness and then kept a bin bag of broken coloured crumpet pieces in my room until one day there was a mouse in there and I had to throw them out.
I’ve still got the sweetcorn skull though.
What I remember from Salvation Mountain is that we drove there through the desert and we couldn’t find it on a map but rather saw it on the horizon, a mile distant, over a freight track, something built out of paint and slumping bales of straw, blue and white and red and yellow, rising out of the sand.
Before that we had driven through miles of wind turbines, their blades reflecting the blinding sun and turning slowly in unison like strange, metal trees growing from the desert and we had pulled up on the shore of a wide, silver blue lake that was still and steaming and looked as if it were an immense coin left lying in the wasteland.
We had driven through a sewer outlet and had to turn around at a chain linked fence which had a sign strung to it warning of military missile tests and we stopped to piss out there on the scrub, our piss pooling in the scorching sand and somebody had said something about being murdered by a drug cartel and getting left in the Chuckwalla Mountains for the turkey vultures.
The last town we passed through before reaching the gatehouse at the entrance of Slab City and the eventual slopes of Salvation Mountain, was a sort of surrealist masterpiece left baking at the southernmost edge of North America, composed in equal measures of metal fenced static homes, burnt open general stores and giant, empty Romanesque court buildings, their pillars and balustrades flaking in the desert sun and graffitied with spray paint and littered with bullet holes.
There was a yellow brick road painted on the rubbery steps of Salvation Mountain and messages on its every side pleading with pilgrims not to stray from it. At its summit, you can look out over the withered and endless country and down at the blue streams flowing permanently in gloss paint from its sides and at the garish chapel and catacombs, built out of straw and paint and wire, sprouting from the mountains feet and filled with weird offerings and plastered with messages of love and echoing with the burnt out voices of the desert crazy human beings hidden somewhere amongst it all.
I remember standing up there, at the summit, and thinking about the man who had built that mountain in the desert out of paint and straw and string and him carrying bales and emptying buckets and sculpting the thing for decades in that impossible desert heat and that he had seen god in the desert and that Salvation Mountain was his testament to god and I remember thinking that I felt in awe of the mountain and of the man but that I couldn’t feel anything about god.
As we were leaving, two men had pulled up in a convertible at the edge of the mountain and one of the men said that he owned a mattress factory in Iowa and that he was on spiritual journey to the town where his ancestors originated from, only on the way he had come to realise that his spiritual journey was really leading him to salvation mountain, though he had visited the town of his ancestor’s one night anyway, driving slowly without stopping.
Recently my friend Sam opened a bike shop in Camberwell Green called Seabass cycles (http://seabasscycles.co.uk/). It’s named after his dog Seabass, who I shared a house with for a couple of years, and who is essentially a little, hairy man pretending to be a dog.
Here are some paintings that I did for Sam’s shop, I wanted to paint Seabass in various scenarios around Camberwell, driving a bus, hustling drunks in a snooker hall called Johno’s, etc.
I’m going to do some more as I think there should be an entire gallery dedicated to Seabass.
One night in America, somewhere outside of Yosemite, we had been kicked out of a folk rock festival at a gas station after it had closed its shutters and refused to sell us beer and we were walking down the side of a highway and there were no lights anywhere and there were black mountains behind us and a black desert before us and we stopped in the long grass to piss and talked about snakes and an eighteen wheeler screamed past roaring and blinding us with its headlights and Tom said he was thinking about hitchhiking then and there on the side of the road and never coming back and later, in the town, there were clouds of moths above the street lights, thousands of them, and on a shop front, hundreds more, crawling over each other trying to get to a blue neon light and we stood there scooping them up in our hands.
In my dream, I am in the magazine aisle of a petrol station and there is this bright, syrup coloured light glaring through in cloudy slats between the window blinds and I am telling the store assistant that lately I can’t shake the feeling that I am dreaming and the store assistant is ordering and reordering magazines and turning to look at me now and then.
Do you feel like that now? He asks, half committedly.
And in my dream, as if in answer, I look around at the white and yellow glowing linoleum tiles and at the drooping ventilation pipes and the steel baskets and grey framed doors and there is a sad distance in everything, a defeat, as though everything that existed was unconvinced of its existence, or worse, indifferent to its existence and in everything that doubt and unreality and emptiness was something tangible and observed and it was like looking through steam or into shallow, soapy water.
Chislehurst caves are owned by mushroom growers. They were tunnelled into the chalk by druids and saxons and mediaeval flint knappers and soldiers from the first and second world wars. We are two hundred metres underground and it is warm and dark and dry. Above ground there are hailstones and water is surging into storm drains. I am imagining a hundred thousand mushrooms growing in the dark. And druids, in dirty robes, crawling through the chalk.
POLICE GHOST HUNT 1976 is carved into a cave wall. There are smooth, black fists of flint buried in the white chalk. They are strange and wet looking and like black sea anemones or black fruit or black peepholes burrowed in the rock.
At the sacrificial druid altar the tour guide hides in an adjacent tunnel and strikes a gong. Beside the haunted pool he describes a police officer staying up all night in the darkness and hearing something breathing behind his head and being too terrified to turn around.
On the Thames clipper, riding the black water, we hear something breathing behind our heads and are too drunk to turn around. It is the sound of the boat engines heaving or of the ticket collector wheezing in a Glaswegian accent and sidling forth towards us to coerce our fares.
There is so much space in the millennium dome they attempt to fill it with yellow cranes and drum and bass. It is on the riverside, on the reclaimed docks, the colour of wet tissues and spined with antennae as though it were beaming electronic music into the outer atmosphere for the space stations and lonely, soundless solo missions.
In Chislehurst caves, by the sacrificial druid altar, the tour guide evokes the fever of the last lost god of late Chicago house and he is simulating a Roland TR-808 drum machine with his voice and his hands and the flint and the chalk and he is smashing our paraffin lanterns and the air feels warmer and wetter and the sound is unbearably loud and we are all struck by the same vision that we are drying our hair in the bathroom mirror and behind us there is only the colour cyan and it is everything and going on forever.
She walked up to the table and said: “Did someone wearing a green scarf order courgette chips?”
And I was wearing a green scarf.
And everyone was looking at me.