about Djeff Babcock & Aryan Kaganof in their own words

 

The Work Of Art In The Age Of Digital Reproduction

 

- part one - part twopart three -


by Djeff Babcock re-mixed by Aryan Kaganof



The problem of the passage between the heart and the mind is the one which exemplifies the western crisis. We see it everywhere, in every guarded eye, in every calculated movement. Perhaps at different times in history this passage was blocked by different substances. At the moment it is choked by the shit of finance.

I think about my last meeting with my friend Ace Phale in the Ville de Bruxelles. It was at the cafe Le Clef d´Or. Brutal sunglasses, a shaven head, black attire. Ace was silent for a long time, then he said “You know the nineteenth century was the time of morality. Dostoyevsky, for example. Then the twentieth century, that was the time of politics. The world wars, the rise of communism, the 60s, etc.” He looked around the smoky French barroom a bit. “And today it’s the time of business.”

It is true of the entire western civilization, but nowhere is it more obvious than in the art world. It was in the 1960s when the redefinition of an artist occurred, and it was largely perpetuated by the New York artists like Rauschenberg, Pollock, and especially Warhol. This is when the role of the artist turned into being a businessman and the whole art world entered the field of marketing. Ever since being an artist has acquired a meaning that it has never had in history before. And the art community as a whole was largely unreflective about this obvious change. Only one artist from the older school even had the integrity to mention it:

The entire world of art has reached such a low level, it has been commercialized to such a degree that art and everything relating to it has become one of the most trivial activities of our e-poch. Art in these times has probably reached one of its lowest points ever in history, probably even lower than in the late 18th century, when there was no great art but only frivolity. Art in the 20th century has become to a similar function as a mere entertainment.

Marcel Duchamp


In northern Europa what it means to be an artist is to fill out endless grant applications (or to pay for someone to fill them out for you) and going the route of middle class security. No more taking risks. Yet everyone has always known that the middle class solution is the most cowardly- it was always better to be either rich or even poor- but never middle class. And it is the poverty of middle class aesthetics that rules the art world these days, along with its flimsy ideals.

Walking down the Richarda Vágnar iela, I ran into a Russian girl I had met the week before. She seemed upset. She put her hand on my cheek inexplicably. “I had a dream last night. A boy and a girl were fighting for a long time... it ended in blood. I thought of you.” At the moment she said the word “blood” a tear welled up in her eye and rolled down her cheek.

The next time I met her she laughed when she saw me. “I just saw a film. It was in Lebanon. It was the story of little red riding hood. The girl had a bad relation to her mother and left home and was hitchhiking on the highway. There she met the wolf who was dancing very badly in the Lebanese landscape. But the wolf, he had exactly the same eyes as yours.” She laughed again when she looked at me.

I stayed in the city of Riga for a few more days. I travelled to the countryside and the seashore by train. When one speaks of Riga, one isn’t only speaking of Riga, but also the powerful countryside around it. They are inseparable. This was actually the curse of Amsterdam, because it had no strong nature around it to save it from itself. And Berlin. Berlin put up walls against nature, only allowing a little to seep through. Then when the weather became pleasant the whole city would jump over that wall in hordes and swarm onto the countryside and lakes like flies on a dead carcass.

Once I had met a Geisha who had quit her profession to become a punk rock singer. I asked her why she quit. She said it was because it didn’t have a future. I replied “but it does have a past”. I didn’t think she understood what I meant.

I or me or myself or whatever we call this anti-hero, was in the white blaze of the central market. Here we must ask ourselves if we really believe in my existence. Fiction is largely successful only to the degree that the reader buys the illusion fabricated by the author. Instead of such a brick wall, which was similar to the Hollywood brick wall of cinema, I prefer a veil. Like the magnificent statue by Antonio Corraldini of which Nietzsche might have written "We no longer believe that truth remains truth when the veils are withdrawn. We have learned to stop courageously at the surface, the fold, the skin, to adore appearance, to believe in forms, tones, words, in the whole Olympus of appearance."

So what do we have as a composition for this loser, (me), for this dispossessed ass-hole? Eyes of a wolf, a soul like a debauched priest, a heart as clean as a fresh razor blade, a face which is an incision between Christ and the Devil. I have been called a range of things by different people: a saint, a pornographer, a lover, a drunkard, a rapist, a poet, a terrorist, a priest, a woman-beater and a gentleman.

I have pondered a lot about death these last few days. In fact a tone of sex and death has always permeated my existence. I was preparing to leave Riga, like a Steppenwolf packing his bags. I spent my last evening in Latvia in Jurmala, the tourist resort north of the Riga. As the day finished, I walked along the beach with its unearthly blue waves. I strolled into the town at dusk. It had a cool breeze blowing through it, giving it a wind-swept ambience. I ate at a table outside on the promenade and listened to a cheesy band playing kitschy Russian classics. I felt clean, as if the breeze had blown away my old thoughts.

I smoked a cigarette and listened to that wind. An eclipse from the straightjacket of time. My clothes were quite dirty and ragged by this point, as they always are when you are travelling the way I had been travelling for the last months. My shoes had holes worn through their soles, and I was forced to put cardboard in them. It was time to leave.

When I returned back to the apartment I was dead tired, but still I got on my feet and went out to the city’s centre for a couple hours since it was my last night. It was a kind of prayer, a way of paying homage. I watched the hookers. The nouveau riche in their convertibles drinking bottles of champagne, laughing loudly and looking like they came out of Fellini´s La Dolce Vita.

The next afternoon I took the bus. I fell asleep quickly and was awakened at the Polish border. It was towards the day’s end. The asphalt gleamed gold and pink. It was the time of the day when the faces on the bus glowed with a dark orange light, which somehow blurs out all traces of modernity. For these few moments eternity would win. It emits a primeval quality, something stronger than the torch of man. An atmosphere which is suspended, which is somehow visceral. Such a sacred vision was the true blood of this world.

I had passed so many borders, and each one was like stepping on the tail of some dormant dragon.

All this hopeless hoping. Better to kill it without mercy.

While driving through a small village I saw a McDonald’s billboard which had an arrow pointing in one direction which said 2 minutes, and then another arrow pointing in the opposite direction which said 5 minutes. “Gottdammerung” I whispered to myself.

There is something dreamy about sitting in front of a large window and watching the landscape pass by. In a gas station in Poland you find the same shit that you find in any other gas station in Europa, or in the United Snakes of Amerika, or in your worse nightmare. After discovering the absence of a profound meaning behind the world of appearances, those who seek the true meaning of things end up impaled on the truth that there is no meaning to be had. Any insistence on profundity and thoroughness is a violation, a desire to hurt the basic will of the spirit which unceasingly strives for the apparent and superficial - in all desire to know there is a drop of cruelty. Beyond good and evil - the void which is the passage between the heart and the mind.

This problem of the passage between the heart and the mind is the one which exemplifies the western crisis. We see it everywhere, in every guarded eye, in every calculated movement. Perhaps at different times in history this passage was blocked by different substances. At the moment it is choked by the shit of finance.

I think about my first meeting with my friend Ace Phale in the Joburg Bar in Long Street, Cape Town. Brutal sunglasses, a shaven head, black attire. Ace was silent for a long time, then he said “You know the nineteenth century was the time of morality. Dostoyevsky, for example. Then the twentieth century, that was the time of politics. The world wars, the rise of communism, the 60s, etc.” He looked around the smoky bar for a bit, sizing up the impeccably branded teenagers in a fluid gesture of morbid resignation and mordant disdain, “And today it’s the time of business.”

It is true of the entire western civilization, but nowhere is it more obvious than in the art world.