Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cool Holiday


There would be no one pretending to be asleep on stage. Would be no more use of suicide as a device for narrative closure. No more use of real meat for some supposedly visceral effect. There would be an understanding that black curtains and walls are not the depthless black you find when you wake in the night and grope for some visual handhold on reality but are kind of dull grey and ugly and might be best used when the affective atmosphere you’re trying to create is dull grey and ugly.

There might be fewer metaphors used for “treading water in a sea of seeming” [Roberto Bolano, 2666], for not saying what wants to be said just to appear more lyrical. Or, at least, metaphors would be allowed some ambivalence. A flock of cawing blackbirds might suggest life; a mirror might not reflect anything much; an expanse of water might be calm and navigable and just a bunch of value-neutral H2O. Or else: no more.

There would be no pre-recorded music. There will be a moratorium on all guitar use for ten years, just to see what happens. There would be no programmes, possibly no reviews. Nobody would laugh just because someone on stage laughs. There would be greater attention paid to hair, and there would be more stories about cats riding bicycles. There would never be audience interaction. There would be less swearing, or perhaps more.

There would be fewer calls for dialogue about the arts, which is just talk. There would be more stupid statements made about the arts. You would, at one point, be gently taken by the hand and led away from the rest of the audience past a heavy set of drapes, down a dimly lit corridor to a small room where a bird in a cage eyes you evilly, and where you find yourself told something you had been secretly thinking the day before but had forgotten. No one would believe that this happened.

You would get the sense that performers were frequently lying to you, or talking about you backstage. They would build a cairn of stones and place a small plastic effigy of you on its top, and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Things would be things again.

English has mostly lost touch with the irrealis mood, the grammatical structures which allow a speaker to utter something while simultaneously connoting the possibility that said utterance is false. Everything that occurs is not a fact but a potentiality. Maybe what we see has not, did not or will not happen. “Maybe” isn’t an example of irrealism, but it’s the best I can do. Claw back some of the subtleties of the subjunctive and the cohortative in order to produce an ambient linguistic grey-zone in which a straightforward realist painting becomes smeared across the canvas.

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