Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"You must remember this..."

Oooh. Ow. Yes. Bit much, that last one, wasn't it. Sorry. As Schopenhauer more or less implies outright in Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, public masturbation is OK, and dressing up as Edward Scissorhands is OK, but masturbating while dressed as Edward Scissorhands is basically not OK. So to anyone who was perturbed by last night's blood and screaming, my sincere apologies.

It really was just the rain talking, I think, and a bit of leftover tiredness. Today, despite my not really having slept, it only took a bit of blue sky, combined with happening upon It's Better To Travel (the first Swing Out Sister album, from 1986, with Richard Niles's horn & string arrangements managing somehow to encapsulate and then outdo the entire history of human achievement, roughly speaking) on my iPod, to turn things around. So you're a happy bunny today, dear saggy old Controlling T? No, I'm still The Picture of Anguish and Lovelorn Self-Involvement, but as somebody brilliant once said -- I wish I could remember who; I'm sure it'll come back to me -- if a person has a communication problem, the least they can do is to shut up about it. I'm not going to delete the post -- if I erased everything here that in the cold light of the following day looked a bit misjudged, you'd be able to fit The Complete Thompsons on a beermat -- but I am going to distance myself slightly from the worst of its gruesomeness.

What really comes back and socks me in the gob from last night's post is how much I need to return my attention to finding a way of getting re-attached to a venue of some kind. It feels like last night's blinkered recourse to self-reproach and fretful vanity is sort of the default state for collapsing into when one's nerve fails or falters as an "individual" artist: and at these times I miss standing instantly and inextricably for a set of ideas that's bigger than my own ability to contain and activate them as a sole trader. And not having to generate one's own continuity seems increasingly vital -- I feel more and more like Gromit in that sequence in The Wrong Trousers, having to lay track by hand in front of the speeding toy train he's riding. I mean, Jonny's facetious-looking comment from last night is probably ultimately correct: theatre-making is pretty much the art of working incredibly hard for as long as possible with the aim of amounting to precisely nothing -- no residue, no surplus prestige. (Remember Derek Jarman telling Jeremy Isaacs at the end of their Face to Face encounter that he wanted his films to just disappear after his death. Not for the first time, Jarman seems a more theatrically inspired artist than most theatre-makers: though of course he spoke from what must have been by then the certain knowledge that his films would survive, even if they were to fall into neglect at some point: and that has to be, doesn't it, a position of some kind of strength, as regards what feels like a not wholly ignoble human desire to be of some consequence...) But my fear of ending up (and before terribly long, actually) unusable as an artist is not about the sense of legacy or of having a name that's known or some kind of visible status, but simply of being able to get gigs, being able to work at the only thing I know how to do. If I fall off the tightrope now -- and, fuck, last night, I felt precarious enough to really be wondering about this, and I feel that more frequently as time goes on rather than less -- how quickly do I just vanish? How quickly do the three dozen people who are paying close attention to my work stop paying attention to the space where I used to be? That's the scary thing. That the ephemerality of the work itself is beautiful and correct but that one's constantly living in the midst of that nothing.

(Actually partly I'm just feeling sorry for myself because, having been working solidly all year -- and this is the first year I've done that, where there haven't been yawning gaps in the diary -- I still can't afford to buy a half-decent digital piano. Which is about the only material thing my heart desires, and has for some years, and every year I think maybe this year will be the one... Well, maybe next year, innit. In the meantime, let me eat Omnichord.)

An interesting moment today at college where one of my students stopped me in mid-sentence at 11am and asked that we observe the two minutes' silence. I hadn't even thought about it. It was good to be jolted into that space -- particularly by someone younger (and not British) -- and also interesting, on the other side of it, to nudge the group slightly towards a conversation about the memorial functions of performance -- the silence being a strongly and significantly performative act in a way I guess I hadn't really thought about before -- and how these relate to the built-in lossiness of theatre, both in relation to its low signal-to-noise ratio and in its total predication on the ephemerality I've been talking about here. The really smart person on theatre as a site for the invocation -- indeed the presentation -- of loss, and the mnemonic preservation of absence, is Theron; I might see if he's willing to have a transcribable conversation about it for these pages. I love the idea of locating the vital political commitment of not-forgetting in some other place than the public monument, which is (or can often be) so stilted and aggressive; I love the idea of theatrical remembrance as something that has to be held in common by all those present; I love how the fundamental evanescence of the form becomes a civic challenge rather than a prompt for a kind of desireless resignation. I wonder if that in itself could be a route out of these (certainly anyway temporary) doldrums to do with what all this, all of us, might add up to. I might go back to some of John Fox and Sue Gill's writings in this area, too.

Yes, so yes, yes, there's makeable work, and we put one foot in front of the other, and I have to remember how vastly bigger the context of the work I'm doing is than the life I'm trying to do it in. And I guess I have to try and remember also that untrammelled sadness is kind of a drag on the ticket, and incontinent self-exposure likewise perhaps. But also, ow; which is where we came in. But fuck, it matters. Love -- to give it its rotten jargony technical name -- matters, doesn't it, above, or below, everything, whether or not it's speakable or makeable right here right now, because everything else, the work, the urge, is about ensuring that love has its rightful place, and is not strangled or casually contemned, and will eventually make sense of the other promises we make, which all attest finally only to the possibility of love, in the way that we know certain particles exist only because ingeniously we see the traced aftermath of their collisions. And that's all this is, this outpouring these last few days, and at the Hey Mathew blog, and in all the places where I've been of late. I'm just fidgeting in my heart, to see if there's a way of doing this more comfortably. Unfortunately, now that I (think I) know myself a little better than I did, and understand the twisting narratives that have gone into making me, I see that I'm split right down the middle and that exactly fifty per cent of me is soppy and clingy and wants to climb inside its den and stay there for ever; the other exactly-half is made of sterner stuff and knows love is actually bracing and propulsive and sends us out in to the world to give ourselves away unstintingly. Neither impulse wins out. This is, if nothing else, a good argument for having an odd number of parents.

Meantime, just call me Negative Capability Brown. (That should be a paint shade.)

Today, for the first time in my life, I thought quite hard for a few minutes about the idea of redemption. I wonder what that's going to end up meaning.

On which topic, actually: P.S. I'm reading with Harry Gilonis, Luke Roberts and Karen Sandhu (and Allen Fisher via ectoplastic transpixelification) at Openned, at the Foundry (Old St kinda neck of the woods), next Tuesday, November 18th. It's free to get in, even. This is the last of the present funny little glutlet of poetry outbursts from yrs truly; please come and rattle your jewellery. Without you I'm nothing.


nikki tomlinson said...

Hey Chris
wanna drink?

Susmita said...