I'm busy. Look at me.
Salisbury town centre.
7.3.2018

The Drama is Playing Out. The cast now vast. The stage circumference exploding from local to global. Street Theatre on a bench in rural Salisbury market town centre, a preamble to an unfolding drama bounded but unbowed by headlines and rendition plots of actor/manager nations. Putin, May, Merlkel, circling cyphers. Our magik signifiers, collective memes built by generations, generated mythology, featuring the cruel and unusual Johnny Foreigner...
Disclosure: I recently spent a few months near Salisbury. Back home now, the headlines caught my eye, yes, about two people found collapsed on a park bench in the city centre.
There was an affair. It ended.
I’ve live near Castletownbere in Ireland for the last 25 years. I’m a dual national. I’m a foreigner in two countries. I feel more comfortable in almost any other countries, anywhere but the UK or Ireland. I write. As Hendric says, “I feel like I’m in a strange country without a map"
For now, the stage is set, the lights dim, the die cast. Hush now. The curtains part on this tiny park bench stage…

Act 1 - Deep Powder - The Soap Opera.
The characters, the prologue, the plot, all delivered directly from our oldest of Street Theatres. The thick set man, a dead wife? The now grown daughter. A policeman? Would a string of sausages and a crocodile complete the oldest puppet show’s script?

These three people, they are not puppets nor actors. These three are people. They are very seriously sick people. They are other people’s partners perhaps? People’s friends? People who lived lives. May be a little like you or me but in the media whirl it’s difficult to prise apart the layers. Mr Punch, on CCTV at the sweet counter, smiling, chatting perhaps a joke with the shop assistant? The man and daughter eating pizza together, commiserating on the loss of her mother, his wife? How goes life? They swap news. They walk together for short time feeling unwell, sit, collapse on a bench, together. Poisoned by the evil king’s army’s magic powder‽


Switch Frames Now Please.
If you can bear it, gaze at some c20 iconic men for a moment. Of course largely we see a story of white male privilege. Artists tend to hold their 'reputational capital’ better than politicians do. Van Gogh’s tortured mental state, magnified by mass media megaphones developing concurrently. Voila! The meme of the tortured artist sharing great wisdom with the world through paintings. The myth of the wounded shaman who illuminates and alleviates our collective suffering. Many of these ‘figures’ are from well heeled backgrounds of privilege. Even Beuys, mentioned below, was from an affluent enough background, a career in the arts was encouraged, he was freely encouraged, given piano and cello lessons.

Please travel, now in time, to Duchamp, Dali and Beuys, in whom we see divergent narratives sharing this same backbone. The male artist as embodiment of a singular zeitgeist. Duchamp, Dali in the elitist camp, - riding toward the high altar of capitalism and Beuys travelling another way, towards democratisation, spirituality, self expression with a slogan declaring, "everyone is an artist".

These are convenient shortform narratives in which to frame people. All good fine people with noble aspirations I’m sure. Artistic persona who have become representative icons. Between Duchamp's multiple editions, false masks and Dali's forays into high fashion, advertising and even television quiz shows, there appears no cohesive path through the woods. No straight furrow is ploughed.


We could include many more; Pollack, Warhol, Rauchenburg, Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee, Miro...
Joseph Beuys self mythologising is no more consistent. Until he teams with the critic Caroline Tisdale, he wandered in a blurred territory of slightly mixed messages. A mash up of his story telling, spiritual aspects of Steiner and Bauhaus ideals, Tisdale helps focus and refine the message and his essential credo shines through towards the end of his life, particularly with the 8,000 oak tree project in Kassel. The central symbolism is clear; we must look after our planet. All of us must take action. Listen to the trees. We are all artists. Act now!

Beuys is cited as a messiah in the art world. The artist’s artist. He becomes an icon. His name has special meanings attached to it. I mention these men only for illustrative purposes. People who have become cyphers, shorthand. Say the name Picasso and most people see a symbol of a philandering man with a strange multiple point of view of women. He may have been this, but he was also a person.
Now Massage Your Masseuse.
I’m not saying the narratives make a difference, I’m up-pointing the methods. When Marshall McLuhan wrote ‘The Medium is The Message’ (he actually used the word ‘massage’ as a wacky, weakly recursive joke), he very much described what we are now witnessing. He foreshadowed many ideas but this one was central, - how we do things becomes more important than why or what we do. Poison nerve gas, a pizza, a polka, a park bench. These are the salient points. We greedily lap them up. We built a story.
Compare and contrast your own feelings towards the policeman; - are they along the lines** of,"He was just doing his job poor man"? An innocent, caught up in a dangerous situation with lethal toxins. The other man? ‘The Russian Spy’. I’ll hazard a guess your brain riffed on James Bond, a hired killer, an intrinsically deceitful foreigner, "He was a double agent after all…".
However, now substitute whistle blower instead of ‘spy’.
What if... What if he gave secrets to Johnny England because he believed he was doing a ‘good thing’? He wanted to undermine the evil oligarchy? What if... ...it was the policeman who botched the job? We won’t find out. Obfustication rules. The story is written. The ‘facts’ are in front of you. Of course they are. Ask Bendrix.
While we are all entitled to self expression and social media may seem to present us with tools… Still, vested interest controls the media. They who massage the message call the tunes, to mix my metaphors with similies.

The Trickle Down Effect
Same as it ever was sir? Carefully grind this palette of emotions and elements; The State actors, a firey old plot, the expert spin misters. An appreciation of zeitgeist and mythology. Who’s your daddy now? What we have is real, reality theatre, broadcast in a series of headlines and screen bites. Pass me the sausages and more crocodile steak. Stop that bloody baby from crying. Judy! JUDY! I’m busy eating. Do as I say or I’ll box your ears. What’s the story Sooty?

Mr Punch in Punch Magazine
Because They’re Worth It.
The fact is... we love our patterns. Our hurting hunting brains hardwired to find patterns. Our phenomenal human consciousness can pinpoint a tiger stripe at a glance in a dappled forest clearing at 700 armspans. A story is a way for our brain to make event patterns into stories. The hero’s journey. The dominated princess. Unfortunately there is a singular difference ‘twix page and ‘real life’. This crucial difference is eroded by every book, movie and soap opera. In life the hero doesn’t always return. The protagonists may not be all good or all bad. The dragon may or may not be vanquished. Unrequited lovers may not find happiness. They may or they may not. Life involves chance. We crave for patterns to emerge, we conjour and fabricate them, pushing unbending scenario to fit our expectations.
In the end and in the middle life is random, stories have a beginning, middle and end. Our lives are not a series of stories. There is only one beginning and one ending so we must strive to enjoy the journey.

For Sergei, Nick and Yulia life now may be a very tough journey. Could I have passed them in the street. Did Nick help me when I was lost in Salisbury? Did Sergei share a joke in my friendly local shop? Are Yulia’s friends now able to comfort her at her bedside? The same hospital I visited. The same time pressed staff now tend them. I wish them all well.
DVS 15/03/2018
~~~~
Notes:
* In an interview quoted on several media channels Nick Bailey was quoted from hospital as saying, “I was just doing my job".
Also:
  • The (nerve) agent/s may cause lasting nerve damage, resulting in permanent disablement of victims, according to Russian scientists.[42] Their effect on humans was demonstrated by the accidental exposure of Andrei Zheleznyakov, one of the scientists involved in their development, to the residue of an unspecified Novichok agent while working in a Moscow laboratory in May 1987. He was critically injured and took ten days to recover consciousness after the incident. He lost the ability to walk and was treated at a secret clinic in Leningrad for three months afterwards. The agent caused permanent harm, with effects that included "chronic weakness in his arms, a toxic hepatitis that gave rise to cirrhosis of the liver, epilepsy, spells of severe depression, and an inability to read or concentrate that left him totally disabled and unable to work." He never recovered and died in July 1992 after five years of deteriorating health. From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novichok_agent
  • Thanks to my phenomenal fact checker Fintan. Also to Adrian, Cherry, Mark and Jo for reading in drafts, doing the Spill Chicken Tango and helping rusticate the spotty typographers. Any faults are my own.
  • To all other friends and family for support and encouragement, conscious or unconsciously. A special mention Stevie, Mrs. Bull and the Dipthongs. The others, you know your names, I won’t turn you in.
  • The elfin pixipedia amazingly related fact is that:
The Italian band Daisy Chains has released an album titled A Story Has No Beginning or End, which is the first line of the novel by G. Greene. The second track on the album is titled "The End of the Affair". via Wikipedia.
Some people may know the relevance. For everyone else, this is one of life’s wonderful mysteries.



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