On Flatness
This week my ego got puffed up all round and shiny by the appearance of some press (an interview in trendy digital culture magazine Interactif and a review in Les Inrockuptibles), but quickly got deflated again by the work of other artists -- Tony Cragg, Nico, Sonic Youth, Stereolab, Neil Hannon. Aesthetic experiences which reminded me just how close art can get to true 3D.

At the Divine Comedy concert (held in a charming antique theatre here in Paris called the Trianon and introduced by 18th century courtesans flapping fans) I was waved in free ('because we like your work') then got recognised a lot. The Divine Comedy appeal to Momus fans.

Neil Hannon was witty, urbane and saucy: all the adjectives usually thrown at my work. But he was more so. His new album 'Casanova' (I have an advance tape) is splendid, the work of a young European fogey dedicated to elegance and urbanity in music, a man who has seized on Casanova (I'm sure Neil borrowed the same copy of the Memoirs that I checked out of the Marylebone library in 1990) as a role model now that fame and recognition are making him more attractive to women than nature ever did. Which also kind of reminds me of me.

A couple of years ago in Bloomsbury, London, I bought Neil a pizza and told him that, ten years on, he could well be me: a neglected cult. He didn't seem to appreciate that much. He's much more ambitious than that. (But then so was I). I sent him a stack of my CDs, if only so he wouldn't be forced to repeat history.

On Sunday evening Shazna and I went to Jim Haynes' place. Jim is a seminal figure from the 60s and 70s scene. He started the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh then the Arts Lab in London before working on Screw magazine in Amsterdam and teaching in Paris. You always meet interesting people at Jim's parties, and you get a glimpse of the sexy conviviality that existed in those legendary 'underground' decades.

This time Shazna and I met a young Polish film director who had worked with Kieslowski. Also at Jim's atelier was my friend Thomi's friend Paula, who's a dancer. She went out for a while with Nico's son Ari.

Which brings me to 'Nico Icon'. Brilliantly edited, this documentary (made on video and loaded with high profile thematic graphics in much the same way as 'Man Of Letters') showed a morbid junkie intent on destroying her own beauty. It also showed just how small the family of the legendary actually is: Fellini, Delon, Jim Morrison, Dylan, Reed, Warhol... Like a heat-seeking missile, Nico targeted the talented, people who lived in another dimension of pretension. The audience at the late show were hooting at the ludicrous tragic bohemianism as Nico sat astride a white horse surrounded by a ring of fire, while Iggy Pop pranced around in whiteface. Actually I rather approved. Junkies and artists hate the flatness of life. Nico lived in a dark room with candles, whether in Paris, New York or Manchester. (It was, as Ari said, the sun which killed her). Drug addicts are boring only when they don't communicate their extraordinary inner states. I think Nico did.

Seeing Sonic Youth for the first time (how did I live to the age of 36 without seeing this incredible band?) made me realise what I've missed because of my fear of the fatal intensity of drugs and rock. Against a backdrop of flak like the bombing of Bagdad, the band created screeching, controlled climaxes or wandered tentatively into murky resonances resolved in fabulous violence. The words ('I love you sugar cane') were vague. The sounds, a catharsis worthy of King Lear, said it all. I was blown away. I'm off to buy some heroin now.

Not really. I can't escape who I am that easily. I'm going to keep learning how to animate and create 3D illusions in Director, my current favourite toy.

Last night I saw the Tony Cragg show at the Centre Georges Pompidou. Usually indifferent to sculpture because its signs are too open, too close to the randomness of real objects, I was intoxicated by the three dimensionality in Cragg's blobs (oddly similar in shape to the Moog blips on the excellent new Stereolab, 'Emperor Tomato Ketchup'). Such round, mad yet likely organic shapes seem highly timely now that computers are on the point of leaving the flat page metaphor and giving us a new landscape of easily-modified forms, a world far more interesting than the angular, predictable one architects and designers have knocked up.

Who needs drugs when you have a multimedia computer? I'm off to create a new world.


Momus, Paris, March 1996
momus@anais.aurecvideo.fr

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