…. well, only the end of my residency at the British Library. It’s been extended a little because of restaging my final event on 25th January. I am submitting a final report to the Leverhulme Trust who funded the residency for the library and looking back over the people I’ve met this year, the conversations had and the work made. It is a very lucky thing to have interacted with a big organisation like the British Library and to realise how much my thinking about the new project has moved on. I will post the final report up here shortly. For now please circulate the link to the final performance and I will keep the information up to date about the future life of the project (it will rise again soon, in March in fact!)
Good news. Because the final event of my Residency is so over-subscribed, there will another performance on 25th January 2013. It will be on sale in a day or two. Will post the link here but I hope you will save the date in your diary.
The extracts from my last British Library show and tell are now posted on the British Library website. They are three songs from the Singing Hypnotist project and a little sketch about past life regression which is one of my areas of obsession. Scroll to the bottom of the page on this link (http://www.bl.uk/artistinresidence) and you will see :
The Hypnotist’s Hymn, written and performed by Christopher Green, recorded at the British Library, 11 September 2012
Annie de Montford, written and performed by Christopher Green, recorded at the British Library, 11 September 2012
They Refuse to Heal (dedicated to Henry Blythe), written and performed by Christopher Green, recorded at the British Library, 11 September 2012
The title of this book is brilliant. It begs the question…. Yeah exactly - what is mesmerism? And yeah - what of it concomitants?
I am afraid to say that this little book doesn’t really answer the questions it so eloquantly poses…
What Is Mesmerism? And What Of It’s Concomitants Clairvoyance and Necromancy?
The opening of the book is, however, electrifying. Well, it is to me. I know full well that most people don’t think about mesmerism or hypnotism from one birthday to the next, so the idea that this first sentence could be true is very exciting. And yes, it’s a bit over the top but I never think that there’s anything wrong with exaggeration. I always, always exaggerate…
"The whole atmosphere of educated society is filled with this subject. in every company the conversation turns upon it, and it infects the air around us. Some are sceptical; some are frightened; some despise the whole thing, and assert it to be all imposture; some play with it as an amusement; some seek to the clairvoyant or to the dead to remove their anxieties and gratify their curiosity; some receive and yield themselves to the influence of the mesmerises or to the guidance of the spirits professed to be invoked. Some regard it as a mere subject of philosophical inquiry, and assert that they can explain it all on scientific principles"
This morning I had a look at a book in the library. Well its a very slender few pages from1886.
the secret of mesmerism. with full instructions how to mesmerise
by a physician
price one penny
this is a 15 page pamphlet so it makes quite a big claim for such a small publication (“full instructions on how to mesmerise)
I was very struck by these two warnings.
warning to the practitioner
“Having once succeeded in placing a subject fairly in the mesmeric state, a form of infatuation is only too ready to seize upon the operator, and may lead to a neglect of the ordinary duties and avocations of life and unfit him for the position of a useful citizen”
warning to the subject
“still greater evils lie in wait for the unfortunate subject. Bewildered and fascinated by the strangeness of this new sensation, he willingly and eagerly rushes to a repetition of the influence. Soon his mental vigour is withered, his self respect is gone, and his strength of purpose reduced to that of a child or an imbecile”
As a practitioner I am terrified that getting addicted to my power will render me unfit for the position of a useful citizen but it’s even worse for you lot
But none of this should put you off coming to my British Library performance on 29th November.
Thanks to everyone who came to my Show and Tell session at the Library today.
A couple of you have been in contact to ask if I could post the information from the talk on the blog. I will try and post various bits over the next few days.
In answer to a specific request I will post the script of the little sketch I wrote about the stunning new TV show, Who Do You Think You Were?
I did various bits of talking around the script - but here are the basics….
Great to be here. And everything Not normally up at this time in a morning, Shinane but for your show…. Yeah yeah the programme yeah…
It was a real journey. I went on a journey – that’s the only way I can describe it. I didn’t expect to learn so much about myself. But I did.
When they asked me to be a guest on the show I was a bit – like – you know – what? And everything. But I’m glad I did. The public just know me as being cool and suave and a bit of a bastard in Scalpel but then when you’re playing a bloke doing an average of five autopsies an episode and then solving the murders you aren’t going to be all sweetness and roses are you? Everything changed when I played Charlie in Knifed, thank you, thank you….which is a completely different kettle of fish. When you’re playing a mortician’s assistant who sneak into the morgue and does autotopsies on the QT and then solves the murders obviously that’s a very different character and a set of a skills. And everything. My point is that the public aren’t going to believe me on this new show. I am really glad they asked me to be the first guest on this which uses past life regression to take celebrities back to their former lives. And everything. I know!!! It’s called Who Do You Think You Were? and it starts next Wednesday.
I was very skeptical Shinane. I hardly believed in this life never mind former ones. I’m a real doubting Tom Boy that’s me. But they put me down in front of the hypnotist and she explained what was going to happen and I was like, really? Yeah! Really? And next thing I know I’m running through a meadow in a bleeding pinafore dress and off we go. Obviously it’s a bit different doing it for the camera because I know that they are filming everything and that the big part of the deal is that they will recreate my former lives using other celebrities. So whilst I was 100% reliving being a Victorian school urchin being chased I was wondering if Sheridan Smith was too old for the part. But she wasn’t and it all turned out well in the reconstruction. And everything.
I didn’t expect to cry so much. I expected to cry obviously, because it was in the contract, but the minute I realised I had been a geisha who had been attacked to death in the Shotgun era of ancient Japan I was in floods. It’s so sad. I can feel myself tearing up now. But it was so authentic. They had the sumo wrestlers and everything.
But the thing that got me the most was being a soldier on the battlefields of France in the Napoleonic wars and everything. I felt a bit bad once I realised I was on the French side. And I don’t speak French but I was right in there. I was imagining my musket and I could taste the bread and smelly cheese I’d had for my dinner before the cannon did for me and everything. It was so moving. Anyway – make sure you watch the show next week. Who Do You Think You Were. It’s really good. And everything.
OK - I couldn’t resist. Here is one of my favourite patents. A machine so that you can kick your own arse. Smashing! Who wouldn’t want that in their life? Isn’t the figure in the diagram strangely erotic…. discuss.
I have spent the day in the Patents Office at the British Library. It is completely fascinating. I’ve found some wonderful machines that were dreamt up to induce hypnosis. And many that were designed to hypnotise people into sleep. Insomnia seems to have been as much of a problem in the late 19th Century as it is now. Since I qualified as a Clinical Hypnotherapist it’s the thing that people always informally ask for help with.
But there are a million other brilliant patents tucked away in a restricted access folder relating to the freaky and sexually bizarre.
including my favourites:
Dog Carrying Device incorporating butt plug and muzzle to hold dog in place
Bottom spanking machine
All kinds of anti-rape devices and chastity belts and the late 19th Century obsession with devices so that if you were accidentally buried alive you could alert passersby in the graveyard
I’ll be showing a selection of my favourites next week at the Show and Tell at the Library
I have long hankered after playing the theremin and I have decided that my British library project The Singing Hypnotist, is the perfect vehicle. To this end I have been practicing away and have written two songs featuring this weird instrument. If anything can send you into a trance it would be this. I am not quite ready to post videos of my playing yet so in the meantime whet your appetite with Clara Rockmore.
After talking about this for a while I am this afternoon going for past life regression therapy. This has come about because of my researches into hypnosis at the BL. I had always thought that being regressed was part of the looney fringe of hypnosis and maybe it is but my readings amongst the collections have opened my mind to it and shortly I shall find out for myself. I am ever so slightly hysterical about it and am desperate to just say that I was Cleopatras handmaiden for the heck of it. But I have been moved a couple of times about certain happenings so will keep an enquiring, observant, open mind. Surely that will be enough. Will report back!
There is an interview with me in my guise as Artist in Residence at the British Library made by Creative Cowboy Films. They are an Australian company run by two lovely creative people Andrea and Peter Hylands. I thoroughly recommend exploring their work.
… to everyone who came to the show and tell at the British Library today. I will be posting some of the images and the songs up here shortly. And hopefully some clips so those of you who didn’t come can also get to see.
For any of you who were interested in the mention of the song Svengali in Disguise which was written by Harry Von Tilzer, a titbit of gossip from Michael Kilkarriff is that Mr Von Tilzer was Judy Garland’s Uncle. Showbiz!!!
I spent a lot of time in the Rare Books and Music room. It’s weird looking at sheet music in a quiet reading room, especially the scores for popular songs. The desire to hum the tune is intense and not a good idea. Also there are so many Music Hall songs with the most appallingly racist titles and covers to match and it never seems a good moment to ponder over something with the word Coon in a florid font.
But success! I have found two interesting songs about hypnosis. Probably not sung by hypnotists (as Michael Kilgarriff suggests, they didn’t seem to cross over - it’s only somebody like me that would weaken the validity of both endeavours by attempting to sing and hypnotise), but comic songs about hypnotism none the less
They are It Must have Been Svengali in Disguise. This is about various people who are so good at getting their way that the chorus suggests they must have hypnotised those around them, and they were so effective that they must be the most notorious hypnotist/mesmerist Svengali
My favourite was sung by Charles Gardener and is called How I Mesmerise ‘Em. This tells the story of a fella who is trained as a hypnotist and everyone wants to know how he does it. Turns out he whacks his subjects over the head with a large stick! Ba-doom! Good gag.
Hope you can come along to the first session where I will be sharing some of the items that have caught my attention. There will a little music, some chat and some nice things to look at. It’s all very informal - sign up and see you next week…..
I have spent the day tracking down two lady hypnotists from the 19th Century. I was intrigued by this poster for Annie De Montford who was variously described as ‘the psychological star’ and an “electro-biologist”. She was more often called a Mesmerist but the period she was active in (1870s/1880s) was a time when the terms were used interchangeably.
there is no mention of her on Google - apart from references to this and one other image in the British Library - and my previous blogging about her. And, of course, usefully, lots of mentions about a production of Annie in the De Montford hall in Leicester. I see Su Pollard is starring in that. Good to see Su is busy. I remember her well from the time I was watching my friend Bobby Crush at Pizza on the Park and he asked for a volunteer from the audience and then without a millisecond gap said “Not you, Su!” Happy times.
Oh dear - distracted again. But using my new found research skills and the help of several British Library staff, I found many mentions of her in a newspaper called The Era. You can deduce quite a lot about someone from their adverts and reviews. She was very active between sept 1871 and sept 1882. She played to big houses everywhere. And somewhere along the line had a falling out with her manager, Edwin Hall who posted several rather plaintive adverts for work afterwards. He describes himself “Knows his work and does it!” I like this….
I was just wondering why the listings suddenly stopped in 1882. I clicked on the last listing and was amazed that the answer was potentially so clearly provided.
Shodfriar’s Hall - Miss Annie De Montford (the mesmerist) was advertised to occupy this hall for six nights, but (through ill-health) was unable to appear.
Was that it? She worked, had success, then got ill and didn’t work any more. Is it that simple? Very probably. And she was unlikely to have been languishing at home watching a DVD of Annie whilst claiming sickness benefit. So today I celebrate Annie De Montford. She was “the most powerful mesmerist in the world” and then she wasn’t.
I don’t want to be overly sentimental but I am glad to be celebrating her. I imagine all the touring was hard work. And maybe some nights she didn’t feel like claiming that her “mind ruled the world”, but she probably went ahead and performed anyway. Good for her! And I’m proud that my blogging about her pushes the production of Annie at the De Montford Hall just a little bit further down the listings.
I’ve been on tour in Australia and Japan for a few weeks so have been the British Library’s Artist in (Non)Residence. But today I am back. Nice to access the collection, the staff canteen flapjacks and the lovely reassuring sense that lots of people around you are learning a lot of stuff.
I have been thinking about the hypnosis project a lot however, whilst I’ve been gone. I am spending today looking up the various books the library has on Past Life Regression using Hypnosis. This is something that was frowned upon when I was doing my Clinical Training in Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy, but I suddenly realised whilst browsing the BL collection from my laptop in a Business Lounge in Singapore (love this naturally), that my slightly illegitimate interest was totally legit in the context of the British Library project. Which is to say that I can read what I like in the collection, be inspired and it will possibly manifest itself in one of my show and tell sessions or my final performance presentation here at the library.
I was partially inspired to look into this by a comment made by a friend in Melbourne. I was telling him about my hypnosis research and he said casually, delivering one of those eye-popping, ear-wax-dropping, sentences that makes you wonder if you really just heard what you really just heard. He said “the only time I had hypnosis was when I told my father I was gay and he made me have past-life regression in case I turned out to be a lesbian who had been raped in a former life”. There are few words to describe the richness, and fecund complexity of this statement.
So I have requested a stack of books on using hypnosis to regress to those previous lives that you’ve absent-mindedly forgotten about. And it’s strange how quickly I went from interested reader/researcher to person freaking out in Seat 2289. I’ve been used to thinking about using hypnotic techniques to reinforce people’s desires to minimise anxiety or break bad habits, but suddenly those same techniques are being used to take people back to when they were called Minihawhaw and had feathers in their hair and are escaping the white man or whatever. this is the stuff of a million comedy sketches. it’s the ultimate cliche “Well I’m wearing a suit of armour so I’m probably not Cleopatra”. Where nobody is ever a serf dying of hunger, but is very probably intimately connected with Royalty or at least a picaresque death.
So I feel a little overwhelmed. Am I just a nutter who is freaking himself out by reading a book called Past & Future Lives - Wisdom Journeys Through Time by Heather Bray which contains the blurb on the front “Captivating! I couldn’t quit reading!” Melody. Who is Melody? Well - turns out she is the author’s very good friend who is copiously thanked in the acknowledgements so I’m not sure she is entirely impartial.
But then my research cup ran over when I stumbled across the notion of Future Life Progression. Very linguistically correct. Past=Future. Regression=Progression. Neat. And apparently there are lots of authors who practice this technique so that you can find the passport to your future. I found mine and here it is…
I know I’m scoffing and sneering. I hate that. I resist that strongly in relation to hypnosis but this seems too much for me. But don’t think for a second that I’m not going to have a session of past life regression, to see if I was Charles I’s good time side-kick or something. I most certainly am. And how it will feed into the final performance I don’t know. But that’s in the future and I haven’t paid £75 to go there with Future Life Progression so I can’t tell you what I’ll be doing come November in my final presentation here at the library.
I was thinking whilst I was in the British Library yesterday that there is a very pleasing full circle to being Artist in Residence, because my very first paying job was in my local library.
I had loved the library since the day when I was six and we were in the Post Office in Two Dales and I was asking for a book. My mother said “I think it’s time we went to the library”. We walked round the corner and suddenly I was allowed to choose six books for free. I recognised this as a GOOD DEAL.
When I was 17 I answered the ad in the Matlock Mercury for a Saturday Worker at the Library. I think it was a different time in 1985 because they told me in the interview that I had got the job, despite having other people to interview, because “you’ve single handedly ordered most of the records in this building”. It was true that I had been taking an active interest in getting the Derbyshire Library Service to up it’s pop quota since I was about 13. Don’t think for a second that I was taping obscure Siouxsie and the Banshees albums at the rate payer’s expense. Of course not. I was helping the library reach out to it’s youth demographic.
I knew it was going to be a great job when on my first morning I was being shown round the building by Maureen. She said the fantastic line “There are three of us called Maureen here, so to save confusion I am known as Maureen, that’s Fat Maureen and that’s June”
Fat Maureen was indeed very fat. She once told me that her big treat of the year was two front row seats for the final of the snooker at the Crucible in Sheffield. She waited a beat for dramatic effect and then said “Both seats for me”.
Fat Maureen was a problem for me in that she was in charge of the tiny branch library at the Whitworth Institute in Darley Dale the place my mother had taken me when I was six. After a week or two I was allowed to go on my own. I KNOW! On my own. Across a main road and with the potential to get touched up. But this was the 70s when exposure to a measure of risk was considered a normal part of a child’s life. And it’s kept therapists in business ever since. I had very quickly had a run in with Fat Maureen because she had pointed out that the Sue Barton Neighbourhood Nurse series was meant for girls not boys. I said something along the lines that I liked it and she tartly stamped it out saying “it’s too advanced for you anyway”. Feeling shamed for being simultaneously too literate and too gender neutral, Sue Barton always had an slightly illicit thrill for me. I read them all.
I lost any moral high ground I might have had with Fat Maureen shortly afterwards. It’s a little vague in my mind but it was something to do with The Peppermint Pig by Nina Bawden. I think I was devouring it in the library instead of taking it home. Anyway I was engrossed. And there’s no easy way to say this, I did a wee on the floor of the Children’s Fiction area. I did what any six year old with style would do. I checked out the Nina Bawden from Fat Maureen and probably defiantly threw in a Sue Barton or two to show nonchalance, strolled out of the library, and cried in the park on the way home.
This incident weighed heavy on my childhood but my need to access literature outweighed my humiliation so I brazened it out week after week and I was never challenged on the urine incident. But 11 years later as I stood side by side, chubby shoulder to skinny waist behind the counter with Fat Maureen. I longed to ask her, did you know it was me? Did you have to clear it up? Is it too late to say I’m sorry? But I didn’t.
And I felt sad when I heard that she had died of a brain haemorrhage some years later. It being a small town there was much discussion about how her bedsit had looked like a murder scene. I remember thinking when everyone was discussing it in the pub when me and my schoolfriends were home from University one Christmas, that the most shocking part of the story was that she lived in a bedsit.
Anyway there’s much more to say about me and libraries including the time I got 35 pensioners doing the Hokey Cokey around Queen’s Park library and someone fell on the photocopier and the ambulance was called, but that was in the name of art.
There’s been little urine, blood or emergency health care in my British Library residency so far, but I feel happy to be here.
I am now official at the British Library following my induction (“We have to guard against awful things like the Milan bombing, you know, the one in Spain”) this morning. So I now have an email address. Please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s early days on here but please spread the word amongst friends and colleagues that you think might be interested.