Dark Age Ahead by Jane Jacobs has been by the bed and by my side for the past few days, and it is a considerable work! It very elegantly unpicks the rise and fall of civilizations, the push of the new and the complicit yielding of the old.
She beautifully shows how such a thing as a “dark age” where people starve, become naked in the wild again, lose skills, forget their own history, become as helpless as children, can occur in a relatively short time. The work is a real tonic for those of us who ever wondered why, in the wake of all the advances made by the Roman Empire, we managed to slide back into the swamp for so long.
The ability to forget under pressure, the manipulation of human memory – would appear to be key. As does the moment when a “community” loses sight of the spoken word and the setting of the self as an example/exemplar. Higher Education becomes tokenistic, government becomes one dimensional and facile, religious belief becomes drill by rote. The peeling away of substance, the erosion of personal agency. The memory of where you came from all but lost…
The bells are ringing, all the time, friends, All the time.
I took my son swimming this morning. Other fathers had their children in the water. I felt, ever so briefly, a sense of communion. Here we all were together, getting on with the serious business of looking after kids – none of us killing each other – none of us selling anything – no strategies, alibis, or excuses.
Sometime later, after lunch in my favourite cafe…
Bright autumn sun over Berwick Law. I sat with my son at the waters edge and looked at the sail boats have their last race before the winter sets in. “Listen to the little sound of the waves” I said – and never wanted to move from the spot.
Just one of those infrequent occasions where the sense of self – the calling, the determination – fell completely away and left me at peace with the world.
While on the subject of data never going away…
Rumours are going about that I am going to get involved, once again, with the tragic Scottish Theatre Scene. Well, let’s see, shall we?
In the meantime, I just fell across an old site of a Russian Company called BlackSkyWhite. This remarkable company brought a show called Bertrands Toys to Edinburgh a few years back. I was thrown sideways by the visceral impact of sound and image. The narratives were so strong – but existed completely without words. One could only indicate, colour, persuade and convince people to go and see the work – you couldn’t easilly pin it down.
Small links. I contacted their artistic director – an unfortunately self important diva – with a view to him perhaps taking on some Human Greed tracks. He showed willing. I went to London where they were performing at the South Bank. Steven Severin and I arranged to meet. The Russian was haughty and remote. Severin and I got on well, shared food, stayed up too late in places that our mothers wouldn’t approve of and, to his credit and my eternal gratitude, offered to contract and release Consolation.
But it is a damn shame that the Russians didn’t seem to make it beyond 2003 – unless you know otherwise?
I fell into some kind of reverie on the train yesterday. I began thinking back to my childhood and how we were promised that – if nuclear war and the resulting nuclear winter didn’t kill us – computers were going to do all of our work and that our central concern as a species was how we would cope with all this leisure time.
didn’t really turn out that way, did it?
My breath started to tighten as I allowed the thought to follow through and roll back on itself. All of our technology creates data and, increasingly, more and more people are employed to move the data, analyze the data (creating more data) store the data, archive the data, normalize the data, target and push and pull the data. All the while the tide of data gathering force, overwhelming us. We are increasingly forced to invent new roles to manage the exponential rise of data.
data begat data…
And so the emotional freefall went on. The single pure statement, lost in a blizzard of discussion, debate, criticism, review, compare, contrast… The life digging its own grave. All very terry gilliam, all very 80’s dystopia – and the artistic response has been made, all the way through the 20th century. And all responses are collated, like this teardrop in an ocean blog entry, and forgotten about. With each byte taking up a wee bit of space that someone is going to have to be paid to shift, to store, to backup – but not remember, assimilate, digest.
And so I dug my own mental grave as the train shot its way through East Lothian. And I fantasised about stopping altogether, about stopping the pollution of product – the way I did with poetry and plays and novels and letters and diaries some six years ago… And I can’t. The life demands a response. It is pointless to resist because the pressure builds up and that just results in hurt friends and family. But every work of art that emerges, merely adds data to the grave.
Question – What drives your art? If it is not the feeling that it is all you can do and that it is a biological necessity then it is time to question yourself.
Postulation – If the motive for the expression is money and / or vanity then can you consider the piece of work to be of any value whatsoever at all. Should there be some degree of cultural punishment for those who tarnish the purity of expression by their lowest common denominator vain indulgence? Are we allowed to spit in the street, master? Can we sneer, and ignore them in our theatres and galleries and in our homes? I feel belittled by the weight of product, by the lack of skill, by the lack of desperation involved, by the lack, perhaps, of the presence of God in the work! And what’s more the purity of our good intentions, little talented pilgrim, are undermined, weakened and misappropriated every day.
Evidence – Like you needed it
So, with creative expression driven by greed, vanity, and the hopeless nostalgic demands of a low life form majority the world is sucker punched into the romance of an old man lifting chains, being simple, and punching hard for an ill defined sense of achievement and glory…
Strike That! I almost make it sound better than it is. Please someone let me know that he dies in the end!
It is indicative of how good a time I had in Genova that it is only this evening, while tidying my phone, that I realised someone (thank you SH) gave me Bill Drummond’s mobile number.
The question now is: will I use it, and if so, when, and for what good reason?
Last night, a diverting little discussion broke out on my friend William’s blog. For my part, there was wine involved but I think the reasoning remained roughly consistent (I’ll check later in the morning)
Through the night, and into the early morning the exchange has been turning in my head and it suddenly strikes me as reminiscent of what Burroughs used to say about writing – that it is 50 years behind art.
I think perhaps its time to explore whether the same could be said of music, or at least the critical reporting of musical work. Unlike art it lacks a supporting structure (marketing, publicity, criticism) that is conversant and comfortable with conceptualism. In fact, it occurs that William’s best press comes when his work is approached as conceptual art rather than music – it is possible that this was an intentional push? (not for me to say) Also, while on the anecdotal rather than empirical evidence trail, it occurs that h3o (the other discussant) receives as much (more?) attention – and more considered – for his packaging than he does with his audio work. From what he was saying last night, I would hazzard a guess that the artwork is, partly, a direct engagement with a recognised framework for reporting. Perhaps it would even be fair to suggest that the audio component is only part of the overall artifact. (again, not for me to say)
Even the more “out there” music magazines seem strictly limited by a very monotone palette of contextual references. There is yet to be a suitable semantic structure for the true originals of sound. The untouchable emotional intensity achieved when sound connects with a willing ear has yet to be appropriately reported. “Sonic Cathedrals of sound, melting like ice statues of Sinead O’Connor over sunrise at Ayers Rock” anyone? (tuppence ha’penny for anyone to source that quote)
Yesterday two families came together to celebrate.
I was best man at my closest friend’s wedding.
The father of the bride had traveled from Israel. In a short speech he indicated that it was New Year and that we should join him in celebrating by dipping apples into honey. The honey came from Israel. The apples were gathered from my garden earlier in the day. If you haven’t tried it, I heartily recommend the flavour of apples dipped in honey. Thin, green candles are, of course, optional
Leonard Cohen – born 21st September 1934
“The Twentieth Century belongs to you and me. Let us be two severe giants not less lonely for our partnership, who discolour test tubes in the halls of Science, who turn up unwelcome at every World’s Fair, heavy with proverbs and corrections, confusing the star-dazed tourists with our incomparable sense of loss.”
As predicted in my last entry, the process of getting from one country to another was filled with distress, idiocy, basic grasping greed and the complete eroding of self!
Between them KLM, AlItalia and Air France managed to cancel a flight, lose our bags on one system even though they appeared on another, divert me to two different European cities, leave my luggage sitting out on the runway through a storm only to return it to me 4 days later…
and so on and so forth. AlItalia reserve a special place in my heart of hate. It almost became amusing on the return journey to watch random flights attributed to them simply fold up and die mere minutes before departure. No explanation, no comeback, no responsibility.
Genova, however, was fantastic. I walked through the old town late at night, sprawled myself on marble steps, tasted the sea on night winds and felt the weight of the Roman Empire pushing up from beneath every cobble. I now officially forgive Italy for my Venice experience!
Oh, and a neatly planned insurance claim means that my new Gucci Suit, Prada Shoes and Sony Digital Camera are being paid for partly by Al Fucking Italia. Head Up. Head Down. Shoot. Score.