the offense of doodling in Wetherspoons about canals…

I have been pondering the power of art  or ‘doing art’ the last week day or so. Even typing that I feel uncomfortable as I’m not comfortable with calling what I do ‘art’. I like exploring and doodling, which is partly why I keep this blog and find it hard to write longer posts like I going to attempt to do now.  But  for the purpose of this post lets call my doodling ‘art’.

Anyway, last Thursday night a friend and I met my brother and went to a lecture about ‘Contemporary Art and the Return of Religion’ held by Contemporary Christianity in the art college which you can see on Alan in Belfast’s blog.
It was good stuff. There was a bit of talk back and forth about Piss Christ, a photograph by Andres Serrano which I am too tired to go into fully but lets just say I was reminded of what art is good at, or one of the things its good at is getting a dialogue going.

The next day I was down in Lisburn and decided to support local business (by ironically drinking in a large national pub chain) and popped in to Wetherspoons to have a pint of Hilden Brewery beer.

I bought my beer, sat down at a table and started to scribble in an old book about canals that I had bought in a charity shop. 

Incidentally, I originally called this blog canal ways, because I wanted to explore the canal and towpath around the Lagan and make some art out of it, to try and redeem it for myself in some sort of way. So thats why I was scribbling in a book about canals in Wetherspoons.

Anyway, there I was in Wetherspoons scribbling in the book and I knew people were watching, but I didn’t care.
I was minding my own business,
not disturbing anyone,
not making any noise but I knew people were watching and unsettled.
Still I didn’t care.
The lady and husband beside me were watching and eventually he got up to go to the toilet.
I scribbled a bit more and glanced up at Sky News.
I saw her out of the corner of my eye and I knew she was going to pounce.

‘Hey mate,is that all you do all day mate, sit and fuckin’ scribble in pages???’

I told the lady that I was going to try and sell it on the internet and that I had bought it in a charity shop.
But this seemed like too much for the woman to deal with, and to be fair perhaps it is a bit random but I still don’t feel I was being a danger to society or had to be confronted in some way. I reckon she was just curious, verging on nosey.

It made me think though – its funny what provokes a reaction from people.
Never mind that the air was turning blue with swear words, or that the pub was filled with racist chatter and nobody cared about that.
Instead there was a scruffy looking man with a pen scribbling in a book. He might be mental. I had better confront him.

There was another interesting angle on this.
It was the couples sudden concern for the book itself.
I think they just didn’t like the fact that I was defacing a book, a book about canals from the 70’s that had previously been lying in a charity shop. Up to that point I can’t imagine that the couple had cared much about canals in Britain, but now they seemingly did.

I find our reaction to ‘destroying’ books interesting. It seems to be a major no-no. Even I feel slightly uncomfortable about scribbling on the book, but why is that? Are the sacred?It would be interesting to explore that a bit more sometime. Maybe in Wetherspoons tomorrow afternoon scribbling in another book.

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