Kultcher In A Wind Tunnel

The Edinburgh International Festival is:

An exercise in pluralism gone mad, the curators out of control, the consumers abuzz with rumour and recommendation, a wind tunnel of hypermedia, the triumph of internationalism, a kind of race to categorise and define which is doomed to failure, a training session for the permanent festival which will exist, if current trends continue, in the total leisure culture of the future...

I was in the wind tunnel (this year also a rain tunnel) for two weeks. Here's what I consumed.

Flux Pop Festival: Je T'Aime Gainsbourg. Members of Belle and Sebastian, BMX Bandits, Teenage Fanclub etc played Gainsbourg covers. Pretty good. I had tea later with Duglas, who organised it. Very nice man, he asked me to appear on his BBC Scotland Digital show Beat Route in January.

Hair: sexy young American teenagers did a very good and energetic production of this 'spirit of 68' musical. And got naked. One was extremely beautiful. The friend I saw it with said it was still giving him erections a week later.

Modulations: Excellent documentary about electronic music from Stockhausen to Detroit and Jungle. Kodwo Eshun, Simon Reynolds et al were talking heads. I learned that Detroit was straight electronics (the car factories made the blacks agree with Kraftwerk that electronic music is 'industrial folk music'), Chicago mainly a gay black scene. I also observed that many pioneers of futurist techno were very overweight.

Schiller's The Robbers. Bad production by a company I liked a lot in the '80s, the Citizens. Based in Glasgow but very European in style, they are all gay and like dressing up as Nazis. Which gets tiring in a play set in the Sturm und Drang period of German Romanticism. I found the play immature and silly.

Baroque harpsichord music: I sat listening to beautiful delicate chords and trills, thinking how much french pop music was influenced by Bach (Legrand, Gainsbourg, Francis Lai).

Comedians: I saw two. John Shuttleworth makes Momus-esque songs on a tiny Yamaha. John Hegley is a comic poet, a cross between Elvis Costello, Woody Allen and Sam Beckett. But reflecting on this sort of comedy, I thought how it's all about self-hatred, self-mockery. I prefer dancers and artists to comedians, because they preserve the mysterious belief that humans are angels. I prefer their vanity to the scorn of the comedians. It's better to overestimate than underestimate human beings.

Visual Art: Saw Richard Prince, Mona Hatoum, a good mixed show at the now very chic Collective Gallery (Chapmans etc), some bad degree show stuff, some baroque stuff...

Cyberbaroque: Croatian chamber baroque music mime thing, under the Richard Demarco European Art Foundation banner. Disappointing, if only because they mixed silver wigs with chintzy costumes and their music was more quirky folky than baroque. They did things like stick broken magnetised glass across grid masks on their faces, while video pictures of the audience were computer manipulated on a screen behind until a single composite picure of the whole audience was formed.

Performance: I saw a really terrible dance piece by a group from Osaka. They were ugly, badly dressed in dayglo colours, and the dance was banal (about cupids who make two heterosexuals fall in love). Worst was that at the end they came and asked everyone in the audience if they liked it. I grinned grimly and said yes. (Later this month, in contrast, the excellent Dumb Type are performing at the Barbican).

Play: highlight of the whole festival was 'Lookalikes', a series of theatrical tableaux by Botho Strauss, directed by Peter Stein. A brilliant white neon set, and some strange scenarios (a deformed little girl, her face only two nostrils, tells her parents she is going to sue them for giving birth to her), a poetic logic which reminded me of Paul Celan. It was very 'analog baroque' to watch the illuminated subtitles (the acting was in German) flick by on signboards nested amongst the highly ornamented 19th century box balconies (figures of comedy and tragedy wearing masks).

It was also analog baroque to see a shop selling Scottish tartans and swords with a big sign in the window advertising 'Data base of family names'. (I photographed the word 'data' against a backdrop of sword handles).

And it was particularily analog baroque to read today in MacWorld that the PalmPilot has a Synth program which allows you to compose on the move. The article says 'Bach would have had to put four PalmPilots in a row to compose a fugue'. What a beautiful idea!

PC: I met my Herald editor, Pat Kane, at a Living Marxist debate about political correctness. I never ask questions, but at the end of this debate I asked what the panel thought about Tony Blair's attraction to Catholicism, a religion which encourages confession, family values, and the need to become childlike. My question was ruined by my nervous, trembling voice. Coffeed with Pat afterwards. If you get past the fact that he peppers his talk with terms like 'repressive tolerance' (and I positively welcome that kind of thing) he's a very nice man. Big, muscular, with that very un-English thing of combining populism with intellectualism, like Gramsci.

Confessions: A good production of 'Memoirs and Confessions Of A Justified Sinner', a play about a protestant who, believing he is saved whatever he does, proceeds, on the advice of his friend Gil Martin, to murder many people, including his own family. Gil Martin turns out to be Satan. Since the actor was a friend of my sister's, we had a drink with Satan afterwards. I was slightly scared, expecting him to offer some kind of deal in exchange for my soul. But all he offered was a beer in a nearby pub, which he recommended. 'I'm not going to take your advice,' I said, 'you're not Egon Ronay... you're Satan Ronay!'

Rabelais: An excellent production of Gargantua staged in a series of rooms and cellars under the Central Library. The audience walks from room to room, and often there are little scenes happening in the corridors too. Food, sex, farting, medieval songs.

Calderon: A bad production of Calderon's Life Is A Dream. The actors, some of whom, for no reason other than political correctness, are black, shout too much and wear combat trousers, which I'm sure were not trendy in the 17th century.

More Film Festival: 'All American' was a reel of videos by Mike Mills, Spike Jonze etc. Since I no longer have MTV, it was good to see all the Air, Beck and Sonic Youth videos I've missed. Air playing Pong, Beck imitating Gainsbourg in the Melody Nelson film (driving a Rolls). Also saw two oriental films: Spring In My Hometown, a rather slow but beautiful film from Korea. And The Hole, a great film from Taiwan about a man who spies on the woman in the apartment downstairs when the plumber drills a hole in his floor. It's raining heavily throughout the film, and the man puts first just his eye to the hole, but then later sticks his arm and his leg through, and eventually widens it and pulls the woman out. They both catch a virus which turns people into insects, making them scuttle under sacks of rice and avoid the light, so I suppose it was a tragedy.

The Lady Boys Of Bangkok: Thai transexuals like the ones at the Wallpaper party, but much better. Pop and torch cabaret. They remind you that when men become cooks they usually do it better than women, and when they become women they also do it better (with more extremity, more commitment) than women. Best was a fat slutty Japanese singer telling her lover she didn't want him back (but meaning the opposite), screaming like an ugly Bjork.

Tamagotchi Heaven: a play about a girl who is unsuccesul in love and focuses all her energy on her tamagotchi, eventually masturbating with it. Images of Shibuya were projected onto a screen behind her and at the end of the play, to my surprise, they played 'Good Morning World'.

Carles Santos: this Spanish director made a surreal homage to Bach. It was excellent. Pianos and harpsichords zoomed about the stage like dodgem cars, 25 huge rubber busts of Bach swung from the ceiling, there were fantastic deformations of Bach's music, like a pompous opera singer getting his head pushed into a bowl of water and singing under the surface (like Adjani in the video for Gainsbourg's 'Pull Marine'). This really was analog baroque, or perhaps Dali-Dada Baroque.

Space Panorama: a play only 20 minutes long in which the1969 lunar landing of Apollo 11 was told by mime on a tabletop using only hands. Very good.

A Japanese festival held at a large private house in the suburbs, attended mostly by young girls from Osaka, studying at the university's English summer school. They recognised me as Momus, and did lots of crazy dances for me, expressing their love for their (gay) councillor, David. In one of the dances they shouted to Riho 'Envy you, envy you!' Which was a nice way to end the festival.

Some useless statistics:

Insects in the room we were staying in at my sister's house:

8 mosqitoes
1 devil's coach horse (enormous, really enormous and shiny and black)
1 spider


1. That I had to help Kahimi escape from the sewers of Disneyland.

2. That David Bowie came back as Christ and performed a miracle, giving me sight in my right eye.

What I've Been Listening To:

The Arab Strap 'Philophobia' album. A Last Poets compilation. Harpsichord music of Couperin. Opera arias by Handel.

Got back to find an interview with self in Jap magazine Fish + Idea waiting in mail box. One of these bilingual mags like Tokion, it begins 'Based in London and well-known for his recent intercourse with various Japanese artists, Nick Currie...'