artist collective/netlabel

Going Stiff

By Ed McKeon

Is it not true that when a political system is in deep crisis it drags on only because it doesn’t notice that it is already dead – the moment when those in power “lose faith in themselves”, admit that the game is up, is crucial. Slavoj Žižek

Jimi Hendrix and George Frideric Handel meet across a crowded history of music and form an ecstatic union. A troupe of improvisers ‘abandoned at childhood and raised by apes’ perform music ‘of feral romanticism and carnal desire’. A grotesque clown teaches children to play music, whilst a TV in the background reports the 7/7 London bombings. WTF?!

It’s true, squib have a line in bad taste. It’s not funny. It’s not even perverse. It’s hysterical.

The pervert’s ‘transgression’ is to stage the secret fantasies – the guilty pleasures and kitsch tastes, symphonic pop and air guitar – that sustain public and cultural life. He plays the game by highlighting its hidden rules and (genre) conventions, taking musical style at face value. Only acknowledged culture and its disenchantment are permitted.
In psychoanalysis, fantasy is the illusion we create to avoid trauma. The hysteric fundamentally doubts whether these secret desires are what truly motivate us, insisting on the power of the unspeakable, the incomprehensible. Only by adopting the fantasy as truth can she teach us the truth of the fantasy.

Radical performance dissolves the symbolic efficiency of music, turning worn out gestures into hermetic acts. Hendrix and Handel confront their music’s libidinal economy; Mowgli assert the horror of the inverted relationship between civilisation and nature; Benny the Clown acknowledges musical training as the repression of sexuality.

To paraphrase Frank Zappa, new music isn’t dead, it just smells funny. Too many performances amount to spraying generous amounts of air freshener, applying powder and perfume, and like a bad farce pretending nothing’s wrong. squib don’t re-animate the corpse; they reproduce it and display it like a bad joke. Music is undead – now there’s a manifesto…