September, 2012. The idea for this website came in the last week or so. My partner, Kate Clayton, has just begun a Masters in Fine Art at Dundee. (Dundee? See the artist’s impression in this page’s header, as well as the photograph plucked from the web that I’ve placed below this para.) The institution is called Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, or DJCAD for short. A road bridge has been built between Dundee and the rest of the world just so that people from all over the planet can study art in this fast-changing city. Amongst Kate’s intake there are women from Sweden, Thailand, Korea and the United States. The only man on the course regularly walks the length of the bridge just to chill out, or so I’m told.
For various reasons, this is going to be a testing time for Kate, not least because, at 62, she’s probably the oldest person in the college. I’m determined to be supportive, and am sure I’ll get a lot back in return. I’m looking forward to conversations about art, many of which will no doubt stretch me, to say the least. I’m expecting to be in and out of Dundee a fair bit. And, usually when I’m spending time and energy on something, I write about it. My mother has dementia and is in a care home, so I write a fortnightly blog called ‘Visiting Mabel’ for Saga. I’m captivated by the Fatty and the Find-Outers’ books of Enid Blyton, so I’m continually adding to a website I’ve set up for this purpose. I’m a writer, after all. That’s how I define myself.
In 1998 I wrote a book called Personal Delivery about the contemporary art I came across while haunting the galleries of London in the mid-90s. Some things have changed since Personal Delivery, which I wrote on a simple typewriter, one step up from a house brick. Firstly, there was no internet then, and artists neither had mobile phones nor websites. Secondly, ‘DUNDEE IS THE NEW LONDON’. At least, that’s what it says on a road sign that someone has erected on the Fife side of the Tay Road Bridge, visible to all driving north into the city.
What hasn’t changed is ‘anything goes’. We’re still in the postmodern era and will be for the foreseeable future. Or at least that’s what I think, with artistic possibilities having been multiplied by the internet. Perhaps I’ll find out differently as we go along. Indeed, I have a hunch that some kind of ceiling - glass or otherwise - may well reveal itself.
Obviously, Kate has suggested she would welcome her MFA experience being featured in some way in this work. I hope she doesn’t change her mind about that, because while I may not have the creative drive of an Enid Blyton (if you’re not familiar with Enid’s credentials for super-chargedness, then pick another name from this list: Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Vincent van Gogh, Louise Bourgeois, Bob and Roberta Smith), I do take a bit of de-railing once I get going. Will she change her mind? Well, she does want this MFA to be her springboard to some kind of self-reflective well-being, so it is an issue.
That’s enough preamble, the first semester is already underway. Kate is one of ten students on the course; she thanks her lucky stars that she is one of only two who are doing the course over two years rather than one. But she has complicated her busy induction week - in which she has to ‘matriculate’, as well as get introduced to tutors, resources and fellow students - by agreeing to act in another artist’s play.
What does that involve? Scroll up to what I think of as the contents’ page of this work-in-progress. Click on Drive-In Theatre.
And remember: ENJOY (twinned with DJCAD). There’s no point otherwise.