N-exile

Enrique Vila-Matas, Pierre Huyghe, Ai Weiwei and I at Kassel, Documentas 12-13

“I’d been fascinated at the beginning of the seventies by some questions that had been put to Alain Robbe-Grillet, which made him writhe against theories like an upside-down cat: “Let’s say I’m old-fashioned. For me, all that counts are the works of art.”

“The works of art! These days such ingenuousness would trigger laughter. At Documenta 13, separating work and theory would have been seen as very old-fashioned, because there, according to all the information I had, you saw a great many works under the ambiguous umbrella of innovation presented as theory and vice versa. It was the triumphant and now almost definitive reign of the marriage between practice and theory, to such an extent that if ou casually came across a rather classical-looking piece, you’d soon discover it was nothing more than theory camouflaged as a work. Or a work camouflaged as theory.

“Was there any artist at Kassel with sufficient courage to just hang a painting on the wall, a straighforward painting? I imagined the great peals of laughter that would ring out if it occurred to some poor brave devil to hang a canvas on a wall in the Fridericianum. It seemed nobody there wanted to be regarded as terribly old-fashioned, so there was no way of seeing painting anywhere.”

– Enrique Vila-Matas, The Illogic of Kassel, p. 69

Untilled, characters who appear in Enrique Vila-Matas’s novel, by Pierre Huyghe at Documenta 13

Strangely, I happened to be involved in the Documenta 12 Magazine Project through <<empyre>> soft_skinned_space, a listserv onto which I have foisted my sometimes welcome, mostly unwelcome, and usually ignored observations, reflections and scribblage.

The following I wrote into the listserv under the subject heading of “Fugue” – which is interesting in so far as I have in front of me a volume by Sergio Pitol with a foreword by Enrique Vila-Matas, the writer of the foregoing on Documenta 13, entitled The Art of Flight. The English translator of this work, George Henson, apologises, that “already in the title” he has failed, because the Spanish fuga translates as both fugue and flight and in the original Spanish, the book is called El arte de la fuga. The Art of Fugue. Indirectly, for Documenta 12, I wrote:

Dear Empyreans,

the following I pursued for my own interest: I apologise if there’s nothing in it.

Roger Beurgel [artistic director of Documenta 12. It was Roger Beurgel’s “provocation”, on the question, Is Modernity our Antiquity? that led the discussion, here] in quotes:

“It is fairly obvious that modernity, or modernity’s fate, exerts a profound influence on contemporary artists.”

How is modernity tied to its fate that, either the thing itself or the myth, exerts a pull – as if equally and interchangeably? And if there isn’t anything in itself there? Only the mythic Fate, then isn’t this a description of tragedy? Is a degree of that influence to do with the desire not just to reinstaurate the determinism or fatalism of modernity on its certain path but to redeem it?

“Part of that attraction may stem from the fact that no one really knows if modernity is dead or alive.”

Which suggests exactly the spectral/corp(u)s/e mode modernity was so good at advancing: and pomo was so good at extracting – half-life apparitions and death-drive amortisations.

“It seems to be in ruins after the totalitarian catastrophes of the 20th century (the very same catastrophes to which it somehow gave rise).”

Surely, that ‘somehow’, tenuously holding on, like spectral rider to ghoulish horse, confirms that the modernity described here is in the grand European tragic style – or pomo pastiche thereof. The taste for setting such great store by aesthetics (however deeply internally politicised or outwardly conceptual and dematerialised), that ‘totalitarian catastrophes’ ensue from them, is modernist at the fascist end of the spectrum.

“It seems utterly compromised by the brutally partial application of its universal demands (liberté, égalité, fraternité) or by the simple fact that modernity and coloniality went, and probably still go, hand in hand.”

As a colonial antipode – foot in hand, sometimes in mouth – I’ve thought a little about colonialism’s place in respect of modernity. My view, from NZ, of modernity is only historically, not ‘utterly,’ ‘compromised’ by the cultural marginalisation that goes hand-in-hand with modernity’s centralist concerns. But this issue brings us round to whether modernity has a political armature in praxis, a Realpolitik, such that it could be ‘brutally partial’ in the application of demands that are by no means ‘universal’ nor endemic to modernity, as an era (or a constellation, an infirmament, of historically informed assumptions and happenstance).

The secular nation-state, to my mind, better expresses the political ideas and ideals of the modern era, and of modernity, than the Colonial Empire. The failure of the former – in its current crisis or decadence – offers perhaps a clearer index to the vivacity or morbidity of a political modernity.

“Still, people’s imaginations are full of modernity’s visions and forms (and I mean not only Bauhaus but also arch-modernist mind-sets transformed into contemporary catchwords like “identity” or “culture”).”

There is something about this ‘transformation’ (of ‘arch-modernist mindsets’) that merits discussion. I think it was Brett, forgive me if I’m wrong, who said that postmodernism is built on the foundations of modernism. Christine has poked a little, deservedly, at the idea of Hegelian synthesis, in the n-state. In both views there inheres the idea of transformation – a redemption even of modernist assumptions. I think this archaeological impulse, this restorative ‘moral’ and critical project – such, indeed, that the question heading this discussion can be asked – may be promoted by precisely the kind of spectacular mise-en-scene we see in Roger Beurgel’s statement on modernity.

“In short, it seems that we are both outside and inside modernity, both repelled by its deadly violence and seduced by its most immodest aspiration or potential: that there might, after all, be a common planetary horizon for all the living and the dead.”

Pa Ubu: “Hornstrumpet! We shall not have succeeded in demolishing everything unless we demolish the ruins as well. But the only way I can see of doing that is to use them to put up a lot of fine, well-designed buildings.”

Finally, a brief word regarding the n-state, an idea with its own fascination; and I’d like to know more about its provenance; since, as well as zipping up a certain bodybag – synthetic teeth mesh – it also iterates management/bureaucratic themes of ‘technological progress and infrastructural improvements’. (By way of contrast, inspired by a Polish grandmother on a European train, ’82, I chanced on the related idea of ‘n-set’ – a play on ‘NZ’ and also an acronym. The grandmother said that all her countrymen were doing in those days was watching satellite TV and making babies – “like Africa!” she said.

(N-SET became a script-scenario dealing with a covert (insurgence) operation starting in Poland to postmodernise via media’s softsell immersion the East and West and foment political revolution: to postmediatise consciousness. N-SET stands for ‘non-specified enemy territory’ – carrying forward its scenario through random acts of state-sponsored terror, according to the view that the civilian population as a whole is the only object on which a postmodern war can be waged.)

Simon Taylor

Fairytale, 1,001 chairs, Ai Weiwei, at Documenta 12

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the questions leads 2

I was going to write something about this

and about only last night having seen Skyfall, the Heineken® Bond movie. Obviously, directed by Ninja, Terence Neale and Saki Fokken Bergh, “Fatty Boom Boom” has more directors. Skyfall only has – named – Sam Mendes, and he does a terrible job. There are enough pauses in the dialogue to make another movie. It is a kind of verbal colander. I wondered if every sententious pause was there 1) as a chiaroscuro to the narrative, in the hope it might achieve the relief of real depth 2) to be arch and give the impression of a clever double entendre or to signal ambiguity. Because the film makes ambiguity a principle of its composition. However it is not the sort of ambiguity that leads you to ask, Is this the case? or rather is it…? There is no question raised by the ambiguity of Skyfall: every step is so ponderous and overdetermined and yet unmotivated by either the narrative requirements of the action genre or by what I hesitate to call the psychology of the characters. The ambiguity does not open but closes down the option of thought. It is strictly unnecessary.

I was therefore going to write something about artistic necessity. In order to stand on its own something must be there which it is necessary to say. It is necessary here and now to say it. The artist feels the need and responds, some would say, quite uselessly.

Some would say it is the particularity of that something which eludes value or having value placed on it. The uselessness of art would then be a gloss on how what is necessary is also elusive, escaping the claims to which those interested – in its use, value or both – try to hold it.

In this light, I would have been writing about Lisa Densem’s dance work, We Have Been There (Cloud in Hand), which it struck me days after seeing it has a lot in common with butoh. I don’t know why I didn’t notice before. Perhaps I was not paying attention. I did pay attention to the work’s reception, here and now, and I thought, The friendly reception of art kills critical thought; it anaesthetises to what is essential: which might just be that which makes the work necessary. And: When art has friends like these, who needs detractors?

I felt similarly about how Barnie Duncan’s … Him – although neither brilliant nor dire and so not provoking extreme reaction – drowned in its warm reception: its particularity dissolved, like a biscuit in tea. But but there is something that needs to be said about how this kind of necessity is connected with what was a theme in this square white world some years ago: the question of why the director is necessary. Because … Him was let down by its director, almost as if the only response, right from the first day devising and rehearsing, which the finished show could be conceived of as eliciting was this absence of reaction, of delight or outrage, this friendly and cowed, somehow fearful, lukewarm, reassuring, congratulatory and self-congratulatory (because we pulled it off!), wet-soggy, patronising pattercake of bloodless and ill-defined consensual conciliatory and pacific palliation.

I would prefer to be outraged but is outrage really possible among friends who know each other so so well? Is delight? Is passion?

An outsider seems to be necessary as much as a need, a distance that truly finally tyrannises.

And with these thoughts still half-formed I sat down at my keyboard which through its screen now opens out onto a world of distraction and found Konstantin Bessmertny, whose Russian name means deathless.

– Konstantin Bessmertny, 1881

And I saw that it was good.Then I visited his domain [here] and read:

“To ask the general public’s opinion on the subject of art is like asking children what they would like to eat. In both cases it would be junk food.”

KB


“Creative without strategy is called ‘art.’ Creative with strategy is called ‘advertising’.”

Jef I. Richards


“Art produces ugly things which frequently become more beautiful with time. Fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things which always become ugly with time.”

Jean Cocteau


“Tradition is keeping the fire going and not worshipping the ashes”

Gustav Mahler

And these things were good to read.

 

Which also seemed to make a lot of sense, particularly with regard to the friends of art.

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seeing Barney’s wonderful one-man show …Him last night …

…made me want to write a play again. Is this wrong?

I get the feeling something is being left unsaid.

And listening to This Mortal Coil today (“Holocaust”) gave me an inkling of what it is,

and where there is space in the market.

Send me ideas, donations, commissions.

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Year of the Snake

34_01snakeskeleton_up.jpg

“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.

gee…

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?

WHAT?

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

And:

R1dbz

– 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.

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#GOAPNZ @the_icehouse – reviewed

Andy Hamilton started with a joke. “Turn around folks…”

“Isn’t it beeeoootifool!”

“Aren’t we lucky to be in this beautiful building. Aren’t we lucky to live in this beautiful city!”

As if realising Andy’s mistake, Sir Stephen Tindall addressed the issue with words to the effect that neither this building, nor the improvements to this waterfront would be here without New Zealand winning the America’s Cup, which he had a hand in, having given a hand to, full of cash. And that he hoped and expected – since they’re such a great team – we’ll win it back and be able to pour more billions of dollars into this “beautiful” city.

Grey clouds churned around the harbour. Grey water lapped at the pier. The view “behind us” was grey broken by the dark hill of Northcote and the jumble of lousy buildings around the shore, buildings that although temporary, fitting the architectural vernacular of this part of the world, were exceeded in every way by the tent we were in, this beautiful piece of excreted plastic tethered to the wharf and held upright and outstretched by lightweight struts. Obtrusive LED strips added mood and the room shone white against the grey outside. The wonderful acoustic conditions of a tent were further complimented by a state-of-the-art hired PA in use for speakers, who were at most seven metres away, that made them sound at least fifty metres away and in a reverberant bubble or rubber balloon.

We were in this beautiful building to celebrate – how the email put it – the arrival in New Zealand of the Geeks On A Plane, happy geeks from America, the home of those brave enough to take up the geek flag and wave it and even take it on tour, in a plane, to spread the geek gospel. We were celebrating this arrival, this visitation, and so needed to remind ourselves that we were worthy, against this beautiful outlook, in this beautiful city, which still needs billions spent on it to make it livable.

This was Dave McClure’s idea, the geeks explained, to take a plane. They were college drop-outs who couldn’t afford to then but who now had enough money to travel. A strategy of dazzling simplicity. Did they know when they boarded the plane that we would be in Auckland on a dull Tuesday night in a tent celebrating their arrival in New Zealand?

Ice House organised the celebration. Having recently met with Ken Erskine and Kevin Park from Ice House, I could claim a discount on my tickets, still the price of dinner for two and wine, which it in fact included, since it was advertised as a traditional NZ barbie for our foreign visitors. So food was laid on and strangely short waiting staff circulated in the early and later parts of the evening with trays of full glasses and bottles. One of the staff had been unlucky enough to lose the balance of his tray on his hand and send beer fountaining all over the arriving suits – not the geeks, thankfully.

I haven’t written here much about my infiltration of start-up culture. Perhaps I should start. Perhaps I should stop. Since this cultural infiltration has been and is for the sake of my own start-up, for Little Elephant Ltd.’s social media offering, or proposition, called company. Perhaps I might harm my chances by speaking of it, my chances of having my offering or proposition accepted, supported and celebrated. Perhaps however it will be to my cost if I don’t write or speak of it since I will have missed an opportunity.

#GOAPNZ – or a hashtag to that effect – appeared behind Andy Hamilton on the screen. Twitter were a sponsor. Here Andy made another joke. Some of his colleagues had been sending him messages with the hashtag GOATNZ instead. This was incorrect. To find the event and keep up to date with what Twitterage and Tweetment the twats at the barrage of laptops and tablets off to stage-left were giving it, you should go to #GOAPNZ, with a P, @the_icehouse.

Improvising freely after the spectacle of a competitive triple bout of pitching, pitches, pitchery, I informed a fellow networker – for this was what the traditional barbeque and drinking were supposed to encourage – networking – that the system I am proposing or offering – to any taker who is willing and able to give – would make this whole hashtag nonsense a thing of the past. Along with its confusing acronyms and the unnatural speech that has otherwise sensible people using acronyms and hashtags, as if they were to say LOL and BTW and IMHO. ROFL. #ROFL.

The centrepiece of the celebration was then the pitching competition. Each person had two minutes to pitch from the stage to us, the audience, their idea. The geeks off the plane sat on stage, left of the pitcher, and a group selected by Ice House, including Sir Stephen, sat on stage, to the right of the pitcher. The judges were all in the background of the pitcher, because this was the role they were supposed to assume. They shared the stage to judge how well each pitcher sold their idea. Competitive pitching is a descendant of those training sessions for itinerant salesmen, where the salesperson has first to get his foot in the door, and then convince the put-upon housewife that as a houseperson she should spend what little discretionary capital she has on drugs or a new thousand-dollar vacuum cleaner.

the_icehouse billed the event as “NZ Rocket Pitch Competition” – not a question of getting from the plane to the rocket and the hell out, but an allusion to the length of time before the keeper of the house slams the door in the face of the itinerant seller, who, still dusty from the road, starts softly to sob, picks up his battered suitcase of sextoys and lingerie, and checking his polyester suit for tell-tale tear stains, fixes his smile for the long road ahead. In the descendant scenario, the rejecting party is the investor, or more likely Angel. The Angelic race move among us. They share with their celestial namesakes a penchant for collecting souls in return for elevation, since early-stage investment in untried business ‘ideas’ entails paying as little as possible for as great a share of the business as they can get away with, withal that even this angelic behaviour is in the throes of being standardised, sanitised and set at a limit of a 30% share for investing … as little as they can get away with, in a heavenly transaction called, pragmatically, The Deal.

The pitcher must be versed in the patter of a highly formalised style of persuasion. Here of course, in the tent, called mockingly The Cloud, we were not going to be persuaded to invest. It was for sheer spectacle and fun. And here, of course, the geeks and Sir Stephen and others, were not really about to help the pitcher, but judge him or her. And really, there was not an idea in the pitcher. Each pitch concerned young but established businesses, one with a projected revenue of 73 million, for, as it happened, inserting sensors into cows to upload data from the inside of the cow to the cloud. Whence it was supposed to descend like grace or fall like manna from heaven into the palms of the poor farmer and aid him or her in his or her efficient extraction of value from the virtues of the animal on an industrial scale. No doubt it could also warn of dangerous CO2 levels leaving the anatomy of the cow and other effluvia.

I am taking liberties describing this poetic process, since the ‘cloud’ is obviously code, not to be confused with The Cloud, and the ‘palms of the poor farmer’ refers to some sort of digital device, handheld or occupying the farmer’s desk, to make farming increasingly an office job. The ‘cloud’ is a delicious sort of digital debt and the nomenclature a euphemism for owing to a mechanism of mechanical memory storage so much, in so many layers of imbricated deficit, that were it overnight-and-day to materialise it would put the global economy into freefall. Just a second, has this happened?

Hearing Susanne’s Rocket Pitch for Kahne, the hilarious cow tech, Dave – Dave, Andy, Sir Stephen, we were all by now on a first name basis, this being the only name stickered on our badges – Dave McClure, distracted from his constant online background checks of the pitcher’s business credentials, said that the number 73 million was the only thing that had registered with him from the whole two minutes Susanne was speaking. If you have 73 million, what the hell are you doing here? he asked, with a certain level of redundancy. It registered with me that none of the 12 – a reason for this number? Geekspell, the musical? as a friend sugggests – businesses represented seemed to require Angelic elevation.

This had been my experience of IBM’s SmartCamp round of pitchery as well, where there was one pitch concerned with quantum encryption of computer hard-drives, hardly an idea, a reality which had won a hugely lucrative contract with NASA. The difference with what went on in the tent called The Cloud was not to be found in the existing success or quality of the business being pitched but that IBM spent the day before that spectacle and the fun of the competition in exactly the sort of intensive training a travelling salesman could use. Here the process was pitch, judge, dispatch and let that stand as a celebration of the geeks’ arrival in beautiful Auckland.

the_icehouse had split the chosen 12 into three sponsor-appropriate categories. The only category which seemed to possess any internal logic in its grouping dealt with applications of material technologies, called “Return on Science” suitably to flatter the sponsor, Return on Science. Dave averred of this group that it was lucky they all seemed to have customers since their pitches fucking sucked ass. Andy, our courageous MC, mastered the moment, where for a moment naturalness had pierced the beautiful and celebratory bubble, by saying that the reason he’d asked at the evening’s outset we keep it seemly was that he is religious and does not approve of the use of the word fuck.

General hilarity ensued. Of the self-congratulary sort that only serves to restore complacent bubbles around events like this one. Or polyethylene sheet or whatever it is from which The Cloud is fabricated.

It was a theatrical evening, then, organised by the Ice House to promote itself and cheapened by its self-promotion. With stale bread. A patronising MC. Risible gestures at national or civic bolsterism. Low entertainment. Of no conceivable use to the parties pitching except being seen. By geeks. From America. To which we were asked to bear witness, authorise and share in, co-complicit. A celebration of mediocrity. And vested interests. No more or less. Another night of New Zealand theatre.

Then, there was more. Andy introduced J Geek and the Geeks to really finish off the evening with a routine that seemed to have been borrowed – perhaps they had given it away? – from a gay male strip review, tiny piupius, bad make-up and charming smiles, celebrating the geeks’s arrival in beautiful New Zealand with some native entertainment. As I heard one of our geek visitors say with deep insight to a journalist who asked probingly what he made of the place, he’d been amazed by the traditional Maori welcome. That there were still people in the world in this day and age with such a deep connection to the land.

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false effort

So much of the performance of conventional NZ masculinity – what it means to be a man – can be summed up as false effort. The voice lowers, even to shuddering in its lowest registers. Speech is halting. It is a machine that stalls, turns over, starts up again with a cough, with the threat that at any time it might stop altogether. And have to get taken to the shop.

Grunts and inarticulate expressions of effort make their way into even the most mundane exchanges. “Good aaah morning.” The impression being given and the truth that men are seeking to give out is that it’s hard being a man, as Lou Reed sings in the VU song: “living in ahhh a trash can / my baby calls me aaahh up / she tries to hit me with thuh ahh mop / I can’t stand it any more”…

The attitude of false effort contrasts with the suavity, fluency and cool of, for example, Italian men, who become suspect for the very reason of their ease of attitude, their panache, why worry? even when it’s all front. Perhaps all the more when it’s all front. Staying cool in any situation, taking little sips, rather than draining the can dry, is suspiciously artificial. It goes against male appetitiveness and competitiveness. Whereas if the appearance is that effort is required, it must somehow be justified and it justifies: it self-legitimates. A long pull on a cigarette – when they were more fashionable – or a long and antisocial draining of the jug in one continuous adam’s apple bobbing draft followed by Aaaahhhh! as much meant to convey satisfaction – mock – as effort – false.

Ease is unknown to the man who practices false effort. A man who is unburdened, unharried by this sense of masculinity as a crushingly manual undertaking is a faggot, poof, or foreign. Ironic then that the grunts and sighs and huh-huh-huhs of false effort resemble so closely a gay porn soundtrack. But then, sex is honest work and hard. Or ought to be.

For the opposite sex to indulge in false effort is called faking. In fact, you might say that NZ women have to apply themselves to a greater degree to the production of an easy attitude by way of compensation. They must at all times be fluid, smooth, and are subject at all times to admonitions not to be uptight, go with the flow, calm down, when it is NZ men who are semi- or pseudo-hysterically giving birth (or doing poohs) at regular intervals, Aaaahhhh! Women are sweepers, minimisers, cleaner-uppers. They clear the stage of obstacles just so that their men may make the most mountainous of the dust motes which remain. They are expected so to do.

What makes it so difficult being a man in NZ? The answer would be the same for most women: other men/women. Albeit that women show their superiority in what they are prepared to tolerate. And then bitch in the background clique.

False effort is never found at more concentrated levels as where men meet, professionals, labourers alike, the residues of our once egalitarian society. With the gentrification of the pub, NZ men constitute a floating diaspora. Myth says it is the barbeque, around the grill. But high levels of false effort can be encountered in a phonecall. Ending with the obligatory and often uncomfortable – perforce – Cheers!

Commentators have suggested that male reticence – deeper underlying sensitivity which cannot bring itself to expression – causes the sentences of the NZ male to stumble and sigh and fart and groan and… pause. Before coughing, or laughing. For no apparent reason than the noise. If this were the case, the cause, then men are clearly more sensitive and show greater sensitivity to members of their own sex among whom they play out the routines of reticence – often passing the point of caricature – than to the opposite one.

NZ men are sensitive to the needs of women to make them feel more comfortable, safer and more it ease, just so they may be affirmed in being uneasy, uncomfortable and unsafe, and protest all the louder at the unfairness, the hardness of their lots, their jobs, their lives, at the shit they have to deal with. And their fear. NZ men are sensitive to the needs of women to have babies and therefore baby them. After all, it’s aaaaaahhhh hard being a man.

I have focused on speech, because I came off a phonecall – to another man, of course – where I realised I had slipped into vocal false effort, but I think false effort can be extended, as an ontological category, or style of being, to dress and other technologies of the self. Sartorial false effort can be considered like Chanel’s recommendation to dress and accessorise completely in character and when perfect to take away one element. But the other way around: to take away every element characteristic of style or a style and add one thing it is too hard to do without.

The man who moves easily is less than a man. He should never look too comfortable in his skin as in his clothes. The NZ man is most natural when dressed in nothing more than his comforter. So long it remains clear he is uncomfortable there is no affectation. Afraid of ease, he should never be afraid of his own fear and therefore wear whatever fear dictates, camo gear, for example.

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an essay on postcolonial style: exclusive series

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23 December 2011, Happy New Year

CAPITAL CAPITAL CAPITAL
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the half-arsed angel / directions for the business school

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