AQUA MENS 35 BEAK STREET, LONDON INTRODUCING THE FUTURE JUNE 2011
Architecture 054 Therme Vals Words by Zoë Berman 062 Buddakan, New York Words by David Plaisant 068 St Martin’s in-the-Fields, London Words by Gordon O’Connor-Read Images by Reinhart Nell
Fashion 024 Photographer Stelios Kallinikou Fashion Editor Christos Kyriakides 072 Porn This Way Photographer Stelios Kallinikou Fashion Editor Christos Kyriakides 096 Momentum Photographer Stelios Kallinikou Fashion Editor Christos Kyriakides
Ritual Contents Art 036 MEGA ART! Words by Christopher Thomas 046 Peter Kennard @Earth Interview by Christopher Thomas
Literature 122 Rituals – Voices Words by Martin L. Davies 127 Brushing My Mother’s Teeth Words by Christina Lovin 128 Sentimental Monologue Words by Matthew Lee Knowles 136 The Rise of Metamodernism [in the Haus of Gaga] Words by Brent L. Smith
110 Ali Love Interview by Hannah Yelin
142 If, While Rehearsing, You Should Find Yourself In Another Performance Words by Anthony Romero
116 The Victorian English Gentlemens Club Interview by Hannah Yelin
144 GODZENIE Words by Marcus Slease
148 TILT HEAD WHILE READING! Words by Paul Wright
082 Communion Film directed by Nina Danino Cinematography by Billy Williams BSC Words by Jack Boulton
152 Tz’iib Practice Words by Lucy o’Donnell
104 Criminal Types Words and Images by Lyn Hagan
156 The Liminality of the Long-Distance Runner Words by Andy Lee Roth Photography by Larry Gassan
Alice Neel, Hartley, 1971
Alice Neel Men Only 8 June - 29 July 2011
Victoria Miro In association with Jeremy Lewison Ltd
ISSN 1746-8086 www.stimulusrespond.com
Editor in Chief Jack Boulton email@example.com Editors - Literature Phil Sawdon and Marsha Meskimmon firstname.lastname@example.org Editor - Fashion Christos Kyriakides email@example.com Contributing Fashion Editor Matthew Holroyd Editor - Art Christopher Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org Editor - Architecture Rose Cooper-Thorne email@example.com Editor - Music Hannah Yelin firstname.lastname@example.org For advertising opportunities, please contact the editor-inchief at the address above. We welcome unsolicited material from our readers. If you would like to make a contribution to future issues then please email the editorial team at the addresses above. Stimulus Respond is published by Jack Boulton. All material is copyright (c) 2011 the respective contributors. All rights reserved. No reproduction without prior consent. The views expressed in the magazine are those of the contributors and are not neccessarily shared by the magazine. The magazine accepts no liability for loss or damage of manuscripts, artwork, photographic prints and transparencies.
For contributors’ contact details, please email the editor in chief at email@example.com.
Contributors This Issue Cover illustration by Mark Fast Zoë Berman Nina Danino Martin L. Davies Larry Gassan Illona Giastabanelli Lyn Hagan Giannos Ioannou Stelios Kallinikou Anish Kapoor Peter Kennard Matthew Lee Knowles Ali Love Christina Lovin Reinhart Nell Elizabeth Price Gordon O’Connor-Read Lucy O’Donnell Angelos Pattas @ Blow Cy David Plaisant Anthony Romero Andy Lee Roth Marcus Slease Brent L. Smith The Victorian English Gentleman’s Club Ai Weiwei Billy Williams BSC Paul Wright
17 IT IS ETERNITY FOR THE PRESENT AND PATIENCE FOR THE EPHEMERAL IT IS DETAILS FOR THE MINIMALIST AND NOSTALGIA FOR THE STOIC
rit·u·al Pronunciation: /rĭchˈo͞o-əl/ Function: noun, adjective Origin: late 16th century (as an adjective): from Latin ritualis, from ritus noun 1. a. The prescribed order of a religious ceremony. b. The body of ceremonies or rites used in a place of worship. 2. a. The prescribed form of conducting a formal secular ceremony. b. The body of ceremonies used by a fraternal organisation. 3. A book of rites or ceremonial forms. rituals 4. a. A ceremonial act or a series of such acts. b. The performance of such acts. 5. a. A detailed method of procedure faithfully or regularly followed: My household chores have become a morning ritual. b. A state or condition characterized by the presence of established procedure or routine. adjective 1. Associated with or performed according to a rite or ritual: a priest’s ritual garments; a ritual sacrifice. 2. Being part of an established routine.
Photographer Stelio Kallinikou Fashion Editor Christos Kyriakides Retouch Giannos Ioannou
Previous: Shirt on head vintage Comme des Garรงons Jumper Marc Jacobs Swimming trunks Ermenegildo Zegna Shoes Gucci Opposite: Poloshirt by Tom Ford Trousers Brioni Shirt Hydrogen Headpiece made by stylist
Shirt Hydrogen Polo Shirt Tom Ford
Shirt Hydrogen Jacket Tom Ford Swimming trunks Gucci Shoes Gucci
Opposite: Shirt on head Brioni Shirt by Gucci Trousers Brioni Shoes Gucci Next: All shirts Hydrogen Polo shirt Tom Ford
MEGA ART! The race is on to make The Worst Artwork In The World, Ever. Christopher Thomas considers how we got here.
Left: The Unilever Series: Ai Weiwei, Portrait photograph, Tate Photography, 2010
On the same day that legendary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei disappeared, the coffee industry celebrated its high achievers at the annual European Coffee Symposium Gala Dinner, held at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel. This year’s lifetime achievement award went to a true coffee visionary who has, over the last decade, utterly revolutionised this retail sector. The recipient of this most coveted of accolades in the coffee business had the insight to realise that coffee was not just a retail proposition but also a cultural one. When he embarked on one of the most aggressive programmes of expansion yet seen in the coffee game, he commissioned superstar Swiss architects (and Ai Weiwei collaborators) Herzog & de Meuron to design what would become his flagship coffee shop. Housed in a former power station, this record-breaking café even has its own bridge (designed through a collaboration between giants of architecture and art Sir Norman Foster and Sir Anthony Caro) to take customers from the centre of town to this pioneering retail site. But this coffee impresario’s real stroke of genius came with the hiring of experienced curators from the art world to organise the interior décor along the same lines as a gallery programme. Over the years, the likes of Emma Dexter, Gregor Muir and Juliet Bingham (who have gone on to run blue-chip commercial galleries and even London’s ICA) have put on ambitious popular shows like Ai Weiwei’s hundred million sunflower seeds that have attracted a broad public to the café. Postcard-friendly exhibitions of Edward Hopper, Frida Kahlo and Henri Rousseau, for example, have led to diverse revenue streams, not only from postcard sales but also from corporate entertainment, a restaurant and a members’ bar, in addition to the core coffee shop business. Nevertheless this giant of the coffee world is not without his critics and some coffee purists are concerned that his business model’s dependency on art has meant that commercial pressures could easily compromise the quality of Sir Nick Serota’s coffee. Given that art, in Pavel Buchler’s words, is “a ruthless business and possibly the last remaining unregulated sector (i) of capitalist enterprise,” could this possibly dubious relationship between coffee and art represent a fundamental shift in the configuration of the coffee business? Well, by way of reflecting on the Serota-led revolution that has so successfully repositioned contemporary art as a popular entertainment experience, let’s look into a national endeavor of historic proportions. Yes, the Olympic Games of 2013 (let’s be realistic) presents Britain with a truly colossal challenge: to build The Worst Artwork Ever Made. When one considers the thousands of years of civilisation’s epic endeavours that must be surpassed to achieve this, one wonders whether our great nation is really up to this task, especially when the pride of Britain rests on just one man’s shoulders. Anish Kapoor’s ArcelorMittal Orbit, named of course after the Indian steel tycoon bankrolling the £19m steel artwork, would be a steal at twice the price (given that we’ll probably be getting a good deal on the 1,400 tonnes of steel required for its construction). According to the official blurb, it will have the “sense of energy, twist and excitement that
i. Buchler, P. 2008. The Future of Art Education. Art Monthly, no. 320 (October), 2.
Anish Kapoor and Lakshmi Mittal unveil plans for their Olympic sculpture
Above: The Unilever Series: Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds 2010, Tate Photography ÂŠ Ai Weiwei
one associates with the human body as it explodes off the blocks down the 100m straight.” Well if the 100m sprint doesn’t go our way and even if Britain ends up winning gold only in the Olympic darts (again, let’s be realistic), surely we have entrusted the right artist to do us proud in the challenge to make The Worst Artwork In The World, Ever. Let’s remember Kapoor’s huge London show of 2009, which was the only time that all the Royal Academy’s galleries have been devoted to a living artist. No opportunities for conceptual compromise were missed here. For example, Kapoor’s slow train of red wax, paint and Vaseline, entitled Svayambh (meaning self-generated), did its work (making itself) the first time it was pushed through the archways of the RA. It could have done this slowly over the entire duration of the exhibition but instead it was made to repeat, no-longer auto-generating, several times a day. Similarly, the drama and surprise of Kapoor’s over-sized paintball gun, entitled Shooting In The Corner, is decimated by the Disneyland queuing system. Of all the ways that the work could have been staged (for example, firing overhead through the galleries, less frequently and at less predictable intervals), the unimaginative negotiation of the practical (health and safety) limitations of the space renders the work inert when the whole name of the game with Kapoor is the visceral experience and its uncompromising execution. Indeed it’s this lazy glossing-over of the disjuncture between the work’s pretence to transcendence and its theme park actuality that’s always the problem with Kapoor’s grandstanding practice. Any potential spiritual dimension is evaporated by the work’s fairground theatricality, such that the only possible response is to join in with the crowds looking at themselves in Kapoor’s mirrored sculptures by saying to yourself, “wow, my head looks really big in this.” Along with Anthony Gormley, Anish Kapoor has so valiantly positioned himself on the frontline of urban rebranding, vanquishing poverty from city centres around the world with his amorphous multi-million dollar mirrored blobs of public sculpture. But it is paradoxically Kapoor’s work that is actually so bad at dealing with the public, uncritically returning the lowest common denominators of human fascination at shiny things. What’s far more interesting, though, than the vacuity of Anish Kapoor’s funhouse mirrors is what is unintentionally reflected about us collectively in the popularity of this audience-friendly faux-spiritualism. The scale on which Kapoor is allowed to operate could only have come about at a particular time in our history and is the product of a bloated art market that developed during a particular economic bubble. Art may well be the most sophisticated system of value creation in the history of the world and the turbo-charged art system that emerged during the last financial boom absorbed both the position of the avantgarde and the position of the outsider (if indeed either of these positions ever really existed). Now the role of artists is to provide together at least $15 billion a year worth of window-dressing for art’s three economic functions:
(i) Status acquisition (ii) Conscience cleansing (iii) Tax sheltering ‘Criticality’ (which is a word you hear a lot at the most ‘critically-engaged’ art schools but that doesn’t even really make grammatical sense) has become the necessary smokescreen for art’s absorption into capital. So, maybe an even greater market achievement than that of Anish Kapoor is that of the now probably incarcerated Ai Weiwei in occupying a similarly inflated scale of production but with the added illusion of socio-political transformation. Now I’m not questioning the personal efforts of a man who is under lock and key as I write this and Weiwei has certainly been an outspoken critic of China’s authoritarian regime. But his art functions so well within the global economic system in which it circulates precisely because of the added value derived from the supposedly ‘political’ frame with which it’s presented. In itself, Weiwei’s Unilever commission for Tate’s Turbine Hall functions as ‘bling art’ of the grandest kind, wowing and dazzling us with scale. With 1,600 people from Weiwei’s hometown crafting the ceramic seeds over two-and-a-half years, the production is as mind-boggling as Damien Hirst’s For The Love Of God, the making of which used up all the highest-grade ethically sourced diamonds in the world. Hirst caused mayhem in the international diamond markets and had to resort to using some slightly lower-grade diamonds to finish the piece because there simply weren’t enough diamonds in the world. Neither Hirst nor Weiwei problematise the role of labour in their work, unlike Mexico-based artist Santiago Sierra, for example, who has employed labourers to do meaningless work in the gallery specifically to foreground the economic realities within which art functions. Just like Hirst’s diamond skull, Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds simply re-presents financial might over existing labour and trade relations by employing this excess of materiality to produce money as spectacle. But through a clever marketing/curatorial sleight-of-hand, Weiwei’s own political activism lends the work the scent of transformative political action, repeatedly declared but never specified in the accompanying Tate blurb. In effect, the economic function of Ai Weiwei’s art is to monetise his activism, a role that his London gallery, Lisson, is performing with impressive flair ahead of major sales opportunities at this month’s Hong Kong Art Fair. At the unsurprisingly mobbed media circus with which Weiwei’s current show there opened, Lisson asked all present to congregate in the street outside the gallery to observe a minute’s silence underneath a giant photograph of the artist. The fervor with which everyone seemed so keen to congratulate themselves for being righton (with Weiwei’s two-story-high, doe-eyed face hanging overhead) produced a quasi-religious orgy of bad taste at least as nauseating as the royal wedding a couple of weeks earlier. It was like a ‘Bono moment’ except that Ai Weiwei (unlike U2’s papal candidate) can’t himself be blamed for what happens in his name because he’s probably behind bars.
This page: Elizabeth Price, User Group Disco, 2009, HD Video, 15 mins Image courtesy Elizabeth Price and MOTINTERNATIONAL
Not that anyone else should really be blamed either: everyone involved (from gallerist to press rep to journalist to collector or fan) is simply playing their role in the inevitable process by which value is created and within which the appearance of (or proximity to) opposition carries a premium at the top end of the market. This position of corruption, internalised in the structuring of value, power and desire, is assumed as the starting point in the work of Elizabeth Price, who is quickly becoming recognised as one of the most important British artists working today. The viewer is afforded no comfortable critical distance by her film User Group Disco, a highlight of the currently touring British Art Show 7. Price is a dominatrix over materials and her film unashamedly deploys every strategy at its disposal to seduce its viewer, from the ‘manifesto-chic’ political posturing of its recycled rhetoric to the nostalgic guilty pleasure of A-Ha’s 1984 single Take On Me. What initially looks like a pop promo turns out to be a self-reflexive meta-sculpture that implicates the viewer in the power structures within which it operates. By contrast, Ai Weiwei’s gallery work refers to the systems of control that seek to govern us but hopes you forget that neither you nor it are innocent within them. In fact it’s a different sort of political person that most precisely (if unwittingly) described the real political economy of contemporary art when he recounted a chance meeting at the annual billionaire’s ski club that is the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Mayor of London Boris Johnson explained (without a hint of irony) at an Olympic Games press conference how his commissioning of Anish Kapoor’s ArcelorMittal Orbit came about, saying that if he and Lakshmi Mittal had not bumped into each other in a Davos cloakroom, “we would not be where we are today”. Indeed.
Ai Weiwei continues until July 16th at the Lisson Gallery, London. Elizabeth Priceâ€™s User Group Disco can be seen as part of the touring British Art Show 7 which is in Glasgow until August 21st and then in Plymouth from September 17th to December 4th. Anish Kapoorâ€™s work can be seen at the Manchester Art Centre until 5th June, at Le Grand Palais in Paris until 23rd June and in a regenerated city centre near you. Above: Image by Ken Adlard - Courtesy Lisson Gallery
Peter Kennard @Earth
After four decades at the intersection of art and activism, Peter Kennardâ€™s retrospective at Raven Row presents directly political work to gallery audiences not used to unapologetically straightforward imagemaking. Now with the publication of a new book of Kennardâ€™s photo-collages, Christopher Thomas discusses with him the problems of effecting social change through art.
CT: Is art always elitist? PK: I don’t believe it is but it is in the interest of the art market to make it elitist. Marshal McLuhan recounted in his book The Medium Is The Message how the Balinese say, “we don’t have art but we do everything as best we can”. I think art education propagates the idea that if you have strong beliefs then you should layer it and ironize it so that it can be theorized and kept within the art world. CT: I suppose the activist images that you have made for political campaigns like CND (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) are the perfect example of doing work that is outside the market systems of art. But what happens when you put your work in a gallery? PK: I’ve always believed that it’s really important to show work in as many contexts as possible, whether it’s on T-shirts or badges or in the Tate. I’m really interested in showing in public galleries. It’s the only non-commercial space where people have time to take tings in, where they’re not bombarded by advertising. And if you make political work, there are issues of censorship and of how much political work can be shown and the gallery is a place where this can be engaged with. CT: Well certainly your massmedia campaign work initially exists outside the art economy but once you put it in the context of fine art, doesn’t it become part of the system of value creation that produces high value out of rare things?
PK: I’ve always been interested in the materiality of art. Its physicality is part of the work so inevitably it then becomes involved in the art market but, if it’s strong enough politically, I think the message still comes through. With my work, I feel that a more democratic and available form is the best way of putting my images into the world, like with the new book that has 200 pages and is available for the price of two pints (or three, depending where you’re drinking). CT: Well, you’ve been hailed as the godfather of street art, which I suppose is the ultimate democratic art form in that it no longer needs to be restricted even to the street but can also be seen on coffee tables up and down the country. You’ve created a monster! How do you feel about the extraordinary rise of street art? PK: Well, street art is a global movement and there’s very powerful work being done in Africa, Asia and South America. It has become commodified as all art in capitalist society does but it’s still a vibrant form in which people can communicate in public space. That to me is vital when our public spaces become more and more corporate and where we’re bombarded with adverts to buy shit that we don’t need. Also, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a street artist selling work in a gallery to make a living, which is something that artists in the world of fine art do anyway. I think it’s OK as long as they keep working in the street and don’t become bound by the gallery.
CT: You seem to be talking about street artists as if they are outside the art system but the market for street art now operates on an industrial scale. Do you think the position of the ‘outsider’ really exists now? PK: In capitalist culture all creative work can be coopted and we know that Nike employs graffiti artists to work on their posters and that punk one year can be a danger to society and the next year images of people with Mohicans can be selling to tourists and there’s no easy answer to that other than to try and make work that is strong enough politically to always be a thorn in the side of the establishment. I feel as artists in the West we have a privileged position to be able to make work about human rights and repression and we should use that position. Ai Weiwei is a burning example at present of someone who is currently unable to act as an artist because of the political issues with which his work deals with. CT: What do you think are the most significant challenges that artists face now? PK: I think it becomes more and more vital (as the world gets more and more repressive, war-like and economically unequal) for artists to find new ways of dealing with socio-political issues. It’s not about just dealing with birth, copulation and death like the YBAs. It’s actually about dealing with the nitty-gritty of politics and making work that takes sides and that reaches beyond the art audience into everyday life.
Peter Kennardâ€™s book @Earth is published by Tate Publishing and is available now. His work can be seen as part of The Big Society, curated by Alice Motard at Gallery Vallois, Paris, until June 4th.
Therme Vals Words by ZoĂŤ Berman
The road to the Swiss village of Vals is terrifying. Winding its way through a steep valley the bus slowly zigzags up the mountain, teetering on the edge of sharp cliffs that drop into a sheer landscape of dense forest and mountain pastures. The thermal spa that sits in the heart of this remote village is probably the best known of Peter Zumthor’s work, and has become a point of pilgrimage for architects. Those visiting in search of a curative break and romantic luxury may be surprised by the daily onslaught of architects and students surreptitiously attempting to take forbade photographs of the buildings interior. There is some irony in the fact that sneaky photographs being taken in a bathingpool setting are in this instance focused not on the human body. Instead this voyeurism is pursuing the designers’ fetish for the fall of light, compositions of solid and void space and Zumthor’s famed ability for layering raw materials to create buildings that are beautiful and profound.
In contrast to the sublimely scenic journey that is required to reach the spa the arrival into the building is rather plain. Half submerged into the earth of the hillside, the cube of the building is partially hidden. Surrounding it is a lumpen 1960’s hotel complex that is somewhat at odds with the poetry of Zumthor’s design. Nonresidents of the hotel enter the retreat through doors that feel as though they are part of the back of house services, wedged alongside the bins and air conditioning units. Hotel residents have a more luxurious descent – through dark, lacquered passageways that spiral downwards into the submerged hall. Drawn along darkened corridors you can hear the splash of water ahead and for a moment glimpse below you a landscape of quarzite stone and rippling water. The serving spaces of the building are wedged into the hillside, whilst the public facade is broken with aperture windows that give views onto the valley. The central atrium is arranged around a pool, lit from above with glazing that is cut away from the grass-topped roof. Layer upon layer of mottled grey stone is stacked into fivemeter hollow columns around the central pools perimeter – each of which contains inside its core an independently contained and unexpected space. Zumthor consciously created each of these spaces to be discovered, for people to wind from the central pool into these secreted water rooms - the passage between spaces influenced the design arrangement, Zumthor explains that ‘Moving around (the) space means making discoveries. You are walking as if in the woods. Everyone there is looking for a path of their own.’ Each small room feels intensely private, secluded in a silent wall of stone and each contains a different form of bathing. The scent of the flower room rises from water strewn with jasmine petals whilst another perpetually undulates and ripples as water falls into a lower level stone chamber. These are spaces of quiet ritual. Even when busy with people the place remains reverentially hushed. The concealed water rooms are accessed by extended, gradually sloping steps that results in a measured, almost ceremonial descent into the water. There is pleasure here, with a subtle element of trial and initiation - most notable in the icy cold waters of one space, adjacent to the next where the water is almost unbearably hot. Yet we enter it – test ourselves, challenge ourselves to remain their in a bid for cleansing and rejuvenation, pouring hot water
“There is pleasure here, with a subtle element of trial and initiation”
over ourselves with the bronze cups that are chained in the red lit, bubbling sauna. Zumthor’s design interlaces the visitors experience with tones redolent of pleasure and pain, cleansing and purification. Whilst not religious the experience does border on the mystic, and the architectural tools employed to emphasise the sensory experience are deeply traditional. Zumthor’s intention was to create a space that is pared back and purist, where the concept is not of ‘fun fair with the latest technical gadgets, water games, jets, sprays and slides but focused on the quiet, primary experience of bathing, cleansing, relaxing . . . the feeling of water and physical contact with primordial stone.’ Zumthor’s rise to international recognition has been gradual. He fiercely upholds a belief that great architecture is the result of allowing the iterative design process plenty of time to develop and mature - projects must never be rushed. This measured approach leaves little space for the demands of fast paced and fast profit commercial projects. Though his position now sees him being internationally sought after he continues to askew projects unless he feels they have the potential to work harmoniously with the ethos of his practice. As a result his built works are relatively few and are almost entirely confined to his home country of Switzerland. His is not architecture of careless decadence and multiple proliferations, but of consideration and control. The results are buildings that are spiritual, deeply linked to a sense of place and possess a timeless beauty. www.therme-vals.ch
Buddakan, New York Words by David Plaisant
To call Buddakan a restaurant would be a great disservice. Cosmopolitan mess-hall, postmillennial eatery or dining wonderland may be more apt, for this is the ultimate show-and-tell dinner venue. The scale is bewildering; 11,000 square feet of architectural and, lest we forget, culinary drama â€“ Buddakan is an establishment whose style and brashness has struck, awed and
attracted since opening in 2006. What has become an institution of haute new Chinese cuisine presents itself as a pleasure palace of eating. The style, in spite and precisely because of its consciously globalised aesthetic is thoroughly New York . The golden Buddhas and distressed baroque furniture might seem rather prosaic and laboured were it not for the
completeness of the vision that the proprietor Stephen Starr, might have your evening be. Paris-based interior designers Maison Liaigre whose mantra centres on a ‘comfort that does not lie in trivial affluence but in delicacy and rareness’ have succeeded in creating a place that is, quite purposefully, much more than fit for purpose. Buddakan is housed in a former biscuit factory in the city’s Meatpacking District where a typically, and enticingly discreet street front beguiles acres of mood lighting and flamboyantly understated eclecticism. This interior grand tour culminates in a great banqueting hall, three levels high and named so fittingly in the spirit of Franco-American exoticism, as the ‘Chinoiserie’. The restaurant describes this 35 foot high space as “infamous”, and here one gets the feeling of being on the set of a pre-war Hollywood classic. The muted tones even seem to replicate a sepia vision of old film opulence. A grand stair case, blond oak panelling, oriental screens and enormous faux baroque chandeliers surround (if not engulf) those sitting at the much-sought-after central dining table which seats thirty. The food, as if not wanting to be outdone by the temple in which it is housed is equally considered and crafted. Edamame dumplings, whole black bean lobsters or ‘crying’ chocolate fondants levitate through Buddakan’s spaces, aided by the improbable army of staff. The restaurant’s Rococo-meets-Szechuan-meetsSex and the City-(an episode was filmed here) surroundings are mirrored in the menu. If the golden library or the Luis XV curiosity cabinets are not sweet enough perhaps a signature cocktail like the Fate made with elderflower, pineapple and prosecco might complete the oriental pleasuredome adventure. Buddakan, which opened in the heyday of the Roaring Naughties is as anachronistic as it is entertaining. In 2006 prestigious banks had not yet collapsed and globalisation seemed like a cash-cow as sacred as the huge gilded Buddha that dominates the humble diners. Times have changed, but good food like the great nocturnal follies that are built to serve it, is as much part of New York as the yellow cabs that stream past the restaurant’s entrance. Buddakan, 75 Ninth Avenue (corner of 15th Street ) New York City.
Words by Gordon O’Connor-Read Images by Reinhart Nell
St Martin’s in-the-Fields, London Ritual as a theme is prevalent within architecture, often dominating our lives as a consequence. It can guide, influence or dictate how architects conjure the building blocks of our ever-expanding towns and cities. Historically it has been expressed through ecclesiastical buildings, as a reflection of religious practise. Once the pinnacle of western civilisation, religious organisations and their centres of devotion now find themselves eclipsed by the practise of secular living and its towers of modernity. It is this turning point in British culture that has been captured in the restoration project of St.Martin-in-the-Fields Church, London, as highlighted by its designers Eric Parry Architects, ‘St Martin’s is set against a rich backdrop of heritage, community and faith that is simultaneously sacred and secular’. Social attitudes towards faith have shifted to the extent that the needs of the community are having a bearing upon the very architecture that once dominated the landscape.
“The glass pavilion and light-well ... Act as a link between the parish’s core activities both of worship and participation”
Located at the North-East corner of Trafalgar Square, and prior to the consecration of James Gibbs’ church in 1726, the land had been used for worship since the 13th century. The spiritual significance of the premises, as well as its listed status, goes some distance to explaining the minimalist interventions created by Eric Parry Architects. The addition of an entrance pavilion to the crypts and new foyer below, emerges at street-level with little fanfare. Situated to the Western end towards Adelaide Street, it is almost apologetic and acutely aware of the context in which it is set. However, the focus of their remit has been to forge a unifying masterplan with particular attention on improved visitor and community facilities. Those adjoining features are largely subtle and appropriate, but are indicative of the assimilation from ecclesiastical to civic architecture. The church’s aura of ‘High Anglicanism’ that once set it apart from other public buildings appears to have ebbed away, leaving behind an era of openness and inclusion. The new masterplan now boasts several facilities such as the Bishop Ho Ming Wah Chinese Community Centre, an extended Church Hall and rehearsal spaces for choirs and
musicians, all of which is housed underground bringing with it a twinned ritual of sacred and secular. The glass pavilion and light-well are isolated so as not to disturb the setting of St. Martin’s, an acknowledgement of its continuing religious duties, but also acting as a link between the parish’s core activities both of worship and participation. Furthermore, removal of Victorian alterations to the church may have restored it to Gibbs’ original scheme, but also reinforces its ability to inspire and reconnect with the community it proclaims to serve. The patronage of churches across Europe were once commonplace. The impact of these monumental edifices of spiritual and political governance attracted those who wished to benefit from such association. A religious order of piety and procession grew from that culture, and long defined the articulation of a church’s nave and chapels, but now must contend with its social responsibilities next door. It is a response in the church’s code of duty, not just to their congregation, but to the homeless and disadvantaged they aspire to help through ‘The Connection’ programme as catered for by the restoration.
porn this way
photographer stelios kallinikou fashion editor christos kyriakides hair angelos pattas@blowcy make up ilona giabastanelli
first spread lace up stiletto shoes azzedine alaia left white, see-through pleated skirt comme des garรงons this page clutch bag celine
left model wears givenchy by ricardo ticci, shoes by chloĂŠ above leather overall nicolas andreas taralis
opposite polo neck black body max mara
shoes by chloé
Film directed by Nina Danino Produced by Tracy Bass Cinematography by Billy Williams BSC
The ritual sacrament of First Communion is usually commemorated in a portrait of the child on their special day. It is the beginning in a life of good character and a milestone in a seven year old’s education. Communion remembers the visual grammar of the Communion portrait with its stylised rhetoric of poses and rigid formal style. The film re-stages these portraits with the high production values of 35mm, using the medium and lighting techniques associated with the Hollywood studio system. The aim was to create a sumptuous image through the index; the imprint of light on chemical film at the cinematographic stage. The unadorned framing brings to mind the films of Bresson or possibly the genre of supernatural thriller, the haunting spectacle of the close up of the woman’s face in so many memorable Hollywood and European films; the religious iconicity of Dreyer’s Joan of Arc, the secular beauty of Garbo in Queen Christina or the mystical melodrama of the face of Jenny Jones in The Song of Bernadette. Director / Nina Danino Cast / Thalia Somerville Large Cinematographer / Billy Williams BSC Editor / David Dickson Grading / Paul Dean HD Post Production / Toby Glover Online Editor / Steve Murgatroyd Focus Puller / Oliver Ledwith Clapper Loader / Alex Byng Gaffer / Brian Fawcett Electrician / Brian Lockyear Stills Photographer / Jane Atkins Production Assistant / Pru Beecroft Runner / George Davenport Runner / Robert Searle Co-Producer / Nina Danino Producer / Tracy Bass Communion, (2010) 35mm, silent, 10 mins. has been shown in From Floor To Sky, P3 London, Little Constellation, Fabbrica del Vapore, Milan, Malta Contemporary Art (2010). You can see a preview at www.stimulusrespond. com/communion.html.
PHOTOGRAPHER STELIOS KALLINIKOU FASHION EDITOR CHRISTOS KYRIAKIDES HAIR ANGELOS PATTAS@BLOW CY MAKE UP ILLONA GIASTABANELLI
PREVIOUS:: SHIRT BY MAX MARA THIS PAGE: JACKET, SKIRT AND SHOES ALL BALENCIAGA OPPOSITE: TOP BY COMME DES GARÇONS
PREVIOUS: SHIRT BY MAX MARA BELOW: WHITE TOP ALEXANDER WANG OPPOSITE: TOP GIORGOS ELEUTHERIADES NEXT: BLACK SHIRT BALENCIAGA
Criminal Types Words and Images by Lyn Hagan
This work is the result of a year long series of embroidered pieces in which I dealt with historical photos of convicts and the dead. I came across a collection by Paul Frecker of post mortem photography and from that led to a resource of images from the American Wild West. I began to sketch these and then to embroider them. Post mortem photography was a Victorian and early American tradition that were taken after the death of a loved one, typically a child, and were a means of capturing the image of the person in one last futile gesture that denies their loss whilst at the same time admitting it totally. After working on fairly intimate portraits of these images, and simultaneously drawing the images of funerals in the frontiers, it was a natural progression to look at other archives and I came across the archive of Thomas Nevins photographs of Tasmanian criminals. I embroidered these without knowing the crime of those I depicted and found through later research that one of the criminals crimes was vagrancy, the other was rape. I could not tell by their faces what crime they had committed and I remembered the Victorian tradition of trying to identify criminal types by facial features. I have also made images based upon prison tattoos, in which we get to see how convicts represent themselves.
A L I L O V E Interview by Hannah Yelin
I meet Ali Love at his new East London flat, where he excitedly gives me the full guided tour. From the contents of the fridge to what the builders have been doing in the bathroom. He is an extremely candid and unguarded interviewee. “I don’t care,” he says. “I’m totally open to all talking aspects.” Ali’s musical career began in 2006 with the single K-hole; a mad, loud, pop-punk narration of a night of gradual and utter dissolution. The singles he released on his own label, I Love Records, were followed by collaboration with Chemical Brothers on the sparse and pounding, Do It Again, and a record deal with Columbia, which saw his music shift Popwards. “Embarrassing bullshit really,” he calls it, “I did a load of bullshit. Just kind of going along with it. Not really paying much attention.” The relationship didn’t last long. In 2008, he parted with the label. “That went tits up.” Why? “I wasn’t really ready. I wasn’t really into being made into some kind of Pop Star. It just didn’t sit with me at all.” I mention how often his music videos exploit his heart throb good looks. “Yeah it’s bullshit man. I did a load of bullshit. I wasn’t really into that whole thing. I didn’t really feel comfortable with it. I feel comfortable more being behind the scenes. In the underground. Doing it for the love. Instead of being like [puts on goofy voice] ‘Hey everyone, look at me’. But it looks like he’s enjoying himself now. “I like that people play my music around the world. That’s a good feeling. People everywhere, dancing to what you’ve done. That’s a good thing you know. Inspiring. Making you feel enthusiastic. Like you can do more stuff. And you think, ‘This is cool’. It makes you feel as though you have something to give.” With his Poppiest work now behind him, he is best known for his disco-centred, electronic dance music. “I’ve made a lot of different types of music in the last, I don’t know, 5 years or something. Quite a lot of electro. Funk. Quite a lot of house music. Some kind of punk stuff. Some new wave stuff. Alt country songs. I’ve done lots of various mercenary work, with other producers and people. Some very successful and some, you know, very underground. Of a certain genre, or of a certain…tribe. The last record I did was quite disco influenced. Arpeggiated, electronic disco. But I wouldn’t say that is ‘What. I. Do.’ I just happened to get into a certain style. And happened to get obsessed with it. And made a record like that. But really my main objective
is just songs really. Just kind of songs, pictures and daydreams. I’m into songs, pictures and daydreams.” He is keen to be known for the breadth beyond the arpeggiated, electro disco. “I think at the moment the main thing people know of me is the more electronic, dance-based stuff. I haven’t really had the chance to see whether people will like it when I drop a psychedelic, acidified country record. But I do plan on doing something like that. Because I am quite acidified. And I definitely do like exploring different things. But at the moment I’m still quite in the electronic scene. That’s who a lot of my friends are. When I go out, that’s who my peers are. And they are the kind of gigs I do, when I travel around. I’ve just been doing clubs. All over Europe. That’s where I’m at, at the moment.” I have caught him in the brief pause between his European and American tours. Exploiting this fleeting moment of freedom, he has just returned from a holiday to the Rio Carnival that he made on a whim. “It’s a different world. Very chilled out. Very cool people.” He’s been doing a lot of travelling lately. “We’ve done every major city in Europe this year. So, you know, been quite busy.” He describes his live gigs as “Quite simple”. “Recently I’ve just been using old analogue
“I wasn’t really into being made into some kind of Pop Star. It just didn’t sit with me at all.”
equipment. An old 707 drum machine. A Juno 106. A voyager. 3 of us just been doing a lot of gigs. Travelling around to all these countries. Having fun. It’s been a good experience and the gigs have been going pretty well. And the best gigs, I’ll usually be on stage at about 1 o clock. I don’t really like playing before 1am. 1 o’ clock is my perfect set time.” Why? “Well, everyone’s drunk and high enough to not notice that you’re totally shit.” He bursts out laughing. “No no no. It’s just that kind of vibe. It’s that kind of music. You know it needs to be… People need to be… quite…” Up for it? “Yeah. It’s better when it’s like that.” I ask how he gears himself up for these ideal 1am gigs. “I have rituals, like sometimes I have to wear a certain headband, or a certain shirt, or jewellery. Things like that. I drink quite a lot of spirits. I quite like spirits before I go on stage. A few drinks. There’s definitely that. I mean, every musician has that. Or,” he qualifies, “most musicians like to get slightly drunk before they go on stage. Heavy drugs can be very detrimental. I’ve been known to… you know…yeah.” He decides to leave that there. I steer us instead to his forthcoming gigs. “I’m signed to Dim Mak in America. I’m playing in Russia, then flying to L.A. and starting a tour of America. Playing all the major cities in America. That’s what I’m really gearing up for. They’re gonna start putting the music out there and all that sort of shit. So that’s the main thing I’m looking forward to. From the start of June for 3 weeks. It ends in New York, where I’m going to stay for a bit, and do some song writing with some people there. Lee Foss and this band called Hot Natured. I’ve done a track with them called Forward Motion and I’m going to be playing at various places around the world with them.” Ali feels like fortune has shone upon him. “I’ve never really been a careerist. I’m much more interested in making music for myself and my friends. Then you’re getting reviewed and this and that and it’s OK. It’s like, “whatever”. I’ve
never really been that overly ambitious. So the big things, like working with The Chemicals, working with Justice, they just came about out of the blue. And you just go with it, and think, “OK let’s see what happens”. And for some reason they kind of work out for the better. Sometimes his music is the product of his experiences. And sometimes “it’s just syllables sounding nice together and you can get away with it. It pieces itself together, almost by its own accord. As long as you put attention to what you’re doing. It’s like a magnifying glass on a twig. As long as the sun’s on it - the light of attention, the energy of attention – you’ll get flame. You have to keep your mind in that attentive state and eventually, if that’s what you want, you’ll get a song. Or if you want to do something else, write a book, you’ll get a book. It can all be applied to every other creative process. It’s just wherever you want to centre your attention. I find it quite spontaneous. Like anything, you work out shortcuts and techniques. They’re kind of rituals. The ritual of going out and partying. I mean I’ve always been very good at staying awake for days on end and in a way that’s a kind of ritual. It’s like when an ascetic would go off and fast in the mountain for seven days and not eat and not sleep and just meditate. You kind of get to that situation. Mind states where you stay awake for three days. Especially in a nice sunny place. I’ve definitely got to some enlightened states by… being a complete wrong’un you know?” He laughs. “Just a short cut. You can retrieve songs - I’ve retrieved songs definitely - out of the depths of depravity.” “I think most British music is made on cups of tea. That’s one of the rituals in the studio. Drinking lots of tea. It’s not very rock and roll but it’s probably the truth. I think most of the best records in England were made on cups of tea.” He picks up a guitar and starts plucking a tune dreamily, so I let him get back to his tea and partying.
The Victorian English Gentlemens Club Words by Hannah Yelin
The Victorian English Gentlemens Club show no hint of Victoriana, nor exclusivity, and comprise of only two thirds men, gentle or otherwise. I’m looking for entertaining, chappish, Victorian clichés: moustaches, monocles, morality and so forth, but am met with weary derision. “Yes and no, mainly no. To tell you truth I get bored and mildly irritated with the imagery connotations. John Lennon didn’t push a dung ball around the stage. Mick Jagger wasn’t a boulder.” Placing oneself in such company is a self-assured start from founder member Adam Taylor. Knowing that the other original member of the band is one Louise Mason, I ask about the entry policy for women to the Gentlemens Club. “What…in the band? Well Louise formed the band with me back at art school so, er, yes. Only to keep in line with new government guidelines on equality of course.” Once again I have stumbled into saying something unbelievably irksome and tedious. “I don’t like cock rock, jackoff wig-outs, or on stage masturbation. Girls I get on with aren’t really into that. We meet loads of math rock bands, aiming to ignite the parts of the male brain that drools at car metal and gadgets via clever time signatures and muscle. I find that tiresome.” Ah. On other matters he becomes more enthused, “A lot of the bands Louise and I were influenced by when we formed have girls as key members. Not necessarily doing lead vocals, more providing instrumental and vocal backing rhythms. Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, Pixies, White Stripes, Talking Heads.” So I should just move on from the band name, right? “We wanted the longest stupidest name we could get away with. We heard the name The Victorian English Gentlemens Club called out as the winners of a pub quiz. So we took it. Maybe it was against the Nathan Barley, monosyllabic, shoe shop band names. I don’t know. It’s daft. I like it.” I think about raising the missing apostrophe, but think better of it. As well as a dislike of cock rock, Nathan Barley band names, Victorian imagery and my bad jokes, Adam relishes “a fight”, argues “a lot”. Whilst in certain respects, their music owes something to the classic 3 minute pop song, it is undeniably dark. Gloomy dissonance in places tips over into outright menace. “There’s a lot of space in our music, maybe due to being a 3 piece. It adds unease and tension. Or perhaps we are parent hating emos, hiding behind our hair because we don’t want a job. I don’t like easy
“There’s a lot of nice double entendre and rude references with meat, but that’s not for me to talk about as I haven’t noticed any of them. Of course.”
listening summer pop, or people who do. I like a fight. I’m quite uptight and frustrated, and so is my music.” So it’s not just me then. “I think it’s my love of pop and Lou’s fear of it, creating a weird meet/meat in the middle.” Ah yes, the meat. The band’s song and album titles, music videos and graphics drip with semisacrificial images of the bloody, red sinews of meat. Amongst the purple prose of their press release, their music is described as being “highfidelity, low-maintenance meat…fuelled by a rash of thrash and a pound of flesh” “I can’t speak for Lou. She does the graphics. But I think she likes all the vivid colours and marbling effect meat has. And I think she is a bit odd. It started with the song Bag of Meat.” The eponymous song from their forthcoming album. “It’s about a boy doing some meat shopping for his parents and being embarrassed and self-conscious. So, yeah….it’s about self-awareness. Worrying what people think. Also, I like the idea of the Magical Mystery Tour thing, the title track making a theme for the record. There’s a lot of nice double entendre and
rude references with meat, but that’s not for me to talk about as I haven’t noticed any of them. Of course.” Because Adam and Louise had neither come from musical backgrounds, nor been in bands before they joined forces with each other, their music “came from instinct and what felt right,” explains Adam, “I think we make an original sound. We use bass / guitar / mandolin / drums, with no synths or keyboards, but try and abstract the sound through octave and echo pedals to give them a dimension. We aim to find a line between experimental and pop, finding where they meet. It’s hard. There are easy options, but we try hard to avoid them.” I ask about the habitual processes they go through to get to new tracks. “We shout and argue a lot. ‘JAZZ JAZZ JAZZ, play JAZZ DRUMS!’ I shouted at my drummer earlier today. He complied and it sounded fucking terrible. Most songs are written on an acoustic guitar but end up somewhere completely different. Often a song can work on its first play, or after 200 attempts. Stupidly, it can become a matter of life and death in the studio.” And what about preparing to go on stage? Any sacramental rites to summon a great performance? “I ask the others, ‘Are you nervous?’ They say, ‘No’. I say, ‘I’m nervous’. Then I ask the other band, ‘Are you nervous?’ They say, ‘We don’t get nervous, don’t worry about it’. I say, ‘I can’t’. And this goes on and on and on. I have stopped drinking before I go on and it is working for me at the moment. I would drink a lot before to kill my nerves, but my playing and singing got really slack. So I have cut it right back.” They approach their live performances with pomp, ceremony and art school theatricality. “We try and create something different on stage. We disguise the fact that the audience is looking at a room they have seen countless times before. Flags, flowers or dummy children. We try and create a new world. So it’s not just sound stimulation. Maybe it came after accidently seeing a band called the Hank and Lily show gig. It was all masks and mermaids. And an entire living room stage set. Even though they were touring all the way from Canada. I was so blown away. Even though it was in a venue I’d been to 1000 times, it was a different world.” Bag of Meat will be the band’s third album. The creative procedure is described by Adam as a kind of mutinous ritual patricide. “Our albums seem to be a rebellion against the last. Our first
record was quirky angular art rock and we got tagged in with bands I didn’t like. So with our next record we became heavier / darker / weirder with less emphasis on pop. We have rebelled with this record against the heavy coldness of the last and it has a strong pop element and really quirky parts.” About the soon to be released album, Adam is animated. “We have a really great drummer now, which has opened up loads of different time signatures and great possibilities to take songs further. We recorded it in three sections over Summer/Winter/Spring and it’s the best stuff we have ever written. The recording went well, but I always feel always slight sadness to recording a song. Once they’re recorded they are finished and can no longer change or evolve. It’s like they are dead. That’s why we like to play new stuff. It’s the process that’s exciting. The mistakes and changes, not the replication of the solution. The band have had their fair share of mixed blessings, the gods of dark-art-pop-rock having showered them with equal measure of misadventure and providence. “Van breakdowns, missing the same ferry twice in a day….all stupidity related. We always leave too late, have one last pint, and as a result we always always run for planes.” Losing their original drummer also “felt like crappy luck at the time, it was grim. But it worked out as a blessing in the end. It’s helped us develop and get good. James is a great drummer, so it’s helped us leave behind the tin pop post punk stage we never wanted to be in anyway. We’re fucking tight now, there’s a pleasure in the music, and it can breathe and have life. In general, God shines on us. We’ve been all over the world, doing stupid music and getting away with it. It’s genius.”
Rituals – Voices Words by Martin L. Davies
This ritual, for example: making a cocktail. Not every day would you do it. (You have to keep a clear head at all times.) But sooner or later – sooner rather than later – the time comes, maybe a special time, the end of the day, of a long day. She says: I want to wind down. You respond: OK, let’s have a drink. – First, you set out the tall, delicate glasses, the shaker, the measures. Then you arrange the bottles. Then you fix up the lemon or orange or whatever decoration, then the ice. It’s like a magic spell for a magic potion. It requires an incantation: two measures brandy, two measures sweet vermouth, a teaspoon sugar syrup, a few dashes Angostura bitters. You shake it until the shaker frosts over and your hands ache with cold. Slowly you pour it out. You drink, – you taste a delightful interlude and, with the liquid’s flavour sufficiently intense, a moment of epiphany. Ritual is a self-conscious sequence of gestures and body movements. Its selfconsciousness patterns the enacted sequences. It is choreography, performance. There is in it something not just organic, but integral to matter itself. Its being self-conscious is the surface reflex of ontic organisation. All matter is organised: the ratio between adjacent numbers in the Fibonacci sequence (the golden section) governs the spiral structure of star nebulae as it does whorls in seashells. An aesthetic intention inheres in matter, be it in the geometrical regularities of quartz crystals or in the loops and spots on an exotic butterfly’s ornate wings. In the human organism the same intention governs tropisms operative within consciousness. One such tropism would be the impulse to interrupt the experiential flux
of dreary routine functioning by taking a line of flight, an escape route, ephemeral though it may be, towards the sacred... Chorus-girls dance in lines uniformly: social theorists saw it as the factory assembly-line in its cultural form. Otherwise dance styles are de-regulated (like the free market); but the disco-beat, above all synthetic, indifferent, partly a throbbing pulse, partly an unrelenting measure, would eventually fray the human figures under its spell with its convulsive automatisms. (The exhausting dance marathon was once a characteristic of mass culture (as Siegfried Kracauer remarks).) Ballroom dancing is sinister in a different way: it has all the engineered precision of a military drill. It is the epitome of the militant banality of bourgeois culture. But in the pole-dancer there is purity, purity of form and motion, – an intense, liquid sculpture, the measured but exotic convergence of athletic prowess and erotic enchantment. Her movements are choreographed by a collage of provocative Gestalten, primordial erotic configurations embedded deep in the bio-structure of the psyche, in the repertory of the most archaic of human responses. (To connect the erogenous with the cosmological is not a male conceit but a true imaginary, – as in Courbet’s painting, L’Origine du monde and in the principle of natality. The world that human beings create has to be born to come into being, so that with birth – as with the Nativity – a new beginning always means hope.) The audience mainly male is entranced, though some gape in insolent incredulity: either way they are hooked. These men think they know why: she is the object
“This is what they did every Friday (so I was told)”
of their desire, clearly she must desire them. They can see themselves only in their narcissistic fantasies obviously making use of her body regardless of who she is. As for her, who she is for herself, I think she’s thinking: when I’m through here I shall go backstage, slip on a wrap and have, as she always does, a mug of tea she will make with a routine as dextrous as her dance. Any line of flight towards the sacred will be ephemeral, because in the disenchanted world the sacred is transient, exceptional. It is a state of attentiveness, of rapture, of ecstasy, of epiphany that is humanly unsustainable. So ritual must be perpetual conjuration, conjuration perpetually reiterated. Think, for example, of the conjuror’s compulsive gestures, his distracting sleights of hand, his abracadabras, the magic hocuspocus, the wonderment. All an illusion. There is no transcendental, immaterial entity to which ritual conjuration appeals. It seems to make sense, but only because the appealing gesture in itself projects transcendence. But then sense is an inherent property of reiterated conjurations, of patterns and sequences (as in binary code or the structure of DNA). They need not signify anything! The conjuring gestures need not gesture towards anything. And what, if they could, would they gesture towards? Deep down everyone knows there is nothing out there, that human life is a cosmological eccentricity, that above all consciousness is fatal, – a remote observation-post in uncharted territory. What an absurdity, death included, except for just one, single compensation, – love! Ritual, though, does something miraculous. It makes something out of nothing, it galvanises ontological destitution.
It supplies the rest, the rest that potentialises existence, empowers it. It invests in it an essential, self-sustaining dynamic. What drives it is melody and dance, as in the cult of Dionysus: rhythms of musical movement, rhythms of voice in the song. In enchantment there is chant, itself sustained by the binary code in measures such as the iambus (v –) and the trochaeus (– v), the dactyl (– v v) and the anapaest (v v –), the choriambus (– v v –) and the antispast (v – – v). For once the utilitarians have a point (says Nietzsche): poetry is useful because rhythmic measure is omnipotent. There is nothing it cannot do: it magically drives labour forward, compels God to take heed, bends the future to one’s will, and purges the soul: ‘to lack rhythmic measure is to be nothing, to possess rhythmic measure is to become virtually divine.’ This is what they did every Friday (so I was told), at the end of the week, when they finally – at last! – had the time to be together closed off from the world. It was as if they were marking the Sabbath with a feast. It was, though, for her sake. He would light a sea-blue candle in her honour. As a preliminary ceremony the table would be set, the champagne flutes signifying solemnity. The food would be simple but elegant: a gratin dauphinois, perhaps, fillet steaks saignant, a salad tossed in a light vinaigrette, and then a pavlova and espresso coffee for dessert. One would serve the food, the other with nonchalant dexterity would open the ever effervescent wine and fill the flutes. Once seated (I was told), automatically they would raise their glasses and, before imbibing, with grim determination exclaim: Death to our enemies!!!! – But (apparently) they never could discover if
this incantation worked, if it did the trick. Worse still, through the grapevine (so to speak), came intimations that, far from expiring, their enemies were doing rather well for themselves; that they might even be prospering. In response they could be reassured that their curse (like all curses) would be always active, potent in perpetuity. However, in the everyday world ritual is displaced, then marginalised by its nefarious simulacrum. What remains gets sequestrated, refunctioned. Choreographed rhythms degenerate into routine behaviour in the socioeconomic mega-machine. Sequences of gestures decline into epiphenomena of the systemic logic sustaining the administered world. Patterns of response are reduced to behavioural reflexes conditioned by organisational procedures. Measures translate the vindictiveness of managerial regulation: there is no quality that is not measurable. In facilitating calculation they provide the certainties, – the data, the statistics, the numbers – for the bureaucrat’s cold, psychotic gratification. (Psychotic? Did not Rousseau describe calculation as a form of depravity?) The socio-economic mega-machine radiates psychosis. It induces a distinctive psychopathology. The purely functionalistic rituals it enforces simulate neurotic repetitioncompulsions. The superior faultlessness of its electronic apparatus, interrupted by frustrating malfunctions resulting from human-all-toohuman clumsiness, provokes deep shame. Its relentless automatism, connecting directly with the automatisms of the unconscious, thus liberating regressive desires, outflanks
self-reflection and so generates anxiety. As an instrument of totalitarian terror it thus tears asunder the personality already alienated and exhausted by capitalist exploitation in order now to tap into and extract the maximum surplusvalue from its vast unconscious resources. Perhaps it resulted from driving for several hours in the tiring sun that my responses slowed so that, instead of turning into the crematoriumcomplex, I mistook for its entrance an adjacent drive-way into what estate-agents would call a secluded estate of upmarket “executive homes” otherwise indistinguishable from it. A deft three-point turn and a few minutes later I was parking my car in the congested crematorium car-park. I got out and made my uncertain way towards the crowds. Where was the group I was supposed to be joining? The scene – the rows of cars parked, people in groups waiting, an atmosphere of expectancy – reminded me of a frontier control-post in disputed territory that had closed temporarily or where travellers turning up without the correct papers or with expired visas had caused delays. (Well, I thought, we might not have the right papers or visa now but this particular frontier-post will admit us all sometime or other, sooner or later.) Then the same scene – the rows of cars, the people waiting, the expectancy – evoked a car-ferry port prior to departure, perhaps for a rough, night crossing. (But suppose, I thought, the transfer across the Styx was no longer with the fearsome Charon in a graceful gondola. In this culture of the death-drive, the dominion of Thanatos, it would surely require the capacity of a roll-on roll-
“Ritual is circular, reiterative. It is a conjuration of the very presence, the human presence, to which it owes its existence.”
off ferry, a floating structure of cabin-like tombs, equipped with shops, restaurants and cinemas to alleviate the dreadful journey.) And then I recognised other members of the group and, as I joined them, we all moved towards the chapel that was already so overflowing with mourners that we had to gather at its entrance. It had been decided that mourners should wear bright, party clothes, T-shirts, jeans, flimsy frocks, because this was to be the celebration of a young life accidentally abbreviated and his friends, having done him proud with this dress-code, were certainly conspicuous. But on this mid-summer day I (like the other older participants) had still gone for black as a proper expression of deep sympathy and respect. With the service over, the music, the eulogies, the prayers all done, we filed out past the coffin isolated on its catafalque like a missile on a launch-pad about to blast off for the cosmos. There had been none of the usual hocus-pocus, the prestidigitation, so that after a prayer when you look up it has vanished. In the blazing sun outside on the neat, suburban lawn with its rose-bush borders we met and reflected in a sombre mood. I was introduced to one young woman who had the most reason to be deeply affected. To express her devastating grief she was wearing the most revealing partydress. Everyone knows that the perpetual conflict between Eros and Thanatos that governs our works and days is vastly unequal, but it was as if, even in this deep crisis, she wished bravely to tilt the odds in Eros’s favour, as if in desiring to give a treasured keepsake to the now departed, she was symbolically giving herself. – And that (since you did say you wanted to know) is how I learned yet
again about the awful sadness of living ... Ritual is circular, reiterative. It is a conjuration of the very presence, the human presence, to which it owes its existence. It defines a time within time, in the way that a piece of music (e.g. a Mozart sonata, a twelve-bar Blues) has its own timesignature, its own temporal structure. It defines a presence within existence that can occur only because it produces sense, because those the ritual involves believe in it. It is the imaginary architecture of a constructive illusion: without it life would be impossible. Ritual is the default recourse to sense production. – Along with marriage-rituals, burial-rituals are an essential, primordial constant in human behaviour. The very concept of humanitas comes (according to Vico) from the Latin humando (i.e. burying), the rituals of mourning affirming presence even in the moment of its demise, the human inextricable from inhumation. But ritualistic constancy has no defence against its institutionalisation. It then upholds the barren formality of tradition. It reinforces the entrenched authority of things as they are. Rituals remain vital only if they are spontaneously created. Or rather they must unexpectedly happen, suggest themselves, emerge unbidden into consciousness like a refrain, a particular melody, some lines of verse, evoking a state of mind, a situation, a complex of issues, a rhizome-like pattern of circumstances, whatever remains, the recollected remnants of having lived...
Brushing My Mother’s Teeth Words by Christina Lovin Not what you might think. Not those I remember only from photos of a gap-toothed young woman. Solid, these are held in my hand: soiled— yellow and caked with starch from nursing home food. The brush sends out specks that stick to the faucet, spot the break-proof mirror in the tiny shared toilet. Another woman mumbles incoherently on the other side of the cheap laminate door while water runs clear now around the precise shape of my mother’s shrunken gums, sloughing the smooth channel, rinsing clean each tooth, perfect save for the chip hewn from the left front incisor; and I remember her foot— wet, dripping warm, scented water back into an enamel basin, then gently rubbed, lovingly patted dry to be followed by the other. The foot washer rising, untying the long linen towel kept just for this sacred observance. I see my mother accept the cloth, winding it around her waist, then kneel before the next woman in the circle. Takes her foot, lifts it by a callused heel into the washbowl between them. I watch bored, too young to participate, not understanding then those offices of humility one will stoop to out of duty or tradition, and on occasion, some reverent love.
Sentimental Monologue Words by Matthew Lee Knowles
I Choose Love! Not winding & dancing & stabbing Burning & turning & spinning Jumping & bellowing & flickering Hullabalooing & gabbing & whisking Tumbling & drinking & going Knowing & glistening & playing Dancing & sparkling & thinking Touching & stopping & telling Flowing & sparkling & watching Living & drifting & flying Mourning & mourning & sailing Fishing & craning & longing Rising & falling & mourning Striking & diving & craning Puffing & drawing & moving Screaming in spring & coursing Splitting & speaking & tuning Stopping & corrupting & weeping Crying & flowing & melting Laughing & breathing & spinning Willing for nothingness & idealising Shinning & breathing & lapping Hemming & glancing & seeping Drooping & crying & binding Falling & blowing & stealing Standing & staring & living Things unloving & doing & unknowing Having & loving & touching Tracing & tracing & undoubting Doubling & growing & shining Setting & coming & misgiving Spewing & ticking & feeling Loving & staining nothingness Leaving nothing & nothingness Nothing, nothing, nothing Loving & doubling & planning Gliding & dancing in spring Walking & skirting & crying Waiting & posturing & visiting Unending & spelling & stepping Hastening & living & knowing Letting the waking being Coming & sleeping & unfailing Watching the loving being Fighting & dying & leaving Waiting & feeling & suffering Groping & beating & dumfounding Maddening & waiting & watching Walking & toeing & skirting Destroying & laying & trampling Searing & breaking & consoling Making & unsleeping & staring Talking & unsleeping & unknowing Harbouring & hoping & jarring Speaking & moving & stepping Breaking & living & turning Turning & pointing & flying Visiting & mistaking & meaning Willing & neighbouring & unthinking
Putting & wanting bunting Spring, longing & waking Choking & living & rocking Steadying & falling & shooting Riding & bleeding & riding Shooting & holding & speaking Dripping & turning & undeserving Living & living & flying Spinning & believing & worshipping Unbelieving & mourning the evening Warming & listening & crying Asking & closing & meaning Saying things & replying Knowing & dying & hissing Growing & burning & crackling Partying & baying & following Hunting & crunching & rolling Snaring & fastening & hanging Unbecoming & living & opening Opening & washing in spring Exceeding & exceeding & writing Growing & feeling & hearing Leaning & tumbling & admiring Coming & humming & leaving Shining & leaving & lying Twisting & confusing & sleeping Carousing & lightning & opening Breathing & living & sitting Dancing & wrestling & rattling Battling & bruising & loving Crying & searching & swimming Revolving & riding & stepping Crawling & hopping & crying Moving & feeling & crying Crying & feeding & knocking Lying & lying & watching Calling & sleeping & lapping Hiding & watching in spring Living & living & dying Lamenting & loving & living Building & building in spring Spring & rounding spring Spring & cuckooing & living Living & heeding & winding Binding & waking & flying Falling & springing & pecking Nestling & lightning & quickening Mourning & wearing & drinking Drooping & snarling & raging Sloping & revolving & living Trembling & thudding & housing Paying & everlasting facing Fathering the living spring Wringing & unfailing & sipping Dying & holding & saluting Darting the lightning spring Walking & breathing & bowing Burning & scalding & singing Curving through morning Wailing through morning Spurning & stripping & praising
Dreaming & falling & ruffling Trembling & unending & revolving Moving & acquainting & mouthing Blowing and hanging in spring Unfolding & hanging & lifting Breaking & warning nothing Meeting & growing & multiplying Singing & crying & sounding Divorcing the ageing spring Scalding with telling song Falling in divining spring Skinning & hanging & discussing Painting something putrefying Nudging & howling & leaping Waxing & hanging & growing Flaming string & meaning Surrounding string & freezing Living & sleeping & winding Throwing & lying & loving Blowing & faring & clocking Setting & boiling & shelling Leaping & shifting nothing Chiming & muscling & spinning Kissing at the beginning of spring Rooting & burning Beginning & beginning Mounting & rolling Beginning & beginning Translating & shaking Shaking & forking Beginning & cooking Breaking string Hatching string Winging & muscling Rehearsing & sweet hearting Smoking & curling Smelling & wearing Rubbing & Slaving Starving & Scouting Assuming & working Crabbing morning Hearing & hearing Walking & wagging Morning & meaning Spelling & coming Running & running Stalking & musing Descending & knocking Everything & leaning Depending on ending Shifting & placing Dreaming & reaching Dreaming & blowing Dreaming & gabbing Unknowing & climbing Living & sleeping Waking & losing Climbing & climbing Breaking & rotating Driving & creasing Melting & scalding Marching & forcing Struggling & enrobing The swing of spring Sucking & braiding Rotating & horning Tracking & incising Buckling & strewing
Crossing & marking Bearding & burning Binding & working Foaming in spring Working & ribbing Milling & mauling Seafaring & riding Hanging & loving Flashing & laying Beginning & spinning Raising spring Beginning in spring Forcing & hearing Ending & voyaging Departing & turning Turning & splitting Making & decaying Rotating & lightning scraping Scaling & thrusting at the hamstring Locking & boiling Pouring & shaking Flying & harassing Suffering from the beginning Ascending & marking Babbling & towering Destroying my darlings Unknowing & sewing Biting in spring Walking & cementing Unwrinkling & engraving Holding & defying & telling Playing & walking Shooting & thrusting Knocking & climbing Descending & shuffling Weathering through spring Nagging & burning Smiling & cutting Climbing & singing Stinging & singing Rocking from the beginning Ringing & flying Diving from the beginning Talking & shaping Fiddling & shaping Hanging through the morning Dying & loudening Breaking through railings Padding & rising & falling (my spring darlings) my spring ridings Burning & singing Walking & turning Blazing in the beginning Flying & tapping Stumbling & tapping Leaping & war bearing Rumbling & quickening Quickening & settling Foreign sky-scraping grave groping Foreign lying & updating Quickening & unsettling Treading & sailing Pacing & leaking The warring doing Warning & dazzling Sailing & nesting Uneaten & hailing
Warning & wringing Approaching & darting Burning & lightning Suckling & forgiving Glistening & lamenting Spelling & shrouding Roaring & crawling Raging & sinking Living & flying Whinnying through morning Snivelling & crossing Swing & sing Mourning whilst strutting Taking & meaning Meaning & wooing Smiling, spying & whispering Pouring & looking Guarding & bellowing Blazing & puffing Pleasing & unwinding Vanishing & counting Whirring, spitting & shrivelling Bringing & squawking, scudding & burning A thundering bullring Eating & lying Terrifying & saying Saying & playing Charmingly saying< Explaining my undoing via lightning Rocking, toppling & burning Coming & making Thinning & dazzling Coming & beginning Winning & twinkling Smiling & cunning Waiting & scudding Coming & loving Descending & biding Wanting & striding Aspiring & renouncing Living & blessing Translating from the beginning Vaulting & living Tossing & turning Bouncing & burning Coiling until morning Scarring through morning Breaking during morning Waking after morning Snapping & spinning Bursting & paddling Sitting & hopping Flashing & carrying Thrashing my wings Combing & navigating Walking & growing Studying & riding Waiting & feathering Living & falling Failing as king Weighing & bouncing Dodging & snivelling Evenings besotting Hawking nothing Wanting & singing Wagging & blessing Bustling & counting Flogging & leaving
Blowing & building Melting & embracing Sitting & rusticating Leaving & lying Bearing & rapping Howling & sighing Leaving & lying Crowing through morning Burning whilst sleepwalking Enamouring & swaddling Resembling & celebrating Solemnizing & assailing Circling & covering Dissolving & sleeping Treading & taking Flying & estranging (sing!) Locking & unlocking Raining & thunder clapping Quivering at a wedding Carrying & thrashing Hooking & looking Drinking & dwindling Praying & fuming Nothing plunging, nothing piercing Raining & weaving Rushing & lightning Making & flashing (he sings at weddings) Mounting & walking (he sings) Rejoicing & drifting Wanting (still he sings) Walking kings, dropping Laughing lightning springs He clings & sings whilst drinking Toppling & tossing He clings & sings Bearing & counting in the evening Drifting & diving, through song Holding & breaking Moving, singing & soaking Hunting, hilling & floating Nothing, pacing, nothing Bolting, entering & walking Bouncing, walking & waking Opening, unending, lightning morning Catching, coursing, opening & drinking Running, laughing, dodging the morning Assembling a ring, flying the morning Kneading & singing Beginning & dying Flying & lying Rippling from the beginning Burning & whirling Burning & bearing Sundering & telling Loving & raining Hearing & praying Sailing & sleeping Flying & rolling Brimming & whistling Wringing the morning Blooming in spring Turning the mornings Listening & burning Turning & darkening
Flings, wings, observing Curving & hearing & thinking Hymning, prying & opening Blessing, hearing & casting Mothering, shining & singing Crying, slumming & crying Lightning, finding & dumbfounding Finding & blazing Exhaling & inhaling Finding the morning! Finding wings Winding, happening & bearing Bearing, lamenting & dazzling Upcoming, beating & rooting Falling & falling & deluging & charting Miswriting this mornings evening Blessing, lightning & blinding Shooting, stoning spring Weeping, morning, spring Arising, toppling, spring Floating, gliding & falling Warning, drifting & burning Sleeping, stirring the morning Musing, stepping & dancing Howling, blinding & howling Melting & burning Desiring, losing & engulfing Dying wings in spring Telling the glistening rings Burning & singing strings Exulting & dancing & flying Kindling, dying & wading Burning, floating & glowing Flying, trumpeting & engulfing Wings & wings in spring Burning, wanting & flowering Melting, making & fathering Humbling, breaking & tumbling Burning, going & unmooring Riding, going & unmooring Riding, blinding & anchoring Winding, moving & grinding this Crying, flying king Beginning & ungrudging & going Dying, caring & answering Flying, crying & dying Caring, dragging & burning Turning, listening & flowering Singing, wandering song Lilting, singing & running Playing, bearing & flying Flashing, shining & spinning Walking, whinnying & nothing Turning, morning & nothing Rising, dying & singing Raging, towering & riding Loping, bleating & ranging Rooting, echoing & telling Knelling, bowing & baaing Wheeling, dousing & pouncing Falling, yawning morning Leaping, soaring wings Cawing, burning & whistling Singing, leaping & riding Singing, lying & turning Hearing, raking & riding Awaking swansong & wrangling Fishing, stalking & prancing
Fabling, hymning & judging Whispering, fishing & angling Sailing, conceiving & longing Pleading, curving & cudgelling Roasting, pitching & milking Riding, waiving & rippling Coming, scurrying & vaulting Hissing spring wings Nothing swings & mouthing Hungering & dying at weddings Dying, dipping & sizzling Dying, quivering & shimmering Biding, sulking & skulking Dying, flailing & pouting Dying, roaring wings Dying crying, sings Lightning, dying, blinding Dying, dying & doing Seizing, racking & wreathing Daubing, falling singing Quaking, living & rocketing Shackling, blessing, blessings Bouncing, morning song Shining spring praising Abasing, grazing & whinnying Browsing, leaping & shooting Keeping a flaming ring Crouching, unseeing & crying Hurting & hating & burning Lording, walking & leering Willing this evening hour Fading & melting, living & loving Missing wings & weeping Sighing at the evening sleeping Sighing at the evenings singings Whisperings & imaginings Covering & catching everything Singing of flowering carpeting Enveloping things Enveloping things< Enveloping nodding things Making evening something Spring, flowering, spring Saying, seeking & idling Looking wing, rising wings Speaking, moving, lying & making Waiting, waiting, waiting Cleaving, creeping wings Opening, going & unbending Wading, unwavering wings A burning, turning thing Covering an uprising wing A shining, spinning, waiting wing Doing, living, singing, unmoving Moving, overpowering, stirring, stepping Uncaring, stroking, holding, touching Trailing, pacing, entertaining, drawing Springing, binding, moving, growing Holding glowing, uncaring wings Beating wings, spacing Unmoving, shouldering & uprising Twining, twining, sting, stings Wasting, shining, bruising wings Lifting buildings, psalming & calling I Choose Love! Not performing.
Above: A silhouetted entrance, Gaga sings Dance in the Dark, The Monster Ball Tour, San Diego, 2011
The Rise of Metamodernism [in the Haus of Gaga] â€œI am the jester to the kingdomâ€? - Lady Gaga Words by Brent L. Smith
While navigating our current socio-political turbulence (Japan’s in a shambles, Charlie Sheen’s turning the media machine upside down, Obama continues Middle East skirmishes, ad infinitum), our radio stations and iTunes Top Chart lists are being bombarded by a young talent embodying a revision of sugar-and-spice that makes Madonna look like the sixth member of the Go-Gos. I want your ugly, I want your disease I want your everything as long as it’s free I want your love... These first lines of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance are more telling of their modern milieu than the typical listener probably realises. In the undercurrent of such lyrics drifts a multiplicity of meanings, connotations, and sublime paradox. At the forefront of cutting-edge pop idolatry, the artist formerly known as Stefani Germanotta has been altering the ebb and flow of popular culture since Just Dance debuted in 2008. In three years, Gaga has been labeled everything from “run-of-the-mill euro pop” (Van Meter, 2011), “the perfect Wiki-Google-YouTubeera pop star” (Van Meter, 2011) and “puppet of the Illuminati” (VC, 2009), to “the most adventurous and talented star of our age.” (Van Meter, 2011) In the spirit of ritual, the collective sacred, the binding analogue, the spiritual synonym, Lady Gaga offers something that goes beyond catchy pop hits, something that doesn’t emanate from the safe and contract-cluttered confines of a downtown music studio. The notion of studiomade tracks hasn’t applied to Gaga’s work ethic during most of her career. “She’s been on tour for three years without a real break,” Jonathan Van Meter of Vogue tells us. “Troy Carter, Lady Gaga’s manager, tells me that she recorded [her new] entire album−−all seventeen songs−−on the road over the last year and a half.” On the topic of writing her newly-released single Born This Way, she tells Vogue, “I wrote it in ten fucking minutes and it’s a completely magical message song. And after I wrote it, the gates just opened, and the songs kept coming. It was like an immaculate conception.” (Van Meter, 2011) In the whirlwind of our digital age though, how can we frame such an aesthetic movement that postmodern vernacular can no longer describe? Certainly, Gaga could be construed as a mouthpiece for the social subconscious, a
meta-intelligence of which we’re all a part, like something out of a Jungian wet dream. But what is ‘it’ that has grabbed us? What is it that has altered our tides? What is it that acts as lunar goddess that has us magnetised? In 2009, two young cultural theorists by the names of Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker intervened in the “post-postmodern” debate with the term “metamodernism.” Their essay audaciously illustrates accounts of this new paradigm through the present shifts of economic, (geo)political, philosophical, and artistic lenses; citing the architecture of Herzog & de Meuron, the films of Wes Anderson, the collages of David Thorpe, and the paintings of Kaye Donachie (Vermeulen and van den Akker, 2010). This new paradigm is described as a movement that oscillates between modernist and postmodernist sensibilities, as well as offering something beyond. Reflected in our dreary current events of climate change, financial crises, and political instability, metamodernism offers a return to transcendentalism, romanticism, hope, sincerity, and Kant’s aesthetic sublime. Regarding the aesthetic sublime, I’m referring to “Beauty” versus the “Sublime”. As Kant describes, Beauty is “connected with the form of the object,” having “boundaries,” while the Sublime “is to be found in a formless object,” representing boundlessness and, consequently, endless possibility (Kant (1790), 1951). Metamodernism is all of this and much more. “It oscillates between a modern enthusiasm and a postmodern irony,” Vermeulen and van den Akker state, “between hope and melancholy, between naiveté and knowingness, empathy and apathy, unity and plurality...purity and ambiguity.” (Vermeulen and van den Akker, 2010) To make matters more fun, the paradoxical nature of this new aesthetic isn’t merely oscillating between these two poles in some linear fashion, it does so in a multidimensional dance, lending authenticity to its “meta” quality, and projecting meaning into an exciting and ever-inspiring infinitude. Self-proclaimed as “Mother Monster”, Lady Gaga is an embodiment for this new paradigm, which has found its pulse in the dawn of the 21st Century. When Kant discusses humanity’s social potential, he writes “people, as if following some guiding thread, go toward a natural but to each of them unknown goal.” (Kant (1790), 1951) The relationship that Gaga has with her vast fan base is unique in its symbiosis, as there seems to be no disconnection between her “Little Monsters”,
“Gaga’s cynical insistence on leaving her art unanalysed speaks to the effect of her postmodern influences”
Above: “Little Monsters” Taylor Rendon (right) and Brienna Leonard (left) wait in line for The San Diego concert, 2011. Photo courtesy Taylor Rendon
as she refers to them, and the effect they have on her craft. Considering this quote by Kant, Jonathan Van Meter shares an uncannily similar observation about Gaga’s 10+ million fans: “[It’s] as if both sides were overly invested in something that in the end is impossible.” (Van Meter, 2011) Vermeulen and van den Akker no doubt acknowledge this enthusiastic despair as they tell us, “inspired by a modern naivety yet informed by postmodern skepticism, the metamodern discourse consciously commits itself to an impossible possibility...it seeks forever for a truth that it never expects to find.” (Vermeulen and van den Akker, 2010) It’s understandable that people would have trouble reconciling enthusiasm and irony, embracing their coexistence while moving toward no real end and with no real answers. “People just try to figure it out or explain it,” she tells Jonathan Van Meter, rolling her eyes. “The truth is, the mystery and the magic is my art. That is what I am good at. You are fascinated with precisely the thing that you are trying to analyse and undo.” (Van Meter, 2011) This sort of aesthetic approach echoes the phenomenon of Andy Warhol’s pop art. As described by the late John Updike, “the dear old Warhol icons, full of empty content, or contented emptiness...What remains real, it would seem, is the semiotic shell, the mass of images with which a society economically bent on keeping us stirred
up appeals to our oversolicited, overanalysed, overdramatised, overliberated, and over-the-hill emotions.” (“Fast Art”, 1989) The postmodern age stumbled upon the paradoxical notion that obsessing over the explicit can be the ultimate mode of escapism. Madonna exhibited appropriate detachment from the Reagan-oriented conservatism and vapid excess that surrounded her. Her music videos and lyrical content not only inspired massive controversy but paralleled what critical theorists such as Jacques Derrida were doing with the written language itself: offering a delightful deconstruction and revealing a world devoid of any “truths.” Gaga’s cynical insistence on leaving her art unanalysed speaks to the effect of her postmodern influences. Songs like Beautiful, Dirty, Rich and The Fame radiate sarcastic undertones, a playful mockery of the latecapitalist architecture dangling promised wealth over our heads. Beneath glittering lyrics lie tongue-in-cheek truths, sentiments that MTVwatching “tweens” would hopefully catch on to. As the Lady put it herself, “Pop music will never be low brow.” It is here, though, where Gaga breaks from a solely postmodern philosophy and adds the multiple dimensions that make up the metamodern aesthetic. Holding on to deconstructionist roots, she offers a more reconstructivist disposition. Rather than detachment, she longs for reintegration into society, and to transform the norms and values of modernity. This could account for her strong advocacy for gay rights and championing pansexuality; perhaps a glimpse into a post-Gaga future: androgynous and non-judgmental citizens where once-established binaries are less tangible. With further regard to her temperament, I could talk about the tattoo on her inner right bicep, a Rainer Maria Rilke quote about the choice between writing and dying. I could talk
Above: Gaga addresses audience with illuminated scepter, one of many innovative ornaments of The Monster Ball, 2011. Photo courtesy Taylor Rendon.
“The audience is elated. Hope amidst otherwise jaded youth”
about her empowerment of femininity (in both genders) reflected in songs like Dance in the Dark in which Monroe, Garland, Plath, Jon Benet Ramsey, Liberace, Jesus, and Kubrick are mentioned in the same verse. However, what really had me rapt was seeing her live this past March 29th in San Diego. Known to fans as The Monster Ball, her makeshift instruments, endless wardrobe changes, revolving Rocky Horror-esque stage designs, and heartfelt rants to her audience are things only to be experienced. Gaga mesmerises in black leather undergarments, smeared in blood, slithering on the fog-filled stage under the legs of next-to-naked backup dancers. An angel statue, perhaps the archangel Gabriel, is erected upstage spouting blood and flames, illuminated in contrast to the blackened stage around it. “SHOW ME YOUR TEETH” Gaga howls as a scratchy guitar wails. On the surface these images are provocative, and certainly cynical. But the audience is elated. Hope amidst otherwise jaded youth. It’s as if the images on-stage are directly reciprocating those of her songs. The notion of a glittering surface with dark undertones is now on its head. The undercurrents of Gaga surface, become visceral. As you watch her twirl about, the world stops, her dancers freeze, loose blonde hairs dangle from her bloodied fingers, and she serenades her audience a cappella, professing adoration and instilling self-love to a sweat-frenzied audience. You sense you’re witnessing a merger of opposites; a metamodern strut in the flesh. The Haus of Gaga is sheltering something renewed and cryptic, aligning with emerging artists around the world. Cognizance is in demand more than ever as the aesthetic borders are dissolving. To take Lady Gaga at face value is a dangerous underestimation. Notes “Fast Art”, New Republic, (no author), March 27th 1989: http://www.tnr. com/article/books-and-arts/fast-art Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Judgment (1790), trans J. H. Bernard, New York: Hafner Pub., 1951. Van Meter, Jonathan. “Our Lady of Pop”, Vogue, March 2011. VC, “Lady Gaga, The Illuminati puppet”, Vigilant Citizen, August 4th 2009: http://vigilantcitizen.com/musicbusiness/lady-gaga-the-illuminati-puppet/ Vermeulen, Timotheus and Robin van den Akker. “Notes on metamodernism”, Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, Vol. 2: http://www. aestheticsandculture.net/index.php/jac/article/view/5677/6306
Left: Lady Gaga and the blood fountain, 2010. Photo courtesy Gina Ludovici
If, While Rehearsing, You Should Find Yourself In Another Performance Words by Anthony Romero
Part 1: Dare to Dream WALKS INTO PERFORMANCE AREA. AUDIENCE IS STANDING. SOME ARE TALKING AMONGST THEMSELVES. BEGINS CLAPPING AND TALKS INTO MICROPHONE Mmmmm. Ha Ha. Mmmmm. Doesn’t that feel good? You guys look really good. Why don’t you go ahead and give yourselves a warm round of applause? Yeah, don’t be shy, you deserve it! You did manage to make it here after all and that’s worth at least a warm round, don’t you think? You made it, hahaha, right? I mean, WE did it! Goodbye work week! Hello Weekend! Hahaha wow! I have to be honest guys, the last time I gave this seminar was at a retirement home and I have to tell yah, they were dying to get out of there! haha I’m kidding, I’m kidding, I took a public speaking course and they always tell you to start off with a joke, so feel free to laugh if you want to. Just looking out I can see that half of you are really excited to be here tonight so thank you for that and please don’t be afraid to leave the performance if you’re bored. But seriously folks, we have a lot of work to do today and I know what some of you are thinking EWWW! WORK! BLEGH! Right? You in particular maybe? But it’s not that kind of work, we’re not punching in a clock here. We’re punching into life. HAHAHA RIGHT?!?! Ugh, paging Dr. Audience there’s a call on line 3. “Oh I wonder who that could be [?] Hello, this is Dr. Audience. Oh? What’s that you say? This is life calling?”. That’s what I wanna talk about today. I wanna talk about picking up the spiritual phone and saying yes to life! GRABS MICROPHONE AND WALKS INTO CROWD Let’s go all the way. Can we do that? Why don’t we take a moment and just introduce ourselves. Go ahead. This is a very important step in the process and we need to be sure that we feel safe and comfortable with each other. Yeah, so just introduce yourself to those around you. I’ll wait. STANDS FOR AN UNCOMFORTABLE AMOUNT OF TIME OK! Doesn’t that feel good? It feels good to be amongst friends, doesn’t it? So what I want us to do now is just close our eyes and we are just gonna do a quick visualization exercise. Don’t worry, I’m here and I promise I won’t do anything weird, OK, I just want to remind you that if you feel something, like a tingling sensation in your lower extremities that its perfectly naturally, OK, so were just gonna feel that and let that happen. Now I want you to imagine that you’re on a park bench. Part 2: When Given The Privilege, A Shadow Please allow me to clarify a few things. The play that you have just witnessed, of which a portion is reprinted here, uses the language of self-help seminars and new age consumer culture to investigate the place of ritual and spiritual belief in contemporary
society. This is typical of my work to date. What may not be present in this particular text is a preoccupation with shamanism and the performance of gender and sexuality in the kind of ritualistic theater often associated with contemporary new age practices. So, when I was asked to condense this particular piece, of which a portion is reprinted here, I opted instead to take the transformative quality of the visualization exercise that the audience is led through as a starting point to choreograph a dance. Working in partial collaboration with dancer and performer, Georgia Wall, we sought to move the program beyond a simple ritual pantomime. Instead we took an approach that used the basic mechanics of the animal impersonation as a starting point to choreograph a series of generic horse movements that could be combined in a myriad of ways in an improvised dance. During this process, I began to understand the dance not just as a play on shamanistic ritual but as a form of live documentation of the longer play. In some ways, by abstracting the performance, I was giving myself license to take the original in new directions. In the way that photographs of canonical performances become stand-ins for the performances, so to would these movements occupy a space in which they not only represented the performance, but also defined and, to a certain extent, overpowered the real time event, at least as far as the public memory of the event is concerned. This exploration was further complicated by the realization that in the dance there was an opportunity to question the limits of re-performance, when a re-staging of Tania Bruguera’s Tatlin’s Whisper #5, with the performer as horse, was accidentally thrown into the mix. As I ‘wrapped’ rehearsals I found myself asking these questions: 1. How is that which is archived performed, and can the body be a document? 2. What are the politics of re-performance when the actor and staging lose their focus; i.e. what can be learned from a movie when it is re-filmed by the co-star? Part 3: Concerning the Cowardice necessary to finish What actually happens is that you arrive at a museum to see artwork and you encounter two mounted police dressed in their uniforms, on their horses, who are actually using all the techniques they learned in the police academy and through their experience as policemen to control the audience of the exhibition. You have these police who are coming toward you and giving you directions of what to do, where to move - if you have to stand or if you have to move somewhere - and they’re actually using the horses to make this happen, as they usually do in their everyday job. The people do not have to know that its art and for me this is very important because, once you know its art then you start … you can do all the associations that are not exactly what you would do in your everyday life. So the fact that they are using and having the same reaction they have in real life when they see the police controlling them for me its very important. I am working in a way in which I like people not to think its art so they can really enjoy it as a live event and not as a representation of a live event (from an interview between the artist and Tani Bruguera for Tate Shots Issue 11).
Words by Marcus Slease
GODZENIE Scene 1: Train station in Katowice, southern Poland. Kebab shacks and cold slabs. Bleeding Heart Everyone deserves a pilgrim. Two nights without bread in the dust parks of Poland. APE Are you willing to change? At least twice a day? Siphon peanuts to feed the trolls under the bridge? Snapshot Blue beer on a blue night beside the gray tracks with meat bones and plastic plates nowhere near the sea say Katowice. APE For five years I thought being a pilgrim was the great escape. Quick gigs. Three-somes. All night beer. Essential books. Problem is I need more. Visionary Are you willing to get authentic? APE Or fake it? The visionary and the APE walk to opposite sides of the stage. APE crawls. Visionary clasps hands into shape of triangle under dimple in chin. Balloons fly. Bleeding Heart kneels in centre of stage. ENTER CHORUS! Chorus: burning part burning hearts burning saints pinch safe charred bards bellows to the bellows each and everyone Curtains close. Scene 2: Amasra Turkey. A fish restaurant near the Black Sea. Lights thin on the water. A few Turkish women smoke long white thin cigarettes while looking out to sea. A British boy and Turkish girl sit at a table looking at the menu trying to decide which fish to order. Turkish rah rah music plays. Woman is that an Ostrich or a kangaroo in your no-no trousers?
Man unbuttons his suit jacket and takes a small envelope from the inside pocket. The envelope is smudged with lipstick. The man opens the envelope and scans the letter. He reads the last lines to the woman Man (with lilting tongue) I始m sorry Larry but yr short and yr addicted to Hamburger Helper and no I始m not coming to Vallejo or Death Valley Snapshot There is a rat in the trap in the blue light near the purple river near the Black Sea say Amasra Man puts letter back in suit pocket. Hangs head. Leans close to Turkish woman to light her long white cigarette Man (with resignation) For years this pilgrimage had me sobbing but on the inside The sky descends. Fog rolls in. A straw cat licks legs. Turkish girl orders Balik Ekmek. Woman (with the voice of flapping birds) I hate POETRY! Man (with pleading wrinkled forehead) Are you always so willing to let the cat out of the bag? Woman (takes off skirt) Give way, gangplank. I始m coming through. And not on some blinkin wings of poesy but upon yon lips of a pussy! She leans close to the man. Blows smoke in eyes. Bangs her fist on the wooden table. Picks up the lemon to squirt the fish. Woman (screaming) LEMONS! LEMONS! ALL OF YOUR POEMS ARE LEMONS! Man re-takes letter out of his pocket. Unfolds. Scans with his finger. Reads aloud Man (quietly and with romantic intention) I始m sorry Larry the troll has taken my pansies and the ostrich has taken my no-no trousers and the china plate has taken my fish and no
I始m not coming to Vallejo or Death Valley Woman raises eyebrows. Takes a bite of her fish. Leans in seductively. Woman (with the voice of a sprightly kangaroo) London to Seattle. We are both wet and waiting. Curtains close
TILT HEAD WHILE READING! Words by Paul Wright VI. 229.
Our talk gets its meaning from the rest of our proceedings.
This (VI / 229 / Our talk…) is the title—or materialising more within this context—an extract from a collection of performance poetry indexed under Writing the Silences, published by the University of California Press.* The book pulls together a personal archive of work by writer/broadcaster/filmmaker/renaissance poet Richard O. Moore.† Reading the pieces you see Moore‘s use of poetic pause intentionally translated to the printed page as voids. These voids can be identified as a part of language called ritualistic markers––setting the rhythm and modulation of the reading process. Heard initially as verbal pauses, form-for-form, this everyday act of conversational tone is translated to the printed page as pause and silence revealed as
F–R–––A–––G–M–E–N–T–S. April 22, 1947, Moore became ‗the first reader‘–––––of the first ―group readings‖––––– at the First Festival of Modern Poetry–––––situation: art gallery–––––location: San Francisco state‘s Bay Area.¶ now onto a new train of thought So important were utterances leading conversation and the accompanying readings of the time that this resonates today in—what is now a trans-mutated form––seen on a printed page as visual writing. Taking the criteria set out by poet Brenda Hillman / Inventory—A / determinates of visual writing are the voids or additions of ritualistic markers within a text. For readers who prefer a printed text presented in prose form this fragmentation may look–––––seemingly strange and ‗outof-place‘ and as such–––a misalignment of printed text and determined a mistake. As a device though, this textured absence or indelible over-use of ritualistic markers are a connective tissue around words—becoming their elastic fibre. Used sparingly or even glaringly–––it doesn‘t matter which–––the use of ritualistic markers engage a reader inviting them to tumble around a text for a while. After which—once accustomed to patterns of misinterpretation–––seemingly grammatical errors become deliberate modulations informing how to approach reading a text. In practice these ritualistic markers are listed here as determinates––––Inventory—A: white space, two columns, ―cross over‖, large gaps—overall, experiments in fragmentation
–––––––When applied to a text the features of Inventory—A replace the set of ritualistic pathway delimiters (Inventory—B). These silent utterances in text become a text‘s punctuation—stripping away the layer of mechanics required for a reader to navigate a text with ease. The converse of this is seen expressed on the pages of a conventional novelistic prose. The impact of removing this scaffold from the grasp of a reader forces their attention away from the storytelling, positioning them for attack––––––––––––to be able to penetrate the lexical density of a piece–––––––to avoid total d—i—s––––o—r––––i—e—n—t––––a—t—i—o—n. In this ambiguous situation a reader sets the tone of pause and silence through drawing on familiar and learned standards. In terms of ritualistic lexical pathway delimiters these standards are seen in printed matter as ‗ ‘ , 0 1 . – … ― ‖ ! ––––– Inventory—B. Texts seen as shrugging off the value of ‗ ‘ , 0 1 . – … ― ‖ ! (traditional lexical pathway delimiters) defer the interpretation of a text to the endurance of a reader and their will to stick with a piece. The action of reading then becomes acted out more physical–––– inducing a required tilt of one‘s head. With tilted head, sentences––at best seem to merge and––at worst, their meanings overlap infinitely. This latter consequence is prefigured in the one-sentence lengths created by ‗visible writer‘ Richard Kostelanetz. The static-kinetic nature of this mode of writing is a step back from visual writing. Whereas visual writing relies on narrative aspects associated with novelistic prose writing, visible writing by contrast is accepting of fewer rules and deliberately engages the reader with a noticeable increased level of linguistic difficulty. This is referred to as being the lexical density of the piece. Illustrated in one of Kostelanetz‘s playful strings the first extended line of letters or morphemes requires at least a 40º tilt of the head to event begin comprehending. The second illustration uses recognisable pathway delimiters encouraging a more straight-headed take on the string. String–example 1: Stringfiveteranciderideafencerebrumblendivestablishmentertaintegerund… String –example 2: Stringfi(ve)te(ran)(ci(d)er)(I(de)a)(fen(cer)eb(rum)(bl(e)n(d)ive)st)… As lexical load increases, a reader gets positioned as semantic-structuralist, scrabbling about one long clause in search of context. The apparatus determining lexical density in a text—verbal or printed—is (again) listed below: Inventory—B ‗ ‘,01.– …―‖!
(—pathway delimiters reducing lexical density—/
which placed ritualistically, in practice act as apparatus separating language clauses, and providing a scaffold allowing a reader to buoyantly extend outwards from one clause to the next, then to the next and next, then next, and the next idea, and the next…
Brenda Hillman refers of Moore‘s spoken word/printed matter poetry as ‗imploring the performative aspects of verbal everyday use of language.‘ This ensures a mode of writing which visualises utterance and steps beyond the need for established rules associated with a prose use of ritualistic pathway delimiters––––Inventory—B.¶ A more contemporary development of this mode of writing is seen rendered more vividly in tachygraphic writing––––a mode of writing extended by typographic marks. Seen as extending the act of visible and visual writing, tachygraphic writing corrupts use ritualistic markers more acutely———modifying a reader‘s expectations in equal measure. The result unifies inventories A and B and silences lexical load. Pfhemmmmmmmmm… a new form of ritualistic utterance bursts through as a decorative yet |\> [- <= () <] /) ¡ ´> -\ |& |_ [|_ -\ /) <] (/ -\ <] [!
\ . * published April 2010
† (dagger symbol) A typographic prompt as the aforementioned asterisk is also. Usually shown smaller—as is any glyph used to indicate a footnote—and suspended beside a chosen word. Ritualistically used inline in a text to guide a reader‘s attention to look towards the bottom of a page or at the end of a prose section for extra information or detail. This can be about something or someone ‡ or elaboration on a point of interest. ‡ (double dagger symbol) Use is identical to asterisk and dagger symbols although indicates the third footnote––––––dagger symbol indicates second footnote––––––asterisk indicates initial footnote item. Use of the second footnote glyph comes is burdened with mysticism: the symbol can be found etched beside the names of the deceased on Christian grave headstones, and it is advised to avoid placing it next to the name of a living person. As if to avoid the token possession associated with the mysteries about talismans MATER·MEMENTO·MORI·MORS·ULTIMA·LINEA·RERUM·EST
“Attention” My attention is here.
This is a space around a circle. The words
disapear behind it.
o . word
llllldlllllllllll l llllldlllbl
The lines between the words seem inappropriatley large.
! ! I ! I .
. l l .
l l l l l l ! . . . .
. ! ! ! . !
. l . . . . ! . ! . L . l ! L ! . ! . L ! l ! = L ! l ! . ! . ! ! . ! . - . - . - . - . - . = . = . = . = . - . - .
You donâ€™t need to be here you have done your job already.
i h o .
n e r r d .
o t w s
! ! I. ! .I , . I. ! I. ! I. I. ! I. â€™ I. . . ! ! . ! ! ! .
. . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
iii-------------’ll fill it with I’ll fill it
with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fil t it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fil t it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it
/// ----------------======== = === iiiiiiiiiiiiii
i Iiii iiiilllllll llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !! L! Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllliiii Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii................ ............................................................ ... ......... -----=/
i . . . . .
I I .
. . i
836 words This is a space around the circle. The words
disapear behind it.
The lines between the words seem inappropriatley large...
.. Exit the liminal door... I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with
I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll
fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll
fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill
with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it
with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it
with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it
with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it
with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it
with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it
I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with
it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it
with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it
with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it ’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it with I’ll fill it ’ll fill
X tz'iib tz'iib
More words can fit in here h o .
e r .
r d .
The Liminality of the Long-Distance Runner Words by Andy Lee Roth Photography by Larry Gassan
Left: Mari Lemus at the finish line of the Angeles Crest 100, August 2010. Wife of Jorge Pacheco, Mari got tired of just crewing Jorge and decided to try her luck.
Rituals remake the person, establishing new identities and relations. Thus, for example, traditional rites of passage marking birth and adulthood transform infants into sons and daughters, and boys and girls into men and women. Similarly, competitors in 100-mile ultramarathons can be understood as initiates in one contemporary, secular rite of passage. In mundane terms, the ultrarunner’s goal is to travel by foot from start to finish in the race’s allotted time frame. Step by step, through the heat of day and cold of night, the runner faces the challenge of covering extraordinary distance across wild landscapes, while addressing hazards that include dehydration, sleep deprivation, and demoralization. As in all pilgrimages, the outer, visible journey serves as the route to a liminal world: outside the confines of normal routine and convention, participants enact ideal versions of their selves and their world. Running long distances alters participants from ordinary, everyday roles - as parents and employees, for example - to heroic actors in grueling but potentially transformative physical dramas. To finish a 100-mile ultramarathon run is to recast oneself. As in other rites of passage the process of transformation is not solitary. It is intensely social. The meanings that runners attribute to finishing a 100-mile run - not to mention their ability to finish - depend on the support of others, including fellow competitors, race directors and volunteers, family and friends. Each runner’s individual experience is the product of collective effort. Traditionally, symbolic decorations – such as painted images of a totemic figure – mark initiates’ bodies. Race numbers and medical bracelets signify the runner’s status in a 100mile ultramarathon. The numbers provide a practical means of tracking each athlete’s progress on the course; the plastic bracelets bear each competitor’s pulse rate, blood pressure and starting weight. Medical personnel at checkpoints along the course monitor these vital signs. A three percent decrease in body weight indicates dehydration, which must be addressed before officials allow the runner to continue. Extreme dehydration can lead to renal failure, a
Above Left: Keira Henninger, first woman finisher at the Angeles Crest 100, August 2010, after a 105-mile day. She took an inadvertent 5-mile detour at mile 18, running 2-1/2 miles downhill adding over 1,000 feet of vertical gain and loss on a course that is already 29,000 feet of verticality. Above Right: 100-mile runner and finisher Andy Jones-Wilkins [centre] is flanked by his two pacers Bruce Hoff [left], and Andy Roth [right]. Roth paced from 50-75 miles, Bruce from 75 to 100. Roth took a shower and changed in the 6+ hour interval. Andy Jones-Wilkins was in an ICU within 3 hrs due to Rhabdomyolysis; he survived, and is back in the pink.
serious condition under any circumstance, and even more so in the remote wilderness settings where most hundreds take place. The medical bracelet also holds symbolic value. When a runner decides that he or she cannot continue, an aid station captain will confirm and reconfirm the decision to “drop” before cutting off the runner’s bracelet. This is an emotionally charged moment for all involved. Months of training and aspiration - “heat, dust, and dreams,” as one veteran finisher puts it - end irrevocably with the scissors’ quick snip. By contrast, many finishers continue to wear their bracelets for days and weeks after the race, as symbolic evidence of their accomplishment. Running 100 miles requires negotiating ordinary natural, temporal, and social boundaries to face unanticipated challenges. Natural boundaries include mountain passes, sun-baked canyons, and turbulent rivers. At the Leadville 100, for example, Hope Pass (above 12,000 feet elevation) looms large; competitors must cross it once on the way out and again on their return. At Western States, many experts believe the “real” race begins around mile 78, where runners cross the American River. For the runner, the lived experience of the physical terrain is inseparable from the experience of time. As first time finishers of a hundred will testify, the threshold where you realize that you have now run longer than ever before is both thrilling and intimidating. Is 100 miles too far beyond one’s previous limit? Running as the sun sets, through the night, and often into a new morning also takes most runners outside of their normal 24-hour routine. Dealing with bodily functions is just one, albeit exemplary instance of how 100-mile runners also negotiate social boundaries. If you run long enough, eventually you have to go. Outdoors and away from conventional facilities, ultrarunners adhere to informal
rules of politeness about how to handle this. For example, if you are male, at night it is acceptable to urinate as you continue waddling along the trail. This saves a little time and, under cover of darkness, no one behind you is likely to see the doodlings. During the day, this is considered a breach of etiquette. A host of people help to bring the 100-mile runner through the anticipated hazards. Volunteers, often ultrarunners themselves, serve at aid stations along the course, providing fluids, nutrition, information and encouragement. Family and friends – recast as the runner’s “crew” – caravan in vehicles from one aid station to another, providing similar support. (One old joke is that “crew” is actually an acronym for “cranky runner, endless waiting.”) At most races, beyond a certain point in time or distance, the runner may be joined by a pacer, who provides a measure of companionship and safety as day turns to night and the runner faces the race’s most challenging stages. By adopting ritual roles and going beyond physical, temporal and social boundaries, runners prepare themselves for the possibility of threshold experiences. Ultrarunners hold in high esteem the ability to maintain control in circumstances that most people would find beyond control. This is what sociologist Stephen Lyng calls edgework, i.e., voluntary risk-taking for its own sake. The point is not only to manage successfully all of the hazards that can be anticipated but also to face and manage those that are unanticipated. True edgework, Lyng suggests, necessarily involves “completely novel circumstances.” Scholars have long noted the focusing role of pain in ritual. Thus, Emile Durkheim observed that initiation rites involve systematic infliction of suffering on novices. The participants Durkheim studied understood pain as “a state of grace to be sought after… because of the powers and privileges it confers.” Though volunteers, crewmembers and pacers provide essential assistance, ultimately the runners themselves must manage the sensations of depleted bodies and fatigued minds to cover the entire distance on their own two feet. Larry Gassan’s Finish Line Portrait Project documents what this looks like in the end. Taken in a mobile studio within minutes of each runner crossing the finish line, his images capture individuals on the threshold: a headlamp still burns, arms are flexed in exultation, or hands rest on knees in contented fatigue. Pared by extraordinary effort to nothing extra, the finishers give testimony, not of transcendence but of immanence: Each runner is undeniably present, embodying in that moment a state of grace only found on the far side of one hundred miles. Notes Durkheim, Emile. The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912). Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001. Lyng, Stephen. “Edgework, Hermeneutic Reflexivity, and Reflexive Community: Toward a Critical Theory of Risk”, presented at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA, August 2009
Alexander Wang www.alexanderwang.com
H by Hudson www.hudsonshoes.com
Azzedine Alaia www.matchesfashion.com
Larissa Hadjio www.larissahadjio.com
Marc Jacobs www.marcjacobs.com
Matthew Miller mrmatthewmiller.tumblr.com
Max Mara www.maxmara.com
Comme des GarĂ§ons www.comme-des-garcons.com
Nicolas Andreas Taralis www.nicolasandreastaralis.com
Eley Kishimoto www.eleykishimoto.com
Omar Kashoura www.omarkashoura.com
Elliott J Frieze www.elliottjfrieze.com
Tom Ford www.tomford.com
Ermenegildo Zegna www.zegna.com
Yiorgos Eleutheriades www.yiorgoseleftheriades.gr
next issue. . . toys . . autumn 2011 .. . . www.stimulusrespond.com
The Ritual issue of Stimulus Respond, Summer 2011. Cover by Mark Fast.