Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Common Madness an ongoing self ethnographic project about a series of works from 1984 to 2004 ( started somewhere in 2012 this notes for a paper or visual essay are been worked from now on in August 2015)

Common Madness
Elitist Madness 
Forbidden Madness
Secret Madness 
Real Madness 


Intro: 

I like to divide this paper in 3 parts

The first will be dedicated to update the work from a previous period, between 1984/2005,that has been linking issues of sexual and emotional abuse, addiction and mental disorders. Those issues were touched via certain symbolism as Vampire tales and references to various figures from our cultural background, detritus of today found in tales, cinema, comics or even real life transformed in celebrity culture.

My work entered a strong phase of therapeutical gestures and therefor almost exorcism, by conveying words, ideas and images that where iconic and other imaginary constructions, that helped me to deal with such deeply hidden emotions and experiences from my teenage-hood .

My idea, when using some real biographic information to be referred to as part of my work, comes from a very feministic tradition of self questioning, self exploration and self reference. But aiming at to actually erase oneself inside the archetypical and the universal.

So that I could call, those works as comments on Common Madness.

How it all was real and how that, that had become part of the abject, had found its mirrors in to Pop's Dark tales.

I have selected a few examples of some of the works, but also I like to note a few culturally influential references.


Carrie:

 (to which I related as an epileptic girl at boarding school) 

How was I treated by my schoolgirl mates as an epileptic companion?(I was abused and bullied) how I was treated by a male with authority? (my father abused at length his position and specially one teacher who persecute me and punish me till I quit school all together) how I have been treated as a medicated girl with epilepsy? Carrie, the movie, really affected me when I saw it first time. There was an intimate connection, but of course my glamorous friends of the time ( cinema producer, film makers and actors in late 70's Barcelona) could never imagine why this actually was the case. In a way, I was as is said of other "issues" in the "closet". Which is a typical strategy of anyone abused and victim of child emotional abuse. During a performance for the University of Birmingham as guest of Ana and Stuart of AAS Group as an invited performance artist. I presented a sort of Noise re-enactment of the moment when Carrie got the Pig's Blood all over her. In my case just tomato juice. It was quite an strong statement and sadly the film of the performance has been lost. 


Christiana F 

(as I was a sort of meta-junky, a junky with out heroine but with chronic medication and opiates and junky friends every where) 


Christiana F, was a very special reference, as many of my friends in mid 70's had the "habit" and I had some times even sustained their elastics around their arms, wile looking away for them to inject.
Again, this times, where impregnated of a sort of nihilism, the context was a mix of bourgueois and very rebel outsiders, from the lower classes, including, gipsies ( many times dealers and consumers) or ex mates from prison. This context was a very particular specific of this times, and some how reflected the tiredness of some of being under a fascist regime for so long 
(40years)but also as maybe you know it was a consequence of the social engineering designs, that made of rebel creative folks, that seceded from their own social context duties and had already experimented creatively with some drugs, just zombies that stole old ladies bags. In the midst of all this, and after some of this friends had died of OD, here it came Christiana F,that was a real bio as Film.

Later I will use the icon of the junky girl, to remind in my work, that a girl that uses Heroine is some one who must have been abused in a way or another, and deceived by the society that was supposed to protect her.Some folks will criticise my works of Heroine Chic, with out even caring to find out, why was it that I used such iconography.

Of course the suggestion to the use of opiates,as the tranquillisers that had been prescribed to me wile as a kid I had a serie of epileptic seizures, was then more than enough to give me a sort of insight on this theme. 


The first reference to my treatment appeared  in 1996, I had a show all related to Insomnia, Medication and Isolation.

  



Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School 

(The amazing bad schoolgirl whom I discovered in a London bookshop called Dylan's, wile I was waiting to go to my dance classes at the Urdang Academy in Covent Garden in 1981. Later, I will had an small fragment of her text ( her obsession with Jean Genet in Tangier)   translated for the magazine V.O. which was the last of series I had edited and published in 1985) 




Since those times in London and after being exposed to the works of Acker and I had an attempt at making some performatic work inspired on the female fucked up decadent prostitute role for my publication V.O. the same one that featured an small translation of Kathy Acker’s text from Blood and Guts in H S. 
This women was hanging out in Argelia and Tangier too, my representation was based on the idea that Barcelona as a port, had similar essences and the mediterranean flavour of seedy city port night times. 

In 1986, I travelled to Tangier, Tetouan and Rabat and was already a fan of the work and life of Jane Bowles. Her situation fascinated me, I really liked her way of life and her text. 



Me in Rabat 1986,imagining becoming Jane Bowles during a trip with photographer friend Jorge Esteva, who did the picture at our Hotel Room

Jane Bowles and Kathy Acker seem to merge in to one, when I improvised this aesthetic or this performative image of my self for the series of pictured my friend take of me in Rabat. The image, what you see in the photo, is not a pose, or a fake like when doing a character for a film. It was realistic, as I was then re-interpreting sources of inspiration, a sort of role models for me.
Looking backwards, I realise that both ladies where North American, and at least one of them was a jew ( for which the connection, is then more full circle) also important to note, is the fact that in those times I was starting to be more and more aware of the cultural colonialism to which we had been submitted either by UK or USA, but nuances in relation to the countercultural or international figures like those women, did not apply. I saw them quite similar on a sort of feminist structural sense.  

 This whole idea of being this hetero queer, this wild women, this independent sort, was really my inspiration and on the time, I did not have knowledge of any women like this in my own context in Barcelona. As far as I knew, I was in to a solitary quest. I was writing erotic tales one of which had two male making it in Tangier port, one night and I was "daring" to write as if I was a male and a gay guy. In a way, if Bataille could write Le Histoire de L'Oleil, and other authors like Flaubert could travesty themselves as female, I could do the same on to the other side. 

Thinking about exotisms, is not that, I was inlove with the seedy Barcelona I was living and had discovered since mid 70's. This world of lost people in Arab ( North African)Mediterranean southern spaces, where all was left down, slower, erotic and intoxicated, really attracted my imagination during those years.  

Eddy Sedgwick

The lost girl continues as a lost “pretence of a women” Bob Dylan in this sense defines perfectly how was like to be ”Just like a Women”.



The aesthetic its clearly a residual echo of a kind of victim of Andy Warhol and of Bob Dylan and other male figures as it feels that obviously Eddy Sedgwick was. 

And who’s victim role was studied on a great text published at ZG and translated to spanish and pirated by me,to be published in my mag in fascist Spain in 1984.

It also reminds me of the song Bob Dylan may have dedicated to her: Just Like a Women. As there is a teenager still at heart who ends up in such vulnerable place she is not in control of that womanhood, she is just lost. 




In this weird early neoliberal times, to remember Eddy and the drugged and covered up decadence( vulnerability )of her vital and toxic journey across
 the 60"s New York underground world of Andy Warhol manipulative domains, came to me as a call to be reminded what where "accidents" the that during my own teenage and transition to women like life, in chaotic transitional Spain/ Barcelona had been.


First Part


Some early attempts to represent a fucked up lost women, with drug, addiction problems and obviously abused.

Here are some of the pics, I was the Editor and publisher of a magazine, trying to make it, as was inspired by Rosetta Brooks, ZG mag and to be really involved with politics and aesthetics.






Pic: Me when I was 24 and editor, publisher, performer, writer of V.O. magazine in Barcelona. By Betty Evers

Already quite punished by the male powers and hung-ups of my social context for daring to publish such cool magazine and for being not only a good writer but also a powerful editor, where already felt and experience as a progressive social alienation. 
Those days where very lonely and as incipient solo performer my naive attempts to impersonate a lost women had taken inspiration in a mix of muses. 
Encouraged by the roles of Kathy Acker, her voices and her persona, the many punk and post-punk ladies I hung out with in London(where I was studying contemporary Dance 1978/1983)and the postcard, fashion mag/art book Icons as Eddy was those days, a symbol already a sort of women Rimbaud, but dead and drugged till the end. 

The main star of this amazing magazine discovery,was Cindy Sherman and also,from the books that where sold those days in the same arty bookshops I used to inspect, I found Francesca Woodman, who was touched by the aura of her suicide again: failure and rejection, loneliness and alienation at the core of an amazing work.  

My attempt was shy and somehow, I hid on my own publication, leaving this solo photographic impersonation path lying dormant till many years later when unexpectedly I came back to the whole instinct and inspirational sources. 

By then,I had added to the list the amazing Ana Mendieta and as I was recovering my dance practice /performance and visual arts I found that by then, those published series of pictures and my own phantasmatic persona had also become a muse.

Why I had been so inspired in this kind of young women? 

I guess by intuition I knew they where the sensitive problematic romantic proto feminist, heroines of a kind,ex-flappers,flowers of cities with dirty ports and sailors,drug trafficking and the squizo- capitalist drum beat. 

With this four feminine figures of a teenager/or just like a women archetypes of our pop/art culture, I intended to talk about my own wounds for the first times: 

Those women/girl, are not only brought out to light for their great iconic characteristics,they are also the medium from which to talk about society’s behaviour around and about stigmatised people and in specifics(for my discourse was to expose the behaviour of society around female girls are but projects of what a woman may become) so a failed teen is a failed socially correct women, in this case Eddy Sedgwick is a great and sad example of this, but its also Francesca Woodman and her inability to sustain rejection.  

By the times I was “just like a women my self” it was official 
that I had always been rejected by the so called representatives 
and distributors of normality and was only welcomed by all that 
was queer, bohemian, Marxist and stigmatised, a whole collective 
of otherness formed the acquaintances and friends towards which 
I drifted naturally.

Either on the Mediterranean islands self-exile journey after leaving school, where mainly writers, musicians,actors,dancers …artist … but most of all bohemians or intellectual and social deserters from the bourgeoisie contingent.




me at 16 1976, pic by friend artist( can't remember his name)

From the other side, all that actors, theatre people, musicians and dancers with whom I worked since my mid teens, where usually coming from working classes but where all in touch and relating to the leftist from up town. People knew each other by their names, nothing like what ones parents did was relevant. We where there because we where different and risking the same persecution, censure or even prison.
  
               me photographed by friend Pixi in Deia, Majorca 1977

During the times we can call pre-twin towers, even if we can consider the couple of years immediately after included. 

I mostly only produced the fanzines Dark Star 1998 to 2002 (with an extra edition round 2004) my work was presented as the expanded publications on installations  with films or slide shows, music from my band, and posters made out of some selected pages of my publication. 

Some of the shows used to have hips of empty pill silvery cases.
The aesthetic will have strong teenage angst flavour as the highlight was to point out at abuse as the main reason why a women to be (a girl) loses her mind and gets in trouble. 



I was accused by Martin Herbert of playing with Heroin Chic iconographies plus been a rubbish artist with a rubbish band performance project,a critique that some how reverberates till 
this days.

Truth is that the kind of aesthetics etc got very quick co-opted and turned on to superficial hype, which is what always happens to any art soon or later.

In any case and whatever the critics short mind, my work was an expanded tool of exposure of an uncomfortable truth and at the same time was generating a real community scene all my performances take place in the neighbourhood with young musicians and inhabitants of the east end, they had drug problems and they lived in the artificial paradises that this concrete atomising city offers as a way to bare the enormous pressure that means to live in.
I was pointing to the lack of Love and the use of Heroine(the drug of the sensitive people )as a result of the life in London,this monster city,this metropolis for slaves.
During these times I developed with one of the artist and founder of Five Years a concept and a term that was used for a seminal show at Five Years Underwood street in 2000 that contained the situation and its components the term Dark POP.







Second part 

A very specific Dark Star re-appeared in 2004 as more formal specific less collage just text and photos, some drawings …

I was also building up a line of work dedicated to the social estate houses( I lived there with my partner till 2007 when we split) and constructing a narrative that had buildings,flowers,cemeteries, birds and young lonely people inside their rooms(even if where dreamers and beautiful losers,losers they where,and losers they stayed)this is what happens when one does not became a soldier or a guerrillero,it becomes a idle flower of self poisoned substance abuse creature of the metropolitan city, the after Baudelaire’s .. the Rimbaud’s that could not flee,the real people one had written sad poems about. 
Defeated and seduced by journeys in to oblivion and self obliteration with soundtracks of fading times, rooms filled with posters and medicaments,alcohols and higher drugs.


In 2004 I was invited by John Russell to write a fiction text for his project that was Text as Art. His collection  called Frozen Tears and my text was featured on the first tome of this art /text editorial project. 

He set up the basic themes those where sci-fi and horror .
I submitted a text written in first person where I am assuming many identities related to real or fictional characters on film and literature ,so that I was Mary Shelley , then The Creature, then Jack The Ripper, then Mina Harker,then Nadja ( Breton), then Cat People,then Olaya (R L Stevenson),etc etc… but at the core of the story there was a killer who suffered of Ennui ( The English Maladie)and that pioneered Snuff movie making.
As an addict, killer on spleen I walked and drifted alone in the massive metropolis.

The Opium Den being one of her hideouts:






The whole text breathes,dark pop and psycho-geographic elements, it also reclaims Surrealism and Romanticism. 
And what is all this if is not a critique of society as a Capitalist Beast ? 
Who is Dracula ? we know what he represents, we know what Jack the Ripper represents too.
I am going to read a small piece where I am cutting and pasting Olaya soliloquy at the short tale from R L Stevenson’s called by the same name in between my own text as the “voice” of Thee ( the tale):

When my perplexed walkabouts around the insides of
the huge London, as if in a never ending monster,
reproduced themselves in my dreams – then I felt 
possessed by a feeling of void, and the anguish and the
anxiety filled all my house and my conscience …

"And looking at the portrait of my father I would ask
myself:There is my hand to the least line, there are my
eyes and my hair.
What is mine, then, and what am I? If
there is not a curve in this body of mine, not a gesture
that I can frame, not a tone of my voice, not any look
from my eyes, no, not even now when I stand in front of
him, but has belonged to others?” 

They were dead, all dead. I am dead but what’s the 
difference, between life and death? Death is all over us,
death unifies us in her warm womb. They where dead, I
was dead, dead, dead – but I was undead … I had to be
there … in the infinite, in the horror and in the eternal
melancholy 


Of course this text has not yet been analysed for what it maybe meaning. 
I know what I had in my head when I had written the tale, my father’s abuse, my life in London and the malaise, the loneliness and coldness around me. 

The Capitalist way of life, the way artist around would do any thing to any one even kill( symbolically at least two some women had betrayed me and stop talking to me) them just for the sake of their careers etc etc. The horrible heartless and pulse of this dark side of London, living in its East End, feeling its ghost and spirits of so much suffering and exploitation that is buried under its lands.
I did wanted it to be a subliminal Critique of the Art World. But maybe it was too subliminal.

In any case yes, we agree the figure of a first person, a narrator and a women or girl is clearly my voice and it reflects it so.
Against all the “buts” around people who are self referential,I can say it makes sense for me because my background is dance and theatre, even TV .. 

So that I am my own tool, my physical condition is always used, but used to represent issues that I know( so that had happened )to be filtered to be exposed in a way that becomes more symbolical and less right out biographic.

When doing the pictures and the friends and my life around the Estate Houses in the East End of London etc etc, I am doing a documentary, but when I pass this material on to my publication or expanded on film then there is the narrative/poetic license, that pushes things further in order to make us actors to say some thing that needs to be covered in order to be revealed.


Part Three 

coming soon ......







No comments:

Post a Comment

Followers

About Me

My photo
Esther Planas, Barcelona, is a performer and visual artist, she studied at The London Contemporary Dance School (The Place)London and at Area, Spai de Dansa y Creacio , Barcelona Published V.O. magazine Spain. Lives between London and Barcelona Esther Planas work is featured at Artist Registry / White Columns, New York she was selected at BCN Produccio/10 , Barcelona and the 8 Festival de Performance de Cali, Colombia 2012 she is a funding member of the London artist run space collective Five Years

Total Pageviews