Thought For The Day
Thought For The Day
January 1st 2000

I see in the new year at a party thrown by Gilbert and George. They're dressed in matching beige suits of conservative cut. In contrast, the people who surround them are got up in the most outrageous garb. One is a Chinese peasant, one a tasteful silver Superman, one a spangled pantomime dame. And tonight I'm a Scottish S&M pirate.

There are several scary East End rough trade hardmen around too, like the people you see in the background of photos of Morrissey or films about Francis Bacon. On the roof, when all the fireworks go up from the Thames, and before a gunpowder plume of smoke engulfs Spitalfields, Gilbert and George tilt large gulps out of a huge bottle of Moet.

Later in the evening I end up in a drunken huddle with Gilbert, my friend Sophia, and Tsu, a cute young Malasian who is getting his bottom caressed a lot. Somehow the scene is both grotesque and touching. Gilbert is a middle-aged, tidy and very proper satyr, his lechery in a seaside postcard spirit. It reminds me of my dinner with Pierre et Gilles, when their Vietnamese boy-slave suddenly burst into inexplicable tears. Meanwhile, of course, I am here with two Japanese girls a lot younger than me.

Gilbert and George are naughty vaudevillians. I wonder if they will be remembered as a 20th Century act. (I call them an act because I always think of them singing 'Underneath The Arches'). I suppose they will, so this New Year's eve probably brings something tragic for them, the gradual arrival of their irrelevance. And Momus, is that a 20th Century act?

Shit On Piss!

Sophia, co-author of Post-Feminism For Beginners, gets very drunk and starts attacking me with big wet kisses. ('You're afraid of assertive women like me, aren't you?' she challenges.) We stagger around together for a while. On the wall are Gilbert and George's Fundamental Pictures. Shit On Piss. Piss On Piss. Fart On Shit. Shit On Us.

In fact, their immaculate warehouse is impeccably tidy, and there's a scary skinhead housekeeper running around telling people not to mess it up. Happy new year, scary housekeeper! Piss on loft! Sick on glass table!

When we get home, I send the lift unmanned up to the sixth floor and don't step inside until I can see that it has returned safely. On the news it says that there are no Y2K incidents so far, but I'm taking no risks.

Barney On The Sydney Harbour Bridge

I wake up on the first day of the year 2000 in immediate need of tea and, strangely, Matthew Collings' book about the New York art scene It Hurts.

'You can't just say anything you like,' he observes. 'You have to join in the official discourse. There are discourses for everything. But with art the discourse is incredibly tortured and unreal, and you have to get to know it over many years. At first you can't believe the phoneyness and unreality. It's like a bad film, set in the art world. It's so extreme, you feel sure everybody must be joking and that suddenly they're going to admit it. But they never do... Innovations in art often seem to be about calling the bluff of the discourse. The new often seems satirical almost. The discourse reels, then adapts. The new seems solemn.'

This seems like good advice for my coming months in New York. It also seems like a good template for the world. We should be trying to make a 21st Century which stuns us, makes us reel, makes us say 'This has to be a joke!' The interesting moment is the one just before we adapt and collaborate to make the joke solemn and accepted, before eventually turning it into something boring and super-known, like a soundbite of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.

I sift through CDs, getting excited again about analog baroque, playing records by James Lucas and Toog (one a parodist, the other a part-progenitor of the style). Strangeness, I decide, is a very important quality for music to have in the new century. That's what was missing from CNN's city-by-city coverage of the new century's arrival last night: the sense of something unknown and strange arriving. Instead of a vulgar potted history of 20th century pop music, Sydney should have sent Matthew Barney up the bridge, scaling the big illuminated sign that said 'Eternity'. Instead of 'Auld Lang Syne' (a backward-looking song if ever there was one) they should have had something from Takako Minekawa.

Things both mad and organised attract me, especially when you can't quite work out the principles which have been used for the organisation. While Shizu cooks up whatever she can find in my cupboards (onions and flour two years past its sell-by date; perhaps we'll die, or perhaps necessity will lead us to some new 21st century recipe) I watch Eric Kot's film 'First Love: The Litter On The Breeze' (starring Takeshi Kaneshiro) on VCD.

The Mozart Arcade Game

I write some more of the linking narrative for my Earl of Amiga presentation in March in New York. Decide that the film 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' is very important for the future of humanity. Well, for my show, anyway. Here's a sample link:

'Mozart, the coin-operated arcade game. It presents trigger-happy gamers with a realistic pipe organ attached to three electronic keyboards. In exchange for four quarters, this sombre machine gives the player half an hour in which to compose a brilliant fugue. When they have finished, it plays the composition from start to finish and allocates a meaningless score, usually something like 475,650,000, plus bonus points (76,000). In all the arcades where this machine has been installed, it has been a great failure, standing for days unplayed, the allocation of musical genius in each generation of men being, alas, sparse.'

Female Japanese Warhol

The Collings book has a photo of Jeffrey Deitch, the powerful New York curator. I recall that Young Kim, during the course of a conversation last week about an apartment on Thompson (between Grand and Canal), told me she'd spoken to Deitch about my Jeff Koons song. 'Did Koons pay the thousand dollars?' Deitch asked, somewhat incredulous. Young told him yes. But now it can be revealed: Koons, probably the patron most able to pay (his Pink Panther just sold for several million) was in fact given a free song, just because I wanted him on the record.

There's no justice in this world, is there? The people on the guest list are always the ones who could most easily afford to pay.

Collings asks Deitch what the new movement today is. 'He said it was Globalism. But I already knew about that. It was art from Brazil and China. Artists making installations about indentity, and mixing techniques. Scrambling high and low, West and East, folk art and sophisticated art.

'He said Globalism was right, because New York was very cosmopolitan. His favourite Globalist is Mariko Mori, who he shows in his gallery. She's a female Japanese Warhol or Gilbert & George or Jeff Koons.'

So there I was, full circle, back to last night's party, and wondering who will and who won't be fresh in the 21st century.

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