Friday, May 25, 2007

You had me at hello...


You're looking well.

Shall we begin? oooh, lets!

To begin at the beginning, I want to think about influences, and to remind myself that I have them, and that these are the things that can inspire, feed and nourish you. If you're gonna be any kind of artist, I guess that these things need to keep a pretty much permanent place somewhere in your mind. Or on your blog. So none of this is going to sound particularly clever, and it's not an argument for anything, more a public note to self: remember this stuff matters.

So, to begin the beginning at the beginning - the Manics. I mean, yes, they're shit now, but you don't get to be that good in that way for very long. And of course that's kind of the point. What I take from the Manics is, well, number one - you live your art. The aim has to be to be an artist every minute of every day. Stay beautiful.

Of course, this has to be accompanied by a violent rejection of, y'know, all the shit. All the things which aren't beautiful, all the things that are actively anti-beautiful, Death Sentence Heritage etc etc. This is there in, i'd guess, 80% of great art, 90% of things I like, and 100% of rocknroll worthy of the name.

Of course, all of this is fantastically pretentious, but frankly, that's culture for you. Even shit culture is pretentious when compared to the vast majority of the vast majority of people's lives. I think the scale goes something like Hunter/Gathering --->Typing Things Into Spreadsheets ---> Eastenders ---> The Manics. If there's one thing the Manics have taught me, it's that pretension is a good thing. It's really just an arty way of saying "ideas above your station", and if you never have any ideas above your station, how are you going to end up above your station? Quite.

What this also means, is that if you want to be a rock star, you just act like a rock star. Everyone should be a rock star. The world would be a significantly better place if we were all rock stars. And this is a much more exciting version of egalitarianism than a dourly conservative reduction of everything to the mean. Just make everything better than the mean. Simple.

The other major contribution they make to my thinking is the understanding that, in a world in which the marketing and image of any artist are constructed to sell and comodify, turning the artist into something less than an artist and the art into something less than art, there is an alternative defence strategy to wilful obscurity and holier than thou DIY purity; there can be art in the image. Of course, this is easiest achieved if you're a rock star, relating to your audience in a number of possible ways (through the radio, through interviews, through TV, through recorded music, through live performance, through publicity photos which are often as meaningful and iconic as the music itself). But it's a truth that ought to be universally acknowledged, that artists of all hues used to know this, at least, all of the ones who realised that writing manifestos is cool. If I can figure out how this (lord, how any of this) works in relation to my production of After Miss Julie, I'll let you know.

The Manics led to Ginsberg, which led to Blake, and if there's every been a reminder that, no matter how bat-shit crazy what you're doing is, do it with enough rigour and y'know, it'll work, then it's Blake with his invented mythologies and theologies and his absolute refusal to see the world in either reductively materialist or airily ideological terms. Nice one Bill.

Theatre-wise John Wright is a constant source of inspiration with his serious commitment to the discipline of play, and Chris Goode strikes me as exactly the kind of person that more people ought to be, with a seriously thoughtful engagement with the possibilities of theatre (those possibiliies, of course, being more 99 times more than what 99% of people think theatre to be). And it's easy to forget nowadays, but there was a real radicalism and drive and about Peter Brook, and I really really must re-read The Empty Space, which was so exciting and eye-opening when I first came across it.

Brecht, of course, was a genius, whose reputation is being ruined by the fact that pretty much no one seems to understand him. He was a Marxist, and he thought damn hard about what it meant to be a Marxist and a theatre maker. The result was not only his own aesthetic, which has been pretty much absorbed into mainstream theatrical culture, shorn of the ideology from which it sprang and consequently become little more than a set of empty conventions, but also a new conception of theatre in terms of the way the action unfolds and the way we relate to that action. He deserves a post of his own, if not a whole series of posts, if not, y'know, a whole series of posts on a blog, and, maybe, some productions of his plays. For now it's enough to say that I really believe that he needs to be rediscovered as a radical, and that this will necessitate the discovery of a new aesthetic which takes into account the fact that the Marxist theory that Brecht was using has been superseded by important developments from the likes Frederick Jameson. And that's a big old project, but a necessary one in an era when the idea of political theatre has become so widespread and simultaneously so lazily unthought out.

I'm sure I'll think of other people I really ought to remind myself of soon, so I'm sure there'll be more where this came from, but for the time being, I guess that'll have to do. Do come again...


danbye said...

Thoroughly agree. I'm wearing a T-shirt with sequins on and reading about Brecht. If only I hadn't gotten on the wagon...

danbye said...

Oh, and thanks for the link. How'd'you get that cool picture at the top? I want to get round to making my blog not identical to CG's at some point soon and a snazzy pic might be the way forward.

alexf said...

hey hye.

i9'm defianly avoiding wagons right now, but to do the pic you need to be on new blogger, which you should be, then you go to template, then click on the header bit to edit the element, then upload the pic. if this doesn't make sense, i'll try again when sober.

Anonymous said...

"if you never have any ideas above your station, how are you going to end up above your station?"

Didn't Oscar Wilde say much the same thing before proceeding to write Lady Windemere's Fan?

alexf said...

quite possibly. Oscar Wilde stole most of his best lines from me.