so you’ve got a box and it’s big enough to fit the whole world…

I was talking to Mike today and he was talking about the charge made against the interweb that whereas film – as a distinct medium – was scaring the shit out of people by making them think the train was going to come out of the screen and run them down, here we have vidlets of kittens falling down stairs on YouTube (see for example, Pingu: “I am a five week old kitten and I am very cute”). The web has produced nothing worthy of note.

I said part of the problem was that our ability to use what we see represented is disabled, that there are cultural-historical reasons for this. Harold Bloom counted the 20th C. as belonging to Romanticism because the notion of belatedness yet prevails, the idea that it’s too late, we’re too late, it’s all done. We wallow, I said, wallow in the profundity of our belatedness.

The other part of the problem is that we see the interweb in an ‘archive fever’ as a place where you can watch Carmelo Bene, although he’s dead, or Artaud, dead culture, or colonial culture, or despotic totalising culture, dead also, or kittens falling down stairs, as a museum-mausoleum.

We talked about the contrast with the music of Caetano Veloso and Tom Ze and Carlinhos Brown, and Toumani Diabate and Ali Farka Toure, to name some non-tropicalismo musos, and there are the latter discussing 400 year-old tunes, and playing them, respectfully but using what they have. Getting the old bones out and shaking them around.

We agreed that they have a different attitude. Brazilian audiences go to music shows with instruments, guitars, to heavy metal bands with electric guitars, to jam along with their favourite artists. There’s more to this than interaction or participation: the music is alive.

It’s not a dead thing in a dead frame on a dead stage on a dead TV. There’s life in front of you and you pick it up and use it. And imitation remains the sincerest form of flattery.

In other words, our – the immediate our, the our we saw around us – our reverence towards what happens on stage on TV on film in music on the wall in a painting and so on differs from our reverence for the dead only in its externals. Inside we may be as pleased to put somebody in a box as to see them on the box.

Imagine a big box and this box is big enough to fit everything. You can put everything in it. And you’re running all over the place grabbing stuff and putting it in the box. And you’re buying crap to chuck in. And every holiday and friendship goes in the box. Every thought and poem and just everything.

House on Fire with Smoke, 2007, image courtesy Blane de St. Croix

And the house is on fire.

And in the same sense you’re preserving the body through the rituals of health. You’re making it into its own big box. You’re preserving its death inside it.

I noted that the problem of things on the net or web is not that they’re not real, it’s that they are.