Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Grape, The Grain, The Aftermath

I used to work with an Australian woman who was convinced that she was allergic to a new additive in beer. The basis for this was that in her 20s, she never got hangovers at all. In her 30s, though, she did, and the only explanation had to be that there was something new in the beer that she was reacting to.

This morning, I am coming round to her way of thinking. I never used to get hangovers either, and yet today, it feels like my head is a Guns and Roses hotel room, with little puddles of Jack Daniels laying around waiting for people to slip. Meanwhile the drummer is trying to see if he can break his bloody cowbell by hitting it as hard and as fast as he can and the mighty Slash is trying to break glass with the power of pinched harmonics and wailing feedback turned up to 11.

And of course I know the problem. I made the fatal error of mixing the grape and the grain, going from wine to Guinness to Jack. And at the time, there are no warning messages, no 'are you sure?' confirmation boxes to click on. Not that it would have made any difference. Last night I was up for anything, even playing bass on songs I'd never heard before at an open mic and singing Pulp's 'Common People' on an acoustic with a rhythm section who'd never heard the song before. Oh well. At least I'd picked a popular song and the crowd's singing drowned out any mistakes from the stage.

Last night was the private view of my wife's art exhibit for her final degree show. It was the culmination of about 5 months of work by a large number of people. It was a worthy cause for celebration. And free wine flowed like the tears of a first broken heart.

The exhibit looked amazing. It was enormous, a 36 square metre installation of images collected by a Facebook group on the subject of hope and despair. There were word clouds, graffiti art, monitors showing slideshows of the images, a full multimedia event. The external examiner described it as '21st century art'. I'd written a couple of poems and about 40 haikus for it, many other people had been involved on the actual visual art side (I'm hopeless at such things and see the world in 16 colours) and apart from some basic carpentry, there wasn't much I was able to contribute. But I recognise and embrace my limitations. I'm happy to be a consumer of visual art. I don't have the steady hand, the penmanship, the understanding of colour, the gift of proportion or the spatial intelligence to be a visual artist. But give me a word processor (my handwriting is like a seismograph on acid) or an instrument (I can get a tune out of most things) and I might be able to do something.

You might note I keep referring to 'visual artists' rather than the more usual 'artists'. This is a pet peeve of mine. There is an arrogance to the visual arts that annoys me. Despite the fact that there are so many different types of art (the Ancient Greeks recognised nine, one per muse, for dance, poetry, theatre, etc, and we can now add filmmaking, satire, photography, videogames, CGI and several others to the list) the visual arts insist on calling themselves 'art', or more usually, 'Art'. This is the same kind of hubris that led to Microsoft naming their word processor 'Word'. I'd be satisfied if they just called themselves 'an art'. Chemistry doesn't call itself science. English doesn't call itself language. Most subjects recognise that there are many types of science, language or whatever, and don't 'big themselves up', to use the modern parlance. Visual arts, however, seem to think they have a monopoly on all Art. It just seems wrong to me. But I'd probably feel differently if I could paint.

God, my head hurts. Not even smoking helps, and smoking makes everything better. There's a rhythmic throbbing in my temples that is intense enough to make me think, albeit briefly, that I now understand the pain of contractions. To quote Ian Dury: 'I widdle when I piddle 'cause my middle is a riddle'. I've got some kind of intenstinal civil war being fought in places I'd rather not think about and I can't tell if I'm too hot or too cold. It keeps changing.

Carl Jung said that 'the meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed'. Not all reactions or transformations are welcome, however.

The grape and the grain. Keep them separate.

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