'Do It Yourself' or 'Policing Culture'
"She wants a laugh; she doesn't laugh enough......She wants to ski down a mountain laughing like an idiot." Woody Allen 'Play it Again Sam'
I wrote the following letter in response to a friend's letter in which he shared a talk by Terence McKenna entitled 'a message to artists' asking me what I thought. The main gist of Mckenna’s talk being a call to dismantle the brainwashy culture of the 90s and give birth to a new civilisation where the subconscious (through art and psychedelics) could be relied on to reveal the best ways we might all live in harmony with one another.
Really would like your thoughts on Terence Mckennas message/call to artists: Link here -
What I like about the core of what he is suggesting is art's potential to provide a "unified" message that is critical of post modern freemarketeering but also conveys a deeper message that is essentially more real, more life affirming.
Or do artist confine themselves to being separated from the real world, promoting individuality (i.e. rocks, water, fish, soil, trees) in the belief that it is western culture which is more 'real' than 6 million years of evolutionary biology?
To separate our cultures from the ‚sillier‘ rules would involve a rigorous policing of people who are prone to being shepherded for want of a decent idea of their own. These individuals (or groups) would be ostracized and marginalized by the mushroom taking free thinkers dancing to Stockhausen in lederhosen.
To create something and carry that something back to the collectivity is, in itself, fundamentally an attempt to create a culture; to not just share individual ideas but to share an understanding of our commonality.
Unfortunately 'cultured' humans become lazy. They follow. We are quickly convinced through the school system and various other cultural institutions that we are not free to choose and as a result we do tend to sit back then and say 'okay, I give up, YOU choose what we do today, YOU tell me.'
Try telling a room full of 11 year olds to give ideas of what kind of lesson they want today. You will get crappy ideas or nothing at all. Fortunately/unfortunately we do also have a 'will to teach'.
Terence McKenna claims there hasn't yet been a poet who has sung successfully of this secret to unification; no poet who has yet touched Mother Earth's g-spot, so to speak.
Here I disagree. There have been plenty of poets who have sung of this beautiful unifying understanding of the world, but people have been and are being continually distracted by the easier fix of a steady job and a song with an equally steady beat.
Whether or not this is a bad thing is what we are questioning.
Creating 'artistic' communities is an extremely popular part of our current culture. It is encouraged in most countries around the world and from the outside these small communities may look exotic and informed while on the inside they are often normal and clueless. (Which is not itself a bad thing in my opinion).
However, to call on artists to restructure the way people think and lead their lives is like asking a 5 year old to lecture on Astro Physics at Oxford.
Artists themselves are only people rearranging the furniture. Terence Mckenna's message to the artist should be better aimed at EVERYBODY. The artist holds no secret that isn't held by every one else. It could be argued that even the very culture of art plays some part in distracting the artists from expressing their own true 'meanings'.
As soon as a second person is involved in anything one does, a culture is being fucked into existence. Every response to a statement, judgement of a song, reaction to an action dictates the way that interaction will continue for the foreseeable future.
Wipe the board clean and give the reigns of power to The Artist and no matter which way you slice it they will slowly and of necessity begin to police themselves. And they will hate themselves for it.
If twelve individuals cannot get along in a Big Brother TV studio for cash how can we hope to construct a structureless utopia in which 7 Billion people are all singing along to 'Blowin' in the Wind' and rubbing houmous on each others bodies?
'The poets have not articulated a moral vision."
Terence said. A vision he says which must come from the subconscious.
"The artist's job is to save the soul of mankind," he says "and this job can only be done by them."
He asks for a 'programme' for a world without ideology.
This 'new cultural level' he speaks of is, as you know, right up my alley, but off the top of my head I could name at least 50 friends/acquaintances who would feel so uncomfortable in this new culture that they would surely call out to all 'non-artists' to attempt to model a new, safer, easier, structured, sober, Dylanless society in which they could watch Love Island without being yelled at for being an idiot.
'Someone here has what you need.' T.M. said to his audience. ALL the answers were there for him and for his audience, and here for us now as recorded in various mediums from intelligent humans past and present. We just need to know where to look. But even more pertinent than this 'search', as enjoyable as it can be, the answers are within.
Unfortunately the non-creatives among us look upon most creatives disdainfully as an elite group whose work is deliberately obscure and impenetrable.
Here's a hypothetical spanner in the works - what if the artists stopped taking drugs and actually tried to communicate their revolutionary ideas with people who have never heard of Marc Rothko or Marcel Duchamp? Just a thought.
My parents certainly learnt more about gay relationships from Coronation Street than they ever did from Derek Jarman.
Another aspect of Terence's rally cry which will probably continue to fall on deaf ears is that of taking mushrooms to open the mind. I am 100% into the idea but know too many people who would happily imprison anyone fool enough to dabble with anything harder than alcohol, cigarettes or paracetamol. These people will never be convinced.
Then there are those who simply don't fancy it.
On a personal level I have always liked the idea of dosing. I mean taking small samples of LSD or mushrooms under controlled circumstances which I know Terence supported.
One drawback of this however is the universal necessity for psychological balancing before we promote the idea of 7 billion people dropping acid. There are those who would love to try such experiments who, to put it plainly, should not.
We each have what we need. The only reason to look abroad for enlightenment is to find the authors, artists, philosophers, teachers or next door neighbours who are good enough and wise enough to remind us that we should turn our gaze back to our self and in that way join the masses who have no fucking clue what's going on, why we are here or what we should do next.
In the short term we actually know what to do because we know what we like. We know what we don't like. If we could all learn to deal with that on a daily basis like proud individuals and not like some fenced-in whining sheep we may just find we have opened up our minds to actually ENJOYING art instead of missing all the fun and begging it for answers.
As soon as we 'expect' art to be or do something we are shackling the creative beast within us. Art is responsible to no one just as the machinations of the universe are responsible to no one.
Artists! Make of it what you will; your birth was your call to arms - the rest is semantics.
‚C‘ wrote an awesome response, as usual, and I will be sure to let you know if our beautiful 30 year long dialogue reaches a conclusion. I don’t think either of us want it to.
In conclusion to this blog however I would just like to say that a thought occurred to me after working on a painting today; it was this -
I would like to make work which not only makes people say "Even I could have done that," but for people to reflect and say to themselves, "I would like to do that."
Images from current Futura exhibition
DEVON DIKEOU: TRICIA NIXON: SUMMER OF 1973
CURATOR: CORTNEY LANE STELL
ANDREW NORMAN WILSON: ANDREW NORMAN WILSON
CURATOR: ANDREW NORMAN WILSON
LENKA VÍTKOVÁ: SLOPE
CURATOR: MICHAL NOVOTNÝ
and FUSIONISM 2018 Event at Sewage Plant in Bubeneč.
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I am committed to making this blog as snappy, fun, experimental and accessible as I can. If any of what I post, paint, paste or print resonates with you, please forward to friends and colleagues with wild abandon!