I keep putting off writing for my blog, mainly because I have discovered the limitations of time. I only have so much time, it seems. This goes for my life – hey, I’m getting older! – but also, it goes for the day-to-day realities. Like, if I have to do my laundry, cook my dinner, write a freelance piece, read a bit, take a dump, get groceries, go to the library … somehow in the midst of all the dailiness, it becomes difficult to wedge in a bit of time to write. I can spend an hour online reading the latest atrocities, but write? Meh.
My blogging habit of the past couple of years monopolized most my creative / writing time, to the point where I was no longer being ‘productive.’ Not that blog writing isn’t productive, it’s actually very productive, but I was no longer doing anything else, like making zines or chapbooks. So I stopped blogging last summer, lazed around for a month, and then I spent the whole fall working on several projects. I made a couple of CDRs of recent sound art / music / noise projects, and slapped together not one, but two new chapbooks, one of which came with another CDR full of poetry. I found that, besides doing the laundry and suchlike, just doing these little projects took up all my creative energies.
So in the last few months, there has been no blogging done other than quick announcements and a recent batch of poems that I happened to have handy. For this holiday week, the cusp of 2008 – 2009, I’ve decided to write a ‘ramble’. Whot’s a ramble,you may well ask? It is not an essay, it is not a review, it is not a story, it is not a poem – but it may partake in all of the above as it rambles along. My objective with this particular ramble is to ruminate on many things that have come to my attention over the course of the past several months, be they films, books, events, people, philosophical conceptualizations, or whatnot. Mainly whatnot. I don’t know where this ramble will go, which is as it should be, if it’s to be called a ramble.
To start with, I’m going to cut-and-paste some quotes from Antonin Artaud that I saved in my ‘blog’ file a year-and-a-half ago and then promptly forgot about.
Either we restore all the arts to a central attitude and necessity, finding an analogy between a gesture made in painting or the theater, and a gesture made by lava in a volcano explosion, or we must stop painting, babbling, writing or doing whatever it is we do.
– Antonin Artaud, from ‘No More Masterpieces’ in The Theater and its Double, 1938
Ah, Antonin. Only Antonin Artaud could have compelled me to read any book with the word ‘theater’ in its title … given the dire state of theatre here in Canada, land o’bourgeoisie. But having whetted my appetite with the Artaud Anthology, I found a scored copy of The Theater and its Double in the dollar bin of the bookstore where I work, and I set to.
What is it about Artaud? Clearly he’s cracked, that’s one point in his favour. There’s something delightfully refreshing about people who confuse their imaginations with the world at large – refreshing and at the same time, terrifying – people who want to somehow infect ‘reality’ – that is, consensus reality – with their own baroque and oftimes utterly bizarre conceptualizations. It’s a fairly good description of your average poet …
But perhaps we ought to step back from Artaud the person – not difficult, he’s very smelly – and try to understand the place of the notion ‘Artaud’ in the global cultural zeitgeist. (It’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys!) As globalization stretched its grasp around the world – it principally leaves its mark in the most highly technologized nodes of the planet, where the worldwide web affords maximum international control networks – art becomes an unquestioning sycophant of the hypercapitalist elites. Take Damien Hirst – please! Or any of the various mutant Cirque de Soleils that have proliferated around the planet like excessively glittery tumours on the writhing face of the human soul. And SIR PAUL! Fuck!!! Fuck, I say!!!
Certainly this has nothing to do with Artaud’s concept of art as partaking of the same wild and dangerous energy as a volcanic explosion. What we have, endlessly repeated in every nation that can support an excessive arts and cultural sector, are CONTROLLED explosions. Fireworks, in other words, safely roped off from the general public, the players and performers imprisoned on their chintzy pedestals, gamboling like trained chimps for the masses. Is there any difference to be found between the art produced by the commercial sector and art produced by government funding? Neoliberalism has inexorably merged the two, subsumed the latter under the umbrella of the former, and set as a goal in both cases, not the enlightenment of the masses, with all the volcanic dangers that might imply, but the STUPEFACTION of the masses. It is the artistic equivalent of the pandemic of Prozac that has engulfed our polity.
I hate the preponderance of alternative indie music on the ad circuit, so that everything from a Samsung camera to a Toyota people carrier or an Orange chat plan is flogged with the voice of some sub-Joanna Newsome no mark. Not only is it cynical, this pretence that buying a big square car is the “alternative” choice, but it appropriates and tramples over the aural landscape of the outsider so that there’s nowhere for even an outsider to feel at home. It’s disgraceful; a genuine traducement of the purpose of art, which is to make us feel that we’re not alone.
– Zoe Williams, ‘Outraged But Lazy,’ The Guardian, 25 Jun 08.
The quintessence of this devolution might be found in all forms of American Idol, where hopeless ninnyhammers contort their very essences into putrid Gollum-like monstrosities, for the entertainment of soulless S&M masters posing as ‘judges’. It makes The 120 Days of Sodom seem quite pedestrian.
I could rage like this for ages, taking a page from Artaud, but I won’t. So the world isn’t as I might want it to be, so what? Are most people generally content with this state of affairs? It would seem so. But my anger (and Artaud’s) isn’t directed at the unhappy drones who have been shaped – or rather, misshapen – by their ‘leaders’ to become, not fully-fledged human beings, but occluded muttonheads, bred to follow unthinkingly any idiotic Hitler or Stalin who comes along. No, my complaint isn’t with the very masses that gave birth to me, that nurtured me with the glass teat, with Disney and Life magazine and an endless greed for things. No, I have climbed out of the muck with one aim in mind – to punch out the lights of my ‘betters’. It’s a project I enthusiastically recommend to all angry youth everywhere, today. Can I get a witness in Greece? Can I get a witness in the Gaza Strip?
But why the anger? It’s a reasonable question. After all, here in the West we get the basics – enough food to live, shelter, heat, employment. (Well, most of us do anyway and we can just pretend the burgeoning homeless population is a population of ghosts, invisible.) However, as literary artists have noted again and again, from Henry Miller to Allen Ginsberg to Kathy Acker, this society is utterly deficient of a vital cultural vitamin – poetry – and as a result, it has developed a kind of psychic rickets. When I say ‘poetry’ I don’t just mean poems. Creative writing ‘programs’ churn out lots and lots of ‘poets’ who churn out lots and lots of ‘poems’ that fill up lots and lots of ‘poetry’ journals, but it amounts to nothing but landfill if it impinges not one whit on the general cultural zeitgeist. I mean the global sense of the poetic in everyday life. My thirst for and delight in this quality in life is the only reason why I didn’t kill myself long ago. Its lack in our lives is the mainspring of the ferocious downward spiral of brutality and violence in our society, the spiral that threatens to end in utter ruin and savagery.
Here’s a couple of journal entries on the topic:
One moment of this day stands out in my mind – a ‘poetic’ moment – I was talking to G. and our eyes met briefly, and there was such a strong sense of – friendliness, ‘regard’, liking, cameraderie – it put me in a good mood for the rest of the (rather long, and odd) day. It was an untroubled instant – not sexual – reminiscent of similar rare moments of untroubled cameraderie, humour, complicit awareness – with H. The sweet spot of our earthly existence.
– 9 Jan 08 –
Sitting munching hot dogs in the weedy sculpture garden, nestled betwixt the cavernous tunnel of St-Urbain traffic concrete trench, overpass cars flying past onto Van Horne; human denizens emerging from the grove round the hole in the fence by the railway tracks – they move like shy animals, deer, some with bikes, glance curiously at hobo writers having a bbq – and lastly, a parking lot, gravel, which abuts the building at the end of the industrial row that houses the Redbird loft. I cut across that lot to the bushes behind, to piss, and I do so just as a freight train goes smashing by – Wham! – as Kerouac would put it …
– 18 Sep 08 –
I never thought much about these moments before, but I naturally responded to them as a drought-stricken farmer responds to a good summer rain. I never thought much about these moments, but I felt about them very much indeed. These moments are my real life, they are the moments that tell me I am alive, now, here, in the present. These are the moments that temporarily abolish the illusory past and future. They are life itself. A society deprived of these poetic moments is a dead society.
And hence the anger. This is not a senseless anger, this is not a mindless anger. It is an anger grounded in love – love of life itself. The anger is a robust testimony to an unquenchable desire for a better world.
We will have this world.
Admittedly or not, conscious or unconscious, the poetic state, a transcendent experience of life, is what the public is fundamentally seeking through love, crime, drugs, war or insurrection.
– Antonin Artaud, from ‘The Theater of Cruelty (Second Manifesto)’ in The Theater and its Double, 1938