Friday, 20 December 2013

my magic life - the Border Line 1993


David Devant Archive Speech

Last Night Dec 19th I was joined on stage by the legend Foz? Together we meandered our way through the origins of our band David Devant and His Spirit Wife. I made a power point of various pieces of evidence for our existence. Foz kept the historical anchor points in position and I riffed on the themes of coincidence, accident and Day dreaming. It seemed to form some kind of cohesive sense of what we do as a group. And this was further enhanced by the arrival of the Professor. Thanks to Fred Pipes for filming this.

Iceman levitates Cocky Young'un at The Rock public house circa 1992

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Anecdote

Ah I thought, gingerly easing myself from bed into the day ahead. It’s obvious really. What went wrong with Communism is what went wrong with Modernism. It became inextricably joined at the hip with a functionalist morality. Puritanism. This is part of a false dichotomy presented everyday by the presiding left-brain culture - you are either functional or a messy over-indulgence. So with the superscale version of Communism we see a drive to strip away the excess until we are left with what is necessary. Who is fit to say what is necessary? Of course there are echoes of the drive to purify culture of the excesses of the bourgeois that we find in the French revolution. Fragonard painted the Swing just before the Revolution made him an anachronism and the sleek timeless message of classicism replaced the intimate and anecdotal. Commentary of the Swing often focuses on the name of the commissioning patron (?) and the story of how another artist (?) turned down the work thus giving Fragonard an accidental in to making his masterpiece. The classical and therefore “well ordered” masterpiece Poussin's Dance to the Music of Time, on the other hand, is all about timeless universal symbols. Anecdotes are messy and dangerous. In the early part of the 20th Century Communism was aligned with the Avant-garde and the drive for change. An allegiance to the new. It seems only natural then that it fused with the idea of distilling things to their essence. I was thinking of this in light of issues concerning authorship. There seems to be a trend towards imposing anonymity on the artist for the sake of the greater good. As in “superscale” communism the imposer of anonymity becomes known or is already in a position to impose anonymity due to their known-ness. So to recap communism is not anti-anecdotal. Modernist communism is anti-anecdotal but this has been missed due to the instantaneous fusing of functionalism and communism in the caldron of revolution. When Picasso, that well known communist freedom artist, removed the medical student from les Demoiselles D’Avignon, he was effectively removing the anecdotal element thus making the painting self-sufficient. This is the groove we have been stuck in ever since. Who we are, stories, our names they are not anti-communist. In fact they are what save us in a ”psychogeographic” sense from the levelling of culture brought about by symbolic consumerism. And so I would argue that the Communist Gallery is, from where I stand, a place to put the anecdotal back into Communism. This vision of Communism as a ego-free place of anonymous dedication to the cause is and was conceived in the fervour of a Saulian flash of faith in the quantum nature of the universe that arrived with the wide spread awareness of E equalling mc squared. Schrodinger’s cat is so fascinating because it attempts to present this paradox with clarity. It’s the same paradox that Blake spoke of when he described being a spirit in a physical body. So are we talking about classical versus romantic Communism? After all Marx went from being romantic to scientific. This shift I imagine was driven by practicality and conviction not an ideological choice between anecdote and hypothesis. It is a false dichotomy- what we are talking about pre-intellectual awareness of the whole.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Art under Attack - Tate Britain

I was all set to over turn the tables and drive out the money lenders in the Art under Attack exhibition at the Tate Britain when I thought I ought rather to check what the curator’s intentions were. It turns out that the parameters were narrower than you might have presumed – this is an exhibition about “Image breaking in Britain”. The show does achieve this end which makes it’s rather puritanical air seem rather appropriate. As with all acts of creativity (curating included) no matter how scholarly the intention, something unintended will emerge. Something that resonates beyond the artist’s intentions. I’m including curators as artists as the idea of re-appropriating and re-presenting is what a lot of contemporary art is about. The something here is the question of literacy rewiring the brain until we (civilisation) somehow lose the language to express the ineffable problems of being human. There are a few powerful moments in the show. I say powerful but they are not the visceral in your face thrills of YBA-dom. First there were the pages from the King James Bible with the image of God carefully blacked out. These are genuinely iconoclastic images that resonate on multifarious levels. They make me think of Richard Dawkins and the idea that we have invented god and the pagan void his absence leaves. Richard didn’t kill God but he is flogging the dead dog. After my visit the connection to Mark Wallinger's blacked out version of Jesus of Nazareth really hit home. The explanation informs us that this is a comment on how we have become attuned to viewing film and therefore do our best to fill in the mysterious void in the same way that church goers once learnt to view icons. There is a point here that we are shaped by any medium that saturates us but yes I can see the connection between the silent meditation of the church and the cinema both being examples of the gesamkunstwerk. There is something rather bothersome about the judgemental quality of the manner in which Wallinger's piece is presented. It seems to say aren’t we silly the way we are manipulated by a medium. Here then is the culture of violation where the hero highlights how easy it is to rupture human perception and ideas of identity lest we fall for the same trick. What I was hoping to find in the exhibition was an example of the forceful creativity inherent in destruction. I thought of Louise Bourgeois smashing plates to make herself feel better, Miro’s urge to scribble over the reified original or Goya’s exhultation of the idiosyncratic wobble of line. What I found was a very effective but literal interpretation of the word iconoclastic – broken icon. The most powerful and creative image was the contemporary image of the slashed Rokeby Venus which in itself was not created as art.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Local funeral

Funeral The concertina organ ebbs and flows Fingers politely jostle on the keys A chord is resolved Breathe in and breathe out Softly stumble from the pew Feeling suddenly self-conscious Down the aisle now Touch the wood – what tree you wonder? Fingers catch on the varnish Hadn’t expected that Feel more self-conscious Caught out trying to be sagacious Body of Christ Amen Blood of Christ Christ Amen Eyes down body stutters back to pew Pack of tissues in left pocket Mother of dead school friend over right shoulder We always ask ourselves Who am I mourning? The cheerful old soul in the coffin? Body of Christ body of Christ body of Christ Christ the priest has a clip on mic Old chap in the box lived a good life Life and soul Lit up the room Photo in the order of service Glint in his eye I wipe away tears Who am I mourning? Missing mother of two boys? Her mum over my right shoulder How great thou art Filing out now down the aisle God let me be strong enough to listen She’s not in pain anymore The words stutter out So hard to catch them To really be brave enough to listen It’s your funeral Breath in Breathe out The concertina organ gurgles on Atonal moments pass apologetically Body of Christ body ofchristbodyofchrist We stammer on All somehow together under the same roof again We ebb and flow out onto the street Spreading like black ink on blotting paper Dissolving back into the stream

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Fibromyalgia Man and the Head Gasket Theory

I’ve been searching for an analogy to try and explain how it feels to have fibromyalgia. I’ve come a long way in a year. This time last September I was pretty terrified by the tumult of pains that suddenly pummelled my body. In a panic I asked my doctor to test me for lead poisoning. I needed an explanation. The same doctor told me I’d have two weeks off max if I were a premier league footballer. And he told me this apropos of what exactly I still ask myself? It was after sending a two-page complaint about his bullying attitude and compulsive need to make me exercise in front of him that my diagnosis began to take shape. I got referred. Eventually I saw the much-respected Professor Powell and in April he diagnosed me with fibromyalgia as a result of the head on collision with a bandit vehicle two years earlier. He was pretty unequivocal and even when I said I didn’t want to jump to conclusions assured me that this order of events was pretty normal (all the other usual suspects have now been eliminated including Limes disease). Knowing what it is has really helped even if fibromyalgia is an illness that not many people know what it is. I was buoyed by an article linking the inability to turn off pain with a surfeit of sensory nerve endings in the palms and soles of the feet, which happen to be very painful places for me in the morning. “Instead of being in the brain, the pathology consists of excessive sensory nerve fibers around specialized blood vessel structures located in the palms of the hands,” said Dr. Rice, President of Intidyn and the senior researcher on the study. These excessive nerve endings in turn interfere with blood flow and messages through the central nervous system. So it’s not all in the head. Prof. Powell had simply said people with fibromyalgia have trouble turning off pain. I thought this made us seem like people who leave computers on and don’t switch off lights. Perhaps so if these people awoke to discover all plugs and switches had been removed from their homes. And so to my initial analogy. This week my car sprang a leak, which it turns out, was a result of the head gasket going. My car on the surface looks sleek and starts okay. You could drive it very slowly for a short distance but anything else will make it blow up (in layman’s terms). My problem is that no one knows where my head gasket is (the skin perhaps?). But I must carry on or I will rust and become completely undriveable. The point I am so clumsily trying to make is that a very real physical change in the mechanics of the body happens in fibromyalgia. This is what demands a reframing of life. You simply can’t behave as you did before. I can’t replace my head gasket until someone works out where it is but I can drive at a gentle pace with the occasional burst of speed (not strictly adviseable). I have to be prepared to be slapped down as a result but that, as I am now discovering, has its own rewards. Welcome to Painsville please drive carefully and take time to idle your engine.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

THe World's End - a short review

Science fiction science fiction you’re just a genre with bad diction. So said no one – ever in the entire history of time. But the point is Sci-Fi is a genre and therefore down in the literary pecking order. Hey but hold yer eight legged green equine creatures a moment. Isn’t that whole hierarchy of aesthetics a pooey phoney Victorian thing? You know where historical paintings are more important than portraits or landscapes and shit. It is? Oh good because for a moment I thought we were still applying such moronic notions to art today. Like that other idea that art can’t be entertaining and serious. I took my 13-year-old son to see World’s End earlier this month. He was thrilled because the certificate was a 15 and not I’ll have you a 15A, which would have meant that I would have had to simply decide in my parental wisdom that he was mature enough to see the film. Oh no the missing A meant that we were officially sticking it to the man. And we were real men. Just like the blokes on the screen in front of us. We together were being men sharing the secrets of our flawed strangely-strong-yet-fragile personas in a darkened chamber. There is something about science fiction (not fantasy) that gets to the very core of human-ness. The reason for this is almost stupidly obvious. It is a genre where being human is not a given and we are therefore able to see ourselves from outside. The whole big goddamn screwy experiment called planet human is laid bare. That’s us. Silly old us, fighting and fucking and generally making a real mess of this glorious world. But you know what we can love. I mean really love. And when everything really fucks up we can collaborate and use the interdependence that binds us all to find a way through the mess we’ve created. This is what World’s End said to me. Humans are not Robots. We are not slaves to the system – represented in the film by an invasive alien civilisation – which we ourselves have created. We can shut the whole fucked up mess down and start from scratch in a place where we will once more share stories in the dark and value experience over re-representation and commodification. Sticking it to the man. Steve Jobs, Alan Sugar, Richard Branson, Mr Innocent, dragon’s den, Wil-Iam, Pharrel Williams, Kanye and Kim your boys took a beating today. Sort of an antidote to this - YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! OH, DAMN YOU! GODDAMN YOU ALL TO HELL! (camera pans to reveal the half-destroyed Statue of Liberty sticking out of the sand)

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Will I Am vs William Parrell

Will I AM is allegedly not locked in a legal dispute over the copyright infringement of Pharrell William’s I Am Other brand. He is merely defending the territory of his trademark. I Am forms “a significant element” of Will I Am’s professional name according to his lawyer. All this self-assertion is confusing. It’s rather like being trapped in a mirrored elevator with the essence of ego incarnate. “I am I am no I am I am!” claim the new Spartans of popular culture with “entrepreneurial spirit. I AM what I Am? Does Will know about the Iams cat food range which may start getting all territorial tom cat on his ass seeing as he is potentially threatening the individuality of their registered trademark with a “confusingly similar” mark. In fact if they all just agreed to spray their territory it would be a lot simpler. “I am” it says in a non-verbal kind of entrepreneurial spirit. Yay it’s great that there are these free spirited people out there reminding us how individual we all really are. I know I am aren’t you? Sam was unavailable for comment also.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Note to Self

We continue to ask how does it work? Is this not like a white imperialist receiving a beautifully carved shrine then sending it for analysis instead of trusting. Ah faith is the dunces hat of rational Britain. Did we learn nothing from TV episodes of Star Trek about the limits of rational thought? Placebo is the placebo escape hatch of the enlightened. We are still stuck on Freud - analysing away the monster under the bed. How about befriending the monster under the bed? Artists on telly are psychopaths - cue close up of overly slick facsimile of mad elaborately filled leather bound sketchbook. We still want to stare ourselves into oblivion. Analysing your own consciousness puts me in mind of a table rapper unable to hear the dead spirit screaming in his ear but still giving a very convincing performance of channeling. A teddy is not a real creature but we don't tell the child that because that would be idiotic. A child understands different levels of consciousness in a way that as adults we are urged to leave behind for fear of mental illness. This has the reverse effect on our culture. Our culture is mentally ill. Art (popular culture) is no longer voice of the collective unconscious (as Jung suggested) or if it is our unconscious has left the planet or retreated very far into the depths (Shaver mysteries). Art now is the voice of a slightly patronising, occasionally very enthusiastic data processor. THis note to self shall self destruct in ten seconds. Sent from my HTC

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Road Side Scene

Why is life like this?
An amal-gum
An amalgamation
One big analogous remnant
Look there...it's gone
Before you've turned to look
The gift horse was right there
Studiously avoiding eye contact
WIth the gift rider.

Hello you want to say
To all of them
Those poor dears
Looking through you
You're alive right?
you're here now?
But now I see you're not
You are already a glimpse
Which makes you older than the hills
Remember them?
Where you walked arm in arm
With your father
The long man of Wilmington

The gathered hoard at roadside
May as well be in period costume
Catering off to one side
A bombed out house facade
Instead it's a doubled up volvo
A volvo!
You double up.
Female middle aged driver
Sat on Ercol chair on the pavement
How neighbourly
Pine teeters on paving slab
Can you retrive my keys?
She enquires (supercilious old bag)
My garage key is on it you see.

You're all alive right?
Here now yes?
That is absurd isn't it?
Her car is folded in half.
But trauma does this to us.
Like the Newly elected pope
Remembering to cancel his newspaper delivery
Halfway back around the world.
What a thoughtful old man.
What a victim.

Why is life like this?
The meaning is always on the tip of your tongue
As you lick your finger
To turn over a new leaf.





Saturday, 30 March 2013

Dancing withe Daffodils


I now see that, yes, consciousness as self-defined “I” is a necessary illusion. The patriarchal God of monotheist religions is an outward projection of this illusion. Or at least it is a clumsy-complex method of trying to shoehorn spirituality or loss of self into a self-centred universe. This idea of consciousness turns the human body into a kind of armoured vehicle out of which the “individual” data processing machine peers as it trundles through life. Our civilised culture is based on separation. My own frustration is that I have always found this process of viewing life as a separation a rather non-intuitive act that I have non the less persevered with rather too diligently out of duty to the monotheist God that was indoctrinated into my data processing system by table thumping RE teachers. Self-awareness is not an integral part of being human but it strikes me that books such as "I am a Strange Loop" discuss it as if it were. The idea of individual self became more defined and focused as enlightenment progressed and knowledge needed more and more categorisation. The wider and cheaper accessibility of the mirror to artists led to a proliferation of self-portraits and this melancholic self-reflection became the template for exploring an individual identity. Navel gazing? Where did I come from? It seems clear then that individual alienation comes from the all-pervasive emphasis our “culture” places on separation. Thus removing the far more natural option to be connected “ Then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils”.
This euphoric joined-up attitude of Wordsworth is regarded by the predominant separationist culture as something of a sideshow.
There is indeed a strange loop or paradox present in that the longing that haunts the Hamlet figure (existential angst anyone?) is a mourning for the passing of a time when we were not implicitly self-aware as humans – a time before separation took a hold of our consciousness and allowed it to be defined by this individual literary conundrum solving. Medieval man did not naturally think of him/herself as separate from others because the language of separation as not yet part of the invisible environment. Literacy and the printed word are key tools for reinforcing separation and they were available only to an elite body of people. The alphabet made of individually meaningless symbols did not shape culture as a whole. And so yes this idea of individual consciousness is an illusion but equally it is an invisible framework that defines our sense of being. One only needs to see how the conflict between the indigenous people of Australia and Captain Cook arose over the notion of possessions to see how civilised separation gives rise to an infinite swathe of moral dilemmas. There is a rather satisfying irony in his decision to name the point of landing Botany Bay after the samples that his botanist discovered there and no doubt carefully catalogued and ordered into separate categories.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Consciousness - Marcus du Sautoy at the Barbican



Marcus du Sautoy's interactive lecture at the Barbican started with a brief and playful conjecture illustrating the absurdity of the search for consciousness. He joked about the idea of cutting off his hand and whether consciousness might be found residing therein. In terms of "self" exploration it seemed clear that we seem to have remained in flat earth territory since Kant posited that consciousness was located in the pituitary gland. I have written several times (I think) about the obsession with dissecting as path to knowledge that the artists and scholars of the Renaissance rapidly developed and once more I find my self thinking that expecting to find the self by physically chopping up and analyzing the brain in smaller and smaller pieces will not lead to a deeper understanding. We need to make a leap of faith in order to cross disciplines or like children at a party in celebration of our own intelligence we will be left having unwrapped the pass the parcel frantically looking for the prize that dropped out but we somehow missed. Later on in the lecture he spoke about how the stomach has as many pathways as the brain but that these pathways are never seen to be electronically active. The brain in sleep he noted is similarly inactive or at least activity is reduced to a far smaller localized area. Does this mean that consciousness disappears in sleep? Or that consciousness is just as likely to reside in the stomach? It's a hunch. You see the language of chopping up takes us to the threshhold but doesn't open the door. This is fine if you are happy to look at the door as symbol of what it hides but if you want to go through then you need to engage some other kind of language. A language that is not symbolic. This clearly is why the lecture rather abruptly ended with an audio visual feast of trance music but the lecture and the music remained separate as if to illustrate the futility of trying to define consciousness within the context of modern scientific terminology alone.

      Blogging is a stream of consciousness. Isn’t it? Or is it a means of cataloguing one’s ever expanding collection of obsessions and references in order to get clicks from other people who are in an overlap on a Venn diagram somewhere in cyberspace? I’m not doing myself any favours here. I mean I have some hot shit to discuss. I’m typing as fast as I can in the hope that I will catch this hot shit before it disappears down the pan forever.
It all started (well okay there was no start as such but starting helps with explanations –is there no end to my pontifications?) with an article on how what made humans beings so inventive was the length of time it took for us to become adults. The length of human childhood was always longer than that of their Neanderthal cousins. This meant that they grew up having experimented and played in various ways. Neanderthals lacked the power of make believing which leads to visionary thinking. This got me thinking about what we are doing to our children now and by extension our species. We are making them grow up fast. Not in a nicotine villainous kind of way but in a “here is your training for adult life” kind of way. Schools know this is fucked up and use lots of phrases like ‘learning through play” to help us turn a blind eye to the fact that we are slowly but surely driving into a dead end. The point of school now is to prepare children for success in the adult system. End of. It’s interesting how we can look back thirty thousand years and think “boy we were great!” “The way we had such long childhoods that enabled us to experiment and rehearse the problem solving we would need to become a successful species!” But now things are different it’s as if all the ground work has been done so lets get on and enjoy how successful we are and forget about extending childhood. Let’s just treat childhood as a means of generating cash (telegraph reading parent’s child spends two grand on I-pad game appendages!!!) forgetting that in the mean time we are allowing machines and systems to shape our species and our sense of consciousness.
 This article is tucked away in the latest new Scientist (you’ll need to but it because it is viewable to subscribers only) and yet I think it has far reaching significance in terms of how we see ourselves and what we can do to like “make the world a better habitation”. We need to look to the long term. Let’s nurture a generation of problem solving socially interconnected children by allowing them to have a truly extended childhood instead of a target based odyssey where “playing’ is the spell check done right at the end when all the boxes are ticked. Now here is the part where my thoughts are swirling like tea leaves on the scum of a recently poured cuppa. I got thinking about loss of innocence. My conclusion was that this loss of innocence was no the eating of the apple but the turning of the apple into an idea of an apple. The other aspect of human culture that advantageous and missing almost entirely from Neanderthal culture was symbol-based creation. Right from our earliest times we have been a symbol based culture. We externalise ideas through objects. I tried to put this in the context of my own childhood. I have been told that as a small child I would unhesitatingly pick up grass snakes, frogs and all manner of garden wildlife. At some point these un-named things became ideas of things that represented danger and repulsion. Once things become ideas and symbols of things it is impossible to return to the prelapsarian state, rather one must devise strategies to enter a similar and agreeable state of being.
 So part of what makes us such a dynamic (deliberately neutral phrase) species is our symbol based culture. We seem to have sensed the poisoned chalice this offers from the beginning. The Garden of Eden myth is to my mind a symbol based projection of this dichotomy. Writers and thinkers have been mulling the limiting and potentially harmful side effects of allowing this to define us for centuries. Just off the top of my head I think of McLuhan, Wittgenstein, De Bord and Pirsig. In Pirsig’s case he is writing a fictitious account of a frighteningly scary university lecturer who rationally concludes that rationality alone cannot define the essence of being. There are divine passages in the book where we are introduced to the idea that all facts are subjectively arrived at through judicious selection. A scientist is never completely objective. The observer alters the results (google double slit test). I am inclined to satisfy myself with Mcluhan’s solution to all of this. He seems to say that rather than seeing the dilemma as either or we must content ourselves with having awareness of the problem and to submit to the vortex and allow it to carry us to the surface. Iain McGilchrist’s brilliant book The master and his emissary similarly suggests that the emissary (symbol based re-presented culture) needs to remember that there is a master (pre-intellectual holistic awareness). 

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Baby London


The skyline steadily ascends
As the margin decreases
And profits continue to soar
One down
The beanstalk climber
Has a lucky escape
I should be dead he sighs
But I stayed in bed
Jack’s a lazy boy
The top of the tower is hidden
Shrouded in 12 tog clouds
A princess is stranded on the shore
She awaits her winged fiery chariot
Meanwhile back at the ranch
The king throws a banquet
You’re a wonderful mother
Laughs Jack languidly
Catching a pattie in his teeth
As the old queen Frisbees them
Out over the assembled unwashed
soon to be stain removed masses

Looking out of his high window
Pale face sees red and white cranes
Not the green shoots
On his desk a beanstalk
Creeps limply over the edge of a jam jar
An earthing wire - the green fuse
The fogs have mystified
And the tower has buckled
It’s all about luck repeats the rabbi
Let them eat horse
Whinnies the observer
As fire rains down from the sky
I should be ded
But I got some zeds
Reads the headline
Clinging wilfully to the precipice
You should be extinct
Who killed the high street?
I said the duck
Its webbed feet thrashing
Below the milliband………

Down below consumers
Are consumed by an overwhelming
Appetite for cheap meat
Thus spreading the spiralling costs
Of the towering tower
Babbling they merge into a whole
Wir sind das Volk!
Part of something bigger than
All of them put together
A man points blandly
A finger post
At the now flaccid bean stalk
As Pegasus lies dying on the tarmac
Buses will be on diversion
For up to three days
Odysseus is advised to use the underground