Monday, 7 May 2012

Yes! We Have No Bananas!

… Pirate's mob gather at the shores of the great refectory table…crowded now over the swirling dark grain of its walnut uplands with banana omelettes, banana sandwiches, banana casseroles, mashed bananas moulded into the shape of a British Lion rampant, blended with eggs into batter for French toast , squeezed out a pastry nozzle across the quivering creamy reaches of a banana blancmange to spell out the words "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre" (attributed to a French observer during the Charge of the Light Brigade) which Pirate has appropriated as his motto ... tall cruets of pale banana syrup to pour oozing over banana waffles, a giant glazed crock where diced bananas have been fermenting since the summer with wild honey and muscat raisins, up out of which, this winter morning, one now dips foam mugs full of banana mead ... banana croissants and banana kreplach, and banana oatmeal and banana jam and banana bread, and bananas flamed in ancient brandy Pirate brought back last year from a cellar in the Pyrenees...
Tutsy and I had been discussing where we could go show-off our new Vita’s Boudoir outfits. I had in mind – rather predictably, on reflection - something gothic, churchy, grave yard-like and tp’d over to a region called Legion.
“Nein, mon beignet framboise!” the French artist exclaimed. “We have usurped the despot President Nicky Sardonic and now we must celebrate like a seagull following a trawler for a sardine!”

I stared back at him, blankly.
“Open your mind, mon cherry!
Be free like an albatross smoking Gitanes on the bank of La Seine!
We need to reflect the colour of the feathers of peacocks!
We need to hear the music of Paris S’éveille!
We need to dance like the Bronze Venus!”
“You’re bananas, you are,” I replied.

“Nein, mon gȃteau á la crème peu! I have never been more sane! Follow me, and prepared to be amazed!”
He tp's me to a destination unknown, and I follow....

Le Cactus’ is a fabulous installation by Maya Paris, hosted on the SBCC (Santa Barbara City College) region.
At ‘Le Cactus’ you are invited to ‘throw a banana on your head, dance on a cactus and tickle a tentacle!’ And so we should!
But first, immediately on arriving, switch on your music stream and listen to 1920’s and ‘30’s Big Band Jazz Swing as you take in the vibrant colours and the ambience that Maya has created.

‘Le Cactus’ is a homage to American-French dancer, singer and actress Josephine Baker (1906 – 1975), African-American jazz musician Valaida Snow (1904 – 1956) and French singer-songwriter Jacques Dutronc (b. 1943).
Now, truth be told...I had not heard of any of these three artists before arriving today at Maya’s installation…but Tutsy had and, in fact, declared that he loved Dutronc’s work.

‘Le Cactus’ is very much in the style of an Old Time Music Hall popular from the 1850’s to the middle of the 20th century. One is almost anticipating the arrival on stage of a genial compare to introduce a cheeky but loveable stand-up comedian like Max Wall or Arthur Askey (singing ‘I Want a Banana’).
‘Le Cactus’ like a lot of Maya’s other work, has two characteristics which I particularly adore: it is quirky and fun – her humour abounds within her work - and it is very interactive.
Most every object is interactive in some way or other, be it a ‘sit’ or a singles dance animation or a URL to a Baker, Snow or Dutronc web page.

One sad omission, in my opinion, was that we could not find a couples dance machine. Sometimes it is nice to dance cheek-to-cheek while discussing the finer points of Sartre’s existentialism or correcting Napoleon’s disastrous military strategy of 1812.
A small point, perhaps. But certainly one that Maya should keep in mind if she should ever decide a career change and give up being one of SL’s most successful and popular artists and instead decide to be a Second Life Club Owner.
The “Main Attraction”, so to speak, is a large four-seater Banana Carrousel which explodes with joyous particle delight whenever someone takes a seat. Fabulous fun!
It was like winning the jackpot on a very, very large fruit machine!

Now, I know that in some quarters this is a dreadfully uncool thing to say but, ‘Le Cactus’ is a happy place. It made me feel happy and light-hearted.
I enjoyed it immensely.
There. I said it.
And, yes. I have no bananas, today.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Occupy Art

She watches Marvy's face as he pays Monika,
watches him in this primal American act, paying,
more deeply himself than when coming, or asleep, or maybe even dying
-         Gravity’s Rainbow (1973), Thomas Pynchon

It is fitting that on May 1stLabour Day in many countries – that we consider the ‘Occupy Art’ movement.
This movement’s art is especially interesting to me because it frequently uses the techniques of corporate advertising and State information propagation to promote subversive and dissident themes.
Broadly-speaking, the Occupy Art movement targets the wealthiest “1%” ruling-class by empathising with the other “99%” – with both of these expressions fast on their way to becoming iconic in their own right.  Shared media and the internet are the main vehicles of dissemination.
There is of course nothing new about subversive art. It has been with us in many media for many millennia. Usually the subversion takes the form of the artist using their talents to undermine the established icons and symbols of the cultural, religious and political norms. For very pragmatic reasons of personal safety, the act of subversion within the art work was often hidden or ambiguous (“plausible deniability”) and only understood by a small “in-crowd” or group of initiates. Subversion was never before intended for the mass consumption.
And that, I think, is what makes the Occupy Art different. It is quite clear that the movement is motivated to bring seditious ideas to the masses but – and this is an important distinction with past subversive art - as a collaborative act between the artist and the mass audience; both are “in” on it. This is not a case of attempted manipulation, nor is it an attempt to transmit a secret communication to a circle of acolytes.
No. This is the artist and the audience knowingly sharing symbolism with the explicit intention of broadcasting a very unambiguous message to a very specific group of individuals.
Occupy Art is bold, brash, unequivocal and unashamedly partisan. It is essentially poster art; and I don’t mean that to sound derisory in any way.
The Occupy Art movement are seemingly not as concerned with commercial considerations as they are with getting their message out there. Generally the work is not intended to be brought-and-sold but rather “disseminated”.
To aid the spread of their ideas and images, the Occupy Art movement frequently support ‘copyleftism’. I have to say however, that Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley's idea of “All Rights Reversed” from their 1965 seminal religious text The Principia Discordia is much, much funnier - although admittedly less likely to find a sound legal footing! All Hail Discordia!
Much of Occupy Art looks similar to the propaganda posters of many governments past and present. And well it might because it is very obvious that as well as serving a social purpose, Occupy Art also has a political purpose.
In fact, one of the things I like most about the Occupy Art movement is their creative use of propaganda techniques previously only employed by governments and corporations and turning it around back in on them – not only the images themselves but also the heavy use of slogans and the relentless distribution of the message.
Occupy Art is important, not necessarily for its imagery as such, but for the message it conveys - and the whys and wherefores behind that message. And, of course, it is important with respect to those whom the message is addressed.
Occupy Art is a mechanism which anyone can use – by creating it oneself, by including it on one’s blog or social media page or by a myriad of other ways – to show personal dissatisfaction with the way things are, with the way that the planet is currently being governed. It is an instrument to protest the unfair distribution of wealth and assets, corporate ownership of human essentials, homelessness, starvation, wage slavery and all the rest.
Since the House of Medici in the 14th Century, the creation of the Bank of England in 1694, the enactment of the Federal Reserve in 1913 and – perhaps most troublesome  of all – the invention of the Black-Scholes formula in 1973 normal people on this planet  - the 99% - have been without a voice and thus have not been heard.
The Occupy Art movement provides a zeitgeist for the 99% to unite around; the Internet provides the means of distribution for the ideas.
Only time will tell whether the message is heard by the ruling-classes and what the consequences might be if/when it is heard.
It may not be very pretty.
(click to enlarge images)
Pixie xx