black tantra

hallucinatory disambulation and vagabondage

The Abandoned Botanical Garden

We went to visit the abandoned botanical garden. It wasn’t so easy to gain access but we managed to squeeze through some rusty railings by removing our clothing and smearing each other with butter. Of course one thing led to another! Afterwards we walked hand in hand through the rank overgrown gardens, our naked forms gleaming in the moonlight filtering through the cracked and filthy glass. 

An Ode to the Nasal Pleasures

Often it’s on buses or in cars you’ll spot them, the sneaky pickers and sometimes that finger is so far up that little wet passage that you think they must truly be picking their brains. Perhaps they are. But we have all been there, slyly fingering our schnozzers, truffling for nuggets when we think we are unobserved and once we retrieve a particularly juicy and gelatinous blob oh my! We can then take some considerable time to pleasurably roll and form it into a little grey green lump, sometimes holding this surreptitiously in our fingers for a while until perhaps we drop it accidentally, which always leaves a pang! So much so that we may even try to retrieve it, so that the soothing process can continue indefinitely! But there always comes the moment when the little grub begins to fall apart of its own volition, breaking into parts too insignificant to really be of any use in the ritual and that there is no point in trying to look for more (although the eternal optimists amongst us may try anyway) as that particular well has run dry and it will take a good 24 to 48 hours at least to refill.  I used to work nightshifts in a supermarket packing shelves and the combination of dust and grime led to truly epic snotters!  I miss those halcyon days…

But let us now say a few words about the hardcore minority who will take the nasal pleasures to another level entirely. Yes thats right we have to talk about the imbibers, the chewers, the nibblers. I personally have never gone down this route but I know that many of you have. Don’t get me wrong I have of course tasted it, who hasn’t and I know that the piquant saltiness of a good snot is an easily acquired taste, but to regularly scoff it is to have placed yourself far beyond the bounds of what is considered acceptable behaviour. If anyone finds out about and broadcasts your dirty little secret you will live to rue the day! But I say to you all that now is the time to throw off the shackles of shame and stand proud with your fellows! Tonight I and my family will stand at our window picking, poking, rooting for all we are worth! Who will stand with us? Who will pick for Britain!

Well thats the official, vaguely amusing, version but there was more (much more!), like the way in which my ongoing Alice in Wonderland Syndrome/Macropsia/Micropsia condition impacted those around me. Imagine, if you will, that as your index finger processes up your nostril it seems as though it is at least the size of an ocean liner entering a vast tunnel with infinite slowness and that furthermore this sensation of gigantism can expand exponentially to encapsulate the whole universe.

Micropsia

UNCANNY VALLEY

“We’re living in a re-issue world, filching from the past like magpies with a Tardis.” 

Mark E. Smith

“The tiniest event can tear a hole in the grey curtain of reaction which has marked the horizons of possibility under capitalist realism, from a situation in which nothing can happen, suddenly anything is possible again.”

Mark Fisher

“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” 

Edgar Allan Poe, ‘Eleanora’

Ghosts of Futures Past

The theorist and writer Mark Fisher understood us to be losing our ability to imagine a different future from the one gifted to us by what he called ‘capitalist realism’. Hauntology, as he conceived it, was the yearning in art and culture for a future that never arrived and psychogeography is the way in which we navigate this lost land, searching for the clues and the detritus that may somehow help to heal our collective melancholy. Like the mycorrhizal fungal networks that link organisms in woodland, the so-called ‘wood wide web’, there is a hidden current of nostalgic yearning for this future that never was and as it recedes before us we seek out its palimpsest traceries, its abandoned tunnels and silo’s, the lost cities and mythic islands of this scratched and flickering 16mm Utopia and of course one such place is Cumbernauld New Town. Hidden deep in the vast mountain ranges and inaccessible valleys of North Lanarkshire, this Brutalist Shangri-La attracts devotee’s and obsessive seekers from all across the multiverse. As we struggle with the checkmate that is capitalist realism, which translates as the feeling that there is no conceivable alternative to the present economic system, we flail around in hopeful desperation for any other dream to dream.

{A Shape In The Mist: The Tower had been built where the standing stone had sat, a sacred grove, a Nemeton. Somewhere best avoided on certain nights of the year when the veils between this world and the next are parted. On nights like this you might encounter The Great God Pan, a trenchcoat clad, trilby-wearing trickster who will lure you deeper into the woods and deeper into yourself than is desirable, if you’ll let him…}

Ecstatic Visions

The term ‘uncanny valley’ is used when a slightly imperfect simulacra of a human, as in the film ‘Polar Express’ for instance, elicits feelings of revulsion and/or eeriness in viewers. When the new town of Cumbernauld came into being it to elicited feelings of unease within the psyche of its new inhabitants, as in it sort of looked a bit like a town but not really. The stark and brutalist architecture, the lack of amenities, the raw-edged newness and a general feeling of discombobulation all combined to make strange; and yet people embraced the hopeful contours of the progressive ideal, collectively drank deep on the ecstatic visions of the politicians, the planners, the architects and the artists who conspired with them to bury that unease. Everyone agreed to pretend that Cumbernauld was a town of  ‘the future’, whatever and wherever that was. 

The Big Lie

Sitting at the heart of the progressive ideal is a lie of course, a lie so big that everyone at the time pretty much failed to see it. Simply put the spoils were, as ever, shared unequally and you could dream of a better life as long as you knew your place. The working classes at the time benefited from a general relaxation of the rigid class structures strangling Great Britain, but the real levers of power were and still very much are in the hands of a privately-educated elite.

{The Black Goat O’ The Glen: It was like a column of misty grey vapour, a rainbow shimmer around the edges and with two red eyes glaring. It just formed in front of us on the path through The Glen. There was a sound too, just on the edge of hearing; a kind of chittering insectoid buzz but faint very faint like it was coming down a bad phone line from the planet Venus or something and for some reason the trees seemed to be full of Owls, we couldn’t see them but my god we could hear them! Quavering, drawn-out cries like the dead were calling us from deep under The Earth.}

Not A Lot Of People Know This

The film Gregory’s Girl (Bill Forsyth 1981) was also complicit in this desire to sweep the inherent strangeness of the place under the carpet. The films good-natured sweetness was in contrast to life as it was actually lived in small towns in the West of Scotland. Violence, crime, machismo, sexism, racism, bigotry, bullying, mental ill-health and poverty were all rife in these communities (although nothing compared to what was waiting just over the horizon thanks to Margaret Thatcher and her successors) and the films tender and light-hearted tone is somewhat in contrast to the architectural meanness and social rigidity on display in the surrounding environment. Gregory’s hapless entrapment in the desires and machinations of the local females is at the radical heart of the film, presaging changes to the status of women that were to become more prevalent in the coming decades and his lack of any traces of machismo certainly affected the self-image of many young men; perhaps allowing a softer and more nuanced version of masculinity to emerge blinking into the light.*

{Walking The Night Land: Everyone assumes the woods are dangerous in The Dark but in fact there is nowhere safer. All is amplified, senses keen towards the slightest variations in the soundscape. The Night is a bower and you are free to come and go in stealth and silence as you please. Find a place to sit and wait for a revelation.}

If You Go Down To The Woods Today

A tabula rasa like Cumbernauld will inevitably start to dream its own dreams, create its own weird special effects. Oh there are Witches and Warlocks aplenty in the woods, trilby-wearing be-hooved demons by the roadside, spectral musicians wandering The Glen and tunnels galore. The place positively throbs with otherworldliness as UFO’s queue up in the night sky to bedazzle the credulous and shape-shifting beasts haunt the margins! The Caledonian Eerie is alive and well in the town. In more recent times, sadly, these old-fashioned pursuits have been replaced by the mysterious comings and goings of ‘doggers’ and associated outdoor calisthenics enthusiasts. Everyone in the woods is far too busy nowadays to notice The Old Gods peering bemusedly from behind a cloud. Rather than strolling in the woods or going for a cycle we go jogging, foot-golfing, geo-caching, nature watching, forest bathing or squeeze into a lycra second-skin to beat our best time to Glasgow and back. Plonked down as it was in the countryside, Cumbernauld has the advantage of  being  surrounded by beautiful green spaces aplenty. Rather then just being a council-promoted ‘green lung’ or an environmental and social amenity these places and the contrasts they engender between themselves and the surrounding concrete dystopia can help us to dream again. Losing yourself in the woods, however briefly, helps to negate the creep of anomie and alienation produced by our broken society.  One fine day we will all look up from the electronic void inside our devices and make the world anew.

{A Prisoner In Fairyland: There are portals that open up from time to time in the thin places of the Earth, one of which is situated deep in The Glen. Walk a widdershins spiral path beginning at the The Tower but don’t expect to ever be seen again, not in this world.}

Gather Round Ye Children

Cumbernauld was lucky enough to suffer the attentions of ‘town artist’ Brian Miller, who’s playful interventions over his 28 years + in residence served to both soften the edges of the place and to raise it up above and beyond the utilitarian reality. Brian’s curious and powerful works haunted the town and still do. The Carbrain Totem (1966) in particular sits like a slightly malevolent and mysterious Omphalos at the heart of Cumbernauld radiating a weird energy that the townsfolk move through unawares. What is it? Why is it? Of course most people don’t even see it anymore so accustomed are they to its presence, but it haunts their dreams nonetheless, a pulse-emitter from another galaxy they unknowingly revolve around, paying obeisance to its monolithic form. In the pre-dawn darkness its cowl-clad devotees  creep from their lairs to lay offerings before it and to ask that their lives be filled up with its dark power! It and other works cry out for reappraisal and to be saved (like the Totem) from further deterioration. Brian’s work emerged from the utopian ideals of the sixties and the seventies, when some artists sought to engage in a more direct and meaningful way with the people and places around them. Art, in this formulation, should help to redefine people’s horizons, to aestheticise everyday life and therefor raise everyone’s game. It was a noble undertaking and Brian dedicated his life to it. His presence, his energy and his legacy still resonate in the town to this day.

Here Be Wolves

Up at Palacerigg we see the remains of a similarly far-sighted project. In 1974 naturalist and writer David Stephen became director of the then embryonic country park. He built himself and us an Ark; an oasis dedicated to everything that was beginning to be dismantled by The Combine. Everywhere hedgerows were being ripped away but at Palacerigg he was putting them back in. It is almost impossible to imagine such a project being initiated, never mind funded, in todays world. Yet this is exactly what has to happen, on a grand scale, to avoid environmental catastrophe. Stephen grasped early on the now obvious truth that it is us and only us who can reverse engineer the depredations of an economic system based on infinite growth. Lying in your bed and listening to the distant howling of the Wolves up at the park must have been a thrilling and rather terrifying experience, and the way in which local people have stepped up to save it from neglect tells us much about the ways in which it has resonated in the imagination of those who came of age in Cumbernauld at the time. To share a look with an animal as symbolically powerful as the Wolf is a profound experience and must surely presage their reintroduction into a re-wilded Scottish landscape.

{TheFerlie* Wood: Sit quiet deep in the woods and try not to move a muscle, don’t look at your phone. DON’T LOOK AT YOUR PHONE. Let your senses attenuate out into the surrounding wood; now try them one at a time: listen with eyes closed, put fingers in your ears and look, shut your eyes, your mouth and smell, breathe, taste and out of the corner of your eye you might just see them. A glimpse of the Others is all you can expect or hope for in this day and age, but nevertheless they are there, just out of mind. Visit the same spot regularly and they may decide that you are harmless enough and begin to show themselves a little more clearly. There are places they prefer, you know the kind of thing? Rocky, ferny outcrops with a few gnarled Oaks clinging precariously to the edges, little holes in the bank that seem to go nowhere, maybe a wee tinkling burn, a kind of watchful silence. Yes, you know of such a place don’t you? Go there as soon as you can. Go there now. Go.  *astonishment, surprise, wonder, the unexpected}

Shrödinger’s Soap

The world changed forever on May 16th 1986 in the closing moments of the popular soap opera Dallas’ ninth season when Pam finds the supposedly dead Bobby Ewing* alive and showering happily. According to the Many Worlds Theory of quantum physics popularised by Everett/DeWitt every time a quantum experiment with different possible outcomes is performed all outcomes are attained, but we see only one, the other iterations actually occur but in a different universe(s). This particular quantum experiment was watched by over 300 million people in 30 countries and the resultant planet-wide diegetic reality fracture was to have profound and lasting effects on the consciousness of everyone. From this moment on reality was up for grabs and all of our carefully packaged ideas about progress and history crashed and burned. In that other universe the show’s producers opted for a more conventional plot line and society continued its uneven but inevitable progress towards a somewhat socialist utopia wherein all the dreams of the planners and the architects and the benevolent politicians came to pass. In that world we all live in a version of Cumbernauld New Town now. Back in our world however consumer culture reigns supreme and History has ended. Progressive dreams have been replaced by simulacra, shopping and an endless desire for more stuff. Our little houses are crammed to bursting with all of the things we are told we need. No wonder we have difficulty articulating a program of progressive change for our society when that society is based on a chimera. We only exist to queue outside Primark now. Some people in Cumbernauld don’t really want better services, higher pay, great schools and equality of opportunity, first and foremost they want a Primark thank you very much. Mark Fisher’s capitalist realism is the only dream available now unless we collectively decide, like Bobby, to come back from the dead.

*the short promotional film ‘Cumbernauld Hit!’ tries to do a similar job of mythologising the town, what with its slightly tawdry glamour, sub-Bond shenanigans and portly architects/planners or whatever they are puffing around town up to fuck knows what. It’s frankly hard to care and difficult enough to make your way to the end of the film, short as it is.

*in the Dallas spin-off Knot’s Landing the creators did not acknowledge the ‘dream scenario’ and continued as if season 9’s events had actually taken place. Who’s dream were they dreaming ?

 A TOPOGRAPHY OF THE PHANTOM CITIES


A DELIRIOUS LABYRINTH

“Something that changes our way of seeing the streets is more important than something that changes our way of seeing paintings.” Guy Debord, ‘Rapport sur la construction d’une situation’

“The simplest means of articulating time and space, of modulating reality, of engineering dreams. It is a matter not only of plastic articulation and modulation expressing an ephemeral beauty, but of a modulation producing influences in accordance with the eternal spectrum of human desires and the progress in realising them. The architecture of tomorrow will be a means of modifying present conceptions of time and space. It will be a means of knowledge and a means of action. The architectural complex will be modifiable. Its aspect will change totally or partially in accordance with the will of its inhabitants…” Ivan Chtcheglov (alias Gilles Ivain), ‘Formulary for a New Urbanism’

In Constant Nieuwenhuys ‘New Babylon’ cities have been literally ‘raised up’ propped precipitously on vast stilts. His visionary architectural formulations were intended to free the human subject from every form of ‘inhibition’ or ‘false-consciousness’, a new and radical subjectivity would be invoked by the floating ambiences of these vagabond structures. The creation of ‘situations’ would be the order of the day; the alienation brought on by the material processes of capital accumulation would be swept away. No more the Dignity of Labour rather the construction of a delirious labyrinth of mobile spaces, atmospheres, environments that serve to negate the concept of a bounded subjectivity. In a sense, within these boundless spaces history would finally come to an end as humanity began to explore the limitless possibilities of a true freedom, out with the constraints of morality or law.

“They wander through the sectors of New Babylon seeking new experiences, as yet unknown ambiances. Without the passivity of tourists, but fully aware of the power they have to act upon the world, to transform it, to recreate it.” Constant

The order and control imposed by the modern metropolis would be replaced by the erotic and playful possibilities embodied by the Wild Wood. But what may be missing from Constant’s ludic (rous) utopianism is, according to John Berger, a sense of the tragedy inherent in the ‘human condition’. Perhaps once we manage to abolish death, we will be able to inhabit his endlessly shifting precincts, free from the shadow of imminent extinction.

EROTIC SPACE

“I could tick off on detailed maps the ruins and the rocks, the bends in the road and the clumps of trees where someone looking through binoculars could have stumbled across the quiverings of a minute two-headed silhouette” Catherine Millet, ‘The Sexual Life of Catherine M’

Historically the woods are where most country folk were conceived. As housing was often crowded with relatives day and night – the only respite being in the dark heart of the forest – getting fucked and licked with the feel of rough tree bark against your flesh must have been a common enough sensation in the past. I can remember as a boy watching a couple shagging in the woods close to where I lived. At first I thought it was a white polythene bag billowing in the breeze, until I realised it was a pale Scottish arse ploughing up and down amongst the ferns. Similarly I have an edenic memory of strolling hand in hand through some woods with a girlfriend, completely naked, playing at Adam and Eve. Sex in the woods is not like it is in the confines of our centrally heated bedrooms, curious insects buzz up to check out the delicious suite of new olfactory delights on offer, wayward branches insinuate themselves into inappropriate crevices and curious local fauna watch as you make the beast with two backs, oblivious to the fact that all that fizzing erotic energy is triggering a reaction all around. The boundaries between us, and the world become porous then, as we almost literally interpenetrate with our surroundings. Perhaps in the midst of quiet woodland ordinary behavioural norms tend to fall by the wayside, as the spirit of the Horned God – Cernunnos – triggers our most primordial desires. Is it that feeling of submersion a forest can engender, as if we are wandering around at the bottom of the sea? Is this how we forget ourselves? Is this how we give ourselves license to commit act’s both beautiful and terrible? As the lizard brain, sitting (mostly) quiescent at the top of our spines begins to rouse itself, is it any wonder that desire sometimes transmutes into murder, Eros to Thanatos, that the woods can so easily be transformed into the abattoir? If we go into the woods to lose ourselves, then perhaps we also desire to weaken the ties of an irksome and outmoded morality? How often then are the blood-soaked rituals of our Druidic forebears replayed in unconscious simulation?

THE PLEASURABLE NEGATION OF SPECTACULAR SPACE

“Work binds us to an objective awareness of things and reduces sexual exuberance. Only the underworld retains its exuberance.” Georges Bataille, ‘Erotism, Death and Sensuality’

There are sections of the city that have been excised from the official ledger, that have managed to evade the all-seeing fish-eye lens; these blink and you’ve missed them non-places attract their own kind of flora and fauna, their own sub-species – feral children, hollowed-out men, sleeper cells waiting out the slo-mo apocalypse, doomed drinking schools, sexual outlaws staging erotic tableau amongst the Himalayan Balsam and the Giant Hogweed. 

What is the attraction of these places, these edgelands? Is it that, in having been designated as commercially and aesthetically worthless they have slipped beyond the gaze of officialdom and into the embrace of the spatially disenfranchised (which is all of us)? In these places we are given license to deviate, to test the boundaries of sexuality, thresholds of pain, intensities of pleasure and the accompanying warping of social relations. 

Even in the most densely populated cities there are zones of disappearance, like HG Wells’ mysterious doorway you will find these places when you need them, places where the private and the public become blurred as, unconsciously, you and your cohorts attempt the pleasurable negation of spectacular space. 

These spaces are always there and usually hidden in plain sight. You will find them at the conjunction of a series of dead railway lines, or nestling in the midst of the re-forgotten industrial site behind that rotting fence, or in a line of dense bushes and scraggly trees beside a busy road, or in the grue-encrusted gloom of a rotting building at the end of a rarely used lane. These sites abrade and rupture the secular power of our over-lit shopping precincts, themed drinking barns, officially-sanctioned mating emporia and other class-riven entertainments, giving us instead a shadowy and illicit stage on which to play out scenes of sexual abandon and almost religious ecstasy. 

LUDIC TIME

“Act so that there is no use in a centre” Gertrude Stein, ‘Tender Buttons’

“Historically then, this is the sense in which the vocation of Utopia lies in failure; in which its epistemological value lies in the walls it allows us to feel around our minds, the invisible limits it gives us to detect by sheerest induction, the miring of our imaginations in the mode of production itself, the mud of the present age in which the winged utopian shoes stick, imagining that to be the force of gravity itself.” Fredric Jameson, ‘Utopia, Modernism and Death’

Meanwhile Constant’s artificial paradise encircles the globe – there is no end, no beginning, Humanity has crossed the threshold into a zone beyond time, or rather, beyond local parochial conceptions of time. Perhaps, if we desire, we might briefly re-inhabit ‘linear’ time, only to slip back into a kind of oceanic oneness, where creative play is unbounded by structure of any kind. We may choose to impose rules for brief (or long) periods, but these will be entirely self-imposed, life as a game with no set rules, everything being malleable. Within Ludic Time the concept of separation will become meaningless. The destruction and alienation secreted by modernist notions of progress towards social and technological perfection will dissolve, as we move beyond an antiquated and outmoded linearity, and once again time becomes a medium that is open to individual and collective interpretation. Ludic Time is the time of Pan the pagan avatar of nature, of wilderness, of sexual frenzy, who embodies the urge to break free of the constraints of an artificial and self-defeating morality. Pan urges us to smash all rational thought in a welter of lustful, cunt and cock-hungry polymorphous perversity! Or, as the sage has it…

DO WHAT THOU WILT SHALL BE THE WHOLE OF THE LAW

THEORY FEED 4 

THE ALREADYMADE 

“Daydreaming subverts the world.” Raoul Vaneigem

Sometimes we get into a rut and are unsure what to do, where to go and things can seem a bit tired. Over time we have come to realise the importance of this juncture; it is here that we can step back and get an overview and discover that it’s all already there, waiting. We have done so much over the years, tried so many iterations that we have a vast reservoir of ideas and experience at our fingertips. Ideas and possibilities that can be recalibrated and recombined in a multitude of ways.

Situationist theory advocates the abolition of the barriers between art and everyday life, by this they meant that art-making, as a privileged subject, has been reified* out of existence. The artist is put on a pedestal in order to render her impotent. We refuse this. The barriers between us and those we work with are porous, breached. A sudden intuitive leap is more important than a carefully constructed programme of action. When we work with people it is only when things are allowed to have their own volition, their own energy that a breakthrough is made. These moments are often transient, perhaps in some cases even unrepeatable, but we persevere, we go on because, actually,  it is a lot of fun! It really is, or why could we do it for so long? (its been a while)

We pick stuff up: techniques, ideas, equipment, theories, sounds, movements, schools of thought, dreams, notions, possibilities, sensibilities and we play with them. Our little world is littered with so much stuff that we only have to look around and there it is, waiting to be put to use. We don’t shy away from plagiarism, theft, daylight robbery in the hope that we can make something happen, create something new (ish) from the spoil heaps of modernity. 

We abhor seriousness and we don’t mind looking stupid; in fact it is better to appear foolish than to emanate a veneer of professionalism in the hope that someone somewhere (a person in a position of power) will take you seriously. Instead be seriously playful, approach a session, an idea, a challenge without pre-conceived ideas about what may or may not happen. Or if you make plans expect them to disintegrate in front of you as they are (mis) applied to a real life scenario.

But it is also important to know nothing, do nothing, be nothing. In this way we can open ourselves up to re-contextualising the alreadymade, the extant, the found and the reforgotten.

“Against the ruin of the world, there is only one defence: the creative act.”  Kenneth Rexroth

*Reification is a Marxist term for when we start to perceive ourselves through the objects we purchase. In the case of art-making it is the point when the art market begins to dictate what kinds of art can be produced.

THEORY FEED 3 

A LOW RUMBLE

“I’ve always liked the effect of having someone in there who hadn’t the faintest idea what was going on.”  Derek Bailey 

Improvisation is often dismissed as the slightly simple younger brother of contemporary composition, but in reality is the inextinguishable font from which all true creativity springs. In opening ourselves up to chance, the vagaries of interpersonal relations and the spontaneity of the crystalline moment we may glimpse something of the true nature of reality. Creativity is not simply a matter of stumbling, through long and painful effort, towards some kind of hard-earned epiphany it is also, quite simply, the sudden accession of experience towards transcendence.

In our sessions we try to rediscover the joys of spontaneous play, the challenge being to lose ourselves and those we work with in the moment to such an extent that self-consciousness dissolves itself in the general solvent of a synaesthesic bliss.

Some people are in a room, the room is scattered with a variety of stuff with which to create sound. Someone gently pings on a piece of metal, someone else mutters incoherently into a microphone, the woman in the corner gently snores, the person over there fiddles quietly with an electric guitar that’s hooked up to some effects pedals, a curious groaning is teased from a broken-down old Zither and imperceptibly a fractured tentative soundscape coalesces around these crouched, intent figures. The rule is that when the sounds are in danger of becoming unpleasant or dissonant you have to stop and listen. Start again but take it slowly and keep listening. Play off people, counter them with an odd timbre, a wheezing drone or a fruity rumble. Often it just doesn’t come together, but when it does it is magical and occasionally even transcendent.

Some just can’t do it, they are simply too self-conscious to let go and have long forgotten how to play. The people we work with can and do.

“The eternal gulf between being and idea can only be bridged by the rainbow of imagination.”  

Johan Huizinga

THEORY FEED 2

SLOW LORIS TIME

“Space and duration are one.” Edgar Allan Poe. Eureka

Bodies move imperceptibly through a darkened space.

A long form drone (by Eliane Radigue or Folke Rabe) leaks from some speakers and oozes into shadow.

Time attenuates.

Time recedes.

Tech-enhanced speed-freakery is the order of the day. No one gets to kick back unless it’s to graze the electronic void in that fervid consumptive dream state we all know so well. Always a little more screen time, just a little bit longer…

The people we work with are at the mercy of our addiction to speed. They are harried from pillar to post, stopping only to feed at the communal trough, their lives (and ours) resembling that of a too tightly-wound toy robot. We want to deconstruct this version of time, allowing perception to unfurl at a Precambrian geologic pace; a subjective time dilation that enables us and those we work with to momentarily disengage.

Slow movement in space as an antidote to the souped-up treadmills of hyper-modernity. 

Like a pair of bizarre quadrupeds, or slow-moving Loris, we make our way infinitely carefully around the space, often in costumes that deliberately camouflage our forms.

Time perception is a construct. There is no past, there is no future, there is only one long now. In our sessions we invite a kind of chronostasis, wherein perceptions of time passing are subject to delay and distortion. 

The Oddball Effect is when our perception of experience is modulated by recent unusual events which seem to make time ‘stand still’. We offer up a series of unusual stimuli with which to counter the perceived passage of time and bring this effect into play.

Duration is a key component in our process and perhaps relates to Nicolas Bourriaud’s conception of ‘critical materialism’ in that a flurry of chance encounters between modes such as movement, sound, language and the carnivalesque serves to circumvent these processes by deconstructing their logic. 

It is only a matter of time.

“The only structure which permits of natural activity is one so flexible as not to be a structure.” John Cage

THEORY FEED 1 

The Enormous Space

“The word silence is still a sound. To speak is in itself to imagine knowing: and to no longer know, it would be necessary to no longer speak.”  Georges Bataille ‘Inner Experience’

Our experience of the everyday is bounded, filtered and constructed by the habitus*. Those we work with often lack this inner armour, finding their own ways to block out our over-bearing social stimuli they retreat into repetition. In removing our ‘selves’ and our well-worn behavioural tropes we create a true ‘safe space’ that nevertheless can provide intensities of feeling and experience through the judicious application of the formless, the boundary-less. Our sessions attempt to replicate or intuit the possible inner spaces that people we work with inhabit. 

We very loosely apply George Bataille’s ideas around l’informe (the formless), which in our interpretation means using freely improvised combinations of nonsense (asemic) language, sound-making, movement, masks and costumes, pre-recorded sound, electronics, detritus and silence in a way that allows the space and those within it to both contract and expand.

Silence is a key tool in our sonic arsenal. Silence allows sound to slowly accrue. Silence creates tension. Silence waits. Silence breathes.

Into the silence we introduce a whisper, a groan, a shimmer, a disturbance. The silence moves with us and against us. Quietly, imperceptibly, the silence is filled-up only for it to leak back in other forms. 

Within the darkened womb-space light shifts and refracts, sound blooms and falls away.

Imperceptibility is key and sensory-overload is to be avoided.

The space is unique, it creates an ontological plasticity between us and those we are working with. The boundaries between us dissolves as the ‘aléa’* has its way, we are fellow psychonauts exploring a limitless inner space. 

Chance, play and unpredictability are always key, but sensitivity to changing moods is just as important. We need to know when to dial back, it’s easy to overdo things. We get to know what people want from us, or we attempt to give them what they seem to lack in their everyday experience. But of course everyone is different, so that where possible each individual must have a tailor-made suite of sensory stimuli appropriate only to themselves.

Sometimes it is important to do nothing. To wait, to observe, to simply be in the space and await instructions. It’s all there, if only we have the vision to see.

*Pierre Bourdieu’s formulation of the way reality is socially-constructed to organise our behaviour in ways that favour a ‘capitalist’ reproduction of the self.

*an unpredictable turn of events.

MIRROR-TAN IN HARE-LIGHT

Of Gulley’s, Portals, Inclines, Sinkholes and Coccoliths

There’s a man on the moor baking mulch-bread, taking tea with newts, scratching glyphs on schist, stroking Curlews, barking up trees, fondling the sphagnum by moon ray. He stumbles crosswise down an incline and through a book of landscape, finding nothing but himself and something else. 

Torqued language pullulates over a ridge of porphyritic basalt, but it’s important to look the part. Damaged Ley-lines criss cross that place, leaking bad energy and filling his boots with soupy brown water (that sinking feeling). A cold trickle down the back of the neck and crouching in the lee of a glacial erratic heralds some mystic babble as he tries to access the magic door. Oh God not another portal! Not now! A Goretex shroud keeps the worst of it at bay.

But…

The Coccolith is a remarkably elaborate structure whose formation is a complex product of cellular processes, but whose function remains unclear.

The work of Jamie McNeill is like a Coccolith in that there are processes at work that are veiled, obscured, self-erasing; the weltanschauung is broken and its organising principle is one of gnomic utterance under the influence of whatever mute Goddess clings to whatever blasted heath he is wandering across. The Skylarks shrill a warning: Too much! Too much! There is no end to it you see: it self-replicates as it is pushed and pulled through a bewildering variety of procedures, machines, rubbings and scrapings, elaborate fermentations and alchemical emulsifiers. Those are not ‘drawings’, that is not a ‘sculpture’, they are a sedimentation of the mind, a forked stick in the eyes, an ongoing encounter with something, an attempt to peel back the real. 

A slow-grinding cacophony leaks from underneath a basalt slab.  

Crouched in a gulley he watches as the bones and raggedy pelt of a dead Hare take ten years to melt into the peaty amalgam, the sinkhole. 

And up on the moor . . . the Meadow Pipits know.

Jim Colquhoun 

DOWN AT THE POISONED BURN

We went down to the poisoned burn. Drinking from the burn got you high on a cocktail of  prescription drugs everyone and their granny was pissing out these days. OK you had to neck a few pints to get the hit and then the shits were the least of your problems, heart palpitations and hallucinations were all part of the trip and cheaper than a bottle of Buckie at any rate. A few decades ago this kind of behaviour would have seen us floating face down with traceries of sicked-up green foam spooling around our heads but now it was just another Sunday afternoon in the triassic heat. I spotted a Kingfisher, but rather than arrowing upriver it kept wobbling in mid air as if it couldn’t decide which way to go, it was probably high on SSRI’s too. Mood-enhanced passerines skulked in the bushes, too freaked out to use the bird feeders as in when you are way too stoned to visit the shop for milk and cigarette papers. An otter was lolling unconcernedly on a sandbank staring intently at a patch of moss. Even when I clapped it just glanced lazily then went back to glomming its patch like Burroughs staring at his toe in Tangier. Everything was high, even the trees were drooping and not just from the intense heat. A couple of fat lads were sat naked in the burn already pished and hooting like two grotesque toddlers wanting fed and spouting an ur-language that consisted entirely of consonants, fricatives and guttural diphthongs. No one knew or cared what their problem was but they definitely had one as their noise never stopped for a moment. Just downstream from the howler monkey’s a supersized family grouping were sprawled amongst the hogweed partaking in a leisurely picnic and were they waving or beckoning? The matriarch of the clan coquettishly played with the hem of her dress inching it up her gargantuan mottled thighs and I felt myself stiffen in response, it seemed like everyone was being softened by the libidinous light and heat, made buttery and malleable, divested of all extraneous moral baggage. In amongst some tired-looking bushes a couple were slowly fucking like a pair of out-sized iguana in their terrarium, nobody seemed to mind too much and in fact a general air of louche libertinism was the order of the day. The authorities had given up trying to police the populace having thrown off their weighty accoutrements and joined in the fun, a pair of them were snogging one and other up against their parked patrol car and a bevy of parking attendants were sitting in the middle of the road playing cards. Doctors surgeries had spilled out on to the streets with patients and staff high on the contents of the drug cupboard, the staff in Gregg’s were handing out free pastries and drinks to all and sundry, those in the Off Sales were already guttered and a dance party was ongoing in the chemists. It was as if someone had finally managed to spike the water supply with hallucinogens but this was something else, everyone had just said ‘fuck it’ this life is demonstrably shit and we are not taking it anymore, enough’s enough right? The talking heads on the tv were clacking their jaws to no effect whatsoever, most of the unlamented political class had died in that tragic fire at Westminster and nobody was working anymore. It was like that scene in the apocalyptic film just before the meteor hits but with less angst and a lot more happy-go-lucky stoner vibes. 

It was just about then that she caught my eye. I’d say she was in her early fifties, long brown hair, a slightly mournful expression, her eyes made up with that little flick of mascara and scarlet lips. Oh yes the scarlet lips. Her black dress was just the right side of tight, showing off her bountiful curves and depthless décolletage and I’m pretty sure those wedge heels were borderline excruciating to wear. Fuck I was in love! Or at least filled with overwhelming lust. Her dress came down to mid thigh and in my mind I was already sliding my hand up her pale thighs and cupping her cunt, oh god her panties were already damp as we snogged uninhibitedly. What the fuck was going on? We’d been together for over ten years but here she was bending over in the park and pulling her dress up and her panties aside and demanding to be fucked right here right now. No sooner had I started sliding in and out of her and a stranger proffered his cock to be sucked on and wasn’t disappointed as she slid her scarlet lips up and down his straining length. Women always get the best of it in pornographic scenarios I’ve often thought, greedy ladies getting to play with as many cocks as they can handle, holes being filled, spunk being sprayed and so it was that day in the park when everything changed. My girlfriend got filled up at both ends, watched by an appreciative and sympathetic audience as the strangers spunk dripped from her mouth and down onto her tits just like in the porn films 

And then there were the Snails. That’s right, the Snails. She was discovered asprawl amongst the rhododendrons, legs akimbo, her naked body alive with the slow-travelling land molluscs. They seemed to be drawn to her and of course it turned out that she had smeared her flesh with the juice of freshly crushed Basil leaves, which accounted for the green caste to her skin. Naturally the practice caught on due to her ubiquity on TikTok and other platforms and soon young women were hosting ‘snail parties’ which, due to attracting opprobrium from usual moral arbiters, was soon a veritable cult. The police took to raiding houses and confiscating the molluscs, green-tinged girls were dragged screaming into the paddy wagons and groups of mournful young men were interviewed bemoaning the loss of ‘their’ girlfriends to deviancy and perversion.

And that was not all, oh no. At exactly twelve midnight (GMT) on Thursday the 25th of July 2024 the comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) deviated from its course and briefly caressed the earth’s atmosphere inaugurating The Pleasure Dome, endless erotic reverie, psychedelic communism and the ability to wander at will amongst the stars.

But what is Meowism?

 

The 1950’s radio celebrity  and naturalist G D Fisher and his series of books detailing his adventures in ‘hut country’ are a current source of inspiration. He would wander a small patch of countryside just to the north of the village of Lochwinnoch in Southern Scotland watching and commenting upon the habits and peculiarities of the ‘field folk’ as he described the animals he daily encountered. The amusing and surprising adventures of the local Stoat family, or the perspicacious personality of little Jenny Wren  …. ….  …. ….

Blood on the lawn (yes I know!)

Blood in my hair

Blood . . . everywhere!

I first became aware of Meowism in the mid 1980’s some years before it actually existed. Shaven-headed proles kidnapped me and forcibly re-educated me in the eternal verities of the irreducible now, the deep time of hard thrusting cock, the bloody handwriting of the Goddess on the beast with two backs and the sexy sexlessness of sex. In the endless perverted and polymorphous orgies that ensued I sloughed off my former self and entered a world of everlasting me me me! Now! Now! Now!

Exquisite priapism! 

Io Pan! 

Io Pan!

Oh the tangled bole, the gnarled grove!

Thrusting sword through galling fetter I fell upon your milk white arse oh Pan!

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Io Pan! 

Io Pornhub!