Monday, 27 October 2008

Good Jobs

The first glimpse of history I catch every morning as I gaze upon the charcoal stained precipice of my neighbour’s terrace is the London of Queen Victoria, her roof choking on the fumes of industry and the interminable toil of her working masses. In the evening the shrieks and gasps of the revellers below are reminiscent of the libertinism unleashed by the restoration of Charles II to the throne, libidinous crowds ringing the death knell of heady political conflict with effusive pelvic thrusts. The past then not so much lulls me to sleep but rather pummels me into submission with fulsome images of utilitarian chimera. From these nights of deferred pleasures, I am often precipitously thrown out of sleep by the incessant hammering of the future, the pretense of renewal compounding the weariness that history has worn on my face. I too engage in this guise, running hot water over my eyes, vainly rejecting the faint traces of the past around me in favour of my own trailblazing agency. The trail I blaze to the office is an instant reminder of this farce as I am quickly thrust into a present more medieval than modern. The vast effluvium of words carelessly spat out of the collective mouth of the media behemoth, value free fact mediums to some, augur ultimate calamity, tossing me drunkenly into an absurd narrative where the past coalesces in an ungainly mixed metaphor.

Here amongst the perpetual blaze I can no more be Samuel Pepys than I can Prometheus, my cognizance and my will inhibited by the charcoal filtered opinions of the experts. It would seem that the spirits forced upon my liver would provide powerful distraction from the sky’s collapse, though I rarely find solace, for the drink I have imbibed leaves me with the impression that I am in total control of my body.

And so I find myself not on the streets of present day London but holed up in a vestibule in the city of Oran, my eyes dried by the smoke, fearing that the plague-ridden rats will finally breach my barricade. In the East, I hear that all of course is not well with Innocent III’s latest battle with the heretics of Islam. In the Caribbean and the Far East I hear of islands where the last beacon of upright certitude, the public sphere, has been swallowed up by profligate autocrats, binding the natural right of speech in the most ingenious of artifices. Convoluted I’ll admit but denying access to toothpaste restricts the mouth from protesting too loudly for fear that the noxious odours buried within will offend the senses of passersby. It is said too that citizens there have no right to float on the benevolent waves of the internet and therefore no access to the vast amounts of unbridled fact buoyed on the crests of freedom. This idea is too much for my fear-stricken body to handle, shudders sent down my spine by the thought of never knowing the manatee of free speech.

In the West, Cotton Mather does battle with heresies of his own, these of course are merely spectres, omens of future incarnations of socialist science proffered by Godless communitarians fit only for the guillotine or the madhouse. His opponent plays a similar deadly game calling for change and offering the morality of security and Keynes as bulwarks against the crises of ideology. And here the last shred of comfort warms my limbs, the absurdity of optimism while entrenched in the wasteland of the Somme momentarily betraying me. There still exists a space free from the extremes of belief and ideology, a place of solid objectivity unchallenged by the tyrants of postmodernity, an area peopled by the most virtuous of modernity, their virtue marked by the absence of subjective value. It is the public realm, and they are the upright citizens possessed of good jobs.

I can imagine this idyll from my perch in Oran, the good faces of the good people with good jobs unblemished by the agglomeration of history advancing around them. I pass my lustful gaze upon the recent past and the deference evoked by every instance they crossed my path. I, like everyone else, am enamoured by their devotion to their daily tasks, at how they fulfil their Aristotelian functionality with steadfast certitude while the outside realm is afflicted by the effects of causes, thrown into chaos by greed and power. Outside this sphere, amid such utter depravity, Flannery O’Connor is correct, a good man is hard to find. But within, good people abound, a conglomeration of organs working together to ensure the survival of the last great social organism. It pains me to dwell on this distant idyll anymore as I turn my gaze upon the dead society around me, a world turned upside down by so many beasts of no nation, ill gotten without merit or hard work. At twilight, the poverty in the air is rife as I learn of the collapse of so many more seemingly stable markets. I scoff at the insinuation that some of our current problems are a direct result of the economic sphere, as if good people could be the root of such destruction.

I fear my demise is close at hand as my mind passes through that euphoric state the unwitting wildebeest drifts into just before the lion’s jaw closes upon its beleaguered body. There I return to a lush state of nature. From my solitude in the medieval present, I am now immersed in the companionship that only the timeless age of labour can offer. I am approached by one particularly estimable person whose hello I return in the affirmative.

“And what do you do?” he asks curiously.

Pride swells within as I taste for the first time the sense of belonging. But before I can respond, the distant scuttle of rats becomes omnipresent throwing me once more from dream to nightmare.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Fear of a Black President

In the film Bamboozled, satirist Pierre Delacroix creates a modern day minstrel show envisioning the delight aroused in white America as a forum is given for them to revel in their own latent stereotypes. The main protagonists Mantan and Sleep n Eat, fumble and guffaw over their perpetual misfortune, insouciantly pausing to devour watermelon and fried chicken as house band the Alabama Porch Monkeys close the show with a rousing coda. The audience actively engages in the spectacle, grinning like ingenuous children unaccustomed to the world of meaning. It is on the surface, pure farce.

Yet in the theatre of America, her protagonists lay claim to a similar innocence imbibing the satire below as a comical reflection of reality. And innocence is always the most powerful defence. It is our dearest claim. Our exceptional right to absurdity.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

My Very Own Take That

I have resisted this sort of fetishism for as long as I possibly could; maybe it is the Vanessa Beecroft aesthetics of Hypnotise, creating a mystique of nihilistic otherworldliness. I mean that's the idea of art is it not, to incite curiosity by presenting an image simultaneously distant and familiar. But is this not my rational veil, masking the more base instincts held within Friedan's The Feminine Mystique . Judging from my being reduced to an awestruck adolescent drunk on the release of A Hard Days Night, my intoxicated speech a Creole smattering of screams and grunts, the subject of the object is never too far from my mind. But to be instantly fascinated by form, to be struck by a flutter of inspiration that momentarily warms the cold grip of cynicism set in after the realisation of the impossibility of the new and the utopian obsession of a revolutionary break with the past.

Ipso Facto's immediate past is a place where I have preferred not to venture. It, in my impressionistic rendering, is a vague setting, filled with authoritarian images of authenticity, order, and a time where the nation was a healthy whole. The aesthetes seem at first to be vintage fetishists, purveyors of empty style. But of course their past too is dark and fragmented.

Of course on a balmy autumn evening in Southeast London, none of us are really that deep. We are all faced with the more immediate concerns of mediated hedonism, further protecting our limbs from the lashing wind and the pissing rain, lowering our inhibitions so that we may interact more comfortably without regard to the intricate complex of mores protecting us from them. In this state it is normal to buy Rosie and Cherish a drink, repeating their names in my head as if they'd long graced the cover of Teen Idol with a young Marc Bolan. It is also my intention to assure them that whilst I am being obsequious, my intentions are intention-less. I am so sure they believe me that I abscond to the stage to watch These New Puritans do their best Gang of Four impressions, though keeping my gaze fixed on the preceding five minutes, ignoring the foolishness of our one and only chance meeting.