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May 4th, 2009
Mon, May. 4th, 2009 06:52 am

To make you understand how completely exciting it was meeting Aki Sasamoto for the first time yesterday at the New York gallery where, on Tuesday at 2pm, we start a two week performance show together, I'd have to take you back to London, on Friday.



I'd been incredibly nervous about filming my bit for the Creation Records documentary. The chosen location -- the 100 Club on Oxford Street -- sank my heart a bit. Like CBGBs in New York, it's the sort of rock toilet you're supposed to love for its "rich tapestry of rock history", but is actually a sticky-carpeted basement full of grandpa vibe. I'd only been there once before, to see Denim, but in my mind the 100 Club mainly symbolizes the famous Sex Pistols gig that everybody claims to have been at, but nobody was.

I talked for about thirty minutes, and I noticed a couple of things -- really things which are internalised assumptions in me, rather than anything to do with the people making the documentary. I noticed that when I described -- at the director's request -- what I was up to this month in New York, I adopted an apologetic tone. Saying "It's two performance artists in a gallery together, one framing the actions of the other", I felt I might as well have been telling him: "I'm a fucking pierrot these days, mate. I make potato prints with my ears."

Later, I was talking about hating Thatcher's anti-gay legislation in the 80s, and making this album called The Homosexual in protest, and coming up with the idea that straight people had to become culturally gay to fight the dual assault on gay people that Thatcher and AIDS had launched. But from behind the lights I sensed -- perhaps I should say I projected -- no quickening of the pulse, no sparkling in the eyes. I didn't get any sense that this theme would avoid the cutting room floor in a film dedicated to the "pills, thrills, spats, prats, success, excess, pick me ups, breakdowns" of Creation Records, a story which leads, as we know, to the gargantuan success of Oasis. And I can't help imagining what Noel Gallagher (who calls even Primal Scream "arty disco") would say about using an album to pretend to be gay when you're straight. He'd probably say "Why not be a fucking pierrot while you're at it, and make potato prints with your ears?"



Flash forward two days and one continent into the future, and New York, and an art gallery with my name (the same artist name I used at Creation) up on the wall, and Aki installing her props, and me trying on the kuroko kabuki stagehand costume. In the gallery, I can become -- totally, unapologetically -- the pierrot you see on the Tender Pervert sleeve, a man (as I told the Creation rock doc) "planting tiny, slow-acting sticks of dynamite into the crevices of social contradictions".

Malcolm McLaren's line that it's better to be an interesting failure than a "benign success" was in my mind the whole time I was talking to the Creation doc people, because I think he's completely right: the mastodon triumph of Oasis has taken rock music to a conservative place, a place where -- no matter how much money it makes, and how many tickets it sells -- it's doomed to dinosaurdom because it's terrified of being a pierrot and making potato prints. Scared of expanding its horizons, it's doomed to contract and shrink away to nothing.

Before coming up to West 24th Street I saw the Younger Than Jesus exhibition at the New Museum, and God, it was impressive! Not just the Ryan Trecartin stuff I blogged about before, but pretty much everything in the show just blew me away. I absolutely won't stand for any cynicism about young visual artists -- they're the rock stars of our times. They're taking exactly the kind of risks music people ought to be, but aren't -- the kind of risks that ensure the relevance and longevity of a medium.



So, anyway, Aki Sasamoto in person had the exact kind of quirky energy and disinhibition I'd detected in the videos I'd seen of her. She's fantastic (and, as it happens, dates girls, which is perfect for the "unrequited love" theme). The two of us, alone in the gallery, with the rain cascading down outside (as it's due to do all week here in New York), did some preliminary performances for each other: ten minutes in which one acts out and the other observes, and the performer makes up movements and sounds and words without any limits on what's acceptable or attractive or whatever.

In my performance I sounded out the acoustics of the room, tried to imitate the sound of rainwater in the pipes, copied a hunting cat and a curious rabbit with my body. Aki, in hers, lay on her back, wiggled her toes, slammed the wall, uttered Yoko Ono-esque cries, writhed. Later, she ran through some of her absurdist mini-lectures. We worked out the lighting: I'm this "invisible" kabuki stagehand running around the darkened gallery holding a follow-spot on a long lead, picking out Aki's actions in dramatic lighting.

I know, with a glow of warm confidence, that this show is going to be great. It's going to work. People will enter this darkened gallery, and find these people running around with lights, doing a strange theatre piece. Knowing, now, that it's going to work -- and stoked, no doubt, by New York's manic energy, the kind its homeless yelling freaks and its performance artists share -- I feel delighted to be alive. Like a pierrot, in fact, making completely fucking amazing potato prints with my ears.

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