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Bureaucracy, bold initiatives, books, boats and babies. The usual Acedia slop, after a month-long absence.
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Acedia
week of 09 March 2016
 

Another month has gone by, but I assure you I haven’t forgotten about Acedia! It feels that when I have a weekly live talk show (during which I am forcing myself to write a solid 5-minute monologue each time, known as my STRONG FIVE), I have less energy to write this newsletter. Because I already have a public outlet to express myself, right? Or maybe I am just making excuses, because clearly this is an entirely different beast than Serious Introspection. Anyway. Acedia is back, at least for this week. With an extra helping of capitalised words.

For the past few weeks I have been feeling some fragrant yet slightly rotten blend of anxiety and energy; just enough of the latter to keep me solidly rooted in a positive disposition, but with the unavoidable truth that DOING STUFF leads to COMMITMENTS which take TIME which leads to PROCRASTINATION. I whined about this a little bit during the last two STRONG FIVEs, and thought even about trying the Überman Sleep Schedule again (look it up; I’m a two-time failure at it, attempted in 2008 and 2011). But now, on this Tuesday morning, things look clear and hopeful again; the “to-be-done” list is relatively clean and I feel a strange space for actual contemplative thought, which was absent throughout February.

Mad House Helsinki is going well and it’s been nice to be involved (though not too involved). Juha Valkeapää, Renzo Van Steenburgen and Emer Värk put on a lavish sci-fi production called 2341 AD which was a real sight to behold. It felt like a major departure from Juha’s regular work, which I love; but when I had him on stage for an interview, I did that thing where I open my mouth and let my thoughts come out without a filter I started saying something about the absence of humans in that work making humanity even more central to it. Instant analysis is sometimes the best kind, and I think somehow the process of the interview made me appreciate the work even more, which is maybe the best justification for doing talk show interviews as an artistic practice.

I've been telling people lately that I am in an 'open relationship' with Pixelache. Ha.

Agnieszka and I are still plotting our new venture, a participation-focused space for culture building that will attempt to avoid some of the patterns of conventional culture production structures in Finland. It’s been a really challenging process, and we are now at the most important (and scary!) stage of any project - where we have to stop plotting theoretically and start DOING. The reflection process was fantastic, worthwhile, and a bit emotionally draining; but that’s the past, and now it’s time to think about the future. Now we actually looked at a few properties to potentially rent, which raises new questions about the types of people who might wish to join us in this venture, and who would actually be committed to living in a different way.

A lot of friends have been encouraging us to apply for funding from a new scheme of the Finnish Cultural Fund called Taide^2, which is supposed to be looking for projects that challenge and redefine the structures of art production in Finland. It’s big money, and it sounds in theory like a good match for what we are attempting, but we made the decision to not apply. The main reason is that we don’t wish to be affiliated with art structures, and our goal is to create something that doesn’t participate in the grant system via the traditional means.

This has led to many discussions about doing projects as a hobby vs. a career, and we are both agreeing that taking the more ‘extreme’ position feels like the right move. Maybe this is going full-circle to what my life was like seven years ago, when I worked an unrelated job and did music/art stuff on the side; maybe I’m undoing everything I’ve consciously worked to build. Many would call us hypocrites, as being currently supported by Koneen Säätiö is what allows us to work on this project at all, though I see this dream as an suitable fit for Kone’s “bold initiatives”. And perhaps next year we will have to return to the unfunded life of precarious freelancing to support ourselves and our initiatives - doing our artistic work on nights and weekends. But maybe that is okay? The bottom line is that we are seeking to live our day-to-day lives in a more creatively-infused manner, and we believe that the creeping bureaucracy and administration involved with ‘professionalising’ culture not only deadens our senses, but sucks much of the vitality from the work we are creating.

Bureaucracy is on my mind because I’ve started reading David Graeber’s new book, The Utopia of Rules, which looks at bureaucracy from his viewpoint as an anthropologist/social theorist, and questions why the Left has failed to establish a valid critique of it. Like in his brilliant Debt: The First 5000 Years, he illuminates the systems of violence and exploitation (or in bureaucracy’s case, the threat of violence) which underpin these structures. I started reading it cause, hey, new David Graeber book! – but of course it’s raising a ton of questions about this cultural life I am enmeshed in, and how to untangle oneself in a method that is honest, empowering, and independent. 

At a nice Mad House 'Think Thank' discussion group yesterday, led by Juha V, we were visited by three Danish performers who are part of the Transforces festival. They have been running a queer-themed performance space in Copenhagen for almost a decade, and we had a really nice talk with them about some of their struggles and what they've learned. i realised how much I love connecting with other people who are trying to do things on their own, and sharing war stories, as it's always great to find affinities and hear how others approach problems.

There are no answers, yet. Maybe there never will be any. But the search process itself feels meaningful.

MEDIA INTAKE

I’ve hardly had time to watch anything and I already raved about the Graeber book above. I also recently finished Grant Morrison’s Supergods, his analysis of superhero comics and the larger myths behind them. It’s wonderfully lucid (given Morrison’s tendency towards outrageous, mystical concepts) and he unsurprisingly has a really great understanding of the format. Also, in my quest to eliminate the many books piled up on my shelves, I finally cracked open Gilbert Sorrentino’s Splendid-Hôtel, a very short experimental novel based around Rimbaud’s Une saison en Enfer. I haven’t read Rimbaud since high school so I remember nothing about it, but it doesn’t really matter, because Sorrentino was such a relentless innovator that the source text is really just a framework for him to play around with. I should probably read his Lunar Follies book at some point, which would maybe tie together my interest in experimental literature with the same frustrations I have with the cultural world.

That’s about it, though. I never finished reading Clarice Lispector’s collected short stories, but it’s always there for me, watiing to be dipped back into. Hopefully more media next week!

OTHER STUFF

I’ve been doing a lot of proofreading, some good and some bad, and one was an article by an Estonian urbanist that looks at some of the critiques of the “Smart City” - and it was a fantastic paper. When it’s actually published I will link to it here. I’ve been somewhat interested in urbanism as a discipline for some time now, even toying with the idea of returning to academia if I could design some hybrid degree in practice-based art (doing essentially what I do already) in conjunction with a bit of theory. The current concerns and Kone funding mean this won’t happen now, but I haven’t given up the idea. 

It does feel sometimes like every once in awhile, every few years maybe,  I crave a little institutional support. Just something to push me back up from a slouch. 

I fell into a pattern here with Acedia - an intro, some sort of main topic, the media intake section, and then this ‘other stuff’ section which would be for various links to online articles or whatnot. Everything I read online that I recommend tends to get tweeted, and I didn’t come across anything so obscure since the last newsletter, but I would recommend the Jezebel piece about the conspiracy theory cruise, which is marvelously entertaining:http://tinyurl.com/h9yt5vh and also I found a great article on Peter Blegvad’s Kew. Rhone., a record that is so brilliant I haven’t ever quite clicked with it myself: http://www.wonderingsound.com/feature/kew-rhone-peter-blegvad-interview/

Hey, my parents are coming to visit! Late May; mark your calendars, because Finland will never be the same after. This weekend I’m off to Estonia to see a friend’s new baby. There’s been a lot of them lately; only one left to come in this cycle of friends-who-are-expecting.

Well, I guess that’s it for now. As always I encourage you to create your own weekly newsletter and we’ll spread the word. 
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