Sunday, 23 September 2018

An Argentinian journey. Part one, Buenos Aires

My other half (OH) has taken 'almost' retirement.

To celebrate he has dragged me to Argentina, because I happened to mention some time ago that I would like to see the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. The best salt pans in South America are in the high altitude altiplano and puna of Chile and Argentina, and the Salar de Uyuni amid the Andes in southwest Bolivia.

We have a long trip, starting in Buenos Aires, and finishing in Chile, taking in both the puna and altiplano, but not the Salar de Uyuni on this particular trip. The Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world, and will have to wait for another day.

Patience is a virtue; who am I to complain when we have such an exciting itinerary ahead of us, crossing the Andes from Argentina to Chile.

But first we must see Buenos Aires and do the 'city' thing.

I would have opted to head straight to the countryside, to open spaces and wild places.

But there are sights to see here.

First we headed to the small local shops in search of batteries.

I was taken with the brush department.

So colourful. And such a selection.

I resisted, and made do with a plastic mug for making tea in. ( Hotels here don't have kettles).

Next we wandered up to the pink palace ( Casa Rosada) at the Plaza de Mayo, where Eva Peron used to live.

Casa Rosada , Buenos Aires

Life here is hard at present. Local people are tired of their politicians, and the devaluation of the currency is causing much hardship.

For us this makes prices very reasonable.

A cafe lunch at Cafe Puerto Rico was quiet on a Saturday.

Truth speaks in silence

Cafe Puerto Rico, Buenos Aires

Mostly we walked and ate.

Meat, beer and more meat. A certain person in heaven.

We found an exhibition about meat. OH easily persuaded to visit.

Carne ( meat)

The exhibition of meat facts accompanied by paintings of juicy steaks.

from the 'Carne' exhibition by Micaela Gauna


Obviously that made us hungry, but before eating 'we' needed a beer.

cerveza (beer)

No prizes for guessing which one OH had.

I, of course, had the 'Scottish'.

We walked some more. Long distances along wide streets.

La Recoleta cemetery was fascinating and morbid altogether.  Enormous mausoleums to contain the departed. Displays of wealth and importance.

Dead people; some coffins visible through broken window and door panes. A bit close for comfort.

So many 'streets' that you need a map.

La Recoleta, Buenos Aires

Resting place of Eva Peron

Eva Peron - much loved Argentinian

And the tragic story of a young girl who died in an avalanche.

Accompanied by her faithful companion, nose stroked by many who pass by.

After all that walking I demanded some culture. There are so many wonderful art galleries and museums in the city, it was hard to choose just a couple.

We managed the Museo de Arte Moderne (MAMA)

The photographs of Argentinian history were particularly moving. Thousands of boys 'disappeared' under the military dictatorship in the seventies and eighties.

Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo demonstration 1983, photographs by Aldo Sessa

White headscarves were worn by the 'Madres de Plaza de Mayo' movement.

After that a more light hearted exhibit, aptly titled

"Huevos en el piso"

( eggs on the floor)

'Entrevidas' a performative installation ; huevos en el piso by Anna maria Maiolino

We resisted temptation........

There was some eccentric performance art from the 1969 body of work set up by F.E Walther and photographed by Tim Rautert.

Having recently met Richard Long of  'A Line made by walking' fame, I was amused by these alternative views on the line.

OH was seriously not amused by all of the above, so we had a nice cup of tea, and then out for some more meat.

A brief trip to the Museo de Arte Latinamericano de Buenos Aires ( MALBA) the next day was somewhat better tolerated.

Cindy Sherman was deemed to be 'really weird', but OH interacted very nicely with some paperclips and padlocks hanging from the ceiling in a work from Pablo Accinelli's Nubes de Paso.

'I did blow them, and they moved'............. he informed me.

I preferred Pablo's feather dusters.

feather dusters from Nubes de Paso

The would have gone very well with a nice red brush.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

learning to write, the Arvon way

'passing poplars' a book made at Arvon

I am a few days back from a writing week in Devon.

Arvon, Totleigh Barton.

Bookmaking and poetry; Rachel Hazell, and Nancy Campbell as tutors with a guest visit by Richard Long, one of my favourite land artists.

A course made for me. All my favourite things, and a chance to get some ideas on how to write more creatively.

I had to beg them to take me. They squeezed me in at the last minute, and so began one of the most creative weeks of my life.

The house is an old manor house, with heavy beams and a garden full of apples and quiet spots for reading or writing.

No wifi, no TV and almost no telephone reception, unless you ran up the hill into the cow field.

Scroll free September became remarkably easy.

views from the cow field

Cows everywhere.

Some sheep too.

A 40 minute walk to Sheepwash, the nearest village.

Luscious dew laden grass all around.

And juicy blackberries in all the hedgerows.

The only thing I could complain about was the mattress on my bed.

We were told to write three words down as soon as we woke up in the morning. Before doing anything else.

This is a shortened version of 'morning pages' that is a regular habit for some writers.

My three words increasingly became about my bed.

cold              (because I was too lazy to get up in the night and close the open window)
coiled spring

 but also


We had so many new ideas to deal with. Brain buzzing day and night.  
Book structures , hand-writing with real ink and nibs, creating poems by erasing text on a page of an existing book, learning about local 'lost'words, and choosing a word of our own to 'abandon'.

We tied lost words to the rowan tree outside the kitchen, and watched the words fluttering in the autumn sunshine.

We cooked together, ate wonderfully, and listened to each others' words.

I wrote a concrete poem about toast, using the words of instruction from our first evening on how to deal with safety issues.

We were advised to minotor our toast activity........a phrase that stuck in my head for several days.

toast © caroline fraser 2018

There was plenty of angst about writing and making things in short time frames.

I would normally go for months between the arrival of one poem and the next. I wrote several poems over the five days, most of which were about the process of trying to write under pressure.

Later in the week I found myself writing in pen and ink on Somerset velevet paper.

A new way of expressing myself.
One that  felt absolutely right.

And for a piece on "Lines in the Landscape' I created a concertina book of poplar leaves, sewn in with thread.

It won't last, but again, I felt happy.

Something to share that I felt represented my aesthetic and love of nature.

A far cry from my Camberwell book art days. I think I have finally got them out of my system.

Finally we created an edition of 18 cards ; one for each participant on the course.

In homage to Richard Long  and his 'Line made by Walking'   I made this............

No camera. No computer.

Just a piece of paper and an ink stamp.

Lines made by Livestock © Caroline Fraser 2018

 It doens't do to take life too seriously.


For more on the tutors follow these links

 Rachel Hazell

Nancy Campbell

Arvon writing courses

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Icebergs and cold turkey ..... scroll free september


Today being the 1st of September, it was lucky that I heard about the idea to give up social media for a month on the very first day of the month in question.

Just in time to put a quick post on Facebook and Instagram giving my intention, and then to promise myself not to even open the apps for the next 30 days.

I am going to go cold turkey. A bit like dry January, but I am allowed wine. Just no social media.

scroll-free-september is an initiative by the Royal Society for Public Health. We all know the problems it causes, but convince ourselves of good reasons to continue anyway.


I'll see what I miss, and what I gain.

If I don't post, then I wont need to check whether anyone is looking at my posts.

And what do they achieve anyway?

...... I am not sure I know the answer to that one.

I am keen to see how I spend the time that I might otherwise have used aimlessly scrolling.

I might even then have some time to share some of my images from Greenland; a place so special that I have not been able to think what to say about it.

Holding it in my head.

A place of stark contrast between land and sea, mostly covered with ice.

a house on a rock

Where homes are built on rocks, and where the ground is covered with snow for about 9 months of the year.

Where transport between villages and towns is by boat, plane or sled. There are no connecting roads.


Where electricity and other utilities are supplied in pipes above the ground, due to the permafrost and rocky ground.

Where fishing and tourism are the main sources of income.

fishing boats, Ilulissat

Where the icefjord creates an ever changing environment in Disko Bay. Icebergs breaking off the glacier and heading out to Baffin Bay, small fragments eventually reaching as far as Canada.

Icefjord, Gronland

Where village life is harsh and somewhat untidy.


Ilimanaq village refuse collection
Greenlandic home

Yet all of this set against the exquisite beauty of Disko Bay, where the sun doesn't set in summer, and the night sky could be mistaken for daytime.

The low sun illuminating the ice in subtle majesty.

photographers at night, Disko Bay

Disko Bay, Greenland

Iceberg, Disko Bay

Ice flow

midnight light, greenland

blue ice

blue ice, Disko bay
red boat, Disko Bay

Just posting these images makes me realise that I wish to return. I would like to explore the coast in my own time, taking it all in. Five days is only enough to see what is there, and not enough to say anything meaningful photographically.

It is only familiarity that brings me the ability to have something to say. Time to truly immerse in an environment.

The silence and calm waters were everything that I had hoped for.

Photographs taken from a moving boat will never convey the experience adequately.

A sea that rippled like liquid mercury at 3am in the morning as we returned to harbour left everyone spellbound.

One of those moments that lives on.

Not on Instagram.

Not even on my 'proper' camera.

A special memory

In my head.