Year of the Snake


“We are so absorbed by the lightness and vitality of Goya’s line that the beauty of the spectacle makes us forget to condemn the war it represents.”

- Jean Genet, quoted in “The Dualist- Painting, Francis Bacon, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany,” David Cohen, Art in America, Jan., 1997.

“I want a very ordered image, but I want it to come about by chance,” Bacon once said … His infatuation with chance has none of the idealism of Surrealist or Abstract-Expressionist notions of automatism, which link spontaneity to freedom or truth. Instead, his chance is imbued with a nihilistic, existentialist sense of the arbitrary.

- David Cohen, op. cit.


I appended these quotations to this image on the 12th of October 2007. Where was I heading with this thought? I think I’d already been disappointed that my play Study for a Passion was not going to get a production. And I relate the image to the MRI I’d recently undergone to ascertain whether I had a brain tumour. The possibility existed that some sort of growth was pressing on my auditory nerve.

The results from the MRI were clear.

And of course Cafe Brazil had closed 12 days before I intended to make this post.

I think I was going to address the fragility of bones and the goodness of a life dependent on bones. In the event, the experience of the MRI was scarier than living with the possibility a tumour was growing in my head. The certainty of the experience overwhelmed that which I did not then know.

I was warned about metal objects, certain types of fillings in my teeth or piercings or implants or metal pins in my body, that would be ripped out of me when the magnetic donut was turned on. I recall an anecdote about a small oxygen tank left in the same room as the Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine. Perhaps the owner of the tank had small-cell lung cancer like my father.

As soon as the machine was switched on the tank left the floor and hurtled four or so metres through the air before colliding with the insipid medical-cream cladding of the magnet. Whoever was undergoing the procedure at the time was unhurt. But let that be a warning, I was told.

My clothes were taken away. My ear-ring and necklace were removed. The rings were taken off my fingers. I was led into a room necessarily without the usual hospital clutter – lest it unhinge, detach itself from walls or floor and crash into patient and or machine. The room was bigger than expected. And I recall the jaunty angle on which the machine was set. Observers sat behind, first, a large tinted window, such as you would find in a nuclear laboratory and related to those mirrored panels in police interview rooms, second a battery of computer monitors, of the old sort, as I remember, CRTs.

I was told to lie down on a narrow gurney, that made no concessions to the form of the body, which retracted into the donut-configured magnet. A plasticated metal cage was fitted over my head and face and then… or was it the other way around? … a pair of industrial-scale – like a pilot’s and co-pilot’s – headphones was placed over my ears. I’m pretty sure the cage came first then the headpones.

I was asked about music. Did I like this?

Was it loud enough?



I did the thumbs up, inspired by my pilot’s phones. Then the gurney I lay on was retracted into the magnet.

There have been experiments, the usual kind, into the inner workings of women at orgasm, wherein a couple have been expected to have sex in one of these MRIs. Unbeleivable two bodies could fit, let alone move enough for either of them to come. Perhaps the couple were inspired by some kind of medical fantasy? … But then I think of the reason for my big green headphones, the noise.

And there have been images made of vegetables by an MRI, maybe the same one as I was one, since they were made, the images, in New Zealand.IyPsi

- from here



- also from here

I don’t usually suffer from claustrophobia but I felt as I were trapped in one of these images, in my head-cage, on my too-narrow gurney. And then the noise…

The Edge singing “Numb” -

Don’t move
Don’t talk out of time
Don’t think
Don’t worry
Everything’s just fine
Just fine

Don’t grab
Don’t clutch
Don’t hope for too much
Don’t breathe
Don’t achieve

- was not LOUD enough.

I was inside the exhaust from a jet engine. However the sound was textured. It pulsed. It ground into my bones, my skull. And I couldn’t escape it.

Some samples of the sound are available here: I particularly recommend K.I.S.S. and R.A.G.E. Turn them up as loud as they go and place your head in a tightly-fitting tin or pot. If you have a cage… No because your visual range is, beyond the cage, cut short by the inner surface of the MRI donut. You are in a Ganzfeld of hospital cream.

I came away from this experience once more appalled by the off-handedness with which the medical machine submits people to intolerable operations.

And: I obviously thought about the fragility of bones.

The noise must have made me think of my internal structuration crumbling into something resembling chalk dust.

Chalk dust dancing on a vibrating plate.

However, I introduce this post now for the virtue of the image at its top.

Square White World wishes you and yours an outrageously fulfilling Year of the Snake! Occupy it. Own it. Strike all debt and deficit, lack and want, from desire, and deliver us from the bonds of the lowest bidder and lead us to reject the claims corpocracy makes on what concerns our bodies, interests our minds, guides our hearts.