Thought For The Day
Thought For The Day
'You see, the art world is the most dangerous place imagineable if you want to search for the truth, because what you can end up searching for, if you're not careful, is a so-called success.'
In my home town of Edinburgh there is a man called Richard Demarco, an Italian Scottish artist, gallery owner, curator and cultural impressario of small stature and Napoleonic ambition.
In many ways Demarco is a ridiculous man: bouncing, exhausting, megalomaniancal, vainglorious, hyperactive, evangelical... the kind of man who can dynamise and polarise a whole city while throwing bearhugs around the artists he loves and being thrown in turn a few desultory beans, scraps and turds by the local authorities.
Without Richard Demarco, Edinburgh would have been a much duller place these last thirty years. Somehow, alongside fellow incursors like Texan Jim Haynes (who started the Traverse Theatre and, later, London's Arts Lab) Demarco has kept the cultural explosion of the 1960s ringing around Edinburgh's wynds, musty schoolhouses, Georgian terraces and crags long after the original report failed and died away, baffled by the tweely, tweedily pragmatic indifference of Edinburgh people.
Without Demarco, I would never have seen the work of Tadeus Kantor, the Polish theatre director, or participated in Josef Beuys' Free International University right there in my home town. Almost every year since I've been free and adult, I've had my eyes opened by some show Demarco has brought, often from Eastern Europe, to quirky Kafkaesque spaces in rotting buildings which would otherwise have been humdrum offices, schools, factories.
Demarco is under no illusions. He has never made money from his curating, which he does just to make the world a better, more passionate, more interesting place. He is constantly battling the local council and the Arts Council, and is sneered at by the cautious professional curators who believe arts management is all about bums on seats, cost benefit analysis, and accountability.
When these people with spreadsheets for brains ask Demarco to justify bringing a Beuys or a Kantor to Scotland, Demarco says that , in their terms, he cannot. If you do market research, if you do polls, if you look at the track record, you'll find that the public doesn't care, and doesn't want to know. There is no way to justify bringing them, just as there is no way to explain their birth and emergence in places like Krakow and Kleve. By rights, by the lights of the bean counters, Beuys and Kantor shouldn't even have been born. They're anomalies, exceptions, men of strange and stubborn vision, and their very existence disturbs and upsets and challenges the world of normality and those who have vested interests in defending it.
But their impact on the few who recognise their genius can be enormous, and finally theirs are the names that survive after all the television and the granny-pleasing fluff has settled into a layer of cultural slime at the bottom of the ocean of forgotten populism. People like Beuys and Kantor change lives. The rest only put bums on seats.
A new section will shortly appear on this website about my record label, Analog Baroque. I will present to you the artists I have selected to be my first releases: Kazmi, Toog, and Mr Swenson. I am extremely lucky to have reached a stage in my life where, despite complete and utter indifference to my work and sensibility in my native Britain, I have been trusted by a label (thanks, Iain McNay at Cherry Red!) to find new voices and make them available to you in small pressings, advertised exclusively on websites and channelled to people who are sick to death of mediocrity, formula and repetition in pop music and are hungry for something fresh, original, visionary and new.
I can do this cheaply and realistically because all my artists are lo fi digital artisans, people with low res attitude and high res imagination, who can record for nothing on tiny Japanese hard disk recorders and bypass the wastefulness and hype and populism of the music industry. And because we are all creating music to change lives, our own and other people's, and not to make a quick buck.
My new voices come from Japan, Paris, and New York.
Kazmi, from Osaka, was once in a group called Nelories. Now she makes records whose only point of comparison is Bjork, but are even more eclectic and crazy and mixed up than Bjork's, South American one moment and Chinese the next. Toog is Gilles Weinzaepflen from Paris, whose tiny, beautifully observed and perfectly formed electronic songs are the pop music equivalent of the Oulipo writers Perec and Queneau, or the brilliant 1960s French animation series Les Shadoks. Mr Swenson is a New Yorker, one half of multimedia group Necro Enema Amalgamated, makers of the Blam CD ROM, fiercely uncompromising and unsettling devil's advocates. This will be Eric's first sound recording, and will scare, startle and stagger.
These records, now being recorded, promise to be some of the freshest and most original you will ever hear. They may enrage you. They will certainly enrich you. They will, like Momus, make most other pop look mealy-mouthed, boring, pompous and blustery in comparison. The corporate music press, certainly in Britain, will pass over them with tight-lipped suspicion and a certain jealousy that other ways of communicating even exist without their seal of approval. But finally we will triumph. Because art and adventure are on our side.
This is my chance to be Richard Demarco. I am not going to waste it.
Long live Analog Baroque!
A dagger to the heart of Global Phlegm!