story about life and art
It was the summer of 2010. A delirium of sense had set in but in the kind of lower register that might ordinarily go undetected. He had become prone to whipping his brow even if the sweat was in part imaginary. This might be in part explained by claustrophobia. It seemed that there was no escape; certainly the city no longer appeared as the place for drifting around as if through turning each corner another vista or possibility might occur.
Many places formerly frequented had become off limits for him. These compromised of drinking holes, betting shops or casinos, clubs, drug dens and brothels which had each in different periods of his life provided the means of distinct ruination. He was inclined to admit to himself that he was an empty shell of ruination although he was far from certain what addiction was, even though on the surface it was that thing that ate him alive. So much had been eaten that he thought it was a minor miracle that a resolve had been mobilised to fight his affliction but there was within this a sense that a new territory of form of addiction was waiting yet again. That was the picture so far, so sleeping was not easy. Perhaps the ideal solution was to find another addiction which might assume a more benign role and as such not be noticed by his surround. This of course is a fatal strategy of thought but one that occurred frequently. In part the addict desires addiction and the ruin that comes with it. He knew for sure that he had a masochist kernel to his psychic structure but there is little by way of revelation in this insight. Strategies of failure came far too easily. Addicts, he would say to himself, have got all their wiring wrong.
This is the end he might have imagined for himself but then it is difficult to predict how reality is likely to unfold. What appears to be written came suddenly take detours. Perhaps to imagine a dark ending is the minds insurance that a better one is likely.
Time had always appeared to him as something borrowed and as such he was never quite in time. He had started to look back over his various jobs and positions and was finding it difficult to work out how he had arrived at those various points. They had included property manager, business advisor, educational strategist, antiques and banking. This was a long and unlikely list and the only thing that bound all of these together was a sense of disgust for his activity of occupying these roles. He had started to build up a picture of a world that was disintegrating around him. Everything might seem to function as before but he knew that there was something rotten about the various systems he had dealt with. Information systems should have made the world so much smarter but instead he saw a world becoming more stupid by the day. Of course that is the kind of perception a burnt out addict or ex-addict might have because this reflects their own internal entropy but as he went through the scenarios he was more and more certain that there was an objective basis for his perception. Knowledge, skills, invention, care seemed to be disappearing rapidly within the context of economic activity. For a short time he had worked as an advisor in a fashion and accessory company and had become appalled by the loss of design and fabrication skills. Design had become little more than creative theft allied to slick management of image which flaunted the idea of genius to mask this reality. He had left his work within education because of its obsession with ticking course boxes that delivered students to the market place with few relevant skills other than virtual designing and desktop skills. Everywhere he perceived the debasement of products in order to squeeze further margins of profit but ultimately to what end. As far as he was concerned everything was front, a case of the blind leading the blind. He knew that he was dysfunctional but at least this was visible and up front. He had become sick with self deception but wondered how such forms of deception had seeped into the entire system. It wasn’t such a big step for him to leap to the conclusion that the whole machinery of the state and the economy depended on the structures of addiction and dependency. Systems are meant to function like analytical machines but they are much more subject to suggestion, mood, and emotions than are usually thought to be the case and this means they have a bio-chemical interface. It was this chemical unconscious that was now the main determinate of how the system functioned and behind this was a whole series of addictions to power, wealth, appearance and stupidity.
He had grown up through the hippy period and was prone to reflect on the promises of the various forms of liberation which seemed to offer. In a way this period had simply opened the floodgates on some many different levels. The division of the world into ‘stiffs’ and ‘hips’ was the convenient labelling of this division but now he would grimace at this hoping in fact he hadn’t really invested in such nonsense. His version now of these events was that substantially it was a chemical revolution, a revolution founded on the introduction of the pill and LSD. He now mused to himself that the corporations had learnt from this moment about how to manipulate chemicals to achieve market aims. Even though he had never viewed himself directly as a junkie he thought that society was only cohesive by virtue of the chemicals it consumed either directly or indirectly. He merely thought that he had literalised this and the fact that he was such a danger to himself implied that at least he was living with some kind of self-consciousness. He wondered if in fact it was essentially pain that produced what he termed self-consciousness. For him pleasure was that which appeared to flow whereas pain was a form of interruption. The hippy philosophy was all about this or that flow and he had never quite got into any flow longing enough to discover either the source or destination of these flows.
If the fifties had been a time of immersion in smog, or grey conformity, the later part of the sixties gradually opened out quite different vistas in the form of exotic locations which could be reached only through arduous journeys. Overland to Kathmandu was his first venture into these regions of otherness but it was a venture that yielded his first vocation in the form of antiques. He had realised that if he wanted to travel then there would have to be the means generated to do so and almost without insight or foresight he found himself learning about Himalayan Art and jewellery. The fact was it was incredibly cheap at this time and even though he knew little about the historical context or even things related to either iconography or rarity it was still possible to buy well. With each trip he would first show his goods to the expert at Sotheby’s and they would select what was good for their sales which also had the virtue of educating him as to what the various forms of value structure and the rest he would sell around antique markets, with the jewellery going to a boutique in Ladbroke Grove. Although he had never really come across the term he had become a runner and this had set up a pattern for the next five years of his life. Other than one journey to Morocco it was the Indian sub-continent that had seized hold of his fascination and in turn provided his income. He used to say to himself that if he could straighten up enough then he might make some serious money but he was too much in the flow of things and if your are in the flow than the flow has a tendency to consume everything into its passage. Whenever a lot of money materialised as it invariably did from time to time then he would simply find a little bit of paradise somewhere and eventually money became dispersed. He also was prone to taking wield gambles of artefacts and few of these really worked out because on the whole the market for such goods was still un-evolved and unless there was direct contact with big collectors it was possible to be stuck with expensive goods. In effect you needed to know a lot and if you smoked too much then your capacity to focus was eroded. He thought that he had found an ideal balance between the pursuit of pleasure and business but increasingly this was not so much a unity as a factor of chaos. Connected to this he had started to become weary of the constant movement and rootlessness. It was 1973 and inflation was eating away the money he had put away, connected to this there appeared to be little money floating around to buy antiques, so perhaps it was time to try something else. Almost as a counter-intuitive move he decided to do an economics course. The working of money was both a mystery and a source of fascination so the logic of studying it appeared to be obvious even though from the outside this appeared to be an unlikely move to make.
Once he started his studies he quickly realised that he was in a world that was alien to him. No more drifting around or coming and going but a world structured around a timetable and deadlines. Much of the content of the course was also boring. It was like a process of slowly putting building blocks in place. He had become used to rushes of excitement when buying and selling, taking risks, being in possession of beautiful things and this new life lacked all of those things. He was studying the abstract laws of money but what he really wanted was its concrete feeling of money passing through hands. It was not so much a case of being addicted to money as the need for risk. In his own special way he had become a gambler and was now in the throws of withdrawal systems. He quickly discovered that his new milieu had a much greater taste for cheap alcohol than drugs and he soon found himself slipping into this social life soaked in the liquids of its choice. The other thing he discovered was that he quickly became the centre of attention because of his amazing art of story telling. To most his life had been mysterious and rich in incident whereas he felt his own reality was much more ordinary than that, but as soon as he listed all the things he had come into contact with then he realised it had been an exceptional early life. He could for instance talk about his partial life in ashrams learning Kundalini Yoga, his knowledge of Tantric Art, journeys into remote parts of Afghanistan, Indian Classical music, trekking in the Himalayas, esoteric rituals; the list just seemed to go. Stories seemed too emerged from other stories and soon he was no longer certain which of the stories were actually his or those of an invented other. This was the whole point of alcohol, it didn’t really matter how stories found there discrete physics as long as they sounded good. Everyone thought that he should be on a creative writing course rather than this rather dreary economics course but he persisted and slowly he learnt enough to get through his exams. What was more worrying than the frequent drinking was the growing habit of gambling. At first it filled the gap he felt from stopping trading, something which he had always articulated to himself as a form of gambling but instead of invariably making money he was now progressively losing money. His overheads tended to be low because he had already purchased a flat from his time in art dealing but now his savings had almost vanished so a low wave panic started to set in. In turn the drinking binges lowered his inhibitions in terms of what was now a gambling habit. He needed a new stream of income to compensate for this situation or he needed to find a way of escaping the environment that appeared to give rise to these needs. When he had started the course he felt that he was probably the coolest most collected person in his year and wondered what it was that had undone him. He started going through all the things he might turn his hand to; yoga teacher, fiction writer, male escort, a return to antiques but as each of the possibilities entered his head he had a dozen reasons to dismiss them. At this stage it hadn’t occurred to him that he was an addictive personality type and that as such he might seek treatment. The only addiction he really understood was that of hard drugs and alcohol and that was not his problem. Then out of the blue one his friends at college approached him with a proposition of going into business together. His father needed a business venture based outside of Europe and because he had heard all these stories second hand from his son he quickly thought that I would be the person to approach. The deal was that I should finish my course in the allotted six months and then we would travel together around the Indian sub-continent in search of business opportunities. His father was very persuasive and offered me some down payment in advance so I could focus on completing the course. Suddenly I had some money in hand and an escape route. A new life was about to begin. At the time I thought things should never be so easy but then I had other troubles to counteract so I didn’t really want to know much more.
So the new life started in 1976. The years at college had been extremely turbulent and it looked as though the whole economy might crash. We had gone over the history of the last major crash in 1929 and the depression that followed in the 1930’s and things did not look good. It was obvious that a new economic paradigm was needed but this was also a political question of how it might be introduced. He thought that the system was almost completely rotten and yet he was still ideologically a capitalist. Money just needs to flow without to many restrictions and with this flow everything starts to fall into place. He realised that this was crude physics but then I thought that it is crude things that often appear to function. Anyway George’s father understood this principle because much of his money was trapped in a system which was taxing him to death or at least this is what he claimed. What he was looking for was for some ventilation shafts to bring some air into his decaying capital. George’s father who was himself called George spoke in such a manner whereas his son spoke another type of language which was far more technical in its nature. Basically George the 1st as he started to call him wanted to float his money out of the reach of tax and let into enter back in more complicated ways. You might say import and export but I do not really think that this would adequately describe the business operation. Everything he would say is getting to be somewhat bloody and he didn’t like the smell of that. He would always say that he hadn’t gone through the war for ‘nothing’. He never asked what kind of war he had gone through because my father had never talked about the kind of war he had been through so he left such conversation alone. In fact whatever he asked him he always said he would be upfront with me but at the same time had to be careful with all his various partners who tended to be very sensitive about anything especially if it implied the tax man. In effect he was telling me that he was going to tell me very little but I trusted George the 2nd so that was enough for me.
He was soon back visiting my old haunts. Everyone he met again thought that he would be starting business again but he had lost contact with the market and no longer understood the price structure. He knew from my contacts with boutiques in London that some of them had gone into sourcing material on a large scale but that it was difficult to predict the movement of fashion in the UK. Nevertheless we considered the viability of this operation but needed to have different design formats in place if we thought of entering the market with any impact. The other business we considered was antique and semi-antique furniture and interiors but felt that this might be too much of a niche market and thus not subject to any large scale operation. Meanwhile George 1st had become attracted to guilt bronzes and asked him to procure a selection for him as a future investment. Although he did not know this at the time this would eventually provide his son with a tidy windfall when he needed one later in his life. After a month of going through various options we decided to spread the investments over several different business fronts, set up an office to handle all the various transactions, procure storage space in London and start to plan some retail outlets in some of George’s vacant retail spaces. George also told me to start finding some young fashion designers who might work on commission a thing that did not prove to be too difficult given the state of employment opportunities at this time. In fact this was their formulae, designers working on commission, cheap production costs in India and image promotion. George the 1st produced the capital, George the 2nd ran the overall business and he had to make the whole thing work as a venture. All three of them agreed about one thing and that was the control of overheads. The second principle was in constant new design principles, if this didn’t work for a given product we would simply move quickly to the next and find ways of cutting the loss. The last principle was to shift all the profits into buying the very best antiques and to only sell if the price was really high thereby increasing capital without going through a tax cycle. He made it a point to hang out with art students in the West End in order to work out the various possible trends and we simply hit the high street with these things faster than anyone else. I was high on all of this and money had started to flow even if most of the economy was stagnant. I was still doing drugs, also still gambling but the drinking was under control. We were a combination of old and young heads and it was working. The trouble with success in the context of economic uncertainty is that you quickly get noticed. George 1st was clever because he was near invisible whereas it appeared that he was the front man, always on the scene looking for new opportunities. He hadn’t really thought about it but that is the way George the 1st had designed the whole thing. It might have looked like they had big reserves of money but there was only turnover so there was little of substance other than a series of labels. He used to give my vision of the near future to both George’s but it was as if they had started to lose interest. He needed some serious investment for the next stage but he quickly realised there was not going to be a next stage. The capital was already moving to other more exotic locations and he was no longer part of this picture. In simple terms he had been to busy to notice such things or even worse to high on his on success. He had started to get into design, image, retail and they had solved there business problem and that he all they needed from design, image and retail. Instead both the George’s wanted to remove them from such a noisy enterprise. They were certainly not rock and roll types. George the1st simply said that he had grown old and tired and George the 2nd said that he wanted to do sophisticated stuff with his capital related to money making money. He had obviously learnt things on the course that he hadn’t. Given that he had no capital in the beginning then there was nothing that he could take out of a business which had never really owned anything other than labels and image. With the speed of things he realised he had been somewhat free with all my income so wasn’t in a position to take over the operation which was quickly sold off to another emerging chain. He was now exhausted and depressed. What was even worse was that he was no longer a happening person and the withdrawal that came from this was difficult to handle.
Standing back from what had happened he realised that he had been under the illusion that he had all the contacts but what he hadn’t realised is that they had contacts as well, very well informed contacts as it turned out. What these contacts had done was provide a blueprint for the new structure of capitalism which was going to be extremely fast, global and in many respects invisible. Even though they would have made money continuing to work with me the business model involved too many risks in terms of reading market trends. Even though up until that point they had got most things right the business was simply not flexible enough. Ultimately it would involve tying capital down to fixed points whereas they now wanted mobility. He had simply provided a front whereby they could liberate their capital base without too much by way of risk. Now everything was fixed for a take off. They had come through a really tough decade and the 1980’s spelt opportunity to them. Also George the 1st had taught his son the art of manipulating situations and people. He thought he was family but had to face the fact that he had simply been used and that all along he had been far more useful than he had possibly imagined. The thing that really made him sore was the collection that had been amassed. It was now evident that a new stratum of collectors had started to emerge and that guilt bronzes had started to spiral in value. From now on it would be necessary to have immense amounts of money to obtain such a collection and there was George sitting on all these pieces in his bank vault with little interest in what they represented. George had simply listened to me talk about them and believed my picture of an undervalued art form. George always joked about the idea that he would by the more obviously flashy pieces and he would leave me to judge the more esoteric things and that such a combination will cover the outcome of whatever future market emerged. From this process he had collected a ten percent payment which in turn of had squandered on his many vices. This really made him feel stupid because it had taken years to assemble this knowledge and he was little better off because of it. On top of the issue of the value of the collection was the prestige of being able to lend things for special exhibitions and museum collections. George found that this was opening new doors for him because all the elite sections of society needed to trade in this manner. Whereas all these elites had tended to acquire collections at inflated prices in order to see off the competition he had handed the whole collection for a rock bottom cost. When the bulk of this collection was auctioned in New York at the end of the 1990’s George the 2nd was a very happy man even though he had lived life in a pretty miserable manner up until that point. What was amazing is that there was no contact or acknowledge about this situation. As usual it was just business and business always implied some humiliation.
Although he wasn’t on the street, he nonetheless fell into a terrible depression marked by fits of drinking and drugs. Everything was now marked by serious degrees. It was no longer social in its nature but solitary and dangerous. The fact that he had been signed off by the Georges with a handsome envelope made everything worse because he loathed every note that he spent. When he wasn’t smashed he found himself calling on call girls. This had never happened before but now it had started to become a habit. He had this large Indian casket in which he kept costumes and textiles from around the world so when he called up a woman he would greet her in one of those splendid outfits and pretend he was this or that. Some of the girls really took to this role playing game and for him it was a way of returning to the various worlds he had passed through either in reality or in fantasy. Buying textiles had started to become a passion for him and he had amassed costumes or robes from Rajasthan, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Deccan, Sind, many of the Indonesian Islands, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Tibet, Japan, Java, Bengal, Bhutan, Nepal, Iran, Turkey, Palestine, Egypt, Syria and from many other regions of India. Some of the costumes had folk origins, some were ritual or ceremonial costumes, some were Imperial and others used in performances such as the splendid Noh robe which hung on his bedroom wall. He knew that he was losing his grip, but he was in some part, enjoying the descent. He started to read Decadent and Orientalist literature that he had come across in his hippy years but this was not an expansion of possible worlds but the convulsion of being caught in self-loathing.
He wanted to anywhere but not London in 1981. At last money was flowing like he had always imagined it should but he wasn’t part of the flow unless his dismissing assets could be included. He was adrift and without any stable friendships. Occasional he would drift into sale rooms to see if he could find some rare artefact but everything had started to become meaningless. In fact ‘meaningless’ had become his favoured word. This was his attitude to money as well; stuff without meaning. If he slept then it was mostly in the daytime but the sleep was always disturbed and broken. He noticed he was sweating a lot and losing weight but such symptoms were put aside. A teacher in an ashram had told him that life revolves around the number seven because all the cells of the body are completely renewed within a seven year cycle. He was late into the cycle between twenty eight and thirty five. He had also been told that this is the last major cycle of change and that by the age of thirty five most of the patterns of life are laid down. This idea through him into even deeper depression because he was now thirty three, looking terrible and sinking fast. At times he would reassure himself that he had simply lived fast, done everything and was now paying the price of all of this. Anyway he thought that thirty five would even be unlikely because as things stood he wasn’t going to get there. What distressed him was that his ‘elsewhere life’ was also fading. The costumes were now locked away in his chest. He just no longer had the energy for all that fantasy which was at least a kind of interlude between all the heavy stuff. He had seen the effects of cocaine on people he had known in the fashion business and now it was happening to him. The worse thing was his mind was losing it edge, he was losing his money, his memory and even more rapidly his life and to amplify this condition people had started to avoid his company. He could also imagine that his charisma had also departed.
His curtains had not been opened for several weeks now. He had put most of his textiles into auction in order to pay for his next round of suicide or at least that is how it felt. He had reached thirty four but had descended into a place which was remote from any sense of future. His phone had been switched off because he could no longer be bothered with paying bills so he had little distraction from the outside world. Then there was a rare knock on his door. In his early period and running goods from Nepal he had met up with an economics graduate he was now studying yoga and Tantrism. They had moved around for about six months but he was really serious about his stuff whereas it had been a break from things for him. He was softly spoken and his appearance had a glow to it. He instantly thought to himself that his own aura must be shattered whereas Paul’s was expansive and powerful. Anyway old times were mulled over and then the tone changed. He said that I had nothing to explain but he could help me if I felt that I was ready. He checked his wrist pulses and told him that his liver was seizing up and all the other inner organs were struggling alongside this. He had been running on reserve for several months and was now at the threshold. Next day he arrived with a Vietnamese healer he in turn read his pulses, looked at his face carefully and even tasted his urine. Next the dreaded needles were carefully inserted. He had had acupuncture before but this was excruciatingly painful especially the needles next to his big toe. Tong spoke to him in a hushed tone. He told him about the heroin addicts he had treated in Vietnam and how most of them had come through.
Each day Tong would arrive at the same time. Paul was living in his spare bedroom and had both cleaned the flat but also cleared out all the substances. Every morning and evening he would be carefully massaged and for some reason onion juice was rubbed into the soles of the feet each morning and evening. Then there where all these foul taste herbs which had to be cooked up each day but gradually changes started to occur. At first a delirium set in; shaking, sweating, shouting, headaches, nosebleeds. On several occasions he suffered from convulsions and felt he just didn’t want to go on but Tong and Paul just kept going with the routines. In away they had simply taken him over. After about two weeks of this treatment he suddenly started to wonder how he was going to pay for all of this. Tong said that he expected money only when he had a result from his treatment and that given that he was still sick he only had to think of his health. Paul simply said that he needed somewhere to stay so he was happy. Stage by stage his life returned to him. Meanwhile a cheque arrived from the auction house and half of this went to Tong so he could set up his first clinic in this country. Meanwhile Paul had been running some small yoga and mediation classes so he started to join in. It seemed that a new life was beginning. He was now on a mono diet of mung beans and rice which Paul had convinced him would clean out the toxins in his body and with this a regime of yoga. Suddenly a new language entered his life; a language of chakras, nadic channels, prana, kriyas, endocrine glands, subtle or etheric bodies and so on. The main issue though his he actually started to recover so all the disbelief was put aside. The important thing was he started to sleep properly. He then started to consider what might come next and with this end in mind he started to go out and meet old contacts.
Within two weeks he was talking to the head of the fashion course at Saint Martins about a new position which combined business studies in the fashion world with promoting the course overseas. The buzz word of the moment was post-modernism which for him appeared to translate as anything goes. Part of anything goes was the art of mixing different cultural forms together into new hybrid looks. This held out an important prospect for the development of the course because it also meant that you could increase the international appeal of the course. Before the concept of post-modernism he was of course doing exactly this with his own label but at least he knew the logic behind all of this. He was lead to believe that it was a happening place and these feeling of energy suited his new found mood. The other aspect of the position is that the college wanted to assemble an archive both of costumes and fashion items alongside a collective of slide material. There would also be textiles samples and all of this was going to be put together as a sort of library and visual research centre. The final piece in the jigsaw was starting up a magazine, still without a name that was going to mix fashion, art, street culture, politics and experimental writing. His exact post was called educational advisor because he was not going to be responsible for course delivery but instead would assemble teams to work on projects. The main idea behind all this new structuring was to make the course hot with the industry on an international level. Part of his desire to accept the job was that he thought that it would keep him out of trouble. He had enjoyed working with young designers in the past so this was a chance to generate the conditions of a new philosophy of design.
Having accepted the post four or five of the course leaders started to both draw up a new outline for the course, opening out with this, new modulations of fashion practices as well as assembles a whole series of buzz concepts through which these courses might become coherent to students. The word that was repeated again and again related to making the course sexy. The biggest selling point of the course was its location, slap bang in the centre of London and not more had to be said because this meant clubs and nightlife, even to some extent a seedy form of glamour that fashion students seemed to grave. Perhaps they made have created an appeal by the direct idea of coming to hang out within the hottest course in London because in part they attracted those who were really serious about hanging out. The point was that the course wasn’t snooty about the whole academic thing; instead they were after the heat of the culture itself. The other thing that appealed to him was the travel and soon he was dispatched to Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong in order to sell the course. What he quickly understood about the Far East was that many of the girls interested in coming to the course simply wanted to escape their respective cultures and that the very hint of transgression which he carefully cultivated in his presentations was just the vapour trail that would result in escalating recruitment. The head of the school was quick to notice this so after the first year he was sitting in the company of the ‘Vamp’ telling stories of the other potential countries to launch recruitment. The Georges had proved to be correct; the world was changing and changing fast. It was heating up and on the move even though most mind sets around him in the college didn’t really grasp this. He liked being on the inside of something again but knew that at the same time he could be eaten again so he was always careful to keep much of the information he gathered in the background.
Meanwhile his flat now resembled an ashram which in a strange way he enjoyed because he could step and out at will. He knew that Paul would always put him straight about things and for the first time he had started to open out his life. He had been an only child and only had what he described as a half father who mainly worked overseas. He was described as a loner at school and never really engaged with much. For a period he had wanted to go to art school because that was were the interesting kids went but then he thought that dropping out and coming to London would suit him better. He found it difficult to admit to feeling both of anger and isolation but after a lot of prompting it all started to flood out. With all of this he started to feel that his life might start to be reformed but forming relationship seemed to be difficult. It was not that he hadn’t had girlfriends but nothing seemed to last for very long. He had always put this down to lifestyle but it was evidently not really the case and Paul was always quick to let him know that he had a really serious issue when it came to loving the other. He of course realised that the reason he had fallen apart after the departure of the George’s was because he had started to see George the 1st as a substitute father. He wondered how he could have been tapped like this but that is how it was. Gradually though students started to come to his place and eventually female students started staying the night with him because that was what tended to happen without very much by way of thinking it through as a consequence. Overall he started to identify learning things about himself with learning things within the context of college.
For most of his period in India Paul had been learning to play the Sitar and he would regularly have a couple of Indian friends over and they would improvise together. His favourite musician was Ustad Vilayet Khan and he was keen on saying that it would take twenty lifetimes before he could even sit on the same stage. Paul was extremely self-contained and rarely spoke without thinking carefully before hand. He said that he wanted every element of his life to be like the musical notes that he played. By this he did not mean that his life might become sweat in the way that music might be thought as so, but rather in place and spaced. He could never really keep up with the implications of mystical thinking but at the same time he liked the way it touched the edges of his life. He was now eating well, sleeping, enjoying sex and was stimulated by the people he was meeting through his work.
As he started to look in detail at the way things were run at college he started to notice several patterns. It seemed as though much of the college ran on its reputation and that quite a number of students could not deal with the lack of support with different courses. This environment worked for those who might have a direction but if not you might be in trouble. There was a clear division of interest in terms of staff and students and overall the seemed little sense of cohesion about the whole enterprise. He would muse to himself that if it was a business it would go broke instantly. He started to work out ways in which he could place students within meaningful work experiences because this would provide more co-ordinated learning structures. Connected to this he started to get some fashion businesses to support club nights. The logic is that it would keep these companies close to the emerging fashion loops and enable them to hire some of the emerging talent to provide designs for an agreed fee structure. He was increasingly frustrated by the lack of detailed technical training especially in regard to pattern cutting. When he had run his own label they always utilised the best pattern cutters they could find, in fact it was almost the only thing that they did not do on the cheap. He always said that you could get a way with cheap material but not with bad pattern cutting. This was just his strongly held view. For him the thing that was propelling the course was not so much academic issues but the way that students used to create their own outfits for club nights or parties. This was the source of the experimentation and in a way the source of producing the new looks that London was so much the centre of. It was both a highly competitive culture but one filled with fantasy and invention. Students soon worked out that he was good both with contacts but also knew a lot about exotic textiles and costumes. Although he was no longer making the kind of money he had been used too he had a stable pattern of life for pretty much the first time.
It was March in 1983 and he arrived back after a long trip to the Far East and Paul was wearing a white turban. He asked him what it was about and he said that he had been invited to go and work in Los Angeles with a Sikh spiritual teacher called Yogi Bhajan. He explained that he had met him in India and promised to work with him in the future and now was the time. He knew little about Sikhism and was shaken by what had seemed a sudden conversation. Paul explained that he had thought about it for a number of years but that he needed a close relationship with a teacher. He said that the last two years had really been good for him but the circle between them was now drawn. He understood but at the same time a fear welled up inside because he was unsure about just how much he had come to depend upon him. Paul said that he would be ready to leave in two weeks and would teach him some basic things to help with self maintenance, a concept which mainly related to the daily practice of yoga and mediation. Whereas he was broken up about the parting of ways with the Georges he now felt that he simply did not know what his reaction would be. He could immediately admit to himself that he felt a dependency and yet was strong enough not to try to persuade him not to leave. Part of him simply knew the need to follow through the logic of life and this is what Paul was doing. He was going to assume a Sikh name and his life would turn on another axis. He had never learned so much from a single person but it was time to move. The remaining two weeks was quite, almost careful. Paul had to make many arrangements but each evening they spoke of things and mediated together. A final gathering was arranged, music played and even dancing. That was it, a taxi to Heathrow, goodbye and boarding. His work schedule was increasingly hectic and that arrested any feelings of emptiness.
There is nothing worse than an empty flat after it had been so uniquely occupied by another. He tried throwing dinner parties and parties but it still failed to fill the evident void. People used to wonder if it was some kind of gay thing he had been involved in but it wasn’t that at all. He knew that he had been rescued and now needed to live in the light of that and yet he was struggling. Despite his various flings he could not really call on anyone for more intimate support or exchange. This was an art that he had never really grasped. Somehow his life was at a different pole because he was good at performing roles in public but lacked the interiority to cement more developed relationships. Looking back he realised that he had been extremely withdrawn as a child and inclined to simply exist in his own separate space. This had given him a resource of being able to get on with things on his own terms but at the same time had create a sense of vulnerability in more intimate ways. He could acknowledge that Paul had given him love but he didn’t know how to generate this within himself and be part of a transfer of such feeling.
As a means of coping he found himself going to clubs more frequently and was introduced to the drug which would induce the feeling that he lacked. Ecstasy felt really good and everyone he knew at this time was doing it. He simply thought that it would quick start his faltering life. The ecstasy came with a new woman in his life who was part Chinese and part Italian. Her name was Lily and the ecstasy in part played the role of closing the energy gap between them because Lily could both party like crazy, work the next day and still produce fabulous work. Lily came from a wealthy family based in Milan but her mother who was originally from Singapore had died when she was six so she was mainly brought up by nannies. She was both extremely smart in her outlook, ambitious, but also emotionally intense. There was a part of her that simply wanted to consume everything. She visited museums, read philosophy, partied, was sexually active, went to concerts, opera, liked clothes, in fact was completely open to everything other than banal things like housework. One moment she would be discussing Derrida and deconstruction, next revolutionary politics, then transgressive sexual issues; all in a rapid short hand language which would join up everything to make it sound as though it was a continuous and uninterrupted set of concepts. In some ways this was more outrageous in style than intellectual but she was quite a magnate for all those around her. What she liked about him was his ability to turn on performances and she liked someone to bounce of in ways that gave her the veneer of sophistication. Within all of this they also sexed each other whenever a space for this appeared. Money was no problem for her because her father spoiled her without reserve, he was in banking and it seemed that he could print money for his own use. Before he started to this relationship his fantasy was for someone he would live a domestic type of life with him and instead he was now in Lily’s whirlwind. They thus became a big item on the scene, always dressed up in ways that were daring and unexpected. Slowly he adopted many of her language mannerism but he had read little of all this stuff in any proper manner but at least it passed as Saint Martins speak. The buzz concept in the fashion department was no longer simple culturally layering and hybridity but strange cocktails of style, image, language, concepts and sex. Lily talked about the way that fashion should be part of a performance but instead should be its own performance. He could only understand this when he was out with Lily and her friends because it was as if any space they might touch was warped by their presence. Lily wanted to start her own label and he was going to provide her with know how, with the money being supplied by her father who thought that it was natural that she should be a star in her own right. She would keep telling him that Saint Martins needed him but he should walk away from them. She knew all about the George situation and couldn’t understand why he didn’t realise the situation would be completely different.
Lily started to design collections that related to what she termed her new ideas of the emergent subject, a subject that would be conceived by its natural extensions outside of the limits created by Oedipal structures. She hated the hierarchical structures of the fashion industry. She had taken part in the riots in Bologna in 1977 which might have seemed strange given that she was a banker’s daughter. He had observed how it is often the case with very rich people that they are bored by their own class, even something beyond bored. Lily was beyond bored. She was always carrying round a small set of pocket books published in New York from a publisher called Semiotext(e) and a magazine called ZG. Many of her lines came directly from these pages. “As individuals we are made up of lines, lines of many kinds…” or “The violence of speed has become the location and the law, the world’s destiny and its destination.” Her first new collection was called ‘Proletarian Indians,’ the second ‘Artuad’s Children’ and the third ‘Intense and Intensely Sexual.’ For some reason she did everything in threes. Her note books were full of drawings that spiralled into ideas for collections. She would say that fashion was decadence but what better place to striate decadence than from within its concentrated tentacles. Her other ideas included collections called ‘The Sunset of Dissolution’, ‘Spectres of Pasolini’, ‘Bataille’s Last Death’ and this went on page after page. She was fed up with college projects and simply wanted to start right away, she wanted costings from him, a list of technicians, and a place to work from. He was not really sure what was fuelling all of this, was it the drugs, was she a minor genius, or just a troubled rich kid waiting to explode into a thousand tiny pieces. He had noticed that things like the death of her mother was off limits, the attachment of her father was always simply brushed aside and her general craziness was invariably framed as the product of intense creativity. She was certainly full of surprises. The second night they spent together she attached a dildo and insisted on fucking him up the arse so that he could feel what it was like for a woman to be fucked by a man. She simply never let anything become routine especially with sex. In a short space of time they had been fucked in front of the other, had various forms of group sex, gone to various sex clubs to sample things on offer, re-enacted film moments up to the point that he was a little unsure who he was going to bed with. She used to talk about her sex life in Bologna as being one of her greatest experiences because it opened out the space between heaven and earth for her. Such phrases seemed typical but he would always smile with each of them because they were so remote from the experience of everyday life. For her this was the whole point for she wanted to thread the illusion of continuity within what was called the everyday which for her signified nothing other than a squalid pit of habits and stale images.
Each occasion they spent time alone together she always had an assembly of new recordings, books or images. One moment she was assembling material relating to the spectral and then she was listening to David Sylvain’s ‘Ghosts’, reading Chinese and Japanese ghost stories and looking at films such as ‘Ugestu Monogatari’ by Mizoguchi, Butoh dance and studying material related to the death camps. It wasn’t that she had a direct critique of anything but such material would act as a cipher for a mood that might inflame a nerve. That was what she was good at inflaming nerves. Then she might have collected together material related to voices of Black America and then she was listening to The Last Poets, Archie Shepp’s recording ‘Blasé’ the speeches of Malcolm X, Gil Scott Heron’s proto rap music and various collections of prison writing. At times she had no regard for how it might fit together or even how to establish a plane of consistency as long as there was force. He note books were filled with clusters of images, quotations, references to experiences, film stills, photographs,
photocopies of text, prose and drawings and these would pass through the didactic, poetic, political and rhapsodic without a pause of final mediation. She called these notebooks the ‘coiled spring’ of her collections
As usual the money arrived and they set about establishing a studio. It was only twenty minutes away on the Central Line so it was both close in time but distant enough to be away from college. I had hired one of my old pattern cutters and she had entrapped several of her friends to work as design assistants. Within a short space of time the walls were covered by an amazing series of drawings. For him this was like nothing he had seen before. Each drawing appeared to contain a collage of images and text. She had always gone to the fine art seminars and learnt an amazing amount about the history of collage so it was now being put into use. At times the feeling was like a punk surrealism, at other times a memory trace of radical political encounters but also what she termed virulent Romanticism. Phrases seemed to fall out of an archive of fragmentary readings from a library that had never been composed. Silkscreen equipment was assembled and cloth was dyed and then printed. The whole studio was transformed into a vast tented structure with these textiles hanging from walls and across surfaces. Part of him thought that this would simply make a great art installation. It was as though all the talking was now inscribed into textiles forms. The assembled images appeared to be breathing in space and the space itself breathed through the tissue of the image. Perhaps the images themselves could have been understood as lungs animating the rippling of the semi-transparent textiles which are one moment dense, the next faintly coloured and near empty. Sometimes faces would appear but as if trapped in the in-between of shadow and void, announcing a form of half life within this condition of uncertainty. Fragments of bodies floated in darkening recesses, apparitional and erotic in turn, one moment recording fading the next over the rapture of ripening but as sequences of folds yielding to a dense weaving of body and space. Through all of this patterns and splashes of colour spliced through images in order to create an extraordinary rippling of colour, decorative abstraction, image and texts. The moment some play of image or image text would enter into recognition then it would disappear again into chaos or misrecognition. She said that she wanted her collections to have this feeling of vapour and image fusing into a zone of neutrality or dispersal. He said that if she would slice open her brain then this is what you would see. She liked that idea because she said she wanted to slice open consumers to reveal if they had any guts left. She followed this by declaring that the images would only be properly realised when they were cut. This for her was the radical principle, everything was in the cut. Gradually the pattern cutting took shape amid constant rows about the look and shape of things. Lily wanted everything at its limit whereas the pattern cutter wanted everything to function smoothly. Yet this collision of design philosophies started to work and bit by bit several collections started to emerge but with it a distinct aesthetic. Once everything was assembled Lily got in touch with a film cameraman to create a series of short films that utilised the costumes in different scenarios. Her idea was to use a number of clubs to project these films, creating what she termed immersive environments. Her favourite film of the moment was Pasolini’s ‘Medea’ so she also wanted to travel to Morocco to film her costumes in remote locations but that was for later.
Around this time he was pulled into his line manager’s office who told him that they had had complaints from other students about his involvement with Lily. Many of these complaints contained details of their relationship and that if were true it might be better if he left even though he was an important member of staff. He was given twenty four hours to think through the situation but either he was left with a choice of ending things with Lily or departing from the Art School. It was a pretty simple choice. When Lily heard about this situation she was really pleased because it meant that they could simply proceed with the next stage of the business plan. She simply told him that they had eaten enough of him already and that everything they did was mediocre anyway. She told him that she was felt a sense of certainty about this project. He wondered if she felt certain about him in turn. Suddenly Lily became quite and looked around the space. She told him that when relationship went fast she was satisfied but she couldn’t stand slowness with people and that she had started to notice that things had slowed down. Then she said something about needing other things as well. He suddenly had the feeling that this meant sexual things but was afraid to ask. Her idea of a relationship was the expenditure of energy within a space of intensity whereas for him he realised he needed a different type of duration. All this intensity had started to tire him and with this he had to admit to himself that he did not have the intellectual resource to keep up with her. He knew that slowing down for her meant becoming bored and what she was really saying to him was that she had noticed signs of boredom. Then she looked at him and said that she would always be faithfully in business with him but she could never commit to being sexually faithful because she required complete freedom. He always knew that this was essentially the case but at the same timed always hoped that it might be different between them. It meant that he had a lot to think about and a short time to do it in. He simply felt that he had been on an amazing trip but now was the time to inject some reality principle into his life. He came to the conclusion that he should both leave the art school and Lily but this would be difficult because he had no idea what might come next. He started to feel consumed at both ends, emptied of his knowledge by the schools and burned up by Lily. It was a little bit like having an abyss on the one side and a pit of fire on the other. The hard thing for him was moving away from Lily’s heat. He remembered the first time they had slept together, a sensation of the entry into her sex being directly like an entrance into her imagination. He thought that she was like one of those Tantric sky dancers that he occasionally found when he was dealing. At the same time he thought she was capable of simply blowing up and then accepting her father’s lifestyle and circles in order to become the bourgeois she despised. In another way he was sick of being a prop for others but at the same time realised that this had evolved because he liked the drive and intelligence to create his own project and direction. The next day he had handed his resignation in at college and told Lily that it might be better if they went there separate ways. To his surprise the college did little to persuade him to stay which signified to him that they had used him up but Lily just looked at him and burst out crying. In that moment he saw a little girl in her, a touch of desperation even but certainly the tough veneer of sophistication appeared to vanish. She told him that she still wanted to work with him whatever was happening to them on a personal level but he told her that he needed some time alone.
After months of noise and activity everything fell silent in his world. He felt alone but not devastated. He knew he would find things hard without Lily because it was his first extended relationship with a woman. He had no resentment whatsoever about their affair because it had been in the essential characteristics true. He had always thought that she was a ‘space cadet’ and that such beings were rare. In relationship to others she was dangerous but then she burnt so much more strongly than those she was dangerous for. In the end burnt or not you received heat from Lily and it was not easy to walk away from such a person. Yet if she was out there somewhere he still thought that he needed the ground or processes of grounding.
He returned to listening to Indian Classical music. Paul had left him part of his record collection and tapes of live recordings. He was having many types of flashbacks mainly related to all the ‘e’ he had consumed. He realised that he needed to clean up again but had no one to help him this time. He put his treasured Noh robe into auction, because he realised that the Japanese market was really strong and so this might be the time to let go. After all this time there wasn’t really very many things in his flat but then his memory was in tact and irreplaceable. He was divided between simply just letting something fall into place or going out and making something happens. He started to read some of the books that Lily had left behind. Much of it seemed to be far too complex for him so it was a struggle but then he did at least understand that thought was a form of struggle. He took careful notes as he read and little by little things started to make sense. He realised that he had never really set about structuring his ideas that in some way they existed as a jumble drawn from so many different sources as to be simply a form of chaos. In brief moments it started to feel like he was entering into different continents composed out of the strata of different language formations. He started to see a relationship between constructing a thing and developing a thought. In a way he started to see abstractions in things and this started to be a pleasurable experience. He wondered in turn why it was that no-one had introduced him to these possibilities when he was at school.
It was now 1984 and he had been working on a commission basis for a few companies and was able to supplement this with the money he had received from the sale of his Noh robe which had fetched an exceptional price. Although he had never considered himself an expert in the field of textiles and costume he had made great returns from his earlier forays in this field. He had seen Lily for some time but her new collections had failed to either catch the imagination or in turn find a market. The press had been scathing her, terming the collections ‘anarcho-situationist chic’, ‘demented anti-consumerist nonsense’, and a ‘chaos of form, image and text leading to hell’. Rather than holding her position Lily imploded and had taken refuge in the club scene and there was talk about her having a drug’s problem. She had been to see him several times and even stayed with him on one occasion but they had both found it difficult to generate the energetic tension that had produced the dynamic interplay. Two months on there was an unexpected visit to his flat. It was Lily’s father who was every bit the elegant persona that Lily had always evoked. He asked me if I had seen Lily recently and when I shook my head he simply told me that she had developed a serious problem with heroin. He had heard of my problem in the past and how Paul and Tong had helped me. He simply wanted help for his daughter because he felt that she was possessed by a death drive and without the help she was able to understand he feared losing her. He blamed himself constantly saying that he had indulged her but that this could be understood after the death of her mother. I told him that Paul was living in LA but that I would go to see Tong and see if he would be able to invest a lot of his time. Mario said that money would be absolutely no object. First we planned to get Lily away from her flat and in turn her contacts. She said that she was willing to be treated by Tong who had agreed to visit her twice a day for as long as it might take. Mario organised a new flat and the treatment started. Two months latter Tong was only visiting her every few days. She had come through the first stage. She then agreed to go and live next to Lake Como to enter into a process of re-establishing her life and her shattered health. Mario gave Tong enough money to expand his now thriving clinic.
Over this period I got to know Mario quite well. He was a highly cultivated man who knew a lot about different cultures and the art of many periods. His family had been in finance for several generations so he had an extremely well informed vision of how the money system was evolving. He told me that he had never made so much money, so easily but without the sense that it really meant very much. Part of this related to the fact that money had lost its centre or has he put it was without index to anything. He also felt that this new volatile state of affairs favoured fast money but ultimately as fast money accelerates it will first create heat and after a short series of delays will start to burn. I liked the way he spoke because it always sounded more poetic than technical. I asked him if he knew the Georges and he of course knew of them. He told me they had become exceptional wealthy but that they had enemies so had to be careful in the future. Mario also wanted to hear from me about his daughter, was she really talented, what type of life she might live and so on? I told him that she was talented but suffered from the fact that she might not really be of this time. I also told him that in her own way she was a major influence on others in her milieu that had become incredibly successful. He then told me that he would be in touch again once his daughter had started to recover more.
He thought that this might have been the first time he had been in a position to have really helped someone. Perhaps if he had continued to work with Lily then the whole thing might have gone better but at the same time she had such a strong will power it might have been difficult to have moderated her impulses. People in fashion liked to pretend that the whole enterprise had a radical cutting edge but much of this posture was simply hot air. Inherently it was a conservative business paying attention to margins and spin offs. When he had seen Lily again, he was shocked not so much by the fact that she had become an addict, but because she had lost her way so catastrophically. In the midst of the fashion swirl she had forgotten much of her political impulse that had provided her with such energy. She had survived the aftermath of defeat by state forces in Italy only to fall to a fashion system feeding off its own cycles of appropriation. Not that it is ever quite like that but nonetheless the power of the fashion business to consume people in such ways is always a source of amazement.
A year later Mario came to visit me again. Lily had started to draw and paint but was still withdrawn tending to never venture out of the house. Tong had taught her some Chi Cong exercises and continued to send her herbs so she was much stronger. She had sent a drawing to me with a small note thanking me for the time together in London, saying that she would never forget. Mario had a proposition for me and it involved working in his London office handling some accounts. He had a small team who would help train me but thought that I would be good when it came to communicating with his client base. He said that his team were very good at communicating facts and figures but he needed someone who could also entertain clients properly as part of the package. He said that I had a charm that came out of a very adventurous life and thought that my extensive travelling, especially to the Far East could be an important element in business development. I went through with him why I thought that finance was the wrong destination for me but he said I could sign a two year contract and then walk away with a large bonus if I was right. Mario also reassured me that this was not an indirect payment for my help with Lily but that he was working on a hunch and that usually his hunches worked out. The next day we went out together to buy some suits together, had a great meal together and agreed that I would start working the following week. There was only one rule in his office and that was no cocaine, no playboy stuff and no overtly flashy behaviour. Everything was too being run in a low key manner, discretely and with style.
A year had passed quickly and he felt that he still understood little of what was happening around him. He had the impression that Mario kept a very close reign on things because he had to approve of every major decision. Money went in and out of various currencies and stocks, companies purchased and then re-orientated to be sold at a profit, emerging markets trawled for investment opportunities, all the usual things. The art was simply to provide a few more percent than the competition and that appeared to be it. If there was any major client in town than Mario would fly over otherwise emerging clients were left to him. Mario would ring him on regular intervals just to keep his interest in things but as a whole he felt outside of the main loop and as such was beginning to be bored. He started to understand why Lilly hated what she had called ‘capitalist end games’ because that is what it felt like. One day Mario arrived, not to speak to a client but seemingly to speak him. He asked him what he knew about the set up and what its immediate destination might be. He replied that he was still trying to play catch up and Mario said that such an answer is not good enough, that I was too slow. Then he told Mario that he had little faith in the system because it was structural flawed, almost like a vast pyramid scheme that cannot sustain itself. He had garnered this pronouncement from one of Lily’s books but he wanted to see how Mario would respond because he was fed up with feeling outside the ball game that was going on around him. Yet coolly Mario agreed with him saying that you had to be both one with any system but at the same time outside of it. He said that he hadn’t necessarily been unhappy that Lily had been involved in radical politics because some of those characters like Negri and Tronti knew a few things. He said that London was a good place to do business because they leave you alone and that is how his clients liked things. Then he told him that his money was mainly being transferred into buying remote areas of land which had plentiful supplies of water and agriculture potential. Now the future appears to be all these city states around the world but this will change. His family had always had the motto of being at least thirty years ahead of things. He then said that on the surface he was making a lot of money for his clients but that underneath this function his Milan office were producing scenarios relating to future environments. He told him how they financed a whole network of experts to feed information often exchanging stock market tips as a payoff. Most of his clients could look after there immediate investments but analysis of future scenarios was a really difficult enterprise. The most surprising statement was that to be really serious about finance implied also becoming a kind of spook. Finally he told him that he wasn’t really sure if he would be good for his other organisation or even if it would be good for him. He had considered setting him up as a international out dealer or something like that so all he had been doing really was getting a close look at the mind sets of really rich people so he could adjust to working with them. He felt as if he had been played with and told Mario so. Mario apologised for this but explained that he always wanted to see how someone works out what is happening to then before being explicit about his own designs. People he said can turn out to be incredibly expensive. Also he needed to see if he had rid himself of past demons. All of this had sent him into a spin because it shattered his straightforward sense of how the system behaved. His image of capitalism was based on a behavioural model of immediate gratification, of a system that almost blindly chased after its own tail in order to keep going and now he was faced with not so much a visionary type of capitalism but certainly one that was capable of thinking about highly complex things and taking positions which might no immediate profit. Mario said that he had an American mathematician-economist who on going project was concerned with chaos theory models which could not have any immediate market implication. He said that it was simply necessary to know what might be possible, that everything was just a series of potentialities. He also said that Keynesian economics functioned for roughly thirty years in the post war period, monetarism will have a similar shelf life and that after that there will either be a completely new paradigm based on mathematics we cannot yet be understood or an implosion. This was the point that all of his thought was now converging upon. Whatever happens he concluded it will be a largely authoritarian world. He simply turned to Mario and said he was ready to depart company but felt out of his depth. Mario smiled and said that the scenarios he had unravelled would help him in the future. He also said that he would be forever grateful to him and that if he needed any kind of help in the future he would be there for him. Even though he had terminated his contact early a bonus arrived a month later. He had learnt all the rudiments of the banking and finance system but was still in the same state of limbo about what to do next. Whereas the Georges had clearly shafted him, he felt the opposite about his time with Mario. Maybe toyed with but in a way that was benign.
For a time he returned to reading books. He had kept away from relationship and instead slipped into occasional brothels. Also he hated that part of himself that could sustain this level of dissociation but that was a strong element within his psyche. Also Lily might not have been the best introduction into the idea of relationship and stability. If he might be pressed as to what he believed in or what his philosophy was then he would whisper something about nihilism. He had always been relatively unstable but now felt as though the systems that surrounded him had no roots or essential direction. Now he had more time he started to wonder about Lily but she had stopped contacting him so there seemed little point in this wandering aspect of his imagination. He had passed the age of thirty five so also started to think that he might simply be stuck within his own limited behavioural template. He wondered if he was simply a minor hustler who in turner was hustled by either sharper operators or operations. This was a fairly grim conclusion to his life so far. He had a little bit of money, no social basis and was outside of any really meaningful relationship. The only object that he felt attachment to was the memory of his time with Lily. Perhaps this was in part due to the fact that she held little resemblance to the mundane realities of most of the people he had had contact with. He was really bored with all this scrambling about for money. Lily was a money burner, a point at which money was consumed by its own vanishing point. He had started to think that both Mario and Lily had formed a very strange partnership in regard to money, not just the simple relationship of him making loads of it, and she, consuming endless amounts of it but something more complex. It was as if she had understood that it represented a meaningless horizon of becoming and that he was preparing for its materialist disappearance. Perhaps Lily had been able to stay with the logic of her own spontaneous position. It is though she had condensed all of her father’s conversations with her and attempted to present them as an aesthetic practice, only without a coherent language for doing so.
Every evening before drifting of to sleep he would conjure her image as if to maintain the reality of his memory of a time that had moved so quickly that it had simply been rendered a blur. Masturbation had started to be the medium for this ritual of remembering and Lily formed its outline. It was not because he wanted Lily to return to him as much as he needed to shape her image in his mind as a constant ritual of his own uncertain shaping of his own horizon. He imagined Lily looking over him but almost in a manner that was indifferent and other worldly. Part of the thing that had enabled him to function in the past was his curious forms of obsession but it was as if obsession had become a pure object of encounter. He always finished up returning to the same point which was what he now imagined her glorious vagina radiating in the darkened half light of his fantasy. As the semen sprayed onto his body he would rub it into his skin in order to imagine that he might glow in the night. Everyday life had simply become a burden to be endured; he simply no longer cared about the affairs of the day or the turnover that oozed endless kitsch, stupidity or war. For him all of this had become a source of disgust and he even suspected that deep down he was disgusted with his own shaping of the self. Occasionally he would attempt to break the cycle by visiting a call girl but this would only reinforce the cycle because the experience no longer felt connected to sex at all but rather its dissolution. The idea of a relationship seemed to be completely impossible because he now thought that he was completely joined to this imaginary impossible other. As the world had started to fade then the image of Lily expanded its hold and with this the ritual of intense masturbation. He noticed that his head had started to feel clouded and spongy. Also his general sharpness was likewise blunted and when he looked in the mirror he felt his eyes to be dull. He even started to wonder if there was any truth to the idea that masturbation could lead to blindness, not that he was going to realist check this out in any realistic manner. Connected to this he felt trapped because this appeared to be a pit of his own making and it was clearly functioning as a descent. He started to have a stale taste in the mouth as he ejaculated, a mysterious sensation that he could not discern if it was imaginary or real. He had sometimes tasted this with Lily when they were together and she had said that this taste related to the transition between the pleasure principle and the apprehension of death. Such statements had been put in a file simply labelled as ‘Lily’ but now he wondered if he was in effect tasting the seed of his own death. Maybe this is why George Bataille had called orgasm the ‘little death’. He realised that in part that he had become morbid. He constantly returned to the image of himself attempting to fight the demon of drug addiction and feeling that he would rather die than face another day of withdrawal.
One morning he received a call from Paul how was now called Guru Singh. He had even introduced himself as such. He asked what was happening and said that he thought there might be a problem. How are problems without any proper name described? Is it adequate to say that there was a relationship; a kind of madness; a descent, repose and now a relapse followed by the dark night of obsession bracketed by the ritual of masturbation and with this the spectre of death? Anyway he found himself saying these things, pretty much in that kind of language. He then asked if he understood and Guru Singh gave him a number to call saying that it is a little old lady he might be able to help him. He told him that what he needed to understand was that it was his pattern of addiction reoccurring in another guise and that he needed help with this because it was destructive. Perhaps he was the only person who could say these things to him and not be pushed aside.
The next day he rang the number and found himself sitting with an old lady with a pendulum in her hand asking him all kinds of what appeared to be disconnected questions. She said Paul had talked to her saying that she would always know him as such and didn’t believe in changing names. She also added that he will eventually change it back. Next he was put in a room in which there was a light machine that projected a blue light. She simply said that he should sit there and relax and she would come in when she thought he was ready. He asked her what this whole thing was about and she said it is called radionics which he had never heard about before. She asked him if he knew about chakras and the etheric body because that was the interface that the broadcasting of light worked upon. All he knew was that strange as all of this was he had the feeling that this would not turn out to be some strange irrelevance. He thought that she might be a sort of white witch which rather than being alarming was reassuring. His other thought was that there was a strange almost underground network of these esoteric healers who all had points or network of connections. When he left she told him that they would have to do a lot of work together but also that she would be able to help. She said that he should come three times a week for the next month.
Each time he came she would talk to him and she would use her pendulum to measure various things. Alice would tell him unexpected things about his childhood. He thought that she was some type of clairvoyance because everything she said would have an uncanny ring of truth to it. Eventually she said that the core of his problems started when he was in the womb, that his mother had been very sick and feared that she was going to have to lose him. She told him that this affected him on an organic and vibrational level and from there became a complex, interlocking pattern that formed the template of his emotional life. Radionics she also told him was like a form of quantum mechanical healing that went beyond the here and now of ordinary physical space and time. Every emotion is both actual and virtual at the same time; it is as if each emotion is simultaneously past, present and future. Already he had started to notice changes in his life. He was still masturbating but it had a lighter feeling to it as if air was fixing and penetrating the fog. Sitting in the chair with the projected light became his cleansing post; he could sink into himself but much more as a light body as opposed to a body of dense, heavy matter. Within this he started to link elements of his life together much more. What had previously appeared to be his chaos now appeared to be simply what it was, that is a coherent pattern of life failing to find traction within a horizon of becoming?
I wanted to find out more about this form of healing and Alice said that in part its roots were in the diviner’s art, and that structures such as the Pyramids were placed through the use of radiesthesia devices in order to detect nature’s influences and patterns of energy. The use of pendulum simply gives or provides a measure of the energy patterns in the living body and from the find a diagnosis relating to this pattern. The actual treatment is based on the idea that the body functions as a resonant field. Radionics she told be utilised ancient principles but also had an interface with modern physics and utilised a principle of amplifying light via tuned dials that set a rate of vibrational pattern that is able in turn to concentrate energy at a certain place. He didn’t really understand all of this but it had worked for him.
He started to think that he should try to change direction in his life, something that might result in something that he could describe as meaningful. He thought about returning to art dealing but prices had become high and he lacked the capital to really start again in any serious manner. Also most art dealers now travelled to the so called sources of the things he knew about. His next idea was to create an agency for designers and even for artists because he felt that there was a gap in the market for such a function but at the same time he didn’t want to return to these same haunts he had previously occasioned. In many ways he wanted something outside of the time he was in because it was so vacuous to his perception. He felt nostalgia for the time when much of the world seemed outside the mad commerce that had gripped hold of it now. It appeared that commerce and war interspersed themselves in places that had formerly been static or seemingly unchanging, for instance he could no longer visit Kabul or for that matter Iran. Food was fast, production was fast, turnover of products were fact, images even quicker, life was cheaper and faster; in general slow things were on the edge of disappearance. Perhaps it was true what Virilio had said once, our future is disappearance and that the medium of this disappearance is speed. He wanted to be slow right now, to collect himself, to align himself to the stretch of his life, to feel that this stretch was an actual stretch and not a mere pulse passing across of screen. For so much of his life he had accepted the machine he was part of but not any longer. Not that this turn indicated a revolutionary rejection of the system that had so pre-occupied Lily but rather it was closer to a feeling of being tired with it all. So what had once appeared to be an endlessly fascinating world was now been minced into a messy soup of common identity through which chemicals and commands could pass through? It was not so much a world that arranged a distinct ‘master-slave dialectic’ but something more evolved than that which ground subjects into formations of liquid flows incapable of direct currents or flows outside of the input of command. He termed it electro-chemical capitalism, a capitalism that inched closer by the day to the reality of being the provider of junk. He had understood addiction from the inside and was now seeing its logic from the outside. Everything appeared to work below the threshold of cognition. He had never talked to anyone he was in business who would admit to being addicted to power and control or even to artists and designers who were addicted to being seen in order to elevate their narcissistic self-image. He concluded that there was no escape from all of this but he had to find some point from which he might develop something within himself. He remember how he had done his degree in economics and thought that this so-called counter-intuitive move had been responsible for a direction in life that had finally lead away from any project that might result in his own development. He simply did not want anything that would involve learning another system of knowledge or even another career route. He thought back to his years at school and the only thing that he was good at was things to do with numbers and calculation, English literature, and drawing. Perhaps it was a matter of resurrecting either his relationship to drawing or to writing. He had nothing more of substance to sell so he thought he would try Mario once more. He was completely frank with Mario, that he thought he still might owe him and that he would help him with his art collection by viewing sales for him and sending reports. Mario did not hesitate as he was able to admit that he had never been able to make so much money before. He told me Lily was well and making some really interesting paintings in which many of the forms and images of her failed collections had started to resurface. He immediately started to check out various courses with the feeling that this period might be for him.
Eventually he decided that it would be art school because he felt that it was the most self-determining route that he could take. His next task was to assemble a portfolio so for the next three months he buried himself in drawing and painting. He had done drawings from Lilly and so this was his starting point, in a way figures figuring and disfiguring as part of an intercourse of excess. He understood from his time at Saint Martins that their idea of talent was having an attitude and being able to throw a good line around this. In a crude way he knew he knew the language that worked in this environment, that he also would bring serious experience onto the course so he applied to the Royal College, Goldsmiths and the Slade. He didn’t get an interview at the RCA, was interviewed and refused at Goldsmiths but was accepted at the Slade which was a surprise because he felt that the interview was close to be a disaster whereas he thought he would certainly be accepted at Goldsmiths. In six months time he would be starting all over again. He wondered if in some way he was following Lily’s pattern and not his own but he put that thought aside because he felt confident that things would work out for him.
After his time at Saint Martins he found the Slade to be an altogether different environment. Both buildings could not have been more Λεπτομέριες different and neither could the energies in circulation. He was part of the painting area but found that their languages and manner to be stiff and lacking in ‘speculative juice’ as another student had put it. The good thing about Saint Martins was that it was possible that students from many different areas could hang out together. There was simply much more sex going on, a sexiness with this and a feeling of energy that went with it all. It was a social milieu as much as an art school really. The Slade was by comparison sober and slow moving. He had wanted ‘slow’ though and now he had it. He wondered if he should in fact learn to draw the figure properly because that process was really slow or whether he should do something termed experimental. Instead of any of these things he retreated into a small studio space and started a series of notebooks with writing on the one side and drawings on the other. Lily had introduced him to the work of Artuad and this influence was going to be is starting point. He also started to visit the electronics room and experiment with voice and sound collages. When he wasn’t involved in making work he simply read. He suspected he was taken because the manner of his small scale work promised a much more large scale neo-expressionist form of painting. He could now understand why they had seen that in his work but he was pleased that he had not been talked into this direction. He had not been used to be located somewhere and yet being largely unnoticed but this was the way things tended to be for him in his first few months. He suspected that most of the staff thought that his entrance to the school might have been a mistake. I think that they had gambled that he might have served as a catalyst on the course but he was far from this. In some ways he was quietly attempting to absorb issues of contemporary art rather than taking part in the general pre-occupations that came with art school life. It seemed noticeable that he didn’t appear to attract any interest from female students who might as viewed him as being on outsider to their own social orbits. Likewise he didn’t use his flats for gatherings or parties. On several occasions his personal tutor had asked him if he was depressed and told him that there was an excellent student health service within the University. He was also spending quite a lot of time going round salerooms for Mario and he had managed to buy several important Indian sculptures for him due to poor cataloguing. In some ways the whole venture was not really working out has he had hoped. He had seen to much already from his time at Saint Martins and felt that students were mainly played through the system without any really serious attempt to shake up the foundations of their various practices. His own work was simply seen as oddball, provisional even, but not really worth any sustained attention.
After producing some sound and voice pieces he started to write so short stories. The first was called ‘Banker’s Story’, the next ‘Art Dealer’s Story’ and the third ‘Mystic’s Story’. His idea is that these stories would start to create a psychological landscape through which various images might be distilled. Each story appeared to enter a world or an image of a world without a semblance of exteriority or anything else through which critique might be assumed. In some ways he was reacting to the loud, hyper-exaggerated use of imagery he was seeing in contemporary painting. He wasn’t certain how they might be presented but then he thought element of not knowing their destination would keep the stories open. He imagined a space of writing that would start to undo the certainty of the idea of the subject and this process would be heightened by the suggestion found within such exact spaces of identity and experience in the first place. Each story would be predicated on the idea that in some way identities were assumed or performed but could be equally undone in ways that might suggest that the stable elements utilised by characters had little by way of foundation. When he looked at ‘Euston Road’ painting of a figure all he could see was a painstaking collection of tiny marks that assembled a resemblance but take away some of those dots and dashes and this façade might start to crumble. In his eyes the best of these works stood nervously on the edge of a catastrophe whilst at the same time conveying self certainty within appearance. He wanted to do something in fiction which might enact this strange duality but he wanted to do it without the mannerism of a school which in the end tended to render the whole project null by the assumption of habit. When the stories were completed he found that there was little by way of support for his efforts. The most common response was that this was a visual art school and not a writing school whereas he still arguing that he was attempting to find a way of working with the image in a way that accounted for the function of the imaginary plane. The most sympathetic tutor said that they might have been interesting as the basis of film scripts but for him this was the least interesting of all the responses. It was then suggested that he might take a year out to work out if in fact he wanted to be a visual artist. He had always thought that art schools worked because they tolerated almost anything and it was this elasticity that enabled interesting projects to flourish but now he was experiencing the other side of things. It was 1987 and he looked around and what he saw and what he felt was all this stiff confidence is going to hit a wall. He simply decided to walk away. He had not been undermined or affected by addictions or craving for things outside his reach but simply found that he had lacked the ability to make a situation work for him. He was quietly confident inside himself when he entered but was now thrown at the point of his exit. There had been no outstanding point of principle, no ethical divide; simply a lack of interest in things that he thought might be of interest.
Mario talked to him quietly saying that he should continue to work with him on his collecting but that he should get a work space and try and resolve things in his own time. He also told him that he might have expected too much and that making art takes a long time. He thought perhaps Mario had started to treat him like a son and no longer as a source of profit. Inside he felt that this situation was much too ambiguous and he started to feel that he should or at least needed to free himself from this. He now only had two options, one was too find a new position or the other was to sell his flat and move to another country. He was almost forty and was starting to feel as if life was slipping by. Mario had hinted to him that it would be a good time to sell his flat because it might not be an option shortly and when Mario hinted he knew it meant the outcome had a ring of certainty to it. His flat was located just off Marylebone in an attractive Square and when the estate agent came round they enthused about the high ceiling and ignored the lack of high gloss maintenance. They agreed an asking price and the first clients matched this instantly and he had sold the flat without as much as a second thought. The various Turkoman rugs and carpets, the few antique tables and chairs were dispatched to various sale rooms across London and a skip was used to dump the rest of the accumulated rubbish. All that was left was to feel the strange haunted emptiness of a flat in which he had experienced so much. Several boxes were put into storage and the keys were left with the estate agent and a room was booked in a cheap hotel so that he could find some other accommodation. Either this was exactly the shock he needed or exactly was the shock he least needed. He was gambling again but this is not the way he framed it.
After a couple of weeks he had found a small flat near Bethnal Green which was both cheap and convenient. In his bedroom he just had a mattress on the floor with a clothes rail and in the living area he had a couple of Afghan chairs which placed the sitter close to the floor and a table in the corner for writing and drawing. The only decorative item that remained was an Esari main carpet which he had purchased in Kabul years ago. For some reason he had sustained his affection for these artefacts despite the fact that they had little by way of market value. The only other thing of importance was his record and tape collection of Indian Classical music. All he knew is that he wanted to be alone and very quickly this is what happened because there were no visitors and he stopped going out. The only reason for him to travel anywhere in fact was to bookshops and exhibitions otherwise he would spend his time reading, drawing and listening to music. He had started to read about ideas related to aesthetic theory and this became a major preoccupation. He would find that he was going over the same page over and over again but he slowly worked through the ideas of Kant, Hegel, and the Jena Romantics in order to understand the formation of the modern period. He found Hegel the most perplexing with all these long convoluted sentences but he started to be fascinated with ideas to do with the end of art, the subject and history. It was like enter a labyrinth, a vast system which invariably lead back to itself but in turn itself was always related to the dissolution of what this entity was. In many ways it contained both an exhilaration of the impulse of the modern, with the tortuous realisation that despite all the movement, the charge of negative, the coming to be, at the end of all these process was a realisation that it is all founded upon death. He had partly concluded that the two great stimulants for thought were the idea of infinity on the one side and the realisation of the force of death of the other. If there was not the feeling of either terror or exhilaration then consciousness would simply shrink back into reflex and with this we would rejoin the animal kingdom. In the process of entertaining all these thoughts he felt as if he was progressively shrinking. He started to feel that he had authored very little in his life and instead simply bumped into situation after situation without very much consideration. Paul had always told him that he thought too much but this was a different issue really. His thinking had largely been composed out of anxiety and this implied a pattern of avoidance or even obsession.
Each morning upon waking he would start to write on his cheap typewriter. He always had several texts on the move so when one became stuck he would move to the other. Invariably he would wake up with the foundations of the next section of writing but he never worked with plot lines or even an overall schema for the text. Mostly each short story simply ran its course and stopped there. In some peculiar way he couldn’t say what they were about unless he said that they were about simply writing or about creating a space in which writing might start to occur. As far has he was concerned this space was never guaranteed in advance of itself but had to be discovered. In this way he was slowly working out the difference between representation and presentation but he never quite put that case as being his own. All he really understood is that words followed words and that this lead to the sensation of being slowly ground down by them. Whenever he tried to work out were words came from he always came up with the same perplexing sense that it was from anywhere other than himself. This was not to say that he felt the stories were in some way automatic but that he could not claim the formation of the words out of which they composed themselves. Much of these preoccupations had a redundancy anyway because he never exposed his writing to a reader because he felt he had little by way of an idea in terms of a project. Simply put he felt he stood for nothing and represented even less if that was possible.
If words followed words and days followed days then at least he could follow the clarity of that. Although he would never have described himself as a recluse that is what he had become. He liked the feeling of waking up and knowing that the time that stretched before him was to be his own. His food was simple, his flat was sparse, and he lacked the noise that friendships might have introduced into his life. Occasional he would consider going away on a long holiday but the thought of airports and hotels soon buried this impulse. Sometimes he would crave the feeling of being touched by a female other but masturbation was always the means of discharging this frustration. Paul had shown him some exercises in the past for collecting sexual energy and these involved rhythmical breathing and contractions of the muscles connected to the sexual organs but these exercises appeared only to intensify sexual pleasure as opposed to dispersing the energy into other things. He was lonely but unable to really face the image of being alone. He had imagined a totally simple life would restore his feeling of balance and control but there was something that was missing it this design.
Just has Mario had hinted the economy collapsed and the property market became absolutely stagnant. It was not that prices instantly went into freefall but that no-one wanted to invest under any circumstances. Mario had sent him a note to say that this state of affairs would last for some time because inflation would be very difficult to control. Not that this had any impact upon his life in any way. The gloom that now closed the decade simply reflected a sense of inevitability and at least he felt free from a feeling of being part of excitement that had helped to generate it all in the first place.
He had hated the eighties anyway and simply thought that it had properly collected it self in its demise; maybe this was the truth of every decade. He had instantly attempted to correlate 1969 and 1979 in order to see if there was a pattern in this but then thought that such speculation had a vacuity to it. This was hardly surprising given that it appeared that most things appeared to be rendered null by the vacuity they rested upon. He was clearly not a person he believed that ‘seeing is believing’ because he didn’t believe in the idea that we could see anything in terms of things establishing a reality in the first place. Everything was composed out of a series of gaps, it was the mind simply attempted to cover over this, because to live with this reality, would be almost impossible to sustain. On a social level he would simply say that people just believed what confirmed them in terms of their own social reality. This construction of all of this was in turn one of the rationales for his isolation. He thought that he required isolation to create his work but in turn made work out of the isolation that conditioned its reality. He hated the idea that his writing might become something like a treadmill of despair but in part it was this only there was some type of grim humour that surfaced in ways that always lent a second life to his fiction. The last thing that might be said about his use of language was that it was lively or bursting with the energy of life, instead in the process of withdrawal of these attributes, there was always a coiled spring beneath the surface composed out of withdrawal itself. Repetition was employed in ways that would gradually tighten this coiled spring of withdrawal and as long as there was a tightening then there was also the promise of some eventual release. He started to think that he was starting to achieve a plane of consistency and perhaps even publish a collection but this was corrected by the thought that to delay would be better.
It was late 1991 and Mario came to see him, first because he said he wanted to read through his stories but also interest him in a small venture. He said that he wanted to build up a portfolio of properties in the West End and thought that he should use the bulk of my remaining savings investing in cheap property in the East End. He told him that £200,000 invested in four or five flats would secure him a living for the rest of his life but also that he would provide an income if he would oversee his property for him. He knew that he needed to be practical about things so both set about their purchases squeezing the best possible prices in the processes. He knew that the tube line into the West End was quick so he could easily let his flats to students at rates that would provide a very good return for the investment. In each case he purchased ex-council property because although they looked undesirable from the outside they were invariably well constructed and invariably had good internal layouts. The logic was that the worse the outside aesthetics the better the price and in turn, the better the return on capital. It seemed that Mario was buying up as much as he could find but always with an eye for aesthetics first. For Mario beauty and style overrode mere economic factors. He had always said that beauty issued out of touching that which had escaped limit and for this reason beauty never tires the beholder. Part of what made Mario so sharp was that he allowed sentiment to enter his life even though at times it had proved to be expensive. He even thought that Mario’s relationship to him might be due to what he termed sentiment but that thought was simply filed away. After a year of buying and furnishing Mario purchased him a word processor and gave him a list of contacts. He had a couple of men to do all the repairs and maintenance and all He needed to do was oversee the letting process. The only letting would be to corporate ventures because they in turn would be reasonable for the state of the flat when tenants left. Already Mario had signed over several of his properties to connections in the city. Overall it appeared that Mario had faith in the expansion of the city again. Little by little all his various properties found tenants. With the flats in the East End they filled up instantly because he had cut the rent to just below all the quotes prices in estate agents. He was without even thinking about it too much a minor capitalist. Instead of money being in the bank, year by year diminished by the effect of inflation, it was now in property and providing a monthly income. Prices were still dropping or stagnant but as long as his income was more than the bank offered then he was in front. Mario had told him that prices had become irrationally low and that when confidence returned then they would or could explode in order to find correction. Whereas he was pre-occupied with the gap between the subject and object or language and things, Mario was obsessed with the gap between prices and perception. Reading this gap was purely a market opportunity. The other gap was a torment and ultimate source of aesthetic fascination.
Mario had also talked to him about Lily who was now on medication in order to control her mood swings. Her gallery had dropped her and for a couple of years she had lost her way with the direction of her work. He had hoped that I might go over to see her but unless it was Lily asking then I thought it might not be a good idea. Mario admitted that she never really talked about me but felt that we still might have a connection or at least things we might be about to talk about. Lily always thought that art should be expenditure without return but at the same time she found it difficult to cope with perceived rejection of this expenditure. Mario thought that she had a similar level of pride that he had always possessed but what had served him in business did not serve his daughter in what she did. Whereas he had constantly been able to expand, Lilly would puff it and then all the air would escape leaving her in a state of devastation. Mario was saddened by the fact that he could leave her with all the wealth she would require to live a life but not with happiness. Mario then told him how he had never really got over his wife’s death and that making money had served to screen his private emotion from the world. He said that he had started out believing in the majesty that wealth could bring but that now he said that such convictions seemed to be simple folly. He said that he had stalked the pound along with my others but then was shocked to find what a minor player he was in this. He said that watching the collapse of the pound was like seeing rainfall in reverse; so money was being sucked out of the city at a velocity and magnitude beyond the powers of his own collection. Psychologically he said that at that moment he was out of the equation, also the strata he represented, and that other forces were now at play. He followed this by saying that he would be involved in art, property, gold and land but not finance even though in the short term he might not make so much money. He was left with the feeling that Mario would now be disappearing from his life even though he was yet again working for him.
With his new level of income he decided to rent a large studio space just near Bethnal Green tube station. He wanted to have a space in which he could either create some new projects or even stage occasional events. He felt that he had become cut of from things for too long and he needed some counterpoint for the long hours spent reading and writing. The space was almost a thousand square feet, was cheap and had high ceiling. In the first week he just sat in the middle of the room attempting to visualise what might happen in the space. He had secured an office space, a play space, a work space, a hiding space, a gallery; in fact whatever he projected really. He simply had it sprayed white and then had an IKEA floor put down transforming the space into a smart looking room. The other spaces in the building were mainly taken up with various forms of Bangladeshi sweat shops but the space itself was owned by a Jewish property dealer who had a whole number of properties in this area which he had mainly purchased in the seventies when prices were incredibly low. The person next door was very curious because on the surface he didn’t appear to have business at all; instead his space was filled with battered interconnected computers. In some ways he was like a very old hippy prone to rant on about drug companies, the military-industrial complex, state control of information, and other matters concerning conspiracies. Over time it emerged that he had in fact worked in Indo-China in various operations and left ‘intelligence’ and the United States to bury himself in the guilt of what he had both witnessed and understood. It seemed he was fighting his own private war by unlocking secrets and distributing them to interested parties. Being on the top floor as this network of warehouses places seemed to be the least likely place that such a person might find themselves but then this was the point. He was fighting a war utilising the electronic remains of the system. He would say that you don’t need expensive machines but the knowledge to construct networks and create the programmes to run these networks. He was literally wired up to the chemical systems, the information networks, the lines of persuasion, the mist of simulation, the nodules of micro-production, the latencies of capital and in turn create an image of how it was all co-extensive within a single project he termed the ‘power’. To add to this his name or at least the name he gave was Mr Power which in his case might have been translated as Mr Anti-Power.
He couldn’t work out if Mr Power was in his late seventies or even eighties but he talked to him on any occasion possible because he was fascinated by all these dark scenarios that would always come out. When he told Mr Power of his time in Kabul his face seemed to light up as if to say that he knew things about politics in Kabul that would never find the light of day. The thing he said about satellite technology is that they know what lies underground as much as what moves over ground. Afghanistan might be rendered a ruin but it is all mapped out with straight lines and demarked zones. The Afghan fight is to preserve the lineage of the past whilst the powers fight for the zones which are marked out as being the near future. He was amazed by how much local knowledge he possessed; small incidental details that made him wonder if he had been an operative there at any stage. Already he was thinking about a story based on Mr Power but he wondered whether it might simply read as a tale of a burned out spook or not. He felt that Mr Power might be providing him with this material just so it might find its way into a book because otherwise he would simply be buried with the burden of what he knew. Then he remember all the tapes he had produced at the Slade and asked Mr Power to listen to them with the hope that he might produce something similar as a performance installation within the space. They discussed the idea of four different speakers with different voices or broadcasts entering and exiting the place. It was decided that the first performances would be called ‘Saigon Stories’, the second ‘Kabul Stories’ and the third ‘Teheran Stories’. They agreed that the first performance should be in three months time. It transpired that Mr Power had kept dozens of tapes of his own experiences going back to the early sixties and likewise had recorded voices from TV and radio as an archive of his time. The idea was simply to weave in different voices from different times, a voice projecting forward, a voice in real time, a voice reflecting back, and so on, thus the whole sense of a continuous temporal matrix would be disturbed.
He had gone round the art schools, talked to other artists and but when the first performance was staged twenty people turned up which was disappointing given all the production work invested. The room was completely empty and mostly the audience sat on the floor and listened. The performance had a three hour cycle but even if someone listened for twenty minutes it would have coherence. In many ways it achieved something that his novels failed to do because of the way it appeared to splice time in unexpected ways. Maybe this had been achieved partly through a naivety about narrative form but nonetheless something worked. He also mused about the fact that on the whole the problem with film is its fidelity to the novel form whereas this was much closer to what he termed ‘a chamber of echoes and splinters of matter’. It was a form of history ripped out from the indices that would make it such because it had lost its mooring in order to touch the spectral realm. If it had a thesis then it was that history itself had become suspended and that we had entered a new form of time which in most respects was catastrophic. Throughout the tapes there was a voice that was talking out of time as if a time yet to come in a tone of voice that did not point to a role or persona. The next evening forty turned up, the following evening it was double again and the last performance was completely full. Mr Power was happy because he had discovered a form he could communicate through and he was happy because likewise he had found both a form and a location through which he might start to transmit things. He remembered what Lily had told him about ‘Radio Alice’ and some of the experiments with voice and sound in Italy. This structure was related to memory, archive and philosophical poetics but it also worked to disturb the smooth functioning of a scripted reality. Rather than being another voice, from a different place this was the striation of voices in order to experience the gaps and spacing as much as the joins and continuities.
At the beginning of each month they opened the space for a new performance and there appeared to be a growing interest in such a space outside of the established sector. At this stage though he was more interested in developing his new work then running a project space. He experimented with getting different characters to read out sections or fragments from his short stories but also started to collect narratives from people he had come across whilst staging the last performances. Whereas Mr Power had created portraits of cities in given periods of time, he wished to create portraits out of either the characters or the types of characters he had met. In this respect he was less interested in politics, commerce and power and much more absorbed in the idea of the construction of the subject or even the illusion of such a process of construction. Part of this was born out of the reflection that even though he might have done many things it was ultimately based on very little. He ultimately saw the human subject as being uncanny because they could assume control over an empire of something and yet be bereft of real substance. Perhaps it was the same thing ultimately but it was difficult to work out the form through which this could gain appearance. More than anything else he was in pursuit of voices that might be understood as private as opposed to public. He wanted voices that confessed things, voices on the couch, the voices of seduction or threat, characters talking to themselves, telephone conversations, voices seized by delirium, the voice of criminals planning deeds, brooding voices so it was a matter of slowly find a source for such things and the appropriate apparatus of recording these. He just felt that he needed to get a right and that time was not pressing hard upon in ways that would make him scramble something together. He could see now that the work he had started at art school had been like mere sketches and that now he had to become really serious about this undertaking.
He realised that if he told anyone about his ongoing project it sounded good but he also knew that it was incredible difficult to make it work. Ideas always needed to be embedded in form and yet not be merely form. He just wasn’t certain if there was or had been anything in his writing up until this point. He thought he might have left this process of development too late in his life but at the same times he had an income and this is what he wanted to do. Perhaps it was a case of rather simple narcissism; of pointing to something and saying mine. For a moment this seemed pathetic but then wasn’t self loathing pathetic, failed relationship or failed anything pathetic. He simply started to settle with the fact that he had a space, had some ideas and impulse, had done some reading, seen a few things, known some characters and wished to make something out of it. At last this appeared to him as a moment of clarity taking place within what had been experienced as a blur. What was this blur anyway other than a stream of addiction which enabled him to pass through time rather than tangle his faculties within its various indices? Also what was addiction other than the flattening out of the dimensality of becoming? Such thoughts simply created a feeling of nausea for the substances and emotional templates that are infiltrated his bodily structure.
In many ways he was hoping that the space between disappointment and anticipation would enable him to produce an art that would have traction at the edges of the striation he termed experience. He wondered if he was starting to feel alive. He also said to himself that failure will simply mean be reduced back to being a property owner and the thought of just being yet another landlord extracting rent from tenants was not the self-image he had in mind. He simply resolved to himself that his new structure of income had to yield something other than what is was otherwise he might simply sink back into his feeling of not being able to view himself without a tinge of contempt. Part of this process of assessment related to the need to find another horizon that was stationed outside of all the probabilities of being a low order capitalist or trader. It was clear that he needed an uncertainty principle and that principle seemed to be a relationship to making art for which there was no market or no demand.
Over the next few months Mr Power would teach him about computers and information systems alongside telling stories about the time with intelligence. He started to notice that he was coming to work less frequently and one day he simply announced that he would be emptying out his space because he was dying of cancer. There was something which was so straightforward about the way he said this, unflinching and dignified even. He said that he had never overcome his remorse for what had happened in Indo-China and perhaps cancer was the kind of death that was collected within such a burden. Anyway he said that he wasn’t happy with being associated with humans anymore and hoped that he would come back as another type of entity. He had started with intelligence work because he was fascinated by the combination of danger, the unknown and excitement. Languages, systems, machines all combined for him in order to penetrate the alien other whether it was communist, nationalist or criminal. He said that he was always too technical to believe in all the ideological stuff which he always viewed as being for home consumption. All of this had been a natural extension of being a kid building electronic machines and creating environments for them to function in. High technical intelligence and an over extended imagination was the root principles of his journey. His warehouse space had become the ruin of this imaginary, a solitary empire of wires, signals, and circuits intersecting other networks. He said that he was simply attempting to understand the relationship between the brain and the mind but that he had come up against his own limits instead. He was now thinking about forms of contamination, malfunction and disease. Any system you construct has to have these elements in them somewhere. He said he had started to notice certain things in Indo-China about the way operatives would both function but also make mistakes. Whatever the environment that is being entered it is always necessary to create maximum patterns of coherence in order to sink into this pattern. Any thought that might contradict this coherence creates an almost abstract blip that can be potentially detected even if on the most unconscious level. Besides controlling systems the operative has to find ways of controlling mind and emotion without conceptualising themselves as a machine which can also be another type of mistake. He said that his own survival was based on the understanding of these principles and this was the reason he had learnt mediation and bio-feedback techniques. He said that he should have died five years ago but that he had utilised these techniques in order to prolong his life but he had reached the point of now letting go and succumbing to the inevitable. He kept talking about the way that everything was simply mind but it was hard to grasp what he meant by that. He said that he had always been fascinated by research into the feedback mechanism that existed between ecological systems and mental ideation. He said there is never an instance in which mind and matter can be really separated into distinct identities because there could be no constructed position from which such isolation could be observed. Mr Power was curious because he sound like a hippy that had been dipped in all the most inappropriate things. His world had been secret wars, machines, systems, contamination, misinformation, terror and now as a frail old man he was wandering through this landscape wondering how he elected to participate in it in the first place. He had finally concluded that he had developed vast technical intelligence but that his mind was that of a child who was not properly able to reflect on the outcomes of his intelligence. He laughed when he told him that he thought he had first appeared as a burnt out hippy because he said that this is the persona he had constructed for himself as an operative and that now he was stuck with it. He thought he might really be a nerd but didn’t really no or really care and given hippies had mixed up all the wrong information cocktails he would stay with it because this was the trail that lead back into the present.
The next week a skip arrived and all Mr Powers stuff was dumped other than tapes and various pieces of useful equipment that he might use in the future. He had no family and no real friends so dumping everything was a natural gesture. Although all these mangled junk signified nothing but its material condition the week before it had been an imaginary empire. Empires crumble because they lose coherence and when this happens they disintegrate rapidly he said as the skip was driven away. He said he could have continued for awhile but he thought he might have lost the plot or that he never really had one in the first place. It was like a theatre to enact the process of his death. He saw Mr Power one more time after that and a few months later he simply heard that he had passed. There was no notice or communication about a funeral just a simple fact announcing finality.
Contact with Mr Power had made him think that he might be assembling his own empire out of all the tapes that now piled up in his space. He felt that it might be possible to descend so far into this material that to either surface out of it or even edit it might soon be impossible. He thought of the tapes as a form of dark matter emitting or leaking toxins or revelations but in ways that could not be deciphered or rendered transparent. He remembered a phrase or title of a book; ‘The Prison House of Language’. He thought that is what his tapes might become. The main question for him related to whether he was entering a swamp of dissolution or an ocean of potentiality. He liked the fact that it might be both according to the way his mood was calibrated. Initially he started to create a number of small performances. He had collected a small mailing list and the usual twenty or thirty people would turn up to see what he was doing. Within this he felt annoyed with the seeming mannerism contained within each performance. Mr Power’s tapes had worked because they had a raw quality but also contained some startling moments partly because of the way they would intersect exact moments within schemas of history. Mr Power had simply assumed a form of presentation but had little sense of producing a work of art. In this respect they had been a collision of sophisticated analysis with naïve aesthetic reflection but it had no pretence to be otherwise. He thought that his problem was that he both knew too much and felt too little. Much of his emotional life had been wrapped away in cold storage and in turn his work lacked that strange inner glue which would invest it with a charge.
For several months he returned to working in his small flat rather than the large empty space that he still had designated as either office or studio. The flats seemed to simply run themselves with cheques coming in and going out monthly. He had the occasional legal wrangle in the West End but everything had settled into a routine so on this front his life was easy. The economy had started to move but he started to feel as if he might have lost his impulse towards growth. To his surprise he received his first communication from Lily he said that she was coming to live in London for a few months and thought that they might meet up again. It was strange for him to deal with this because she had largely faded from the field of his attention. He struggled to remember the last sexual fantasy relating to Lily but that evening she flooded back. He wondered why men are so literal in these respects but that was how it was, after all she had been his one serious encounter with a woman. A week later there was a call and Lily was standing at his door with a bunch of flowers. Apparently Mario had been ill but had recovered now but she was staying in London to buy contemporary art for their collection. Lily said that she hadn’t really made any work for a couple of years but that she felt she needed a rest from it all. What surprised him about Lily was not so much the changes of gradual aging but the fact that she appeared reserved and not at all prone to extravagant gestures. After an hour talking together she looked at him closely and said that maybe they might take their clothes off and lie together on the bed. He wasn’t really ready for this but at the same time there was nothing he wanted more. Soon they were naked and still on his mattress on the floor. They neither lunged at one another nor set about touching but seemed instead to simple listen to each other breath. She said that she had withdrawn from sex in recent years although she still wanted it. She said that on many occasions she had wanted to come to London but then had each time found a reason for not coming. She then put her hand on his cock and slowly inched out his pleasure release and he repeated the similar gesture for her. They then drifted off into half sleep only to wake up three hours latter and he delicately worked his way into the dark of her pubis and with a subdued moan was with her again. He had never expected this was going to happen between them again and he experienced a contentment that he had never really touched before.
The next morning Lily was up early, she said she had two or three meetings but would be in touch in two or three day’s time. There was so much he wanted to talk about but it seemed that this would have to be put aside. He hated this type of waiting but three days later she rang and said that they should meet in Mayfair in the flat she would be living in. they talked about Mario. He had been suffering from intense headaches and it was thought that he might have a brain tumour but it was now thought that it was benign. He had now withdrawn from work and was mainly passing his time next to Lake Como. He had inherited a collection of Renaissance drawings and Ancient bronzes from his family and was now able to study the background of this collection. Lily said that she had started to collect contemporary art in Italy but felt it was time to extend the range of this. He tried to tease Lily about the way that she used to despise collectors but this drew no response other than a slight rising of the brow. She appeared to holding much in reserve but did not press her in case there might be difficult issues embedded in her life since they last saw each other. Then she told him that it might be nice for both of them if they could sleep with another from time to time but she felt that should not imply the status of a relationship. The cool manner of this delivery was difficult to read because the Lilly he had known was spontaneous and seemingly without calculation. She took him to a Lebanese restaurant and asked him about what he thought was going on in the London scene. She was surprised how little appeared to know and how little he seemed to care about this. He wanted to talk about their time together whereas she wanted to talk around the time they occupied in the present. She reached under the table to hold his hand, looked in his the face and said that she would like it if he would take her back to the flat so that they could fuck again. Then as an after thought she said to him that she still enjoyed being on top. This remark reminded him of the Lily he knew. After three hours of intensity he felt as if his memory of the past and the actuality of the present had folded over both ways. It had been this feeling of such a fold that he had missed so much even though he had never been able to articulate this feeling before. When they awoke Lily again had the same line about having to prepare for some meetings but that they might meet again in a week. He said that he wanted to play some of his tapes and show her some of his writing and she said that she would love to do that and would ring when time opened up.
Lily had entered his life again but he found himself instantly drawn into a vortex called the past. In the past he had thought of her as a crazy, imaginative, rich kid and now she was a cool, beautiful woman without hint of the major striations that he knew had occurred in her life. He started to wonder if Mario was involved in this situation and if he had been kept in the picture by him in case Lily might need him again. He thought Mario must have known much more about him than he ever really seemed to be party to. He also wondered why some as attractive as Lily had never really attached herself to the class she belonged to through either relationship or marriage. In the past Lily had been prone to tell him that she had always had better fucks with other men and women than him so he wondered why Lilly had ever been connected to him and what it was that was happening now. He was a small property owner and was still an artist without recognition. Mainly he had gone through life being used, underused or self-abused. That was a hard way of looking at things but in that moment he thought he might be viewed in such a manner with or without various other nuances. He was feeling vulnerable because he wanted a relationship in which the other did not appear to be in receipt of a mode of knowledge that he was unable to access. He was not even certain what this mode of knowledge might constitute because it might have been closer to a relationship to freedom and given the way he had been prone to various forms of addiction he felt that in some essential way he was not free. He also thought of the confidence of Lily to simply turn up in London to invest in new areas of contemporary art at a time when the market itself lacked confidence. What is more he also felt that it would be exactly the thing to invest in and that she would directly or indirectly make a fortune from doing so. He would have liked to imagine that he could do likewise; sell his property and buy art but that was the last thing he would consider doing. He realised that he admired Mario because of what he knew and how he added a style to what he knew and yet he resented, or even despised this because it rendered him as a being that simply went through the motions of getting things right without some other type of struggle for truth. He was also uncomfortable with the feeling that Lily had been able to assume that he would sleep with her and already he was feeling that he wanted her to be available within his life. He was desperately attempting to work out what this entire jigsaw constituted and no answers appeared to occur. In simple terms sexual fascination was a mystery to him and as such it exerted a power over his psyche. He added up the list; she is wealthy, beautiful, sexually alluring, imaginative, confident, knowledgeable and as the list came out he felt a sinking feeling as if to declare that he didn’t enter such a list even as a footnote. He thought that if he told her these things then she would understand that what they were doing together was not appropriate. Another part of him thought that he should simply stand back and see how the situation unfolds. He at least knew that the least sexy thing for the female other is to be confronted by a male who completely lacks confidence.
Days drifted by without him being able to work properly. He was stuck anyway but now he was stuck twice over. He would have been embarrassed to admit it but he was masturbating everyday just to fill in the gap of Lily not being there. Paul had always told him that masturbation for the male was potentially very damaging because it created a pressure in the brain as well as a source of losing Chi from the body whereas it was no problem for the female. He had always thought that this idea was strange because it appears that it is males who masturbate the most and yet it damages them as well. Lily had a silky black pubic region with a divinely shaped ‘mound of Venus’ that appeared to be always in the process of swelling and he imagined that it might be capable of citing lyric poetry if there was ears capable of detecting its imaginary sounds. He had never been so taken by this anatomical poetising at any time in his life but he was entranced by his reunion with this island of bliss. Of course he knew that this was a dangerous form of fetishism and that it might be simply the product of a fevered mind but such thoughts and feelings had occurred. He remembered how she had once talked to him about her ‘cunt’ saying that it sleeps when it needs to, awakens abruptly and flares up, it bleeds and pees, expands when it is hungry, contracts when it needs a space of withdrawal, is at times like an artist who creates delight but then swings into creating grief, is a source of disease, a money maker and ultimate image of desire because it is decentred by what it isn’t.
Anyway Lily called after eight days. Apparently she had been to New York for several days and said that she was a little jet lagged. She said she would like to see what it is I have been making and she arrived the next day. He said something about kind of missing her to which she replied that she had been to busy to miss anyone. She said that she still had not found the right things to buy but the important thing was that a lot of connections seemed to be falling into place. Like her father Lily seemed to have a strategy in mind so it wasn’t really the case of running around buying this or that but rather researching carefully and seeking out opinion from those who understood things from the inside. Her clothing was now low key without any sense of theatre or hint at transgression. He asked her what had happened to her in regard to her fashion style, she simply said that fashion itself had become boring and no longer was able to sustain any attention from her. She started to explain something about the law of syntax, the idea that art drew upon deep reserves of syntax whereas fashion had only low levels of syntax. He was asking her something about herself really and felt the answer was more like an evasion. It was evident that there was a tension entering into there exchange and when he started to play the various tapes her attention always seemed to be elsewhere or at least simply drifting in and out of focus. She said that it might have potential but that it needed a lot of work and even suggested researching several artists’ work who had not heard of. Then she said that she was tired and thought that it might be better if she took a cab home because she had yet more meeting the next day. He had wanted to talk to her about some of the feeling accumulated since she had arrived again but evaded this desire and simply let her depart with minimum fuss. As she left he thought that she had established control and the pattern of whatever was going to occur will be established by her.
Over the next few days he attempted to re-establish a working relationship but his rhythm had been lost. He thought that it would be a good idea if he could put together one of his evening events and that maybe Lily would be able to witness what he was doing closer at hand. One artist he knew was doing some interesting film work and video work and he thought he would combine a screening of this with a sound work of his own. He quickly arranged all of this to happen in several days time and simply rang around and e-mailed his contacts. He rang Lily and she simply said that she would try to come but that she might be a little late due to appointment. She always gave the impression that collecting artists’ work was like a serious profession run on tight schedules and end to end meetings or viewings. The evening started without the arrival of Lily which he had expected. The film was based upon a group of dancers performing in different spaces with a voice over conceptualising properties of the body form. Given that it was work in process the artist was interested in hearing feedback but the discussion went backwards and forwards with making much progress. Five minutes in his presentation Lily slipped in with a couple of men. He couldn’t focus on his work but instead was trying to work out what or who these men might be. Afterwards Lily came over an introduced him. She told him they had just been meeting together and thought they might be interested in the use of the space and the work. Lily then took him aside to tell him that she would be away for a week but that she would like to spend a couple of days with him.
Six days later Lily arrived with a bunch of flowers. She instantly said to him that she knew he might be upset by her lack of real attention but that things were not always as easy as it might appear. She said that when they had time together before they had never really ventured deeply into the lives of the other and that is what she really needed at this time but that being part of the scene and having sex was a way to escape such needs. She then started talking about how she perceived him; that he was too moderate, always trying to strike a balance or evading the real issues. She said she always liked being with him but that she had to go elsewhere for other needs because he was neither active enough nor at the other end receptive enough. “So I am an ordinary heterosexual, middle of the road, dismal human being.” he muttered to her or at least that what he remembered. He said that she had little idea of what had happened to him since she went back to Italy other than the things Mario had said to her and likewise it was even more so for him relative to the space she had occupied. He hated the way he had been bracketed and just wanted to disappear into the many blacks holes that he had sunk into in the past. She could see that she had hurt him and went over to put her arms around him. She whispered that she had really come over to spread sweetness across his limbs and not to hurt him. Sleeping together and honesty should always come together she said and their problem in the past is that wasn’t really understood. The trouble for him was that he felt humiliated and men who feel humiliated do not find it easy to sleep with the one who might have served up such a thing. She could clearly she that look and asked if she should go. He simply said that perhaps they should listen to some music together and they sat in the Afghan chairs with some green tea and shared the sounds that really stood for silence. Afterwards he ran a bath for both of them and slipped into bed without attempting to touch.
The next morning she said it would be good if they could go around town together. Most of the day passed without mention of the day before. In some ways it was simply polite and friendly. He disliked most of the things she appeared to be interested in and enjoyed telling her this. It was all too nihilistic, slick packaged by a glib one liner entry point. This is what she was buying, perhaps buying twice over. Images of all her hanging textile prints came back to him. Despite the spiky quality of the things on view he felt there was something comfortable compared even with Lily’s work in the past. He thought that perhaps time and memory play these types of tricks but he couldn’t put this aside. He then told her that he couldn’t understand how someone could put aside making art and set about buying it with the same seriousness. He simply asked her if it was business or passion and she snapped back at him that it was both. This she said was the most important thing that Mario had taught her about living; combine business and passion. That he said was the rhetoric of old money and nothing more. She told him that he needed to get that of his chest and that in doing so it had marked him out as lacking insight and direction. She said that she didn’t mind fighting occasionally because it was a sign of vitality. He found himself smiling at this last remark because it was the kind of statement the former Lily would make. She stopped and smiles back touching hands in the process. It felt a long time since they had touched. For some reason he said that they should go to a hotel together. Lily was then on top of him, talking Italian dirty to him, squeezing him to enter himself, introducing him to a dance that he had never experienced before. He lay back thinking that it might have been the first real orgasm in his life because he had come all over. She massaged his body, blowing onto his skin as she did so. Her forefinger was now up his arse rubbing against his prostrate with her finger nails stroking his scrotum. He climaxed again but in a way that was so diffuse that he imagined he was now a woman. She was still talking to him but in a language that mixed languages; sometimes like noises, fragments of sense and the scent of verse. She then lay on her back, opening her legs as she did so and asked him to talk to her yoni. He had stared at the female sex, fantasised about it, masturbated with the memory of it, touched it, sexed it, resented its power but never talked to it. He was now simply gapping. It was still moist, open and inviting but obviously for something other than flesh. She then said she simply wanted his mind to fuck her, and with this, the words started to come, a vast stream of words that had never really come before. Both of them had their eyes closed and both appeared to be floating. After several minutes, of what seemed like a voice disconnected to the world, her fingers opened out her sex with rhythmically progressing strokes, and as she did so, eventually a long and sustained scream erupted from her. Then there was a silence followed by sleep. In the morning they lay in the bath together, ate breakfast and simply agreed to meet when the time was right.
The idea of not talking about it but directly to it stayed with him. He thought that if he could have the same relationship to the world has he had experienced with Lily’s sex then it would be such a different world. Perhaps he thought that was the strange secret of sex; being thrown out of limited orbits. He thought about all his miserable masturbation, his occasional one night stands and money-sex. As he did so he saw himself not so much as small, or even moderate, but strange; strange in a way that was stupid as well. He had arrived at the same point again but by an extraordinary route and that was the simple idea that he knew very little. His only consolation with this recurring conclusion was that this time he had arrived at this point out of an extraordinary occurrence. For several days he just sat alone in his room without writing, drawing, listening to music, partaking in business or anything of consequence. He had no impulse relating to Lily because he felt that she was simply out and about, sufficient in that, and that was enough.
Meanwhile he received a call from Mario who just said he wanted to check how things were going as far as property was concerned. He said that he was pleased with the returns and the low overheads which had been a constant factor in securing these returns. He then said that he thought he was going to die when he was ill and that he had tried to talk to Lily about the future. He also said that he had pleaded with her to settle down and have a family but that she had told him that it felt impossible for her. Buying contemporary had been her idea but he felt she was doing this to prove that she could manage a project and that in turn he imagined that there might not be so inspired by it. Mario wanted to know what he thought but he simply said that he thought Lily was more than capable of handling the situation. Mario was far to discrete to ask if anything was happening between them but then Mario was the kind of man who would usually work these things out through the tone of voices. Finally Mario asked him to go and see a client in one his penthouse flats on the Kings Road because he had a few complaints he wanted to discuss. The next evening he was sitting across from a French Diplomat who seemed to be the same age. He had been working his way through a bottle of wine. He wanted to know if the flat could be blackened out more because the light was too strong in the morning so it always woke him too early. He also said that he didn’t like his immediate neighbours and was thinking of moving out if there where anymore problems. They talked through all these issues but in his mind he felt that he was simply used to complaining about things. He also liked talking about himself. His position was currently assigned to negotiations related to the Channel Tunnel which was proving to be very difficult. He asked him about how it had been financed and he simply said that the French and British Governments had had to persuade private investors to believe that they might make money. In order to quick start the process they had persuaded the Japanese Government to invest heavily by admitting that they would lose heavily but they would offer very generous trade deals to compensate for such loses? Private investors in turn believed that the Japanese Government must have been given information to the affect that it was a good investment so they followed this lead. It was a good investment but not the one that the public thought it was. He seemed to delight in this ruse which was in part explained by the excess of wine that had been consumed. He was going to go for a massage at the Portland Baths and wanted to know if I would join him. He said that he would think about it the next time hoping there might not be a next time.
When Lily came around several days later she asked about what he and Mario had discussed. Instead of quietly evaded the topic he told her the exact contents of the call because he calculated that she knew anyway. She had always said that they had told each other everything. He could never imagine having a relationship with a parent. She said that it was important that Mario was able to take life easily and the best way of securing this was to be active herself. She told him that Mario had never brought other women into their life and that he had a series of expensive mistresses he could visit but otherwise there was nothing to take his focus away from her. Then she started to describe what had happened when she had gone back to Italy to recover from addiction. She had fallen into such severe depressions that she had taken a vast overdose of anything she could lay her hands upon and had been rushed to hospital to have her stomach pumped. Mario was completely devastated by this and it was the beginning of a long and painful process of therapy that enabled them to come to terms with all the factors that had shaped their lives. He gave her a book of poems by Mallarme called ‘The Tomb of Anatole’ which was like a series of impossible poems born out of grief for the early death of his son. He said that at least Mallarme could find a way of failing to represent a death because he felt that he would simply be buried by the grief. This single gesture was far more decisive than all the therapy. After this life had become simple or at least that is how she described it, just being close to the other and making a balance with this. She then said she wanted to listen to his tapes as she was still attempting to work out what was really happening. He asked her if she would like to do a recording of her period in Bologna around 1977 but she said that there might be too many ghosts stalking her. Instead she suggested that they could produce a sex tape together even though it should not be what it might seem to be. She had this vague theory that language can start to double back upon itself when it follows and immerses itself in sexual energy which in turn coils over death. Pornography can never be interesting on the level of language because it wishes to skip over these strange processes of looping. The language of pornography is always drawing itself out of a completely flat terrain and flat language can only reside in description she claimed. She then started speaking of Bologna and said that throwing Molotov cocktails was only part of the eruption, that what was beneath this was the attempt to free language from what was obvious or to release it from the bondage of dull signification. The thought of death, injury or arrest tipped the comrades into a whirlwind of fragmented speech which in turn enabled the sexual act to become a performance of passing into and through life. She said she would like to evoke this aspect of Bologna, the secret unrecorded Bologna when the madness of the street entered into space of the mattresses strewn across unmarked floors. As she was talking about these things he had the uncontrollable feeling that they had started a project which implied their project. After he had played some tapes she took off her clothes and slowly danced in the half light. He thought that she was in some way finding a way of returning to Bologna; a Bologna still recorded in the tissues of her body.
They started to work on this new set of tapes three times a week. She was in the process of inching herself back in time; discovering capsules of conversations, configurations of this or that moment, gestures, dreams and reveries, in effect the detritus that history rubs out. The intellectual always aligns with the historical process of erasure because their form of language suits a limited sense of dimensality she would formulate again and again turning words over and over again to reach at the logic of the sense she was attempting to secure. The movement she said was always divided between the town planners, the logicians of lines of force and the dervishes of momentary combustion who would scramble the whole of history for a brief moment of realisation. For him it was like hearing here on ecstasy again, free floating over structures and forms of language caught in the webbing of gravitational fields. At times it was as though Lily might be in a trance and instead of a Bologna of architecture and structure there was instead the Bologna that touched the recesses of her sex. This was far more extraordinary than surrealist evocations of cities such as Andre Breton’s ‘Nadja’ which appeared to be simultaneously dream like and cunning. It was clear those literary elements from writers such as Novalis, Lautremont, Pessoa, Genet, Artuad, Blanchot, Duras and Cixious had worked there way into the way that she would employ her voice but there was also something that was drawn out less formal modes of language drawn from forms of patois.
One evening she talked about a journey with Mario to Athens to look at sculpture and architecture. He was apparently fascinated by pre-Hellenistic sculpture. There was a statue called the ‘peplos kore’ from 530 BC which he claimed still comes to visit him in his dreams. Apparently this statue stands guard over his sleep when he is troubled and departs at sunrise. When he thought he might be dieing he felt she was there all the time and also felt that she stood on guard just in case his soul needed an escort. She also said that he travels to Athens once a year in order to make certain that her direct gaze can still fix on him. For Mario great works of art due not survive the ages without having special energy that is locked away within the grain of the stone. Lily thought that Mario had always been protected in such ways and that he wasn’t really a genius of timing and decision but rather had been granted such a space which ran through the lineage of his family. Mario, she stressed, is a very traditional man dressed in a very stylish manner in order to move smoothly through this world whilst protecting his attachments to other worlds. He was uncertain of why he suddenly asked Lily if there had ever been anything sexual between them but he did. She told him that it was surprising that it had taken so long to ask this and that nothing had ever happened although she could understand how in the circumstances they had shared together it might. He in turn thought it was surprising that she had asked so little about his own mother and father but since he had lost contact with his father and never really speaks about his mother he might not have found this a surprise. In fact all he ever ventured to say is that he felt awkward or that it was just difficult curtailing conversations by the silence following this insight.
His writing was starting to play another function in his life which he decided to reinvent through the ciphers of other images. He was thinking about all the painting that started to emerge in the 1970’s as a reaction to the aesthetics of conceptual and minimal art so he invented a story relating to his life as a neo-expressionist painter of dogs. He would simply find a convincing context, research the background and an image which start to take shape. Every person he might have known was given over to a second life as locations and periods started to shift. It was not such much a desire for a new universe with new physics but rather the possible of enacting out a world stretching this way or that. He had always supposed that his life had been played out according to some kind of projected script so by altering either the genetic code, laws of chance, memory or alternatively childhood narratives he was able to frame characters in quite unexpected ways. Rather than the daily grind of watching death approach there was a form of putting to work death within the rotation of language in the process of invention. Each story was like point a flash light at errant modules of memory. Everyone he had ever met appeared to exhibit a form of false memory syndrome so rather than pretending this might not be the case let it become rampant.
They did not really function as straightforward narratives or fictions rather they served as critiques of art history, autobiography, diary entries, micro-histories and so on. It was in fact a really bastard form of writing.
Lily would never stay with him for more than one night at a time and although they never spoke about it he suspected that she slept with other men because this was her pattern before. Despite this he felt close to her and much of their time together was carrying out their experiments with the voice and the written word. His flat had become crowded with books in stacks without logic and shelves of neatly labelled and arranged tapes. They never discussed the progress of the art collection but it was clear that Lily had become an established figure across the different vectors of the art world. She had taken over a space in the warehouse on the same floor in order to keep everything in good order. If ever he laughed at any price she might have paid she would simply declare that it would prove to be cheap within ten years. It seemed she could switch her mindset to whatever it was she was involved in. He wondered if the Lily of Saint Martins was a form of behavioural template for being a successful art student. He clearly recognised that very wealthy people invariably exhibit highly adaptive modes of behaviour that enables them to function within a wide range of situations. Having worked this out he was no longer complaining but attempting to find an aesthetic route to the same ends. He had begun to see that it is foolish to complain about others being smarter about the workings of life and that energy was better employed by working out how it might be done and then in turn doing it even better. On a very minor scale that constituted evolution within a life form and it was simply better to evolve than implode. He had imploded too many times simply because he lacked the finesse to move forward with intelligence.
Lily had now started to think that she was ready to present the work she had developed and likewise he felt that he could now publish his stories. They had both learned not to rush at situations and that it was better to get things right rather than rush at any possible opening. His rental income had increased with the expansion of property prices so he had no problems in financing his side of things and that was literally no thought from her side about finance. Mario had always said that most people pay tax because they have no choice whereas the really rich people consider that they might pay tax like one gives over a voluntary donation. Everything Lily was buying was extracted from the rate of contribution so much of the time it felt like everything was free. People usually think that this is all an exaggeration but the seriously rich only really appreciate exaggerating their balances in one direction. Even Lily was prone to say things like if the cost of money is deflating and the cost of art and property are rapidly inflating then buy the best and you make a lot of money. He understood this rule also and although he could have joined in he simply didn’t feel the energy balanced with the return. They decided to continue to work for the next three months and then hire in some professional help to put everything in place. For a moment they discussed what the price of failure might be then quickly forgot that they had even thought about it. He was shortly going to be forty five and Lily would be thirty three next and both felt that a little bit of the sky might open for them.
Every other month he would arrange to visit some of Mario’s apartments just to see if everything was to the standard expected by such clients who tended to be in finance, banking or corporate law. They liked this touch because they could list their complaints without having to shout down a phone. Mostly they stayed in a city for two years and then moved onto the next so eventually after working in every major city they might be offered a more permanent post in their headquarters in New York. It was a strange lifestyle because they had a salary, bonuses but then all major expenses paid for. They lived in a financial and social cocoon. He would always notice things such as an abundance of shopping bags filled with new clothes, as if every Saturday morning they would simply go shopping and then not get round to put anything in the away in the closet. Somehow they were caught between having too much of everything but also too little by way of a proper life. They were invariably very sharp and so tended to be inclined towards a form of boredom that remained undeclared. Often drink or cocaine would help to stop such self reflection from occurring. There positions related to a strange world of abstraction which resulted either in making, saving or losing vast amounts of money on a daily basis so they tended to be highly stressed. So occasionally sitting there hearing their various irritations relating to their flats helped to ease everything along and in the process he would also learn many things about how the corporate sector functioned. He used to visualise these clients going to work in steel and glass offices, going to high tech gyms, stopping off at an exclusive restaurant or bar and coming home to marbled, press button interior. He would go through all these imaginary places and think of the attention to removing dirt and germs, the extraction and circulation of clean, temperature modulated air, the systematic surveillance and security measures on each of the locations, their economic interdependence; how this was a world designed to erase all accidents or faults, made to measure and expensive. This was a strange kind of security and status that was completely arid but it was a world that created dependency and the corporate planners knew this and were keen to make sure that their employees did not venture too much outside of this campus. From city to city it was almost exactly the same lifestyle because it was the same businesses seeking out the dollars of this global class.
If ever he started to discuss my evening with these clients Lily would simply look away as if to say that she just didn’t want to know. In some respects she had a special type of contempt for them because on the one side they tended to be extremely arrogant but they were invariably philistine. Such mentalities she would say are there by design and in turn a design suited to be controlled. She said that they are good at process information but always come up with the same answers. They all buy the right labels imagining that this is a form of individualism, they all see cutting edge exhibitions but wouldn’t know what to put on their own walls; Lily’s list of complaint went on and on. He had never heard Mario say such things about his employees but then Mario was discreet about what he really thought especially if it implied a relationship to money. In moments like this he thought Lily was exacting a form of snobbery and this was something she was always keen not to be labelled as. Buying art from the wild and the rough was proof that she wasn’t a snob, likewise hanging out East, seeking out the seedy to find signs of life; all of these things gestured an open identity. Lily claimed that the avant-garde in art was disappearing but that it would never disappear from the emerging forms of life and that the best art actualised this sense. Art was risking its own death in order to saviour the edge of life becoming otherwise to what it had been. Lily was constantly making statements such as these and at times he had little by way of clue as to how she managed to speak in such a manner.
Lily hired three large warehouse spaces for her new work and had various sound people to rig up all the equipment. There would be a combination of tapes and live reading and performance which would be staged in such a way as to imply a movement in and out of the three spaces. Each room had carefully modulated light affects and after two weeks of testing and rehearsal everything was set up. Lily had personally invited a hundred people and a hundred people turned up for the event which was programmed to last for ninety minutes. She had wanted Mario to come but he said that it would be better if he stayed at home. Lily had divided each room according to different episodes; womb, propulsion and spectres. The first section of the performance seemed more like an ambient sound environment which started with low frequency droning in which gradually fragments of voices started to intersect within the field. She had said that she had tried to recollect all the sounds she had heard in the womb and from there attempted to make audible these recollections. The room called propulsion was based upon her idea of her propulsion into energetic struggle for her own form of life which she identified with Bologna in 1977. This started to recordings on the street, that gradually intensified until the sound of rioting and chaos started to be spliced into this until a more interior space of interiors started to overlay these sounds. These sounds and voices oscillated between strategies, passion and finally a stilling into sounds of sex and the contest of other territories, all in the different way presenting frenzy on the edge of dissolution. What followed this was a remarkable series of erotic love poems delivered with a voice passing in and out of itself, twisting words into sounds and then back again. Lily had discovered a Japanese Butoh dancer whose entire body was covered in white powder and under a single spot light she moved in an amazing series of contortions and gestures that pointed toward the passage of the body into an ecstatic release. Then in the final stages of this section there were a number of testimonies about the post features of what had happened; prison diaries, disenchantment, confinements retreats, withdrawals, dogma, madness and boredom. The third room was a single recording of Lilly simply discussing the moment of her eventual death but in a voice which had collected this anticipation as if it was imminent. Listening to this he thought that Lily had already tasted this experience and that the voice came from that place after the event of death. In many ways there was little reason to suppose such a schema of a work would have a sense of coherence and yet the tone was always unnervingly right. Probably most of those who had attended knew little of Lily’s actual history and in many cases she might have signified nothing more than a meal ticket. In his own mind he tried to decipher the range of influences within the work; Luciano Berio, Stockhausen, Miles Davis, Medieval Japanese Love poetry, Butoh Dance Theatre, Marguerite Duras, Jean Genet, Hegel, Blanchot, Bataille, the politics of Autonomia, Deleuze, The Last Poets, Antonin Artuad, and ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead. It was obvious that she could handle inconsistency as far as appropriation was concerned. In his mind he came up with the term ‘trance poetics and soundscape of dissolution’ but there seemed to be an endless number of admirers wishing to congratulate her so he kept this catechism to himself. The most common word of the evening appeared to be marvellous which is surprising after been invited into someone’s womb space, into a riot zone and then into the space of death itself. Yet he knew that death, sex, violence and madness had become the contemporary signifiers so perhaps there was something marvellous about Lily’s performance. She had booked a restaurant just off Brick Lane and most of the assembled crowd made there way there. He sat on the same table as Lily but they only exchanged a few looks and when they returned to his flat he simply told here that he was amazed. They then simple had a bath and went straight to bed, both in their different ways exhausted.
Two or three days later Lily rang to say that she had been offered shows at a couple of galleries but she had turned them down because she felt that she was not ready for such exposure. She said that she would work for another year before thinking about other steps. His next step was to publish his own stories but the sales were poor and the book was not reviewed. He was not totally surprised by this and simply continued with the writing process. Mostly he would wake up with an image, a moment even a phrase and instantly start committing it all to his computer screen writing until the words started to falter. As soon as he felt he was forcing it then he would stop and have something to eat. He would then go for a walk in the park or next to the canals and see if the writing would start again. As long as it felt that words went through him he was content. In this way week would follow week passing into this year and then the next. Likewise Lily had a similar rhythm although much more inclined to explode into periods of intense production and than lapse again into stasis. In matters of sex it seemed Lily would always stop at the moment when habitual patterns started to form. She was not only inventive but she appeared to know about all the literature of esoteric sex. They started to practice a form of motionless sex locked together in an upright posture breathing in synchronicity and contracting the sex muscles as they did so. The art was to stay in that region between sex and meditation. If his mind started to drift then she would contact tightly and draw his member back into the immediacy of the situation. She told him that eventually he would be able to achieve orgasm without ejaculation but he was sceptical about such a possibility.
Each time Lily arranged performances they always drew a similar response as the first. In her own way she was becoming quite a cult figure because only limited numbers of people had actually witnessed these events and yet many more seemed to discuss them. In many ways she was working with the opposite principle to the artists she was tending to buy who spent half of their life struggling to get and then sustain either attention or exposure. She would always say that artist desire fame because it will increase the scope of their work but then they become so entangled by fame itself that the work’s only gesture is in the sustaining of this stupid attribute. In this respect the art world has less clarity about itself then what would seem necessary to create the sustained basis of autonomy of works of art and this is why she claimed that autonomy was a fading attribute. He figured that Lily might not really be fascinated by contemporary art at all but then she would never really say what she really thought on such matters. She was generally frank when it came to personal matters but never in business.
It was in July 1995 and he had been walking around Bethnal Green picking wild cherries. They had a slightly sharp taste which pointed to the fact that generally such cherries were used in cooking. He had eaten his fill each day for three weeks and never tired of jumping up in order to get to the cherries seemingly out of reach. Part of this activity reminded him of picking fruit from trees when he was young, often by climbing over walls and stealing apples or plumbs from other people’s gardens. Sometimes this activity might result in receiving a slap across the year or being chased by dogs but then it was worth it because fresh fruit was only seasonal in those years. Lily could never comprehend what it was like growing up in the fifties and in turn growing up in a poor family circumstance. Her father owned fruit farms and vineyards so the idea of stealing fruit was not even a possibility. Every room she had ever lived in had fruit and flowers except when she was either in Bologna or in her student years in London. She was still bringing him flowers with almost every visit just so she might spend at least some of the evening looking at them. Anyway he came back to his flat and there she was looking at a newly assembled bouquet of flowers. She told him that she had been doing this every day since her attempted suicide as a way of being with or thinking about her mother. She said that she knew that people mostly saw her as Italian but that her Chinese blood was very strong. He wondered what she was talking about and very slowly she started to talk about Mario and how he had called her to say that cancer of the prostrate had been discovered. She said that she would be leaving London as soon as possible in order to stay with him. For Chinese it is almost like a religion to look after their elders and Mario needed her. She said that everything would stop in her life that he had to understand that she now needed this time with Mario, and that nothing would persuade her that it could be otherwise. He simply looked at her and without articulating a sentence his eyes became swollen with tears and she put her arms around him rocking him in the process. She told him that they would have three days together but that the flight was booked and that it would be better if they withdrew from each other. She told him that she had always lived with a half sense of life ever since trying to kill herself and that this half life had been given over to her father. This is why she said that she had never ever declared her love for anyone other than the memory of her mother and father. Both of them lay in bed looking at the ceiling unable to sleep. Eventually as the light came they drifted off and awoke at mid-day. If he could have said the words wounded or cut-up he would have felt cheap but such words circulated inside despite such inner correction. He said that it might be better for her if he took her to the airport when she was ready in order that she could get on with organising shipping for the recent purchases and to pack her things. She asked him if I would keep all the tapes and would eventually work something out for them. Two days later he was kissing her goodbye and trying to deal with the anticipated descent he expected to follow.
Perhaps it was a month or even two before he started to collect himself. He had started to think that he might go through his life with really serious attachment and now all he was experiencing was the loss of what had become a really major connection. Writing was put aside, daily life was a grind of dismal vacuity and the immediate sense of a livid horizon had disappeared. Lily would ring him but this only increased the sense of loss. He knew about all the things that might be waiting for him and wondered what was going to seize over him first. Another relationship seemed to be utterly impossible and casual or paid sex deplorable. Lily had fine tuned his nerves and now they started to fray. The idea of escape came to him but the idea of living off a beach on the coast of Thailand or Brazil would only circle him with self contempt. Half of him started to think that he was suffering from a sickness because Lily’s withdrawal from his life reminded him of withdrawal from drug dependency. Part of him also knew that he was constructing a screen around himself in order to act at his feeling of isolation. Even when he touched his own cock he would start to weep such was his state. He was getting to the age of fifty and feeling that this event might start to define the rest of his life yet he could still think that Lily had done the right thing in terms of the pattern of her life. Much of the time he also started to think about easing himself out of life altogether. Also he could afford to simply do nothing other than sink into pain and he even thought about burning himself out of this inertia. His sober assessment was that he had achieved very much and now it was unlikely that he ever would. He also realised that his bottoming out process was still a long way to go.
People generally do not find it easy to discuss depression but for over a year he had known nothing other than this relentless progression of a thick sticky mist through all the vessels and organs of his body. He was contracted, stiff, immobile and prone to days of silence. Everything around him had been put on automatic; his bank affairs, bills, and daily affairs. The supermarket delivered the same two boxes of food every week; half of which was discarded. The day came when he rang Lily to say that he was in a mesh but she simply said that Mario was so poorly she couldn’t leave. Occasionally he would look through his stories but wondered why he had been so absorbed in them because they now appeared as facile and contrived. Sometimes he thought that Lily had always intended to go and the Mario story was a form of ruse; but as soon as such thoughts occurred he would always think of how far he had descended. The torment was becoming intolerable and he decided to find some help.
Alice had died shortly after his treatment with her; apparently she had fallen over, broken her hip and quickly deteriorated once she was confined to her bed. He thought that if he went to his local GP he would be stuff full of pills or given the solace of a chemical happy half hour each day. He thought about Tong but found out that he was out of the country on a Buddhist retreat for six months. Next he went into the West End to see if he could find some reasonable acupuncturist to give relief to the more chronic aspects of his condition but although he found it helped with some of the symptoms the core of the problem remained constant. He started to remember how Tong and Paul had helped him through his addiction, that at times it was getting through this hour and then the next, then this day and then the next and finally living each week as he found it until the point was reached that a feeling of duration had returned into his centre. He remembered how painful this process was and that although this was painful it was not the same type of struggle. He also held onto the thought that Lilly was there somewhere in his life and that if he held to this he could start to make a turn.
One morning he woke up and decided to go to the supermarket and buy several bunches of flowers so he could look at them in the way Lily said she had. He could really say if that had helped him but he repeated the same action several days later and in the following weeks maintained this as a ritual. In some small way he had started to become present to himself. After several months he found that a large part of his sadness had given way to the feeling that he should release himself from the signifier of rejection. He always knew how much Lily loved her father and she was simply true to that feeling. He would go to his studio space and sit in the middle of the floor. All the sound equipment was still in place so he started to play through some of the tapes that Lily had left behind. He hadn’t realised the extent of her activity in regard to this medium. Sometimes in was difficult to decipher how they might have been shaped into a work but there fragmentary quality was also a source of fascination. The more he listened the more he was drawn into this compelling inner landscape. The idea of a landscape evokes the sense of being able to move freely through space but this was often contradicted by the constant feeling of being caught in a web, of being knotted or even bumping into densely formed matter. In this regard there was something much closer to the idea that words might be both dissolving their relationship to meaning by becoming a new form of material but also that language itself interpenetrated things and thought in order to realise substance. Simply listening was now his main daily activity. At times he completely started to lose sense about who Lily was. Rather being away in Italy looking after her father, she now occupied the studio. Perhaps she had anticipated this and that would explain why she had left the tapes with him. One of the tapes was called ‘Conversations with a Buddhist Monk’ which was an imaginary record of her treatment with Tong. On an abstract level it was close to being a passage from delirium into tranquillity but then it was full of strange turns of mood and encounter. Part of the tape involved dreams in which he entered her body in different guises; first as a being so small that he could swim through all her blood vessels and ingest toxins, then as a vengeful fire god he would burn her body from the inside and then as a mist to cool and cleanse her organs. There was often the feeling that they were at war with the other followed by exhaustion or surrender but throughout the personas and semblances were always shifting. The tape itself was neither literary nor was it direct experience but the elsewhere of both. Without the experience it would not have been possible but then without knowledge of literature it would have no form. Yet it was something more than the fusion of these elements because it touched upon the force of dissolution which gave the voice and the sounds an affect of shuddering in its own space of production. Occasionally there is a book that generates the feeling as if written for the first time or a painting that is purely its own space of encounter so if there is a sense of this tape then it is this. It was dense, striated, obscure but ultimately pure. He listened to this tape for one week and as he absorbed it, a subtle series of changes started to occur which lead him to think that he was becoming still. He had discovered a way of letting Lily enter him. It was not that he missed Lily but that he accepted the quality of her been elsewhere.
His life simply continued at a very slow space. He was still buying flowers and also to write although without any expectancy of an audience. There was no desire to be part of any scene or any moment. He simply could no longer be bothered about such matters. The main thing is that he hadn’t returned to the refuge of alcohol, drugs, sex or cult religion. As part of this he had also been able to retain ownership of property which was now beginning to boom. He would receive an occasional note from Lily but otherwise his daily routine was unchanging and at least provided consistency to his life. This plane of consistency never slipped into a feeling of boredom. There was little he wanted to change. He imagined that those who knew him might feel that he was simply lonely and unable to communicate his feelings but the point was he neither wanted company nor sought to explain his feelings. At times he had tried to meditate but he would give up after a week or two because he would doubt the possibility of inner transformation. There had been a strange persistence in his life that leads him to accept things as they occurred. He never read newspapers, watched television, rented videos or used his phone to chat to people; he was in this way bereft of opinion. Whereas a lot of people needed the social contact of work, he felt fortunate not to be employed because he could occupy the space of his own making. He never used the word solitude but in every aspect of his life he was living a solitary existence. Various bodies and contacts had stopped offering him deals on this or that. He would simply say that he wasn’t interested in any more business so after a time such solicitations dried up. At times he would consider travelling to see an exhibition or a museum but would simply put such thoughts aside as being part of another time. This in turn became a way of handling time which was now a question of then, now and maybe another time. He noticed that ‘another time’ had replaced the concept of the future. He would sometimes go over in his head the various philosophical implications of time consciousness but he had no longer the intellectual stamina to resolve any clear thinking on the matter. To replace the idea of a future with the phrase ‘another time’ seemed to fit with his existence. He had started to write three stories that he called ‘Then’, ‘Now’ and ‘Another Time’. Nothing really occurred in these stories because that whole point was to reduce the narrative to the point that time started to jut into language.
As he continued to work his way through Lily’s tapes he came across a group which had a label O. What he discovered was a series of what appeared to be intimate conversations but gradually opened out into the sound of sexually encounters. He realised that this was a lover of Lily in their time together. Sometimes they spoke in Chinese and it seemed that he was a dancer. At first he didn’t want to listen but he thought that Lily must have intended him to hear the tapes so he continued despite the shock of really having confirmation that Lily had slept with other men. It was also not just the knowing that this had occurred but also the feeling that he was indirectly what had happened. Also it was obvious that this was not a simulation of sex but extended and intensely charged sex. Part of him felt humiliated and undone but he also knew there was nothing in these tapes which suggested betrayal or duplicity. In fact he had always believed that Lilly needed different men for different things; with this man it was sex, perhaps sex with a Chinese man with the added attraction of being a dancer as well. There was often an after taste with her recording, he thought maybe something composed out of annihilation and elevations, whilst holding in place both possibilities. It was if there was a preface to every tape; testing, testing, testing.
The next time Lily called she sounded as if her voice was faded but then she said she felt really well. She said that she wanted him to do something for her and that was to grow a garden. At this request his mind rushed into the possibility of her returning but she simply said she would like the thought of him tending a garden. She said that it is something that would make her very happy. He then told her that he had been listening to her bedroom tapes and she replied in a matter of fact voice that she had met this bi-sexual Chinese dancer in London and it had given her the chance to connect with her Chinese part of her. She also said that he was very free with role playing and through this she learnt a lot about herself. She asked him if he had felt hurt and that she thought of not leaving these tapes but she intended to use them at some time so it was better to hear them privately first. He told her what he had felt but that he had grown to accept who she was. Then she said that she would send him some things; books she had been reading, a lot more tapes and a special gift. She ended the conversation by saying that in all the time she had been away she had never stopped thinking about him.
A month later he received another call from Italy and this time it was Mario. As he started to talk his voice cracked and he started to sob. Lily had died of cancer. He said that she had wanted to keep it away from him because she was also expecting that she would outlive him because his illness seemed to be more advanced. He said she had made him very happy and he knew he would himself follow her shortly. They had agreed to put all his wealth into several children’s charities so everything would be liquidated after his death. He said there was a small house in Mayfair with a garden which would be left to him but that Lily had said that he lived a very simple life and anything further would be a complication. He said that when he died he would hope that he might be able to attend a small surface to scatter both Lily’s and his ashes together over Lake Como. Then he simply said goodbye because he could no longer speak. When the phone clicked, he started to weep, and as he did so, couldn’t imagine that he would ever stop.
A week later a letter arrived form Mario. His doctor was increasing his painkilling medication but he was fading. He said that Lily had died peacefully and without distress. In the last months together she had first taught him about an attitude towards dieing and without this an attitude to letting go of worldly things. He said he had hoped that Lily would have been able to continue the family lineage but when he understood that she was also going to die that such desire was rendered void. Wealth had proved to be in part a meaningless part of his life because first his wife was taken from him and now his daughter and in a matter of days he would thankfully follow both of them to circulate freely in the lake that had in the end been there to unite them. He then said he had always found him to be a true friend and that he hoped that the grief of Lily’s death would not overcome him. A couple of days later several boxes arrived containing all Lilly’s books, tapes and discs and notebooks. There was also a letter which simply said that she had lived as she had wanted and let her death follow the logic of this. She said he could use all the material in his possession as he saw fit but she would like the idea that they could be edited and made available electronically. Language she said is subject to erosion like the body itself but she said the idea that she might whirl around space a little longer pleased her. Finally she wrote that perhaps her family lineage was coming to the end because it might not find it easy to endure what the next stages of money production would imply. Maybe distributing all those millions might result in something more creative than if it stayed congealed together.
A month later someone from Mario’s office rang to say that he had passed away and gave instructions of the time of the service. Only a few close friends would be attending and it was to be a totally private affair. Soon he was standing on the edge of Lake Como distributing Lily’s ashes to the gentle breeze that seemed to rise out of the lake itself. After the service he was taken inside the Villa to look at all the rooms that had been occupied by both Mario and Lilly and after this he simply asked to be driven away so he could catch a train instead of a flight home. He realised he had not properly looked at anything in the space despite of the fact that it was filled with sumptuous works of art. A small tube had been handed over to him as he departed and several hours into his journey he opened it and it was an exquisite Tibetan Thangka painting of a Yogini dancing naked in the sky. She must have known that was a momentary fantasy he had of her. On returning to his flat he placed it above his bed and started to find ways of recovering.
Several months passed and he hadn’t even ventured out to look at his house in Mayfair. He thought that he should simply sell in order to add to the money that would be finally drawn together for charity. Mario attorney in London had sold all the property which meant this his own worldly connection had diminished and all the various art collections had been sent either to New York or London. He noticed how excited people become when someone’s final wealth starts to be added up. The Italian press had viewed the deaths of daughter and father as an unconscious death pact that ended a great family dynasty. At least he felt freed with all the responsible of all these affairs; it was simply enough to deal with the desolation. He thought that death was such a tricky thing because on the level of reason it seems easy to accept but then it creeps up with all these strange angles to undo in utterly devastating ways. He had simply no way of imagining she was going to die and still couldn’t comprehend how it had come. Mario’s death had appeared as utterly in time whereas Lily had skipped over time and thus died in a way that could only be described as untimely. He simply kept marking down the year in his head; 1998, 1998, 1998.
It must have been several months since he opened the books to look at the books she had left him or the various recordings. He now understood what Lily had said about living a half-life because more than anything he felt dislocated and remote as if waiting for something indeterminate to occur. If in various stages in the past he had experienced this feeling of disconnection, it was now magnified into a force that at times felt unendurable. At times he dealt with this by diminishing himself until he was like a small pimple on the edge of something vast but then he was quickly out of such simple strategies of escape because it lacked any real traction. He tried to write but everything came out in the wrong way; in fact his use of language had become both clumpy and sticky. Instead it was painting that seemed to occur most easily so he set about this whenever he could settle. Soon he hit upon the idea of working with the same materials and format so he didn’t have to keep thinking about such matters. For some reason he decided to work on an A5 format on MDF and simply ordered several thousand pieces. He would then enter the studio at midday and paint until he was either tired or completely stuck. There was no end point in mind instead a repetitive gesture of painting following painting without end. At first they spread across the floor and then he started to make neat stacks of them against the wall. Given that there was no point in mind there was no programme, no schema or structure through which they might find a place in the world outside of the studio. The only thought he had was it might be like a musician practising music. In the past when he was writing he would often say that he was trying to reach a point at which he had nothing to say but with these paintings it wasn’t the case of trying to reach a point because there had never been a possibility of a point in the first place.
When he finally visited his ‘small’ house in Mayfair, he realised that he had been given something that made him very wealthy but he had no inclination to move in. Mario had instructed his attorney to deal with all the bills until the point was reached of moving in. It was also furnished with Georgian furniture so it was a highly desirable property for letting and yet he wanted neither the rental money nor the proceeds of a sale. He was now fifty, lonely and without a family. On one level to live in Mayfair would enable him to remain anonymous but it also grated on him. He imagined this was Mario’s elegant way of thanking him but it was not really his world not that he thought that he possessed such a thing. He tried to solicit some more information from the Attorney and he said that he had conveyed all the instructions. He also said that there would be little by way of problem keeping the house for another six months because closure would probably start to occur then. Rather than making a decision everything was left as it was before and he went back to painting.
Going to see the house had the affect of making him go through some of Lily’s recordings. Many of them appeared to be composed of her voice simply talking directly about things as if functioning like a diary. They appeared to jump around in time unlike the structure of a diary working through succession and development. One moment there might imaginary voice whispering things to her dead mother, and then it would switch to a confessional about a murder that she didn’t commit, returning next to the long night of addiction; thus going round and round splicing up fiction and memory together. She never made theoretical statements in any direct manner but always find a way of turning what might have been theory into opaque meditations that might shift into other regions occupied by poetic impulse. There where moments in the law courts, followed by days in solitary confinement, years of going underground, violence and confusion. It was difficult to navigate all of this. So instead of trying to find narrative continuities he simply let everything float inside its own bubble of chaos so that small threads might start to emerge.
He remembered what Lily had asked him about making a garden. It had been too painful to consider this because he hoped that it was for her return and perhaps an idea of growing old together looking at plants. The back of his flat only had a very small space which he had barely touched because he had never really considered this flat his place because he continued to rent even though he was in a position to buy. He still didn’t want to move to Mayfair which had a small garden and felt disinclined to move. Eventually he ventured into Columbia Road flower market and started to buy trays of plays that he inserted into available spaces and soon there was at least a semblance of a garden. He wondered if the request related to the garden had some reference in the recordings. He thought whatever the thinking behind this that in some way it might be obscure. Lily had often made very simple requests but for very complex reasons but he found no direct reference.
He realised that his isolation was eating him alive and what he persisted. It was painting in the afternoon and listening to the recordings in the evening. In order to sleep he started to masturbate again. He used to wonder about all the countless souls alone in their space whose only response to loneliness was in their ritual of easing themselves into momentary forgetfulness. In turn he felt a sadness that Lily had opened herself so much for him and that all he could expend of this energy was self annihilation. Sometimes he would simply lie there in order to work out why masturbation appeared somehow lowly. Sometimes the consumption of a bottle of wine was added so that the boundaries out of his elected composition might start to blur. If this was his theatre, it could only be described as dismal. He had discovered a way of returning back upon himself but a turning back which involved an auto-rejection within the circuit of scrutiny. At times he would have the distinct sensation of looking down upon himself, as if his own body was itself figured as gaze into which he in turn might disappear. He would sometimes look up at his imagined imagine of Lily dancing naked in the sky and wonder if in turn he might appear as a worm curling around itself. He wondered why she was up there in his mind and he was down, on the ground sinking. It hadn’t been like that in life. Lily had been riddled with her own nonsense. In other eyes she might have seemed despicable. Those around him had often wondered how he could put up with it all. She had been a part terrorist, a permissive decadent, a junky, a suicidal failure, a depressive; all these things and perhaps many more. He often heard her described as a new form of bourgeois not content with money but needing to suck even more capital in the form of creative energy. Whatever the truth of all of this she occupied him and thus he had to live on with her even though what she might have been did not necessarily have clarity.
He started to think about the things left to him; the idea of the garden, the books, the recording and the house. It is difficult to work out what such things might mean. He thought he might sell the house and buy some gold bars to look at. He remembered when the dollar was removed from the gold standard and the saying that the dollar is as good as gold disappeared from circulation. He thought of all the momentary disturbances that followed; the raging inflation, economic uncertainty, unemployment and recession so he thought that to be able to stare at gold on a daily basis might stand as an image of continuity and certainty. He even liked the idea that having the gold would also be dangerous. The other idea was to fill the house with art students because he thought there would be something strange about a group of art students living together in Mayfair. It was the kind of thing Lily would have done when she was younger in order to annoy her father. Then he thought that he should find a way of making the archive of recordings available so maybe the house could become a centre for this. Each time he turned to the subject of the house he felt that he didn’t even want the thought of it. If he was married with children it would have been the most beautiful gift, if he had been desperate for respectability it would be perfect, if he dreamt of entertaining or even dealing in fabulous artefacts then ideal. The ideal, beauty and respectability were not in his horizon though. He went through all the people he had ever known and they would have all had each would have welcomed such a gift and there he was trying to find ways of not even thinking about it. The last solution was simply continue to let it sit empty because something might turn up which would suddenly make sense. Mario after all was clever and must have had something on his mind, perhaps he had seen something that in his present state he couldn’t see. Even if Mario was attempting to make him more worldly and centred he should take the perception in good faith.
Amongst the books Lilly had sent was Mallarme’s ‘The Tomb of Anatole’. In some ways they seemed to be about the impossibility of completing each poem but returning to the task again and again as if to complete would be to finally bury his loved one. Each fragment, slight and seemingly trembling between the nothingness of the page and the uncertainty and the burden of words appeared to turn back on the guilt of the child’s illness and then death. In all there were two hundred and two fragments which gave the impression that there was no closure to the initial impulse to write. It is uncertain if Mallarme ever intended these fragments to be published and they certainly have no final form or resolution. He understood why Mario had turned to this book when Lilly had tried to kill herself and now he found himself immersed in the very same pages. The brevity of the lines appeared as thrusts of unmediated passion, thrusts that cut open a space between language and death. He wondered if in some intimate way words might obliterate the trace of death or if not obliterate then sustain a feeling that death might function as a form of renewal. In reading these lines it also came to him that even the most dismal literature can procure within itself a dazzling intensity.
The house in Mayfair remained empty but a gardener came twice a week to maintain the garden. His days organised themselves in the separate acts of painting, occasional writing and listening to Lily’s voice. He had decided to hire someone to make transcripts of all the tapes even though it would take a number of years. At the back of his mind was the idea that some of those transcripts might be edited into a book or even a series of books. When he felt ready he would also start to do some live events but he would always say that this was for another time. He wondered if he was ever going to open this door called ‘another time’ but at least he saw the funny side of this.
Out of the blue, a lecturer at the Royal College of Art got in touch with him about the book he had published of his own writing. He said that he had always admired the writing and wondered if he would do a reading for a series of lectures being organised around the theme ‘Literature and Death’. He still had a whole box of these books and had even half buried the memory of it but despite feeling either inadequate to the task or purely hesitant about being in public he agreed. He thought he might be doing this without a fee because money had not been mentioned. His plan was to talk firstly about his involvement with reading Mallarme’s poems and that this would be followed by a short story and then one of Lily’s sound recordings. Two months later he was sitting in the senior common room eating what was for him an over rich lunch. He asked the lecturer who seemed keen to discuss his writing about the upstairs and downstairs relationship of eating and whether this was right in an art school. The lecturer replied that sometimes it was difficult to attract speakers but when lunch was included they seem always to want to come so there is some payback for students. He simply replied that if staff ate with students then they might learn something but he said this in a way that made the lecturer laugh aloud. When they entered the lecture hall he started to regret offering to do a reading. He had two books and a disc and almost trembling between what he was carrying in both hands. He sat down and tried to compose himself and the lecturer started to talk about Blanchot and the relationship of writing to death. All he could think about was the idea that his own writing could only be received as being slight. In a way that was the point really so he could make a claim based upon this. The lights dimmed slightly as he opened out the book of poems to show the audience. He said that there was little point in reading them aloud because part of the experience of also seeing them on the page. Then he told the story of how this man he knew had read them and how in turn he had come to read them. It was as if he started to excavate a tomb of private grief in front of an audience of art students used to sharp irony or aesthetic indifference. He then read a short story relating to a childhood moment called ‘Digging a Pit’. It was read in a manner that suggested that it was his personal experience but of course it wasn’t. Finally the space was submerged in darkness and he played one of Lily’s sex tapes which had been structured around the idea of exploring the darkest interiority of the voyaging of the sexual act. The lights went on and the lecturer turned to the audience and after a few moments of realising that no immediate question was forthcoming he asked him what he thought about the relationship between the word spoken and the written word. The only thought he had was that one appeared as already mediated whereas the other appeared as direct so each pointed in different directions even if there content was seemingly identical. Then a student asked him if the sex recording was a work or whether it was purely life to which he replied that such a difference had to be sustained and that if it was perceived that this was undecidable then perhaps we might have other types of questions. The lecturer than thanked him and the audience clapped for a brief moment at that was it. The lecturer turned to him and said that he thought he might be influence by George Bataille as he led him out of the space. He said he hoped to meet him again and if he could he should get in touch and visit him to see his work. As he walked away he simply felt a relief that it was over. He thought the whole thing would have come across either as disjointed or unhinged.
When he returned to his space he started to go through a box of books he had not yet opened and found several volumes of the writing of George Bataille. He remembered how Lily was always talking about him and that she had even made a collection influenced by him. All those ideas to do with eroticism as being sexuality unto death and excess started to orbit around him as if leafed through the pages of these books. The book that he started to really pay attention to was not the one on eroticism but a text on Nietzsche which was written in a fragmentary or aphoristic manner. Although it was in part about the philosophy of Nietzsche it appeared to also function as a journal relating to the interiority of Bataille himself giving the feeling that it was going in and out of focus. This was not unlike the quality he had noticed in many of Lilly’s tapes. A few days later he received an e-mail asking him if he would like to come into the RCA to do some seminars within a creative writing option they had just set up and that several students had thought that he would be good in this context. He thought back to his time at Saint Martins and remembered how he had walked away. A contact from his time there had talked about the feeling that art schools had become like factories turning over students and that they seemed closer to businesses than what had formerly been chaotic but creative places of encounter. Also he had no need of money so he felt that the whole thing might not work for him so he didn’t reply but instead put his box of remaining books into a taxi to send over with a short note saying he was a little busy but perhaps he might be available at a later date. He refrained from writing ‘another time’.
Rather than conducting seminars, making more money, exhibiting his work, being somebody he thought that he simply wanted to be touched again. He felt that this need might correspond to the fact that he was no longer in a state of shock. He had fought this feeling because it was a feeling that had previously led him into the doorway of prostitution and that in turn into a pit of emptiness. The problem was that he also appeared before himself as being committed to the isolation that was the cause of suffering from lack. In a mock ironic manner he thought he should visit his GP and tell him or her that he was suffering from the lack of touch and that it was his sickness. What he didn’t want though was to be made to talk about this lack but then he lacked people to talk about such things anyway. He thought that he would die slowly because his body had become untouched and so day after day would congeal into an unbreakable stiffness that would squeeze the last of his life force out of him.
He started to remember all the crazy stuff he used to do with dressing up and acting out. He realised that was in part a means of overcoming shyness or withdrawal. He wished that he could embody the same libertarian attitude towards sex as Lilly had embodied. Maybe she was simply southern and liberated whereas he was northern and repressed. He would have liked it if his body would simply cease speaking to him and it would sink into a silence that was based on having no demand but instead it was noisy and insistence about its needs. Eventually his hold appeared to give and he was standing in a massage and sauna parlour handing over his payment. The girls all wore white coats as if there was something medical about the whole thing. He chooses what looked like a Chinese girl and they went into the room. She asked him if he liked oil or powder and he asked her to make the choice. Her hands felt to be extremely small and light, combining point pressure with light stroking touches which danced across his body. She turned him over and she asked what extras he liked; sex, French or hand. He said that he wanted to be touched but he didn’t want to come because things were difficult for him. They agreed the normal fee and she slipped out of the coat and her underwear. She was extremely slender with what seemed large breasts and a small black pubis. She got onto the table with him after covering herself with oil and gave him a body to body massage. In those final ten minutes he simply came alive to himself. Three days later he was back and then it was part of his potential evening routine. Part of the attraction for him was that he would talk about things and in turn they would to him especially because he repeated his visits so often. In turn he would write short portrait sketches of each of the girls because it was like some unrecorded history of how people come to live in other countries. The men who visited saunas appeared as an assortment of the lonely, frustrated, desperate, arrogant, and over-sexed whatever that was. The woman must have learned to stereotype each very quickly in order to deal with each of the types in a way that would ensure a smooth passage. The combination of the boredom of waiting with a little frenzy of sex is a hard combination to deal with so a lot of the women put themselves into a trance in order to cope. On one level everything was just business but on another level it was a different kind of economy that circulated loneliness, guilt and even suffering. In his own mind he had made different categories for what he described as business, economy, circulation and investment that completely went against the connotations he had absorbed when he had done his economy course. Business was to do with the exchange of money, economy was the circulation of sense, circulation was the heterogeneous movement of energy and matter and investment was to do with the concentration of the mind at a single point. Being touched was thus a complicated matter that fell between the working of repetition and desire.
Several weeks later in received another e-mail asking him if he would change his mind and since he was venturing out to be massaged he thought that he might venture out to work on words, not that there was the remotes connection but this is how if framed it to himself. He was simply told to write out a course description and that he would be assigned a room and a time. A week later he was sitting in a room with twelve students asking them what they felt creative writing was for them. He told them that he had never really seen himself as a creative writer but perhaps each class could mix reading passages from various writers and then writing in the classroom and reading these text aloud to the rest of the class. He said the only principle for the practice of writing was the pleasure that was discovered through the act of doing it and that energy followed this pleasure creating the force of investment. When the writing is finished then there is simply a form of expenditure that should stand for itself and that he had little other than that to go on. He showed some extracts of Chris Marker’s ‘Sunless’ and talked for a short while about the essay and letter form and simply asked that they compose a series of imaginary letters to some other, real or imagined as if they where travelling. With Lily’s small mountain of novels, texts, films, and recordings he started to imagine that the combinations might see out his years as a teacher of creative writing despite not really having a clue as to how such a thing might be meaningfully taught. After a month some students had left and a few more entered. He never attempted to entertain and conducted himself in a way that might be understood as aloof. He was ambivalent about art schools, didn’t need the money and probably felt that he wasn’t the right person to being working on such a course but despite this he took it seriously because an economy was being formed.
Thinking about the structure of each class drew him into considering the nature of words themselves especially the ways in which etymologies could be both traced and in turn played with. Each week he would assemble up to ten words that fitted the context of the class and he would go through various readings that might be contained within a single word. He would keep repeating that the thing that made humans think was there discovery of the idea of infinity and that the root of philosophy itself was staring at the starry abode and experiencing the mystery of this swirling infinity. Language evolved simply to touch upon this sense of infinity and that is why language precedes human action. Thinking he would say is the capacity to go outside of what you are. His final point was that if writing was the exercise of thinking which in turn was stimulated by the infinite play and potentiality of language then all of this implied passing out of self into the domain of language. This he said was elemental and straightforward. Invariably someone would look at him and say that what he had said might be true but it doesn’t help with the processing of writing and he would reply that he wasn’t attempting to help but rather point to why good writing isn’t a common thing. His final statement was that writing should read as though it was simple but that was because it had found a passage through complexity. At times when he spoke like this he felt he might be becoming like a teacher but on the whole he simply presented himself as someone he had done some writing. He never mentioned the fact that he was also a painter.
The year 2000 came and went and he was still doing the seminars, still visiting massage parlours, painting and writing. The house in Mayfair stood empty whilst its value went up by the month. He kept thinking that he should stop giving seminar and receiving massages. There had been moments when he was tempted to let of group of his students have the house for a time in order to make a project there but he always withdrew from such a thought. He had noticed that his memory was declining rapidly, likewise eyesight and that his prostrate was causing him to pee several times in the night. Although he was still in his early fifties he felt that he was getting old. His life should have appeared to be easy and relaxed but instead it was riddled by various holes of things like uncertainty, loneliness, lack, and so on. He knew a simple switch in his mindset would render this entirely void but there was a lifetime of habit reinforcing each of these symptoms. He would simply say to himself that is what he was. The fact that this attitude did not sit too well without his small speeches of writing didn’t appear in this logic. Lily had always said that he should bring aesthetic sense and life together much more and that would enable him to have greater propulsion. She had also told him that he was too inert and was in danger of becoming a real stiff. In a way this is what had materialised; he was a real stiff with enough pulsation to get through.
At the beginning on each Academic Year there was a postcard exhibition in the RCA to raise funds for students who might have money problems or who needed special forms of assistance. When he saw the two thousand plus card covering the wall space of the main galleries he realised that he had accumulated half this number of paintings and that he could do something which had a semblance of this way of exhibiting accept it would be by a single author. There was something obsessive and overwhelming about this degree painting in one place so he set out attempting to interest someone to show them. Alongside of this he constructed a brief text which create a fictionally interface for the work. After three months of not finding a venue for the work he emptied out his space and assembled it himself and invited all his various contacts to visit. Mostly this work was not really met with too much enthusiasm and several said directly that they thought the writing was more interesting.
The bank at this time seemed to be putting pressure on him to sort out his finances due to the fact that he had started to spend more than his income. This was academic because he had no borrowing in relationship to his assets so he would simply raise his overheads. The bank knew that he was in a position to take out several million in loans and couldn’t understand why he was not taking advantage of low interest rates to extend his assets further. When ever they offered him various investment packages he would either write a note back saying that he was bored with such information or increasingly ignore the messages entirely. Likewise estate agents in Mayfair started to bombard him with potential offers that they could secure because they all had waiting lists for such properties. He knew that he was wasting potential rental income but wanted to be free to do whatever and whenever he pleased. Capitalism is fast and he simply wanted to be slow and indifferent. It would be difficult to imagine that anyone would see him as in any way political but he saw the vast machine that held everything within its gears as being the other side of reformable. He knew that he was riddled through and through with the logic which he also cursed and that his relative wealth was in large part due to Mario and Lily and now was simply a time of waiting.
Recently he had discovered a whole series of books related to the Jena Romantics particularly books relating to Novalis and Holderlin. He was amazed by such a confluence of writers in one small university town. The thought was that he could develop a series of seminar related to the idea of the fragment in writing so he assembled a whole series of exemplary text in relationship to this approach to the text. The problem with these seminars is that these approaches had now started to infiltrate the thesis writing process and many tutors felt that these more opaque forms of text placed students outside the process of comparative judgement. It was not that anyone had forwarded the notion that creative writing seminars should be stopped but that guidelines to students should make clear what the ground rules should be. He knew that such issues tend to accumulate into an eventual political issue so he started to think that it would be time to simply disappear because he had no energy to defend what it was he was trying to do. In some ways he had little idea about what his destination or purpose was anyway because he was learning simply by doing it. He thought that was the point of art schools to in some way experiment and if not them it could be done elsewhere. He imagined he might be invited into a little conference and asked what he thought about such issues and then finds funding would be cut for the next year but it wasn’t quite like that because things never quite came to a head in this manner. Despite the feeling that he might continue because of half tolerance and half indifference he simply informed his line manager that he had run out of idea and conviction so it would be better not to continue. His resignation was accepted on face value and that appeared to confirm his apprehension in the first place. He circulated a letter to students inviting them to meet at his Mayfair house on Thursday evenings. He thought that those who would turn up would have a sense of investment and that this would make everything more dynamic. At last there was a use for his house even though it was limited and indirectly very expensive. He figured that he might receive three thousand a week for this property so the cost of the seminar was thus in that region after costs. When these classes started it seemed that the interest in creative writing had increased twice over because several students had put around a rumour that he had been sacked because the course was seen as a danger to the academic standards that needed to be maintained. He simply said that he simply wished to go on in a different way and didn’t wish to engage in political conjecture. It was simply the case of an institution following its logic and he determining his. On his part he had no complaint.
The classes he held started to evolve and often finished late at night. There was one basic rule and that was to say what was actually thought and believed. Text would be read aloud or performed, films screened, discussing held, theory debated and food consumed. Gradually a practice and speaking started to emerge and with this distinct ways of discussing practices and writing about work. Soon several of the students asked it they could use the space in order to develop there own writing practices further so the space started to be continuously in use. He would simply say that he was looking after the space for someone and as long as there was no damage then everything was fine. It was as if something was occurring out of its own momentum. He said his only theory was that if you put the right people together in a space then things will happen.
As the class became established he had an increasing problem with back ache. He had been to an osteopath but that had not cleared the problem so he asked around and someone recommended someone who was described as a body therapist. He rang up and booked an appointment with what sounded like an American woman. When they met she told him that initially she was a Gestalt therapist who had grown frustrated with dealing with patients through the voice only and that she had met a Tibetan Lama-Healer who had introduced her to forms of healing based on direct contact with the body of the other in order to impact on the distribution within the field of energy. She sat him in a chair and started to move her hands across his shoulders and next but as she did so she was speaking to him in a soft tone of voice. Then the location of the voice appeared to evaporate and there was only a voice that appeared to be inside of him. As this voice appeared to probe tears started to flood down his face and as this flood ceased the voice slowly was relocated within the space of the therapist. At the end she simply said that there was a blockage related to grief and that the blockage had now been dissolved. The swelling and pain seemed to have gone and as if turned to her to ask how she simply stated that the Tibetan teaching concerning compassion implicates the healer into the body of the patient in such a way that the gap disappears and they are at one and the same point. She said that he should see her on a monthly basis for a year but should first absorb their first contact.
The next month the owner of the warehouse he was in approached him to say that he was retiring because he had had enough and prefer the idea of living in Florida. He was Jewish and had lived in the East End since the 1950’s and if he could handle a quick exchange he would make an attractive price as he didn’t like going through agents. The warehouse was four stories high with six studio spaces on each floor varying between six and twelve hundred square feet. The ground floor had two major spaces which were used as small factories. He said that he was interested but would need a few days to see about the money side of things. It would be easy to get the money from the bank and then in turn the rent on the spaces would pay the interest or he could sell the Mayfair house or even his East End flats. He had asked several times if he could buy the top floor group of studios and calculated that the ground floor spaces would make two large gallery spaces and the rest would make great artist spaces. Straight away he made an appointment with the bank, arranged the money, details of the transfer and the deal was done. The owner gave notice to the existing tenants and an architect was brought in to look at plans for converting the ground floor space into a couple of gallery spaces. Six months later the builders moved in to start work on the ground floor. One by one artists started to move into spaces as they became vacant. He knew that the space was ideally located because it was literally two minutes from the tube and the rents were in turn set below the normal market rate. So now he added to his one studio space. With the next space he planned to utilise as a sound and recording space in order to complete his project with Lily’s work, the third space would be for the project that had started in the Mayfair space and the other two would be rented to artist he had noticed at the RCA in his time there. One of the galleries would be rented on a commercial basis and the smaller space would be for either his personal projects or artists in the space itself. Part of him just wanted to act instead of waiting for things to happen through other people. He also decided to rent the Mayfair property for the next five years and then assess everything in one go at that time. The next few months moved very quickly; the flat was rented immediately, the new building was occupied and running and the galleries just needed final touches and the main spaces was rented.
Each month he had gone to see his therapist who appeared to enter each of his complex knots. Before he appeared able to articulate a problem here was that that voice submerging itself in what was both tissue and memory at the same time. At times he had peculiar images of what he had become. He talked of being riddled with black holes through which energy was leaking. All of his history of addiction represented vanishing points for energy, money and potentiality but rather than vanishing they appeared to move elsewhere and reconfigure into a form that couldn’t be recognised from before. He could feel her touch and voice travelling these mass of congealed formations that emitted signals to the outside world. She never lectured him but pointed out implication or transactional responsibility. There was no interest in the idea of conveying a narrative about experience because all the information was already coded in the body on the level of each and every cell. She worked a lot of his posture by making subtle corrections to his muscular structure. It was slow work because the formations that had occurred had themselves happened over different spans of time.
He had found a couple of artist he worked with sound and voice in work on Lily’s tapes. Many of the tapes that could be transcribed had started to be systematically worked through. It was a huge task and he was not really certain about any outcome. Sometimes he wondered if she had really existed or at least existed in the form portrayed by these recordings. As in much of his own writing the point at which something was fiction or invention and something was real was not really discernable. At moments he simply wondered if she had designed this entire projected in the way regal people of the past had designed and planned their tombs. Was he a servant or a guardian of these messages? Because he was now involved with editing or structural issues on a daily basis he started to feel that their relationship had assumed its third form. She had always claimed that art’s temporal structure was different from that of the human and that by virtue of that assumed a post-human form. The intellectual problem that he had to deal with was that of translation and editing. These recordings were on one level direct but then they also could be a foreign language that no-one speaks. This implied having to work out a philosophy of translation before making major decisions. It was also important to make decisions about what might be transcribed as text, the passage which might exist on an online site and those elements which where proto-works of art. There where also things which he wished might stay private but then this was resisted.
He started to realise just what a range of practitioners that had started to assemble in his place. He was especially fond of a woman from Japan called Kei who had taken a place long before other artists had moved in. She was a costume designer as well as an installation type artist, but someone who made everything from start to finish. She had been part of the first wave of Japanese students at Saint Martins but he had already left when she had started but they had an affinity because of this common history. There was barely a European city not represented, Brazilians, a Taiwanese performance group, and a group of American artists who shared a space. In many ways it reflected art school culture because most of the makers had come directly from those various institutions. He found some who wanted to run the gallery space for him and the basis that he would have the space free for half the year and would take charge of the exhibitions centred on the warehouse. He decided to organise three shows a year relating to the spaces he ran and the other three exhibitions would be left to proposals from the other twelve studios. The thing that he started to derive the most pleasure from was what he called the writing studio which was now occupied by a group that consisted of up to twenty members some still at art school. Artists in the rest of the building also quickly worked out that this was a rich source of collaboration.
He was now going to see his Californian healer every other week. Her name was Meg and she had just reached the age of fifty. After one session she asked him if he would go out to dinner with her because she had a couple friends visiting her from the states. He couldn’t remember being asked out like this before but agreed. The next time he went for an appointment he returned the request and by the third time this is what they did. They either went to eat at the Vietnamese restaurants in Shoreditch or local Indian restaurants. On evening she invited him back to her flat and simply asked if he would lie down with her. It was not really sure what she meant by that but assumed it was a code for sex. He had thought that she might be gay, so he hadn’t really thought about then doing anything, but he went with her into her bedroom and they lay together on her bed and talked together. She told him that she was bi-sexual and had difficulty with the idea of men penetrating her but that she felt comfortable with masturbating together. They then took off their clothes touched each other all over and fell asleep. There was no sense that they might become lovers or even companions because everything had happened without any great sign of drama. Four days later he had invited to his flat and again the same process was repeated. It was as if they had found a place somewhere between therapy and sex. She told him that she wanted to teach him massage with a special way of talking but that they should meet up everyday for two weeks in order to start the process. She started with several exercises related to the intuitive perception of the body of the other. Each would have to walk in the room in order to be viewed afresh. After a few times with this exercise he intuitively started to see things in her. She was teaching him to enter the field of the other without utilising immediate judgement. Next came what she called the rules of energy; that energy moves from high to low and the means by which energy circulates and is distributed. Soon she was trying to get him to understand not just the body as physical entity but also the subtle dimension of the body. When he told her about his visit to the massage parlour she told him that he was still emotionally immature and needed to grow up quickly. He quickly started to be fluent with the massaging process but he was still waiting to find out how the use of the voice would fit in with this. She told him that this will come in time but he first had to develop his own energy field first. He was starting to mediate on the space between his hands in order to gain sensitivity to how electro-magnetic energy could be accumulated at this confluence. Throughout this entire process they never discussed themselves but he felt totally at ease with her. Part of him felt that he was being tutored but then part of him also felt that it was liked being loved or properly cared for. This process continued for three months and then she started to massage him in a way that he had first encountered with her; the voice external slowly passing into the inside and in the process dissolving boundary. Again voice and touched appeared to move together but rather than following a sequence of a method this process seemed to be a-temporal and without logic. In some moments there might be a feeling of clear passage but then something would tighten only to release moments later. There was the experience of distinct images and moments that started to flash, almost as if induced by chemicals. She eventually eased him back and spoke to him about what she had felt about his short journey; that he was just a little stuck within his own body.
One day he told her that the reason her had set up the studio complex was because it saw it as the last chance to do something that was decent; something whose reward was just seeing it turns of what was produced because of it. He told her about how he had had a fantasy about selling the Mayfair house so that he could buy some bars of gold in order to simply have them to stare at each evening just in order to understand the strangeness of the lust for wealth. The most difficult thing might be to simply understand the ‘thingness’ of gold itself. He asked her if she thought that he had spent his life trying to grasp things which by their nature had to simply pass by but as he said such things she would simply look at him and open her eyes just a little more as if to say its alright to say. She was curious about why he never really talked of his childhood. He used to say that he had figured that his parents didn’t want each other and perhaps they had never wanted him. It was difficult to say this because it might be the actual truth. This is why people say that the most important thing for any child is to feel wanted. He said that he never found out what had happened between his parents but when his father left to work overseas his mother simply seemed to shrink to the point that she had disappeared. It was as if she had set her sights on an autonomic descent into death and nothing could persuade her that her life might be otherwise. He said that he had travelled to the Indian sub-continent just to escape living in the shadow of this. She listened to him and said that there was no need for him ever to become a lonely old man contemplating a bar of gold in order to understand the meaning of life. Nobody had ever been so emotionally direct with him before but he recognised the image instantly. He said that receiving the house had been a strange experience because it had been so unexpected and he hadn’t comprehended what the gesture was. Rather than being a direct gift it had presented itself as a kind of puzzle; something external to immediate need or outside the expectancy of his life. When he raised the money for the warehouse he realised that possessing the house had given him the confidence to do something that he should have done all through his life. Mario hadn’t left him a house but the means of realising his virtual power of manifesting his character in the world and that this was the abstract meaning of wealth. Rather than replying her eyes raised again.
Whenever an artist came to apply for a space he would simply look at them in order to determine if he wanted them to be part of the space. It was like a light would go on saying either yes or no. He wanted a building in which there might be not only no major disputes but a sharing of the different facilities that had started to evolve. Those who had a space started to say that it was like being in an art schools in which they made their own rules and set their own agendas. Over the period of a year he just needed to balance the books and whatever surplus was invested into a new facility. All of his flats close by where now rented to those in the space he needed accommodation so there was cohesion at this level as well and this enabled him to sink into the background and get on with his work. Despite owning property he was still renting his own flat as if he had still not decided if he was going to live in the area. Perhaps he needed to have an element of irrationality like this but at the same time it simply suited him. Each year he had added some plants to the small back garden but it wasn’t a great passion for him and whenever Meg was around she was the one who looked after things. They still slept together but had never had sexual intercourse together because he had accepted this with her. She had told him that she had been raped in her thirties and from that time had never wanted to feel a man in this way again. She said that it also removed anxieties relating to dominance and power which in turn meant that it allowed for more of a de-centred drift to occur within sexual difference. When he asked her what she thought of Lily she replied that she thought Lilly represented an aspect of his psyche that he had always been terrified by; confident, highly sexual, imaginative, dangerous and not afraid of life. She followed this by saying that he had always projected the idea that she was unstable but that this was a cover for the fact that he had little sense at all of his foundation so the only thing that had really flourished was his various addictions. Strange things can happen when things are said that the other doesn’t want to hear but his head simply dropped by a few centimetres as if to both confirm the shame but at the same time half acknowledge that this was the case.
One of his studio spaces was completely empty. After leaving Mayfair his weekly seminars with his writing group assembled there but now several different like groups had use of the space. He found himself often sitting at the back of these discussions because it enabled him to navigate the new languages employed in relationship to work. He had also decided to restage the exhibition he had first put on in his studio space. He wrote a text simply called addicted and placed each of the A5 painting on the edge of two nails in straight lines. On the floor there where a couple of piles of square canvasses stacked in a way that made them appear more like sculpture. His said that it was not so much an exhibition of paintings but more about the intersection between fiction and painting. This show was followed by a presentation of a voice piece by Lily which counter posed a lecture about the ideas of Alexandre Kojeve with her recording recovering from a failed suicide. The work functioned like an echo chamber because it simulated the effect of voices bouncing of walls. He realised that the following that Lily had generated was still present and all three editions of the installation sold straight away. It was now two years into what he had called his two year plan. Almost all of the recordings had been transcribed and he worked out that there might be up to fifty works waiting to find final form. He started to feel anxious about the fact that even if he assembled everything most of these works might never be properly presented. Much of what needed to be done mechanical had been done but the most important element was his mental schemas of how they needed to be assembled. Previously he had always felt that his memory was such that it could cope with this demand but now it was fading rapidly. He had also noticed he was losing words; that he appeared to know a word but forgotten either its meaning or even spelling. He no longer checked accounts or tried to calculate his own outgoings so as long as things felt right he would just go ahead. He tried to talk to Meg about this but she said he was just doing too much without paying attention enough to his way of life. He feared dementia more than anything because without proper memory there is little left to living. Meg said that it might be a time for him to travel and that she was planning to visit Tibet in order to learn more things about healing. It would be a chance also to reconnect in another way with his earlier interest in Tibetan Art. Part of him wanted to go on such a trip but he also felt that he might not return so it became a question of whether he wanted to deal with this as a possibility.
Gradually Lily’s works started to be assembled and another presentation was received in a like manner to the first. There was also a publication with images and fragments of text. One of the art dealers who had purchased work wanted to start representing her work but he felt that the whole archive needed to be complete before such a thing could happen. He also started to work on a new work which was to be called prison. The fragmentary text related to an imaginary time in solitary confinement but was also centred on the presumption that the space of art might emblemise freedom. Around this time it was clear that Meg was actually going to travel for a year but he felt that the timing was good for her. She put her few possessions into his studio space and they spent an entire week walking around the canals and parks. Parting was difficult but they had a clarity together which enabled them to arrive at the airport together without feeling that either was betraying the other. She had attempted to persuade him that he should have some to cook for him everyday and simply be a presence for him but he declined preferring instead the idea that he was used to being solitary.
A year later Meg wrote to him to say that she was going to work with a Lama-Healer she had met and that she was now converted to Buddhism. In the back of his mind the idea that if he had gone then he might not come back was also the thought that it might be Meg who wouldn’t come back. He remembered how it was when Lilly had gone back to Italy to look after her father but this time there was no feeling of a black hole just sadness. She had written to him in a way that touched him deeply and the fact that she recognised within him the ability to understand her choice had a great sense of grace. She didn’t wish to come back to deal with all of this because she knew that she might lose her direction in doing so. It was July when this letter arrived and he noticed that each day after this he sought out the cherry trees and eat until he could pick no more. He imagined that this fruit, slightly bitter though it was, might restore his heart and its function of providing circulation.
He was still enjoying the contact he had through his seminar room but felt as if he had become remote from many of the intellectual issues. He had also made a collection of work from all the exhibitions that they had put on in the gallery. Each week he would put one up in his living space. The only other thing hanging was the Thangka painting which had become closer to being a companion. In a strange way it now pointed two ways; one towards Lily herself but also to Meg. Occasionally there where visits to his GP but the told him that years of stress and ingestion of drugs tend to impact on memory but that he wasn’t really suffering from a chronic condition. He finally decided to find someone to do some cooking for him because he started to burn food as a regular occurrence. Also he had decided that at last he should start to travel a little and needed someone to travel with him in order to handle all the arrangements. For some reason he was talking to Kei in the studios and she mentioned that she had a friend Mika who needed part time work so I arranged to see if he could work something out. She had just walked out her marriage which had started to become abusive and was staying with Kei whilst she could work out a means of making a living. The next day she was cooking for him and as part of the arrangement he would provide a flat if one became available.
He realised that how much he had missed the conversations with Meg. Mika also told him how much she missed conversations and the cruellest thing about her marriage had been her husband’s withdrawal from conversation. After all the intensity of the seminar at last there was the slow drift of what might appear as banal exchange. When she wasn’t with him she would work for Kei because she was extremely good at sewing and had fine appreciation of the craft tradition. She would always say that art was in the making of things; that there was an art to making bread or an art to living. She broke abstract things down to a component level so that each level could be worked on and transformed. This was based on the belief that it subject it what it does and that alone; the rest just floating like air. Everything seemed to be composed out of moments of attention; this tree, that scent, a taste, sensation or thought. The important thing was the being with each of these things so that they became properly attended to. She said things are simple if you direct attention to the things that give life such as flowers, good food and conversation but other things such as concrete, angry men, or television should be avoided when possible. If in the passage of life the attention if for itself than that becomes the experience of life and in their conversation this sense of life became central. She used to talk about the things that Kei was doing; the various designs for dancers and in turn took him along to see some of these. She also introduced him to a Japanese Butoh company called ‘Sankei Juko’ which made him feel as if he had been transported to the realm of the bodhisattvas. In turn he introduced her to Indian Classical Music and areas of literature that had meant a lot to him. Nothing was forced between them and everything had its own distinct spacing.
One evening Kei invited them around to her flat which she shared with her boyfriend who happened to work at the RCA. He noticed that there was a Tibetan Thangka painting on the wall and that he had various pieces of Indian and Gandharan sculpture. It turned out that Jonathan had also been an Oriental art dealer. H really liked the way their flat looked out over the canal so he asked if any flats ever became available. They said they would let him know if they heard anything.
For the first time in his life he was living an everyday life with a routine. Mika had transformed his small garden into a little haven of scents and they would eat there when the weather was good. He would work for a few hours everyday then collect Mika from Kei studio. This is what he thought a marriage might be like but then Mika would always tell him that marriages could be difficult and it was something that she would avoid in the future. She also said that sex between people can change things which he thought was a way of saying she would never sleep with him. Then one day she asked him if he fantasised having sex with her and in a matter of fact way said that if he did, he should just ask her because she was very relaxed with him. He simply replied that this was a really nice thought but that he was still learning to be relaxed. Even though sex was not mentioned again this appeared to cement their friendship or lend a special freedom to it.
It was now over half way through the decade and his five year plan was completed. He made a deal with a West End Gallery to handle Lily’s work but retained a complete archive for himself which he intended to make available on line. His own work had simply stacked up and he started to feel as though it would remain like this. The warehouse simply appeared to function without intervention so it was just a matter of deciding if he should sell the property in Mayfair or not. He asked Mika for her advice and she said he should do what seemed to be the easiest choice. Instead of coming to decisions he booked a couple of train tickets to travel around Europe. They had the luxury of just being able to move from place to place in their own time, visiting museums or remote places in the countryside without any guiding plan. For a period of a month, time seemed to dissolve as they lost bearing of the demarcations that modulate passage. He had decided to try and read the plays of Sophocles which he kept referring to as his light holiday reading. Mika talked a lot to him about Japan and why she felt reluctant to go back. She really disliked salary man culture and empty formality. He thought that the art world was composed either of people trying to escape something or somewhere, or alternatively those who wanted to get somewhere, or with it, a lot of something. They would look closely at forms of behaviour instead of the objects people collected around themselves. Gestures, looks, hesitations, attitude all became starting points or entry into a form of conversation that might go anywhere.
When they returned, the rhythm of daily living also returned but he had simply used the trip not to think about the future. If anyone might ask what his life was like he would simply say that it was quite. Even though he enjoyed talking he also was aware that they might spend hours without saying a word. The time he had spent with Lily was always in some way noisy, the time with Meg was intense and searching but with Mika it was light, but as in tranquillity, as opposed frivolous. Mika talked about how she used to be ambitious when she was young but that she no longer needed to whip herself or collect burdens. Life she said is a simple arrangement of foregrounds and backgrounds. She said people struggle to stand in front in order to be subject to the spotlight so everyone might notice them whilst those in the background appear in the shadow. Once you accept that being in shadow is a protection from too much heat you can live life without having to be frantic all the time. The foreground she said was continual stress composed of people finding ways of shouting louder than the next. The wisest people spend there lives in caves or huts in remote areas but they are rare, perhaps even becoming extinct. This is how she saw things and in a certain way it made her invisible to others. She was just that girl who might drift pass unrecorded.
After a few weeks Mika told him that she had started to see someone she had met at the studio and that he wanted her to move in with him. He realised that it might be time because they had become so close that it was difficult to work out how to continue. They had touched that edge when friendship was almost like a marriage but there is always something that does not allow this to simply be. Perhaps this also served to highlight what was missing. It was not that Mika simply needed to have a sexual relationship in her life but she needed someone to develop with in ways that implied the unknown. She said that she had never been as close to anyone before but gradually there had been a feeling of sadness that she might not have such closeness within the context of a greater intimacy. When they had been journeying across Europe she told him that each evening she had wanted to get out of her bed to get close to him in his bed but realised that this would complicate everything, so better not to disturb things. She said that she would like to keep working for him but on a much more limited basis. He hated the idea of losing contact with her so he thought that they should see how things might evolve but he knew that things would slowly change and perhaps even have the semblance of routine.
What he had discovered on his visits to various museums was a desire to know more about the ancient world. When he was young it was those who had been to public school and read Latin and Greek that appears to need to hold onto this passion for what was often presented as the world at its beginning but it was the last thing that held any vitality or interest for him. He used to sicken when a conversation would break out in relationship to the Greeks. He even thought that it might have been employed as a sophisticated code to introduce oneself as having homosexual inclination. Partly this new fascination might in part of stemmed from his reading around the life of Holderlin and his attempts at translating the plays of Sophocles. He still had copies of Pasolini’s versions of Oedipus and Medea and he remembered how Lilly used to go and see Medea whenever she could when she was at Saint Martins. Although he had left school without really feeling he had had a poor education this perception ate away at him now because he simply did not have the historical knowledge to fit things together. The struggle to retain dates and periods made his present preoccupation immensely difficult but a small pile of backs started to expand. This pre-occupation took him away from painting and to writing as well. Perhaps it kept him from feeling the declining presence of Mika as well.
His interest in the aphoristic form had led him to read a series of eighty-seven maxims of Hippocrates in which he developed the saying “Life is short and art is long.” Art is long because it takes a lot of time to find competence. Mika was in the flat as he was reading this so he asked her what she thought. She told him that humans tended to be careless in their way of living; they let things slip, squander things, pass over this or that, lack care and as a consequence they waste their time whereas the work of art to be a work of art needs totally attention on every level so it preserves a feeling of concentrated time and because of that it endures whereas humans fade as time has simply slipped through. There was she thought a strangeness to human life because it gives rise to art but that art is only really possible when there is a dimension that is outside the human as well. Both human life and art had changed their meanings because both now stand together in a mood of forgetting and the closer art becomes close to life the more it loses the difference that made it able to stand in its own space as a form of distinction. Mostly humans learnt from art what they were not, that is a simple truth she said but now they turn to art to find out what they are. Mika had this way of turning intellectual issues into another type of sense, to be more direct and honest in the perception of things. She never looked at things in a formal manner but rather attempted to find out how things stood in relationship to other things. He realised that he had learnt many things from Mika without ever anticipating that this was going to be the case. It always difficult to say something like this but as he started to try she said something about being natural with each other and this moment then passed by without comment. Finally she said that she had noticed the way he looks and thought that he might navigate things through this whereas she said that scent was important to her especially when it came to sex. She said that when a man is too stressed then his scent is wrong and she never wants to go near to them. All these man who go about their daily battles, shout all the time, want to be noticed, never have the right fragrance because they lost something in their nature which allows a sweetness to occur she told him and that is why they turn to woman to provide this for them.
He thought that he was now living without deadline or plan but wondered if this constituted a form of retirement. When he thought back to Mario at his same age it was as if he was going up a gear. In relationship to his own efforts at producing this he thought he might be out of time, certainly not cutting edge or contemporary. He suspected that Lily had been propelled by being cutting edge, but whatever she was driven by an understanding that there might be a contemporary moment or some type of destination. He even thought the present success of her work was due not so much to the fact that she was now dead but the timing of the work was projected just enough in front of the market to make it enticing. What could never be doubted about Lily was that she had style and this sense of style had cut open a space for her. Even her relationship to sex was touched with this feeling of being out there, ahead of itself. He had absolutely no cynicism about all of this because it had shaken him out of his commitment to being mediocre. Part of this was feeling the force of death at work with sex and language. Even when he was scattering her ashes he felt that this was not dissolution of being but the acceptance of a virtual coming to be. He remembered how he had received no letters filled with terror, remorse or sentimentality but just simple messages containing clarity. Perhaps if he was still sweating to make a living he wouldn’t have the luxury to think such things. He had learnt from Meg a process of burying his childhood dislocation and anger, from Mika how to find contentment in the moment and from Lily the raw energy contained within the coil of life. From the outside such relationships would have been viewed as eccentric and lacking in foundation but then other people had not lived these and he had. If he fell into a black hole again it would not because he felt betrayed, angry or abused.
He started to make a list to do with the things he thought he should do and the things he could cast aside. He was still writing occasional essays for artist he liked, still painting, still writing fiction, sitting in his small garden, going to occasional concerts, walking in the park and having passing conversations. He thought that he should also start to meditate, go for acupuncture, and write a will. He was in a position to due a large show of his work and to publish his own writing but felt that he might simply leave this, for his will he thought that he might follow Mario’s and Lily’s example but not yet, meditation he tried and failed on several occasions, and that he would go and have acupuncture tomorrow. Next day the needles were inserted to help with kidney, renal and blood circulation weakness and after the needles came out he received some cupping which left large red marks across his back. He had noticed massage was also available so he was massaged from head to tow to the sound of lush Chinese music which accompanied as he drifted inside his own indistinct memory palace. Three days later he repeated the same treatment leaving relaxed but not distinctly different. What he liked was that he was ignored and left to his own space of silence. The doctor would read his pulses, make some notes and then leave him for over half an hour, come back, take out the needles and apply the cups. Another girl would come in and ask if he wanted hard or soft massage and then carry this out and at exactly to the minute would say the treatment had been completed. Some of the parts would be a little painful but equally other parts could be pleasant. Whereas Megs messaging technique entered into the interfaces of mind, tissue and memory this massage seemed to be local and efficient with some sensual overtones.
By the third week it was still the same doctor but a different masseur who seemed much older although it was difficult to calculate this. Straightaway she started to ask him questions and soon they were talking. She had come from the mainland but needed to earn money to send back to her mother. He quickly learned that the Chinese from the mainland talk about their families but not about politics. She would say things like politics are for elders or politics is for politicians as a way of avoiding this. From me, she wanted to know if I was married, if I had children, what was my position, was I happy and was I wealthy. Massage renders the other passive not only because of lying out on a bed without clothes but also because the mental state is one of almost complete absorption into the hands of the masseur. If they are sensitive they can precisely read the level of stress and other bodily symptoms, a whole pattern of things which are there whether or not you might be aware of them from the outside looking in. Her massage was very powerful employing elbows and knuckles of fingers and at times it felt like on the edge of safely endurable.
After several sessions with Michelle I realised that there was a line of sadness that seemed to run through her conversations so I asked her if this was the case. She said that she had come to this country because she had been in a relationship for seven years with the son of a farmer and that one day she had to tell him that she was pregnant with his child. She said that he couldn’t look at her in the face and told her that he had just made another woman pregnant and that he would be with her instead. She had gone to the local clinic straightaway for an abortion but two months after this her younger sister died, followed by her close uncle. All that she wanted to do was escape so she did a course in massage and has been working here since. She said that most nights she cries and finds eating difficult but this is how life can be. It is difficult to respond to such stories because it is so easy to get the tone wrong. For a couple of minutes there was a silence and then he simply told her that it is hard to recover from such things but that he hoped that she would.
Much of her frankness seemed to relate to this terrible sequence of events because each day was difficult. On top of this the pay was dismal and many of the girls depended on providing what was termed a little extra at the end. She told me that men were a little bit comic when it came to their extras because they would pretend that it was also just a routine and affected nothing. She said that there were some customers she helped in this way but only a few. He hadn’t really expected this to arise and felt relaxed with her about it but also feared slipping back into dependency. He knew all about one drink and another, one hit and another, one sexual favour and another. He wanted to keep things as they were so he increased his tip instead. His mind drifted back to his period of receiving body to body massages, the contact of skin against skin, the pure isolation of the event from the everyday, the unreality of it. It was difficult how he had been able to have the relationship he had had with Mika without any panic as regard sexual desire and now he had a sinking feeling in his stomach that he found hard to compute. Then part of him got the fact that he was associating the image of pain she had presented with a desire to escape this pain through sex except the wiring of the situation was all wrong. He had tasted her pain as an abstraction of pain that now sought dissolution. No matter how many formula he went through his mind had fixed an image of her with the feeling of pleasure. He was attempting to relieve symptoms of memory loss and now his memory body was plaguing him with its past sickness.
Over this period his dreams started to darken. He loathed the political ruling class, the terrible lies and violence, the greed and stupidity but he was also comfortable because of it. Sometimes he was being chased and tormented in his sleep and would wake up in a sweat. Faces seemed either to show a lot of distress or alternatively fake tans. Although he knew little about Iraq he knew quite a lot about Afghanistan. He had loved his time travelling there in the early seventies and now saw it utterly devastated by virtue of outside interventions. He also knew that dirty deeds and war had been woven into the fabric of life as a given but it was what had started to happen to mentalities that affected him. He had escaped the politics of 1968, ignored the realities of recession in the eighties, satirised the excesses of the eighties, partaken in the property boom of the nineties and beyond but the whole calamity of this had started to hit him. Just has his own body had been riddled with addiction he was faced by the realisation that his own body was one of millions steeped in chemicals, dependencies and bad conscience. If he was finding it difficult to simply live without the chemical network of dependency warp his being then how difficult must it be for a system to function without the bio-chemical inputs relating to stress, fear and lack. Perhaps he had wanted to lose his memory, to fade out and have a quite death just so this horrible realisation did not have to invade his sleep. The system was so blatant that he was amazed that it could perform but as long as the word economy was uttered that was enough to reassure that the next nights sleep had been secured. His mind drifted to his own imagery image of bars of gold bringing a possible feeling of symbolic solace to him and he wondered how it had been possible to entertain such an image other than utter idiocy other than it being aesthetic lament. He was beyond writing a sell satire of this. He was ranting to himself in ways that triggered a memory of some of Lily’s texts and recordings. Part of the feeling related to being used and used up, everyone was at it. Lilly had escaped it by dying, Meg within a monastery in some remote area of the Himalayas and Mika through purity but he had always occupied the swamp that was now blatantly infesting him. He was sweating because he knew that he was a body that serially linked to other bodies that sustained the condition and this could no longer be avoided. It was a case of resigning to it for the tiny stretch of time left or burning off the trail of devastation that had eaten through his memory body. Tong had tried, Meg had tried, Paul had tried but now it was left to him either to float in his serial distress or place enough powder beneath the symptoms to blow it apart. The first issue was to understand that he was not a victim of anything, as if a script is given over to be enacted on automatic but rather he was responsible for the last drink, the last sniff, the last punt, the last body to body and that was his opportunity as well as curse.
He thought that is was cascading toward him because he had stored it up, unprocessed and unattended to far too long, dancing his way around, making feints and side steps, ducking and diving but now it was coming on and coming on fierce. He imagined that this was a new spiritual condition in which hell was being served up before the reckoning, that there was no more way out. It was like a rational psychosis if there might be such a thing, everything added up, the list made sense but it was no longer enough to apologise, go to Bible class or confession. He was now hearing the kind of voices that accompany psychosis and they were coming fast, first in the night but then leaking there way into the day. His trail was to go through everything; unwanted child, loner, bullied, spat on, underachiever, bloodied again and again, fantasist, escapee, hustler, drop out, druggie, gambler, alcoholic, con artist, fast talker, pervert, addict, evader, fraud masturbator, exploiter, chauvinist, coward, reactionary, waster, guilt infested shit; the words and terms flowed out in a torrent of self abuse. The judge found him guilty on every count and racked up the sentence. There was to be no escape, no reprieve and no let up. The worst crime the judge said was that he had imagined a beautiful walled garden to sit in and be visited by Lily at his end. This was deemed impossible but the desire for such an end had clearly demonstrated his contempt for the dead. The judge asked him why he could possibly imagine such a happy end to such a miserable life. Your life is one long traffic jam of weakness he said. The judgement would be severe and with no redemption at the end of the punishment endured.
The trail began and one by one every person he had known lined up to pass their verdict. It is almost unheard of that mothers queue up to spit upon their only son but she did, his father simple looked the other way preferring instead to walk away, the two George’s sprayed him with urine, Paul covered his eyes, Lily stood there and cut of her hair in front of him, Mario simply slapped him, Meg chanted to protect herself, and Mika crouched next to him looking straight through him as if he had disappeared. Minor characters then appeared in a line and each paid their respects in the most odious manner possible. The judge said this would only be the prelude. Next he collected a thousand pounds from his bank in order to go and visit Michelle. He went into the room and she greeted him with a smile. He told her that he had a thousand pounds for her today and that she might offer her services corresponding to that amount. She told him for a hundred she would have offered what remained of herself and hoped that he would return for more but for a thousand she wanted to do something very special and then never come back again. As usual she asked him to strip and as he lay on his stomach she assembled her writing machine and set about writing all her accumulated miseries across his back. Just as she used to wipe the oil of his back this time she was cleaning the globules of blood welling up on his skin. She told him to come the next day with the same money for she knew another girl who would give a most special service and again he was there with a thousand pounds, on the bed and ready and this time it was Michelle’s mother who was writing her narrative of pain in the years of the ‘Great Leap Forward’ and the ‘Cultural Revolution’. Finally it was her grandmother’s turn and the years of the Second World War written. The writing was all in place now and his back was red raw as if flogged. When he left he was told by the receptionist never to pretend again that he didn’t know.
He was allowed three days rest in order to for the skin heal so that the writing would be clear in its definition. Instead of a back that welcomed massage it had been transmuted into a back to be read. This was a form of writing that had digested experience and locked away in silence. He was now the bearer of writing he had always wished to write but now it was written on him to be distributed in ways that books could never do. The evening of the third day another line of women waited at his door. They all in turn wore one of the exotic costumes he once owned. Each of the women came in and gave the time and place when they had met and the amount he had paid. They each read the stories of his back and then disrobed and asked him to read the stories inscribed on their backs. Days and days of this passed as words and pain co-mingled with the time endured. In the interlude of being read and reading he might have been allowed to mediate on the force of language and the possibilities of literature but this was now in vain.
When he returned to the judge, he was told that parts of his memory would be allowed to fade but not the memory of these narratives. The last stage of his sentence was then passed. The Judge said that his greatest sin was that he had failed to understand Lilly when she had asked him to build a garden; that he had taken an image of an aging man waiting for his end instead of understanding the deeper possibility of this image. Your mind is crude and lacks subtlety. Each life turns on such things and it takes a special form of idiocy to refuse so many such possibilities.
“This was your opportunity to put your ignorance of life to the side and restore potentiality within. People suffer because of stupidity and you should have realised this when you read ‘Oedipus’. After scattering the ashes of Lily you should have known that life finishes like this but on being left the house, which was there to test your capacity to understand freedom, you lapsed into a stupid fantasy of turning into gold as a mock ironic gesture. Your mind is sick and full of vanity. You will forget what you might wish to remember and remember what you want to forget. From now on your will be left alone to wander the city like a ghost seeing only the sewers, dark holes and shadow realms. Each day you will pay someone to read your back and over time, money and property will drain from you. Your painting will be put in a skip, your writing forgotten. That is it. No one can forget the severity of the law. Just as you failed to go to your mother’s funeral, there will be no one there for you. You are now both judged and cursed. The only thing left will now be left to find dignity in the service you will be providing. Remember it is not your pain or literature that his written, so guard your body well. It is on bodies that a new writing will emerge in order to distribute pain beyond the reach of the state and the addictions that are organised through it. Another economy will be written. By the year 2010 you will finally be realised from this undertaking. You will be found on the side of a road or pavement without signs of violence and that will be that. No will, no final letters; there will be nothing to be written and nothing to be said. The writing on your back will have faded so you will not be a mysterious story as a source of final speculation. This will be a proper death because it will be purely indifferent. The circle of your life will be thus drawn, a completed exscription.”