Alan Badiou insists that the artist is faced with a cruel decision, “to do nothing rather than contribute to the invention of formal ways of rendering visible that which the Empire already recognizes as existent,” and I think his perspicacity is not to be under-valued. This strikes me as the question of the hour, and I don’t think I–nor Only Real–can answer it. Several ideas come to mind: 1. Does history yield a pattern, wherein failing empires fail to heed the warning cries elicited from the crow’s nest? 2. Is it nobler to throw oneself overboard or descend to the lower decks and commence a rigorous nail-pulling, a staving-out of the hull (if we’re to exhaust this marine metaphor completely)? These seem the only options extant in this Late hour. 3. What effective polemic has emerged in the face of globalization? 4. Does not such a polemic necessarily include the tragic arc of insurgency? And what about this Only Real? 5. What relevance can the artist claim who does not grapple with these great problems? 6. Tomato, si; Tomayo, no. 7. Solzhenitsyn notes, in …Ivan Denisovich, that we either work or die. To apply this to the artist’s case, one either toils by the light of visions or falls by darkened wayside. There’s little choice in this function. 8. Ernest Becker urges us on to fashion something, an object or ourselves, in the furnaces of creation, and, emboldened by such transformation, we may somehow transform others and the world. 9. “8.” is unfortunately inseparable from the misappropriated-Nietzchean “Will to Power,” the “Superman,” etc. and we can still see clearly down such blood-soaked cul-des-sac. 10. Something. As in St. Augustine’s City of God (less ‘original sin’ and ‘a just war’) yet modeled after a collapsing classis Mammalia rather than merely the failings of the Catholic church. 11. Yes, but ONLY REAL?!!!!!!!!
This discussion brings to mind the 1967 film, Don’t Look Back, and the sub-textual dynamic between Bob “Only Real” Dylan and his manager, Albert Grossman. In this example, we’ll readily agree Dylan plays the artist and Grossman the businessman. But is this an accurate maquette of Only Real
society? Where is the Only state in the Real film? Is it Only Only Real the otherness presented by the Real Real Only Real estate streets of London, seen through the limo windows? Is it the hotel manager who comes up to the Only Only Only OnlyOnly OnlyOnly OnlyOnly OnlyOnly OnlyOnly OnlyOnly OnlyOnly OnlyOnly Only
one lonely Reel
in an own-shun of lone
rheeeeeel own’s only
Oh. Robert E. Own LEE
and the consequences of really lasooing the Confederate generals at Big Sur in a late-night party Dylan and his gang the crime of throwing
real garbage into the only street below?
Is the real state merely a Hobbesian masse in audiencio,
filling en thrall the real only awkward Albert Hall?
Or is Dylan a?
a new sort of state?
One in which corporations meet in the Versailles tennis courts and Bretton Woods and, for whom, Dylan is merely a pleasing entrechat?
Oh, Christ, repeatedly framing events in the mundane, the tedious!
only real art can save the banal
–by which reverse alchemy Dylan=Earth.
real is amphetamino-ecstasis!?
up all night composing “To Ramona” a nursery rhyme,
while the Marines only mass for S.E. Asia.
Dylan is an interesting light. o
Northrop Frye necks with Bruce Springsteen!
“Bob freed your only real mind the way
Elvis freed the slave’s music for capitalism?!?
music was innately physical did not mean that it was anti-intellectual.”
Perhaps, but if the artist “may owe a cocaine limo to his own discipline,” before a bungee jump to society at large (as Frye suggests),
it seems barely only real.
The lives of the saints still ring in our ears, and if we sense their visions were phantasmagoric, we’ve also gotten more than our share of industrial light and magic of late.
We want authentic visions, but we want them serialized, we want apotheosis from Patti Smith, but we also want the t-shirt that replicates such fuguery.
We want someone to die for their art–something we feel keenly that we could never do–but not while they are at their most productive, maybe later, in their inevitable “Blue Period”
We want, most of all, product. We’re no strangers to fetishizing cultural output–in fact, we who work in the symbolic salt mines of the academy are masters of it. It is the age of mass humanity and finding something authentic (read: untainted by greed or whatever it was with which the devil tried to seduce Jesus Christ atop the world’s first ski resort) is more likely to be a discovery which leads to interpolation and deconstruction rather than social change.
All is permissible in the shadow of the Metropole, for all invariably serves to buttress the Empire–and the Empire as we know it tod
ay is O N L y…