Some conclusions unexpected

I spent the day in London on Friday, doing art. Well, experiencing art. I can’t “do” art anymore than I can play a musical instrument or fly to the moon.
They asked me to write something about it. They expect me to write something about it.
Whether they want it or not will become clear once they have read it.

How to present?

A poem?
Random, dislocated free verse?
Narrative prose?
Factual reporting on what I saw when I was there?

A bit of all those things, cut-up and pasted together in what seems like random parts.

That would certainly be more appropriate, given the context in which the notes were written.
Emulate,reproduce. Copy. Nothing is original

So…

I should probably make you aware that the day’s timetable was built around an evening performance of live music and visuals by John Foxx. That was the initial reason behind my return to London, the factor that enabled me to build a programme day of related events and experiences.
Things that became so closely related to one another that it became impossible to tell them apart.

I considered all the elements

Checked all the times and venues

But forgot the interplay…

And so they must be considered – and presented – in the context not of their constituent parts, but as a provocative, reflective and exhausting and incomprehensible whole

****

Meeting Her on the earlier train
Same carriage, usual seat
Travelling through the cold grey rain
To London to be
Together apart from from it all

EXHIBIT A – BLONDIE by CHRIS STEIN
A ROCK AND ROLL RENEGADE
(Point of entry – 1976)

Oh Debbie oo-bi-doo

Still in love with you Debbie, oo-bi-doo

I move as an indulgent voyeur moves

Among Bubble gum and Bowie,

Burroughs and boobs

Joey Ramone and Richard Hell

Stilletos, sneakers and booze

Glimpses of moments in time, A window on a small incestuous world that lasted moments.

Decay and dissolution

Beauty amid the rubble

Debbie in her flat

Debbie in a different flat

Debbie outside her flat

Debbie in her clothes

Debbie out of her clothes

Debbie bathed in neon pink

Debbie in my head

Next door, in the north wing : Egon Schiele:
Please note that this exhibition includes some drawings of an explicit nature.

You are here.
Unflinching. Urgent

The radical nude.

Forever touched by your presence, dear

INTERLUDE

Step out of doors into the cold and damp November air
Dance hand in hand across the Fountain Square

It is 1707. Skaters in scarves move to Carmen

Constructing Christmas trees – decorated this week by railings and road cones

Tape instead of tinsel

Laughing like children

Living like lovers

Ducking into doorways for a first decadent taste of F & M

Making Christmas merrier with elegance and style

For three hundred years.

Seventeen rooms of opulence

Staff in tails

The smell of spice and perfume

Warm bread and tarragon

Trees lit gold

Joy to behold

An hour in another time

Walking with someone inside my own

EXHIBIT B – MIRRORCITY (Accidental rhyme. Nice)
LONDON ARTISTS ON FICTION AND REALITY
(Point of arrival – 16:37)

Machines for turning tragedy into entertainment

Dreams that you can never quite remember

Things that cannot quite be named with certainty

Sounds that set your teeth on edge

Absurdities

Chance encounters between overlapping stills

Her and I have become overlapping people

In the space between our overlapping lives.

Cut a white square from this photo

Shove a bit of dislocated collage on the side

Serve with fresh ideas

(Call it art – they’ll never know)

The present we inhabit today is influenced more by its future than its past. We have sacrificed the character of development for ‘now’. Who cares how we got here, lets’ just ‘go’…

How am I supposed to feel, Mr Etchells?

Confused? Inadequate?
Bewildered, tired?
Bored? Inspired?
Anxiety and longing
Transient emotions and passing times

REALITY FLICKERS and It’s daRK OUTSIDE

THIS WINDOW on That SHIFting city becomes an exhibit

Looking out I can see reflections of things

That are not there

I met her name in 1983
(I wrote it down)
And now she’s there. Over there
Lying down. Lying.

Down to the basement on a staircase
That’s supposed to makes people think of things
But just sounds weird.

(All the best galleries are upstairs. Everyone knows that)

TVs turned to face the wall. All showing different things
Creating layers of overlapping sound
Interlocking and transcending to become a third
Each sacrificing its own identity for the sake of the transient union

“Like us really, don’t you think?”

We are in some kind of shed, or Metal Box
Floating past the evidence of possibilities

People in glass houses

Outside, gets inside
Through my skin

A hand from years ago takes my arm
Coming into contact with outer entities

I should have brought my hat…

EXHIBIT C – BFI, SOUTHBANK
EVIDENCE OF TIME TRAVEL by JOHN FOXX, KARBORN & STEVE D’AGOSTINO
(Point of Departure – 2014)

Once upon a time this was The Future Sound of London.
But a monstrous psychedelic bubble exploding in your mind would be more interesting, for sure.

This feels like 1991
(Nothing much happened then either)

But wait…

Here come the flicker pictures
Here come collision scenes

(Something in my consciousness
Told me they’d appear)

Lines across the wall shape sonic pathways
Characteristic drone and bleep

Bleep bleep, drone

(We’ve been here before
But this time its much safer)

Or do the visual treatments bear more relevance to the sonic treatments than the sound does to the pictures?
(I wish I never had THAT thought)

These hypocrites with their fanciful notions! They present what they consider to be ‘evidence’ of time travel that they would have us believe has taken lifetimes to collect. But those machines are not plugged in and I can’t see his hands moving.
The hypotheses are merely assumptions. Association and coincidence

They ask who can resist a twisted kiss? Ask anyone, it’s easy…
And expect us to believe that smiling makes a noise? I just tried, and didn’t hear a thing

They blind us with banks of knobs and wobbulated reasoning
Films with titles that expect the viewer to do the work
Impenetrable? Inevitably…

There are momentary miracles among the geometric and coincident shapes, but they are just that.
Don’t believe it. Its all an illusion. Intricate freeform bleep with Smoke and Mira’s

With hints and clues like these among thousands of pixellated images of nothing in particular they could tell us anything because (apparently) we like to regard everything around us as fictional. Too often, we consider that reality is unconvincing and seek fragile, ill-considered alternatives.

The longer I’m here, the more I feel

Trapped in one-dimensional space

In a sea of – well, what exactly?

Code? Dust? Ambition?

Don’t just stand there, smiling
Give us something to breathe

You’re always making music
You’re quietly intense
But you should tell a story
Otherwise it makes no sense

All day I have felt time constantly arriving to fill the space behind me, breathing so close at times that I dare not look back.
I feel it’s hand upon my collar.
Every hour that passes brings more time on the rising tide.
There is too much time behind us and not enough ahead.
Or is there simply too much time? Has anyone counted just how much is left?

Time is everything
All and everywhere
My memory is full of it.
I need an upgrade.

Sounds that set your teeth on edge
Absurdities

Our lives are becoming transient, instant. Socially immediate

Imagine an ocean without fish. A city without archives. No media, no air
Socially im-media-ate. (Nice. I wonder if anyone has used that phrase before??)

We leave no footprints anymore

We burn all the maps

Instead of keeping the things we have changed, we over-write them

Save the changes instead of the originals

We exist in a culture of frantic recording, documenting
At concerts we have to watch the band through an ocean of hands weieding cell phone cameras that are getting bigger
We track and trace and document each other every tiny detail
And yet we cannot speak across a bar

Our relationships exist only as data. Outdated sooner than than us.
Held on devices that become obsolete in moments so they cannot be accessed and are lost forever unless we are prepared to invest huge sums of money in new hardware.

Longtime reflex…

And through it all beside me there’s this version
Of Her as another person
Is it destiny?
I don’t know yet…

There are effects at work here. Dust and light and noise. My life is temporarily blurred and out of focus.
I have applied layers and effects. Twisted a few knobs and plugged in filters
Too many can belie a lack of substance and hide the truth, causing one to act unworthily according to the standards of one’s tradition

I thought it was all fixed but now I’m not sure

I’m not sure

How am I supposed to feel, Mr Leigh?

Confused? Inadequate?
Bewildered, tired?
Awed? Inspired?

What is funny and what is disturbing?

What is art and what is nonsense?

What is past, and what is future?

We exist, at least for tonight, in the overlap between the two.

Like two films projected onto a large screen in a darkened room at the same time, one on top of the other.
Like a million individual films, projected onto a piece of land beside a river. We call it ‘Londone’ [sic] – ‘ a city’
Like two photographs from old magazines with bits cut out and superimposed so that they fit together and create a new reality.
Like chance encounters between overlapping lives

Interlocking and transcending to become another
Each sacrificing its own identity for the sake of the transient union

Perhaps the truth is that, as an artform, music has never been able respond to technological change with the immediacy we expect of it. Synthesizers were all over the place by the mid-1980s, but it has taken until the 21st century for musicians to find creative and powerful ways of using them.
The person leading the field in this respect – by a few light years – is John Foxx. He alone remains able to say something eloquent and new about the modern age.

It seems we have turned a corner into the future we have been hearing about, and looking to for years. As Cocteau, Ballard and Stein would say, it rains upon us with fragments of its potential.
Maybe we will never get there, maybe it is out of reach.

But as I reflect upon this interplay, on a days of Fear And Wonder, I cannot help but feel that ‘the future’ is nowhere near as far ahead as it used to be. It’s as if we’ve been here, with him, before and we never quite left.

Something is catching us up, and its closer to the past than many of us would care to admit.

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