A Cathartic Exercise in Coping with all this Increasingly Dead Cultural Bollocks
It is a strange and precarious world that we find ourselves in. Alternative truths, the ‘post-truth’ era, simulation and simulacra and hyper-reality increasingly work their way in to the mainstream conscience. Popular culture artefacts such as films like ‘The Matrix’, ‘Inception’, ‘Fight Club’ and documentaries such as ‘hypernormalisation’ etc. have us questioning the nature of reality, the meaning of self and the relevance and depths of our minds in a world where capitalism and technology, elitism and advertising, state and rhetoric dominate the social atmosphere.
In music, we become increasingly aware of the standardised patterns of the mainstream – chords and song structures that can be used to create vast medleys emphasising the ‘production line’ nature of ‘artistic’ endeavours. In interviews, mainstream musicians talk less about their process, their thoughts and feelings about the world and more about scripted promotion of their label’s wares.
Mainstream modern art becomes increasingly criticised for lacking the skill and discipline of previous art movements.
Great, intricate art exists. Inventive, creative music exists – but these are mostly resigned to the annals of the internet and bohemian backrooms, fighting for web presence as the world finds itself more and more able to plug in and access this (mostly, in theory) democratic, virtual space while record labels and film studios fully complete their transition from large, worldwide artistic curators and distributors to transnational corporate bodies. When was the last time a singer/songwriter was shoved in your face because they were a great singer/songwriter and not attractive to a particular demographic as a ‘product’? Not many faces for radio in the official singles chart. Except Ed Sheeran’s perhaps… a face you’d let your child marry. A ginger Cliff Richards with a loop pedal, too young to be under suspicion for kiddydiddling and too tied up in contracts to threaten the establishment.
Before this begins to sound too culturally barren, apocalyptic and depressing, remember that I am focusing on the mainstream here. The view down the middle of the road is always the most depressing view of any journey; largely unchanging, repetitive, narrow and vast; with one side of the line only different to the other as a mirrored reflection can be. Different, but the same. The same, but different.
All the interesting things on any journey happen on the side of the road – the challenges, the breakdowns, the pit-stops, the roadkill, the hitchhikers, the hotels and the liaisons. The culture is a journey. Just as a magician presents you with a sprawled deck of cards, pick a current band or musical act – any band or musical act. Find out who their influences are, not necessarily within the same medium and then find out who their influences are. So on and so forth. You soon find yourself journeying through the past to some sort of source. Suffering is usually the catalyst for any change. Back here in the present, the act you started with – whether they know it or not, like it or not, or are any good or not, are furthering that journey, that change. That’s the truth as I choose to see it anyway. It’s not a ‘hard’ truth, a ‘scientific’ truth. It’s not a fabricated truth either. It’s a truth based on exploration, assessment, and a repetition of tried and tested methods. It’s my truth, and here it is. Now tell me yours.
I veered from the mainstream years ago. Because I’m so cool, right? No… I was lucky. Lucky to have parents that gave me open access to a mountain of records and late night 80s television. Parents that decided that I should grow up on a council estate surrounded by a forest. The edges of these realms would soon be realised and crossed; from concrete and cars, gutters and street lamps – over to grassy hills and forest, moonlight, stars and chirping crickets. Crossing that threshold felt like true magic because it was. Not because I’d fantasised about other worlds I read about in books, not because of what anyone had told me. No rhetoric. No discourse. No conjecture. Just a barrier between worlds. Leave your constructs and preconceptions and armour at the gate. Don’t ‘be good’, don’t ‘be a man’, don’t ‘be obedient’, don’t ‘be right’, don’t ‘be anything’. Just… be.
It is a strange and precarious world that we find ourselves in. Alternative truths, the ‘post-truth’ era, simulation and simulacra and hyper-reality increasingly work their way in to the mainstream conscience. But I don’t have a mainstream conscience. No one does. We can only choose to believe that we do, or do not. We’re allowing these insubstantial concepts to alienate us from each other further than we are already. Further from the night sky and the trees. Further from our selves. I don’t claim to have an answer. I don’t claim to know anything. But, I remember singing a song that I wrote to my friends, helps. That listening to my friends read a poem they wrote, helps. That watching someone create a piece of graffiti helps. Performing a play. Making a film. Writing a story. Shit, make some modern art; nowhere near the factory production lines, the labels, the corporate curators, the press, the critics. Not with any of the above in mind. Not being the cleverest, the most morally extreme, the fastest or the most popular – but just being. Be together with like-minded individuals on the only journey that matters. Yours. What will you find at the edges and beyond the threshold? As far from the middle as you’re willing to go, where all the interesting things are. Whatever you find, it’s highly unlikely to be bullshit. Unless you wake up at 4:30am out of your tiny mind in the middle of a field. Then, it may well be bullshit… but what a story to rush home to and tell.