THE WAKING LIFE

By Gabriel Thy • Art Theory • 5 Jul 2008

JUST FOR THE RECORD, my painting is not a hobby, it’s a work of pernicious desperation. And to be clear about that, allow me to put it another way. After fifty years of trench warfare, flailing, wounding and being wounded on the battlefield of words, I have chosen another weapon with which to wage battle against those who would demand from me my soul and insist upon my allegiance to any and sunder of these grotesque, viciously competitive arguments contemporary life offers. The inquisitive mind of the diligent seeker hacking through the kudzu of civilization, its sleepwalkers, and its enemies is always at peril. Whether delivered with a calm whisper or a bone-chilling rant, it’s the same shouting of which side are you on? It’s the same seductive shell game aimed to recruit and implicate, taking you off your own uniquely, sweat-and solace-inspired path. For what? the same old, same old, but now we are substituted a host of new partners who may or may not have one’s best interests in mind as they squiggle in pursuit of their own. What rubbish! The Organization. Sanctified. Polished. Well-funded, or NOT. Either way, the trap is set before you.

Where on God’s Green Acre is the DMZ in all this ? There is none. Not in one’s own home. Not in one’s own mind. There’s always some entity ready to step up with you to the firing post or down with you in the dirty ditch as long as you agree to pursue the party line. Yes sir. Marching off as to war. Stuffed to the gills with pamphlets and profiteers piled high upon your back.

War and Peace. Brother against brother.

I may cherish and respect them both but only at arm’s length. Or I may loathe them with every ounce of integrity I command, but I reject them all as tightly torqued gears of the consumer society, eager to pounce and package me with the same wrapping they adorn themselves. The anti-uniformity packaging is easily pierced with a hard look beyond the surface tension of its delivery system.

Painting, painting exactly as I do, is my own brutalized response to each and every one of them. To quote the poet of my generation, sometimes the devil comes as a man of war, but sometimes he comes as a man of peace. I ask then, where is the false consciousness of those who would portray the Luxmachina of my own aspirations as merely the illusion of a “sensitive” personal constitution?

Not even Pablo Picasso (that asshole) could be ursurped by an ideology’s need for famous lynchpins and reputations in their stable of tools and weapons for further recruitment. In a 1945 interview with Jerome Seckler, Picasso explains:

“If I paint a hammer and sickle people may think it is a representation of Communism, but for me it is only a hammer and sickle. I just want to reproduce the objects for what they are, not for what they mean.”

Death may be lonely, but life among the recruiters is far lonelier. Condescension is the law. The only mass movement I am interested in, is the movement of my own mass upon the path I am already storming so as to inspire my own sense of fear, awe and love, disappointment, recovery, crass numerology, entitlement and peace.

For our dear magnificent, delirious Picasso also said, “Painting is not made to decorate apartments, it’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.” (Tery, Picasso, n’est pas officer dans l’Armee francaise, Les Lettres Francaises, March 24, 1945)

Me? I’ve narrowed it down to occasionally wanting to hang out and talk the talk with fellow painters. To smash the knots governing painting. That’s personal. Then there’s the whatnot dealers, the galleries, the special collectors. If I have any say so in my future, it is that I want to confine myself to these people. To meet the mark. That’s the challenge. Global politics IS about peace. And I think I am already in that combat, and have been for all of my conscious life, with exception of playing soldiers as a kid. But that kidstuff came natural as a result of heritage and culture. Not that it’s been easy. I have blood on my hands, maybe, maybe not so much, but it’s a life of bruises and egos. We have ALL, each and every one of us, contributed to the crimes of our own natures. Basic sin. We’ve all had to be dusted off every once in a while. All that is in my blood, and by deed of hand of head. Yours too, no doubt. And as the story goes I am staging myself from a family of pioneers, kings, governors, soldiers, bankers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, numbers keepers, carpenters, peach peddlers, drunks, and now, here I am barely in my fifties, but not yet thirty, the eldest son five of a navy piss drunk carpenter and his woman, my mother, a woman trailed by a remarkable track record of dog-eared discontent which become a staple in her childrearing arsenal. Then we rock on into MY generation.

That’s the narrative I am poised to paint and weave into my worldview (without appearing passè).

The world is full of stories. I am one. We are another. I don’t presume to presume a lot about other people except general nicety, but how so often even that small portion of human kindness is missing. Fortunately, I have my true spruce with Liberty Sue, and a handful of nice friends these days. But friends, well, as Jim Morrison put it, he preferred the feast of friends to the giant family, yet it’s been one of the twisted poverties of my own peculiar life to have found neither to be much comfort or strength, both somewhat suspect, both very competent at failing to meet fair chunks of their own words even halfway. But my own corruptions and failures and spotty loyalty (in terms of ALWAYS putting THEM first) across the tracks can’t be avoided either.

Go figure. Stuck. Stuckism.

Did I fail to mention that I watched Richard Linklater’s Waking Life again this morning? Tough flick. Delivers an existential punch to philosophy framers everywhere they groom themselves. Third or fourth time I guess I’ve watched it over the years. A tough, intelligent objectivist-collapsing device at endgame. Awesome animation technique that Linklater picked up from a few pioneers.

I’d love to be able to say I can memorize the entire dialogue, do it, and then converse dazzlingly at fashionable dinner parties all across this brave land, but I’m just a painter now, and besides, I pretty much have internalized most of the chicanery, and had done so before sitting for Linklater. But it’s still a cheeky flick to check out…

Five elephant trumpets.

Then there’s Martine and Norman’s Midnight Movie tonight. I do very much want to go, but with Liberty Sue gone to the Florida, me in a dietary rush, so much weight to lose, so little time, I tell myself I can’t afford to place myself in a jovial crowd with lots and lots of calories to be passed around, with so much studio work awaiting me. But here’s Norman’s great plan for tonight:

“In lieu of true independence, Martine and I have decided to celebrate films that said “Fuck you” to standard Hollywood ideals, and are hosting the first of our “Midnight Movie Madness” series. We’re kicking it off with the film that has been credited as being the first movie to be intentionally shown at midnight because the distributors had no idea what else to do with it: El Topo.

“This surreal western has been listed as favorites by John Lennon (who actually persuaded a friend to buy the rights and get its first distribution in the U.S. going), directors David Lynch and Samuel Fuller, actors Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, and performers Bob Dylan, Marilyn Manson, and Peter Gabriel. It has been claimed that this movie was the beginning of Gabriel’s inspiration for the classic Genesis concept album, ‘The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’.

So get your late night faces on and come enjoy “El Topo” with us! BYOB and snacks.”

See what I mean? It sounds divine and delicious…

I’ll decide later. I have a few hours before curtains.

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