Get You Back Home
1. `Take a card, any card ...'
When Lunch was wired, his whole environment came alive, a veritable panoply
of moment-forms that sparkled with crazy insights. At these crisis points, the
cultural debris around him shrieked for attention, a veritable queue of suitors
proferring gifts. After this morning's hard work at the telephone, the rubbish
scattered over and under his desk screamed for Cleavage, the cunning disection
that could reveal their rainbow contradictions. He had an image for it. A dusty
gold-prospector is caught by a shakey video-camera: he's grinning through his
mangy beard, showing a few stumps of yellowed tooth. As he nods his head, his
wide-brimmed hat keeps obscuring his fervid glance. He's holding a grey, flaking,
spherical pebble in the palm of one hand, in the other hand a ball-peen hammer.
He gives the stone an almighty crack, then his fingers close up. He holds the
result up in his gnarled fist. `Want to see?' he leers. The camera zooms in,
he opens his palm. He's split the thing in two, it's opening for the camera,
the material inside is riven with incandescent contradiction like mother-of-pearl.
The mind's eye falls into the myriad colours, a universe of tiny detail.
Lunch shook his head. This was all too psychedelic, too fractal, too computer-head for a veteran punk mucker. `Exterminate all rational thought, that's the conclusion I've come to'. All very well when the only rational thought on offer is the degraded horseshit moralism of an Allen Ginsberg, Bill, but I've got a different flowerpot to flesh-spoon idiot-scorpion chunky bits out of! The symbol cannot exhaust the thing symbolized. Let's have a taboo on rapt contemplation and obsessional ratiocination. Let's pan back, think some material history into this impasse.
Lunch picked Stewpot Hauser's Cranked Up Really Culture: Utopian Fruits From Eat-the-Rich to Classy Arsehole Nihilism off the shelf. A paperback published by an anarchist press, they'd used cheap glue on the binding: as he opened it, the book cracked in half. There, printed on the `ironic hippie' rainbow-colours favoured by Hauser's confusionist aesthetic, was a tract on the historical role of religion. An iridescent secret inside the rock, the sexual twinkle of all intellectual suggestion. This should be good for a wank, thought Lunch (a synaesthete, he lacked the usual Kantian repression that divides sexual appetite from intellectual curiosity). Hauser was a maniac who occasionally produced that delightful erotic twinge, the apperception that mania might manage to see round corners denied to the squares. OTL switched on the answer-phone, made himself a mug of Somerfield Gold Roast freeze-dried instant coffee, and slouched in his armchair, the broken tome in one hand, his cock in the other.
Religion fixes the relationship between symbol and the thing symbolised. Its Covenant with the Divine makes magical relations public and social. No longer a matter of conflictual tribalism - my God versus yours - universal religion allows secular life to proceed without undue interference. No wonder that Thomas Hobbes, the self-proclaimed `rationalist' who saw all human beings as machines, should found the state on Holy Scripture. This was the ideal system for the soon-to-be-hegemonic merchant class: the spirit disconnected from demotic control, regulated from above, transformed into pure recognition of the right to exact surplus value. However, Christian rationalism is founded on an absurdity: without scholasticism's negotiation between one-and-the-many, without its links to Plotinus and the Neo-Platonic tradition, the need for religious doctrine becomes questionable. Attempts to replace religion with a stable system of representation - social-democratic parliaments, single-point perspective, the realist novel told by the omniscient narrator, the tempered keyboard - foundered on the actuality of class struggle, of a society schismed between capital and labour. Hence Karl Marx and Modernism, which foregrounded the actual materials beneath the eyes of the spectator.
This wasn't half bad for a self-professed `anarchist' and widely-applauded
bootboy-cretin bestseller! Hauser's irritation with the eco-wing of the anarcho-artocracy
had borne fruit. Leonine rage had brought forth intellectual honey. Hauser called
his contempt for pastoral hypocrisy `punk', but ultimately - tracing the idea
back via Vicious to McLaren to Debord to Luk cs to Lenin - it derived from Marx's
revolutionary monism: understanding human labour as itself a force of nature,
undermining the Kantian dualism between humanity and nature. By beating his
close-cropped, proletarian bonce on the bourgie bohemians of the charmed art-circle,
the boy had done good. Result!
`Hola!' shouted Lunch, an anti-chauvinistic approximation to a Spanish ejaculation, and staggered over to the record-player to put on a single by The Suicidal Supermarket Trolleys, wondering idly whether their acronym could have anything to do with the Los Angeles punk label SST. As punk-beats blistered the air, he returned to Hauser's amateurish-yet-striking meditations on religion.
Whereas it had been a mere sentimentality for the medievel alchemists to find correspondences in the external features of natural objects - the idea that walnuts are good for the brain because they look like the cerebral hemispheres is poetic, perhaps, but nevertheless stupid - Kurt Schwitters discovered that the urban environment is so thoroughly humanized that assemblages of its waste-product became more eloquent about the facts of urban life than easel-picture representations. Dada challenged realism at its tender heart - by showing that it was a tendentious illusion. `Still lifes' were put together from tickets, spools of cotton, cigarette butts, photos cut from cookery magazines, then linked to painted elements. The whole thing was put in a frame. The public was told: look, it's your picture frame that ruptures time, not the `skill of the painter'. The tiniest fragment of real daily life says more than painting. Just as the bloody fingerprint of a murderer on the page of a book says more than the text.
Hauser had transformed himself into a Marxist art critic of the first walter. Superb! Lunch trembled with enthusiasm. As he turned the pages, they fell from the binding onto the floor. Soon he was sitting in a pile of rainbow leaves, a bare tree in the autumnal forest, glad to be providing vegetable loam for the undergrowth.
The fact that photography has an indexical relationship to reality, being quite literally an exposure to the lights and dark of the objective world, a process that exceeds the conscious control of the photographer, means that cinema is actually a collage of fragments from daily life.
Aha! Hauser's prol materialism would have no truck with the Idealists of Structuralism, for whom `nothing is natural' (Lunch recalled the late-70s slogan with distaste), everything is `constructed' out of humanity's semiotic systems - who insist that even the photograph is a mere imprint of the mind on paper ...
With the invention of film, it was not just moving trouser legs and turning wheels that were interesting. It's not the `simple fact' that concerns us when we watch a film , but the contemporary historical fact. We look at films to find out about ourselves. `Hey, that's me in the riot!' matters more than any `performance' by some over-paid Hollywood bimbo. Technology, overcoming time and space, has brought all life on earth close together. The most remote `facts' - as much as those closest to hand - have become significant. Mechanical representation - photography, tape-recording, film - has secularised the divine. Everything that happens on earth has become more interesting and more significant than it ever was before. Our age demands the documented fact!
Hauser was echoing the words in the Communist Manifesto about capitalist progess
making everything solid melt into air, so that people are at last compelled
to face with sober senses their real conditions of life! This is what Philip
K. Dick meant in the Exegesis about the Umgrund fusing with the demiurge, it
was the Naked Lunch: Truth, Revelation, Revolution - where the mask of things,
of money, of property, of `just deserts' is torn away, and social relations
stand out in their starkness. No more excuses!
Lunch rummaged in the fridge and found a can of Special Brew. Holding Hauser's book in the other hand, he ripped out the ring-pull with his teeth. He collapsed onto the sofa, gurgling beer and reading on.
Dada proposed a revolutionary lived culture - a permanent democratic reconstruction of actuality that superseded the ideology of symbolic systems. Its materialism was the manifestation in the sphere of art of the argument that the masses have the right to alter property relations. World War II stamped it out just as thoroughly as it suppressed Trotsky's programme of independent working-class politics. The Nazis persecuted Dada as `Degenerate Art', filling the museums with their Neo-classicism - bloodless, crypto-pornographic, ersatz and hollow. Stalin insitituted `Socialist Realism' - easel-painting kitsch for the galleries, mass-produced exhortations to labour for the horadings. And, as Clement Greenberg pointed out in his famous essay in Partisan Review, 1939, number six, totalitarian flattery of mass taste had its counterpart in free-world commercialism. Instead of providing documentary collage that could inform the masses about their lives, Hollywood diverted film into mass-production of bourgeois forms: the musical, theatrical melodramas about millionaires, lavish spectacle. The Freudian discovery that diamonds and jewels are only substitutes for sexual tingles meant that splendour and astonishment could actually belong to everyone.
Lunch swigged more Special Brew. The icy, bitter, oily liquid - a taste that brought back infantile memories of red liquorice in two-foot strings - fused with Hauser's pugnacious, heated prose, forming an explosive interpenetraion of opposites in the retort of the lunchoid sensibility. Stewpot had written some heady stuff here.
The suppression of workers revolution by the Nazis and the ensuing world war made Dada's supersession of bourgeois realism incomprehensible: Modern Art became guerrilla warfare against totalising symbolic systems. On the defensive, the bourgeois traditions of art, literature and logical philosophy toppled into insanity: the attempt to make sense of a life of the mind without recognising its base in exploitation of the worker results in schizophrenia.
Lunch knew what Hauser was saying. He finished the Special Brew, tossed the empty can into his brown-paper `eco' bin (`step to the rhythm of the brown paper bag!') and went over to his shelf of crap writers. He reached down a copy of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations and fanned the unread pages. His eye happened upon 216.
`A thing is identical with itself' - There is no finer example of a useless proposition, which is yet connected with a certain play of the imagination. It is as if in imagination we put a thing into its own shape and saw that it fitted. We might also say: `Every thing fits into itself.' Or again: `Everything fits into its own shape.' At the same time we look at a thing and imagine that there was a blank left for it, and that now it fits into it exactly. Does the spot `fit' into its white surrounding? - But that is just how it would look if there had been a hole in its place and it then fitted into the hole.
Jesus! No wonder Eddie Prvost had decided that droning mantras and Maoism
were the way forward for jazz if he was reading stuff like this back in 1971.
Bourgeois confusion created by an inability to factor in time could erupt at
any minute. Wittgenstein wasn't just a schizophrenic, he was liable to induce
schizophrenia in anyone who read him! Lunch felt his brain boil. He opened the
fridge door. A solitary can of Special Brew glinted at him, precisely filling
the space it would occupy if it wasn't there. He grapped it and ripped off the
ring-pull. Wittgenstein was confusing reality and representation, that much
was certain. But where did Hauser stand on the question? On his head, probably,
some novelty act nicked from Madness ...
Lunch stared at the back cover of the Wittgenstein, with its blurry photograph of the philosopher standing in front of the fountain at the centre of the main courtyard of Trinity College, Cambridge. Returning to his desk, he opened the drawer and got out his Stanley knife. He reached over to the window-sill and grabbed his Jakar "self-healing" cutting-mat. Splaying the book, he laid the back-cover of the book on the mat, then carefully cut the man away from his privileged environment. A two-dimensional puppet-Einstein. Lunch's attempt to cut around Wittgenstein's fly-away hair resulted in ludicrous Sid Vicious spikes. Lunch placed his cardboard figure inside the hole he'd made in the back cover. Yes, it `fitted' precisely. He swigged some more Special Brew.
But this `exact' fit was only possible because Wittgenstein's photographic semblance had been reproduced on a two-dimensional surface! He `fits' his space because he'd been frozen into a 2D shape that blocked the background, like a flat wooden sheep-piece in a child's find-and-fit farmyard. That was Wittgenstein's madness - he was treating the world as its own representation. The `logical' analytic philosophers, those who attempt to live in the flatland of symbolic representation, drive themselves crazy. It wasn't Lunch who was out to lunch, it was Snodgrass and his ludicrous attempt to formulate an `Analytical' Marxism! As Lenin argued contra Ernst Mach in Materialism & Empirio-Criticism, the material world exists independently of our representations of it - though of course, as a monist, Lunch conceded, as molecules of Special Brew alcohol coursed through his blood, our representations of the world do not issue from some special, transcendent zone, but are a part and parcel of the material world.
`Part and parcel!' Lunch muttered, and scribbled the phrase down in pencil on the back of a list of record-label distributors. An image of rumbled brown paper and coils of twine cunningly arranged to picture the terrestrial globe entered his mind. Was it some advertising poster he'd glimpsed in a queue at the post office? Or perhaps observing a round street-lamp reflected in the glass before Katz's immortal window-display on Brick Lane? No matter, the image helped him think the problem through: `Parsed and particle, past and parallel, pussed and postal ...'. The possibilities were endless. He stumbled into the hallway, found the shelf of Marxist classics, and got down Trotsky's In Defence of Marxism, a reprint published by New Park in 1975. He quickly located a favourite passage in `A Petty-bourgeois Opposition in the Socialist Workers Party', a diatribe written by Trotsky in 1939.
In reality `A' is not equal to `A'. This is easy to prove if we observe these two letters under a lens - they are quite different from each other. But, one can object, the question is not the size or the form of the letters, since they are only symbols for equal quantities, for instance, a pound of sugar. The objection is beside the point; in reality a pound of sugar is never equal to a pound of sugar - a more delicate scale always discloses a difference. Again one can object: but a pound of sugar is equal to itself. Neither is this true - all bodies change uninterruptedly in size, weight, colour, etc. They are never equal to themselves. A sophist will respond that a pound of sugar is equal to itself `at any given moment'. Aside from the extremely dubious practical value of this `axiom', it does not withstand theoretical criticism either. How should we really conceive the word `moment'? If it is an infinitesimal interval of time, then a pound of sugar is subjected during the course of that `moment' to inevitable changes. Or is the `moment' a purely mathematical abstraction, that is, a zero of time? But everything exists in time; and existence itself is an uninterrupted process of transformation; time is consequently a fundamental element of existence. Thus the axiom `"A" is equal to "A"' signifies that a thing is equal to itself if it does not change, that is, if it does not exist.
The superiority of Marxist thought to bourgeois obfuscation had seldom been
so graphically demonstrated! Trotsky faced the same absurdity as Wittgenstein
- the axioms of Aristotelian logic - but instead of allowing it to drive him
crazy with its schizophrenic confusion between world and representation, he
showed how it was caught up in the denial of time characteristic of Platonic
abstraction - and how it led inexorably to Capital's response to dialectics:
non-existence, murder, the Nazi deathcamps. The clarity of Trotsky's argument
was astonishing! It was a crime that people wittered on about Baudrillard and
Derrida - selfserving bourgeois chancers nurtured on Alexander Kojve's
Stalinist preference for Heidegger - while this stuff remained buried in what
civilians called `incomprehensible sectariana'. It made Lunch want to write
a novel, broadcast this information on a more accessible waveband.
Wittgenstein's `play of the imagination' is incipient schizophrenia, Lunch decided, the confusion of reality with symbolic systems used to represent it. Only on the flat picture plane of two-dimensional representation does a figure `fill' the space behind it (saving money for someone commissioning an icon, say, as less background gold-leaf was required). Lunch sat before his word-processor. He had to explain this tide of rising madness, seal it in a bottle marked `literature', quarantine the contagion, send it off to Sinkle or Hauser or Condottieri, draw this poison from his psyche.
The drift - losing identity
You can stay anywhere, wear anything, play at any relationship. Put on the dayglo-orange plastic jacket and pick up the shovel and you're a council labourer - put on the tiara and you're a society dame. On a Saturday night in town, there's the mix - a woman passes by, links arms with you and suddenly you're part of a totally new scene - you're a butcher, a baker, a chartered surveyor, a biker with a heroin habit, a hairdressser with a taste for champagne. It's all play, and the props dictate the action.
Lunch fetched down Punkrokki, his favourite collection of Finnish punk rock. Soon `Ronkpukki' by Veltto Virtanen was causing the windows to rattle. He re-read `The drift - losing identity'. So far, his vision of the post-revolutionary farewell to authenticity was too rosy. Where was the lump in the throat, the heartache that threads its way through any decent punkrock, the duende so lacking in, say, the Boomtown Rats and 999, and full-to-overflowing in every one of Johnny Thunders' warped twangs? Lunch had to get more sentimental, find that melancholy country-and-western flavour so despised by the pomo-yuppie infatuation with power. Lunch had to speak for the tear-stained soul Mikhail Bakhtin hailed as an inevitable attribute of subaltern expression.
Leaving your friends and entering the post-revolutionary Drift is poignant and tearful - you forget who you were before, and adopt the memories and tastes appropriate to your new life. Some people try and keep a grip on their old life (Danny's Glaswegian voice, persuasive, urgent, wise: `It's all friends, Ben - friends'), fighting the Drift with grouplets that meet regularly in pubs and clubs. Some cynics describe Party of Leninist branch-meetings as examples of resistance to the Drift. But even these cabals of cowering saddoes are tempted: the drift, after all, promises immortality.
The telephone rang. Stewpot. He sounded out of breath, almost as if he'd developed
a speech defect. Was the lunatic pressing his lips against the receiver of his
mobile? Maybe he was going to do the Lux Interior mic-trick, swallow the thing
... Lunch didn't want to listen to Hauser's stomach rumbles, that malarky was
a burned-out field after Henri Chopin.
`What's this? Who's there?' he barked.
`They wanted to find out if you were going to write about me,' the line croaked back.
`Who's "they"?' Lunch shot back.
`I'm not at liberty to divulge. But you're the one who could outwit them, by putting them in a trashy boho-political novel. Thousands of people would read it. The secret would be out.'
`What secret?' OTL asked.
`The fact that I represent an extraterrestrial authority greater than any human power, whose time is destined to come.' Hauser was obviously stoned out of his quantulum of brain-cells.
`Oh.' Lunch said. `Well, I think they were actually interested in me, since it was my book they bought and my papers they scanned for data about politics and art.'
`They wanted to see if we had formed an organization.'
`They wanted to see who I know,' Lunch corrected the telephonic bootboy. `And what organizations I belong to and give money to; that's why they took all my cancelled checks, every last one of them, years, decades of them.'
`That's crazy, man, you're talking like Gamma.' Lunch started. Stewpot didn't know Gamma! Yet Gamma had lent Lunch a copy of the Exegesis, and sure-enough, it had been "signed" by Philip K. - one of his signatures had been `tipped in'. It had been cut out from a signed cheque. Lunch tried to turn tack. He was feeling giddy.
`That hardly suggests anything about you and your dreams.'
`Are you writing about me?' Hauser asked.
`No,' said Lunch.
`Just make sure you don't give my actual name. I have to protect myself!'
The line went dead. Lunch went back to his word-processor and quickly inserted a resum of the conversation into his story. Check or cheque? One was never sure how American to make the spelling. The land of six-packs and movie flats got one so in the mood all one's literary standards went awry. He decided to pep up his explanation of the `drift' with a political diatribe.
Those who can only credit high-art abstraction and the `complex ironies' of post-war art with a critical perspective are the Stalinists of aesthetics. The conviction that the protest against manipulation is inevitably `elitist' links with the idea that what is good for the masses must contradict their wishes. Both split consciousness from social being and reinvent `sin': they hold up what could be, and scold the workers for failing to achieve it. The fear that art will be `contaminated' by contact with the real world forgets that everything is actually part of the real world. Those who insulate art have something to hide: anti-hierarchical art, on the other hand, digests elements of the real without faltering! Its symbol is the ever-greedy vacuum-cleaner!
Scarcely pausing, Lunch hit save, then loaded a file called `loco', where he wrote his `on location' reports for cyber magazines whose readership was too hip to venture out of doors.
When Tricky played Channel Four's White Room, he and Terry Hall and Martina did a cover of `Ghost Town'. Much embarassed shuffling and several false starts as they arranged themselves to look `cool' on camera. To us in the audience, it was evident they were incompetent twerps constructing a spectacular fraud, a pose for the TV-moulded. In contrast, when Iggy Pop and band hit the stage, they launched straight into `Pussy Walk', rudely interrupting the MC comedian's patter. It was great! The stand-up was completely thrown. His look of alarm was worth a thousand of his second-hand jests. Far from being tailored for broadcast, Iggy Pop's band was protesting at mere appearance. Iggy delivered `Now I Wanna Be Your Dog' lying prone in the audience, surrounded by admirers, out of camera-line. The producers could not use these takes, yet every expression on the faces of the surprised, smiling, agog audience was proof that Iggy bursts through the ego armature. Negation can pass over into pleasure but not into positivity.
How to explain the Sheer Reality of Iggy to morons who were all buying yet another copy of Trainspotting in order to tap their feet to `Lust For Life'? Radical subjectivity is a living fact, a collective potential pulsing against the surface of administered don't-dare surrender. It registers the trust in the non-symbolic order shown by anyone who is willing to improvise - the musical version of desiring to act in history. `Once more, without the net' is a cat-call which criticises both the boring tautology of the mass-produced commodity-spectacle and the elitist self-regard of those who think they have escaped the grimy transactions of commerce ... Phew! Lunch's brain was in over-dive. Time to splice some more Theodor and Frank, smear the Frankfurt School with some frankzappa Stool, scoop some poop in the pulpit, introduce Hektor Rottweiler to Patricia, the dog in the high chair:
Works of art do not translate spirit directly into a sense datum, much less
an empirical thing; instead, they become spirit by dint of the relations obtaining
between their sensuous elements. This will only make sense to those who correctly
understand spirit as the active side of materialism (`In contradistinction to
materialism, the active side was developed abstractly by idealism.', Karl Marx,
1845). We, who judge everything from the point of view of the necessary next
action for the world proletariat, understand that the `sensuous elements' of
music include every material particularity of the event: venue, lights, audience,
clothes (in Iggy's case, the lack of them, apart from see-thru plastic jeans),
indeed art's total positioning vis-
-vis the society in which it operates.
As Zappa put it, outlining his `Conceptual Continuity' to the `snazzy execs'
promoting his product for Warner Brothers: `What we sound like is more than
what we sound like. We are part of the project/object. The project/object (maybe
you like event/organism better) incorporates any available visual medium, consciousness
of all participants (including audience), all perceptual deficiencies, God (as
energy), The Big Note (as universal basic building material), and other things.'
The White Room's retrogressive employment of female Go-Go dancers, icing the
cake of TV boredom with by-the-yard sexual titillation, is a test for every
performer: Iggy leapt on a podium and danced with one of the pouting pets. Her
embarassment and shy, infantile amusement was an index of the risks and real
life repressed by MTV glamour. Art which allows itself to be used as addenda
to empirical categories - one more feminist car advertisement and women's oppression
will vanish in a cloud of exhaust - affirms the hierarchical overview; materialist
artworks refuse such categorisation and create new constellations. Torn from
their context, fragments of urban existence become part of the artwork. People
live and even work there. You could become part of the picture. Imagine the
head of a pin. On the head of this pin is an amazingly detailed illustration
of some sort. It might perhaps be a little thought or a feeling or, perhaps,
an obscure symbol. It might just be a picture of a sky or something with birds
in it ... but it's on the head of this pin, remember, and it's infinitely detailed.
Now, imagine this pin is not a pin ... it's a musical note with a corresponding
physical action, like the secret raising of an eyebrow to add special emphasis.
Even in a recording studio where nobody can see you do it. Now, imagine enough
of these abstracted pins (with the needle part chopped off to save space) to
fill an area as large as the North American Continent and most of Central Europe,
piled to a depth of 80 feet. Now, imagine this area is not geometric space.
Imagine a collection of decades (the exact number to be disclosed eventually).
Do you know about Earth Works? Imagine the decades and the pile of stuff on them subjected to extensive long-range conceptual landscape modification. Housing. Offices. People live there and work there. They even make movies there. Imagine you could be living there and working there and not even know about it. Whether you can imagine it or not, that's what the deal is.
Plagiarism coursing in his veins, Lunch felt like celebrating. He went to the
fridge, cracked open the last can of Special Brew and took a look out of the
window. Guy in a khaki parka crossing in front of the Theatro Technis; afternoon
sun causing the orange indicator on the corner of a parked car to glow. Four
pigeons take off from the statue of Jesus over the theatre's portal; hippie
gardner wearing his tweed flat-cap and pushing a wheelbarrow, women wearing
saris pushing prams; white van with `FREDk ROE' painted on the side. Man in
a grey-blue trilby pursued khaki parka. Dunk my image marker in the sodding
Lunch was drunk with the infinitesimal seethe of Camden Town on a Friday lunchtime. Not to mention confusing his brews, diabolical namings lurking in his typos, his abraised liver thinking of bacon sarmies. The words were flowing now.
The schizophrenia of Modern Art, the crazy way symbols appear to transform
themselves into what is symbolised ... it has to be a product of its status
as a halfway house between religion and revolution. Only if it rids itself of
the last vestige of inwardness, timelessness and `profundity' can art smash
the symbolic order that seeks to hold it back behind the plate glass of contemplation,
and bring to consciousness its material effects on psyche and society. This
is why, no matter how obscure, intransigent or highminded, materialist artworks
always hold a relation to fashion and the dumbest products of the culture-industry.
Hitler denounced `Jewish' art criticism in which `art and art activities are
lumped together with the handiwork of our modern tailor shops and fashion industries';
but his outrage is at an inevitable symptom of capitalism. Fashion suspends
aesthetic values like inwardness, timelessness and profundity. It reveals that
art's pretence to achieve inwardness, timelessness and profundity is the sheerest
ideological bollocks. The schizophrenic moment is the tremor of self-destruction,
the intimation that the reader's own laughter and connections are more authentic
than what you're reading.
This is the opposite of the pact that the academics and structuralists make with the ideological system. Their `scientific knowledge' of a synchronic entity that spins independently of the clutter of the real is but the promise to describe a halo on which pinhead angels do the Vogue: scholastic mystification.
Lunch loaded the POLEMIX directory. Derrida could have one in the chops aujourd'hui,
and he didn't care about
Anglo-French relations, or the way the Chunnel Link was going to regenerate Kings Cross and speed the Beaujolais Nouvel onto Clement Freud's groaning festive board. Humming Johnny `Guitar' Watson's stinksome rendition of Zappa's `Down In France', Lunch rattled off the following. He was mining a new vein of indigestible indignation, always a spur to pancreatic productivity.
Postmodernism is a project that admits it can never be achieved; check this statement of futility and fund-me pleading straight from the horse's mouth: `Formalisation is a fruitful, useful activity. The mastery it provides is its first if not its only justification. So the effort towards formalisation of such codes is indispensable. One can never give up this task without running the risk of giving up rationality, scientificity itself in its most classic concept. But there is nothing fortuitous in the fact that these codifications, this formalisation of the codes, cannot be completed.', Jacques Derrida, `Some Questions and Responses', 1986, edited Nigel Fabb et al., The Linguistics of Writing, Manchester: MUP, 1987, p. 252. Fiddling about with the tangled shreds of the Gordian knot severed by Marx, the justifiers of academic system-building simultaneously confess bankruptcy but carry on banking because `there is nothing else for suits to do'. In contrast, the schizophrenic twist in the modernist artwork is an indication of the human malleability of the world! It lays bare the constructed nature of human reality in order to invite a change. In exploding its own codes, the artwork aspires to be something more than reflection, representation or entertainment. This is the aesthetic moment that deserves the name of Cleavage. Seeking to `systematize' this moment - to institutionalise it - is its recuperation, and places bureaucratic bars around its radical democracy. The point is to perpetrate the moment and unleash the reader's psyche on the world!
Lunch was on a roll. Memories, sex fantasies, the gut-tightening dreams of clinical schizophrenia all welled up through his loins, causing his mouth to run dry and his fingers to dance over the keys.
The driving test is a fabrication, a story to tell to those who haven't yet dared to slip behind the wheel of the car that takes their fancy. The career girl in the red dress who just swept out of BBC Radio Leeds in her sports car, nearly running down the passersby in a flurry of yuppie self-importance, just had the front to walk into the Aston Martin salesroom at the bottom of Chapeltown Road and drive one away. Driving lessons are a myth, you just get in and you're off! Having escaped from Highroyds Psychiatric Prison, I pass a sign saying "Learn to Drive!". It's propped on the pavement, just next to a brand new Mini Metro with `L' plates. A giant cardboard hand with the slogan `get in' would hardly be more blatant. They've been waiting for me to pass, preparing the installation, desperate for me to take the plunge. But it must be my own act - `the emancipation of the working class is the act of the working class' - or it won't count. I'm tempted to get in the car and drive off, but I don't feel ready. I take the bus instead. The few coins I found at the bottom of Bob Dylan's guitar case are my holy moly - takings from busking, uncorrupted by business - the bus driver takes a 50p piece and a florin out of my hand and tells me to sit down. He can tell I'm slightly `touched', but he's ready to help.
I can't face the city: too many warring styles, too much material wealth. All
those rails of suits and dresses, all those stacked records and books and sausages,
all those racks of wine. The head reels.
It's also ridden with the dangerous internationalising hotspots of street banks and moneychangers. You can get your head melted by financial exchange, wake up in the middle of Tokyo, become Johnny Rotten standing with his umbrella on the cover of Live In Tokyo, staring out in disbelief: it's just Leicester Square with neon signs in Katakana! Geographical specificity is an illusion, the whole world is trembling with identical consumer drives. I ask the bus driver to stop in Armley, planning to walk to Woodhouse via the busy street that winds itself over the canal. I want to visit Christine, the hospital cleaner I met during the 1981 hospital strikes. She's bought one of the tiny back-to-backs in Burley, a street off Brudenell Road. She'll keep the house bright as a pin, a launchpad for her devouring, hedonist life-style. I've never met anyone so direct and true, who understands so clearly what want is - and what separates that from middle-class bullshit. She's got red hair and a smile and an old Polish mum. I'll always remember her comment about failing to score at Primo's, the gay nightclub she goes to with her workmate Colleen - `we ended up raping a couple of poofs'. She loved Frank Zappa's `Bobby Brown' when I played it to her.
The streets have turned grey and menacing. The sunset glow that had bathed the redbrick in an inviting glow - Christine smiling from her front window as she spots me in the street, her arms in soapsuds - has terminated. The lighting change is like a Hollywood director's cut, we're into the nightmare scenario now. Fascists and gangsters collecting at every corner, in every dim lit doorway. I can smell the damp, the moss, the urban decay. A distant roar from the Headingley cricket ground, must be a riot among the internees. Outside the concentration camps, it's post-apocalypse, everyone fighting for their own. On the steep street with its terraced houses, I spot a pizzeria decked out in cheerful red neon, weird implant brought to the area by the presence of students. Though even the locals occasionally want a change from fish and chips. I duck inside the door at the back, into the kitchen. A guy is bending over a work table, separating meat from the bone with a knife. It's some joint I've never seen before. It's human flesh, of course, but I don't want to point this out. The meat is red, raspberry colour, dark. Meat in pizzas? It's all so unnecessary. Everyone's pushing too hard to supply customers with the new thing, the latest craze. They've started colouring the tomato succo with baby-flesh. But they're in a good mood, the staff, they don't think about where the meat came from, they laugh when I explain I'm a fugitive. The problem is to get a safe ride home without alerting the Mafia or the Fascists. The Italian connection doesn't look too safe, I can't just call a taxi. Finally, I get them to call home and explain the situation. They're going to come out in a taxi and collect me. I go to the off license down the steep street and buy three cans of Carlsberg Special. Dylan's change stretches to this, but I won't be able to pay for the taxi now. When I'm collected, Caroline has her sister Mary-Lou with her, and Wee John, the conceptual artist from Carrickfergus. They're pleased they've found me, we're all jolly and pressed together in the taxi. They even laugh when I break open the Carlsberg Special and pass it round. Seems like Out To Lunch is a still a gas for some. Back at home, the orange street lights are still flooding the night with an artificial haze. The conviviality rings false. I've got to evade these double-agents, make contact with higher minds.
The repetitions of history are painful but not inevitable. I can hear a chorus of `oh, no, not again' when they come up. There is a young lad who calls at the House With The Big Red Door. He's in a hurry. We're in the frenetic period when you can form a band and get signed up in a few days. He wants Neil Aberdeen's guitar. I ask him what his name is - but before he repliers, I guess, it's `Jerry'. He's the reincarnation of Jerry Dammers, and he's going to restart the period of Ska/2-Tone all over again, with its inevitable National Front opposition. Problems with confused skinheads, threats, class hatred twisted the wrong way. He's also called Jerry because he's a revival of Germany's position in World War II. When I say the word `Jerry' he gives me a filthy look - I've named him. People are growing at amazing speed - a year, two years in a single day - and he hadn't yet got a name. If you're the first to call it, you've named one of these weird new growths. I don't let him in to get Neil's guitar, even though I know he's abandoned it and it's there in the closet next to the broom and the mop and the sofa-bed that doesn't fold out right. I tell him to call later. His eyes flash into mine as he turns to run down the steps and seek elsewhere for a guitar. He has me pegged as Neil's idiot butler, some old fart more involved in property relations than in the urgency of music warfare. I want to tell him that I know it's raging about our ears, that my reasons for denying him the guitar are complex, nuanced, aware ... He's off down the street, a vibrant buzz of urgency and hustle, dogs barking and cats fleeing as soon as they sense his presence. I close the Big Red Door, worried that I can't go with Jerry's plan, but relieved that Fred won't be able to accuse me of taling Neil's name in vain. I go to the closet under the stairs and open the door. There, in the half-light, I can see Neil's famous guitar. It's a cheap Souzouki acoustic, all the strings broken, a mere cipher of rock'n'roll. It's dusty in there, and full of bad vibes, old enthusiasms. I'm staring into the cabinet of Neil's lost dreams.
There's an outfit called Orb & Sceptre that started in California, but has cells all over the world. It sprang from the radical gay scene, but concentrates on `educating' heterosexual couples. They claim that couples suffer from sexual boredom and embark on disastrous affairs that are quite unnecessary. The bourgeois idea of personality is an illusion. Human beings are social animals, exemplars of a single world spirit. Being addicted to the glamour of new relationships is destructive and hopeless. A `new' body can't fix anything, because the biological vehicle for an individual is a blank sheet, what matters are the ideas and practices that pass through it. Orb & Sceptre encourages female domination and male submission. Septuagenarians have regained their sexuality, erections lasting twelve hours have been recorded. There's a club in London where males are not allowed clothes. Men must undress in front of the staff in a special room off reception and their clothes are placed in a bag with a number. According to the wishes of the wife or girlfriend, they are also given a whipping to designate their arrival, or receive various chains or restraints. In an Orb & Sceptre relationship, the woman becomes a Goddess, an object of worship. It is the blocking of Female Worship that causes sexual misery, exploitation and cancer. Some women feel ashamed of their desire to whip men, but Orb & Sceptre argue that discipline and punishment are expressions of the matriarchal impulse. Men are not allowed to reach orgasm at the Orb & Sceptre Club. After licking their semen from wherever they've spilled it, they are consigned to the dungeons for this crime.
Wow! This was the sort of thing some smut-merchant like Iain Sinkle might want to publish in order to spice up some collection of `avantgarde poetry'! Lunch felt yet more regressive, infantile fantasias beckon him into the literary abyss ...
Windows are the eyes of a house. During the day, they go out. Black windows are empty eye-sockets, a sign of death and passivity. At lighting time, the community signals it is waking street by street. At twilight, before you've put the lights on, you represent a force of darkness, but you can't put on the lights until you've received a message from the street opposite, or from the back of the house. The lighting goes in waves, ripples of energy spreading through the city. People don't know it, but the electric cables are alive. They writhe beneath the streets and houses, extrude themselves from the paving stones as streetlamps and belisha beacons. The glowing tip of these extrusions are sensitive, like the end of an erect penis. If you go up on Woodhouse Ridge, to the platform we call Observatory Crest, you can see the amazingly tall street lights that have grown up round the new ring-road. These extended tubes of grey metal are a new formation, and signal a new level of development for the electrical infrastructure of Leeds. They form a circle, indicating that they expect a craft of some kind to land. Whether this is will be off-planet aliens in a flying saucer, or a fleet of Royal Airforce hover-jets, advance guard of a ruling-class coup, is uncertain. The electric connections and cables ache with longing for contact with outer space, but they may be cut short by some secret government action.
I'm talking to my father on the phone. His voice goes slimy with lust as he describes a girl student. A burst of incredible evil and scheming hypocrisy down the phone. I slam the receiver down, horrified.
Now that she saw him without his queer female appendages, he struck her from a long, glazed roll - a profane and greasy document; and I heard her old green pot with the girls, directly after luncheon.
These passages demonstrated that life in Leeds could be portrayed without resorting to the realism of Colin Stupid's `novel' in the catalogue of the exhibition the Melons curated for Florida's millionaires at the Poke Museum of Art. Aided by Terry Atkinson, Greil Marcus, the late Kathy Acker, the even later Lester Bangs etc etc - the usual posse of wet-liberal punk cheerers-on from the safety of their critical safety-margin, art-goths who couldn't tell an Anti-Nazi League mobilisation from a Festival of Light parade - this bunch of weak-kneed, vain, subsituationist imbeciles had attempted to cash in their `activist' agitprop credentials in the art world. A few gigs for Rock Against Racism, and they thought the art world owed them a living. Confused ramblings that misquoted andf misconstrued Walter Benjamin to back up their points. Neither intellectually cogent nor politically courageous nor artistically convincing, The Melons sucked big time, in Lunch's estimation.
2. Sally & Julie
Julie entered Helen's office. By her side, on all fours, was Sally. She was
entirely naked now, and on a regular basis. All the staff were used to the idea
that Sally had been `subordinated'. They didn't give her a second glance when
she was run naked through the office on all fours, guided by Julie's whip, though
many put their names down on the `rota' that would allow them to take her home
to perform menial tasks and be subject to their - and their spouse's or even
children's - sexual abuse. Sally had been reduced to `slave' status and her
position was taken as perfectly natural. Her throat was bound by a dog collar
which was in turn attached to a leash, which Julie held in her left hand. In
her right, she held her miniature riding crop. She used it to direct Sally about
the place, or to flick her if she was slow to respond to an order or a tug on
her lead. Julie led the cowering girl over to Helen and pointed at her feet.
Sally promptly pressed her lips to them.
`Good bitch,' said Helen pleasantly, surveying her smooth young skin with pleasure, and noting with approval the tidy way Sally tucked her knees in beneath her arse as she prostrated herself. Julie adjusted her with the crop.
`Buttocks up, there's a good little dog ... How has she been behaving?' asked Helen, as the nude fairhead obediently lapped at her shoe-leather.
`Pretty well,' said Julie, `She did all the housework at my place last night - thoroughly, not in a frantic hurry like before ...'
`Was she dressed at all?'
`No, we decided she could do it in the nude. It actually keeps her aroused. Bill likes her like that.'
`I'm sure he does!' They were talking about Julie's husband.
`It's useful to have something around he can fuck without all that romantic palaver we used to have to insist on,' said Julie, `so we were both pleased. She's such a little submissive that if she's ordered about the house in the nude, she starts getting warm and wet and ready between the legs. Anything more degrading - like scrubbing the kitchen floor on all fours, or polishing my boots - and she's practically gagging for it. A few flicks of the whip, and Bill can penetrate her with ease. It puts him in a really good mood, you know, just knowing there's this piece of willing cunt about.'
`You don't get jealous?'
`If I feel the slightest twinge of jealousy, I just march Sally up to the attic and give her a flogging. After that, I really don't care. We kept her naked the entire time she was in the house, actually.' She pointed with her riding crop handle at Sally's bottom, quivering slightly as she bent double to kiss at Helen's feet. `Mike took her from behind.'
`Really - vaginal rear entry, or up the anus itself?'
Though hardly in a position to complain about such coarse language, Sally felt herself colouring, a blush that suffused her cheeks, then spread to her neck.
`Oh, up the anus. Bill said she yelped a bit, but accepted him. He said the tight fit was excellent ... Sally, spread youself.'
At once, Sally bent forward, resting her lips on Helen's shoe, reached behind herself with her two hands and parted the cheeks of her buttocks. Julie had evidently given this order before. Seeing her little pink arsehole, Julie couldn't resist giving it a little prod with the handle of her crop. Sally jumped and gasped. Julie then held the crop up to her nose and sniffed.
`Really?' said Helen.
`Yes! I've told her about this before ...'
`I can't help it, I can't help it!' blubbered Sally, her words distorted by the presence of Helen's shoe in her mouth. Helen put her hand on Julie's arm and raised the crop handle to give it a sniff herself.
`Julie, I do believe you're right. What shall we do with the miscreant?'
Sally was whimpering and moaning, sucking on Helen's shoe as if shoe-leather was the patent cure for stinky shit. Still keeping her hands obediently to her rear, parting her buttock cheeks, she was exciting herself by rubbing her nipples on the office carpet. Helen found her pale, nude, wriggling body intensely arousing.
`I've got it. An enema! You'll find the equipment behind my desk. While you set it up, I'll clean the crop. We'll pump her right up, clean her right out.'
Holding the riding crop, handle uppermost, before her like a regimental standard, Helen swept out of her room to where Steif was at work. She held it in front of him as he sat at the desk.
`What do you smell?'
`Bottom sweat, shit, farts ...'
`Lick it off!'
`I said, lick it off. Julie poked the bloody thing up Sally's arse. I want you to lick it off, and then dry it with your tie.'
Steif began licking. Helen manipulated it so soon he had his whole mouth round it. Slobber trickled down the sides of his mouth, making spots on the print-outs he was working from.
`Yes, I can see that you'd be quite good at a blow-job. Are there no limits to your depravity?'
She removed it abruptly. Steif looked disappointed, the baby deprived of the nipple. He stared at the plaited handle longingly.
`Dry it off with your tie, then'
Steif did as he was told. Helen returned to her office. Julie had Sally trussed up over a chair, her bottom in the air. She'd already inserted the rubber tube in her anus, and was measuring out a quart of hot water and breaking a sachet of `internal soap' into it. Sally was trembling and rubbing her crotch on the arm of the chair, her face red. The pale cheeks of her arse had some red marks where Julie had given her a few hard slaps to get her in the right position. At a signal from Helen, Julie squeezed the rubberised bag, pushing the liquid purge into Sally, who became suddenly rigid. The sensation was so new to her that she couldn't move at all.
`Sweetie, I knew you'd be surprised!' said Helen, `Now you're to hold it in until I say, like waiting for a really big shit on the toilet, okay?' She undid Sally's ties and crouched her over a plastic bowl, holding her by the shoulders.
`Not yet, not yet, when I say, first kiss me.'
Sally's face was pink and puffy with arousal. She kissed Helen on the lips greedily, sucking her tongue into her mouth. Julie looked on feeling a little jealous, wondering if she could ever persuade Helen that she needed colonic irrigation too. Helen's hands wandered over Sally's young body, tweaked her by her stiff little nipples, slapped her on the thighs.
`Hold it, hold it, hold it ...' She burrowed under her skirt with one hand and found her clit, it didn't need much diddling to bring herself to climax. As she came she cried `now!' and Sally let go, a rush of hot, shitty water into the bowl, followed by a flood of tears. Catharsis was well named.
`My God,' thought Julie, `we could get Steif to drink this stuff ... this kind of caper can go on for ever ... are there truly no limits to desire, no limits to the imagination?'
On To Chapter Eleven
Get You Back Home