because the personal is cultural
2019 Levels of Mediocrity
Ça va bien aller. “We’re all in this together” and other positive affirmations.
Early in the pandemic, in a panel on Zoom, one of the curators where I work said that he feared that all new works would be about the pandemic, although he understood that it would be something that people would need to process. Now I fear that none will be. Even the most realistic movies and TV series have gone out of their way to create a world where the pandemic never happened. Judges on Nailed It sat a bit further apart. If there were post-pandemic generations, they would not believe us.
When a child bumps into a chair, they will be mad at the chair for hurting them.
If I wear a mask when I walk into a restaurant, can I take it off when I sit down to eat?
If we have not been able to adapt to the pandemic, we will most certainly not be able to adapt to climate change.
I tell a friend that I might make an exception for my birthday and go to a punk show.
“When’s your birthday?”
“In five months.”
Things are now changing so fast that, because works are programmed years ahead of time, by the time they are presented, they are already outdated. To present works that are still relevant, we might have to do away with programming works altogether and rather offer artist residencies that end with a presentation to minimize the amount of time between programming and presentation as much as possible.
Most works I have had the chance to see since the beginning of the pandemic have felt completely disconnected from reality. The only time I didn’t feel that way was at the outdoor Phoebe Bridgers concert at Parc Jean-Drapeau, even though they had to interrupt the show four times because people in the audience kept falling unconscious, including twice – fittingly – during their climactic song “I Know the End”: “I’m not afraid to disappear / The billboard said ‘The end is near’ / I turned around, there was nothing there / Yeah, I guess, the end is here.”
As the nihilistic characters in Roger Avary’s The Rules of Attraction (based on Bret Easton Ellis’s novel) stumble towards their violent demise, they attend a series of parties the names of which move from the mundane to the apocalyptic: A Pre Saturday Night Party Party, Dressed to Get Screwed Party, The Edge of the World Party, and – finally – End of the World Party. I was wondering when such themed parties would begin occurring, but of course we haven’t reached the acceptance stage yet.
Then I saw the colourful, balloon-filled poster for grindcore band Captured! By Robots’s USA & Canada Fall Tour 2022: “FINAL FUNERALS! IT’S YOUR LAST CHANCE TO DIE!!! You’re invited!! TO THE FUNERAL FOR THE HUMAN RACE / COME CELEBRATE THE END OF HUMANITY”. The few balloons that aren’t filled with human skulls are adorned with a series of tormenting phrases: “YOU DESERVE THIS / STUPID IDIOTS / YOU DID IT TO YOURSELVES / YOU’RE DONE / HAHAHA / YAY!!” It’s possible that the poster flows from the concept at the heart of the band – human singer JBOT performs as a man enslaved by guitar/bass- and drum-playing robots – but it still felt strangely à propos.
When we used to talk about timeless works, of course we didn’t really mean timeless; we meant works that remain relevant to human beings across time. Our idea of timelessness was like Milan Kundera’s in his novel Immortality – the images of others that persist, whether we knew them or not – hilariously androcentric and short-sighted. We no longer need timeless works; we need works that are relevant to the times we are living in. Or, if works are to be timeless, then we must mean that they will be relevant not to human beings but to mushrooms, worms, cockroaches.
“What another would have done as well as you, don't do. What another would have said as well as you, don't say, -- written as well as you, don't write,” wrote André Gide in his essential Les Nourritures terrestres. Now, I would add “What you would have done as well in 2019, don’t do.”
From now on, every show should be titled We Are Dancing on Our Future Graves.
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has an MA in Film Studies and works in contemporary dance. His fiction has appeared in Headlight Anthology, Cactus Heart, and Birkensnake.