I see all sides to everything: the downtrodden, the rage, the free spirits rising and wrapping themselves around everything, tying it all up in a knot. Like Scratch Lee Perry, I came I saw I conquered, but it was only when I’d bounced from Moscow to the Cape Flats to Jo’burg to Sao Paulo to Shanghai to Gurgaon to Jerusalem to Hastings that I began to understand the difference; to get that there are so many disparate strands to our glorious global culture that – often-or-not these days – is used to peddle sneakers, soda, and other digital dreams. Stuff that has no substance and makes no contribution to the culture it depends on.
Somewhere in a city a small boy is sitting on the pavement with his lap-top jacking WiFi; his on-line alter-ego is in full effect and living large. A truck passes and he doesn’t look up. The dust settles and I climb out of a black SUV and ask my mate what the fuck this kid is doing. Now that kid is reading these words on line and he doesn’t even know that I’m talking about him. Or his alter-ego. He just scans the words and clicks on to the next thing. I’m digital history. I should have described him better and then maybe...
I move about this world scribbling notes that I turn into stories and taking photos that often accompany them. Sometimes I make films, and sometimes these moments of my life come together and are published between two bits of laminated cardboard, and sometimes they go on line and people write strange and random comments about them. And sometimes my knowledge is leased out to help brands spread their word. For this is what culture has become. Something to consume, something you all use to divert your mind for a moment, at the slightest sign of boredom.
But boredom is important. It is out of boredom that original culture is born. And there is less and less boredom going down these days as no-one can take it anymore. They’d rather be consuming.
One night in Jo’burg, just after my driver has talked his way out of a police road block, he tells me that he uses tik (crystal meth) to stay awake and to be able to drive all day and all night, and that he is indeed holding a fair bit of the transparent crystalline stuff at that very moment. This is the more extreme kind of consumption. A decade or so ago I’d have got him to get his gear out and done a bump or two and that would have been the start of an edgy night out in the townships that surround the city caining it, but it’s 2011 and I’m straight as a vicars tie. Which may be a bit boring but keeps my eye sharp and my pen-nib wet. Although in India I asked for aspirin and got Tramadol and got pretty wacked on that.
Some people do stuff. Some people don’t. Some get out there and explore and document and connect and discover and inspire and some people sit at home on their PC’s slagging the world and their mothers off. These are the new Nazi’s. These are the modern-day Fascists who have so little going on in their lives that they have to make themselves feel better by trolling and trawling. I’ve had my life threatened, my life’s work assassinated, been called a Wigger, a Yid, a sell-out, and all because I get out there and do stuff. And then report back to you. The internet is a really good way to distract yourself from how boring modern life is, but also bad as it has made us all lazy and narrow-minded. Scan and opinionate. Watch and dismiss. Do nothing and feel smug that you’ve written something really hateful on a 9-year olds youtube video. And that’s just the mild stuff.
The real emerging culture in the world is all happening off line; it’s happening in trailer parks in Montagu; bedroom recording studios in Barnsley; townships in Durban and Jozi; in tower blocks in Shanghai; Nothing actually happens on line, nothing is ever created, as this is it just a place where the word of these events gets reported back to you, the dear reader. From front-line to hyper-reality as it were. Culturally, the way forwards is to allow yourself to get so bored that you have to think about doing something to alleviate that boredom, and this doesn’t include going on line, fuck that.
The brand rules. It’s a great time to be working in anything brand related, as you can have the wildest idea, say having a shoe brand (such as Converse) sponsor the new cd by a hip band (say Gorillaz) and you know they’re going to say yes. Throw in a merchandising deal and you’re laughing.
Artists (music, fashion whatever) will mostly say yes to working with brands as there is so much media noise and clutter to break through. That and the fact the musical output is making way less money for the people involved and they need to recoup somewhere. On both media and moolah fronts they need as much help as they can get.
My last word on this is how do you think this all happens? I get to discover the cultural shit because I do commercial work. We all do commercial work of some kind and if you think this makes what I do worth less (or nothing) then you are living in cloud cookoo land, my friend. No-one is getting paid to just travel and discover shit. I fucking wish. The people who are lucky enough to do that (like me) are always sponsored by a brand or agency or publisher or something – there is a brand of one-kind-or-another lurking about somewhere. Just like this essay, there is no money in it, but it’s of value. This blog pays nothing for my words (or images). Funny old game isn’t it?