Jan. 9, 2014. This piece has been a long time in the making. Well, no, that doesn't mean anything. It's been four or five months in the layering, as will become apparent.


What is the above? It's a cardboard box with a date silk-screened onto it. It's meant to echo the letter style that On Kawara uses for his
Date Paintings. Of course, Kawara executes each of his sublime paintings on the date in question, which wasn't the case here. Kate took her time over this work. The making of the box itself would have taken her ages had she not commissioned James, a fourth-year Product Design student, to do it. While getting those letters onto the box so crisply took perseverance on the part of both Kate and Pete from the printing department.

And that was just for starters: an empty box, an exquisite container.

But now the box is full: effectively a book of A3 pages. One takes off the lid and places it on the bed just to the side. Then, having regarded the first page, one turns it over and lowers it into the box lid. At least that seems to be the idea. The first page, a sheet of high quality matt paper, superimposes two double-pages from Kate's notebook onto a view of sand and sky separated by a narrow strip of sea.


The notebook pages tell the reader/viewer that on the 21st of August, 2013, Kate made a journey by train to visit her father who had recently been admitted into a nursing home in Llandudno, on the north coast of Wales. On the way she admired a wind farm and spoke to a man who was on his way to Lourdes, the perfect excuse for Kate to sketch a shrine to the Virgin Mary.

The second page is printed onto A3 card and it doesn't have the sharp photographic quality of the first page. One layer of the image is simply the path leading to the Convent of Mercy Nursing Home. The other is the cover of
Operational Amplifiers, a book that Kate's father wrote decades ago when he was a lecturer in Physics at Liverpool Polytechnic. Does the double triangle of the book's cover design suggest danger in this context? Well, George had been suffering from inoperable bowel cancer for three years, and his condition seemed to worsen from the beginning of August, 2013. With his mind being significantly affected, he was transferred from the house he'd lived in for years to a nursing home by his wife.


For Kate's visit, which lasted two days, she took along a sketch pad, a camera and a phone with which she could make voice recordings. She had not gone along to the bedside of her dying father to make art out of his demise. Rather, she had taken the equipment along in case she found that it seemed like an appropriate thing to do when she got there, along with the talking and grieving and just getting by. And, after a while, it did seem appropriate. George is Gaga's son, after all. And Kate is in the middle of her MFA course and doesn't want to deny who she is and where she's got to in life. The page below overlays a page from Kate's notebook onto a photograph taken in George's room at 6pm on Kate's day of travelling down to Wales, before she'd tried out the voice recorder.


The end of the above exchange, formally spelt and punctuated, reads:

Dad: "She's up the chute."
Kate: "Who?"
Dad: "You."

And right away we're thrown into the complex and ambivalent relationship between father and daughter.

In the box there are five transcripts of conversations between Kate and George. The first one lasts through six pages of the box and I've reproduced it below. Small words lost in tracts of silence is the initial impression given.


The transcript of the two voices exists first as recorded sound. In turning these sounds into written words, various decisions have been made. Such as Kate's voice being down the left of the page, George's down the middle. More importantly, although the conversation continues for a few minutes, the image used with the conversation changes as one turns from page to page. This can be quite distracting. With the pages in the box itself, one take in each visually, then reads the text. But I think in a screen context the temptation is to read the whole conversation then to go back and have a look at the corresponding images. But that's down to each individual reader/viewer.

Now where were we? Oh yes, Kate has asked George if he wants a hankie:


The font used for Kate's father's words is a mechanical-looking one to reflect the sound of George's voice. Not only does George seem to have lost the ability to speak in complex sentences, but it seems difficult for him to choose the appropriate volume and tone. In his case, that infinitely flexible tool, the human voice, is beginning to break down.


I'm glad that Kate wasn't made to hide in the closet.


Kate and I had a long chat about to what extent she wanted her father to be identifiable in this work. Before deciding that sketches of his face were acceptable, but that photographs weren't.


I should say that Kate made most of the pages using Word and iPhoto and I ran the pages twice through my A3 printer for her. Kate knew that Indesign would allow her to control exactly how the image and text juxtaposed with each other. So that in the above page we could have avoided 'LONDON BUTTERWORTHS' obscuring part of Kate's dialogue. But she liked the random element that was introduced by the 'twice through the printer blindly' technique, so she opted for that. I think she felt that absolute control of the end result wasn’t appropriate in the circumstances of her father declining and her being able to do nothing about it. She didn’t want the box user (you or me) to think of her sitting in front of a computer, queen of all she surveyed, putting in an extra line of space so that a few words of hers would be legible as opposed to obscured. It also has to be said that she has come to resent the amount of time one needs to master sophisticated computer software. Kate doesn’t like spending all her time figuring out how to do things. She wants a free flow from her head to the paper (or whatever she's working with) at the time of inspiration and motivation.


I've read these dialogues many times now, but still find them engaging, still find them poignant. Kate and I discussed which photographs would be most effective to use alongside the words, and she decided that a combination of general shots of the room, with indirect shots of the room's occupant would work best.

The close-up of George's hand is an image that was always going to be part of the sequence. George's middle finger was the one he had long been in the habit of using on his computer's mouse, and while lying in bed - his computer no longer part of his daily routine - he would use it on an invisible mouse.

One photographic element not from the nursing home room environment itself is the odd page taken from
Operational Amplifiers. These got into the mix when Kate - shortly after Aug. 31, 2013 - visited the family home and came across a copy of the old book in George's office. It was an object that reminded Kate of her father as he had been in his prime, an analytical man proud of his objective intelligence.

After the first transcript, Kate took a break. She took a break during the actual visit and she reflects that in the structure of the box. I will take a micro break myself at this point. Where am I? I'm in a bedroom with a cardboard box full of sheets of paper. Not to mention my computer, on which I am writing this text, which is in another room in this my own parents' house.


During the break that Kate took, she reflected on her relationship with her father, past and present. She wrote the text on the next page very quickly. A kind of automatic writing, which I suspect she's rendered in the font she's chosen in order to create a little barrier between the text and the reader. You really have to want to know what she's thinking in order to go with the flow. Luckily, I for one do want to know what Kate was and is making of her predicament: having to witness the dying of her father.


I know that Kate let her mind clear before going into her father's room again. She puts this across with the following image which for me communicates the fragility of memory, the inevitability of loss:


Well, when I say Kate cleared her mind, the suggestion is that she relaxed with a simple image. Her childhood self lying on an inflatable boat, being pulled to and fro by her father. Sunshine and water trapped in the pores of paper... Life all around the parent and child, and stretching off into the future... Life lapping against the inflatable... Life, life,life...

Most of us have photos like this. Memories of summer holidays when we were taken out of our normal routines, out of our customary clothes, to experience sun and sand, water and sky, strange unsettling days and weeks perhaps, but which settle down in retrospect to give us images and/or memories that last all our lives.

I say that Kate relaxed with a simple image. But that can't quite be right. The image of the girl on the inflatable being pulled along by an adult's hand has been reproduced on tracing paper, so in the box you can see through it to the next image: a sketch of George lying in his bed, close to the end. What is the purpose of this lay-out? Memory can do many things but it can't extinguish the present?


When Kate was ready, once she'd smoked her cigarette, she walked back to her father's room on the evening of August the 21st, 2013. And she sat alongside the bed. In silence. From time to time she sketched. And then eventually she switched on the voice recorder and waited. Then she switched off the recorder... Then on again... Still waiting...


This second transcript is quite short. It's also fractured. What follows might almost be a separate conversation. But it's not.


The above image is from the home movie compilation that Kate has inherited from her father. She intends to make use of it this year. Well, she's already made use of it here. Again it gives that sense of distance between human beings. Father and daughter swimming together in the sea. A few short decades later and there is an ocean of distance between them. An ocean that is about to engulf one of them.

Below, a page from Operational Amplifiers has been overlaid onto a sketch made of George by Kate. The overlay of a product of George's once active mind over Kate's representation of George's present state works for me. George seems under pressure...


Kate has said that
Operational Amplifiers might as well be written in a foreign language so little does she understand of the text, diagrams and equations. So it symbolises a distance between father and child that was often there once Kate was grown up. Sadly, it also represents the distance between the dying and confused old man and the clear thinking individual he was until shortly before his death.

But let's tune in to how Kate herself puts it in another of her breaks. The photograph below was taken outside the B&B that she stayed in while visiting Llandudno, her visiting done for the day.


The image above is printed on card. That below is reproduced on a sheet of photographic paper. The colour of the bricks and the hydrangeas is intense and something needs to be said about this...


Although during the whole visit, Kate was recording her father’s decline towards death - and where she stood in relation to that process - she couldn’t - and didn't - ignore the immediate surroundings. She thinks that goes back to Gerturde Stein’s idea of the continuous present. Her father was dying, she had thoughts of their time spent together, but the memories couldn’t be isolated from the present moment.

George was never a religious man, but statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary were dotted around the nursing home, and a peruser of AUG. 31, 2013 might think Kate was contrasting his faith in science with traditional religious faith. However, what was really going on was that the iconography was bringing Kate some consolation, because she, as a non-Catholic child, had been enrolled by her parents at a Catholic School and she became obsessed with icons and ritual which she was excluded from. She was plugging back into that sense of forbidden desires.


Right, I am going to take a proper break there. Why am I taking a break? Because January 9, 2014, calls. I will come back to AUG. 31, 2013 when I am as fresh as the above hydrangeas, which is to say tomorrow morning.