Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day 9: uncontrollable sexual energies

In 1922 when Kurt Schwitters performed his ur-sonate for the first time before an audience of the Hanover haute-bourgoisie the effect of his deconstructed language was so powerful that grown men wept. After the First World War, Schwitters, Hugo Ball, Raoul Hausmann, and Richard Heulsenbeck developed a new form poetic form. Coming out of the carnage of the First World War, it was clear that the language used by the peoples of the Europe had become too tainted to be used for poetic expression.

Crudely put, language had formed the basis and the material of a society that had gone mad, a society that expressed itself in a suicidal conflict that killed untold millions of young men in the trench warfare that had soaked Europe in blood. To undermine the foundation of that society, it became necessary to undermine its language. Artists worked to develop new voice works which used emotionally charged sounds rather than words to communicate.

This new language was ineffective in making grocery lists, commanding armies or buying shoes. It could however express a range of emotions and human mental states that the language of commerce and war was no longer capable. This new language could not be used to re-create the state of permanent total war in which Hausmann, Ball, Schwitters and others found themselves immersed.

Though no one wept Thursday night at the Centre A, the full house was moved by a masterful presentation from of this accomplished Canadian sound poet. Nobuo Kubota was relaxed and playful throughout the set, playing the air drumkit, riffing with the street-sounds and punctuating his verbal virtuosities with the occasional high pitched thring from his autoharp.

The score for the recital, Phonic Slices was published by Coach House Books in Toronto in 2001. Kubota had built a sculpture composed of wooden letters. He compacted hundreds of these letters into a cubic mass. He then somehow cut off slices of this mass. These slices became the subject for rubbings. The rubbings of these jumbled letters and parts of letters became the evening’s score: it was a fine example of the disintegration of sense, providing the medium for a subtle exploration of deep and unspeakable (in a nice way) emotions.

At 11pm at the Bestway studio on Pendar, Live’s second show of the evening began, The Turner Prize from Regina.

The scuttlebutt placed this three person group as descendants of the work of Kenneth Anger, the underground experimental film-maker of the late fifties and sixties. (If you’ve never seen “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome”, “Scorpio Rising” or “Kustom Kar Kommandos” go immediately today to rent it from your favorite art-house video store.) Anger’s heady mix of homosexual eroticism, Alister Crowley’s teachings, Egyptology and the sixties drug culture was a seminal influence on avant-garde film-making throughout the 60’s and 70’s.

The Turner Prize’s performance was a particular treat for an ageing male blogger who suffers from the decay of old age. As some of you may know, after the age of forty, pain is a constant companion. Once it visits, it never goes away.

After forty it is a slick slope of loss of hair, muscle tone, dexterity and eyesight acuity. You put on weight and lose your sexual drive. Your teeth fall out and your bones dissolve. It’s a terrible ugly mess, and there’s nothing to be done but dream of days gone by.

The sexual magick by Turner Prize performed on Thursday night was a balm. The three hooded acolytes transformed Bestway into a profane altar where two young and perfect bodies were offered up to the shady dieties of performance.

There was incense, candles, flashing lights, and droning music. With the slow deliberate movements of those fulfilling sacred functions, the acolytes anointed the nude bodies with powders, ointments, and crystals. The couple, a modern Adam and Eve, lay upon the altar becoming entranced by the patterns of light that bathed over their eyes. From the sweat of their naked bodies elixirs were made and offered to the crowd, which drank them, releasing powerful uncontrollable sexual energies.

Ah, to be young again.


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