me hut journal may - 2001  


may 13 2001

There’s nothing more fatal to an artist than self-doubt, nothing that can cause as abrupt a cessation of activity. It is probable that artists of all stripes and levels of success find various ways of circumventing the disastrous consequences of 1) having no one believe in what you do and 2) not even belleving in one’s self what one does. The former can be skirted easily enough (most of the time) due to the narcissistic proclivities of most artists. And of course many artists now teach in art schools so there is an built-in mechanism for sustaining attention and artistic activity.

But presumably even the most insured and innoculated suffer from the abyss of self-doubt, simply having bureacratic mechanisms which carry them across the dry spots.

But for others, those ‘out in the cold’ of autonomous activity other ways have to be sought to keep going. Some people find it easy to simply drop their artistic activity and move on, like some jilted lover moving through the turbulence of juvenile emotions which surge up no matter how old you are.

But for the others? Traditionally, artists and craft workers could find some confort in the idea that they were doing it for the glory of god, some order outside the everyday order. But the bureacratic screws are tightening on any such perennial philosophy. The new corporate Medicis, in ways subtle and not so subtle, have need only for the consumerist products generated by artistic activity. The idea that an artifact can point beyond itself and is of no consequence beyond the valuation of its market price is so far beyond the pale that it can only be offered up as a conspiratorial or science fictional construct,

In that sense art is worthless but and not even useless in any Bataillean sense of a generalized economy wherein the REAL use value lives in a soteriological value. That is, an art work’s value becomes encapsulated in its useless, providing a vehicle for time travel to a period when its worth WILL be discovered. But since in a way, nothing ever goes away now but is continually being archived, put into storage and ready to be brought back out to pump up a flagging flaccid system, it becomes hard to see how such encrypted value could happen now; since nothing has any shock value now, there seems no way for such an encryption to be ‘broken’ and for the ‘message’ to be delivered.
In being put into a weightless condition anything seems possible in culture -- and hence nothing seems possible since there is no stable support to push against.
I was at a lage music festival in the middle of town recently which literally had hundreds of thousands of folks attending, with eleven stages and music everywhere. What it brought to mind mostly was Marx’s injunction that (he was writing about Napolean) that the first time around in stragedy and the seonc time around is farce. It seemed a pale imitation of the big festivals of the past but since I haven’t been attending stadium shows in ages perhaps i’m not the one to make a judgement.

But what was clear to me is how radical (for lack of a better word) arhythmia is. One performer, Patti Smith, gave an onstage paranoid rap and suggesting that we in the audience ‘think for ourselves’ (even as we had been persuaded to buy the thickets by reasons beyond our control ). So i just struck me that all the acts were very rhythmical (rock and blues of course, fuck music) no ‘experimental’ acts -- which would mean nonrhythmic for the most part or the use of rhythms which could not readily be pinned down.

Rhythm gives a sheen, a glossy coating over everything, transporting all into a staged virtual world, the hypnotic clicking clacking of Nietzsche’s world train without an engineer and which lays down its own equally spaced clickety clack tracks into the void.

Could there even be a non-rhythmical non-repetitive pop world? Could anything be more deliciously monstrous? Both organsim and machine thrive on repetition. Only some chiliiastic millenialism woudl think otherwise, wherein silence ruled.

I read an interesting introduction to a book about french theory in america. The author Lotringer was saing that america always oscillated between the modes of Utopia and Law and that ‘french theory’ (or rather its adventure in america as thought made its way into theory--i assume here he means something akin to an ‘escaped’ philosphical discourse--) was the result of the pressures between those two locked together tectonic plates, making the REAL originator of ‘french theory’ to be --- america! and that the next advances in said theory will be made in america.

Such theory would then be a creature of borders, caught between shifting plates; as such it would also be an uncanny, even vaporous, provocation, never quite visible enough on either side of the plates, always in a process of uncertain sedimentation.

The trick then (or at least one of the necessary tricks) would be to keep the sedimentation from falling and getting caught too firmly into objects but also to keep it nevertheless anchored in objects.

robert cheatham