Week 13 – Shezad Dawood – 30 March-5 April – The Room

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Part 1: Art For All

The fig-2 openings are getting hectic. I think some bastard has been publicising them. This isn’t how counter-culture works. It’s more like.. in the year 2009 full-time Eddie Redmayne impersonator and occasional guest on Star Trek Professor Stephen Hawking threw a party for time-travellers. Afterwards he sent out the invitations. Nobody turned up. Nobody had turned up. He cited this as experimental evidence that time travel will not become possible. My own experimental evidence is more cynical: that we don’t remember the birth of Christ with a sponsorship placement on it. The Emirates Birth of Christ. Wow, that’s confusing. How about ‘The Barclays Birth of Christ – investing in irony.’

I’m kidding about counter-culture. Fig-2 is sponsored and paid-up and part of the mainstream, whether us hipsters like it or not. I’ve been to most of the increasingly popular openings on me tod, avoiding eye contact and scribbling in a notebook. Various people I know have to my surprise popped up there randomly, which has been lovely. This week, lucky Week 13, I must have been tired. I arrived and there they were, these two nightmares from one of my previous lives, suddenly manifesting at my pretentious gallery opening. Two poets, as it happens, representatives of a beaten tranche of the counter culture that has given up on political agitation and gone to nihilism, rejecting everything including itself. Why were they there? I’m not sure. There was the gin. In the truncated time I stayed each managed to knock back three or four of the free cocktails. I kept wondering if they were going to smash shit up. I hadn’t really realised that counter-culture can also mean anti-art. Immediately it was obvious they were not there in an accommodating positively minded spirit.  I gritted my teeth, ready for something embarrassing to happen in which I, by virtue of knowing them, would be implicated. Which publisher was it said he’d sooner have an armed robber in his office than a poet?

I’ll have to invent a term for this experience, when characters from one area of your life suddenly irrupt into another, the clang of cognitive dissonance. You’re at Torture Garden being spanked and suddenly discover it’s your line manager in the next sling. It’s interesting how we separate people and realms. Colleagues and friends. Friends and ‘friends’ (qv Facebook). It might be that, but as I said it’s usually lovely when you bump into people randomly. This felt like a clash of cultures, with me crushed in the middle.

Regarding the art, the crowd, the space, they were unfailingly rude; but had at least the good grace to be rude about every single thing they talked about. I’m not sure which of the creators of fig-1, Jay Jopling or Mark Francis, they meant when they referred to “Cuntface.” As for the ICA, it hasn’t been exciting since 1955. I got the strong impression they thought all art was shit. Everything, really. Just everything. I’m sure I even detected weird homophobic inferences coming out. One of them even drew attention to the university staff card hanging around my neck, and somehow inferred some kind of disapprobation, an obscure subtext of contempt for paid work that made me feel somehow lame for having a job. I suppose to nihilistic counter-culture this is being in cahoots with the capitalist machine. Like voting; with the election coming up, we’re seeing plenty of argument that voting is endorsing the whole sick machine, so you shouldn’t vote. And as for art…

Not everyone in New York will pay to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s face. Not everyone is a critic. But, fuck it, everyone hates art. Everyone hates criticism. So… art criticism?!?!? Jesus. What am I doing? I mean, my pal Sid thinks I’m a twat just (well, not just) because I’m on twitter. Donald has refused to read any of my fig-2 blogs on principle because he is against any and all forms of Criticism. It’s said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. I’ve always thought dancing about architecture sounds ace!

There’s a strong belief in the mind of the counter-culture that mainstream culture is dominated by cabals of powerful individuals working to exclude the rest of us. The art world is notoriously cliquey, so crony credence abounds. Unpublished novelists might become convinced that mysterious powers are suppressing their work. It was interesting to see the irruption of two figures from nihilistic counter-culturalism into the rarefied domain of fine art. Private Views are gurningly good-natured two-faced affairs. That’s what they’re for. Networking and stuff. They are exclusionary. Even when they’re open to the public like the fig-2 openings.

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Part 2: Who Rules The World?

For Week 13 of Fig-2 Shezad Dawood created an animation that nods to ideas about posthumanism and secret esoteric societies that decide the destiny of humankind. Two brothers in Saffron coloured hooded robes, reminiscent of Philip Guston’s cartoonized KKK figures talk about Shangri-La in a weird landscape inhabited by Maoi (the Easter Island heads).

In his fig-2 interview Shezad Dawood says the reason he chose to make an animation was because he wanted to “do something that would surprise people in terms of expectations of practice.” Now, artists should never do this. It’s the equivalent of a band you’ve never seen before announcing “This is a new song!” — darling, to me they’re all new —

Brother P wears an adaptation of the muted trumpet from the postal service in The Crying of Lot 49. In Pynchon’s novella evidence accumulates of a secret underground postal delivery service called the Trystero, which might be a conspiracy, a practical joke, or a hallucination, indicated by arcane references on bus windows and toilet walls.

Brother S has an adapted symbol of the Pharaoh Kih-Oskh in the Tintin book The Cigars of the Pharaoh. The Kih-Oskh Brotherhood is a vast criminal organization smuggling opium throughout Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India and China, in fake cigars, with strong systems of communication and transportation and intelligence operating covertly within all levels of society.

In an amusing random continuity, Fig-2 Week 12’s Tom McCarthy has written an entire book analyzing the Tintin cartoons from a structuralist perspective. He notes that Hergé’s politics move from right to left wing during the course of the books. In Cigars from the mid-thirties the villains are “typical enemies of the right, key players in the great global conspiracy of its imagination: Freemasons, financiers…” and, of course, Jews. By the 1970s, as a consequence of World War II, the politics of the Tintin books has shifted over to the left to the extent that in Tintin and the Picaros the hero sports a CND logo on his moped helmet. McCarthy notes that “there remains the interesting paradox that, despite his political realignment, Hergé keeps the same villains in place: men in cagoules, the secret cabals of Cigars of the Pharaoh, serve as straw men for his leftist world-vision just as well as they did for his rightist one.”

In essence Lot 49 and Cigars of the Pharaoh are expressions of the question “Who rules the world?”

In his series The Secret Rulers of the World Jon Ronson goes behind the scenes of the Bilderberg conference, the annual grouping of the elite that has been accused of being a “secret government of the world”. According to the “American Friends of Bilderberg”’s press release “Bilderberg’s only activity is its annual conference. At the meetings no resolutions are proposed, no votes taken, and no policy statements issued.” Highly mysterious. If it doesn’t rule the world, then what exactly does it do? Daniel Estulin’s The Secrets of the Bilderberg Club describes “sinister cliques and the Bilderberg lobbyists” manipulating the public “to install a world government that knows no borders and is not accountable to anyone but its own self.”

Conspiracy theories exist to address our fear that the world might be completely beyond anyone’s control. It’s a theological impulse, to combat the uncertainty that is inherent in supercomplex systems such as economies and societies. There are certain things we just know (echoing Rumsfeld). Scottish mineral water from Tibet: we know it’s tap water from Peckham. We know a ‘no reply’ means ‘no’. We know the Emperor is in the nip. We know. Look. It’s quite simple. Jewish Islamist Masons in the KKK built Easter Island. It’s obvious.

The world government is really just Capital: money markets that transcend national borders and to which states and governments are in thrall. As David Graeber notes the state is no longer a bulwark against capitalist rapaciousness, but works with it hand in hand. Let us also remember that fine art is capital; owning a verified Rembrandt is a securer investment than owning a flat in central London. In short, if you are not with the boorish anti-art vision of the counter-culture, you are propping up the whole capitalist system.

How do you win? You can’t. The game is rigged. Even your dissatisfaction has a dollar value. There’s that Clash lyric: “Turning rebellion into money.” Counter-culture is culture sold over the counter. I’m a sell-out and so are you. At least Tracey Emin is honest and happy about being a Tory voter. She’s happy because she’s won.

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Week 4 – Simon Welsh – January 26-February 1 – 3/4 – Symbiosis versus competition (28 Jan)

The fig-2 project shares with the original fig-1 project a sense of freedom from conventional notions of art practice and curation, where it is more about using the available space for a creative purpose, what ever that might be in whatever discipline.

In week four, the poet, environmental activist and public speaker Simon Welsh, delivered a series of forty-two minute lectures. I’m not going to offer critical commentary on what he said, just to try to share with you what I took from his words, with apologies for omissions and distortions. “The worst tragedy for a poet is to be admired through being misunderstood” (Cocteau). Simon’s vision is abundantly positive, with mythic Blakean resonances and a kind of panpsychical holism centred on the empowerment of the individual for the greater good of all.

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3/4 – Symbiosis versus competition (28 Jan)

The squirrel when it eats and excretes, doesn’t think it’s planting an oak tree.

Corporations set out to barcode everything. Governments and the NHS exist because we can’t or won’t govern our own destinies. The outside is a reflection of the inside. Getting out of the driving seat and then complaining about the direction. But within what corporations say, how can we take ownership? To escape the paradigm of competition, look to symbiosis.

Look to higher forces that aren’t religious. When we were nomadic, we followed herds and restored what was taken. With settlement came property and ownership and then fear of losing what we have, and then the thought: should we attack first?

Competition is bred into us. School sports days aren’t run for fun. The attachment to winning  causes problems. Are there other possibilities beyond competition? People can choose their own realities, but these can be prisons.

Tim Macartney’s TED talk “The Children’s Fire” imparts a valuable message for a system whose government is obsessed with pushing selfishness and ‘independence’. It’s hard to share when the paradigm goes against it. If someone wants to talk to you, you distrust them because you suspect they probably want something.

Simon performs poems on the train, to disarm and try to de-program us, in the hope that our insularity can be shrugged off. His poems are about political freedom, a rejection of “Normative abstraction” (ie. ideology). Why should being an ‘individual’ be the same as being ‘alone’? We have to jump out of the water to realize we were in water. The water supports us, we don’t need the love of other fish. The concept of ‘agape’ is realized when the fish knows what the water is.

Abundance, sharing, doesn’t need recognition. Happiness gives itself out, when you accept yourself, as part of others, as part of everyone, everything.

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Week 4 – Simon Welsh – January 26-February 1 – 2/4 – Poetry in court (27 Jan)

The fig-2 project shares with the original fig-1 project a sense of freedom from conventional notions of art practice and curation, where it is more about using the available space for a creative purpose, what ever that might be in whatever discipline.

In week four, the poet, environmental activist and public speaker Simon Welsh, delivered a series of forty-two minute lectures. I’m not going to offer critical commentary on what he said, just to try to share with you what I took from his words, with apologies for omissions and distortions. “The worst tragedy for a poet is to be admired through being misunderstood” (Cocteau). Simon’s vision is abundantly positive, with mythic Blakean resonances and a kind of panpsychical holism centred on the empowerment of the individual for the greater good of all.

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2/4 – Poetry in court (27 Jan)

We the people are remarkably similar in thinking we are different, and this is a lever for divide and rule. Josh Fox’s fracking documentaries, Gasland, unfold like poems, exposing the ‘biodiversity scam’ and sparking unprecedented interest, forming part of a community spirit allied against the frackers’ “dark Satanic drills.”

In this spirit Simon Welsh has made films about a Frack Free Sussex: the chant went out: Belt it out of Balcombe! He organised a demonstration that attracted six hundred people. Not protesters but protectors. He received criticism for developing a working relationship with the police, though this relationship ensured the safety of the protectors and a sense of the legitimacy of the cause. This is astute because the laws have been jimmied to make it hard for us to sustain a voice.

Public Order Act 1986 Section 14 allows the police to dictate the size and location of public assemblies, to atomise movements in a physical way on the ground.

The Queen is at the top of the constitutional power structure, but is she pro-fracking? “The Crown” says fracking is okay, but this could mean “The City” as it often does. The hymn God Save The Queen is “a black magic prayer to keep us separated from our divinity” to divert us from knowing that we are the custodians of our country, our planet, and keep us from empowerment.

Section 14 is a prayer too. While the police tried to read it to Simon Welsh, he sang, to drown it out. He was arrested anyway, and frisked in Crawley police station. A gay man, he brought humour to this invasive procedure, and the frisking officer blushed, then became the butt of humour among his colleagues. He experienced an empowered feeling at the same time as he was having his rights taken away. In the cells he wrote a poem. He was advised to use it as his statement, to say in his defence that he had experienced “temporary heart consciousness”

In court, the poem was his extraordinary defence: “Arrested for singing

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Week 4 – Simon Welsh – January 26-February 1 – 1/4 – Listening the world into existence (26 Jan)

The fig-2 project shares with the original fig-1 project a sense of freedom from conventional notions of art practice and curation, where it is more about using the available space for a creative purpose, what ever that might be in whatever discipline.

In week four, the poet, environmental activist and public speaker Simon Welsh, delivered a series of forty-two minute lectures. I’m not going to offer critical commentary on what he said, just to try to share with you what I took from his words, with apologies for omissions and distortions. “The worst tragedy for a poet is to be admired through being misunderstood” (Cocteau). Simon’s vision is abundantly positive, with mythic Blakean resonances and a kind of panpsychical holism centred on the empowerment of the individual for the greater good of all.

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1/4 – Listening the world into existence (26 Jan)

We listen the world into existence, and then we speak it into being.

Simon Welsh has been writing for twenty years. He is speaking tonight for just forty-two minutes. The theme is vibration and sound, the light and colour at the start of the universe. When we first try to engineer our own destiny, sound comes first. We listen the world into existence. Following the big bang, there are dips, but we hope that each dip is smaller than the up.

Let’s set the stage for a kind of listening with open hearts and open ears, dropping at the door your defence mechanisms. These are, more broadly, causing death and war. No, not you. Yes, you. We have a spectacular task ahead of us as humanity.

Humans, uniquely, have to pay to live. Nestlé has declared that water is not a human right.

Simon chooses to use rhyme because rhyming couplets cause brainwave patterns akin to those in dreaming. These patterns allow you to experience the dream as if it were real life. Alpha waves cause you to nod.

You are worthy of love. To love yourself you have to listen yourself into existence. Adyanshanti tells of Agape, the form of love that is an outpouring, inspired by anything. You want to give, and then everyone wants to give to you. This is the start of a global consciousness, at once global but involving each of us operating as individuals.

This is a vulnerable position. Brené Brown’s TED talk The power of vulnerability recounts a ten year study into how whole-heartedness is to be vulnerable. Self exposure can lead to breakdown. The bullied person can snap and stop caring. So listen.

In the same way that magnets can manipulate matter – iron filings form patterns on a sheet of paper, without apparent physical manipulation – sound can inform the space in an invisible fashion. In Nassim Haramein’s new science a baby is created from everything, within and without woman. From zero points. Magnetism brings baby together from a vibration. Listening yourself into existence.

Demons are angels waiting to be born. We can transmute negative expressions into creative force, done with the love that makes other people naturally curious, and want to be involved. Ask someone a question they’re likely to reply yes to, and ask a few more, and when you ask them the question you really want to ask, they’re more likely to say yes. An old sales trick, applied. Simon Welsh’s poems are an attempt to move you from a position of ‘No’ to ‘Yes’.

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