by Ross Sharp
Do you own books? Do you buy them? Do you read them?
I have a suggestion for you.
Throw them out. Throw them out now.
Construct for yourself a wondrous and fearsome pyre so that you may purge your life of these vainglorious conceits, these words. Clean your mind.
Is there art on your walls? Originals, prints, posters?
Turn them to face your walls, and gaze on them no longer.
Dispose of your music, vinyl records, your compact discs. Delete your iTunes. Throw out your devices. All of them. Films? Those too. Out, out. Your television, your radio. Everything. Out.
Objets d’art? Jewellery? Curios? To hell with them all.
Do you eat from plates, with cutlery, do you drink from glassware, do you sit on chairs or sofas, do you sleep on a bed?
Stop this now.
Visit no cinemas, no theatres. No galleries. Attend no concerts or recitals.
These things, these foul things, are but the disposable externalities of the human condition, depraved, a hollow and unprofitable condition of mankind’s docile and self-indulgent intellectual degeneracy.
You will live in a concrete box, a brick box. You will sleep on cardboard, and let newspapers be your coverlet. You will wake each morning, you will clean yourself, you will drape yourself in shapeless rags, you will go to your place of work, and when your day’s work is done, you shall return to your box, your pasteboard bed, your paper blankets, you will stare at walls, through windows, and nothing shall disturb, arouse or engage your senses.
Do you understand?
You are living in a world without art, without design. Without science. Nothing to capture your eye, nothing to turn your head in wonder, astonishment, no sights, no sounds, no words in which to lose yourself, all memories lost, all history dead, all life a grim parade of achromatic gloom, function without form, an aesthetic without aesthetic, to brutalism and beyond.
You will return to your box one night, you will take a knife, a sharp knife, and you will plunge it deep into your throat, draw it across your neck, severing both carotid arteries, and as your flesh splits, as your blood spills, you will write on the wall, this crimson scrawl, the only thought you have left, this …
“See that my grave is kept clean”.
There is a tendency among the smug, sneering maggots of commerce and industry, and their chittering, conservative counterparts in commercial/tabloid media to dismiss and deride “the arts”, especially contemporary arts, as the mere follies and fripperies, the unfathomable and mystifying works of “luvvies”.
To these silver spoon-fed, elitist toffee-snots, anything which challenges, which confronts their preconceptions of what “art” is, or what it should be, is deemed either laughable or of no value whatsoever, mere entertainments. What they cannot comprehend is what we should not, and to defy their ignorance, to enter into an argument of defence, is to be branded a “luvvie” as well, which is pretty much all they’ve got, and ever have had, by way of comeback.
Poor Precious Petals.
These conservatives, or “libertarians” as many now brand themselves so as to avoid (perfectly justifiable) comparisons to far-right madmen like Anders Breivik (with whom they share so much in common), see fit to anoint themselves judge and jurors, willing and ready to gleefully indict any who trespass, who dare transgress against their safe, staid and stodgy tastes, the comforting pleasures of predictability afforded them by the classicism of Dead White European Males, where every note is known, where the rules are never broken, the authorities are always supermen, and all things are always reassuringly pretty and happy and gay.
“Luvvies”, indeed. Poor Precious Petals. So soft, so delicate in the sensibilities.
Irrespective of the discipline, our ruling classes, die führungsschicht, find “the arts” too harsh a mistress, too unforgiving an adjudicator, cruelly comic reflections of the grotesque banality which lay under their skins, skins so easily pricked, thin, grey and papery, prick them they bleed, outrage and offence, they howl, they squeal and they squeak, “Indecency!”, “Disgusting!”, “Criminal!”, “Barbaric!”, “Pornography!”, yet these, these leaders, these politicians, these stinking base whores to a fast buck, hypocrites all, thieves in our modest temples, kings and queens in theirs, these are the ones who’d think nothing of fist-fucking a five-month old baby in the backside on the off-chance there were a gold coin to retrieve for their efforts, the ends always justifying the means, they would argue.
It’s the economy, stupid.
Fuck the economy. Stupid.
Ingeborg Van Teeseling, from “The Big Smoke” …
“Not only does art momentarily release us from ourselves … It tells our stories, broadens our minds and makes us think. It fills us with ideas and feelings and, if it is really good, it empowers us. Those are all things politicians do not want in voters. They want us to focus on “jobs and growth,” on whether we can afford to buy a house (and negative gear another), on “the economy,” whatever that is. They don’t want us to think outside the box, or feel something different, because then we become difficult to manage … Art is, therefore, the scariest thing around for politicians. Art reminds them that they are temporary [a blip in human history] and, in the scheme of things, not very important.”
There will be no clamour of crowds in attendance at the funeral services of former Prime Ministers Rudd, Gillard or Abbott, as there will be nothing to remember, nothing to commemorate. The books have already been written, there’ll be nothing but chapters left to write, perhaps nothing but paragraphs, “in the scheme of things”. In “human history”.
No legacy. Nothing.
Unlike H.L. Mencken, unlike Gore Vidal or Studs Terkel, there will be no “collected works” forever in print from the likes of Mark Latham, Andrew Bolt or Miranda Devine or Rowan Dean and their ilk, there is nothing to collect, nothing of substance at least, nothing of lasting import, no history, their documents record nothing beyond their own sense of bloated self-importance, their irrational fears and prejudices, madly and artlessly spat, shat, upon the pages of partisan political pamphlets published by a tweeting fool who fancies himself Emperor Of Our World, Master Of The Universe when, in reality, in “the scheme of things” he is little more than a flea in a sandpit.
Just another Dumb Cunt With Money, one withered fist clutching a bottle of hard-on pills, the other a pre-nup.
Poor old petal.
They all have our best interests at heart. So they say.
They would like us to know what is, and what is not, suitable for our consumption. What is valid, and what is not. What our chillun’ should or should not be a-learnin’. To disagree, to argue, to challenge their edicts is not something they take kindly to, these luvvies, and difference of opinion is not simply that, but a vicious smear, a foul slur, an assault on their right to hold an opinion, “My freedom of speech! My freedom of speech! I have a right to be free with my speech!”, they bleat, oblivious to the fact they have offered their opinion, they have been free with their speech, and a whole lot of people have heard and read same and have quite simply told them to take their opinion and their speech and blow it out their fat, fucking arses.
The conservative “elite”. They’re a little soft of belly, the poor dears.
The Age, May 26, 2016 …
“Books, plays and films studied for VCE will soon be screened to ensure they don’t offend religious and cultural groups.
Education Minister James Merlino has ordered the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority (VCAA) to review its text selection process for VCE English, literature, drama and theatre studies.
A spokesman for Mr Merlino said the Minister requested to “extend” the guidelines to “ensure that the views and sensitivities of cultural and religious groups are considered”.
President of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English Monika Wagner said challenging texts encouraged students to think critically. “It [the review] does tend to suggest that there would be a single homogenised heteronormative, culturally normative type of text that is considered acceptable. I don’t know what that text would be but that’s what I would be afraid of.””
Hanya Yanagihara, Author, “A Little Life” …
“I think if we go into the world of art with warnings, we stop looking at visual art, we stop listening to songs, we stop going to the movies, we stop reading fiction, and in the end, you end up cocooning yourself because you’re afraid of getting hurt. I understand that – I understand not wanting to put yourself in situations that are going to call back old traumas, but the fact is you’ll never know how you’re going to react until you start reacting. I think trying to live life in a preventive way does no one any favours.”
The purpose of art, of science, all of it, is not to soothe, to pander to preconceptions, misconceptions, it is to fuck with your mind, to mess it up, or, as John Waters said, “wreck what came before”.
To a conservative, “critical thinking” is one thought too far, an offence to ideology, beliefs held so close to their breasts, and in their minds, that both heart and mind atrophy from lack of real-world experience, from genuine inquiry, inquisitive minds do not need to know, they need to be told what they must know, unquestioningly accept disciplined, righteous instruction on what is wrong and what is right, forget the why of it, curiosity kills cats, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, too much …
Snowden, and others who came before him, Daniel Ellsberg, Jeffrey Wigand, Sherron Watkins; the doctors and workers from Manus and Nauru who have defiantly documented the horrors perpetrated (in our name) upon refugees in those criminal hellholes are, whether they know it or not, all engaged in the “art” of deconstruction, challenging the status quo, finger-fucking the lazy, hazy minds of those who complacently accept and obey it, hauling the sacred cows of authority to the slaughterhouse, fucking things up, and wrecking what has come before, what we thought we knew, they’re making life difficult, they’re making people think. Critically.
These are the enemies of the people, as are all artists, of the state, the Demonic Other, who would dare reveal “democracy” as nothing other than a polite and highly developed form of commercialised totalitarianism, where authentic forms of social consciousness must be ridiculed, marginalised, subjected and replaced by a chaste, Spartan ideology as promoted by the vainglorious conceits and unselfconscious hubris of extreme right-wing cultural fascists whose seething and resentful hatred of complexity, of thought, intellectual pursuits, honest reflection and creativity itself is their only aesthetic, the brute aesthetics of fear, of loathing, of the violence of body and of the mind.
A humane politic, which is to say, that capable of bridging the gap between reality and the mobilisation of spirit, is no longer possible, nor is it achievable. It is not even desirable, and so art, all art, in all its forms, must embrace the political, its memes and tropes, in order to kill what has come before, to transform it, to wreck it …
Peter Frankopan, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 25, 2016 …
“Societies that are inclusive, self-confident and successful go out of their way to promote the arts. Even the Mongols, whose reputation is considerably lower even than the present [Australian] government, singled out artists for particularly generous treatment. Those involved in creative arts had immense resources pushed in their direction to encourage them to create works of beauty that would frame their legacy. Cities and monuments across Asia bear witness to the funds lavished on culture by the Mongols and their successors. It is saying something when modern politicians stand up badly in comparison to Genghis Khan, Timur the Great (Tamburlaine) and those around them.”
We are not that society.
Richard Flanagan, The Guardian Australia, May 19, 2016 …
“The disenfranchisement of the imagination is ever the disempowerment of the individual. There is, after all, both a bitter irony and a profound connection in a government that would condemn the wretched of the earth as illiterate, while hard at work to rob its own people of their culture of words.”
$55 million to “settle” two refugees in Cambodia. $632 million to “maintain” refugee detention camps on Manus Island per year. $582 million ditto for Nauru. Per year. $50 billion to construct twelve submarines. So that we may defend ourselves against countries we cannot defend ourselves against.
In 2014, $100 million cut from the Arts sector. In 2015, $104 million.
Kate Mulvaney, Actor and Playwright …
“… knows there are “bigger issues” than the arts, with Indigenous people and refugees being “silenced”. But it’s the arts community that “historically has the guts to speak out on these issues”.
“Like so many of the characters and narratives that exist in society, there’s only so many times you can be told ‘You don’t meet our model of excellence’ before you start to get worn down and a very dark fear kicks in.
“Our community suffers. Our families suffer. Our culture suffers. That moral compass spins out of control, unattended. When these things happen, our stories disappear – sometimes tragically.”
The Guardian Australia, May 4, 2016 …
“Fairfax photographer Alex Ellinghausen snapped Australia’s immigration minister apparently emerging from the shadows to front to the media on Tuesday. [Peter] Dutton was holding a press conference about the self-immolation of a second asylum seeker on Nauru, which he said was the fault of refugee advocates.
Stephanie Peatling, Ellinghausen’s colleague and political correspondent, tweeted the photo with the caption “eek”. She was contacted by Dutton’s office, who asked that she take down the “unflattering” image.”
It didn’t work.
This did …
“Every reference to Australia was scrubbed from the final version of a major UN report on climate change after the Australian government intervened, objecting that the information could harm tourism.
[Will] Steffen is an emeritus professor at the Australian National University and head of Australia’s Climate Council. He was previously executive director of the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme, where he worked with 50 countries on global change science.
“I’ve spent a lot of my career working internationally,” Steffen said. “And it’s very rare that I would see something like this happening. Perhaps in the old Soviet Union you would see this sort of thing happening, where governments would quash information because they didn’t like it. But not in western democracies. I haven’t seen it happen before.”
You will see it happen again.
Perhaps you will not even notice. Perhaps you will not even care.
You will live in a concrete box, a brick box. You will sleep on cardboard, and let newspapers be your coverlet. You will wake each morning, you will clean yourself, you will drape yourself in shapeless rags, you will go to your place of work, and when your day’s work is done, you will return to your box, your pasteboard bed, your paper blankets, you will stare at walls, through windows, and nothing shall disturb, arouse or engage your senses.
You can go the polls on July 2nd, and you can cast your vote to fuck things up, to fuck it up beautifully, to hang our parliament, to embrace chaos and dysfunction, to outrage and horrify, to make people nervous, fearful, distressed, discomfited.
Let transgression be your creed, deny respect to those of wealth and power who expect it be their birthright. Use ridicule and satire, be offensive, and laugh in the faces of those fools who would allow fear define their lives.
Cry Havoc! Solemnise and Celebrate it!
Returning once more to John Waters, “wreck what came before. Is there a better job description than that to aspire to?”
Kunst ist Kunst! Leben ist Kunst!