mateo tells me a story. he is peacefully riding his bike. He is suddenly stopped in his tracks by the cries of children. Where? Why? then he hears the machine, sliced/impacted at regular intervals. these are not children's cries. these are the sounds of pigs being led to slaughter on a conveyor belt. 6 hours later he returns home. the cries haven't subsided.
it's a process.
the only thing you must understand inside-out about this life is that consuming too much of anything kills. the solution is often the bigger problem.
this is because nature abhors a fucking vacuum.
there will come a time when reality grows lighter. everyone will quit processed food and lose 15 pounds and find themselves suspended above the earth.
in the meantime, we must learn to live in infinite density. we must totally accept that the void will appear. If you are able to do this you might just narrowly avoid falling in love with the tragedy of your own existence. between embracing the things that kill you and learning to fight for your life there is the ultimate endpoint. self-slaughter stops.
two years ago i joined what can only be described as an evangelist cult. we were troubled souls; born again christians, ex-junkies, there was an emphasis on billy joel. i consumed a lot of pasta. i walked away without fully realizing from what.
in july 2015 i voluntarily committed myself. unbeknownst to me, there'd been a demon baby growing inside my fallopian tube for months. the tube burst.
in the words of Peter Sellers : there used to be a me, but i had it surgically removed.
i desired nothing short of embracing the utter discomfort of existence, at the slowest possible speed, so as to fully expose my core, guts, psychosis. this was the most convincing state i'd found in life. still i crave it like a shower.
the greater truth is that this state reeks of unsustainability, so i've gradually given the sharpness up. the cravings wax and wane like caffeinated sleep.
it's a process.
a fucking tedious one.
a goddamn beautiful one.
there are days when years of self-destruction are felt to be very deeply gone and this is sad, nostalgia teaches us how to love, albeit toxically. most days, however, i am decidedly happier living with discomfort of the temporary variety, it's mild like a creature in the corner of an eye.
there is a suitable ending to every experience, you find it when you turn away, change directions. in such a way, I aspire to walk against the current of intolerable breathing.
the vacuum pervades nature.
thus, I make art.
The GRAVITRON, or, Becoming Comfortable With The Uncomfortable
There are several ways to rob a bank: sheer force, technological prowess, charm.
There are several ways to make good art: brutally, systematically, charismatically.
Possible practical implications for this analogy:
There is more than one way to skin a pig.
All artists are psychopaths.
In the beginning, desire was uniform, singular, irreversible. We can’t prove it now but we know; we knew what we wanted and now we only know what we knew as we now do what we don't want. We attempt a differential diagnosis. What we once wanted we now question; mind spinning, body pinned. Desire as insomnia. Desire as The Gravitron.
The Gravitron (aka the Starship 2000, 3000, or 4000 depending on your age and proximity to meth labs) is a popular carnival ride that harnesses centripetal force in function. The theory here is that art, alongside criminal activity, is practically impossible to comprehend without the metaphor of the Gravitron. The Artist/Criminal practices collusion. The Artist/Criminal is a practicing Carnie, assuring the crowd that if they play along, everybody wins.
So the shift is sunk, (les jeux sont faits), and gleefully the Artist/Criminal does work, both pinning the crowd and spinning it round in a great big fuck you to earthly omniscience.
Yet here the similarities between Artist and Criminal die young, because while the Criminal sinks the switch in order to flee the scene, the Artist plunges headfirst into the Gravitron itself and remains there long past the time it takes for the Audience to figure it’s own way off the ride; making calls, ordering carry-out, puking their way to freedom.
At this point the Artist ceases to be a Criminal. They become an Addict.
The Artist needs the Gravitron to survive, they cannot make art without it. They require that the bottom drop out, for submersions sake, as it is only from the vantage point of total intoxication that reality and fantasy are subverted, and only in such a state does art become truth.
Thus, art becomes intractable from artifice. There is desire; spinning, unharnessed, indistinguishable from sheer living without the insertion of the Gravitron, just as there is no art without facade. The Artist, like the Addict, is Fixed; by the illusion of substance, by the delusion of life.
I’ve not written this with the intention of creating a polemic against artists and the arts, nor should this be viewed as a statement of surrender. This is, in fact, a statement of purpose.
The flipside to all this artistic declension subsists in the brutal truth that without artifice, without the mediation of the Gravitron, intersubjectivity cannot be articulated. While it may be that the artist intrinsically sacrifices herself by enabling the Gravitron to function by committing to live in it, for it, without this sacrifice the crowd would have no means by which to articulate desire. They would have no way of understanding their own nature. There would be only terror, a meaningless spinning void, stripped of origin and explanation.
In July of 2012 I had my head shaved at a barber shop adjacent to the Black Sparrow, a bar in Lafayette, IN, at which I’d performed hours earlier. Sure, it was hot. Yes, I was growing disenchanted with folks claiming my dreadlocked headbanging as essential to my cellistic ramblings. Mostly though, I did it because I was completely uncertain as to what the results would be. It was simply a means to channel the certainty of uncertainty.
Six months later, at that same barber shop, a woman approached me after witnessing a performance I’d presented next door. "You made me feel comfortable with being uncomfortable," she said. At the time, I interpreted this as a kind of success. I thanked her, took a swig of beer.
Now having reflected upon this exchange, I realize I should have pressed her further, asked her, point blank, "but which one was it?" One must choose the context by which they understand what they observe, otherwise no distinction exists between genocide and gardening. Point being, she was either comforted by the experience because it was art, or discomforted by the ordeal because she was living it.
Herein lies the final analogy: the Artist as Engineer.
Ultimately, whether one chooses to live outside or inside the Gravitron is of little significance. It’s about engineering a spontaneous questioning of why one has made such a decision. It’s about building a Gravitron that is so efficient, so simple, that the crowd believes they have built it themselves. They are implicated by its very existence, and so they care. They are forced into deciding for themselves whether or not there is hope for this art business.
"Wo aber Gefahr ist, wachst Das Rettende auch", says Holderlin. "But where danger lies, there also grows that which saves."