Monday, March 31, 2008

You Can Do Anything You Want

I'll thank my friend Max for introducing me to The Boredoms. And while you may be able to listen to this group of noise-rockers from Osaka on MySpace, I don't think you'll get to hear what I heard. Which was: a seven-neck guitar, played like a, um, gong? Drum? I don't have terminology for this, because as far as I know, it's never existed.

Let me be clear: There were also three full drum kits onstage. The Guitar Tower, which Max dubbed "The Guitower," was simultaneously a percussive and melodic sound, unlike anything I've experienced before. The show hurt me and thrilled me, and I had to wear earplugs for most of it, to be able to listen. My clothes were vibrating.
So I try to describe it: a tribal celebration on Mars, an ancient ritual from the future, something terrifyingly beautiful, like a mountain or a three-mile-high waterfall. One had to enter a sort of trance to follow the rising and falling, the crescendo and decrescendo, the building to climax over and over and over again. And, one had to dance. There was no option not to move.
During the week prior to this show, I read Kurt Vonnegut. I read Cat's Cradle, and was taught, shall we say, SCHOOLED on how brilliantly imaginative and whimsical serious literary fiction can actually be. Ice-nine. Seven-neck guitar. Bokonon. Yoshimi. Do you see where I'm going with this?
You can do whatever you want. This was the major lesson of the week. This is not a simplistic, amoral assertion of permission to pick my nose in public, nor is it an abandoning of any principle. In fact, it's the greatest principle. This is a declaration of absolute creative freedom in service to others, in service to creativity itself, in service to the New, the Beautiful, the Transformative. I can make whatever it is I want to make, and no marketing plan or university job or social standards of normalcy should stop me. No artist is guaranteed an audience, but at least the potential for success in something totally unexpected is there, has precedent, and that is hopeful.
The Boredoms come screaming, dancing, grunting, pounding, screeching, throbbing into a sort of contract: this time we spend together will be different from the hour before and the hour after. People who were overwhelmed or cynical knew it immediately, and left. People who wanted to be changed put their hands in the air and hooted and laughed and thrashed their heads around. I was one more little vessel, infused with newness and once again innoculated against all the "shoulds" that detract from the biggest and most important: Should Love, Should Create.
There are so many treacherously bland routines in my life that exhaust me, decisions I need to make that stress me, and tasks to complete that suck out the marrow of my waking hours. Even when I'm making more money from creative work this will be at least partially true. I fight inertia with the things I write about here, but still, I'm often the one in charge of setting up the opportunity for beauty or hilarity. This time, I got taken along, and that has to be at least part of why I was so affected. Max told me to see the Boredoms, and I didn't decide if I liked them before I went. Tony told me to read Cat's Cradle, and I didn't decide if I'd read "enough" Vonnegut before jumping in. Both were utterly affecting and important, and I didn't find them on my own. What a relief. Not only can I do whatever I want, I can trust my friends to help me.


  1. Yes! Trust! Freedom! Art!

    A marching cry blog, Vanessa. But I have to wonder in our pursuit of artistic expression should room be made for a perception of audience. Should the artist project out at all to the crowd, the reader, the viewer, while in the process of creating? Do you think Vonnegut did that? The Boredoms?

    Also, anyone reading this blog without commenting, without feeling compelled to say something, anything, should really get their blood pressure checked...asap.

  2. The artist is the audience. If you are creating, then there is a need for your creation. If there is a need, then it is not unlikely that it is shared by more than yourself. When those with whom you share your need partake of your creation, or create it with you, then there is an audience. That any art is somehow more "palatable than any other seems to me to be an illusion. It may be more timely, more on the level of the the general population's ability to honor and understand its collective and individual experiences, but art is not rejectable. It is not a piece of rotten food which species body vomits up almost as soon as it is consumed. Art is like a person swimming to shore. The they may drown with the effort to stay afloat; some will make it out alive to tell their story; both went into the water kicking and screaming. Maybe art is defined by that struggle to live, and our understanding is just a lucky break; I think that art gets created before the creator is entirely aware, the making is just what we do to give the art a chance to get to shore, and it's not entirely the creator's business whether the shore is actually there.

  3. Love! Thank you for BEING. Thank you for writing. Max, your comment is as beautiful as the blog itself. I've had this revelation too, and lost it, and found it again. Reading this was one act of finding, as we seeing Sophie B. Hawkins last week: the incarnation of exactly the same mirth, delight, creation, exaltation of artistic presence, anythingness present in these words, this story. What I thought of during her set, to add to this audience noise, was that surely she is conscious of the audience: it's movements, it's volume, but that this in no way drives the creative act. The audience, and Max perfected a metaphor here, needs to get up to her level. She created the space, the beauty, the potential for attainment of grace and we had to get UP there, OVER there, TO that shore. Much of the audience didn't, and it mattered less than any performance i've seen. YES, project out the crowd, to make artist and audience one, to bring them eliminate "them" and create what is shared.

  4. This is a short video taken of the Boredoms playing music the following night:

  5. You say you got your inspiration for this creative revelation from The Boredoms. Perhaps, I say. But was it not Hootie that first planted the seed in you that it's okay to like any form of expression, no matter how debatable its artisitic credentials?

  6. I think Karl's brought up a very different debate. Whether an artist must consider audience is wholly other from whether one should evaluate "artistic credentials" when deciding preferences. Oh, you think your preferences are innate, instinctual? A few years ago I couldn't have stayed at the Boredoms for more than five minutes--I would have been too affected by how loud, how painfully goddamn loud it was. But now, I'm no longer thinking "it's okay" to like something not everyone will like. Now I'm thinking, "what important information can this experience bring me? Will it educate me about my culture, or another culture? Will it break down some trope or paradigm I didn't realize I was using? Will it remind me of my life's fight? Will it comfort me, bolster me, encourage me?" And so on.
    What I LIKE is oftentimes somewhat different from what provokes me or encourages me to greatness, and I think that's a character flaw to work out. If I enjoy something that other people don't (which forces me to face childhood bullshit about popularity, being part of a crowd, etc), it's a very different matter from my enjoying something that I myself think is vapid or harmful in some way (which forces me to exit the culture of accepted "guilty pleasures").
    As an artist, I think it is important to make work that serves the deeper desires for expansion of possibility and greatness, and truly thrill myself. It seems likely, per Max's ideas, that what deeply thrills me will also deeply thrill someone else, if we can only find each other.
    The trick is to train oneself to only like (and love) things one can respect! And then to make things that one loves!

  7. Very true. About five years ago, I went to a noise rock concert in a small bar in Chicago. I stood in frozen terror as the band rolled on the ground, screached guitars in ways I never imagined, and finished with what looked like a 17-minute seizure. At the time, I very much hated every person in the room, and would have been tempted to order their execution.

    Time and perspective are all too valuable here. It was, like you say, Vanessa, a learning experience. Whether I respect their experiment is not something I'm ready to concede. But that it worked for them, and clearly some members of the audience, is a certainty. Connections were made. Hearing was lost. Yet underneath it all was a thread of expression that is worth knowing, if not loving.

  8. My answer to tony's question, 'should allowance be made during creative process for the audience' is: some artists, yes, others no. I think you will know if you are the type who must make no allowances, or the type who can and must make them.

    I love this line: "my clothes were vibrating"