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Sunday 11 December 2011: Lights on the ground

Presumably simply a bit of Christmas decoration rather than a new installation, but as it's the grounds of the Gallery of Modern Art One it's difficult to tell. There are two jet aircraft engines in the middle of Landform at the moment. Apparently Roger Hiorns work (Untitled (2010) includes the crushed dust of antidepressant drugs inside the two massive engines, echoing back to a previous work - Untitled (2008) in which he pulverised a jet engine into dust. Seeing the two engines lying on the grass in front of the gallery it is difficult not to think of other images of plane crashes and their often incongruous scattered debris, like the plane cockpit after the Lockerbie bombing. Or in fiction, in the film Donnie Darko, when the jet engine crashed into Donnie's bedroom.
All this on a short Sunday afternoon walk from the house, down to the Water of Leith and up through the grounds of the gallery before heading back home. Saw a fox on the path round the back of the gallery. It looked straight back at me for an instant before turning away and disappearing back into the undergrowth at the top of the hill.
Earlier in the day we went to Socrates Cafe at the Filmhouse. A smaller group than usual and we had to move to the less salubrious Film Guild room round the back of the building as there was a function on in the cafe bar, but we had a very interesting discussion. The question this time was "Why does it matter if I'll be dead when it happens?" Like many of the more successful questions, it wasn't easy to pin down and the discussion ranged far and wide. For me it is a question that is fundamental to the way we live on this planet. Climate talks have been going on in Durban for two weeks to try and address the way that present day actions are likely to effect the future. But it wasn't just about the environment and climate change. One tangent we headed down considered the role of social housing in countering the rentier class, and the way that Thatcher's attack on social housing in the UK could be said to lie at the root of many of the current problems that plague not just housing but the whole economy. And yet, was it not a brilliant strategy? Extensive social housing kept private rents lower, and limited demand for property. By offering 1980s council tenants the chance to buy their houses at knock-down prices, the restraint on the rentier class - making money without working - was removed by thousands of individual, short term 'goods', at the expense of longer term, common 'bads'. Arguably the housing boom, and bust, that has followed and the skewing of the UK economy, where property and capital is more important than making things, can all be traced back to the sale of public housing. The corruption of the housing market that has featured on TV documentaries this week and the way that the welfare state continues to support low wages and private landlords are merely other consequences of the same thing. We could have continued on for some time on this and other aspects of the question!

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