Monday, 27 April 2015

The Outsider

It’s Monday and they’re here
The bluebells I mean
Their timid arrival trumpeted
By one final clarion call
From some sheepish looking daffs
Like stragglers from yesterday’s marathon
The Crataegus monogyna
blossom spatters
Nettle leaves and ivy making
Polka-dot pattern below eyeliner
Stagnant millpond water wafts
I’m not going to beat myself up
Over rhyme and reason
Just walk and observe
Flinching briefly at the sight of a gnarled
Pendulous snail hanging from a twig
Twisted black plastic bag
Doggy do doggy don’t
A document of owners urge to forget
Birdsong drifts through the trees
Mingling with human utterances
Pastel polo shirts glimpsed between branches
Titleist specs upon the fairway visible
If Camus had been a golfer would he have felt?
More connected?

Gnostic Puppets

There is a growing awareness of the limits of our gnostic culture. This is a confusing turn of phrase because I always thought that gnosticism was a mystic take on Christianity but in this case it refers to the faith (with its origins in the Enlightenment) we have in ever expanding knowledge to cure all ills.

      The Flammarion wood-carving illustrates either the scientific or mystical quest for knowledge

 Today that icon of gnosticism, Stephen Hawking reassured fans of One Direction with the insight that science will soon prove that there is a parallel universe where Zayn Malik is still a member of One Direction. "Is there only one One Direction?" so to speak. These parallel universes may also prove handy as places to store the ever expanding knowledge. This reminds me of Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward declaring that the gallery's History is Now exhibition is like “... jumping into a three-dimensional encyclopedia,” That he stated this with enthusiasm and not distaste underscores our cultural faith in the accrual of rational data. Lewes Carroll delighted us by highlighting the hubris of human rationality but somehow we have popped him back on the shelf of quaint whimsy. John Gray's latest book The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Enquiry into Human Freedom looks like a good place to explore our civilised dervish in pursuit of explaining the soul shaped hole in the west. This wave of awareness of the limits of the enlightenment is going to grow but until writers let themselves off the hook they remain trapped within the very limits they are describing. This is why Derrida ties us in knots. More importantly it's also why Eliot wrote poetry and Hegel found poetry to have been "the most universal and cosmopolitan instructor of the human race".

Iain McGilchrist, of course, manages to expertly bring together the structure of rational thought with the compassion and insight offered by metaphor in The Master and His Emissary. On a sychronistic note last night I was enthralled by Neil Innes at the Jazz Cafe, particularly as he had a neo-liberal crowd of Guardian readers (there to see Tim Dowling's band Police Dog Hogan) singing along to "We are slaves to freedom".
and breath...
In light of recent explorations of limits I thought I would begin a systematic programme of drawing attention to acts of creativity that fill the void and! reach the plurality through singularity. Emma Carlow's colouring poster is an example of how something simple can have a rich and complex origin which is all there within the work itself. The colourer is drawn into the synaptic filigree in a revery of pleasure. No mean feat.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

live is life

You are in the living room of the high ceilinged Edwardian ground floor conversion flat belonging to your girl friend. You are kneeling on the smooth paisley fabric of the luxurious three-seater sofa. This is a sophisticated room, the style of which you had no hand in forming. You are essentially an archetypal musician who moved in with his bread-winning girlfriend. The black plastic hi-fi stack of record player cassette player and radio is tuned to BBC Radio 2. You have been told by your plugger to tune in and are now illegally recording the Simon Mayo show. His producer is talking, telling the disc jockey that he has found the most amazing song, which will surely be Christmas number one this year. Simon Mayo is not convinced and in a sneery voice announces that he finds the song to be similar to “Life is Life” (actually the title of the Laibach cover of “Live is Life”. You inwardly squirm at the absurdity of making a comparison based on the fact that both the Opus song and your own (I’m not even gonna try) contain the sound of a live crowd. Simon Mayo (now forever linked to the character of Pontius Pilot in your mind) decides to resolve the issue of whether this should be his single of the week by playing it and throwing out to the listening audience to choose between your record and another ersatz dance tune which is superficially pleasing and yet instantly forgettable. Simon Mayo is effectively washing his hands of a decision and simultaneously damning your record in the minds of the listener by not choosing it. The result is predictable and in January your softly spoken Irish accountant will once more enquire as to when you are going to release that song “I don’t think I’ll bother”. That’s a hit he’ll say. Somewhere in the attic of your semi-detached house on a crescent now in 2015 is a box containing the tape of the broadcast and one day you will rummage around, find it and relive that moment when it seemed that fate was in the hands of a drivetime disc jockey.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Secret Garden Coloring Book Review

Was Christ misheard?

In growing older I seem to have nodded off and found myself in a realm where everything I once found to be cringe worthy and unworthy of serious attention has taken a strangle hold on the western world. We have abandoned all sense of our own hubristic absurdity and dived headfirst into the hottub of comfort entertainment.
John Berger - he saw it coming

It’s pretty obvious that digital technology makes what was once pedestrian in pace of dissemination now instantaneous - like a match dropped onto a trail of gasoline in a western. Boom the whole barn has gone up. First it was Star Wars. I mean that scene where they’re playing a future jazz in a bar full of alien freaks that was quite funny and verging on resonant. I even liked the tune enough to be able to watch it smiling. But please the whole of the western mytho-poetic mind occupied by notions of the darkside and the whatsit called the… oh fuck it? Republic?
 So now it’s those colouring books at the top of the Amazon best-seller list. Wow za wow za wow za. You know it’s pretty clear that civilisation gradually replaces all real experience with a gift wrapped equivalence but these books take the hand-crafted cookie. And you know what it’s probably like Coleman’s mustard who claim to make most of their money from the mustard left on the side of the plate. I mean have sales of felt tip pens suddenly spiked? Well yes probably but how many of them actually run out? So now you can give yourself an inner creative life by owning a colOring (no u) book full of images of nature and bucolic fantasies. But get this they’re completely made up. Yes you know when you were at school and you perhaps had to draw something from life? Well these pictures nimbly sidestep that inconvenience by drawing upon the most instantaneous clichéd form of a natural object/creature that springs to mind. So don’t worry these books will give you an inner creative life without the hassle of shifted perception that used to come with engaging with someone else’s processing of the world outside. None of this Paul Klee “life is the roots and the artist the trunk and the work the branches” no no it’s straight to the grow bag and fruiting like mad.
So why not look around and try to spot as many things that you once felt would disappear as a result of being either shallow, kitsch, chintzy, naff, ridiculous, petty, puerile, clichéd or embarrassingly mean-spirited. But that all sounds a bit too cool. Ironically. Chief Eye-spy.
Not wanting to get all preachy or anything but it seems that technology has thoughtfully eliminated the requirement to have an imagination and instead replaced it with a fast and easy access to fantasy. Imagination has been buried under many meters of concrete and to disguise this we are proffered the vestiges off the top of someone else's head. Just check out those tats.
"It was only an 'opeless fancy, 
It passed lika an Ipril dye, 
But a look an' a word an' the dreams they stirred 
They 'ave stolen my 'eart awye!'

Next week petty bureaucracy and form after form after form.