Jessica Helfand | Essays

Oh, To Be An English, Um, Person!

Left: cover of new album by Andrew English. Right: cover of new book by John Tingey

Within the space of one hour yesterday, these two images flashed upon my screen — both of them curiously billed as "Englishmen." The elder of the two (above right) is the subject of a new book just published by Princeton Architectural Press, which I am eagerly awaiting (and am likely to write more about) as it gestures to so many of my not-so-secret obsessions: among them, visual experiments in personal narrative, bizarre fragments of animal skeletons and stamps. His name was W. Reginald Bray and he was English.

The other (above left) is a singer songwriter whose first album was entitled "Taxidermy". (Another of my obsessions, as it happens.) His name is Andrew English, but he is American. 

One is a hipster from Lexington Kentucky. The other, a mild-mannered accountant from the London suburbs. And yet, a closer look reveals some striking physical similarities: narrow jaw, aquiline nose, serious expression, hair parted to the left. "Curiouser and curiouser!" as another famed Englishman once wrote — intentionally channeling grammatical rules while (whilst!) leading Alice down the rabbit hole. (Still confused? Perhaps a cuppa tea will help!)

Odd bedfellows, these two? Perhaps not so odd after all. English, for one, describes his new album as not unlike an old family trip. "It runs, jumps, breaks bones, swears, apologizes, heals up and makes amends all in less than an hour." The late Bray spent years pushing the boundaries of what was permissable within the alleged guidelines of the British Postal System: he sent insects, articles of unwrapped clothing and apparently, even himself — a different kind of "trip" but no less trippy. Maybe, as it happens, more trippy.

Comments [1]

Here is a post about
W. Reginald Bray
Special Delivery
from another Englishman.

Click Photo link above.
Thank you.
Carl W. Smith

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