An excerpt from Volume IX | EUROPE
by Al Paldrok
The Diverse Tour has just given a start-up push. By this evening we reach Southern Border of the Baltic States and now our Devilgirl is shooting through Poland at night, ten hours perpetuum. The impenetrable snow storm chases over our front windscreen on horizontal level from left to right as a real screen saver. Can this really be May? Our co-pilot Luddite, Danish, is drinking next to driver, the others are sound asleep.
Map-reader, nearly in coma, is by all evidence in mortal fear; he would demand pee- and smoke-stops more and more frequently than ever. Till sunrise, 1.500 kilometers are covered.
Tiny Tim, whom we were to meet in Berlin, calls from Italy complaining that his palfrey has collapsed for 3 times already, and he wouldn’t make it before Wednesday. We come to terms, that we´ll meet again in Paris, on our next action there. I gnaw my teeth, because I’ve held place especially for him in van.
Next 1.000 kilometers, and we arrive Paris the day after, afternoon. 1 KA, an Autonomous Anarchist, towering two meters above our heads, from Toulouse, now of Terre Blanque settlement, is waiting for us there. He will join us in our way to Helsinki. All the French urban chiromanticists are present on Diverse Universe – Désordre Urbain; Urban Disorder, with all chemistry flowing through their veins, and asphalt as their playground. Just like every street mob, they got clear-cut leaders and exact division of power in their hierarchy. All the leaders of these rather aggressive and self-sufficient groupings happen to be females of Afro-Arabian heritage. The first gang in their early 20-s is fostering something similar to flash-mob; they are called Sinep gang (means “mustard” in Estonian) after their leader. The coincidence is really striking – that opaque yellow-brown wasabi produced in mustard factory Põltsamaa, Estonia, would exactly describe this miniature enthusiastic mix-blood creature. The dynamics of the group is vigorous and challenging; their relation to every other participant is matronizingly tolerate – just like a mob of wild hounds, that has given promise not to touch the lambs because of the Olympic Games. They burst onto the streets like burning lava, stop the traffic, descend from the telephone stakes, plunge through subways, fall like dead in front of people whenever and wherever they want. We rule the streets!
Concerning accommodation, we are to choose Miss Fox´s apartment or T.r.a.c.e.s. – an alternative center. At the last-mentioned we had passed a nice little fight with a local Arab youth gang last year; they found our German homosexuals their imminent target. Our local colleagues could not aide us; we had to hack our way home though this rampant mass of illegals in pitch-darkness. We spend night at the same place, nobody is able to drive anymore anyway.
As heard from the other participants, the technicians of Confluences Theatre had said they´re prepared for the advent of Non Grata this time in particular – “It´s not gonna go through this time,” they had declared in a conspiratorial way – meaning our performance the year before. The Non Grata performance “Reactor of Human Resources” in Confluences Theatre, Paris, is about Global Darkening, Sun-Storm coming before long, and Collapse of Urban Culture.
On Rue Ramponeau´ in Belleville district we perform a provocative Funeral Procession, New Orleans style, in which Street Art is declared dead since her becoming a rudimentary decorative element. Ben, a two-meters high African, is lurking in front of the demonstration, harping: Art de la rue est mort, art de la rue est mort. …Headless human bodies are carrying a huge white coffin; on its way local street artists are wrapped into cling film and covered with graffiti. As orthodox symbolic smoke bombs are used instead of frankincense; the whole street is suddenly full of acrid puffs of reek; people disappearing into this, reappearing as messed-up lumps, prepacked specimens, brands of Street Art in her decadence. Even the most indifferent domino-players on terraces of cafés would now take notice; they are screaming as carbon monoxide is filling their lungs; the local Kulturträgers as well as journalists and the police are trying to maintain their dignity; the shop-owners are running out, shaking their fists… everyone is clearly in shock; too fast has been the departure; everyone loved the dear deceased…
The girls of La Compagnie Terrain Vague invade the scene just after the end of our performance – Annick and Marie. Certainly they are the utmost belles of this group, although English is not their forte. With beautiful faces alight, they try to find words, propositions. Like in a sort of a puzzle game, we reckon variables, till we can see they’ve come with an order from their gang to take NG from the festival area to a community party somewhere in the suburbia. Their “Empty Devoid Territories” group is composed of supermodel-type of girls, who, instead of posing on Vogue front covers and heaping up millions, do it as non-stop Marathons in ghetto areas of Paris. During these actions lasting days and nights they are both prostitutes and social workers simultaneously, the brains and the flesh; wearing stilettos, themselves half-naked, cat-walking these filthy streets, making sudden appearances from dustbins and alcoves of the exterior, now wearing huge antlers, then athletic shorts and T-shirts, now covered with paint, then with chocolate. Every man on the festivities, instantly fallen in love and trying to converse with them on a usual small-talk level, would get a scornful smile in response. But indeed, in these God-forgotten holes, where the pale-skinned upper class never would set foot even in broad daylight, these urban Amazons associate with the mob of multicolor illegal immigrants intrepidly; wearing numbers of several Paris districts on their faces, letting their bodies be covered with dirty expressions and political slogans of to-day. In center of Arab youth company they would propagate underground art, themselves playing on vague borders between visualize-criminal-socialia. These girls do not make art neither in impeccably white cubicles nor would they design some shows of entertainment – their world is scattered all around the acidic smog of the Metropole, defragmented into the thousandfold problematics of these thousands of fragments of nations concocted in Paris. Their community house is a real palace, comparable with those of German and Spanish, though multi-culti is flourishing there in fact – a fulfilled integration of black and white people. At six o´clock in the morning, when the girls are still asleep, we leave furtively. Some of us have omitted the night. Next 1.100 kilometers till Kolin, Czech. Our Danish friend should hit the turf somewhere near Frankfurt in order to reach Ryanair, but the man would insist we´d take him along – this trip is the utmost experience of his life, he keeps saying. In fact he´s quite a nuisance – quiet and hyper-sensible in his sober periods in our constantly jeering company; a real drama junkie. Then, after his fifth beer his role would change in a minute, he would become an aggressive-maniacal playboy at once. The Jekyll-and-Hyde phenomenon every day. Or every night. Nevertheless, in performances he does his duty, and this is Diverse Universe after all.
Now we’ve got two Western-European Anarchists in our van. I ask 1 KA, what does that “individualist anarchism” consist of. He would give much talk about hardcore squat, as well as the eternal slogan of Anarchism – “Destroy Capitalism.” It seems not to be either a Radical Dogma, Collectivism, nor War Black Block in purpose of creating an army and destroy State Structure. From their bible “Party is over” a manifesto is also derived – “Death to the Artists.” I have always been quite cynical concerning Anarchism: during the establishment of this Utopia, usual wild lawlessness would come along, and in this world of rednecks and hyper military madmen we would be the first worth of extermination. I even hadn’t any idea that these numskulls have got pretensions on the same rights and have declared you an outlaw already – since an artist is capable of expressing his own darling ego solely. Consequently his freedom is not real, but spiritual and symbolic. The Individualists of Terre Blanque, Zone Autonomie are Situationists, Performators-Reformers of the world through art. Instead of the word Artist, 1 KA uses terms as Cyber Poet or Psychedelic Activist. A community with no laws. No Rules. Because these would challenge real freedom. Psychological Consensus. Evolution Deep in the Brains. They approve every useful possession, but they would not accept any support from the State, they say they subsist on self-supporting basis. They´d pump out gasoline from commercial machines, from techno-animals. They use huge quantities of drugs, but decline heroin, because this is labeled as product of capitalism. They hate organized demonstrations – a fucking flock of sheep, he says.
We reach Divo Institute about 9. Martin Void is a Swiss, his wife is Czech, their daughter is Finnish. The institution is a stone manor house in a small town of Kolin. The Schloss is surrounded by huge terrace garden designed by the owner, with a view down in the valley, where a 24h supermarket in its full grandeur is situated. At the finish of Diverse Tour in London, a local, Lenny Lee unexpectedly started talking about the same man, a comrade of his in days of youth – Martin had been a squatters movement leader, a visionaire, who, in the 60s had steered several operations in course of which tens of houses were occupied, as well as food chains, that had fed hundreds of revolutionaries. He had been a spark plug of the movement, a perpetuum mobile, feverish and uncontrollable, unpredictable and dashing. Nothing like this can be seen in this middle-aged beer-belly figure with round spectacles, who, after a short hello would retreat somewhere in the rear, with an excuse he´d have some computer work to do yet. Till then, nobody of this international company of about 20 has recovered of a grand party celebrating their Euro-project the night before.
The next 400 km are passing through the sideways of Poland, and, unbelievable though, lasting 10 hours. Because of this, we reach Piotrkow Trybunalski, when the opening action of “Interakcje” by Australian machine-man Sterlac is already in its full going. The curator, Arti Grabowski, has gathered a lot of old-school art makers around the whole world into this town of 20.000 inhabitants. The classics of Polish best times, as well as Black Market International in persons of Jacques Van Poppel and Roi Vaara are represented. The performances, contrary to Paris, are all performed in White Box. Honestly speaking, I am surprised that this kind of festivals still take place. The audience would sit patiently in the same stiff position, their eyes concentrated in a definite point, where some abstract madhouse-scenes are executed. In fact, festivities of this sort are held all over the world, especially in regular old performance strongholds, and interest in them seems not to be ceasing. Much work on this field is done by enthusiastic teachers-missionaries like BBB Deimling, who are determined to produce year by year the same structural reiteration of the generations of artists. The German PAS – Performance Art Studies has arranged and engaged into their week-lasting workshop students from the Art Academies of Poznan, Krakow, Wroclaw, Gdansk, Szczecin. These traditional grounds of the Eastern-European flagship are perfectly fitting for perfectly fitting flower-beds of perfect performance art. The trodden track is safe and has no misleading treads – the young wanna-be artists studiously imitate consistent movements of grand masters and their worn-out symbolics; a friendly pat on shoulder and positive criticism are a sufficient compensation to a blushing youngster for his efforts. A couple of this kind of workshops yet to be passed, and the professor would gladly recommend you to his colleagues, and the front lines of the orthodox are to be supplemented by a fresh bright-eyed member.
The first performance by NG, “Invisible Machine” kicks the audience aloof – simultaneously onto the walls of the Art House 360-grade schemes and texts appear; several different machines start moving as systematic urban power; street-boxing in chicken-mitten between sturdy Luddite and Boston giant Huckleberry turns on the audience; a mad dog, chained on the ceiling, runs amok in quadrangle: Hope Machine-Work Machine-Taboo Machine-Fear Machine; jets of fire melting the bearing poles of society; the throbbing brain center of the World of Finance in the middle of that all. People do not know how to observe and comprehend everything, and – finally the artists have left and they find themselves helplessly situating in the influence field of uncontrollable machinery. The end is up to them – nothing is left, everything vanishes during the process activated by an invisible machine – in overall relief.
Our Army of Artists are accommodated in the best hotel of the town, having meals regularly in a restaurant 3 times a day, every artist has a special assistant – this is a real factory of generative art. Everything needed is instantly delivered by beautiful Polish girls, the curator himself is looking after satisfaction of every participant. This kind of Paradise cannot last for long, apparently.
This time friendly illusion is devastated by representative of Burma (now called Myanmar), K Oz, who, as an introduction of the third day, would walk in wearing monstrous boots of paper, with panicking carrier pigeons tied on strings thrust over his shoulder. The fluttering of little birds, kept as favorites in these areas, probably their legs broken, in mortal pain, would be enough already for the audience – in Nordic countries (Estonia included) these strings would have been cut through in this first stadium of the performance. But the worst is yet to come. The assistants kindle a ten-meters long flow of fire – and the artist would march right into it. The flames are already licking the poor slinging birds, smoke paralyzes abiding bodies. Oz´s feet catch fire and an expected plan to free the little ones himself still walking, has to be forgotten – with a scream produced by self-sustaining human body, the cluster is flinging right into the flames. Only valorous rush of a young long-haired hero into the fire saves the day – and the already half-burnt birds from the reeking mess. A shift in reality is apocalyptic – wailing teenagers everywhere, the startled artists, people full of exposed anger, cars chasing to the nearest vet clinic – Art has once again proved to be greater than Life.
In spite of animal mutilation not being too rare in Asia (one of the most known performance-maker of Indonesia, Yoyoyogasmana, has shown me with pride the public festivities in countryside, where the local farmers during lusty dance, just by the way, tear off heads of living chicken), the Burmese man is nevertheless broken. Accidents in Performance Art. Just for some minutes ago he had enjoyed fame in the cozy atmosphere of the international Festival as an exotic performer, had kissed the barmaids, he had been on climax of luck expecting great future in the Western Art world – invitations to several international festivals, perhaps even to Venice, all the hotels de luxe, women, money – all gone. The manager, irritated, says sorry to the audience. For next two nights, K would weep in his hotel room, refusing even coming out for luncheon. Fingers trembling, he would write an appeal for mercy, he would premeditate breaking off his European tour and going back home. From hero to pariah in a second – this is like the case with our doping fallen cross country skiing Olympic double winner Andrus Veerpalu.
Could that incident be an unintended favor to Non Grata, or the young just forget soon, but during NG´s “Force Majeure” the people smash up gorgeous apple-green automobile in such a vigorous way that this performance has never seen before. Poland is not in vain the Beating Country of Eastern Europe – the skin-headed muscle-men are worth of their notoriety and would not stop before their hands are bleeding and car whirled overhead thrice. The wild beast is let loose and the show would even merit modest praises of the old-school white- and bold heads. The division of social roles in Macho society is as strict as in the Catholic Church – while the boys are furiously hammering, the fair-legged creatures keep safe distance and would not consider their participation in destructive action necessary. “My muscles are too small!” It should need 100% Nordic armoury of charm put into practice in order to break that cliché.
The Americans are waiting for us in Berlin. Rip and BJ Dealer. And our Peeter Allik. Also there are Andreas Staedler, Lars, SP, Philip Brehse, Zabo, Johnny Amore. The very special of Diverse Universe this year is called “Hunger” by Micha Steger. In this country art is considered a mere instrument – the Berlin life is full of protest. Only hunger can create something new! Only inconvenient is interesting! The press release hands over definite demands: Fair Distribution of World´s Natural Resources! Worldwide Acceptance of Freedom of Speech and Expression! Down with Use of Art Places for Commercial Purposes! Down with Poisoning Nature using Nuclear Energy! Down with Inhuman Use of Weapons for Commercial Interests! Down with Political Murder and Captivity! Stop the War! We arrive just in time – the opening ceremony of artists on Hallesches Tor takes place simultaneously with Antifascist protest march of Anarchist Punks, which is on the move to meet the manifestation of the Fascists just a couple of blocks away. In between all that, the special forces of police are pushing to and fro; since all the people joining one or another are clearly enjoying all the process. BJ Dealer with his plastic wall manages to get into the diverted traffic, the marching columns – the chaos generated is consummated with that. The special forces of Police arrive just as NG´s impromptu performance lets out its finishing signal.
The Festival itself takes place in a huge Markethalle, Kreutzberg, with nearly 200 artists taking part. Our first performance is called “Last Supper – How Hungry Are We.” Peeter Allik is Jesus and the onlookers become his disciples. “How hungry are we?” A Demon from Hell is yelling. “How hungry are we really?” The Last Supper, consisting of niter and sugar takes great unbelievable mutant forms in flames; King Luddite electrifies bird corpses with puppet heads by piercing them with vast knives connected right on hot line. Facebook register shows “LIKE” numbering five thousand seven hundred and six; currently it is reporting: “Dalai Lama wants to be your friend.” After that we transmute Rip´s art car into a pancake form by hammer – the arrangers have put car projects under the same denominator, and the Icon of West Side has some difficulties in hiding his disappointment.
2.143 kilometers right ahead to Pori, Finland. In the middle of the road, near Warsaw, the brakes turn down and we have to spend a day next to Pims´s cookery plant on the lawn in front of Ford´s representative office. Our Techno Animal drains a bottle of vodka and another of tequila, returning thanks: “Mokutsuutsa” – Drink till I die – Korean toast. Our two individual anarchists cannot stand each other for a minute – You selfish egomaniac – It´s like an animal feeling – I cannot stand his smell! – And so on. The two ego trips won´t find room in the same vehicle anymore. Like kids playing.
I am sitting in WC at Jussi Matilainen´s place, reading the fresh “Taide” – biggest Finnish art magazine. “Taiteen on vahvistettava suomalaista identiteettiä ja tekotaiteelliset postmodernit kokeilut on jätettävä taloudellisesti yksittäisten henkilöiden ja markkinoiden vastuulle.” “The art has to strengthen our Finnish identity and the amateur postmodern experiments must be left to financially independent persons and responsibility of the markets.”
This passage is a summary of art philosophy cultivated by the “Perussuomalaiset” – the “Primeval” or “Real” Finnish, who have achieved a real victory in recent elections – 39 places in the Parliament instead of previous 5. The postmodern techno art is dangerous as such and must be eliminated, because it is violating the pure “Finnish identity.” All talk about Pure Finnish is certainly a fancy, although it seems to be a simple naturalistic story of Jussi, the moor and the cave. And of the Real Art, which is meant to create a beautiful myth covering this Jussi, the moor and the cave – so that people can see, what is the Holy Truth. (Annamari Vänska, Taide 2/2011 “Perussuomalainen Identiteettifantasia”)
When in the beginning of the 90s this totally monogamous town was full of fliers “Monikansallinen Suomi – Ei Kiitos” – “Finland of Many Nations – No Thanks,” then it was funny enough and I could not see much significance in it. Still, this vox populi now, after about a dozen years, when Finnish multi-nationality has become a fact in practice, has found a way up to the Parliament as some kind of a protest. In Estonia there is no basis for separate national radical movement, because every ruling party has it anyway. The only black people are basketball players hired on one-year contract basis. An Indian Suva, at his arrival to Pärnu Fideo Festival, in Tallinn bus station, suddenly met an older elegant man, who asked him politely, “When will you leave the country?” Russ Butler, a performance artist, the first black to represent his work in Estonia, was slinged over with bananas by racist motormen of Culture Factory Polymer. And they made faces to him, imitating apes. As concerning Ben from Paris, I can´t even dare to invite him here, because I cannot be sure I can guarantee the safety of this favorable 2-meters high African. In Tallinn and Pärnu, every year the artists of Berlin have fallen victims of fake gay brawlers, who play homosexuals just to plunder them, or they get beaten in some sideway pub.
Motto of the Festival Per11 is “Ota rennosti” – “Take it easy” – and this is what the Finns are able to do. The performance groupies of Finland are the best, right after these of Texas. The whole gang scores in every place we stop, and I got much of cursing and shouting to get off of the girls and back into our van at seven o´clock in the morning. The task is harder because most of them had got to bed just an hour ago, and they are scattered all around the town. As for the events yet to come, we could not get away so easily – the flicker of Pori are waiting for us in Tampere already. And then they´d come to Pärnu. And Tallinn. A love of 1 KA, little Marju, is rather smoothly picked up by his old foe Luddite, just as Marju is trying to catch Frenchman´s bus after sauna party. Next night she´d be someone else´s girlfriend. We got no plastic sauna this time, but – like a compensation – the house will be torn down in Summer, which gives some destructive aura to all the activity. The Swedes are even now taking off the weather boarding – of which they build a little diner in the courtyard. Heinrich Obst, Belgian, gives everyone an opportunity to become Jackson Pollock – and the house is soon covered with bursting, flying, flowing cascades of paint. On the last morning I accompany Devilgirl and Little Tom from Pori bus station to Vantaa, whence they are expected to head for Korea, to make 72-hour nonstop performance there. When I come round the festival place again, the Sun is high and the scenery seems chaotic and abandoned like every hangover. In the deserted town, the remnants of the gallery are pots of paint and the participants of the after party, every race and nation, sound asleep in between them. Right in front of the house, a rocker in black leather is sleeping on a bench, all smeared with white paint, his bare belly pointing the sky, his long filthy hair sweeping dirt. A typical Finnish morning. I take shoot of this snoring creature for some minutes with my camera. Our time schedule says we got to go to Yyteri Beach; so we start to pick up things and get people into the van. My friend sleeper on the bench has fallen on the ground meanwhile; I notice his lips have turned strange blue. Jussi appears, scratches the back of his head and asks what´s going on. “Vittu, mitäs tota tyyppiä vaivaa, kutsukaa ambulanssi” (“What the fuck, what´s wrong with this guy, call the ambulance”), he´d suddenly shout. We try to recall, how the resuscitation is done. Simo tries to blow some air into his lungs and presses his thorax for fifteen times. And again. One of the Swedes is a student of medicine though, but nothing can help anymore. The ambulance arrives and the assertion of death is settled. They say the man is dead for several hours already. It was gurgle of death, they say, not snoring. The girls are weeping, because the guy had organized Punk concert last night. The police clears the area and the body is covered with white cloth.
Yesterday it was Rapture, the American whispers to me. “End of the World. When I was with a lady in the addict, this guy crawl in and sawing us he asked You wanna fuck? and went outside. These were his last words.” Some of us remember that the dead Punk had drunk a bottle of Absolute, when the bar was closing, then cadged Jussi cash in advance for drugs, then asked Atti for a job. The doormen had given him a few friendly blows and thrown him onto the street. After that, he had come to gallery backyard and had furiously painted the house – performance, he had said, would be a new beginning of his life. Then he´d have some white powder via his nose and fallen asleep.
We drive to the seaside. The landlord calls. He promises to sue the festival for vandalism.
Finally, in Tampere, I find a living, with some difficulties though, at the girl´s commune. Maija reads from Helsinkin Sanomat, that the old apocalypse preacher had made his response to those who were sneering the End-of-the-World prophets. The Rapture had taken place in fact, it comes out. Invisibly though. Step by step it gone fall down, you do not see it, but it happens. The Process has been triggered.