A Still Life of Thoughts ( a kind of essay)
Let's pretend, and call this piece of writing you are about to read an essay. It is important to masquerade one's thoughts. What goes up the chimney right now is meant to be smoke for some of you, and some kind of gas to others. Fuel? Hardly.
Reading some of Momus' blog entries on post-modernism, Derek Holzer's latest blog entries (second half of 2008), and Francisco Lopez' 'against the stage', caused collateral effects on my daily metaphysical digestion system.
Momus' view that the post-modern period started with a book by Barthes on Persil and other objects and ended fifty years later with a quote on Persil by Victoria Beckham, brought to mind the books by one of The Netherlands' most underestimated writers. Van de Berg, the inventor of metabletics, stated that changes in society started with single events and that it would take forty years to have the thoughts generally accepted. Hence I doubted the period of fifty years. With Elvis as another onlooker it was easy to accept the publishing of Barthes' book as one of the markers of the beginning of an era. If van de Berg was right the end should be situated in the mid nineties. Personally I think the massive hysteria around princess Diana's death and its peak in bad taste, Elton John's mourning song, serve as a fine apotheosis.
Barthes published his book in 1957, the height days of existentialism. I don't know what the girls were like right then, but I have some serious suspicion that they must have been pretty bored by all the endless discussions going on. Talking about Persil might have guaranteed Barthes to get laid every now and then. Of course he discussed other topics as well. He did so in a time that television did not broadcast twenty four hours a day on numerous channels around the world. Tragically when post modernists invented themselves television was everywhere and in the most beautiful colours. It was not only omnipresent, but it was also inventing, shaping and exploring life styles. It was and is forever discussing Persil and other objects. Barthes was a visionary in foreseeing what would occupy the TV editors mind up to today.
In short, in TV-land events occur in a linear process: cause and effect. In this constellation strategies fit in perfectly. Add some decisive restrictions on moral issues and one can almost visualize the manager. Post modernism as in new nihilism brought us the soft revolution of the editors. In the years after the funeral of Barbie politicians like Blair and Schröder represented the office stud who kicked all those emancipated women back into the centerfold of Playboy.
You don't need religion to believe in God. In post-modern times the authority of culture, politics, and other institutions vanished. In these globalist times friends and interests are either a flight, an email, or a few clicks away. An almost insurmountable distance away are those institutions that have replaced the institutions. One can get an idea of the fortress character of this newly created centre of decisions and thoughts every time a G8 conference occurs.
Irony was one of the main weapons of the post-modernist that made the mountains of authority crumble. It was a bit harder to be ironic with the ironics. Now, in a time that the word 'post-modern' leaves the doors of the Vatican to invade the ears of US-Citizens, and is meant to bother the greatest role model for future times to come, the absolute idol of every self proclaimed talent that washes upon the shores of television, now that the word 'post-modern' is used in an indirect dialogue between a religious leader and the next president of the United States, now that this word has landed on everyman's breakfast table, one can state that post-modernist thinking, is integrated in our culture.
Still, the ex-postmodernists insist on nominating the new era in post-modern terms. A not at all so funny thing is that they do it in their own language. In fact it is this absurd language that serves as a wall and a fortress. Move in it, speak it, write it, sympose, essay, catalogue with it and be sure to cash in with it. A maybe a bit more funny thing is that, apart from God, the western culture, literature, monarchs, political leaders, education, outside the fortress also intelligence itself is no longer a means to justify an authoritarian position. The new authorities are since a long time making a fool of themselves. And with every new heavily sponsored event they make themselves even more ridiculous. Unfortunately they reside within the institutions and even more unfortunately my colleagues in the poverty zone don't have any other choice then to learn gibberish.
Elvis and his likes also initiated youth culture. In the following decades music was consecutively optimistic, intellectual, rebellious, elegantly pessimistic and exotic. After 'goodbye English rose' youth culture got more and more independent of any institution except of those that exist in the internet and on TV. In this optic there is no postmodernism or whatever –ism that defines the second half of the last century. The (technical) developments of that era are also a result of the raise in pocket money. With wisdom being a quality of the aged, it is a bit striking that youth culture is extended into the retirement zone. I (1956) don't have to feel old, as long as Mick Jagger is alive. Maybe we are living in pantheistic times (as in Peter Pan), or even pre-pantisocratical times (as in 'everybody should wear the same panties').
The Executioner – an Analysis of 'Against the Stage'
On The Official Francisco Lopez Website one can find a caption:"essays." I don't know if in nominating his website the official website, Francisco has been ironic. Consequently I cannot judge if the few items he wrote were ironically called "essay." The official Frank Sinatra Website doesn't sound more pompous thanks to Francisco's intervention.
As a result of the editors revolution also the publishing houses have been ethnically cleaned: don't think a new Isaiah Berlin will raise from the ashes. There is no more need to ironize the works of the scholars and call a note an essay. Now that the post-modernists occupy the offices of the institutions and act like the new rulers, an essay title appearing in an application form is a convincing argument to spend money on the artist who wrote it.
On this thin line between irony and bank account I really don't know if Francisco Lopez' considerations should be taken seriously or not. I once saw him end a performance in Valencia (I was too late) and there he was in a kind of class room, behind a big long desk. The other opportunity was at a performance in Warsaw where he was not on the stage before me, but behind me at the DJ desk, mixing two CD..s. I reasoned "If you don't want to be on the stage, I don't have to be in the audience." More over, it was a fine summer evening and my great friend Jeff Surak was in the courtyard; I hadn't seen him in years.
Honestly, this image made me think of Breughel's Tower of Babylon, some of Hieronymus Bosch' paintings, but also of Darth Vader and a scene from a movie by Pasolini (maybe Decamerone) in which from a gigantic arse numerous black butterflies escape together with a well tempered fart.
Francisco Lopez is in the very centre of this scene. He writes: "Not that I'm aiming at doing something popular, but I can feel I'm tapping some of the universal powers of sonic matter in an intensified way. I actually feel that most of these powers are out of my control. I personally feel transformed by the experience in the live shows. There I enter a world I cannot reach in any other way I know of."
These are words that could be associated to religious ecstasy. Lopez, the de Loyola of electronic music? A further quotation could confirm this guess. "Disappearing as performer, felt present as medium operator, felt as such in the sound."
I have experienced some surround sound concerts. I found them highly irritating. The perfected sound is at those few square feet right in the centre. It provokes a sensation of unrest, simply because every other position is always out of centre.
But hey, this is all about post-modernism, right? The word 'iconoclastic' is prominent on the official website. What is so iconoclastic about this iconic appearance Francisco Lopez got immersed in over the last years? I cannot believe it is just a gimmick which masquerades the fact that the artist stripped bare to the stage is a guy mixing two cd-'s with the help of two cd-players and a mixing desk.
Maybe the next rather ill-omened, curiously Gnostic quote can shed some light:"(…) darkness lights up regions of the mindscape and the spirit that are normally dormant and darkened by (…) light"
The whole set up is nothing but an image of the society we live in: The invisible ruler in the very centre, immersed in his very own world, deaf to everything that happens outside. He is surrounded by the obedient followers, dedicated and trustful. But in Lopez' vision these citizens are about to be executed, blindfolded in their last moments of life. The hangman wears a black hood. Expressing a sinister and utmost pessimistic view, Lopez' series of immersive concerts are an outcry for humanity at its darkest and most lonely moment.
The Sweet Life
It is so cute. Some of us out there in the field lead workshops. Since this is an institutional activity, the artist has to present a programme. The normal way is that the person behind the desk, I mean the money desk, has knowledge, decides after listening to the works of the aspirant invitee. Nope. You have to write your request, preferably in gibberish and take a seat in a virtual waiting room. In meta language we know that the relation waiting room/ office is based on power.
Of course in the same meta language the artists theoretical outline of his workshop idea, is an expression of his disgust for the situation. He/she presents himself as if talking to a five years old. A typical field recordings workshop could be: introduction to different kinds of recording gear and recording methods. Go out to places with a special acoustic quality.
Imagine a writer proposing this kind of workshop. He would tell that you can actually write with a pen, a pencil or a ballpoint. Also a computer or a laptop can be used. Then there is different kinds of paper to write on, as there is a whole range of computers one can choose from. Once we know what to use to write with and on, we can consider where. A café, a library, at home in the kitchen, the attic, the basement? Or maybe in the underground, or just everywhere.
Would some institution accept my proposal if I would say the participants should come to the first day of the workshop with their recordings and that we will use the time to shape it into a composition? Could that be enough?
The Stage and my Fridge
Winter is near, so is the end of this year's festival. I have chosen different locations, mostly in the Berlin Neukölln area, because I prefer to go home walking after the shows. I also like diversity. Luckily the area of Neukölln that confines with Kreuzberg has gone through a significant change all through this year. For a very long period the lack of bars and small galleries underlined the poor and in some corners dangerous character of the neighbourhood. In 2008 there was a new place opening every week.
I have seen over fifty people perform at my festival. A special series within the festival evolves around the collaboration between Seiji Morimoto and Francisco Cavaliere. The theme is 'imitation of nature recordings' (referring to the tradition in painting; imitation of nature).The places where the festival lands don't have a stage in the traditional elevated sense. (The newly found bar/theatre Sowieso, excepted. I will write on the evenings there in a next entry). But in a kind of 'Me Tarzan, you Jane' reasoning, it is inevitable that with listeners and performer(s) in the same space, the performers defines the stage with their presence and their gear (yes! In front of the speakers and in charge of the mixing desk), and that from the very beginning on the listeners accumulate as an audience.
Whenever I listen back to my own recordings I focus on loudspeakers, or on the moving light columns of the recording level indicator or on the four track itself. Sometimes it happens that I wake up from the trance and wonder why I don't look outside the window. Well, it is about concentration. The same rule applies when looking at the least spectacular performer of all, the laptop artist. It helps with the concentration. And also the performer is helped by this attention.
Then there is times that the fridge bursts out in tears, because she feels so empty. Leftovers reside like tramps. And still, a little wonder occurs every time when I cook a meal with the last pieces from my fridge. It tastes just delicious. A comparable sensation comes from watching the performer behind a desk full of self made instruments and/or equipment that he bought for a few cents on the flee market.
Seiji and Francesco use cheap electronics and branches. They are visible, entertaining to look at, sound and movement are connected. They don't need the hocus pocus of blind folded audiences, an essay to defend this all, and an overall listening situation that I, in a heated discussion and strictly of the record would call:" Bullshit."