One year in, one year out. Not too sure what to think of the times we are in. It feels as if we are all sliding towards a date with destiny. And despite the information that pours down over us every day, most can’t see what’s on that horizon.
Is it possible to feel the truth more than know anything? That’s probably a bit optimistic, or foolish. But I dig in to some animal intuition within me as a weathervane for what’s going on. Maybe because digital life is such a tsunami of collective and unconscious impulses. Things have gotten so polarised, so cheaply and superficially ideological, so easily colonised by shared anxiety and cynicism, a turn to occult thinking naturally appeals. What are the signals that matter to me? Where is there some transcendence to be found?
The year of the pandemic – and the betraying of the environment that little bit more. It’s not just a physical problem. It gets inside you. How do I defend myself? How does the spirit survive?
Without wishing to become entirely superstitious, I make myself a soldier of mysterious things. Taking advantage of minor rituals. In the burst of the last few days and their sunlight and heat, I go on a mad spring clean, washing clothes that have been gathering dust in the wardrobes and drawers. Without wanting to panic buy, I also go on a big shop today, buying a few things for the freezer, picking up a pack of Panadol, paper hand towels, tomato soup, bread, a Hough Covid-19 Test kit. If anyone gets sick we may not end by dying, but just being stuck at home with a four-day fever makes you want to stock up and feel prepared. I am hungry for security.
The last few days I have watched an apocalyptic documentary about The Rolling Stones at Altamont, the brilliantly filmed Gimme Shelter. It’s a product of Charlotte Zwerin and the Maysles Brothers interest in direct cinema – no interviews, just observational filming and editing – and it makes me think about the thin politics of judgement around us at that moment – and the need for a journalism of transport and truth rather than manipulating conviction. Where can I find my troubling and complicated pictures to warn and guide me through today? Where do I see things for real?
At the Matisse exhibition yesterday I am deeply moved by a late work of his called ‘The Sorrow of the King’. An ovular black figure sits at the centre of it, urging a celebration on. A drummer beats yellow musical notes into the air. A dancer is possessed. Joy and urgency mingle in the need to live a little longer and a little stronger. In the corner of the picture a black window: night. But the living goes on – for as long as it can go on.
Beside this work is another by Matisse called ‘Jazz’. A set of what you might call symbolic tarot cards thrown against a wall. Brightly coloured; composed of his use of cut-out pieces of paper. The images suggest things, but it takes a while to grasp them, their titles arriving like fragile grenades to contemplate on as you stare at the shapes, colours and patterns gathered together as one… The Clown, Icarus, Pierrot’s Funeral, The Cowboy, Destiny, and so on… what kind of story is this being told? Who and what are they?
It reminds me of living now. The voice of all city-bound stations called in a rosary amid the glassed-in spaces of Ashfield Station. My front gate half-open and rusting, off its hinge, a green vine reaching below and around it like an arm at my feet. A friend who just tried to call me from Broken Hill. Communicating with my teenage children by various means today in an effort to somehow beat time and space with only the slightest hint of touching their spirit. If it can be reached by me. The taste of afternoon coffee. Here I am at year’s end, in the middle of it all.
– Mark Mordue ©