<![CDATA[The Big Ship]]>https://www.thebigship.org/archiveRSS for NodeSun, 14 Jul 2024 17:53:39 GMT<![CDATA[Joan of Arc: Righteous Fury, Holy Suffering]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/joan-of-arc668bfd3b11f67835b1c17686Wed, 10 Jul 2024 19:43:18 GMTSofia JametArt about Joan of Arc allows us to recontextualise faith and find a new grammar for martyrdom and womanhood.

carl dreyer joan of arc passion of joan of arc marie falconetti


Since her martyrdom in 1431, Patron Saint of France, Joan of Arc, has gripped the hearts of women and artists worldwide, immortalized by flames and the camera. Neatly divided by Jacques Rivette’s 1994 epic Joan the Maid I & II, her cinematic presence is always cut into two halves of one whole, her military campaigns and visions then her imprisonment and burning: her righteous fury and her holy suffering. Some, like Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc or Bresson’s Trial of Joan of Arc focus solely on her imprisonment and execution, while others, like Rivette’s, Fleming’s, or Preminger’s sloppy Saint Joan seek to portray both sides. Rarely, however, do any adaptations seek to only portray the battles. Joan is her martyrdom, her mythology is hinged on her death, and built around her suffering.

It is hard to look at Joan’s fate and believe that she was delivered by God. Her righteous fury began at only sixteen. Following saintly visions and a crusade to re-establish French sovereignty, she was betrayed by her homeland. Imprisoned by the English, the Catholic church gave her a choice: renounce your visions, remove your men’s dress, or suffer execution. Any repentant abjuration was short-lived. In a moment violently portrayed in Rivette’s Joan the Maid II: The Prisons, she relapses after being nearly raped by her guards – an act that sought to control her and to rob her of her virginity. In an unjust ultimatum, she opted to protect herself from the cruelty of men by sacrificing herself at the stake. For her relapsed heresy she was burned, producing her mythology and countless depictions of her crucial moment, canonized by her pain.

vivre sa vie french new wave godard anna karina

Cinema’s most enigmatic problem child, Jean-Luc Godard, glimpsed Joan in the seat of France’s modern woman in Vivre Sa Vie (1962). Trading his usual satire for ennui, he excavates the role that class and gender have in propagating the oppressive structure of prostitution in contemporary Paris. Split into twelve vignettes, we follow Nana into the sacrificial void, then, at his most didactic, Godard points at the camera – the viewer – and screams “Evil has only mutated!” Joan of Arc died in 1431, and spent her final moments begging for a cross so that she could love her god till the end. Twenty years after her death, she finally completed her saintly task, freeing France at the cost of her life. She came as an angel of fire, sweeping through the land, igniting the hearts of the people, and burning out English colonization. She died a martyr on a stage, a warrior of Christ wielding a blade: a New New Testament of a holy revolt. However, Dreyer’s masterpiece, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) paints a humanist Joan, 19, intelligent, strong in her convictions, who isn’t mythologized as a hero but suffers as a victim. Her suffering is the centrepiece of the work, monumentally enhanced by the performance of its lead actress, Marie Falconetti, whose soul intertwines with Joan’s to portray something soft – melancholic – yet horrifying. Joan’s titular passion, much like Jesus’ before her, is born from a suffering and anger thrust upon her by the men she loved; her god, her country. 30 years later, in Vivre Sa Vie, Nana goes to the cinema to watch Dreyer’s classic. Godard frames, composes and directs Anna Karina to become Falconetti, and Nana, Joan. She embodies the very suffering Joan experiences, internalizing the unholy fire and gendered torture Joan faced. Nana doesn’t so much watch The Passion of Joan of Arc as she does stare into her reflection, shedding the same restricted tears Falconetti gifted Joan in her depiction, because in all ways the four women are the same.

In 1981 Polish director Andrzej Żuławski released an unhinged metaphor for his own divorce, Possession. Over time, Żuławski’s film has garnered a ravenous and hyper-fixated audience, largely enamoured by lead star Isabelle Adjani’s performance as Anna. Whilst Mark – Anna’s husband – cultivates a Madonna/Whore complex and Żuławski projects a self-festered image of the hysterical woman, Adjani’s performance transcends their narratives. Anna’s behaviour is erratic, volatile, extreme, and glittered with an esoteric fervour; she is the caged fury let loose, representing a rage internalized by trauma. She kills and maims in a cleansing destruction whilst garnering devotion: chaos is her virtue, one that frees her and her followers from the marginalization of order. Even as Mark becomes slowly undone he is comparatively contained - she destroys whilst he attempts to save. Those who see through Mark’s eyes view him as patient and responsible, ordered, whilst those who see through Anna’s have lived and wished for her chaos. The subtlety of Mark’s abuse is his insistence of sexual possession, his obsession and control over who or what Anna has fucked, whilst simultaneously admitting and committing his own infidelity with their son’s teacher, the Madonna reflection of Anna’s Whore. Anna and Mark’s final consummation is a violent union drenched in blood and fire, welded by mutual destruction. The trauma - the merger - rampaging in holy anger, finally removes the leeches that bled her of her autonomy. Anna is an emotion seldom shown, so often repressed and reserved by the need to retain face, and her fury becomes righteous once ultimately unleashed.

Andrzej Żuławski possession isabelle adjani


In 2018, Hunter Schafer posted (then subsequently deleted) a drawn diagram that dissected her perception of womanhood. She garnered backlash from TERFs for her claims in the diagram that her gender was influenced by the need to be used by men, as objectified by men. Yet, so frequently, it is this gendered perception that women internalize, be it through coquette hyper-femininity or through their relationship with Christianity, resonating with images of an organized structure hinged on the oppression of women and empowerment of men. To get to heaven one must suffer the burden of their decisions: salvation comes through pain and sacrifice.

In 2023, composer Kristin Hayter announced the retirement of her moniker 'Lingua Ignota' and the music made under it, stating that this part of her life was now over. It was a six year journey that began in 2017 with the release of her first EP, Let the Evil of His Own Lips Cover Him, and an emotional exploration of grief, rage, suffering and enlightenment through religious and esoteric art. Her music oscillated over a phonic duality. Songs like Fragrant is My Many Flower’d Crown paint a woman who dons the softness of petals whilst swinging a hammer of wrath against all who’ve wronged her. She ends the album Caligula by repeating one line, “All I want is boundless love//All I know is violence.” On her fourth and final project as Lingua Ignota, Sinner Get Ready, she replaced her screams with whimpers and traded the bombastic, explosive sounds for softer harmonies carried by piano with blues/folk elements. Throughout Sinner Get Ready she makes reference to the abuse she faced from Daughters frontman, Alexis Marshall, whilst comparing him to God as an oppressive sadist. Her newest project under 'Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter', SAVED!, redeems Caligula’s famous lines; “The lord shall mend your broken heart//And hold your aching soul//His boundless love will make you whole.” She no longer only knows violence, and has found boundless love and the warmth of God, whatever that may mean to her.

lingua ignota kristin michael hayter sinner get ready caligula saved! reverend

Hayter’s journey is one that many women face, looking to the heavens for more than the violence they feel was divinely ordained: Joan, Hayter, Anna, Nana, Mother Jeanne of The Devils, Sister Cathleen from Novitiate, Mother Mary, all victims of a patriarchy that seeks to control them sexually. Mary, in particular, has become a symbol of this oppression, whose body was simultaneously divinely used and repressed. She is the ideal woman in the eyes of patriarchy – the virgin child bearer, womb without the taint of sex, the mother whose duty is solely motherhood, suffering to bare the death of her son. For her pain, she is rewarded nothing real – a place at the side of her abuser - and has only been granted personhood by those who look to her now in relation to their own oppression, permitting her her own suffering beyond the suffering of her son. Schafer’s perception of her agony was gender affirming in the same way Mary’s oppression is intrinsically linked to her womanhood. Her torment is the womanhood created by men. Suffering is a given identity, but also a community built on the warmth acquired from knowing misery doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There are others who feel what they feel, and that feeling is given purpose via the augurs of their pain. Like Joan of Arc holding the broken sticks of her pyre in the shape of a cross as holy fire engulfs her, if all you ever feel is violence then violence begins to feel like boundless love.

Joan lived two lives, Holy suffering is only one part of the whole, and her faith gave her a point at which she could direct her righteous fury. As a personification of oppression rather than a multi-faceted structure, God can be targeted as the progenitor of pain. Belief becomes iconoclastic, one in which where God exists, Christianity is acquiesced, but God and his followers are villains, perpetrators of suffering and so targets of vengeance. God is the face of man, embodied by a single entity – a sponge of deserved hate seeking to rip the rib of Adam from its abdomen by first admitting it is there. The nun, the martyr, the holy warrior: images of women who have suffered beneath the collective face of religious oppression. The worship of these images is not really a love for God but a love for those who suffer and a relation to their suffering, reflected in the self. Like Nana watching Joan on screen, religious iconography becomes a mirror to stare into and find past iterations of yourself, and a desire to comfort them. As Ethel Cain notoriously wrote on Sun Bleached Flies, “God loves you, but not enough to save you.” God does love you – the torment is how he shows it. God loved Joan and killing her is how he showed it.

<![CDATA[Little Prayers Gallery - July 3, 2024]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/little-prayers-gallery6679873ad7f1931c77b50050Thu, 04 Jul 2024 15:20:53 GMTThe Big ShipWelcome to Little Prayers, the self-destructing gallery. Here for a good time not a long time.

This week, we've rid ourselves of touch to make room for new senses.

Antony Gormley - Mirage

antony gormley mirage sculpture angel of the north steel welding figure figuration abstraction photography public art english moors field ghost

All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, as we labour under the sun, our efforts steaming, dissipating, until we too, are no more. We sweat with the promise of meaning, propitious and writing with slurring confidence, the world comes to me, and I try to focus this tightrope realisation:

We chase meaning, shadows of a light, hoping to bind our lives to something greater, something beyond the mere act of living. What is this search but a relentless drive, an obsession cloaked as virtue, demanding answers where there may be none? All this striving, has it brought us closer to truth or further from the simplicity of being? Meaning, we say, as if it holds the key, as if the world will unravel its deepest shame if only we probe deep enough, push hard enough.

Yet the flowers bloom without purpose, sunsets paint the sky with no motive, and the river flows asking nothing of the trees that shade its banks. To lie down by a slow river and stare at the light in the trees — to learn something by being nothing — is it not in the relinquishing, the surrender to the moment, that true freedom lies? “Just do your best,” they say, and perhaps that covers everything, perhaps that is the secret we've missed in our endless quest for meaning.

Can art withstand these laws if it is built on abstraction, on mirage, and fiction? Talking about the material here feels trivial, the forced relevance, the expected commentary, the prying apart of the individual and the collective, the concrete and the immaterial, the subjective and the universal, where truth isn't distinguishable from either binary but rather finding one is just a different expression of the other. Left eye, right eye, shift focus from one to the other and see whole new coronas of luminous bodies.

But such concentration calls for a jolt, and nobody can come out clean, surely newly coated in the patina of the manure of achieving enlightenment, eyes fixing on some tutelary shape in the fog only vaguely resembling what might be an angel or might be a man or might be a mountain or might be my reflection or might be my thoughts or might be nothing at all.

All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower falls, but the spirit in its simple being finds peace in the act of existence, finds meaning in the meaningless, and in doing nothing, does everything.

- Written by Bryson Edward Howe

John Singer Sargent - The Bends

Images become whipped by light when met at true face value. This rendezvous has traditionally been the work of the fictioner - careful lapidaries who render the world anew whilst protecting its unhatched flow (call it what you will; magic) - but I believe it to be the duty of the art writer, too.

Noir's dove-quartered cellars are precisely the onrush of The Shadow that its name predicts, in which the violent are dogged by paranoid conjurations of cuckoldry. But to contextualise this within the pursuit of light would be a mistake. All of their efforts are motivated by a fear of the dark, which ironically requires an intimacy with the hinterself to clearly point out its shape, as when darkness finally ascends it will leap from their heels and fracture them backwards into the throat. Dutiful artists accurately envision the lode within the gangue without breaking it, holding death dreams up to the light, and casting through the viewer's bodies long shapes. Better artists will have the courage to leave the dream on the plinth and say "do with it what you will, look at it from every side, let it chit, see its faces", an inherently anarchic act that those in control usually dislike. What Salome doesn't let on - as she leaves, sequinshattered through jade - is not only that she had first dibs on the sunset, has already seen it leak over the horizon before beating it back to watch a second time with the camp, but in doing so battled her shadow on the hills, cast in poppy and clay, colours of revelry and rain, tried to hack at its ankles with an axe, strummed it into ductile forms, or thrown a stylus far enough to send it writhing out the window of the world a rancour, becoming for one short instant the dancer, the cuckold, the castrator and the band. And learning in her bronze jamboree that lopping off the head cleanly will stand the shadow a liar, inaccurate, and momentarily devoid of power.

- Written by Caleb Carter

Apichatpong Weerasethakul - Mysterious Objects at Noon

Like Weerasethakul's film, the following text was written as an exquisite corpse, with each contributor writing one line before sending it to the next. Each contributor only saw the line that came before their own. Also like Weerasethakul's film, the finished piece seems to find a world destroyed, a world that is shredded to pieces, and in which all of the damaged people, all of the wounded, everything coexists at the same time:


Once Upon a time...

Confusion’s victory evoked a pyrrhic triumph of counterfeit nights, where grazing spirits circle, with silver skin and golden blood.

Hunger happens in circles.

Under - roots below, let's say - there is still a tree and a moon and a thicket of dogs on cue howling. Once a fortnight their brambles part, pupsinteeth, leaving vacant an iris or a pitless cherry grove.

Under - soil below - there is a cluster of moss curving at the edges, wearing stillness as a sleeve - whilst the carrion flow of deerflesh swells in the embryo lawn.

What is the difference between wheelchair poverty and being a woman?

The simplest thing a woman can do: chilli powder was blown into my eyes, empty bottles to bhat, discarded cursed chains, a boxing match promising Dogfahrs' protection.

Residing in this floating world dead in the cripple's closet.

Is the film over now? Don't forget my KFC chicken. Don't forget...

- Written by Bryson Edward Howe, Caleb Carter, Luisa De la Concha Montes, Joey Hollis, and Alana Clegg

Yoko Ono - Grapefruit Page 11, SECRET PIECE

A secret is exciting, erratic, it darts from ear to ear in a dance like that of the wind around trees.

Unpredictable and everchanging as it is uttered from mouths sworn to silence. The small

betrayals evoke momentary fluster. Glinting eyes and curling lips labelling one as complicit.

Chills radiate from the mild danger, as momentary confessions laced with passion tint faces

with deep reds like that of the early morning sky.

However, in its simplicity, Yoko Ono’s instructional piece invites any individual to become part of

the secret, rendering any supposed mystery null. One persistent note acts as an invitation to

welcome the dawning sun, to join the untamed chorus of the wilderness. Yet even in this

supposed integration, humanity denies acceptance. By removing the poetic nature of music,

the unique connection between performance and performer, the piece falls into the same trap

of monotony as the notes. Repetition is eerie. Alien. It conflates control with order and rewards

routine, conformity. And this is reflected in the revision, which leans away from the instinctive

reverence documented in the original meandering writing. Instead, it boxes the river-like flow of

music with borders of mechanical print lettering, the unremarkable text foreshadowing an

unremarkable outcome.

A secret told to all ceases to hold power.

- Written by Janna Ajmal (@Janna_j4nn4)

<![CDATA[Oneohtrix Point Never: Again, Again, Again...]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/oneohtrix-point-never-live-royal-festival-hall663bf336a7b53d91d0908c7dFri, 28 Jun 2024 08:23:11 GMTThe Big ShipExplore the looping, glitch-filled soundscapes of Oneohtrix Point Never's Again, with each cycle a step deeper into the digital sublime.

oneohtrix point never live southbank royal festival hall again electronic music chrome country glitch pop remix photography

0 Pe N

by Bryson Edward Howe

/////////////////////// mec h an i sm \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

The mind tends to complete patterns: through inclusions, exclusions, and intersections of exegesis, the hardwire human mind is always constructing complex pyramids of sign-symbol association, a constant delimitation of communication and meta-language. It makes us, in many ways, the most advanced species to walk the earth. In many other ways, it makes us predictable, divinable, hijackable, and Oneohtrix Point Never's vibro-fetishism finds in the loop the perfect strata of the inevitability; finding in the loop both the lull and the momentum and exploiting the innate tendency of the human mind to seek completion in repetition. Again physically loops back to prior work; in part, it is what Lopatin calls “a speculative autobiography,” but in others a transmission, a spellbound backwash of digital languages and sonic paranoias, what’s remembered and what’s forgotten—what is yet still incomplete.

/////////////////////// org a nic ism \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

The techtonic quake brushed against my skin like silk and filled my mouth with a lingua franca thick and viscous (I can still taste electric honey), but never liquid and somehow never synthetic, finding a talced spirituality in the madrigal offal of malware—with the few scholium lyrics that survive his scalpel vocoded into unparsable nullity ("the body trail, the body trail, the body trail"). Oneohtrix Point Never doesn't really build beats so much as mutate them, spinning disruptive shards of noise around the gooey onyx skeleton of repetition and expectation, cycling, blurring, echoing through creation and dissolution where he cessions to the ill-ectro and lowers the beats; yielding to and readying for; the spiral.

/////////////////////// vi tal i sm \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

In an anti-matter universe, there are two original black holes: Gods and Atrocities. In this universe, there is now only the echo of both. What's left, the static dervishes of noise that fall like snow and bleed into the holographic insert zone, the space enclosing soft and shiny things in the seam of the present space—cradled between past and future—as feather-light trills soak into kaleidoscopic, maximalist electro caught in infinite playback. Hear the chimeric frequencies of a spectral data void, the temporal lattice of the electric wilderness, and aural spirals—a.k.a. the ever-returning wave. An acoustic palimpsest shudders into synthetic dreams of the overclocked mind. Heavenly music predicts new chapters, consequences of Old Testament characters, like Jacob finding purpose in God's motion. Choose your way in, through amp outlets or ear drums that don't yet know I'm old, and then resonate with the concrete (metal music isn't welded, but electronic music is wired): because once you're in, the echo never ends—

oneohtrix point never live southbank royal festival hall again electronic music chrome country glitch pop remix photography


by Caleb Carter

3. Rigpa

All staying clear, repetition will keep a good life accelerating in sibilant ecstasy. Note that in every iteration of the human race’s playback devices the signs of their corruption (buffer, glitch, scratch) renders the listener unable to move forwards. Again is an instructive title. On one listen it plays as an ambient album, a singular composition returning to its glitch motif so often our ears are pastured. But on the next, the listener is free to observe each reiteration as a singular blade of grass; the music turns from calm to chaos, and as the antecedent is torn in the mile winds, sink lower (down-loading) and look above to see a thousand green towers, dancing. Lopatin treats the enormity of human creation being uploaded into thin air (including his own) with such freakish reverence it is hard to tell if his Ctrl-V atlas maps suicide or glory. He makes - has always made - bellmetal monstrums fleeing from glitch-gospel rectories (on that particular Olympus, I think Memories of Music might actually top Chrome County). But Again sprints and gleefully knows it will have to return home uphill at nightfall. Briefly, down in the lead-acid moat it can play at deformity, half-corrupt on one CD, a cipher of the numinous on B.


For artists in the Age of Information, self-mythologizing is not only imperative for succeeding a market vampyrically harvesting human faces to disguise its algorithm, but impossible to avoid. Your art is your content is your data. Information is an unfathomable grimoire, and the more you know, the more you realise you don’t. In February, https://pointnever.com/ became a rhizomatic archive. Developed by VOID MAIN Studio with aid from OPN’s Discord (a web of harvester ant hives for dark-forest folklores), it maps the totality of Lopatin’s prolific output top-to-bottom, from singles and performances, to features, soundtracks and loops. The most intriguing facet of its cat’s cradle, however, are the green strands that illuminate his music’s internal ‘References’. One of these reveals that Love in the Time of Lexapro is “of the same world” as Age Of, retconning a hydromantic etude into an apocalyptic tale whose warbles are of the dying, but also of the artificial (electric) and of the sentient. Who, then, speaks from under the sea? You see how little we require for Atlantis to be built.

1. Ikon

Threshing the material of myth from its web of time is a dizzying exercise, one in which sinking to touch the subatomic requires submerging the periphery in its soup, so one can’t tell up from down, space from the dust of space, instrument from sound, shellac from basalt cliffs, or, when turned loud enough through headphones, cannon-fire from the peal of a bell.


BONDAGE//Of the USSR we have only skeletons and stories, abandoned factories and obsolete agricultural tools//EXCESS//Wreathed in the pipes beneath the chimneys and the gaskets inside machines, you’re likely to find alloy emblazoned in the melted bell memory of Stalin’s pogrom of sound//HARVEST//Those bells, sacramental tulips of the Orthodox church, were sanctioned to play only one prime tone, loud, without harmony, so as to accurately encode the voice of god//ECCO//-ing: record, play, s, s, s, s, All stay

<![CDATA["Act Accordingly": A Conversation with Jean Dawson]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/act-accordingly-a-conversation-with-jean-dawson665e2920279553a075941d09Fri, 14 Jun 2024 09:56:09 GMTBryson Edward HoweSitting down for a full-length conversation with the LA-based artist, we talk about the stench of public perception, his creative indecisiveness, and the romance of spirituality.

"I don't know nothing, shadow of sympathy," Jean Dawson sings on "Tastes Like Metal", the closing track of his new EP Boohoo. "Break lights, too bright / Now I'm gon' crash / They hope I crash / What if I crash?" he asks, against the kind of sound that can only be woven through air thick with desire, through clenched fists, tear-streaked cheeks, bitten lips, and the raw edge of longing, through (where all great art comes from) things untamed. Like watching a crystal chandelier tremble in tempest, the piano's gentle swelling rashes into deep, billowing synth, like saults teetering on the edge of stillness and eruption. The feelings Jean wrestles with on this newest project are tender, seductive and, as the cover art suggests, there’s an intoxicating, ruinous release in the headlong plunge that shatters and remakes, tracing an arc in the erotic velocity of the fall.

I catch Jean while he's in London, touring with Lil Yachty as his Field Trip Tour makes its way across Europe, where the Tijuana-born/California-raised artist tells me off-mic about his newfound love for Nando's (the Extra Hot sauce reminds is the closest thing he can find here to Mexican Buffalo Wings), Tottenham F.C., and, most importantly, what he's been listening to: confessing that he considers Dijon and Mk.gee to be his only contemporaries and about his early love for XL Recordings, especially, most recently, for Overmono. It's always interesting to hear about a musician's inspirations, especially when they are as culturally eclectic as his.

His recent track "NO SZNS" featuring SZA, punctuates this study with a new depth we've not seen from Jean: gentle folk guitar and synth stings layer under some of Jean's most refined, lucid lyrics. Playing with silence, the production slashes at the air of negative space around it, yanking the track forward, and reimagining the rich palette of his past projects as something more textured and dramatic. Always evolving, he tells me, the future for Jean is sown without promises or predictability.

Jean Dawson: I made it past 27, so we're good now. We're good. It's not going to be a sad story. The ending might be weird because I'm going to turn into a delusional old man. That's what I hope. I just want to slowly descend into madness as I get old. But in a very artful way where it's like, "Yeah, dude doesn't do anything except scream at paintings and hope that something comes out of it."

The Big Ship: Allowing yourself to slip into madness? Is that better than going out like Cobain?

I'd rather go out like a loony than go out just, “Uh, it was fun, or peaceful.” I'd rather it be like, “No, this dude is working on ceramics now, for no reason. And he just works on them and then breaks them. That's it." And the title of all my works would be like, “Where it started, it finished.” Something like that.

That's like Yoko Ono. She had a whole exhibition of broken ceramics in London last year.

See? They all have similar fucking stories, or I'll just fade away into oblivion where when people ask what I'm doing, it’s like, dude, I work at Home Depot. Do you guys have Home Depot? It's just a department store that sells wood and building materials to build houses and shit. Very, very, very, very important job in America. People who work there are super important.

Tell me a little bit about the Lil Yachty: Field Trip Tour?

They just asked me and I was honoured to be considered to do it because I'm a big fan of Lil Yachty. I don't know what the perception of me is from the outside, and I'm glad that it doesn't just stop at alternative. I mean, Yachty is alternative. So whatever that means, whatever the perception of him is, I just felt like being asked to be on the tour was a badge of honour. It's bigger than just the local kids that want you to play the local thing. There's nothing wrong with that, but something that I've taken to, I guess, with grace, is the the fact that people like my music. And that people like my music all over the world. It's hard for me to accept that because I'm smack in the middle of it. So, whenever I'm asked to do anything, I'm just like, oh, me? Sure. Alright, I'll come and do it.

Is that something you’re worried about – how you’re perceived?

No, I don't care. And not, I don't care in a cool way. Perception is a one-way street. And it's not one that you can travel backwards on. Perception is a porta-potty. It's one person's shit that I definitely don't have to smell if I don't want to. Even if it smells good. I think I learned that from being a chubby kid my whole life. And it took a long time to just be like, it's okay. We're all good. We're all gonna die. What I think about another person is never gonna change who that person is. I would hope not. I don't know what people think about me. Sometimes they're like, oh, you're mysterious and you have mystique and blah, blah, blah. I was like, no, I just wear big clothes and cover my face because I've had insecurities, but I don't think it's anything deeper than that. It's not like I have a ton of secrets in my head. Matter of fact, most of the time I have nothing going on in my head. I'm just walking around existing in perpetualness.

I've been very fortunate to have a loving mother, to tell me I'm okay, everything's fine, don't worry about it. And I think if I didn't have that, then the outside, everything, except for making music would have broken me already. Bleeding yourself for an art form that people can have an opinion on. It's a public forum thing. So if I don't have a loving mum, I think I would have for sure done myself in, because it's pretty hard sometimes, but for the most part I just think, who really cares, man? We just make music. We have a fun job. It's all good.

I wondered about that because, in a lot of your music, I get the sense that there are characters that you're developing within it. I wonder if that's a conscious thing, if that's just to guard yourself, or if that's just a fun thing, or if it comes down to code-switching, which you mentioned before?

I think I create characters to highlight and mask certain things in a moment. It's like when you go out with your friends, and you're having a pretty shit day, but you don't want to tell them. You put on this other guy and you step outside and then you become that other guy for four hours, and you get to come home and then you shed that and you're like, all right, fuck I'm back in this thing. Not in a depressive, negative way, but just in a way where it's like code-switching your entire existence. When I do it in music, it just gives me a different perspective. As hokey or as magical as I want it to sound, it's not. Sometimes I just feel like this other guy. And I think part of being a musician is fractalising yourself into what this version of me wants to say right now. I think some people have a very, very intuitive way of communicating a singular identity. I have a very hard time doing that, not because I'm any more special or anything like that, but I have a hard time communicating a single identity because I'm perpetually finding an identity. But the thing is, I'm not looking for it at the same time. Sometimes it finds me and sometimes it's beyond me.

So, with Boohoo and Phoenix, the reason why I even give them names is something I learned in therapy. To identify the things that are troubling you and then label them rather than to just suppress them. So my anxiety is my little friend that comes to visit that I don't want to come to visit. It's like that annoying ass man that calls you and you're like, fuck, I got to stay on the phone with this guy. So the same way that I perceive that is the same way I perceive pretty much anything in my life. Phoenix is a character post-coming off of Chaos Now. That whole project, essentially, I didn't know if I was going to make any more music after it. I knew that I was always going to do some format of music, whether it be for film or for something else, but after Chaos Now, I was like, I don't know if I'm going to die, you know? I feel like I'm going to die soon. And I always have those crises where shit feels really right in a bad way. So I have to fuck something up to make everything feel even. So I was making music with crayons, figuratively. That project was me perceiving myself in a way, but it was me writing songs in run-on sentences. And I was very aware of it, and I was like, I want to do it all before I go. As morbid as it sounds, it wasn't morbid when I was thinking of it. It was just like, I don't want to leave anything on the table if this is the last album I'm ever going to get to do.

Because the things that I'm chasing aren't necessarily the things that everybody else in music is chasing. There's nothing wrong with the things that they're chasing, but the thing that I'm chasing in music is a resolve of myself. Trying to find that resolve as I go. It's quite difficult. So, I think the reason why I build characters for the music, is it just allows me to be expressive in a way where one part of myself isn't insecure about that specific thing. Boohoo isn't afraid to sing. And Boohoo is kind of the overture of what Jean Dawson is becoming, in a sense. Phoenix would never sing. This is talking to myself, the third person, but it's just like, oh, nah, you have a horrible voice, but it's okay, you're fun and you're funny. Boohoo was, it's all good. You don't have to be fun or funny. You could just sing. Then I get to sit back and be quote-unquote Jean Dawson and be like, you guys both sound dumb. I'm just gonna do this other thing. So, besides sounding like I have a personality disorder, which I don't, it allows me to draw with my left hand rather than my dominant right.

Do you think you exploring these different parts of your personality, especially through these different characters, plays into you being quite genreless, for lack of a better word, like code-switching musically as well?

Maybe. I think definitely it's a way to I.D. it. But it's so funny because I don't find that I do much differently from the people that I like, and not in terms of skill or capability. This is gonna sound crazy coming out of my mouth and I'm very aware this is gonna sound crazy. Prince is my favourite artist of all time. No way am I comparing myself to Prince, let me put that in print. Prince did whatever Prince wanted. Whether it was dance music, love songs, albums, pop records. It was never like, "Prince is genreless". Prince is Prince. It's my favourite I.D. of any artist of all time. Who's going to tell Prince what to do? That guy has the idea. If those are the people that I look up to in music, or if that's the person I look up to in music, it feels only right that the inhale and exhale that I do when I'm doing any other song, or one song to the other song, is the same breath, instead of it being a conscious, I'm gonna do rock music, then I'm gonna do prog rock, then I'm gonna do hip hop. I’m in the studio with my friends, and I'm like, everybody shut up for a second. This is what I think. Do I sound crazy? And they'll tell me yes and/or no. Or sometimes it's like, yeah, it sounds crazy, but let's do it.

I think maybe having multiple characters and personalities, or perceived personalities, goes into how the music is made, but the genre and categorisation has always been ill-important to me. Because if it sounds good, it sounds good, regardless of what it is. On the way over here we were listening to Muslim prayer chants in the taxi. The guy turned it off when we got in the car and I was like, no, keep playing it, please. He was like, are you sure? And I'm like, no, please, it sounds beautiful. I don't know what the fuck they're saying, but I just knew that that man was singing it while he was driving and he's doing his day-to-day job. For me, that's the importance of the shit. More than anything else, it's that. It's being that supplement to somebody's already vibrant life. If I can turn the saturation up just a little bit, cool. If I can't, that's fine too. And I think the only way that I can valiantly do that is never being afraid to just inhale and exhale.

Is your music-making process, an indecisive process?

No, it's super decisive. It's like, this is exactly what it needs to be, this is exactly how it works. Anybody that's been in the studio with me for long enough realises that my biggest attribute is that I'm a great conductor. I'm a great arranger, but I also like to cheer people on to do the best thing that they're able to do. I think the part that I'm competitive about in music, period, is how good of a team player can I be. As long as I can max that stat out, the music will always be great. But I have to make sure that I'm looking at it from every angle. One of my favourite things that I've told one of my best friends [Austin Corona], is play like you're going to get hit by a car when you leave the studio, you're never going to play again. You're going to die right now. This is the last guitar lick you're ever going to do. And he sits there and he's like, man, fuck you. And I'm like, try it. And It's the greatest guitar lick or solo I've ever heard in my life. I'm like, dude, you did that. He's like, yeah, it was the pressure. I was like, it wasn't the pressure. It was you telling yourself, if this is the last thing I'm going to do, let me do something that means something to myself. It's not about Jean Dawson, the artist. It's not about this song, even. It's about giving yourself resolve. And I think as long as we can keep searching for that resolve, we'll make great music.

Are you constantly putting those constraints or creative strategies in place to try and shake things up? It reminds me of Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies.

Man. I wish that I think I was as cognisant of it as Brian, but there's only one rule I had on my last album [Chaos Now], which is no 16th note hi-hats. I don't want that. I hate that. And now it's so funny because I'm like, let's see what it feels like. Let's try 16th note hi-hats. But I do require a certain amount of study before we go in and work on something. When we're producing our work, it's like, okay, here's a list of music that we should all listen to over and over and over and over again. I think I always try to bring things back to being a student and also falling in love with that again.

Boohoo was very different from a lot of my work because the constraints were writing from a different place. Writing from a place that can make you cry and I don't like doing that shit. I know a lot of artists like to revel in their sorrow. I hate that shit. I don't want anything to do with my sorrow. I don't want anything to do with the negative thoughts in my head, but when I need them, when I need to fixate on them, I would imagine it's like an actor method acting where, that scene where you need to cry, you're gonna have to think about something that's gonna make you want to cry. I hate crying and I don't want to do it but if I sit back and I think about the moment of me looking my mom in the eye and telling her I want to kill myself today and doing that for six weeks straight, every single day, I can make a song that means something more to me than just words. And that's where I can talk about "New Age Crisis" or "Tastes Like Metal". That's where I can pull out some of the words that come for that. When I have to look at that moment, and seeing my mom seeing her baby just tell her that he doesn't want to exist anymore, in a very serious way.

But I can't do that for a Grammy. I can't do that for anybody except myself. And that's where I have to be selfish. I think, in a certain way, that version of method is super important. I can't do that for streams. I can't do that for a million monthly listeners. I can't do that for a better slot at Coachella. It has to be for my own resolve. It has to be for the reason I make music. And anything less than that is just a disservice to the memory of that. So, amen.

I feel like when you're creating something like that, it is so easy to lose the love for it, for what made you want to do it in the first place. Especially when you're singing your own songs, which I imagine feels a lot more real than other people's music. What was the study for Boohoo?

Funny enough, it was just classical music. Classical and then theatre, in a broad, general scope. It's pretty much the study of the next album. The next album's coming out this year. And it's that. It's like Homer's Odyssey. It's nearing my opus, but it isn't the opus. I'm aware of what my opus is gonna be and it's not that. But it's me seeing what the opus is looking like or what it feels like. It's like, Woah, shit, that's a lot, that's a big hill to climb, dude. It's the study of what is very, very real to you, of what is very tangible to you. It's also the study of letting go of my own interpretation of myself. There's gonna be a weird transition that happens that people see in me during that time. Weird as in just unfamiliar. But it's part of what the thing is and it's part of the theatre. It's part of listening to Max Richter. It's part of listening to a lot of Aphex Twin, part of listening to Mozart and Bach and all the old heads. But it's also a part of listening to a dude from Texas who rides really high rims and that's his chariot. It's Romeo and Juliet, it's Shakespeare, it's very long, flowery sentences that mean something very, very dull. It's like, me and you should die together. We'll live together, love each other, and die together. Instead of saying that, you have Romeo and Juliet beckoning to one another from the top of a fucking castle. Instead of saying, I'm gonna die with my bitch, I'm turning that language into imma die with my bitch. Imma die for my bitch.

Unfamiliar to us or unfamiliar to you?

Everybody else. I've done it before, but the change is weird. I've changed a lot over my life, like fluctuating weight. I fluctuate in the way I look. I fluctuate in the way that I see myself. I fluctuate in the way that I talk. I fluctuate in the way that I communicate with the outside world. I'm very cognisant of it. This is a point in my life where I'm on the precipice of something. And I know that it's coming and I'm just aware of it. And not a pseudo 'big shit on the horizon. Real G's don't move in silence' or whatever. No, I just know what's about to happen. It's like I'm pregnant with my own idea.

I wanted to ask about the spirituality in your lyrics. There are a lot of biblical references, what do those mean to you?

Yeah, it's funny. I don't want to make Christian music. I'm not saying anything wrong with Christian music, I'm just not Christian. I'm non-denominational. I believe in God, I believe in Allah, I believe in All of it. I was raised Catholic, so that's my default setting, but all religion for me is valid because it's just a belief, right? It's the belief of something beyond this, that brings people comfortability or perceived morality. It's so big, it's so romantic. Religion in and of itself is one of the most beautiful things that humans have concocted, and it's just the rule of thumb. And that's the coolest shit ever. I don't agree with what the church does. I don't agree with a lot of shit. But I do agree with needing something that's going to supplement you through your life. Because you need something to hold on to that is intangible sometimes. I learned that when I was going through the deepest depression I've ever gone through in my life. My mum used to say, agárrate de Dios, which means in Spanish, 'hold on to God'. I felt like I was falling in a hole and I couldn't grab on to anything. No matter how hard I tried, there was nothing. And I start praying every day. Start saying thank you. Thank you. The easiest thing is to say thank you. Whether I'm saying it to myself or I'm saying it to what I believe God to be. It changed my entire perspective on everything. Everything in my life. It's where I think the idea of myself disappeared, where the idea of my impermanence became very real to me, and with that also came, what do I wanna do?

There's some artists that compare themselves to higher powers and shit, I won't say names, but, I wouldn't want that responsibility. I would rather say thank you to it and then live my life accordingly to be the most decent human being. It comes out in the lyrics because it is so romantic and it's so basic and not in a bad way. It's like wearing a really nice white T-shirt, like, wow this fits so good I don't need anything else. This, some blue jeans, and some fucking shoes, and I'm out. I feel like sometimes, when I'm talking in the scope of angels, or God, it's like a white T-shirt. It supplements exactly what I needed to say, without me needing to say much. It's Frank Ocean’s Godspeed. I reference Frank a lot, just because the way he writes music is like my modern-day Bob Dylan. Looking at Bob, or Frank, sometimes they say something very, very, very, very, very, straightforward, and you're like, woah, that's one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard in my life. "There's a bull and a matador duelling in the sky." What? Craziest line I've ever heard in my life. I think I was just grabbing onto nothingness in that void. I always end up grabbing onto a figure of God, because it's easy for my brain to translate that to be what I need to be. It's like Play-Doh.

It's funny you say "Live accordingly". The best advice I ever got from anyone, was from a friend who said to me once, "Act accordingly." That's it. He was saying, you know it already, you just have to act accordingly.

Woah. Act accordingly. Yeah. I've had something similar. One of my friends, well, he's not my friend. He's more like one of the richest niggas in music. Put it that way. He said, "act like you know how good you are." Same thing as 'act accordingly'. I was being humble about something and he didn't like it. 'Why are you doing that?' Because I was raised not to perceive myself like that. He's like, fuck that. You know what you're doing. Act that way. And I didn't know what the fuck that meant. I was like, am I supposed to be an asshole or something? Then I realised it was like, nah, just move like you know that you already did the thing.

Can you talk a little bit about your visuals?

The visual language has always been just as much as important as the sonic description of what I do. It's as basic as why do something in two dimensions when you have three or four? One of the reasons I started fixating just on visuals was because during COVID, I was watching a bunch of music videos, and I was like, this shit sucks. And not in a generic way, I'm sure the people who worked on it tried their best and did awesome, in my irrelevant-ass opinion. But nobody cares about this anymore. And I wondered why. Is it because people aren't doing good? Is it because there's no Hype Williams? Is it because X, Y, and Z directors aren't doing things anymore and the bill isn't there? But it wasn't that. I think it's just the way that we process music is different now. MTV is probably still important to people in certain countries. So is YouTube. And YouTube's important everywhere, but I'm saying in the scope of music videos. It's a really, really expensive process that's only meant for promotion. It's like a billboard. And I thought it felt so gross. Because music videos specifically were so important to me in identifying what I wasn't. Not necessarily what I was, but like, Oh, I'm not that. I'm not that either. That's cool, I’m not that.

I never wanted to be on camera. And it's not because I fucking hate myself so much, or I don't want to see myself. But there's a whole story to be told that isn't about me. And it's one of the hardest things that I still struggle with as a songwriter. I don't want to write about myself because life isn't about me. I am just a small piece of the whole thing. I want to write about the whole thing. I want to paint the whole thing. But the only way to do that is to start from my perspective. So, it goes back to writing about myself and it's something I've been trying to break forever. And it's just insanity. It's like trying to figure out how to make a car move with a magnet attached to the front of the hood. You can't do that. Physics won't allow it. That's bullshit.

Film in itself, cinema, has always been very important to me. I spent a lot of time by myself as a child. My mum worked a lot, and my older siblings went off to school. I sat in front of the TV a lot. We didn't have cable, satellite or anything like that. We just had basic antennas with foil on the top and I watched every single movie on public access television basically. I would just sit and fucking disappear into a void of me being alone. TV was always company. TV was my best friend because I had nobody to communicate with. That's why I started writing music, because I didn't have anybody to communicate with. I fell in love with whatever that meant. One of my aspirations is to be a director and, to not only score a film, but fully direct. I'm writing a film right now. It's cool. It's like a Donnie Darko, but funnier. If I could do that art form well, I'd love to respect the medium and do it. I'm just taking my time with it.

Can you talk a little about your collaborators? The only word I can think of is picky.

Yeah, it's super picky. I'm very picky about my collaborators. I've been asked to collaborate with a lot of people. Fortunately enough. I say no a lot. But that's not just to collaborate. I say no a lot to everything. Some advice that I was given was to know your no’s and be very comfortable with your no’s, because they're going to stop you from being successful faster, but the things you say yes to are going to be more important. Same thing goes with the people that collaborate with me, like Earl Sweatshirt. That was a childhood dream of mine. He's so enigmatic. I was like, oh, I get to work with Earl? This is crazy. Me wanting to work with Earl is the same as me wanting to work with Björk. I want the thing that is visceral, right? But also, there have been a lot of times where I'm maybe getting in my own way, maybe I'm perceiving myself and maybe I need to stop. I'm pretty picky, but the people that I look up to are also picky. I guess I'm a product of them. It's their fault, not mine. I'm not going to take responsibility.

But I don't think everybody should work together. I think it's bad. I don't need to see IKEA furniture with Keith Haring print on it. I don't need it. I like the IKEA furniture, I like Keith Haring. I don't need to see them together. The last collaboration I did was with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. I was super blessed to be in the room with those guys, and Hudson Mohawk. It was beautiful. I was like, this is fucking crazy. I'm just this kid. The inner kid is screaming. I even told him, you guys are gonna have to give me two seconds to geek out. And once I got that over with, I was cool. But I don't know if I want to collaborate anymore. I think part of my brain, maybe a few years ago, was just like, oh, I live in such a beautiful time of so many different musicians existing, like being able to do something with SZA, which was special, just to work with somebody so beyond the measure of life. I think a lot of this shit is qualifying. It's like, look at the little trophies that you got along the way. I don't think I care about trophies anymore. At least not those trophies. So, I'm very picky about collaborations, and that might evaporate into me not collaborating with anybody. But I might be chatting shit, cause if Archy Marshall calls me tomorrow, I'm definitely doing that.

I want to hear the King Krule and Jean Dawson track. Or the Björk and Jean Dawson track.  

If Björk calls me tomorrow, which is not gonna happen, we might. I would love that. She's one of the reasons that I make music the way that I make music, kind of like a Prince. She's enigmatic. Again, was Björk genre-bending? No, Björk was just being Björk. You know what I mean? But now there's a playlist on whatever streaming platform that's 'genre-less'. Come on, bro. What's Bauhaus? What are all these things? Are they all genre-less? No, they were just of themselves. Categorisation is a product of utility. We utilise knowing where the screws and bolts are, so we can build this thing.

I've been schmoozed by almost every label. One of the things is we just can't put our thumb on you. And basically, what they're telling me is, we're afraid that you're gonna flip a switch and start doing some shit that we can't sell. Which is a very good fear for them to have, but also super irrational. Why would I want to do that? It’s dumb. But, that's what they feel because when they see articles about me, like, Jean Dawson, you can't figure him out. He's such a mystery. Nah, dawg, I'm just a black kid with some ideas, man. I don't know how much of a mystery that is. Are we so afraid to just do something? Bowie was never afraid to do something. I mean, at least from the outside. My government name is David. Act accordingly.

Do you think it ever does get in the way of progress, musically?

No, musically it doesn't get in the way. It gets in the way of me being super famous if that's what the idea was. Because it's like, do "Power Freaks" a hundred times, over and over and over again. And then tour it, over and over and over again. And then turn 32 and hang yourself in your bathroom. No, thank you. I'd rather not hang myself in my bathroom. I'd rather be 34 with my children, that I am speaking into existence of me having, and starting them on fencing practice. And being like, yo, we can go do this? Or, you wanna play field hockey? Or, you wanna paint? Cool. Let's do that. Instead of being 34 years old, being an alcoholic and being strung out on drugs because I hate myself. I feel like that's how I would feel about myself. So maybe that's an easier way of saying I've chosen not to be a fucking megastar. I've chosen to just impress myself first. And if people catch on to that, that's cool, but if they don't, it's also fine.

In an ideal world, how would people come to your music?

A friend just tells them about it. Just a friend of a friend. I don't mind if they put me in a playlist or category or anything like that. Especially not at the top of New Music Friday. Top three, I love that position. That position is great. Thank you, Spotify.  Maybe because I find music differently, I don't use platforms for music discovery. I just let it happen. Somebody up in the studio will be like, have you heard this? And I'm like, what the fuck is this? This is amazing. Then I obsess over it for two weeks. And then I'm a fan for life, but it's not forced down my throat because I like this other artist.

Algorithms are tight. They're just not always right. if you want to get slick, and dicey with it, make a trap playlist. Make a Southern trap playlist. Make a New York drill playlist. Make a UK drill playlist. Those all exist. Okay, get even deeper. Make a South London drill playlist. And you can get deeper and deeper and deeper. And maybe it makes it hard for people to find things. Or just put them all under an umbrella and everybody have a good time and don't think about it. And that's what 95 percent of people are doing, which is totally fine. I'm just the 5 percent of people. As much as you try and tell me that Katy Perry should go next to Olivia Rodrigo? I don't think so.

Someone is like, Jean, I love you, and then they'll name three other artists that I sound nothing like. You guys are all black and do weird things. It's like, do we? Cool. I don't agree. I don't think we sound anything the same. It's like, oh Jean Dawson makes bedroom pop. How? That's a live organ. There's a live organ in my bedroom? That's crazy. Jean Dawson makes trap music. How? Well, look at your skin. You're black. You make trap music, right? Jean Dawson is punk rock. How? I've never called myself punk rock. I know punk rock. I know people that are punk rock. I like cleaning under my fingernails, man.

Do you think that leaves you underrated?

Nah, man, I don't care. I think I'm wherever God wants me to be. And I think I should be perceived however people want to. If people listen to my music, that's awesome. If they don't, that's also awesome. I also think that I take the same heaviness or weight of shit that they probably do in their day, in terms of how much they defecate, and what it looks like when they wipe, it's the same. So, whether I'm popular, not popular, doesn't fucking matter. I'm going to lie in a grave, just like everybody else. And until that time, I'm going to fucking make some music. If people dig it, awesome. If they don't dig it, more awesome. Go listen to fucking somebody that cares more than I do.

<![CDATA[Field Report: Project 6 Festival 2024]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/field-report-project-6-festival-20246654b50f0c231673aa922f05Fri, 31 May 2024 12:48:12 GMTBryson Edward HowePusha T. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib. DjRUM. AJ Tracey. Nines. Guilia Tess. Manni Dee b2b Manuka Honey.

pusha t project 6 festival rap runaway london music

It's rare that a festival such as this gives you a set that feels a part of musical history: Performing the album in full for its 10th anniversary, Piñata, the first collaborative album by Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, opens with a bongo instrumental, before "Scarface", hits you square in the jaw with its relentless, silky coloratura and Gibbs' whetted prickly delivery. Gibbs' peppered self-reflective tales ("Maybe you's a stank ho, maybe that's a bit mean \ Maybe you grew up and I'm still living like I'm sixteen \ Like a child running wild in these city streets") of hustling, survival, and redemption were created while he was "still in the streets" and finds a perfect match in Madlib's funk-fusion, obscuro soul-steeped production, which blends bouncy southern boom-bap beats with dusty jazz samples and psychedelic breaks. Piñata is an album that, for many of my generation along with Pusha T and Danny Brown's gnomic acerbity solidified a certain admixture of pithy trill-rap in our consciousness, flexing a wintry, italicised flow, that feels nostalgic and yet still pristine watching it play out live.

Pusha T, "Cocaine's Dr. Seuss", from his early days as one half of Clipse, as the president of G.O.O.D. Music, and now to his solo career, deserves to be in the conversation of being chiselled into modern rap's Mount Rushmore. His contribution, in my opinion, to hip-hop cannot be underplayed. Lacing his songs with an indelible style, a C.E.O. swagger, and a cadence that is somehow always menacing yet playful and entertaining, Pusha is simply one of the most formidable lyricists of his generation. He's made a career of making punchy, attention-grabbing, music, and someone at Pusha's level could easily have a fuck you attitude and just play his solo work, but his set is the definition of a crowd pleaser: after running through his hits, he drops a Clipse track, a "Mercy" flip, and finally when you hear the opening notes of "Runaway", Pusha insists the one thing he won't do on the stage is sing, we fill in the blanks. After toasting to the douchebags, and to the assholes: "Twenty-four seven, three sixty-five, pussy stays on my mind".

As the beating heart of underground music was now underway in Brockwell Park this all-encompassing showcase of cutting-edge music, brought together by Rinse FM, continued amplifying sounds from the echo-soaked dubstep of Deep Medi Musik's founder Mala, the wobbly leftfield electronic of Giulia Tess, and the harsh but deep grime sound of special guest AJ Tracey (who brought out Aitch to perform their joint-hit "Rain").

But as sun gave way to stars and moon, the sweat of sex and dance rushed in and out of pores, while the unsettled trap step of Manni Dee b2b Manuke Honey, whose main sonic influences are the eternal sex and non-linear Aymaran time concepts, lets the people sprawl with yearning aimless eyes, lets their tongues be broken, lashing against auratic landscapes of prophecy, ecstasy and a new electric eschatology born from astrological studies, and lets them descend into the luscious pathetic of desire. The entire history of erotic magic is one of possession of fear through holding it. Water-treading in isolation confession becomes a way to transmute that into an infatuable offline utopia. Manuke's hefty, industrial Latine club rhythms grind against lithe tech-flecked basslines embedded into darting dembow-flushed shakers and kicks, where the clubbing's "sacred conjuring" buckles four-to-the-floor rhythms into honeyed litanies while any distinction between guaracha, dancehall and shatta blushes into hyper-dilated presence. Ending the night with quite possibly the best live DJ I've seen, mixing exclusively white label vinyl, everytime you see Djrum, it's span-new. His selections tran-s-cend genres and eras, from the deepest dub to the most frenetic jungle rhythms, an alchemy that creates an atmosphere that's palpable — the kind that makes sweat trickle down your temples and leaves you in awe, still feeling the echoes of the previous night. There are moments of melancholy in his sound, where you find yourself looking around at your companions, soaking in the atmosphere, immersed in the present.

☾ ☾ ♊︎ ☽ ☽

<![CDATA[Field Report: Wide Awake Festival 2024 ]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/field-report-wide-awake-festival-20246654b461aefee29e144dbcc6Thu, 30 May 2024 17:53:54 GMTThe Big ShipYoung Fathers. Eartheater. Hannah Diamond. Squid. Fat Dog. Byrne's Night. Ben UFO.

king gizzard and the lizard wizard wide awake south london music festival stage

PC Music, the pioneering label of which Hannah Diamond is a founding member, has always embodied the nightmarish realisation of promises made to a generation raised on the idea that “forever” was an option. This generation witnessed the advent of the internet and social media in our childhood homes and heard pop songs that echoed the euphoria of the 90s’ ecstasy boom. Yet, our own ecstasy boom never materialised, our musical epiphanies instead mediated through pre-roll ads on YouTube and weaponised by a culture that exists only abstractly.  Diamond’s music, more so than anyone on the PC Music roster, is pinned to the notion of “forever”, forging a yearning for the unattainable or intangible into bubblegum-flecked pop anthems. In the narrow confines of pop, duration becomes a conceptual space where the personal is continuously performed until the end; pop music demands an investment in each fleeting moment and is a big part of why Diamond and co.’s retro-futurist experiments are so culturally heretical.

Blurring the line between reality and performance, Diamond gave us a more grounded and less airbrushed set than what I'm used to, suiting Wide Awake Festival's distinct, but idiosyncratic identity. The super-shiny sound of this early, manic hyperpop wass layered with saturated, ultra-cute femininity and suddenly the world melted into a symphony of purple: sound vibrating in hues of violet, indigo, and lavender, appearing as glimpses of an unseen order (or conspiracy) as if the universe itself were whispering secrets through every breath, every beat, every amethyst burst, ripe and cute, searing a path back to the primordial lava lake from which we first emerged, where I find Eartheater, her voice suspended in air, following rhythm and inflection rather than logic, conceiving the expression of [ego-] death and resurrection, round and round, and mapping the New York post-club utopia comparison to whatever post-punk crust has been cut off over here in South London.

There was a time that Fat Dog, the virulent harum-scarum South London noise group, irresponsibly threw their feral sampled sounds around venues like Peckham Audio (with just the right amount of problematic attitude on stage to be a very interesting post-punk band), now post an ascent that has them playing large stages sounding more and more like the ska-scented tincture of Suggs and Madness. This was followed by Squid, the skittish, ambitiously palatable prog-punk-band, who unstitched a set woven from disparate threads, free-falling into abstract new structures (intros and outros, fuck the middle, which feels in its own way modern and revolutionary), with bouncy melodies that seem to spring from a fervent crease of defiant, breathless noise to exultation rolling just out of reach, like the condensation of catharsis — see-sawing between the mundane and life-changing, finding that cynicism has pop-corned into an anachronistic reverence that seems to exist in the same way I as a child consecrated my sea monkeys and cried when they died, arguing with my father that they did indeed have a soul (just add water!) — to distinguish what parts of the set most resembled any tracks from their first two albums, you would have needed to excavate it from within the overwhelm. Granted, this was when my mescaline really kicked in.

The best way I can describe mescaline is that it feels like you're constantly looking at two strangers making out for just a little bit too long. It's intrusive, compulsive, unrepentant, and as I watched the world dancing (eyes closed with tongues licking at crumbly air searching for soft throats) through my dark shades, I felt the rupturous helix of music as Ben UFO seemed to pull sound from within me and reshape it before feeding it back to us. How can you not move when the sound being played is your own jagged, thrumming palpitations? When your blood is pumping at the same BPM as the sound-system and you're sweating at even faster R(ivulets)PM, how can you not sway and swoon and shake and shiver--

"Are we sure they know what they're doing?" my friend asked me. No, I'm not. I could give him no reassurance, as Young Fathers, made up of Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and G. Hastings, shred through the epitome of hard, new wave, industrial, concrete Glasgow electronic sound blended, at their will, with soul, hip-hop, rock, noise, pop, and rap and referencing the sounds of Ethiopia and Ghana. It was ten things all at once, all of the time — yet always stopped short of becoming too brittle to break. Like much of what I saw at Wide Awake, it always felt only moments away from completely falling apart. It's hard to describe a group which are doing so much simultaneously, self-generating an identity and purposefully remaining enigmatic in doing so. Language is a lie, but it is important, and it is my job, so I must try to translate it with what semblance of synapses are still firing. Their sound and their performance are ferocious, and suspenseful (think of an elastic band always threatening to snap back at you) spinning a Catherine Wheel of concentric music (I could count the heavens, there were seven), spun by a propulsive energy that dared to offend, to spill over, to become too much.

Scottland's other great act, David Byrne, ascribed as “Scotland’s second greatest poet”, was plastered in full technicolour by the greatest cover band in the world. Founded by Dancing Barefoot's Maddy O’Keefe and Lola Stephen, this special edition of Byrne's Night, hosted by Ash Kenzai (true to name, huffing a bottle of Rush on stage), opened with a thundering bagpipe solo and Scottish poem and featured an endlessly rotating set of musicians — a sugary selection of instrumentalists from bands such as Black Country, New Road and Squid, syrupy, wyrd-folk quartet The New Eves, and London's absurdist post-punk jesters Human Resources, as well as guest singers such as sexy noise-renaissance frontman Cole Haden of Model/Actriz who performed while both voguing and smoking, club provocateurs Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul grinding on the standing lamp, and the unabated thrash of Alli Logout from Special Interest, among others — who squirmed about in oversized suits ejecting all of the monotonic manic drama and panting heat-stroked gestures that David Byrne himself feverishly seared into our collective memories in Stop Making Sense.

Talking Head’s music has always been described as “timeless”, sonically situated in the future-already-here and the past-still-around, both somehow still progressive even while drenched in nostalgia’s diaphora (as a case in point, David Byrne's "Heaven" envisions a world where you can endlessly smoke eternal cigarettes, kiss infinitely, and listen to your favourite music on repeat). Even scratching at the funky, addictive, paranoid rhythms of Byrne and Talking Heads is bound to wind up being as narcotised and euphoric as a night of live music can be, and one that, keeping on theme, counteracts an audience increasingly obsessed with the false promise of forever. 

<![CDATA[Yasunari Kawabata: I'm Never Going to Snow Country!]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/yasunari-kawabata-snow-country663bf337a7b53d91d0908cc5Thu, 14 Mar 2024 16:32:13 GMTAlana CleggThe sparse and shadowy work of author Yasunari Kawabata becomes clear through a modern tea ceremony.

Yasunari Kawabata Timeline

11 June 1899, Kawabata is born.

1935-1937, Snow Country serialized.

1949-1951, Thousand Cranes serialized.

16 October 1968, Kawabata becomes the first Japanese person to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

1972, Kawabata dies. Cause contested, though it is assumed self-poisoning with noxious gas.

Thousand Cranes

Thousand Cranes: when the single tit so hairy we all have to have the most elaborate tea ceremony over it. As one should. Unimportant side note: if you’re going to advertise there being a thousand cranes you better fucking deliver. This book did not, it was just a scarf with a lot but who knows if really a thousand cranes printed on, not a single real-life crane. I want my money back, even though I only loaned the book from the library for free.

I keep on laughing to my own thoughts! Surely a true sign of madness? No one can be this funny all the time. The old man with the large beard always replies, “Gosh, you’re a worry!” whenever I go to speak to him. Have I gone too feral? Is there any coming back from this? I hope not. I like it here; I rather like where I’m at. The things I see inside my head mean I should make other plans instead. Our tea ceremonies are more à la The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzō, striving for life to become a harmonious art form and failing at a rate deemed miserable and inharmonious. But we drinking VB (Victorian Bitter to you untrained unpetticoated uncouths), and we take this shit very seriously, ceremoniously even.

It’s because where I’m at I can fully encapsulate within my mind whole of the unsweetened dramas of whatever the fuck is going on in Thousand Cranes. Like yooooooo guys you need to settle down!!!! Nothing is that serious. But you know what is serious? Your father’s mistress having one hairy boob. I knew a guy who had one of those hairy birth marks. It was on his leg. He was Vietnamese and I love him very much, like a brother, to this day… so I can understand all the fuss being made over the hairy birthmark. Me n Anh used to live together while studying at university, our rooms across from oneanothers, go to Sunnybank too often or eat KFC while watching Anthony Bourdain chow down on something only a lil bit better (that’s how much we love our fried chicken). That’s a modern-day tea ceremony. Anh never replied to my texts when I got back to Australia, and I’m not sure why. That’s my breaking of the bowl. Lips stained and sealed, no Nobel prize floating on the precipice of a hairy birthmark. Thinking about matcha lattes and suicides covered up are my next preoccupations: my family will tell them I’m on a permanent vacation to the Australian outback. Everyone in Thousand Cranes is in a restrained prosaic haiku trying to pretend that they aren’t horny in strange ways and that that doesn’t make them want to kill themselves till their family feels they have to lie about you, and I felt that ☹.

Snow Country

If I’m being honest with myself, I haven’t been being honest with myself. Emptying out slowly in gradients of greys till my insides are pure transparent nothings, nothing feels, nothing searches, eyes dim, sleep is a release. When awake I dream longingly for the unconscious, not death. I will never dream of death again, not even in the fires that ignite melancholies to madnesses. I used to dream of death, but now I dream of much much more. Constellations swirl and scream and I’m opening up to their happenings lock jaw. Nature can’t help but mirror shifting, squirming insides, with both yours and mine at cross-purposes, we saturate the changing landscapes in feeling’s shifting terrains. How else can what begins inside come to be known by the outwardly propelled senses? Inaccurate bodily radars and beacons are collecting and sifting through dead leaves and pet silkworms, frostbitten, silent in the stark snow, or staring at the moon hoping to miss its pale creators to catch a glimpse of ourselves reflected back instead. If the moths desiccate and turn to dust; if unripe fruit knows it will be wasted and so bruises before its time; if sake cups fill and tipple over and over again left hollow and empty; what is the analogous feeling? Sensing the leaves change and dissipate under snow, I write here about a ballet I’ve never seen much less danced. An easier way out for the selves that I do not want to know, and do not want to feel, and will never dance out. To find beauty in sadness is that very sadness’s comforting elegy, and all mournings come to an end don’t they? Kawabata eat your heart out! Gas yourself in the study for all I care! I’m never going to snow country ever again!

<![CDATA[The Exhibition Match: Rivalry for Unity]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/the-exhibition-match-rivalry-for-unity663bf337a7b53d91d0908cc2Wed, 21 Feb 2024 11:02:40 GMTMisha KrynauwThe game itself hasn’t had much traction to my attention, but every now and then an aspect of it will reach me through a fashion collaboration or an artwork, and I’ll remember that I share this life with 3.5 billion fans of the most watched sport in the world.

To be clear, the last time I ‘played’ football, I had a Siemens A52 and I wouldn’t say that there was anything concrete about the rules for kids in primary school,  passing the time at aftercare. Way more my speed, obviously, but, it turns out that I would do almost anything to get my hands on something designed by Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi. Including taking a soccer ball to the stomach, as my luck (or, the winning team) would have it.


The 16th FNB Art Joburg gave the co-founders of the Exhibition Match, Phokeng Setai and Alexander Richards, their second opportunity in 2023 to expand on their ‘experimental, artistic project and social intervention’. When Alex had sent over an idea of what the Nkosi kit would look like, I couldn’t even resist asking if all the teams had filled up. “You wanna play?” Obviously, no, I did not want to be seen running after a ball that I didn’t know how to kick, but I could also get my birthday number on my jersey, so … fast-forward to me watching warily as a few of the players started warming up inside of what could also be considered a caged stage, but is, in fact, a small field, grumbling about their hangovers and who might be in the crowd that day. A trickle of apprehension threatened to fill me with regret as the feeling of being well beyond my comfort zone reminded me that I’m in fact corporeal, visible, and ready to be judged for something I’ve never done before. I take in the sight of my teammates Penina Chalumbira, Joseph Gaylard, Nolan Oswald Dennis, Chris Soal and Mikhael Subotzky and will my nerves away. Penina had won before, and only Joseph and I were green, so the odds weren’t exactly low.

“Okay team,” Mikhael Subotzky rallied us together after we watched Nolan Oswald Dennis take another hit to the face, fed up with being goalkeeper against James Sey and Maps and the rest of FC Portrait who were playing like real money was on the line, saying something like, “let’s just do our best and keep it clean.” I heard someone mutter something about WWE, but I didn’t think it was wise to waste my breath on anything other than following my team’s instructions, whom, in the long run, could actually turn me into something of an actual player, I’m sure. I give thanks to the kilometres I’ve run.


There’s the familiar feeling of being watched, multiplied by the culture of spectatorship that has its own presence in the game. The theatrics are essential. The commentary is seamless, and the energy is easy to rise up and react to. Coupled with the adrenaline, the dynamics of performance and physicality fall into place, but I still didn’t have any idea about what the actual rules of the game are other than don’t use your hands and fucking run.


So, we Relational Athleticslost to FC Portrait, but beat Super Easels, finishing third overall. I remember Super Easels scoring an own goal and Setai still having something to say about my admittedly shocking (lack of) technique. So, it was gratifying when we won that match, I will admit. While Setai, Subotzy and Richards referee the surrounding games, I get to enjoy being in the crowd for a while and the thrill doesn’t abate from the other side. There’s music, film cameras, and everyone from the founder of the Fair to Thenjiwe herself. Off-pitch there are choruses of well-dones, and great-job-babes. Everyone’s convinced I’ve fallen ill because my voice is a couple of notches lower than usual since the spectacularly dry air had made a show of wringing me out. I enjoy the show of the social climate amongst the arts professionals (and their overarching, designated institutions) that the project gathered to congregate around friendly competition.


I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many of us together in the daytime outside of the white cube. I’d made more eye contact that afternoon than the last few show openings I’d attended in Cape Town combined. There is great value in play, and the injection of soccer into what can be a templated, or prescribed experience feels challenging and necessary now that I’m gauging an idea of a new variation of our usual experience. I see a window opening somewhere to something more comfortable, more communal than platitudes and passive conversation, and that alone is a breath of life.

“What I’ve learnt is that we have so much more to do,” Phokeng Setai reflects. “The project is much larger than we think it is. What comes to mind is that there is a necessity for projects that show a different facet to our art world. Which is a bubble. But [also], a really important social and cultural space, because it caters for people like ourselves. Like your artists, your curators, your creatives, your thinkers. Not many spaces out there accommodate people like us. Especially with the world turning more and more corporate. There is a need for spaces where the soft matter is respected, and appreciated by soft matter I mean aesthetics, I mean sensibilities, I mean play, notions such as play which are not just notional, but they are also practical, they are healing and therapeutic where there’s a sense of community.”


It seems obvious, in listening to him, that the issues I’d felt isolated by within our industry were also isolating him, and others. This softness, truly, was the last thing I expected to find in the middle of a conversation about football. It is clarifying. This is the beauty of play, with its freedom to stitch notions, people and concepts together for the sake of the possibility of doing so. What becomes juxtaposed in proximity, or harmonious, or clear in its function against the fold of another? What becomes precious and worth emphasising? What springs up, new and daring? What do we discover, what do we learn? How quickly can we adapt? Through doing so, can we win? And what does that mean outside of what we already know?


“[We’re] bringing people together in an industry which creates and feeds on these modes of exclusion to produce access elsewhere. Access which materialises or manifests financially, usually, to the exclusion of others. So, it’s creating communities in ways that see the individual beyond what they’re able to produce aesthetically, which then becomes a commodity. I think that there’s huge potential in what The Exhibition Match could contribute to that conversation alone … and play is important, to be seen playing is important,” Setai adds.

The Exhibition Match booth at the 16th FNB Art Joburg became the grounds for a revival of Kendell Geers’ 2002 presentation, “Masked Ball”, inviting visitors to play inside a space ‘more suitably’ designed for collector’s appraisal or well-lit selfies for proof-of-attendance. “I prefer to activate the exhibition space, to make it fun and dangerous, a place to contest rather than a place to consume. I wanted people to kick [the] balls and laugh or scream, to run about and do something that feels more like being alive than the living dead gentry of art for art’s ache … There is a football inside each of the latex masks and the viewer gets to kick the presidents in the face. It’s a very liberating experience being able to kick a politician in the face like an ancient Mayan ritual,” Geers said in an interview with the co-founders.

“The idea of the match was very much in the spirit of Nicolas Bourriaud’s theory of ‘Relational Aesthetics’,” Kendall Geers replied, when asked by the curators if some of the 1995 match’s participating artists had been involved in similar, performance-based projects before, “[Our game] was laughed at and not taken seriously as a work of art. I was known at the time as the ‘enfant terrible’ of art and everything I made was mocked and ridiculed.” Geers added that “the [preemptive] conversation [with the eventual players] evolved around football and art, about foreigners and locals, about the Biennale and the name badges that said they were all South African. Suddenly we all loved the idea of organising a football match!”

“I want to go back to that notion of play and community,” Setai says, “I want to emphasise that I’m not saying community is something we should take lightly because when you put community and play next to each other, you could think that, yey, community is a playful thing. But, when we bring these things to each other and think about what they mean when we work in a world where play is so important play and process in the production of the things that make our work relevant. It makes me think about how community, as the thing that is the object of The Exhibition Match, is important. Especially how we create this community, and I think that play is a modality that is key for us, in the kind of community we will create. So, I think [that] there’s a necessity for more community, which lies outside of just the art world, and the people in the art world. I think we can broaden the scope of this project to include people who are just interested in art, in culture and just create a space for everyone.”

“Initially we didn’t set out to build a community,” Alex adds. “[Our community] grew from being a byproduct of having fun and exploring the two things that we both love. What this project has taught me is that great things can develop outside of your areas of focus. I think we’re constantly learning. Every iteration seems easier, but at the same time, we push [our] limits, trying to be non-repetitive or novel. My favourite thing is how each iteration varies, and [how] the results [of] each form of evidence or takeaway is different from the previous one. Whether it’s a video, a written article, or a personal experience that is relayed to us.”


In reaction to an environment that is oftentimes intensely competitive and limiting, the project quickly turned into a vessel for more than a point of convergence between sport and visual artpurposefully and playfully amorphous, is the perfect holding space for the new perspectives of a community of people building their own culture despite. Perhaps the idea of learning from my competition was a little more obvious than an epiphany, but it’s a metaphor for past experiences of mine that rings true, too. I’ve never been interested in competing with my industry colleagues, (being far more invested in what they could teach me, or, what we could achieve together) until now.

Curated by Alexander Richards and Phokeng Setai, 2023’s Exhibition Match for arts workers took place at Discovery Soccer Park in Sandton. A special shout-out to my teammates for making third place feel like first: Penina Chalumbira, Joseph Gaylard, Nolan Oswald Dennis, Chris Soal, and Mikhael Subotzky.

<![CDATA[Marina Abramovic: A Ritual in Six Steps]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/marina-abramovic-ritual-in-six-steps663bf336a7b53d91d0908c6bTue, 06 Feb 2024 16:01:27 GMTLuisa De la Concha MontesHAVE YOU NOTICED THAT EXPERIENCES TASTE BETTER WHEN THEY ARE TOLD BY A BODY THAT IS NOT YOURS?

Marina Abramovic

My first experience of cinema was verbal. My grandparents used to go to the cinema every Monday and on Tuesday mornings, while driving me to school, my grandma would describe the movie she had seen the night before in extreme detail. Most of the time, these were movies that I could not see myself, as I was only ten years old, but by seeing these films through my grandmother’s eyes, I could still enjoy their beauty, whilst being protected from their rawness.

It was a ritual that I still carry with me, a ritual I invoke every time I ask someone to tell me what they saw, and how it made them feel. It is a ritual I hope to invoke in this text.


You walk into the first room. The walls to your left and right are full of screens. The screens on the right show the faces of many individuals, with varying expressions. The screens on the left show the face of Marina Abramović multiple times. This is a documentation of The Artist is Present (New York, 2010), a performance piece that invited people to make eye contact with Marina for as long as they wanted. Over 1,500 people took part.

Your eyes move back and forth between Marina and them. You try to connect with each expression, but the only face you manage to hold in your memory is the one of the man sweating profusely. You see a couple of children and wonder whether their parents forced them to take part. Your eyes become a third individual in this interaction; you are forcing yourself upon them without them knowing. You are breaking the intimacy between Marina and them.

You suddenly remember that YouTube video you once watched called How to Make Eye Contact. The video, which was ten minutes long, depicted a woman, looking straight at the camera (at you). Her gaze held you hostage against the screen. You did not watch the whole thing through; her friendliness spooked you. This level of intimacy does not work if the person is not in the room.


“I have been having lots of intrusive thoughts lately. When I was abroad, these thoughts stopped, but when I came back to London, they returned. I love my friends frantically, but I cannot hold a knife in front of them without imagining that I stab them. Should I get help?”

Rhythm 0 (1974) Marina Abramovic

I came across this on a Reddit forum at 2AM. I imagined a third person in the room, looking at my expression while I read. The third person in the room thinks that there is a sort of lonesome beauty in my gaze, but they are not sure if it’s true or imagined, they are not sure if the lonesome beauty is always there when one reads a Reddit forum at 2AM alone in a big city.

It is ironic really, how Rhythm 0 was performed in 1974. Marina stood in a room with a table. The table had 72 objects in it, including knives, a gun with bullets, candles, toilet paper, flowers, a whip, chains, and more. The instructions were simple: I am the object. During this period, I take full responsibility. You don’t need me to tell you what happened in 1974. You already know.

I want to make sense of the cruelty enacted in Marina’s body, but I cannot do so by looking at a table full of objects. Instead, I ask her to help me resuscitate Edward Hopper. We take a red-eye flight to New York on a whim and we build a pyre in Oak Hill Cemetery. Once Edward awakens, Marina hands him an easel and oil paint. She asks him to draw Morning Sun again, but she says, “Do a night version of it, with the woman’s phone illuminating her face, instead of the sun.” Marina does not need to tell Edward what the woman is reading on her phone. He already knows.


You walk into the third room, which is red, and visceral. There is a pile of bones to the right, belonging to Balkan Baroque (1997). In the original performance piece, Marina washed each bone by hand, while singing folk songs from her childhood, directly responding to the horrors of the Bosnian War. Years later, she said: “After a few days, worms started coming out of the bones. And the smell was unbearable.”

The documentation of the horror is there, but the horror is not. There is no smell and the floors are polished. To put it bluntly: While you walk around the exhibition space, two wars are happening outside these walls. However, no one here is washing those bones.


The same room is home to a photograph of Lips of Thomas (1975), which depicts the pentagram Marina carved into her stomach. As you look at the photograph, you imagine the scar that currently exists on Marina’s skin. Sensually, you imagine what it would feel like to touch it lightly with your fingertips.

To injure the body to make a statement is not a novel concept. In the 14th century, Catherine of Siena practised rigorous fasting. At the end of her life, the only thing she ate was the Eucharist. The commonality between Marina and Catherine is the use of their female bodies as tools. They both ask: Can freedom be attained if one chooses the conditions in which pain is inflicted? A third question floats around the room: If one is able to choose between inflicting pain and living painlessly, what drove them to choose the latter?

This question haunts you, following you to the next room. Sometimes she looks like Catherine of Siena, other times she takes the shape of Marina. The question dissipates when a fourth figure enters the room: Ulay.

He shared a birthday with Marina. Like many love stories, theirs included sex, saliva and pain. Unlike many love stories, these moments of intimacy were often enacted in front of an audience. As you walk around the exhibition space, you overhear a five-year-old child asking her mother why Ulay is slapping Marina and why Marina is slapping Ulay. With no hesitation, the mother responds: “They are just playing a silly game”, and you laugh because, after years of asking many grown-ups what love is, you finally got an answer in the most unlikely place.


Marina’s work feels different when Ulay enters the picture. You want to be happy for her, but you also selfishly preferred her work when she was alone. In a strange way, even though she still enacts violence with Ulay, the stakes do not feel as high as they did when she was on her own. She is still fainting and drawing blood, but now there is someone to wake her up and check her pulse. Perhaps that in itself is the message, but you still yearn for the risks taken in her earlier work.

Imponderabilia (1977) Marina Abramovic and Ulay

When Imponderabilia was first performed in 1977, visitors to the exhibition had no option but to walk between Marina and Ulay naked bodies. Because of this, it was shut down by the police after a few hours. What does discomfort look like in 2023? As you walk between the two slim bodies, you feel warm and cared for. The woman next to you says: “It was beautiful, wasn’t it?” You agree, but you are unsure if beauty is what you were looking for.

As the exhibition progresses, your disconnectedness with the work grows. These pieces are not as visceral as her early work, or as intimate as her work with Ulay. Instead, they are subdued, involving the viewer more directly. One room has many furniture-like sculptures made of crystals and minerals in which you are allowed to sit or stand against.

You try on the Shoes for Departure (1991), which are heavy and made of crystal. The instructions read: Take off your shoes, put on the two crystal shoes, close your eyes, and make your departure. You do what the label tells you to do but you struggle. There are people behind you, waiting to also try the shoes on. You feel their eyes on your back. You wonder if this is what Marina felt. The eyes on her back, piercing the work. You leave the Royal Academy and you run to catch the bus, realising a bit too late that you left your body behind.


“The work of mourning is never complete, never clear, never solid.”

For the next few weeks, Marina haunts my dreams. I kneel in an empty room, wearing nothing but ashes. There are candles around me, forming a circle. Using a long stick, I slowly turn them on, one by one. Religious chants play in the background and Marina watches from a corner. In the dream, this performance changes the world.

Some nights I dream of Ulay, other nights, Edward’s ghost waits by my bed, drinking a cup of tea and asking me what he should paint next. Catherine appears one night and gives me a box of antidepressants, saying it tastes better than the Eucharist. They are all trying to help because they know I cannot bring myself to let go of Marina.

In the real world, I am on the bus to work, writing stories on my phone. In the real world, this is what I have to do to find redemption. Eventually, I succeed: I am a ten-year-old child again, sitting in the backseat of my grandmother’s car, seeing films through her eyes.

Balkan Baroque (1997) Marina Abramovic

<![CDATA[Negating the Canvas: A Conversation with Mark Leckey]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/negating-the-canvas-a-conversation-with-mark-leckey663bf336a7b53d91d0908c92Tue, 23 Jan 2024 16:36:33 GMTBryson Edward Howe"It's like you deny the existence of God in order to affirm God, right? And that's kind of what I practice. I deny the existence of art in order to make art."

Mark Leckey. Photo: Jeremy Liebman

My first encounter with Mark's work was his 2019 Tate Britain exhibition, O' Magic Power of Bleakness, where a full-scale replica of a section of the M53, a motorway flyover close to his childhood home was installed in the bowels of Tate's stone fortress, standing on the former site of Millbank prison, in which Leckey unleashed a shadow-play of memory, technology, and nightmare around the space – always traversing a coil of sonic landscapes and virtual realms – I sat wide-eyed and let this pixelated Plato's cave nestle itself into my vibrating organs.

For me, nostalgia has always been quite abstract. I was born in 1999, and so I've often been afflicted by nostalgia for times and places I've not been. The same year I was born, Mark released his pioneering work, Fiorucci made me Hardcore, a digital palimpsest made up of images that would permeate every open crevice of subculture that came after it. Those images are remnants now ghosted into afterimages that feel like they belong to my childhood, my own coming of age – as much as to the people in the actual footage – and of an England I never knew, moving to the country when I was 14, where I was present in an eery Northern limbo, not there for its worst days, or its great.

My nostalgia had been hijacked, and my worldview derailed, the same way that our own memories are now pixelated and stored in a cloud, brains rewired so that dopamine is as necessary as air. Feeling all of this, I got the opportunity to sit down with Mark in the hopes of finding the end of the rabbit hole I was tumbling down; along the way, discussing art, the internet, and Adam Sandler's The Wedding Singer.


The Big Ship: There's a lot of talk around you and your work post-1999 about always looking forward and sort of tracking the effect it had on culture, but I first want to start with what happened before because so much of your work taps into some vibrations of nostalgia. I am wondering what it was that led you to start creating in the first place. I know first-hand that doesn't always feel very possible, growing up in the north of England, especially.

Mark Leckey: Every artist of my generation and, maybe a generation or two after, basically talks about how there were the affordances that were there to enable you to follow a kind of creative path. I left school when I was fifteen, I left really young... I was just lost. There was no opportunities for me where I was from. I grew up in Ellesmere Port, so I wasn't in Liverpool where maybe I'd have found my feet more in some kind of alternative culture, but I was just a scally from the burbs. It was hard to imagine some kind of horizon beyond that. I mean, I could through music. I was into music, and I knew that it was a kind of crucible of interest in music. And that's why I wanted to go really more than anything else. I tried to have a band and that, but that never got off the ground. So I thought I'd go to art school and I'd meet people who I could be in a band with.

And that was in Newcastle?

That's in Newcastle, so that's 1987, I think I go- '86 or '87.

And that was when you decided that you would be an artist, or try and be an artist beyond that?

Even when I went to art school, I was still very suspicious about art school and in fact, suspicious about university life altogether. Being a little scall, one of your favourite occupations was baiting students, you know what I mean? I hated students. And then suddenly there, I was in the midst of them, so I was very suspicious in my first year and I thought which is a classic fallacy to go in and think that you're going to make political art. I wanted to be a muralist in the style of Diego Rivera. I was looking at artists at that time, like Peter Housen, very kind of muscular [art], I guess in some way kind of coming out of sort of union politics. I was trying to think of making monumental figuration like that, or doing caricatures in the same vein. I remember that what got me into Newcastle was I did a grotesque sort of Otto Dix caricature of the Orange March, the Orange Men.

That's the kind of thing I was making. And I got to art school and realised I could isolate myself and carry on making that work, but if I wanted to be part of the wider curriculum, I'd have to change my ways, which I did. And just opened myself up basically. And stopped hating students, and became a student. I went over to the other side. It did feel very like that. Which has since come back to slightly haunt me because I think you have to go through this process of giving things up in order to become this 'other', to become something else that's more comfortable in that environment. Because otherwise, you're just walking around with a huge chip and a sneer on your shoulder. Well, I was at least. Other students from my background are much more balanced. But for me, it was always one or the other. I couldn't be both.

Yeah, I think I get what you mean. I'm from Newcastle and then made the jump to going to art school down here in London and I definitely felt that sometimes there is quite a disconnect there.

Yeah, I think it's very common. There was much more people from working-class backgrounds doing art when I went there. But not that many, so you did feel slightly cut off from everyone else. Everyone else seemed much more comfortable with it. If they come from a background where they knew about art, they knew about literature, they didn't have to make any real transition in that sense, or it didn't seem that they did. But for me, I didn't have books at home. It's like suddenly you're plunged into this entirely different worldview, you know?

I was going to ask if you had like a cultural childhood, because it feels like you're filtering a lot of your big ideas in your work through your childhood, and I'm curious as to why you're constantly pulled back to that part of your life.

I think mostly because of what I'm saying, really. I think it's a sort of unresolved or a slightly unresolved conflict within myself. No, I don't like that phrase. Unresolved parts of myself, I guess. It becomes a resistance to a sort of discourse that I found in art that felt very remote and distant, so this led to a sort of return to something that I knew I'd experienced as a way of disengaging with that. I didn't want to make work and, to be honest, I couldn't make work that required any kind of distance or analysis or critical rigour. I could only make work out of some kind of spoiled romanticism. I don't know why I used that word. Like marred, not a true romanticism, but one that's gone to kind of waste.

I've heard you talk about nostalgia like it's almost some kind of demon, something to be exorcised. I don't know if you still feel that way or if it's something you're trying to purge or recapture because it teeters sometimes on anxiety-like.

I'm kind of out of my nostalgic phase. I mean, I still carry it. I was reading something about nostalgia the other day, and they were talking about the mark of nostalgia is disappearance. And so going back to your first question, when I left school, all the kind of structure, which was basically the industry of that area had gone. Really rapidly. So, you come of age with this sense of things just recently disappeared and it induces this very nostalgic culture. At the age of sixteen, I understood nostalgia, because it was all around me, because the great days had gone. Or, not even necessarily the great days, but just the possibilities had gone, and any kind of chance of making a life for yourself are pretty much gone as well. It was very depressed. And melancholic. So it was in me, nostalgia. It was inculcated in me from then. And then, when I made Fiorucci [made me Hardcore], I thought, well that's where that's coming from. It's just coming from a kind of Merseyside nostalgia. But then I started to realise, or started to believe that the nostalgia is kind of algorithmic, and is what has been algorithmically produced. It becomes kind of engineered. Because it's useful, profit, it's useful to think of the future. It's a kind of barrier to thinking optimistically about the future. It's like Trump weaponised nostalgia, right? Brexit, even closer to home is basically like the politics of nostalgia, it's like you can't not be nostalgic now. It's been systematised, especially in the UK, because that disappearance that I was talking about also then applies to the rest of the country. That we're no longer what we once were, which is a common refrain. That kind of nostalgia is now sort of baked in. Oh, I hate that phrase. I can't believe I used that phrase. [laughs]. So, when I'm making work about nostalgia, it's not that I'm making work because I feel nostalgic. That's the structure of feelings that I feel embedded in. It's not my fault. [laughs].

I'm not trying to accuse anyone of anything.

No, but I do get accused of nostalgia. There's a friend of mine who does accuse me of having a very kind of white nostalgia. That nostalgia is in itself a kind of whiteness, right? Which I understand completely. So, you're not the first to bring it up. It’s definitely there in the work. I think if I just made work in a kind of expressive way, that would probably be the ground of what I'd make. I slip into it very easily, partly because of everything I've said, but also I think it's very easy to make nostalgic work. There's lots of devices you can use that nostalgia works very well. It's very manipulative.

It's very seductive.

That's the word I was looking for. Thank you. Exactly.

Okay, so talking a little bit more about recent work, Carry Me into The Wilderness

Yeah, that's not nostalgic.

No, but sees enlightenment, to me, quite overwhelmingly and almost destructively.


So are you generally drawn more to the dark or the light, especially, as you said, moving into a new phase of your work?

I would say I'm probably more drawn to the light, but I am full of anxiety. I have friends who I would definitely describe as drawn to the dark, and I feel I can differentiate myself from them. I found later in life, there's a kind of for want of a better word  a sort of spiritualism that I'm seeking. And that work is very much about that. The initial recording is me having this moment where I feel the spirit or the divine. I'm hesitant around these words, but let's call it a divine spirit, a sort of imminence, an imminent spirit gorblimey where everything becomes just alive and everything becomes profound and it's like an ecstatic moment. I'm both there and not there. I'm taken out of myself, in that sense of being unconscious of yourself. Which is very different from my normal state where I'm overly conscious of what I say and what I do and what I think. So just to be taken out of yourself in that moment is wonderful. So, I tried to make a work about that. Just to see where it led me and I think as I was making the work, I tried to maintain that.

I think there's a real interesting mix of occult and magic, real ancient transcendental ideas, but also new technologies. And, I guess, that you're exploring that there's the potential for one to spring to the other?

I think the technology kind of brings that about. Carry Me is about being in your body, experiencing this state of grace in nature, even though it's in Alexandra Park in London in the city, I'm out in the greenery and the sun peeks through the trees and I feel, like I say, ecstatic and it pervades, it's coming both in my mind and pervades my whole body. Me as a being is feeling that, in a kind of material sense, but then it's when I try to make the work about it, you're trying to understand what this kind of spiritual dimension would be, the analogy becomes more about the sort of immaterial realm of online existence or inhabiting this online space, and that work is about moving back and forth between that.

I guess what I'm trying to get at is I'm trying to understand where I am, where my existence is. I guess there's a sense at that moment when we're transitioning into this other kind of immaterial realm in Carry Me into The Wilderness, it's both blissful and terrifying, which is how I feel kind of in both states. This ecstatic moment is also kind of terrifying. It's overwhelming because it's too great. And that seems transferable to me with how I feel online. That too is kind of overwhelming, too great, and full of potential, but also full of darkness and danger, and it’s destructive. I tried to make something where I'm not thinking. It wasn't like, 'Oh, this, this is the idea. This is what I'm going to make,' I'd just recorded myself at the moment of having this kind of experience and then I tried to make a kind of song from that. And then it was the music more that led me to the visuals.

And I'd been reading a lot about iconography at that time, and looking at icons. I love iconography, and I particularly like the historical moment where it transitions into representational painting, just before the Renaissance. So, Giotto, Fra Angelico, where it's still quite flat, but it's not Gothic, and it's not entirely Byzantine. And I was very taken by some of what I'd read, which said that when you look at these icons, you're not looking at a picture, you're not looking at an image. Because images at that time were still suspect. In the way that Islam still refuses images, the early Christian church believed that all images were graven images. So, any kind of realistic depiction is idolatry. And they kind of got around that by not being realistic, but also by saying that these icons weren't pictures in themselves, they weren't images, they were windows onto heaven. It's a direct channel to heaven, you're looking through. So, you're kind of peering into heaven through these frames. I was just really excited about that. Trying to make a work where you're not thinking about representation. You're not thinking about, in any real way, the meaning of what you're trying to do, but just trying to access something, access a kind of a state. That's what I was trying to do in that video.

Do you have any anticipations of how that's going to play out for future generations? There's a continuing blurring of the real and the digital and, I mean, you've used Snapchats in your videos, like In this lingering Twilight Sparkle. That's a Snapchat video from a guy running through a bus stop in Cardiff, which I remember being shared around years ago, and then seeing that remixed and transformed into this quite spiritual video, I wonder if Snapchat, or social media, is art?

That's all I do think about. There was some conversation the other day on Twitter, where it started off with someone talking about a film with Adam Sandler, The Wedding Singer. Do you remember the film?


And saying that The Wedding Singer is set in the 1980s, although it's made at the end of the '90s, right? And in The Wedding Singer, everyone's got like big '80s shoulder pads and big hair. It's almost a caricature of the eighties, but it's very recognisably the eighties. And they were basically saying, how would you make a film like that, in 2020, set in, with the equivalent distance of time, 2005? 2005 to 2023, the differences aren't that great. That was the point. This idea that culture is kind of slightly stagnated. It's a sort of Mark Fisher idea. That is, how Mark Fisher has been received anyway, I don't think it is his fault, but this kind of idea that nothing new has happened in the 21st century. And then someone wrote back and said, you know, yeah, but the differences between 2008 and now are enormous. As great as the Industrial Revolution in some sense. Just in terms of 2008 being the introduction of the iPhone and the difference in our reality, between then and now, because of that device is phenomenal. So, forget about The Wedding Singer and those differences.

But from there I started thinking there's a different sense of time that's developed. I remember, as we transitioned into the 21st century, thinking, oh, you know, what's going to happen next? What kind of musical form, what kind of art form, where's culture going to go? And then it didn't seem to respond in the same way that it had previously, back from the 50s to the 60s, to the 70s, 80s, 90s. But then I've realised, we're in a different century. Time moves differently now. I think that kind of idea of progression through decades was very particular to the end of the 20th century anyway. I think it was some kind of weird psychic countdown or something. And since then, with the internet, things aren't just moving forward. They're moving sideways or horizontally as well. It's like everything's sort of distributed, which again, lends itself to nostalgia. Because things from the past are there in the same sense that things from now. Everything's available in that way. So, time moves differently. I like this idea. I haven't come up with this, I don't know where I got this from, but that time has been converted into space. So, it's more, spatial now than it's some kind of telos, some kind of linear progression. So that puts us in a very different space. Me, still as an artist, I'm trying to make something that feels new. Is that the right response anymore? Is that what's needed? Is that what's demanded? I don't know.

Whenever I have strong feelings, or strong desires, about anything, I've learned to become much more suspicious of them. And this kind of spiritualism I'm talking about, one of my suspicions of that is that, is a kind of spirituality an effect of being online? Does it bring about an idea of thinking in this kind of immaterial way? One of the reasons to make Carry Me, as well, is that I feel that works from the Middle Ages seem, in some ways more useful now than works from the 20th century, from the modern age. There's some kind of equivalence there. Or sympathy. They seem more sympathetic now. I was first taken by those images because they seem so strange and so almost non-human. They seem so unrelatable. But now I look at them and think, oh, yeah, that seems, that seems a way you could describe the world now. Looking at a 12th-century icon painting.

I wanted to ask about music specifically, and how you think your art and music work relate to each other or feed into your practice. You mentioned a band earlier. I'm a big fan of your NTS show. You know I've seen you DJ and your work with Hyperdub, so I'm wondering how those two feed into each other?

So, I made the bus stop piece, [In this lingering Twilight Sparkle.], at the end of the pandemic. And during the pandemic, all I was doing creatively was the NTS show. I really kind of lent into that. That was my only outlet. And at the same time, art just seemed really hopeless. It just felt hopeless in terms of its response or its inability to respond. And then just institutionally it felt hopeless. The more I thought about art, the more it just depressed me. So, I'd do the NTS show to kind of chase away the blues.

And then I got asked to make something for Art Night by Helen Nisbet. And I was like, I don't want to make art. It's not what I feel like doing at all at the moment. But I like making video. Can I just not think of it as art then? Can I just think of it as more like a music video, or music and video? And I'd already used soundtrack from that bus stop TikTok. I just put the video back to it and then just started playing with that. And it just gave me license to make something, because I wasn't thinking about what it particularly meant and how it would be received and where it was positioned. I guess I am because, in a lot of ways it's like I need some sort of dialectical tension. Like I talked earlier, about the kind of class conflict being at art school and by extension art that's been useful to me. It's like trying to resolve that produces a kind of energy. And the same with music and art. There's an irresolvable tension between the two, for me. There's things that music can do that art only ever fails to disappoint me on, just in terms of the amount of people that can reach, the diversity of people who make it, the kind of freedoms it has. One of the big things I always think about is that music can be both local, it could be grassroots, and it can be experimental and esoteric. It can do both of those at the same time. Which art really flounders on. You can only have local or experimental art. The two kind of cancel each other out. They certainly can't share a space, but music can. Things that seem exclusively in the art world can sit side by side with each other or even be contained within the same person in music.

I've been obsessed with this guy called Axxturel, that I've played on NTS before. It's mind-boggling just in terms of its experimentation, sonics and meaning. That's some 20-year-old kid, he's part of the local hip hop scene but he's able to do that through music in a way that is as experimental and as difficult as anything you'd hear by paying attention to The Wire's top 10 LPs, you know, right? That's not to snub The Wire. But if you apply that to the art world, that's very, very, very rare, if at all, to find that. I love music. I've always loved music. I first came to culture through music, and I'm kind of self-taught through music. I'm reading this book [No Machos Or Pop Stars by Gavin Butt] at the moment, which is about the period of art schools in the seventies and eighties, and it focuses on Leeds University. It allows you to understand that art students at that period are learning about art history, they're learning about contemporary art history, so they're learning about Dada, Duchamp, Viennese Actionists, extreme transgressive performance, and all the rest of it. And they are then channelling that back into music. And that's when I received it. So, they'd be a generation before me, but I'd be going into a record shop when I was 14, or 15 and picking up record sleeves that have been influenced by that history. And then, in turn, that's how I learned about it. I learned about Viennese Actionists in a roundabout way through Throbbing Gristle. So, music basically schooled me.

And then, getting back to this kind of class antagonism. I came to music because music was everywhere when I was growing up. You start going to discos when you're 11 and I'd heard Kraftwerk when I was like 13 in a disco, right? You are experiencing that at a very young age. And it was part of the culture, along with the humour. And then, like I say, you come to art school, and you have to renegotiate that or dismiss a lot of it or, or kind of become forgetful about it. So, one of the ways of kind of returning it is through music. I just feel more comfortable with music. When I first came to it, art excited me. I was very excited about art for a long time. And I dove deep into it. I read as much as I could and tried to understand as much as I could about the field of art and it just got to a point where I was like, I'm not sure if I actually did. It's like when I first entered into it, and I was quite doubtful and suspicious, and then I found myself in this loop where at the end I'd return to pretty much the same doubts and suspicions I had when I was in my twenties, you know what I mean? I think art says a lot, but it doesn't do. That's the other thing that always slightly irritates me, is that art still carries this idea that it's in advance of the rest of culture and it's like, no, it's not. I don't feel like that at all. Music is in advance of the rest of culture, but I don't feel like that with art at all. I got a bit disgruntled with it, but every time I get to the point where I get too disgruntled, I'll see something that reminds me why I do like it. There'll be a good show or something.

Are you still seeing a lot of art then?

I don't see a lot. I have gone off it quite a lot. It's weird, to be honest, I go out and see shows and they look very much like what people were doing when I went to art school. It's like art's caught up now in this kind of retro-mania. I remember that from 30 years ago. I remember people doing exactly the same. Especially with painting, I find it really retrogressive. I had a great appetite for it at one stage. I'd go and see anything, but now I don't. Maybe that's just getting older.

I was thinking this the other day, talking about this book set in Leeds University, at that time difficult art was always talked of as being challenging, right? And that's what you set out to do. That's what a lot of artists set out to do was to challenge, challenge the establishment, challenge notions of art. And now I find it's like art's challenging itself. That's the challenge. I mean, in some ways. No, that doesn't make sense, because art has always challenged itself.

You mean in a way that's become really insular, that it's not really talking about anything outside of its own existence?

I just think it's very difficult. I think the politics of it are necessary and correct, but it's not actually that conducive to making work. I think the political arguments within it have to go on beyond or outside making work. It's like you can't concurrently make the two. Although that for me was always the kind of tradition. You could make institutional critique, but now the idea of institutional critique just seems kind of impossible, in any real sense, because the politics are just there at the forefront, and get resolved more efficiently that way anyway. By demands and institutions being forced into political actions. By other means, not through arts questioning or critique. Maybe these two things are kind of like go hand in hand. Maybe this is like just a new form of art, but it feels like it's quite difficult to make art at the moment. Maybe for some people it's not, maybe it's just difficult for me to make art at the moment and I'm universalising it and I should stop. [laughs].

When I think a lot of your work from the '90s that was dealing with music, and especially electronic music, like Fiorucci, I find it really prophetic. It feels like it's like mined from internet archives before that ever existed. And so now watching that on YouTube, it's not institutionalised. It doesn't feel like I'm watching anything except an extension of just this music loop that I've got going on already on my laptop. And that has seeped into musicians working now. An immediate example is Slauson Malone. I've seen you perform and interact with Slauson, and I think Slauson Malone is one of the best artists, not musicians, working right now. But there's also a lineage.

You know, and Slauson also paints. But I think he can express himself more through music. This is one of the conversations I have with other people. Is art the best place to be creative now? Is it the best environment to make art: the art world? I don't know if it is anymore. Everything just feels very tight and fraught. And if I try and break them down, I think, well, yeah, all of those things are necessary. This is not an accusation in any way. I think changes need to happen. But also I'm talking economically  not just politically but about economics, and politics with a smaller p and a larger P.

What does that look like for you moving forward? Are you focusing more on music, making music, more art, more video?

I don't know. For example, I've got a gallery show next year. And I honestly don't know what to do in a gallery anymore. In some ways, it seems like a very inhospitable space to make art. It just seems quite cold now to me. Whatever warmth I thought a gallery once had, it's sort of evaporated. Now it just feels quite frigid. And so, what do I do then? How do I make art if that's how I feel about the spaces I'm meant to exhibit in? But like I say, if I didn't think like that, then that's when I know it'd be over. If I didn't care, you know? I need some kind of antagonism within myself, some kind of mistrust. That's always what's kind of allowed me to make work, like you talked before about Fiorucci and it not being institutional, that was because I went to art school, and then I left saying I'm not going to be an artist. I was like, I can't make art. I didn't make anything when I was there. I came out of it and I felt like I was incapable of being an artist, intellectually. Just not up to par, not up to scratch. So, I didn't make any work for 10 years. And then someone commissioned me to make Fiorucci, but they commissioned me in a very loose way to make something with video. And it went through all these different iterations to get there. It came about because I understood that the only way I could make anything is if I made it from my own experience, and not through thinking about making art. And that just gave me the freedom to do what I wanted. It didn't have to be critical in any way, it didn't have to be analytical. It was just like I could make something that was just much more emotionally responsive, or just trying to understand my own psyche as I processed all these images. It's always been useful for me to like, not make art, even though I make art. It's like some kind of, what do they call it? Apophatic theology? It's like you deny the existence of God in order to affirm God, right? And that's kind of what I practice. I deny the existence of art in order to make art. It seems the only way to do it.

If you just accept it, then art takes you. It's like people coming into college or into university, they don't really know what to do, and then it's like art within the institutions  is a virus and it's looking for these bodies to host it. They make art with a capital A. Do you know what I mean? They make gallery-ready art because that's what's in the atmosphere. You can easily make art like that without really having to think that hard about it because art will make itself once it finds a body. It's self-replicating. This is what's kind of funny to me about when people talk about AI stuff. They're going, yeah, but it's just going to scrape what's already out there, but it's like, that's what it does anyway. Most of the time it's just scraping away and you're just there to kind of pay the bills or whatever. And that includes me as well. I have to resist that.

It's hard to know if you mean that positively as if like the artist is the medium between something bigger or if it's like the artist is the host body for art, like a parasite?

It's more like a parasite. [laughs]. I just think it's quite parasitical. Because art's overwhelming. You go to art school, and it induces so much anxiety in everyone. And so, if you allow yourself to be the host, then you're in this kind of state, but at least you're making work, at least you're doing what you're supposed to be doing while you're on the course. So, you kind of welcome the parasite. It's like you allow it to do the work. It's obviously not all people, but I think most people go through something like that and then a lot of people find a way to resist it. But it's just something you have to watch out for.

How did you resist it?

I think it was easier for me to resist it because I was always suspicious of it. so that allowed me to be more resistant to it. I'd built up immunity. [laughs]. I always looked at it like a Scouse. And sometimes I think, oh, maybe too much, I was maybe too sceptical in some ways. I went to see the Lutz Bacher show at Raven Row, that was an incredible show that I couldn't make because of these kind of inherent suspicions. That's how I feel when I look at it. So, I couldn't allow myself to make that. But then my response to it is like, wow, that's, that's great. That's doing something that I just can't even get near achieving.

Which is what you hope for. That's the point, isn't it?

Yes, that is the point. But I don't know if maybe I've kind of blocked that in some way.

<![CDATA[Faces & Fear: The Best of the BFI London Film Festival 2023]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/faces-and-fear-bfi-lff-2023663bf334a7b53d91d0908c25Wed, 04 Oct 2023 21:33:16 GMTThe Big ShipRepression's shadow dances in the frame, while complicity unveils the hidden truths of empathy. Cinema's back, baby.

Apt for a city famous for its temples of stolen bounty, London Film Festival's programme has swam - sheepishly between genre inflection - from Scorsese's sincere mea culpa, to Red Rooms' atrocity exhibition, and onto Steve McQueen's enquiry of testimonial disconnect, a spectatorial complicity that The Zone of Interest windlessly cements. As the human toll of Auschwitz is pitched into the mechanics of genocide (screaming wheels and people), its meticulous sound-design is kept howling beyond the windowpane, and observed - as if through glass - by inconspicuous cameras around a harrowing idyll. Glazer's film is, most prominently, this diegetic expression of the banality of evil, revising Arendt's theory of disengagement only with the guiltier one of abject repression. Arguably, like an eye (or house) bordered by four impenetrable walls, the camera's only mode is to repress truth, or, as described by Michael Haneke, to project "24 lies per second in [...] an attempt to find truth." What in one instance can be weaponised for fetish (the act of focussing so close on a subject that it alters) can, in another, double as a distancing device, armoured in the aegis of negation. Glazer eventually perforates this armour, roping in the viewers in a final act that remorselessly increases the camera's distance from the abhorrence that, as its title readopts, plays on our innate desire for horror: a slow turn prophesied by the screen burning totally white and silent illuminating only the audience. Like the sickness of living beside a mass crematorium slowly infects its occupants - revealing that it does, actually, and has always, reeked - these techniques double as both a prostration of shame and an accusatory glare. The transcendental gambit, in which one must hold (believe) one truth in the mind's eye, either fed or combatted by another on film, then effectively redirects the question "Why make this film?" into "Why watch it?" I have never wanted to leave a room quicker than once the credits rolled, as Mica Levi's postlude taunts a wailing Shepard Scale with the denied consummation of possible harmony, and young critics shuffled out toting rote banalities like "towering filmmaking." I too will claim pacifism to keep my hands dry, describe the smell of the flowers to ignore the colour of compost and transcribe theory like the smoke of fire.

And although nature, generally, is always in flux, there is a sense of the people who live by its stoic laws that they have achieved a stasis, a plateau, some kind of zen in the habitual mandala of life found in abiding by its cycles. Modern slow cinema, especially that chasing the same spiritual asceticism that Paul Schrader outlined in his Transcendental Style in Film, writing that "movies should be about symptoms rather than about causes," an idea which Sontag was simultaneously mulling in its extreme, writing, "art is not about something, it is something." If there is such a way for a film to earn its pace, especially one as starving as Ryusuke Hamaguchi's Evil Does Not Exist, then framing modern boredom as a crisis of meaning leaves us only to read this film as a test of our willingness to go beyond what we are given. Seeking to maximise the mystery of existence, eschewing all conventional interpretations of rationalism in lew of gradually replacing empathy with awareness, Hamaguchi finds little separation between Zen’s calm attentiveness and a state of undisturbed insularity, that once disrupted finds "an oasis of horror in a desert of boredom."

People observe, caught in mirrors and two-shots, observed by Todd Hayne's own camera in May December, a film that is about only ever being able to dig inches below the surface of another person and yet revels in the comedy that all we do is try. Julianne Moore's Gracie finds in the attentive face of Natlie Portman's Elizabeth her own identical smile communicating back to her with enigmatic gestures, instantly responding without her needing to make any movements first. Pre-empted or predetermined, the two become entwined in psychoanalytically rich ways. Though the characters are not going to have the answers, with a confliction of stories and pretence that leaves any narrative threads untied and frayed. It’s a genius marring of the form, using the artifice and language of camp, melodrama, and daytime soap opera as a vehicle for some sort of “truth”, the characters using acts of self-creation as acts of self-protection; finding freedom in their ability to narrow and frame themselves one way or another.

In William Oldroyd's Eileen, a film that wallows in the idea that you never really know people like you think you do, a blurred gaze that once focused, sharpens into a disappointing mirror and the realisation that the present is always also only a consequence. Thawing under the titular Eileen’s hot, naïve desire, one both as restrictive and liberating as the want that sets the estate on the northern moors to ruin in his debut Lady Macbeth, Oldroyd’s narrative is revealed, slowly, creakily, like the billowing choke of smoke or mist clearing away with a blue dawn. In the full ripeness of these intrusions—flush pink visions of not just what you want but being wanted—a hunger for passion that can only, eventually, erupt, either bodily or bloodily, logically seeking sin as salvation.

There is another candy-coated treatise of want, but one much less compelled by the glitzy possibilities of seduction but magnetised towards, as narrated in The Virgin Suicides, “Oddly shaped emptiness mapped by what surrounded them, like countries we couldn’t name.” My relationship with Lurhman’s Elvis starts and ends with the Doja Cat song from the soundtrack, and though the inevitable discourse of how Coppola has filled in the gaps with the more private moments of Sofia Coppola's Priscilla, the vulnerable side, of Elvis should serve to actually take away the importance of who this film is about, Coppola has always defined her lead characters by the space around them. Desire, no matter how infantilised, is hard enough to reckon with. Misplaced desire can rewrite your entire relationship with who you thought you were. It seems like Lurhman needed to keep this side of Elvis at a distance, to keep these question marks, in order for Elvis to remain sacred. By shading these parts in, Coppola finds beneath the lace and gingham something maybe even more interesting. Something human, and even more question marks.

“I am a phoenix rising from the ashes,” teases Georgie in May December, Gracie’s now-fully-grown son to her first husband, whom she left for a thirteen-year-old childhood friend of Georgie, Joe, two decades prior. It was a tabloid sensation, and in that, Gracie had to balance telling her story and having her story told on a knife’s edge. Along comes Elizabeth wanting to study Gracie in order to play her in a film; but Joe, uxorious and tranquil, is awakened to the cuckoo in the song of spring, heralding the spectre of cuckoldry in the season’s erotic frenzy, and learning about the Janus-faced nature of self-curation: are we connecting or am I creating a bad memory for you? Cut. Reset. Clean the slate. Get ready to go again.

Transformative shimmers beckon us to nightly bask in their glow. In Red Rooms, Pascal Plante's zeitgeisty fable of access and obsession/watched and watching - a smorgasbord of gleefully topical offerings from Johnny Depp thirst-trapping to Web3's lying licenses - its Luciferian illuminations are the hypnosis of false homecoming. Giallo pomp revels in an eerily familiar descent of the irrevocably transgressed: one YouTube video too deep, one porn page too far, one identity overworn; torch scorching retinal data - found also in the glitch tracing of The Beast, Bertrand Bornello's net gain portraiture of a new objectivity, manifesting in the digital mosh of incels, doll factories, and a film that "follows a small group of elderly 'Peeping Toms' through the shadows and margins of an unfamiliar world."

What Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers has to do with a film whose Geiger counter measures the pulse of two lovers’ heartbeats stretched thin across three lifetimes, is likely little more than a meta-joke rather than the key to unlocking its fairy-tale logic, but it does feel more valuable when you understand the synchronicity of Korine’s idea that his EDGLRD experiments are “just a very kind of also based cinema” and Bornello’s osmosis of a “red-pilled” audience (signposted by a beautifully timed Dasha Nekrasova cameo). Working through the stratum of the past, at the ragged edge of its existence, Bornello discovers what is material will disintegrate. It’s a novel cannibalisation of new constructs, but paradigms that are so pervasive it feels like they've always been here. Angela Carter once wrote “Ours is an orgiastic, not an ecstatic culture”, one that is siloed within itself and always in perpetual motion (birthlovedeathbirthlovedeathbirthlovedeath; shoot a gun and feel the wet seed of your own mortality in your pants). Desire breeds an anxiety of rejection, and one that isn’t desensitised by technology, but amplified. In the film’s opening shot, Léa Seydoux wanders through a seemingly infinite greenscreen, stalked by a beast in the form of a shadow. Her scream gets lodged in a crunch of pixels, as the screen compresses and the shot sucks itself into the glitch, into its own digital corruption. Korine's relationship with the digital has become a new playground for an artist who has always seen cinema as we know it to be in its infancy. I'm not suggesting Bornello has predicted a 'new type of cinema' in what is ultimately a fable about presence and emotion, but in its vertiginous and exultant circularity which twists into a corrosive narrative, there is some psychic beauty to how its spiral echoes what is yet to come.

There’s something about dealing with bodies at their end for a living that is inherently clinical, surgical, where making a science of extremity actually breeds an excessive normality. There is a point when it is explained that for the action that sets off David FIncher's The Killer—Fassbender’s titular killer missing his target—the consequences are “automatic”. That’s all there is to this film, a complete stripping away of any malevolence, of any sense of justice, or morality (even in a relative sense), into something automatic, and giving us not the barebones of a revenge film in the sense that John Wick or even Oldboy builds something muscular from the most rudimentary skeleton, instead Fincher finding more tension in watching vultures tweezer out the marrow from its bones. Matched in the strictness of Fincher’s own OCD-coded directing style, The Killer is almost rote in its Sisyphean skit of a man who is neither as mechanical nor as detached as he thinks he is, and whose journey is ultimately unrewarding. Automatic. His voiceover repeats, mantra-like, “Stick to the plan. Anticipate, don’t improvise. Fight only the battle you’re paid to fight. Trust no one,” even as he proves that trying to follow your own advice is like going to the devil for answers. These hushed, private rules are a glimpse inside a mind you’d rather not be inside, but once you’re in the darkness, your eyes adjust.

But while Fincher’s vision of a professional contract killer is a deliberate, incisive fantasy built on the mechanical oscillations of a man whose self-awareness lies only in the lacuna of his physical body, Richard Linklater’s vision in Hit Man is of one who creates the fantasy to fill that painful cavity. “I’m pretty sure movies invented hitmen, they aren’t real,” says Linklater, more interested in the cinema’s obsession with hitmen than a fine-grained realism, landing on some endpoint of culture’s Chinese whispers about the men who kill people for money and spinning it into a comedy of the anxiety of conscious mortality. Linklater and Powell’s commedia dell'arte of cops and criminals (the ego and the id) is likely only vaguely interested in the individual’s faint influence as a minuscule actor in a boundless stage, but it’s a testament to Linklater that he may have unknowingly done exactly that.

Its embarrassed violence is smeared across time, echoing the orphaned technicolour child of The Archer’s Michael Powell (an aberrative miss after an uncompromising string of bullseyes), Peeping Tom lenses fear as an object of and reason for obsession; abstractly, it might make sense why a proto-slasher-satire would unnerve a 1960 British council of critics, but in reality, this perversion of artistic creation (and destruction) killing Powell’s career feels like a mean joke; martyring himself in a gothic mew to your own creature, Frankensteinian in both form and content, manifesting Shelley’s perennial, Oedipal prophecy: “what you make will haunt you”. As a function of storytelling, satire forces you to sit with something reprehensible that is constantly shifting between entertainment and confrontation, and is defanged by the idea that depiction of something constitutes tacit glorification (perhaps why both Powell’s widow, the great Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese, who oversaw the recent mass restoration of Powell and Pressburger’s films, find themselves reflected in this, having been scarred by this polemical misunderstanding, from Goodfellas all the way to The Wolf of Wall Street); satire is cruel, and in one where film’s own violent cutting, splicing, bleeding celluloid razor-wire, and blinding projector lights turn on their wielder, feels especially worthless yet potent, to unintentionally film a self-portrait of your own career suicide. Art imitates life imitates art. We watch the watcher. We create the creator. We resurrect the dead.

Unlike the wonder-beasts of Hayao Miyazaki's earlier works, The Boy and the Heron's Heron quickly loses its majesty. In Spirited Away, No-Face maintains a wolfish terror despite the truth of its rabid robe. The Gray Heron simply derobes, climbing out of its beak an impotent wizard without the stoicism of our tortured protagonist, Mahito, or the crackling elegance of the sorcerers that sail his pelagic fantasy, as if those that straddle the countries of dreams and reality are, after all, the most ugly of us - unable to keep homestead in the latter, unable to dissolve utterly into the first. Alongside a structure that abruptly unravels from Miyazaki's heretofore most granular film his heretofore most translucent, the heron's reveal is appropriately conflicted for the artist who seems to resent his own dutiful carving of imagination, and for a man who looks on the earth mournfully: wistfully awe-struck by an effervescence he knows he is complicit in slaughtering. Like a trap-door, reviewing The Boy and the Heron's haunted tower, taunts one to derive a craftsman's epitaph, and then there's the film's original title, How Do You Live? Through a world intuiting tempo beyond sense, how do we? Miyazaki's repeat retirements ('Mononoke was once declared his final film, 26 years and 6 features ago) don't seem to be an attempt at mystique: Ghibli documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness reveals someone plagued by melancholy and indecision, who makes films for children but thinks it is cruel to bring children into the world. Who chain smokes but loves trees. Who hates filmmaking but handdraws every frame. It's that, then, if I had to guess: reverence despite doubt, for even the cruel and the small. In my favourite scene, Mahito equips himself with a bow-and-arrow to confront a dreamworld he knows is a lure for his grief. Patiently, curiously. The scene goes like this for five, maybe ten minutes, brimming with Miyazaki's respect for the ephemera of good work: sparks beneath the hammer, ripples on water, shavings of wood. Whilst a camera creating fiction must excavate a reality already before it, the animator faces the most daunting proposition of a blank page. Anything dreamt can be exhumed from its surface, yet Miyazaki has never wielded this responsibility wildly. He has worked diligently, across thousands of frames, to refine a dream, and revering the dream's ephemera of doubt like the dust of a pencil's granite.

What you believe runs beneath the hills also flows through your veins. The soul of Osage, as Lily Gladstone narrates early in Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon, is as plain as day: the land, fire, the moon, and the flowers it scatters "like candy" on the steppe. But the turning of the soil happens only in the dark; extinction: that is done in secret, conspired beyond focus in wool suits, turning family to strangers and painting them white. Settler colonialism fingers out the wound of violence, bloating the word, and now there are many different ways to kill someone. With slow devotion, for example, in marriage like a bounty, with sickness disguised as medicine and curse disguised as child. With a corpse in the river source creek. As a malady so ailing the hills that murdered women can be traded for "white law", liturgy and courthouses and formaldehyde. Their grief comes on the wind first as a whistle but it is enough. More than enough to fill the silence of men who cannot cry, who cannot be taken by a storm in silence to God because in absence of a human din they believe the drums have dropped out. The rhythms of Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker's montage is illusion, the beat of forgetting a dream. Earlier in their collaboration, it was because of this editing's cardiac high that Goodfellas could arrest, its blood cooling into the realisation of dawn. Now, Scorsese is interested in bloods of a slower ilk, slitting the skin of his scenes to haemorrhage across the run time - one into the next - as crimson paints devils on sheets: the you in their prayer, the price of forgiveness, the ire of the land. A cruel timekeeping that announces itself - like the FBI arriving to a blood-soaked crime scene impossible to placate - as a funeral procession, too late. The truth was as plain as day: the film's first scene sees the Osage burying their language in the augured soil.

<![CDATA[Mark Leckey: All That Glitters is Gold]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/mark-leckey-all-that-glitters-is-gold663bf333a7b53d91d0908c1eWed, 20 Sep 2023 14:42:38 GMTThe Big ShipMade in Albion.

I. Everything I Am

The year is 1999 and I am forced out of the womb at such a velocity that I haven’t yet stopped moving, propelled forward towards a stop that one day will come.

The year is 4073 and the Earth has decided to cease orbiting the sun. The air gets colder and the world becomes bitter and, one by one, we are engulfed by a never-ending eclipse.

The year is 2019 and I stand under a bridge in northern England, somewhere along the M53, inhabiting the space between formerly discrete dimensions, staring wide-eyed into a past I never knew.

And suddenly I am in 1973 and under the same bridge, and there are p-p-p-pixies and g-g-g-goblins and m-m-m-mark leckey is sitting with a bottle of some magic potion, filming me on his phone and live streaming my slow entropy to millions across the time-stream.

I reach out to him, but he disappears. And I follow him across history, surging into the glorious future, and chasing a perpetually fugitive present

existing somewhere on the ambit between flesh and pixel, where dualism stutters in the unstable, porous boundary between the ritual theatre of collectivism and a retreat into separate, digital spheres. Acosmism is only a few clicks away, and immanence has been replaced by doomscrolling. Following mainstream news stories into hyperlinked labyrinths of conspiracy as if the truth was really out there, the perverted cult of individuality is made impotent against a gnashing desire to melt into dance, music, and the flow of images (the debris of an anthropological matrix turned haunted house). I placed my faith into the image, shadows cast against the sickly orange of sodium streetlights, appearing as profane illuminations from an acid horizon, relics mined deep from within the internet's own internal archive of cursed images, the Proustian madeleines of the .com generation. But the light of day is the space of thought.

"When the light goes, and I stare out into the trees, there’s always pairs of eyes out there in the dark, watching..."


...where there is nothing which an obsession to lay bare the reverse side of thought does not consume. It is through unproductive necessities (dancing, drunkenness, luxury, mourning, cults, aesthetics, games, war, monuments, debauchery) that we are shaken loose and which open us to the possibility of rapport with a radical otherness: the sacred. There is nothing concrete about Leckey's bridges, rites of passage that sing Gregorian chants of baroque sunbursts and diseased eyeballs. Leckey's bodysong makes a pattern of time's passing, remixing memory into a threshold between past and present, fact and fiction, inside and outside, the familiar and unfamiliar, tangling them all within the rigid tulle of something at once sacrificial and erotic (remember being fourteen?). Reliving your childhood must come at a price: loitering in the underpasses of anamnesis, the digital world has made what was once fluid and impermanent a fixture of your identity. Blacked-out moments no longer darken like the night, but are now the diurnal tortures of your own fevered amusement where the past continually loops into the present. What is in the depths of your camera roll? Some funny, forgotten video from a drunken night out? Or the key to transcendence? Maybe, if you're lucky, they're one and the same.


II. Flashing Lights ...

YouTube's protective nimbus, its camera lucida's bloodoath to the strata shriek of elder ponies and drunkards seems, when considering the totality of Leckey's craft, less like the appropriation of a neo-paganist aesthetic and more comfortably belonging to a wide cosmogony of light, thresholds and the deep that their doors heel. It is a system orphic in essence (that our realm merely maps the route to infinite black waters), but the sheer size of the invitation to his mediae bacchanal verges, in practice, on the massively suicidal: the cataclysmic. Leckey ravenously immolates the world as all projections - imaginative or otherwise - are harnessed into a kabbalah of transgression; collected seeds of time that permanently shape its participants into conduits for novel possession. Transportation, as depicted above, or enlightenment, as in Carry Me Into the Wilderness, is always both painful and ecstatic. For the sun's rays a sacrifice of equal mass must be proffered. As personal experiences of breakage, in which all that is considered to be attached is barbarically severed from the seat of the self, always inevitably results in base catharsis, when something or someone is irrevocably altered, the ancient - therefore, objectless; therefore, true - voice is enabled to speak through the fissures, however briefly. In these states whose intermittent (suspended, lingering) intensity is close to blankness, identifiers cease, the granular rolls into luminated totality and harmony is most easily granted. Some artefacts are more powerful than others by way of their enchanted inventiveness or destructive capability, like a Cardiff University student diving through the gossamer passing place of a bus shelter or a cartoon javelining the aether, and only exponentially electrify when surjectively combined in the crucible of art. But, fortunately for Leckey, anything temporally linear and illuminated that must emerge from stasis to activity is a potential transgressive device. The human world is a leptic chapel beneath which one remains


and its overwhelming seizure is rooted in the transistor (that art can be used in place of). When the device is switched ON, a portal into a new reality is illuminated: Snapchat streaks are set ablaze, the doors to communion are ajar, the details of a room (whose colours' radiance is completely reliant on the providence of light) are dialled to their utmost gauge of transmission. Particularly, in video's ritual séance of absence into presence, this can also be necromantic magic or, at the very least, a mystery religion that harbours darkness unreal to our mortal prescriptions. The costs at which this spell is cast vary depending on your disposition towards our current ways of being. Leckey's prayer to consumerism and social media that seems to disregard its schizophrenic grip around its disciples' throats verges on the cabbalistic, certainly the irresponsible, whilst the cavernous depths to his maw of material that is most frequently addled with threnodies of lightning also suggests that we are all, at all points, unwillingly bellowing through the garden of earthly delights. His cannibalism would let it all singe into the red muck beneath the fern: the O! where good ponies go to play.

<![CDATA[Kode9 & The Spaceape: Dread Engineering the Dub(step) Virus]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/kode-9-the-spaceape-sine-of-the-times663bf336a7b53d91d0908c31Wed, 06 Sep 2023 20:07:27 GMTJoey HollisSO ALIEN SO VIRAL

"If a virus were to attain a state of wholly benign equilibrium with its host cell it is unlikely that its presence would be readily detected OR THAT IT WOULD NECESSARILY BE RECOGNIZED AS A VIRUS. I suggest that the [dub] is just such a virus." — William S Burroughs, The Electronic Revolution, 1970

"Rhythm is a biotechnology. You are the newest mutants incubated in womb-speakers. Your mother, your first sound, the bedroom, the party, the dancefloor, the rave: these are the labs where the 21st C nervous systems assemble themselves." — Kodwo Eshun, More Brilliant Than the Sun, 1998

The promise of all technology, accurately understood, is not as a means of raising the dead, but rather razing the living: the man-machine, who is already undead, tells you to kill yourself. Nothing human makes it out of the near future. You’ve heard this story before. A mutant strain of a viral technology renders your cell walls gaping and insecure. Subbass emerges through the open floor. A ten-tonne doomsayer croak begins spitting on top. Eyes dilate, humidity rises, pores expand. The dub virus enters you. You become infected. You yearn only to deepen your leprosy. You make your body the ideal site for its mutation. You are part of a counter-biology, a cultural experiment, that not only discusses cultural viruses but understands itself as a viral contagion. The dread beating of the afflicted bass continues into the breaking of a false dawn. The 21st century heralds the advent of the post-human era. The billboard reads: no more solidarity with corpses.

The darkside sound of the dub drop brings with it a form of reckoning, a vision not of the apocalypse but of extinction: nothing human is left in its wake. The dub virus is naturally epidemic in its ambitions. The remains of the new flesh beat on in sly mimicry of their own destructive agent. Just say no to disembodiment! Stand fast around womb speakers. Embrace the hyper-viral! Attempt new states of hyperembodiment… extinction must not be understood as a sense of an ending, but as the ending of all sense.

Searching for the dub virus with one eye closed, you might, at first, confuse the microscope with the telescope. You see Starchild ascend in the Black Ark past the outer rims of World 4 in a revisionist space fantasy. However, the dub virus reveals a secondary sonic vector to you; A movement not outward into the cosmos but inside and in between representations of the body; a microcosmology of haptic experience and cultural infection that underscores the interstellar aesthetics of Jazz, Funk, Dub and Techno. These fictions of mutant beings and audio viruses represent a counter-biology that could be thought of as an Afrofuturist-interior. The dub virus raises the dread spectre of the MC as an “alien incarnation summoned from within”.

In summoning this ‘alien incarnation’ we must first trace a genealogy of afrofuturist cosmologies: Developing on what Sun Ra called ‘MythScience’, a “term for the ideological truth/strategy of how myth informs reality and fiction builds fact”, Kodwo Eshun coined the term ‘Sonic Fiction’ to “magnify [the] hitherto ignored intersections of sound and science fiction”. An intersection occupied at the time by Detroit Techno artists Underground Resistance who conceived of themselves as “digital Ebola guerrilla operatives with reinforced rhythm awareness capabilities… carrying sonic parasites to hijack your nervous system.” In the mouth of the SpaceApe, what was once MythScience and then Sonic Fiction becomes ‘Bass Fiction’: the artist’s own coinage for cultural practice similarly involved in the intersections of myth, science fiction and diasporic music. Bass Fiction draws its cultural influences from Detroit Techno artists and its sonic origins from the processes of Jamaican dub.

Central to both the genres of dub and dubstep is a movement inside the body; a revisionist cosmology of the somatic interior; a sinewave that pulsates through skin and sinew to vibrate your bone marrow. As genre pioneer Lee Perry suggests, “some people call it dub. I call it Xray music”. SpaceApe suggests similarly that dubstep is “the skeletal remains of de new flesh”, a partial revelation of a degraded interiority. Like the shadow of Lee Perry’s abstract corpse, Kode9 and The SpaceApe’s Bass Fiction reveal a similar inside; an X-ray of a 21st-century cadaver where exterior perception is erased and the image of a new inside remains.

Kode9 & the SpaceApe released their first single on the hyperdub label in 2004, a “dub style remake of Prince’s ‘Sign o’ The Times’’’. Previous to this, Hyperdub had existed as an online publication reporting mutant developments within London’s underground dance music scene as if they were strains of “an ‘info virus’ that replicates in both humans and machines”. This original release sees the term itself ‘Hyperdub’ mutate from a journalistic theory-fiction to an active incubation chamber for the nascent audio-viruses that would come to define the sound of dubstep.

The track reimagines Prince’s original within a “glowering, slow motion narration”, with the lyrics rendered into dread talk accompanied by a diseased rhythmic bass pulse. It was originally issued as ‘Sign of the Dub’, but reissued in 2006 as ‘Sine of the Dub’, and when included in their debut album, Memories of the Future, just ‘Sine’. This movement from the semiotics “O’ the time” present in the original “Sign”, to the low-end bass frequencies signified by ‘Sine’, is key to understanding the significance of this dub style re-versioning. What happens when “the imaginal and memorial realm of the sign meets the material vibratory force of the sine?”

Following the heartbeat of the dread bass, SpaceApe, (then Daddi Gee,) made his first sonic appearance, “in France a skinny man / die of a big disease / with a little name”. Whilst the epidemiological context defines both the bleakness of the original and the dread weight of its re-versioning, it is the use of euphemism, the “big disease with a little name”, which conceals the actuality of AIDs, that is of deeper concern as to how both versions approach signification of the virus. This suppression of the word creates an ambiguity where the unit of signification, language itself, is understood as viral. For Prince, this small viral unit, this “sign”, becomes a ‘Sign o’ the Times’, a temporal infection, that not only affects the diseased body but spreads outward to define the era itself. Within Kode9 and the SpaceApe’s original title, this might be extended to an understanding of the viral transmission of the sonic processes of dub. Toby Heys suggests we might understand a ‘viracoustic’ commonality between the operation of the virus and the sine wave:

Viruses like waveforms are difficult to control, map, and direct. As such, both have the capacity to move imperceptibly, to infiltrate and unlock, and to enter without permission, creating networks of affect and unidentifiable bodies of evidence.

As the “big disease with a little name”, passes between actual bodies, the rhythmic bass pulse of the sine wave spreads outwards from the beating heart of the “body of sound” entering the haptic consciousness of all other bodies within audible range: you are infected by transmissions from the soundsystem. Through this process, the signification of sickness and its transverse propagation via sine waves comes to define the time in which the epidemic takes place, allowing for a new approach to semiotics that deliberately confuses ‘sign’ with ‘sine’ and ‘definition’ with ‘infection.’

This elaborate fiction of disease is linked to an understanding of addiction as the lyrics continue, “by chance his girlfriend find a needle / she end up the same way.” The symbol of the needle conjures a further penetration into both the fictional sonic body and the actual diseased body. Symbolically united at the tip of the infected needle; what is the common logic between viruses and addiction? “The human organism has a marked tendency to seek out and identify itself with parasites that debilitate but never quite destroy it.” SpaceApe’s identity as both agent of “audio addiction” and as “alien virus” displays this tendency for identification, this fraught symbiosis, resurfacing to the level of conscious expression.

Description of these intersectional epidemics moves to a depiction of the more modern sense of ‘virality’ as “Turn on the TV / And all you hear 'bout…” The symbol of disaster, here of “Hurricane Annie'', fits naturally within a system of hyper-accelerated viral culture. The transverse propagation, or spread, of an event as an info virus, facilitated locally by sine waves, is enabled globally through the electronic signals of telecommunication technology. The ubiquity here suggested by “all you hear about” prefigures the post-1990s sense of something going viral. Virality appears as a cybernetic conceit for positive feedback loops within the dissemination of information. As with addiction and AIDs, the spectre of disaster has a parasitic grip on the host population that can neither look away nor stop listening.

Beyond the representation of disease, addiction, and disaster, many of Kode9 and the SpaceApe’s early releases present a habit for re-versioning; creating mutant strains of pre-existing Afrofutrist audio viruses - be it seedy mutations of Public Enemy songs or Junior Boys tracks. The sound of dubstep should be understood as a viral experiment in mutating genre forms: both genre and performer realise themselves through this experimentation.

Kode9 and the SpaceApe’s other release at the inception of the label, ‘Bacteria in Dub’, draws on a similarly abject, although more scientific field of imagery as ‘Sine of the Dub.’ The two released together were labelled “death disco for deviant dub fiends.” Language of the ‘deviant’ and the ‘mutant’, more generally a sense of the evolving other, reoccurs frequently as an aesthetic tag within the early dubstep scene. The track is comprised of index-like extractions from Luciana Parisi’s book, Abstract Sex, which was co-launched with the release of ‘Sine of the Dub’ at the infamous Plastic People club on Curtain Road in March of that year.

The song is a dub-style version of Parisi’s academic text, lacking elaborate lyrics and instead replaying key expressions from the book pitched down, drenched in reverb and accompanied by another low and slow infectious bass pulse. The SpaceApe provides a rhythmic and laconic delivery of the book's contents, “21st century / present futurity / machinic desire / viral propagation”. Part menacing incantation, part cybernetic glossary, the song, as with the reversioning of ‘Sign o the Times’, marries speculative abstraction and an understanding of the infected present: now a 21st century that continues to be defined by “bacterial sex” and “viral propagation.” The brevity of the SpaceApe’s expression delivers each phrase as a self-contained viral unit. Parisi argues, “sex is transductive it works through bodies of all sorts”, and so too are ideas, spreading outwards from the soundsystem, wrapped in the protein coat of bass frequencies, passing between membranes, entering new host bodies. The theoretical imagery of the track from, “sexual reproduction”, to “recombinant desire”, to “miosis / transduction / symbiotic mutation”, is in constant reference to the manner in which cells, organisms and bodies come together and exchange information: a cybernetic glossary for charting the spread of the dub virus.

Parisi’s book, Abstract Sex, theorises a “networked coexistence” within “the virtual body” as emergent forms of digital sexual relations are used to “expose the wider layers of organization of a body that include the non-linear relations between the micro level of bacterial cells and viruses and the macro levels of socio-cultural and economic systems.” Similar to an audio virological approach, Parisi’s understanding puts us in a space beyond humanist ‘ethics’; otherwise stated, Parisi provides a “reorientation [of interaction] onto an immanent plane of specific encounters (which can be both constructive and destructive) between bodies”. Parisi launches us away from a ‘transcendent’ understanding of human ‘ethics’ towards a base/bass biological consciousness which considers human operation through a cybernetic lens; one that looks both beneath and above perception through analysing the combinatory influence of micro-biological and macro-cultural structures.

Stephen Gordon’s Bass Fiction of the sonic body, of the super-simian SpaceApe, should be thought of not as a persona, but as a process of becoming: a mutating body continually elaborated through Sonic Fiction. This poetic act of becoming, in tandem with dubstep’s move from emergent to established sound, achieves stunningly dense articulation by 2006 with SpaceApe’s verse that appears both on an eponymous track on Burial’s first LP and on Kode9 and the SpaceApe’s debut LP, entitled ‘Victims’:

Victims themselves of a close encounter

Desperate abducters, constructers become infected, vexed

By an alien virus, so alien, so viral

Living spaceapes, creatures, covered, smothered in writhing tentacles

Stimulating the audio nerve directly

You wanna come flex with me?

“So alien, so viral”, the SpaceApe seamlessly doubles both the Afrofutirist gesture out towards the extra-terrestrial with the secondary movement, into the infected body. “Victims themselves of a close encounter”, can be understood within the dominant narrative of Afrofuturist cultural practice, as an “enigmatic return to the constitutive trauma of slavery”; real abduction reimagined as alien. But it is worth thinking of “close encounter” not only as suggesting an alien advent, but also an idea of proximity, of being within the zone of affect; a potential victim of contagion.

The verse presents multiple points of entry into the sonic body. “Covered, smothered”, made claustrophobic via a series of internal rhymes, “writhing tentacles” suffocate and surround you. You become aware of an abject tactility, a penetration into the sonic body, entering all the way to the “audio nerve.” The fear of penetration, central to the instinct of abjection, is here first rendered in the physical terms of the ‘tentacle’ before the flow continues making it clear that this penetration has already been staged on the sonic level: your very cognition of this lyric means the tentacle is writhing inside; wreaking havoc with your nervous system. Whilst the tentacled imagery of this “Lovecraftian horrordub” might at first seem incongruous with the language of extra terrestriality and super-simians, it flows from The SpaceApe’s own revisionist mytho-poetic conception:

SpaceApe: That’s the Space Ape innit, really. That’s this thing—the alien beneath the sea, it comes up, it’s a hostile alien.

Kode9: So it’s beneath the sea and not outer space?

SpaceApe: Yeah. Beneath the sea.

As with the revisionist biological mythos of Dub-Techno Duo Drexciya, launching an “aquatic invasion” out of the “black sea”, SpaceApe’s origin is from the depths, not from the cosmos. Erik Davis, a self-described theorist of “acoustic cyberspace”, has written about the “distinctly aquatic surroundings” of dub as “a kind of ‘outer’ inner space, a liminal womb.” Opposed to more masculinist space fantasies, these subaquatic sonic fictions appear closely linked with submergence within the female; another movement back inside the body.

This language of submergence might also be used to approach the cross-contaminative linguistic exchange that has occurred across the colonial and post-colonial Atlantic. In the Caribbean linguist and poet Edward Braithwaite’s study of voice, in the chapter where he coins the idea of ‘Nation Language’, he writes:

English was, nonetheless, still being influenced by the underground language, the submerged language that the slaves had brought… It was moving from a purely African form to a form which was African but which was adapted to the new environment and adapted to the cultural imperative of the European languages. And it was influencing the way in which the English, French, Dutch, and Spaniards spoke their own language. So there was a very complex process taking place, which is now beginning to surface in our own language.

There is a complex play of ‘infection’ and ‘vexation’, or more aquatically, of “submergence” and “surfacing.” Languages submerged deep in the bodies of the colonized begin to reemerge and contaminate the colonial tongue. In accordance with Braithwaite’s assessment, SpaceApe spits on another track from the album ‘Quantum’, “The threat to you / You always knew was contact and impurity.” A confrontational dramatisation of linguistic exchange as mutual infection.

SpaceApe’s bass-fiction, or biological counter-narrative, of the ‘alien’ and ‘viral’ sonic body must be thought of as a poetic act of becoming, in line with Fred Moten’s observation of “The reproduction of blackness in and as [the] reproduction of black performance. An ongoing event of an antiorigin and an anteorigin, replay and reverb of an impossible natal occasion, the performance of a birth and rebirth of a new science, a phylogenetic fantasy that (dis)establishes genesis.” In Moten’s writing the metaphor of the sonic processes of dub is intertwined not only with a re-versioning of history into science fictional counter-narratives (‘anti-origins’), but also with an explicitly evolutionary experimentation, a counter-biology, that not only re-imagines the “constitutive trauma” of diasporisation, but also re-imagines the present tense interior of the Afro-diasporic body within these terms.

Kodwo Eshun has warned similarly of how music writing, “still insists on a solid state known as ‘blackness’”, a fiction which he equates to “solidarity with a corpse”; a mortified conception of racial identity. However, it is through taking this morbid solidarity to the extreme, through identification not with a black corpse, but with a Black Atlantic virus, that the SpaceApe effectively “dissolves” this “corpse into a fluidarity maintained and exacerbated” by sonic machines. These practices reveal blackness to be a historic fiction that is perpetually torn apart and reassembled by viral waveforms and mutant becomings. A conception of blackness as elaborated by black performers; where myth informs reality; sonic fiction vibrates against solid reality; affective culture makes itself real.

Audio virology can be understood via two specular motions: firstly that Afrofuturism is understood not only in terms of a movement out toward the extraterrestrial but also a movement in and between sonic bodies; secondly that identification with the audio virus not only facilitates the future tense of an emergent form of post-human subjectivity, but that it also facilitates a historical understanding of the diasporic experience of contagious aurality across the colonial and post-colonial Atlantic.

<![CDATA[The Variations by Patrick Langley: Between Noise and Silence]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/the-variations-noise-and-silence663bf336a7b53d91d0908c7cWed, 23 Aug 2023 19:23:49 GMTBryson Edward HoweMercury is in retrograde, and in Patrick Langley’s second novel, the past stalks the present in search of a soothsayer.

Sound is ephemeral, gone as soon as it arrives. Sound is tiny, too. A typical sound wave makes air molecules vibrate by only about a micrometre, the size of the smallest smoke particle. Yet, despite its fugitive and insubstantial nature, sound is a great connector and revealer. Sound passes through obstacles. It links vibrating beings even in the dark or in dense foliage. This resonance is how the theologian Emmanuel Swedenborg justified his visionary universe of divine order in a pidgin of vibrant sonority. In the context of music, euphony proves the divine, but in the context of language, Swedenborg found in its parsimony a possibility to explore something much messier, punctuating his search for Shangri-La with small, equally utopian moments of reverie, and envisioning a cosmos in which everything, including seemingly solid objects, vibrates, according to the ninth and final rule of his doctrine:

In tremulations there are millions of variations.

Swedenborg imagines one of those millions of variations, writing that, “During a dream, for instance, we often carry on long conversations with imaginary persons, or we may hear whole melodies or other sounds which affect us exactly as those which enter by the external way. In fantastic imaginations, also, persons are able to hear various sounds and connected conversations, so that they sometimes persuade themselves that a spirit is speaking with them […] a woman, who every day continually heard the singing of hymns within her, from the first to the last verses; these hymns were often such as she herself had never heard or sung; she diligently sought help and cure from clergymen and others, but in vain, for the melodies and songs continued in the brain as if she were perpetually attending a great concert.” This passage echoes in the guts of The Variations, Patrick Langley’s second novel, which tells the story of Selda Heddle, a famously reclusive composer, who is found dead in a snowy field near her Cornish home. She was educated at Agnes's Hospice for Acoustically Gifted Children, which for centuries has offered its young wards a grounding in “the gift” - an ancestral bequest of tuning into the voices and songs of the past. When she dies, Selda's gift passes down to her grandson Wolf, who must make sense of her legacy, and learn to live with the newfound symphony of voices in his head.

Life and death, like music, is just tension and release. In the moment of death, the blood tries to rush back to the heart in an instant. It fills up the greater veins, withdraws from the finer arteries, and completely exhausts the most minute vessels. Your membranes become exsanguious as they quickly lose their tension. The eye loses its acumen, followed by your ear and your other organs. The thought and the imagination become indistinct. Sometimes the life is extinguished before the blood has even been able to force its way to the collapsed vessels. Sometimes there is a final tremor, a quivering, or a convulsion throughout the body, but by now the greater part of life is lost as soon as tremulations can no longer flow over a stiff expanse, like once-taut strings stretched over the porous wood of on even the most ancient instruments. Following this connective tissue through Swedenborg’s theories, it seems only fitting that a blizzard would kill Selda. Like a loss of spirit, stopped by the cold, life consists in motion, but death in the rest of the particles. Langley’s description of her final ascent makes you shake and shiver, but these are nothing but coarse contremiscences: the music of the body. Upon entering an anechoic chamber at Harvard University, John Cage heard two sounds, one high and one low. When he described them to the engineer, he informed Cage that the high one was his nervous system in operation, the low one his blood in circulation. If what really makes us living is the cause of motion, we will inevitably find that stillness can never have any part in that which is called life; that stillness and life are two contrary things. Life is a state of tension, death slack and unstrung.


Writers will often find themselves steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion. Johannes Kepler, the man who discovered planetary retrograde, once wrote, "The heavenly motions are a continuous song for several voices, perceived not by the ear but by the intellect; a figured music, which sets landmarks in the immeasurable flow of time." Music is often spoken about in “movements”, originally referring to its actual tempo or relative speed but became a way to differentiate between different sections of a symphony, whether it was the brisk, swift movement or a slower, more torpid movement. Langley uses the language of music, and of movement, to wrap around something much more propulsive: the difficulty – or impossibility – of living with the past (the past being things that are now gone), of grieving it, or anticipating it. One description of Selda’s ancestor’s experience with the gift soaks in this mystery without a solution, a signifier without a signified. He writes with the placidity of still life, effortlessly disclosing a sonic cadence that is both precise and enigmatic that percolates and prefigures the symbiotic relationship between the two that comes to light eventually: "She sings of lights in the sky, angels in basements, snow-storms moving across the moors..." placed against thick textures of floating dust, dense shadow, and sudden bars of blinding sun, it lingers in his mind. He doesn’t believe that the gift is an ability to listen to death, to understand the presence of it, the immanence of it. It all sounds, to him, too sparky and alive. Too musical.

How do we symbolise noise? Why and how do we associate letters with noises? Can a new noise form a new letter?

I’ve heard it said that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture", but whoever originated and perpetuated that idea forgets that a city and style, object and evocation quickly take on aspects of one another as the urban environment shapes an aesthetic movement, which in turn produces a new form and vision of the city. That is the basis for ekphrasis, and much the same as how I imagine Langley forged his own ideas and style, finding in nebulously anthological fragments a quiet romanticism for beauty and softness amid the chaos of grief. As someone who has personally chosen to spend quite a lot of my professional time trying to translate music into prose, I also struggle against the poverty of language. Where music is a sort of crystallised form of human history, written in beautiful notational marks, I am not afflicted by a divine inheritance like some archaic beings in whom words of whispered languages sound with such force and seductive power that the temptation to write them down becomes irresistible.

On a late winter day in 1922, the sound of a gunshot resounded with a loud boom in the hills surrounding the house of three-year-old Edgar Curtis. The sound itself wasn't out of the ordinary, since the Curtis family lived near a firing range. What was extraordinary was the question the boy turned to ask his mother: "What is that big, black noise?" Edgar would go on to be the first subject of scientific studies of synesthesia and give me a name for my own edifice of writing about art. When I hear music, I see not just colours, but shapes, textures, and landscapes. The best way I can describe it is not a confusion of sensations, but an openness, as if these different senses have not formed into individually walled-off areas. Two pieces of music I had an extreme reaction to are Nick Cave and the Bad Seed’s "Ghosteen" which to me lingers in a rainbow of iridescent light that shifts on often unimaginably large scales, and Ravel’s "Pavane pour une infante défunte" which falls like a nervous tunic of snow.


There is a place I’ve been to that I think about more than any other, when I find myself deep in meditation or in a rare bout of deep sleep, one where the water is like silk, like pewter, like blood, like a leopard’s skin, and occasionally merely like water. Sometimes it dances with flakes of fire, sometimes it is blank and anonymous with fog, sometimes it shouts as joyously as a mirror. It’s known that the tympanic membrane – the eardrum – responds to the sounds in our dreams. This membrane also responds to imagined sounds and remembered sounds, just as in Langley’s world memories are stored in the strange alloys of iron bells, of copper, ash and ice, when I dive into these dreams, they are often plagued with the sonic residue of past nights haunting music venues, marionetted into movement both rhythmically and bodily. The symptoms of tinnitus can vary significantly from person to person. You may hear phantom sounds in one ear, in both ears, or in your head. The phantom sound may ring, buzz, roar, whistle, hum, click, hiss, or squeal. If the topology of what I hear in dreams is any indication of what I might experience later in life, mine manifests as something rotary, like an alarm. It doesn’t pulse but rather dizzies itself in search of direction. Langley briefly mentions musical phantoms, like “echo condemned to her cave; Paul Wittgenstein's right arm; Clara Schumann's account of her composer husband driven mad by shapeshifting spirits and dictating his last piece of music,” though I don’t feel cursed by any of my phantom sirens or visions but see them as a gift.

But what if you are dreaming of silence? What inter-dimensional rhythm have you severed? My sister, since we were both very, very young, has been deaf in one ear. For her, a symmetry of sound exists in the low rumbles of an aeroplane, or the pierce of a dog barking. Music only exists in the mono, so the topology of listening, of where she’ll place herself in a room, or how she judges the depth of a sound, is entirely perceptive. Where my body fills silences with sensation, my sister's provides silence where there is none. Swedenborg wrote of his ninth rule about how many sounds are not produced by a well-tuned piano, about how many are still lacking within an octave. He writes of a music that exists only via negativa, but that still, definitely, exists.

'I was a chime child,' Selda tells Ellen. 'Do you know what that means?' ' Let me guess,' Ellen says, not looking up from her book, 'you can talk to ghosts.'

What would it sound like to write music for ghosts? When a composer writes a piece that is of its time and moment, is it a commentary on the world around them, or does it extend beyond immediacy? Does it reflect our thoughts and emotions, or something more algorithmic? Do we want our audience to feel what we’re feeling, or to help them see how we’re seeing things? I think this is the real confluence of music and writing, or any art form. That whether you are feeling angry and frustrated about an injustice in the world or if you’re feeling loved by the tiny cat curled up next to you, do all these things, then start the creative cycle again. Be in the present moment, write in the present moment, breathe,

watch the bells' edges blur

as the sound rings out

and fades to silence.

<![CDATA[SOPHIE: Immaterial]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/sophie-immaterial66461fb45a8fdae7e45e7ed0Sat, 05 Aug 2023 15:26:20 GMTCaleb CarterA SEARING VOYAGE BEYOND THE UNKNOWN.

Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides (2018) - SOPHIE

Those that read music’s paradigm shifts as culture’s doomsday clock might find themselves offended by hyperpop’s name. “Hyper”, inferring a childish rampage ending in tears, an attention deficit, a cocaine toothache, warp speed and the sharpened pin, augmenting “Pop”, as in the easily accessible, the populist, the popular but not the cool, in fact, the derivative, the capital, the bubble ready to burst. Pop’s course is downright unsteering, and its crop yield means that it is programmed by nobody you could imagine, not even those cruel, faceless 0.0001% arbiters still paranoid about the other decimals. Pop runs itself on a mass default mode network made of its own antibodies. Anything dangerous or off-key that rises to the scum of its soup should be considered a ploy, or an alarm bell, because everything that the vanguards foresaw in their mirror has turned true. And yet the paradox remains crystal: SOPHIE steered pop, and she still sounds dangerous.

We might be even more stumped at where the genre’s register of eurodance and emoscreamo aesthetic on the mainstream collider has left listeners’ anticipation of societal collapse, somewhere between a disdain for the drowns of modernity and a celebration of its most noxious qualities. Somewhere between a cyber bath and the burning of the world. Escaping residual, breathless and in bad taste from its lysergic insurgency is some bimbo Barrabas praying for plastic. The homogenization of total culture is quite the party and because discordances come faster and harder, they feel like fireworks. Hyperpop was always on the horizon - it’s pink, and it’s made of twilight. It’s your middle-school disco, sugar-crushed and blush late. At its forefront is a reappreciation of mid-noughties cringe that you may have hastily cast off in the skinshed of joy to labour coolness. This same rosy maximialism can be found in Gecs’ Linkin Park tribute, the recent readmission of Skrillex into the popular consciousness, and Jenny Alien’s earnest rendition of Nickelback’s "Rockstar" that dreams for hedonism without hangovers. If the lyrics of SOPHIE’s statement piece, "Immaterial", aim to hold the lonely girl she once knew in impossible rhapsodies through the lens of the pop music she would instantly recognise, then it is clear that in this land the inner child is the most divine. In the sticky floor saturnalia of the school disco, twirling too is the night. The stirred star shellac of fission. In this glitz it still rumbles with oceanic possibility.

Though nowadays we cynically recognise in each purchase the signs of the systems in which we find ourselves ensnared, as our inner child – still moonwalking a fresh planet – these symbols were not so tired. With wide eyes, neoliberalism doesn’t even need to be reappropriated, it can be utilised as plasma to barrel beyond it. The body and the ascription of gendered space are condensed also into this propane, like rushing two opposing forces to decompress a gnarled differentiator and becoming the beating raven crystal of breakage. Acknowledging that collapse occurs when two forces cause one or the other to break into smaller versions of itself, in on itself, and so leaving a vacuum, SOPHIE pioneered the formative geists of a genre built inexorably on the unsteadiness of contradiction, on filling up those gaps so as to still make a dance out of the demise. The contradictions of her music don’t arise only from being a trans person, only from the transhumanist project, but from a ravenous, capacious manifesto to initiate collapse by any name to joyfully emancipate the categorical, and to survive in the very calm and clear event horizon of it all, raving on and on.

“My face is the front of shop

My face is the real shop front

My shop is the face I front

I’m real when I shop my face.”

In "Faceshopping’s" symbiosis of consumerism and transhumanism, plastic becomes the simultaneous item of permanence and of ruin, worn like a denigrated amulet (like a brand or a slur). Plastic polymers the ancient anxieties of extinction which insinuates the new, the blended, the mixed, the sampled, the palimpsest, the rhyming, the broken beats of mashups, corrosions, restructures, revamps and remixes. All that exploits the binary to become the else. Like hyper pulverises pop, the possessed can be welded onto the possessor and the "real" phase into the made halcyon. In gaming, the blossoming of personality and identifiable narratives of self often directly correlate to a system of objects: earn items, master them, become suprahuman. Charms won, guns that communicate, emeralds that emboss, masks that transform. Often a player will go to lengths, in real life, to preserve a digital item, and the fruits of Baudrillard’s nightmares have spawned entire real-world economies, gambling and debts, from only the gossamer suggestion of tactility atop rolling code. In suit, like impoverished countries are sure to still have Facebook, it will only take a few decades before everyone can be strapped to a headset and some heat receptors and a drip for eternity. You will have the choice, as you do now, whether or whether not to assimilate, but choosing not to will mean abandoning family, friends, and careers to the nebula of “progress”. So, what if we adopted SOPHIE’s mantra and joined them? What possibilities might lie in the next world? From the wasteland Majora’s mask raises glittering from the chest. One only needs to wear it (update it, calibrate it) to become all selves. And what if we tried to break it? In episode 7 of the ever-unguided Euphoria, Jules talks about the acquisition of feminine objects like items in her quest to “levelling up”, suggesting that the ultimate frontier, the complete “obliteration” of femininity, and patriarchal figures demonic or desired, is just the final boss on her escalator to legend. The undefined. SOPHIE glitch-pitches her voice to show how an identity can be acquired, built, and enchanted. The glitch becomes a tool to transmogrify the normative; the hallmarks of the once taboo can be more readily utilised and left like singed and no-clipped gates in the wake of a rebellion tattooed “uncontainable”.

Sophie Xeon

Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides is these layered contradictions, engaged in the gouging of impossible innards and then gorging on their still sweating improbability. The lilac skies of its world position Sophie on the rocks somewhere between Ariel and the more godlike abdication of the biological curve, but as much as corporeality is easily abused and contained, so too can mythic ideals be condemned to archetype. The plastic gown she wears on the cover art might suggest a somewhat pollutive texture to the world in which she heralds, and yet the waters seem as still as Mars. It is worth searching within for new ontologies. Might we call everything here the same as we did back on earth? Is water still cold? Myth is just a small waste product in the process of disembodiment whose huge, glittering, blasphemic opportunities should never be ignored.

For a future envisioned by the straight and the white, the cosmic and astrological have become standins for the frontiers that are normatively incomprehensible. But online, in clubs, and in worlds that remain preciously undisclosed, these parameters are described less haphazardly and, often, the music that SOPHIE and her contemporaries make is the gerund architecting of these utopic rotundas where the alien can become un-alienable. Whilst the solidifying of presence in the irl sphere is too abject, and the notion of home is too capricious or just plain unaffordable, the real estate of the internet, at least in origin, is so vast, and unregulated, and malleable. Hyperpop remains the only genre officiated by a Spotify playlist title, a history appropriately kneedeep in the bastard wrestle between late capitalism and the exploration of cyberspace. Of course, the splintering of these digital “rooms” that billions of people roost in mean that you can go your whole online life without ever experiencing this space, so we should be grateful to those bards, like SOPHIE, who sound their swinging doors. During "It’s Okay to Cry", its assurance that “your inside is your best side”, its sonic arpeggiation and rocket blast-off are the celebratory sutures of abrasion, working behind the scenes to introduce a psychic, transformative surgery in realtime. Only music has that power to operate at the transmolecular and the vibrational. The logic of noise and analog memoria is skirmished in the digital plane, propelling SOPHIE's desire to forge new sounds out of giant alloys, sunblanched and serrated against whetmoon, like a “piano that’s mountain-sized.”

Thrillingly, on the precipice, everything is doubled. The piano strings are haptic: giant, but felt. Your body can be phase-shifted just as your soul can become a new garment; the effervescent fount spritzed onto the palm. "Infatuation" treatises love as understanding, the pre-requisite learning before regeneration. The truth is that most people get off scot-free. Most people get to make it through life without ever having to consider their own whereabouts, without ever attempting to quantify their single synaptic rush in the ever-wavering winds. And although ignorance is a numb bliss, a life unexamined will only leave a watermark login in the quantum code. It might just be worth the vile cold to get your hands into the bowl and touch the meat.

Through love, there is not only the opportunity to begin the hard process of knowing again by discovering another, but also of knowing yourself anew in the other and then once more, finally, together, joining forces to dive to deeper matrices of possible belief and rulemaking. Only in relation, in two forces acting upon another, in collapse, can a new world be concocted. One that is pansexual, genderless, limitless and uncounted. Childbirth is just one operation of this madcap science, but the fruits in and of themselves are yielded within the labours of loving. If that is true, then the flesh can also become the womb. And alone? Perhaps only with the strange love bestowed by an alien with a saturn harp can we understand how we are multiple. Faced with so many mirrors, digital or otherwise, could be a glass stargate to a prismatic freedom, in which the surveyed is finally upturned into a kaleidoscope, colours scream overhead like northern lights, everything becomes synonymous with nothing and we dance the dance of certainty on the vistas of unknowing, un-inside, where nothing is named and everything is heard.

“I wanna know.

Who are you deep down?”

<![CDATA[Pain in Pastel: Violence in the Worlds of Wes Anderson]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/wes-anderson-pain-in-pastel663bf336a7b53d91d0908c70Sat, 24 Jun 2023 09:00:19 GMTSamuel Bilcliff"It'll grow back, won't it?" "Tails don't grow back."

When the beige façade falls, we see in defiant red, the blood. In running pour it gushes to the sink with frightening speed. Never in cinema has a red been so red. In its full-frame royal panic, it flows away so quickly we have but a half breath to inhale before lucidity fades and we forget what charmed pastel we once found so inviting. From an ocean stretching forever in ruby sleep to Fila-striped arms bathed in crimson-striped slashes, the world of Wes Anderson is quietly drenched in a violence unseen, with only a fleeting glance; pretty dreams of the world, hued and stitched together with fine thread, gravely funny and whimsically depressed, elegantly complex and twistedly simple. Every tale he has spun skips through romance, holding tenuous hands with happiness, casually and with immaculate care.

Yet a glance towards cinema is rarely fleeting, both its eyes and our own can hover infinitely; and from this vantage, we begin to see the shapes of despair, anger, and death. The characters that once seemed comedically in a rut now appear desperately clinging to whatever reason they have to live. Lovers once perfectly placed now stand alone from each other; families, once happy and blissful, writhe in old hatred and broken trust. The emotional toll is high, and the price of acceptance is a dive into that old swamp we call tragedy. The volume of his violence may vary but through every film it slithers subdued.

Rushmore is perhaps the quietest, play violence and performed war; a precocious love balanced on unnerving want, the circling revenge a symbol of the emotional impotence of these fuckwitted boys wrestling in the murky green sediment of sex, both grasping to feel warmth in a world of old money ivy and steel smelting state schools. The language their masculinity understands in competition is one of torment, their emerald hate boiled through identity denial and defence of the characters they have made of themselves. Their acts, more glorified pranks than true evil, take to the stage of the film; while true horror, murderous, Serpico pastiche and a verdant Vietnam slaughter, become the light entertainment of their fragile egos. Max Fischer never fought, never killed, he is a coward who swims in the mythology of his own societal failure as a man, never aware that the man he was trying to be through his violent acts was already dead. The French Dispatch, the loudest; in both style and substance, takes an opposite approach, colour in clash with monochrome as police tear through the red barricades of youth; art chained and beaten, sold and defeated as we lecture on its freedom; a rejected man within an institution bent on his destruction as it fights for its own future. A man who helps in a small, sad way, his only ‘comrade’ an empty table. Where Rushmore performs pain between curtain closures, The French Dispatch shows real violence plainly. From moment to moment the violence is shown in tableaux, every detail visible.

Beyond physical acts the violence throughout is institutional and its bureaucratic beatings pummel the characters from all sides. It is a world where the very language of reality jars at breakneck pace against carmine-hued city streets full of playful music; where realism batters style, ever-changing, to dust. The typical formalism of Anderson’s visual style fights against aggressive handheld camera work; the lighting rages harsh through its changes. It’s the click-clack of type here that hounds, and the ballpoint brutality of news told as fairytale or memory. Time heals no wounds for the lonely flaneur who has seen too much, it is tragic in the mind, and we all bare the scarlet scars of moments lost in their capture. Maybe that’s why the camera holds; why time slashes itself forward and back; why action is presented in simple cartoon. In unreality, Anderson expresses our darkest desires, the animated master stroke Fantastic Mr. Fox, is perfectly inhuman in its cruelty. Gnarled plastic and glue-chewed fur against painterly skylines moments after thunder and seconds before the sudden snap of lightning. The personified plasticine, masquerading in auburn fields as man, is in constant battle with animal, carnal, natures. The characters discuss and reckon with these natures, the mediocrity of real estate purchase explodes to fur-ripping cries before reconciliation with the chivalry these creatures conduct themselves with. Mr. Fox is at once a man, more so than any human character in the picture, and also a beast. His greatest fear is manifested in the wolf, a wild animal, untamed, free, and violent and Mr. Fox through the film is able to accept the violence of what he is and the kindness of what he wants to be. Here, violence is within everyone, everything. The violence in Fantastic Mr. Fox must be rejected and accepted for peace to be found.

The Life Aquatic, an adventure across the cobalt oceans of the world, a search for the biting, devouring sea beast of old age, washed up on the midnight shores of regret and fame. An impotent father figure, absent to his mortal son, and a son; whose sacrifice (more so a pointless death at the hands of that father’s pride) shows to the absent father his sins. Was Jesus killed for our salvation or for the sins of his Father? Anderson shows us again a world where violence can be accepted or rejected, where it’s through the letting go of rage one can be forgiven. Dredging the oceans of screaming tears, the salt chokes, and the shark’s circle; a typhoon and a tidal wave together collapse what was left abandoned on a small island in the Pacific. What talented failure has gone with the vine-ravaged hotel of a broken and forgotten honeymoon? It is the chaos of failure, shipwrecked on blind ambition and savaged against sharp grey rocks. It is a violent apathy and a soulless quest for petty revenge against what has so bountifully given to you the purpose of your existence. Cruel mistresses you can see only for what they take and not what they continuously give; a wave of masculine anger against a female world, the sea and the ship and knowledge you continuously claim to have. In the end, only humble apology can be given when you think it is yourself and not the moon that orchestrates the azure tide. Here is a violence mixed with archaic gender forms; an old man and the woman sea (Zissou belongs to the atavistic and shallow superstitions of sailors past).

It is a violence of self-destruction, a violent hubris. It is pride and male ego, fatherhood and pathetic self-aggrandising arrogance. All Anderson children are failed by their fathers. Royal Tenenbaum twists his family into ugly conflict as they help or hinder his redemption; his desperate attempt to reinstate himself as the patriarch he never was. A family impaired by its own genius into self-serving pettiness and violent end (the cut wrists and white blood-soaked sportswear); the children never able to recapture the bright majesty of their youth and a mother unable to find long searched-for happiness until the false father is interred in cold ground. Unstable success and again ever-present failure confound these prodigies who never believed the world would end up the way it is. Violence is the truth of this world. Cigarettes unknown, love masked, and addiction hidden. Only in lies and memory were they ever happy. The Darjeeling Limited shows disappointed children too; hurtling through the cycles of vermilion grief and the countryside of India. Together they search for something more than an honesty and affection tainted with inhospitable relationships, suicidal car crashes and lies. From broken families come all of Anderson’s protagonists. The artifice of these films acts as the first vantage to see these stories and when that disappears all that remains is sincere cold sympathy.

The Grand Budapest Hotel, once grand but now crumbling, against the black boot of fascism and tasteless sixties decor. A world of closed borders and railside executions, a place of conspiratorial murder and prison shanks. Just as the family, un-nuclear and deranged, is broken; the world too splinters at its edges and frontiers. The violence stands disgusted with Gustave’s sweet indigo sent; his floral trail, a path to be followed by killers, leads you down from the status of grandeur to the finger-filled gutter around the back of history. It is shame that dominates here and denial, a desire to be beautiful in a place that never again will be the postcard you once thought it was. This film, unlike any other, has a villain; someone from whom violence sprouts forth in aristocratic ravings. Here, violence is given meaning from its use not from its existence. This use of violence has been entrenched since Anderson’s first, Bottle Rocket. Damaged dreams and idealistic success, dirty motels, and the mental health institutions of the American South. It is a violence of boredom that Anderson explores here; it is an escape. For those that inhabit this world, violence is a cure to the mundane routines of the chartreuse suburban horror that awaits youth without passion. These characters use chaotic aggression to wrench open the world to walk in its drained wake; it is a place that must die and must break for happiness to be found. These men live in pain, screaming awake a sleeping giant that holds their strings. For them, there is little hope in the futile paracetamol schemes cooked up to dull the agony of boredom.

Pain has been with Wes Anderson’s characters since the beginning; before the curtains are pulled back and with them still as the credits roll; but maybe then, there is some peace for his creations. The performed war leads to a rekindling of love and the birth of a platonic one; a supermarket dance signals the dawn of plenty; an old sea captain, humbled, comes to accept time, finding within it mercy and forgiveness; a family finally able to move forward from legacy and past; brothers able to re-become brothers; lightning-struck youth, falling, dead from a tower, able to live forever on the t-shirts of the future. In a small cove, unmarked but named, a kingdom provides a paradise. A place for freedom and love and dance. Moonrise Kingdom is not without its share of blood, scissor cuts in scout khaki and the raging wind. Yet it is the one from which the characters are able to escape. Hanging tenuously above the torrent and the swirling seas what begins in chaotic disarray ends in symmetrical unity. A man without a son finds a son without a father. A marriage, cruel and pathetic, is transformed, maybe only slightly but changed to an old familiar routine; one that can heal, one that can grow.

All of Anderson’s characters are searching for that cove. We can picture them there, all together. Sitting along the shoreline. A record hums the rolling stones; a sandy canvas is painted. They look out together finally, completely able, to mourn, able to be honest, able to forgive. The world of Wes Anderson is a quietly drenched one. It is one of betrayal and bodily harm, regret, and redemption in violent demise. That first invitation to the pretty pinks and deep purples comes with a cost, that those colours cannot be made without vivid reds and disquieted blues.

<![CDATA[Pink Films: A Transgressive History of Hisayasu Satô]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/pink-films-hisayasu-sato-a-transgressive-history663bf336a7b53d91d0908c29Fri, 16 Jun 2023 10:25:12 GMTFred BarrettPINK WITHOUT BLUSH.

Inflatable Sex Dolls of the Wasteland film screenshot Atsushi Yamatoya

CW: Sexual Assault, Blood, Nudity

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A gay couple's liaison devolves so far into sadomasochistic torture that the submissive can only retaliate by cutting his partner's arm off. A man kidnaps schoolgirls and imprisons them in a freight container where he rapes, tortures, and murders them. A woman, reeling from a brutal sexual assault, copes with her trauma by seducing strangers and gouging their eyes out — in the harsh realm of Hisayasu Satô's pinku films, desire is pushed to its most uncomfortable extremes, down the transgressive avenue of the genre's grammar. Satô understands how, in the words of Martin Scorsese, "the camera violates," an aspect explored in the world of pinku eigas since the '60s, when Atsushi Yamatoya's Inflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands had his protagonist receive a film showing the rape and murder of his girlfriend which, in a moment of searing black comedy, a private investigator then critiques as a piece of art, griping about the lackluster cinematography.

A Short History of Pink Film

Inaugurated by Saturo Kobayashi's 1962 film Flesh Market, pinku eigas, or "pink films," found success in the liberalized climate of '60s Japan, occupying a comparable, though not identical, cultural space to the sexploitation films of the U.S., although the genre quickly set itself apart with its capacity for pushing boundaries and incursions into complex and often controversial subject matter. While quite a few of these pink films were mainly preoccupied with providing cheap, disposable thrills — the genre's origins were economic in nature, its emergence largely a response to the dwindling theater attendance in the early '60s, which itself was a consequence of the growing popularity of television — there was an auteurist undercurrent present from the genre's inception. Early pinku filmmakers like Kôji Wakamatsu and Teruo Ishii (the latter has been described as the Takashi Miike of the '60s due to the graphic nature of films such as Shogun's Joy of Torture) augmented their lurid provocations with subversive socio-political ruminations. Wakamatsu, in particular, found ways to lament the inner turmoil, paranoia, and eventual demise of the Japanese far left, notably exploring the movement's decline in 1972's Ecstasy of the Angels — a subject he further elaborated on with his 2007 non-pinku United Red Army, a kind of mea culpa for the violent excesses of the student movement he helped build.

As the production companies that released the pinku eigas — bigger names such as Nikkatsu and Toei, as well as influential independent studios like OP Eiga and Shintôhô Eiga — steadily increased their output throughout the '60s, a formula emerged that was less related to content, and rather to the logistics of production. Directors were given relatively free reign as long as their films fulfilled a certain quota of sex scenes, had a runtime of about an hour, were shot quickly — one week at most — on 16 mm or 35 mm, and could be completed on a limited budget. The artistic freedom afforded to the filmmakers transformed the world of pink film from an economic bivouac for a struggling Japanese film industry, into an arena for avant-garde experimentation and unflinching social critique. These creative endeavors tipped over into radical praxis for some: Masao Adachi, writer of several Wakamatsu-directed films and a director in his own right, went underground in the early '70s to join the Japanese Red Army. His involvement with the militant group led to a 28-year exile in Lebanon, imprisonment, and eventual extradition to Japan. He eventually resumed filmmaking, having most recently directed 2022's REVOLUTION+1, a film about the assassination of former Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

Ecstasy of the Angels (1972), dir. Kōji Wakamatsu

By the 1980s the market for pink films had diminished considerably due to the arrival of adult videos. Coupled with the more heavy-handed approach from censors which made theatrical pinku releases increasingly difficult, the industry fractured — most notably, Nikkatsu discontinued their once-popular Roman Porno series — and retreated into the small-scale independent market. The decade's most prominent pink directors — Genji Nakamura, Banmei Takahashi, and Mamoru Watanabe, known as "The Three Pillars of Pink" — further prioritized style and theme over mere titillation, a move that would prove to be vital for the survival of the genre, not only because it led to its standing as one of the last refuges of auteur filmmaking in Japan, but also because this artistic context gave rise to one of its most exciting, radical, and intelligent voices: Hisayasu Satô.

Satô: Age of Violence

Satô's beginnings are obscure and, aside from entries in online film databases, it's next to impossible to even verify the existence of his earliest works — an 18-minute short called Lovers of the Silver Screen, released in 1978, and a longer short carrying the wonderfully Satô-esque title, Desire for No Tomorrow — but in 1985 he properly debuted with a trio of films, Distorted Sense of Touch, Sex Virgin Unit: Party of Beasts, and Wife Collector. All three works told tales of sexual depravity and obsession amongst the dregs of society, its outcast characters all gripped by seemingly boundless desire — a premise that would come to dominate his filmography in a variety of ways. While delving into the psychological depths that his characters venture into in order to satisfy their libidinal impulses is perhaps the defining feature of his work, Satô uses this as a jumping off point to explore sexual and societal repression, media, technology, death, and even art itself. For instance, 1989's Muscle — a gay pinku which ranks amongst his best works — fused themes of queer desire and artistic expression: after a stint in prison, magazine editor Ryuzaki (Takeshi Itô, a frequent collaborator of Satô's) not only becomes obsessed with locating his former lover and tormentor Kitami (Simon Kumai), but also with locating a VHS copy of Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. Having been imprisoned for severing Kitami's arm in response to the sadistic treatment he was subjected to, he missed his opportunity to see the controversial film in theaters, and the faint hope of one day experiencing his favorite director's last opus, leads him to the same dark places that his masochistic obsession does.

1988's Brain Sex, meanwhile, exists at the blurry intersection of lust, voyeurism, and media sensationalism, its plot focused on the escapades of a teenage wannabe reporter (Marino Fujisawa) who gets sucked into a vortex of violence and sexual deviance when she begins pursuing increasingly depraved individuals for a pirate radio show. What works as commentary on the cruelty of media exploitation, also works as an early examination of the attention economy, and the moral lines that are regularly crossed in pursuit of that precious, increasingly scarce resource. The young main character feigns shock at some of the unusual sex acts she peeps on, but as she witnesses violent rapes and even murders, she can barely contain her excitement, going so far as to team up with a serial killer and rapist she comes across in order to generate content that's even more salacious and shocking.

Muscle (1989), dir. Hisayasu Satô

Not merely a two-bit provocateur, Satô infuses his cinematic extremism with somber reflections on societal ruin and alienation. It's a theme common amongst the auteurs of the genre: Shûji Kataoka, who also directed several gay-themed pink films, including the Kenneth Anger-inspired Rope and Boys and its four sequels, rendered contemporary society as nihilistic and devoid of compassion in his Subway Serial Rape series of films, all of which, predictably, included graphic scenes of sexual assault. Conversely, Ryû Murakami's 1992 erotic drama Tokyo Decadence opted for a more deliberate, Bressonian approach when exploring spiritual decay in the Japanese megalopolis. Considering how much Murakami's cinematic sensibilities were shaped by his work as a writer — Tokyo Decadence is an adaptation of his own short story Topaz, and his novels Audition, Piercing, as well as Topaz II, have all been adapted into feature-length films, with the Takashi Miike-directed Audition being widely regarded as a cult classic — his more tangibly arthouse-inflected style makes for an interesting counterweight to Satô's messy splatter-infused eroticism, a dichotomy emphasized by the fact that Satô tended to churn out multiple, hour-long films per year while Murakami only ever made five.

It would be wrong, however, to say that Satô — aided by screenwriter and frequent collaborator, Shirô Yumeno — doesn't bring his own distinctly literate sensibility to his film work. Aside from obvious thematic nods to the Marquis de Sade, his films also touch on the works of writers like Franz Kafka and Ryûnosuke Akutagawa, whose short story In a Grove was famously adapted into Akira Kurosawa's 1950 masterpiece Rashomon. Satô's own take on the story, In a Thicket, added strange, ghostly, and folkloric phenomena to Akutagawa's celebrated tale — and boldly did away with its conflicting points of view, while the titillating Bondage Ecstasy saw its Kafka-reading main character frequently imagining himself as a bug, a nod to the famed Czech writer's most famous story, The Metamorphosis. By contrast, 1996's Splatter: Naked Blood projected its tactile obsessions onto a William Gibson-esque virtual reality while once again investigating extreme masochism through a contrived plot involving a drug that lets people experience pain as pleasure.

Themes of pain and pleasure have been thoroughly explored in other films, of course. Yasuzô Masumura's transgressive 1969 drama Blind Beast, while not usually brought up in the context of pinku eigas, functioned in a way that fit neatly alongside what Toei's Pinky Violence films regularly explored, even if Masumara's style trended more towards the cerebral. The Pinky Violence series compounded eroticism with graphic violence — and sometimes off-beat humor — and carved out their own subgenre, ero guro, a wasei-eigo referring to "erotic" and "grotesque." Blind Beast's delirious take on anguish and ecstasy hyper-focused on the debauched pleasures of the body, descending into what the film's main characters describe as a "non-human abyss" — not dissimilar to what Satô achieved with the grotesque body horror of Naked Blood, a film in which scenes of extreme self-mutilation are shot and framed the same unflinching style his sex scenes are. A remake of his 1987 film Pleasure Kill, Naked Blood reexamines the original's self-destructive spiral by heightening it into a Cronenbergian sci-fi vision of apocalyptic transhumanism — the thirst for annihilation becomes a vision for the future.

Whenever pain and pleasure converge, and lines become blurred — including the lines between consent and non-consent — that is when Satô's films beam in all of their fucked-up glory. Not only do his most uncomfortable scenes radiate a twisted, unhinged eroticism, but they also encapsulate some of his most provocative ideas. A woman cutting off and devouring her labia, a young girl finding pleasure in the torture that a sadistic serial killer inflicts upon her, a man brutally beating another man to death for destroying a rare video cassette — all of these things become outgrowths of the same ur-instincts that contradictorily seek both survival and self-destruction, harmony and discord, submission and dominance. As a result, even his work which emphasizes the grisly over the erotic — a film like Lolita: Vibrator Torture comes to mind — is marked by a disturbing sensuality which even permeates scenes of gruesome murder. Desire becomes poison, a knife, release, violence — a desperate attempt at some form of liberation from the crushing despair that defines their existence.

Tokyo Decadence (1992), dir. Ryû Murakami

The characters' despair is one of total alienation. Trapped in the age of neoliberal hypercapitalism that would eventually see Japan's economic bubble burst, they're all watched over by machines of loving grace — 1992's The Bedroom opens with a shot of a CCTV camera, its lens trained on the audience — and accordingly, Satô's wretched grimescapes are littered with flickery TV screens, fluorescent lights, and leering cameras and microphones. Remarkably, both Brain Sex and 1998's The Fetist make use of Satô's microphone grille cam, transforming the screen into a cage — really an illusory trap for an audience of willing participants. Brain Sex ends the film with a grille cam shot, confining Tokyo's glistening high-rises and implicating the society they represent.

Satô: Age of Voyeurism

The post-bubble '90s saw the pinku industry confronted with its worst crisis yet. Many of the smaller theaters were forced to close down and production of films declined rapidly. Aware that whatever film they were working on could well be their last, the filmmakers of the era — Takahisa Zeze, Toshiki Satô, Kazuhiro Sano, and Hisayasu Satô, dubbed "The Four Heavenly Kings of Pink" — pushed their work into new extremes, determined to imbue their films with a highly individual, often idiosyncratic, sensibility, strongly influenced by notions of auteur filmmaking. According to Zeze, the old pinku audience didn't always appreciate their level of experimentation and politicization which they felt sacrificed the genre's sensual allure in favor exceedingly grim and frequently complicated narratives. In the case of Zeze it's easy to see why, since his obscure — even by pink film standards — 1994 film The Dream of Garuda, is one of the genre's bleakest, following the exploits of a convicted rapist, Ikuo (Muscle main actor Takeshi Itô), who, after his release from jail, becomes determined to find the woman he raped. The film's crushing atmosphere and bizarre humor — Ikuo receives slithery, soaped-up, and oddly sensual massages throughout — rival the transgressive eccentricities of Satô's work.

Although Zeze would go on to work in mainstream productions, including box office successes like the mystery thriller duology 64: Part I & II, and the romantic drama The 8-Year Engagement — it wasn't unusual for directors to "graduate" from pinkus to more accessible material, as filmmakers as diverse as cult favorite Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Yôjirô Takita, director of the Oscar-nominated 2008 drama Departures, began their careers directing them — Satô stuck to his guns in the world of pink films. His own artistic radicalism during the 1990s escalated to the point where he cast notorious murderer, necrophiliac, and cannibal, Issei Sagawa, in the previously mentioned The Bedroom. Though ethically questionable and likely motivated, at least in part, by a desire for publicity, this choice does enhance the text in darkly intriguing ways. Setting the dubious morality aside, Sagawa's crimes, and the legal shenanigans that led to him going largely unpunished, were, at the time, regarded with a mixture of fascination, revulsion, and curiosity. Certain artist-types in Japan were infatuated with the killer, cerebrating on the artistic potential of his insanity, and even polite society had trouble looking away as he appeared on game shows, published books, and sold paintings — most, if not all of it relating back to his brutal 1981 murder of Dutch student Renée Hartevelt.

The details of his horrific crime don't need to be recounted for the umpteenth time, but its psychosexual dimension is what makes his inclusion simultaneously potent and troubling. The film, also known as Unfaithful Wife: Shameful Torture, as well as a few variations thereof, follows Kyoko (Kiyomi Itô), a worker at a secret underground sex club called "The Bedroom," where the women are willingly drugged with a powerful hallucinogen called "Halcion." Incapacitated, they are then subjected to bizarre sex acts by the male members of the club. One of these men is Mr. Takano, played by Sagawa. It's worth mentioning that, although the film revolves around a series of murders committed in the club, Sagawa is not cast as the killer, nor does his scene stand out for the depravity it depicts — at least not on its own.

Mr. Takano enters the scene with a camera and proceeds to take pictures of Kyoko's nude, motionless body, eerily mirroring Sagawa's photographing of Hartevelt's corpse in various stages of cannibalization. Kyoko, who at that point in the narrative has stopped taking the paralyzing drug, choosing to experience the sadistic treatment she receives while fully conscious, lies there motionless while Mr. Takano, dressed only in his underwear at this point, stares at the camera, his eyes obscured by dark sunglasses. Although he is the only character to meet the gaze of Satô's non-diegetic camera, the choice to hide his eyes behind dark specs highlights his notoriety as a monster, something below humanity — his very eyes are made into the kind of "non-human abyss" that Blind Beast's amoral artist character and his model plunge themselves into. Provocatively, he begins licking Kyoko's body, starting with her buttocks — the part of Hartevelt's body he tried eating first — before moving on to her lips, the camera circling around them. As the macabre spectacle plays out, Kyoko's haunting inner monologue summarizes Satô's thematic obsessions: "Often, I would like to open my eyes... But I absolutely didn't open my eyes and look at them. Because I had the feeling I would see hell in there... I began to learn that pain is pleasure and that pleasure is pain."

The Bedroom (1992), dir. Hisayasu Satô

While Sagawa's character is the only one to truly break the fourth wall, the film frequently takes on the POV of one of the many camcorders seen throughout, and the characters end up flashing the audience a glance as they look into the lenses of the devices they have such an affinity for. Similarly, the sex club itself uses surveillance cameras to film the deranged sexual encounters that take place in its private rooms. This clash of gazes makes for a supremely oneiric experience as The Bedroom — also known by what is maybe the most thematically instructive title in Satô's oeuvre, An Aria on Gazes — disintegrates amidst sexual perversion and Kyoko's increasingly worrying attempts are regaining some sense of autonomy. There has always been a hallucinatory element present in the genre: Inflatable Sex Dolls of the Wastelands took its characters to both a barren, blown-out desert, and on a hazy trip through the surreal cityscapes of Tokyo. Even inessential pinku fare like Naosuke Kurosawa's impeccably shot but thematically inert 1985 pseudo-thriller Hit Woman — coincidentally, its alternate title, Dream Crimes, fits nicely with the point being made — boasted the same dreamlike aesthetic tendencies, framing its characters against imposing buildings and barren parks, and distorting their bodies in diamond mirrors.

Keeping with that tradition, Satô shoots Tokyo as an oppressive assembly of towering skyscrapers and filthy back alleys. His approach to filming the megacity would prove influential on filmmakers like Shinya Tsukamoto, whose 1989 body horror film Tetsuo: The Iron Man, defined the Japanese Cyberpunk movement by taking Satô's trash-littered production design to sickening new extremes, and more recently, Hong Kong director Soi Cheang, who imagined his own city as a dystopian, monochrome junkyard world in his stylish 2021 action thriller Limbo. Another thing that Satô has always exceeded at, though, is morphing his interiors into insulated worlds, an uncanny ability he shares with David Lynch, whose surreal 1997 neo-noir Lost Highway, contorts its spaces into nightmare zones, dread oozing from every inch of the frame. Lost Highway, like many of Lynch's works, operates in a twilight world between dream and reality, and this one makes memorable use of a grainy, scanline aesthetic to conjure the unheimlich. Satô's films tend to inhabit this same space, and its aesthetics are most interestingly applied in The Bedroom's titular bedroom, a dark kind of non-place — filled with "non-humans" like Sagawa's Mr. Takano — cloaking itself with the name of what might just be the most intimate space we know. This effect becomes especially apparent when we see the world through the cool and unsympathetic eyes of a surveillance camera or a camcorder, both of which feature prominently in Lost Highway and The Bedroom.

Satô's fascination with examining the gaze of the camera finds its clearest expression in 1988's Celluloid Nightmares. Taking cues from Michael Powell's 1960 classic Peeping Tom, and the techno-horror of David Cronenberg's Videodrome, the film transforms the camera into a weapon. Like The Bedroom, Celluloid Nightmares opens by confronting the audience with the eye of a camera, only here the technology is almost fetishized, captured with a particular '80s sleaze that was often reserved for the muscular male bodies of Hollywood action stars and their weapons — a stark contrast to the decidedly unsexy, frail CCTV camera that introduces The Bedroom. A harsh industrial soundtrack blares and VHS footage flickers across the screen, depicting the sexual assault and murder of a young woman. From there, Satô spins a perverse tale which takes his characters into the shadowy recesses of the human psyche, where death and eros once again congeal.

Satô: Age of Tenderness

Even though the genre is permeated by these disturbing visions, there is often a (sometimes twisted) tenderness, sometimes even veering into lightheartedness, tucked deep inside the works of pinku filmmakers — no matter how gruesome they appear on the surface. It's an aspect that is routinely neglected when discussing the already under-discussed genre but it is perhaps what makes it so enduringly captivating. One of the most obvious examples is 1994's A New Love in Tokyo, ostensibly a sequel to Tokyo Decadence, which likewise focused on the lives of sex workers but imagined its milieu as something more ambivalent, making room for some breezy, slice-of-life displays of camaraderie alongside its frank, sadomasochistic sexuality. Directed by one of "The Three Pillars of Pink" Banmei Takahashi, whose 1980 film Girl Mistress stood out for its unusual aching romanticism, the film's warm, comedy-drama sensibility is interspersed with extended sex scenes — many of them centered around Rei's (Sawa Suzuki) work as a dominatrix — and erotic photographs of lead actress Reiko Kataoka, shot by controversial photographer and co-writer Nobuyoshi Araki.

This misfit solidarity that marks Takahasi's film is inherent to many pinku eigas, even if it can be hard to make out, hidden behind a gloomy facade. Left-brain filmmakers like Masumura were generally more coy about their sympathies but for someone like Zeze, even The Dream of Garuda's reprehensible main character was deserving of some kind of empathy, the director inculcating his desolate world with a strange, magnetic beauty as Ikuo looks desperately for redemption. Like Takahasi and Zeze — to name two — Satô has, at least on some level, a genuine affection for his degenerate characters. It's an affection that's easily tangible in his comparatively less dour works, like the previously mentioned Bondage Ecstasy and the 1995 comedy Rafureshia, the latter being both an attempt at catering to the studios after several exceptionally dark films, and supposedly Satô's favorite film he's ever directed.

More remarkable, though, is that for all the elaborate gore and sex scenes — although it features perhaps the least amount of sex out of all of his films — Splatter: Naked Blood is also noteworthy for how a warped spirituality exists alongside the film's gallery of atrocities. The virtual reality the characters slip into enables them to connect not just with each other, but all living things, even plants, as Rika (Misa Aika) is shown regularly communing with her cactus. After having VR-assisted sex with Eiji (Sadao Abe), the young man responsible for giving her the drug which has slowly turned her into a sadist, she slits his throat and the blood geysers hit her face and exposed chest like ejaculate. She then gets up to find her beloved cactus has sprouted beautiful flowers before she looks out of the window at a new day, determined to infect the rest of the world with the drug. Sex and violence morph together to create something liberatory.

Splatter: Naked Blood (1996), dir. Hisayasu Satô

But it might be Muscle's haunting coda which best exemplifies the enticing contradictions inherent to his work: after finding himself involved in a bizarre, vaguely ritualistic performance, put on in an obscure theater by several masked dancers led by Kitami, Ryuzaki blinds himself in a masochistic gesture of submission to his dominant, saying, "Now I'll see your body the way it was when we met." The sadistic Kitami, who has been blindly obsessed with getting revenge on his one-time lover, pulls Ryuzaki on his feet and ushers him to the roof where the two share a tender dance, the scene accompanied — appropriately enough — by the spectral arpeggio of Coil's "Ostia (The Death of Pasolini)." The screen fades to black, the credits roll, and desire has claimed two more souls.

<![CDATA[Overmono - Good Lies]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/overmono-good-lies663bf336a7b53d91d0908c3eThu, 11 May 2023 21:02:13 GMTCaleb CarterFINDING BLAKE IN THE RAVE.

When Nineteen-Ninety-Four's Criminal Justice Act exiled the free party scene deep into Britain's woodlands, the ecstatic communion of drum and bass suddenly found itself waking rheumy in Blake's emerald Albion, sensing the vibrations of a time when ecstasy meant a very different eye-rolled and fizzing type of third sight. For the Overmono boys, Tom and Ed Russell, whose youth was spent holding free parties in the hairy mountain growth of Monmouthshire, the soft nettle beer of the Welsh countryside went down very easy when spiked with abrasive sound salts. The drums were at home there in valleys that once heard the footsteps of giants. Their debut 'Good Lies' is a cairn that signposts the tuning edge of a long precedented live set, diamond-cut across five years. It is an arpeggiated maypole of an album, and its blue-skied keys that roost dancing isles with scrubby synths over oceans of bass are more than summer-ready, trekking further to pollinate deep memories of rural homecoming.

Aping the sample seance of 'Untrue's' danse macabre, 'Good Lies' also drifts in liminal nostalgia, positively rooted in the leg ache afterglow of the rave, but is a very different kind of comedown-core. It is melancholic but it doesn't haunt. Its midis taste of menthol and drying sweat, and are drugged with cold elderflower snares and twiggy drums: earlyearly morning music that, not bashfully, plays to the ebbs and gushes of MDMA's shuddering futurisms. That's far from naive. Being high on ecstasy is a very lucid experience, and once removed from the conditioning that all altered states of consciousness are somehow tainted, the psychotherapeutic Eden of its embrace becomes clear, and soundtracking its synaptic architecture becomes a worthwhile mission. Overmono, then, pays special attention to the sequencing of 'Good Lies', reversing expectations by playing into the euphoric tremulations of the come-up in the first third - hushed awake by the sugarsnap vocals and swell pedal breath of opener, Feelings Plain - exactly so that they can play through to the night's end. The pair displays a sorcerer's confidence for atmosphere that other, overeager electronic musicians in the last few years have lacked, antidoting the melancholy moments of Walk Thru Water with libidinal breaks and rupturing the zits of Cold Blooded (which I look forward to hearing in parks, all summer) with digi-squeals writing fabulist manifestos over its more recognizable dance of steel drums.

Rave (babbling, riotous, eulogized, volatile) has always been a utopian kind of quicksilver. Cultish in an amphetamine possession that looks joyous only to those within its fog, its counterculture chugs on liberated consciousness, immersing in hardcore noisemaking, swamped with drugs, the night, and the gleeful congregating of the young and restless. Through its deep jargon and coding, its ability to collectively - and joyfully - organise and mobilise concocted a new world tribalism, and through its harmonic haptics of movement, beat and sound, it became an unassuming insignia of the anti-establishment. The government's attempts to iron out its festivities were no haphazards of wrinkled annoyance. They were, as Mark Fisher put it, a deliberate attempt at "cultural exorcism, commercial purification and mandatory individualism". Rave's magic Lazarus cycle sees it both intrinsically born from, and vehemently against, the fist its governments tighten around it, and so all its doctrines are prerequisite and immanent: the rave must house outlaws, it must be transhumant, and transhuman, it must be loud but paradoxically hidden, easy to stumble across and impossible to stop. Like drums resounding from the middle of nowhere. At bedrock, the spaces occupied by ravers are sites of dereliction, ruin, basements crushed beneath rent, quarries, or an abandoned bank vault in Cardiff's bay, stepping so hard that its moonlit denizens exit like drunk sailors. An abandoned third space whose corpse is revivified in the zebra gauze of hallucinogens for one last night at the ball. The characters encountered in these spaces are often no less abandoned and some find their new home there with the dove-winged stroboscopic erst, watching jungle dreams fade.

Byway of a collaging of choirs and keys, often marked by a bass that portents in the swamps of rhythm what long night might still be constellated, or was, 'Good Lies' hacks out a footpath between twilights and sunrises, in the inherent transition of the rave and right in the sharp lime between noisy quartz. Because of this, the drums are only sweeter when released from a song's grip, as in Is U which rolls on at about three different levels with a decisively tidal and unceasing momentum. Overmono captures that bittersweet finitude of both the dance and the pill's halogen, a seemingly eternal moment drawn out to its bitter denial. For all the lava tides of Arla Fearn there is the neverending flight of Sugarrushhh, and 'Good Lies' bridging of these two step states might finally unite your friends' otherwise partisan BPM preferences.

Though there is a dubbiness to 'Good Lies' that will feel perfectly snug rattling its plates against the lossless igloo of a tech dungeon, its mission statement is one evidently of escape into memory and into the outdoors. Windchime ambiance and birdsong anticipate the synthesizing of mental and actual s p a c e for sound to emancipate into, visualizing pronoia rivulets wriggling off beyond the forest ceiling towards the grander project. Starring Tirzah, Slowthai, and reclaimed crate-dug saints, Overmono chops them all into a unitary and eagerly incantatory inner child that, under trees, one might imagine warbling through faerie groves. The forest is a heartless plexus of fables, a site of connection and of roots, but also of secrecy and the lost. It leys the perfect lines for an album so endeared towards memories of dropping way after the dawn chorus has begun, where sweat marries the dew in the first greys of the first Welsh morning without rain. Label XL Recordings seem keen to imbue the brother's upbringing with this kind of mystic folklore, writing of the duo's quest to find "freedom in machines [and] themselves through brotherhood." Free parties have always been a confluence of the chemical, the organic, and the cybernetic, where the DJ spins strange and cloven stones to eat rivers like wav. files and send soundsystems knocking at grass in some arp-coded pennillion.

At this winding golemic altar, whose acolytes leave the doors to perception wide open in a blustering, electrical backdraft, a very unique, gentle, cathartic communion takes place, and 'Good Lies' weird, easy house feels built right at its solstice. Their live set's frequent remixing of I Have a Love is an example of how they stage the club scene's recurring intersecting of grief and euphoria, and euphoria as an exorcism of grief.

"From the two by two fuck you punk stage

To a warehouse rave, with a bloke we met on the way

Dancing til day

I have a love, and it never fades."

Reckoning with the crash of MDMA is just a microcosm of the time of your life that you take it in - school, university, summers, holidays, all crackling with goodbye. Smithed on bonds that might not last - bonds that perhaps shouldn't - drugs and dancing til the wee hours feel like a multicoloured propane to their ending - worth alighting just for the show - especially for men whose friendships so regularly exist in the domains of dopamine, hedonism, and jokes. The oft-maligned and misunderstood male friendship usually does not reveal its intimacy through the uneasy bearing of whatever heart is supposed to exist beneath bravado (persona is not so easy to privatize). Rather, men become close, truly close, over long periods of time, hanging out in large groups with the space to exist purely, simply, with or without their toxicity in tow, unjudged, held only by the aria of laughter. Yet across vast periods so cathartic and unburdened by the expectation of capital and attitude, they eventually cover inch-by-inch the broadest spectrum of emotions. Though there may never come a time for the true depth of these feelings to be acknowledged, men come to know each other as brothers might without ever really lifting a finger, knowing that if grief or heartbreak does come then the space has already secretly been eked out to experience it, together, and usually with grace. At the rave, the sweaty boy cuddles of a comedown, gurned "I love yous" and clasped shoulders flung with tunes are also these very legitimate building blocks of male love. The rave becomes this glinting arena of affection, all of it innocent and generous and no less real because everyone was fucked whilst it happened, in fact just the opposite. And if a lad was to admit it, they might tell you that these memories are soft bliss, and, in the same blushing confession, they might also tell you that the conversations shared amongst one another at the height of an MDMA pill were some of the truest they have ever had, and if their "I love yous" told lies then they certainly weren't ever bad.

<![CDATA[Hilma af Klint - Forms of Life]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/hilma-af-klint-forms-of-life66461fb45a8fdae7e45e7ecaFri, 21 Apr 2023 16:53:53 GMTCaleb Carter'Hilma af Klint & Piet Mondrian: Forms of Life'

Tate Modern, 20th April - 3rd September, 2023

A botanical instruction of sorcery devised by Swedish magician and theosopher Hilma af Klint who did divine such pencil sketches in secret from intermediaries Amaliel, Ananda, and Gregor who themselves as messengers bathed in light heard above the pines these messages from the high masters.

Fig. 1 – Harebell (The Voices)

God forbid Tate Modern steepled a brick exhibit solely to witchcraft. Af Klint’s pink crones evade the museum’s stickily worn leathers of canonicity, and head straight for the big pillowy exhumations of a divine botany unpencilled in the arts' favouring of context over occult. These are ginormous peony blushes of belief systems only for those initiated, like shushed bible paper readings of the sacred text or gong song and with sketchlines still visible within delicate shimmyings of light. Any symbolic inclusion of tactile paraphernalia like goblets, founts, or letters suggest the actioning of the hand and the ground, like all that light is ours for the taking and finally saving us from maths which not even mathematicians can do. So for the sake of keeping things interesting I’ll be eschewing Mondrian’s French OID’s from this review - canon be cannoned down - corrupting his computer suffixes in ritual offering to oaken libraries of scandiwicca, lodge upon solaced lodge of high priestesses and metropolitan cults. A bountiful exchange, art history ignored for a manual of creative euphoria:

(Close ur eyes.)

Up against the walls of breathing now the conch gyro formulator. Drooling sestinas.

Jøkul, glass insula. Mown grass in wind. (Good. What else.)

Erm. Thunder. (More.)

Red Thunder (And?)

And its eggy whip at stone.

(They call that petrichor. Here rocks do bleed.)

Fig. 2 – Ivy (Translation)

Our given ideas of the bright little angels in the 1900s are of Lang’s hallowed brass architects, all pantaloons and tight buns with futurist blueprints tucked under one arm and wafer-sharp god-shanks fisted in the other, but the confusion of the time must have been agonising. You had to scream hymns between salty gulps of water at deities newly calcified just to stay afloat. Whilst contradictions like “invisible substance” and “splitting the atom” were shatteringly bedfellowed on gold bands, af Klint performed her own anatomy of the Æther, chiselling the rhythms of nature down into geometry: spirals and hemispheres, points of emergence. Whether they were fully understood or not, science’s contradictions all seemed to be heading in likewise such a direction, with two opposing forces (probably a somethingness and a nothingness) swanning against each other, and there had been illuminated texts detailing these gravities for millennia. All af Klint did was infographic that shit, presuming that what the numbers were telling those that spoke that stiff language was just the same as her cortex whisperings from The High Masters, Urizen’s booming at Blake on his deckchair or any number of hermit dins over the sea. Af Klint’s working in 'series' lends itself to chronicling, a favourite comprehension method of humankind, and working sequentially, she distils sulfuric dictations into a satisfying linearity.




No surprises when you find this same signage in bible verses, in theses, and in meditation’s pendulum between one minute and twenty minutes of devotion, each second vital yet completely singular in its dispersion. In this way, af Klint was just doing with her eyes rolled back what everyone was doing with their eyes glued up against a microscope; making her own instructions towards soulthink. Often her playlisting finds the most disintegrated moment as the centre-point to its strange narrative, constructing its axis mundi around this valley of energy, out of Eden and into the fungal erecta of thought. Like noisy rays of light. The creative process has an intrinsic entropy to its wanderings. In gradients of ideation, one must decide how wet to leave the clay and any entry point for anyone upon what already is made is an incision. The linguistic missionaries of an af Klint ‘series’, then, are determined pillagers of reality. The presenting of absolutes leaves a limbic bloodbath of particulars on the cutting room floor. To exist is just to intrude on the .dot.atom.bindu. and leave all your workings out still on the test paper. Such is the playdate of the prism schism.

“O my, les yeux!” ✦ --<<

Fig. 3 – Spruce (Prayer)

With the same accessibility of spirituality’s intentional and sanctified misinterpretation of science, af Klint’s hygge witchery is all pink easygoingness. In Scandinavia there is a romancing of old age, its fernlike hug towards elderhood where wrinkles are pleasure-carven by north sea salt and euthanasia is legal. Its runic residuals feel linguistically magick (af Klint’s canvases are mired with the gorgeous cursive threads of “evolutionen”, “vessen”, “anket”, “oskuld” – who cares what the words mean when they susurrate before your eyes like that.) The direct translating of her bubbles into an anthroposophical text seems inapt, its envoi conjuring should be an experiential mode of interpretation. Easy, apothecary. Intuit these weddings, draw your own lines:

Petals. Their softness.

Pollen. It’s Shards.

Romance. Magenta.

Yggdrasil Bark. Wine.

Evo. Ion.

Underworld. Blush.

Hatch. Skin.

Oxbow. Wink.

Stamen. Seashells.

We're in luck. This time we don’t need canonical reflections on Mondrianic nEo-PlAsTiCiTy to see petal pussies. The perfume is the point. And cultivating the canvases' ghost nursery from the crepuscular whole up into mushroom caps and gothic ash is also that backwards iridology straight to the temple floor of The Calyxian Order: exactly what your hard-on was looking for. Unashamed eroticism, deliverance, porn that makes you decide to get a girlfriend. Just quiet candle covens and nuns’ sockfeet going bow shuffle bow. They smile like you wouldn’t get it. Young one. Little wizard. Licking their hand to flatten your cowlick. It’s really empty here, you say sheepishly. “Unfinished”, they smile. And suddenly the walls glow with letters that look like butterflies B s w f i o



( )

Ovular sprout. Bug-eyed fellows at a roundtable clucking, “A very dangerous theory on evolution indeed.” “Insane, actually, what with the wars about to begin.” Lines castrate pistils and pop bubbles, so there are these wardens of the shiniest archetype from which all other animals are just chimaeras and vegetables are brainless bastards and minerals just their uncarved ax. Plant it in your heart when she comes when she comes and you’ll read why time feels so clean.

<![CDATA[Inverting Inspiration: Kyoto Kyoto at Dalston's Café OTO]]>https://www.thebigship.org/post/interview-kyoto-kyoto-at-dalstons-cafe-oto663bf337a7b53d91d0908cc7Sat, 08 Apr 2023 14:57:02 GMTEve BoothroydMaking waves with their distinct grab bag of tastes and sounds, Eve Boothroyd sits down with Kyoto Kyoto at the legendary Café OTO to discuss just what makes them so unique.

We meet experimental collective Kyoto Kyoto on a fairly glum Friday afternoon in East London. The weather hasn’t quite reached drizzle, but the clouds hang low enough to give the area an overcast and moody feel. It’s the perfect setting for a band who pull from their surroundings as much as Kyoto Kyoto, who have chosen for their interview to take place in Dalston’s Café OTO. As they pose in the bleak environment, frontman Lev’s high cheekbones and cold stare feel fitting, and both band members watchfully observe the harsh and graffitied terrain. A shift occurs as we step into the mellow atmosphere of the café, almost as if the warmth of the room permeates the band, and they begin to open up and chat in a deeply warming, and genuinely enthusiastic, way.

Café OTO has, in the 15 years since it was founded, become an experimental staple in the Dalston community. It is a sheltered space finely tuned to create an arena of discussion and exploration, with shelves filled with LPs, books and magazines, and regular live shows taking place in the evenings. For Kyoto Kyoto, they were drawn to this location because it echoes in many ways their practice of borrowing and toying with the established in order to explore something new. “Basically it has nothing to do with us” they reply when I ask them why here of all places. “We’ve never played here, and it’s not necessarily about us wanting to play here.” The café itself is centrally located “in the core of Hackney and Dalston but isn’t attached to any specific scene in the way The Shacklewell Arms, Moth Club, or Paper Vintage are” the band explain. They admire how the venue “manages to be its own thing in a way that sort of doesn’t fit any description, and that’s how we feel sometimes with our own music.” They continue this parallel, describing how “we play all this music with all these bands, but we always feel a bit out of place. Not necessarily in a good or bad way, we just notice that in the context of some of the line-ups we’re playing or even the Spotify playlists we’re on, we’re just out of place.”

The complaint isn’t uncommon for a band who frequent the venues that Kyoto Kyoto do. It’s become a cliché of the new London music scene that practically any group who feature experimental guitar or spoken-word-style lyric delivery are lumped into a generic ‘post-punk’ label and dismissed as one of many. As uninspiring and shortsighted as these dismissals are for the diversity of talent being produced by these acts, for Kyoto Kyoto it feels like a particularly neglectful response to music that challenges its predecessors as much as it borrows from them. The collective’s discography joyfully experiments with classic kraut, experimental and classical elements to create a sound that is far more intriguing and complex than a token ‘post-punk’ label could do justice. Swerving from heavier, almost metal elements to more tranquil moments of experimental, complex guitar, they bounce between genres and pull listeners in an abundance of directions. It makes sense then, when they are keen to assert their status as a collective as opposed to a fixed “band”. They have “experimented with extra members and different instruments” and state that going forward they “don’t want to put a limit on what is possible”, wanting to “have the room to bring people in and not be defined by being a three-piece or four-piece.” Just as their sound is an ever-moving array of influences, so is their status as a group.

Part of what makes the act so immediately distinctive are their German lyrics, an unusual experience for London audiences who are so used to having bands cater to their native tongue. The decision was an organic one, with the band explaining that although they attempted to sing in English for the first few shows because it seemed like “the natural thing to do” it ultimately felt inauthentic to the German frontman Lev. “It felt like” he explains “if someone like Björk can play with pronunciation, you know, with vocal passions and skills… it felt to me very foreign singing in another language, one that isn’t my own. It felt natural to sing in German and musically for me more effective because it enabled me to play with words and riff around without having to translate the words and make it impersonal. I kept thinking ‘why would the most personal aspect of the music be in a language that isn’t my first language?’”

Perhaps fittingly then, it was at a German show where their music first began to resonate in a notable way. After only two months as a band, they travelled to the country and performed at three shows. “It was great,” they tell me, “it was the first time we’d seen that kind of reaction, with people moshing and moving that way.” When I ask if that was because German audiences could understand the lyrics more easily they agree it may have helped, but they discuss that more importantly “when you go to smaller cities people are not spoiled with international touring bands non-stop” like audiences often are in London. In comparison to Left of the Dial, which the band played a few weeks prior, where “from the first note literally everyone came in, they almost popped out of the floor,” London audiences have a tendency to “just have another cigarette and miss half the set” which the band laughingly admit they’re often guilty of too.

It’s interesting to consider the way in which spoiled London audiences have a tendency to dismiss certain acts for belonging to a ‘scene’ in comparison with the closer attention paid by regional audiences. Perhaps as a result of this fickle nature the band “take stage time really seriously.” Frontman Lev describes how “from seeing classical concerts, I feel like every minute and second counts.” He even states how he doesn’t “like drinking water on stage because it’s such a breaking of the fourth wall. I want a show to be like watching a magic trick, I want it to capture that feeling.”

Despite the centrality of their live shows to their rapidly growing reputation, Kyoto Kyoto have a notable output of recorded music, culminating in the release of their first EP ‘Mirror Flexing Jaw’ at the beginning of 2022. When discussing the EP, they look back with nostalgia, thinking of how “we didn’t have any idea how any of that kind of stuff really worked, we just wanted to record something and be an official sort of band. It was a very spontaneous kind of thing, and we weren’t really thinking down the line. It was very much recorded on a budget, but it also definitely put us on the map in some way.” It was also important for the band to assess the relationship between their live shows and recorded output, as they needed to see “if we could pull it off as well, to see if we could translate and replicate it on a recording.” When asked if there is anything they would change they reply sincerely “definitely. We would take more time and change the approach on the production. We would maybe have waited a bit more and saved a bit of money so we could make it as big as possible.”

Despite the DIY roots of the EP, the band has continued to progress and develop, as embodied in their single ‘Trier’. The track centres around one of Germany’s oldest cities, Trier, which frontman Lev grew up just down the road from. Because of its age, he explains, “you’ve got a lot of tall standing buildings from the Roman Empire. When I’m there it has a very nostalgic feel connecting me to the city.” He goes on to describe how for him “Trier is a symbol for… a city being so great but also being modernised. It’s just a symbol of pure craft and nostalgia and German art and music coming together. When I go to Trier, I can embrace all of it in one go.” Despite his concerns, he is keen to clarify that he doesn’t see “modernity itself as an issue, but the stuff that comes from modernity.” He gives the example of “people not being aware of the greatness around them, such as great art, great literature, or great music, which surrounds them non-stop, but they’re just distracted. I think the modern problem is people getting distracted too easily, by their phones etc. when in every city around you, every moment could be a source of inspiration to do something or write something.”

Kyoto Kyoto are not an act who can be accused of overlooking the history around them. Drawing on a complex tapestry of inspirations they borrow from and invert details of genres as if it were a game, but the product is momentous. Their small yet complex discography swerves in unexpected directions, fuelled by fun as much as emotion, and an astounding yet obvious love of detail. Their aspirations for the future remain undetermined but never directionless, with the group explaining how they “want to explore things such as classical, but never in a way that is just one genre. Never abandon songwriting and writing songs.” Their future is intriguing but, I reflect as we head out of the cosy haven of the café and back into the streets of Dalston, it will be as much informed by the past as it is by the desire to create something new.