domingo, 24 de agosto de 2014

From the Heart of Darkest America: Laurie Anderson´s Kokoku by Christian Roy

Deep in the heart of darkest America. Home of the brave. Ha ha ha! You've already paid for this. Listen to my heart beat.

The edge of Anderson’s irony here is decidedly blunted. But she still manages in the same song — "Sharkey's Day", about an ordinary day in the life of an average American — to make some relatively interesting points (besides the obvious though not very imaginative "Nobody knows me. Nobody knows my name") about modern man's severance from non­material reality, symbolized by dreams Sharkey cannot under­stand, and from nature, which he would rather see on television ("Tones it down"). The lies his TV hold Sharkey are evoked in 'Kokoku’’, in which the ghosts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are conjured and find themselves lost on an americanized planet, where

They say the world is smaller now. Small world.
They say that man is taller now. Tall man.
They say the stars are closer now. Thank you. lucky stars.
You come very briefly to this place.

Things are put back into perspective. First temporal and spiritual, then spatial and evolutionary, as "on a very distant star, slimy creatures scan the skies'.

And they say: Look! Down there!
A haunted planet spining round.
They say: Watch it move. Watch it shake. Watch it turn.
And shake. (...)
And we say: Watch us move. Watch us shake.
We're so pretty, (etc.)
We're so fine. The way we move. The way we shake.
' We're so nice.

In "Kokoku", Laurie Anderson reaches once more the cooly olympian heights from which her view of the modern world and of its American epitome and epicenter is at its sharpest, and deepest. The visual imagery she has used for both "Kokoku" and "O Superman" is fittingly the same : the snow of nuclear winter and the TV screen, the American planes which deliver it with the proverbial efficiency of the US. Post Office ("Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night..."), and the eternal rising sun of the Orient. Similarly, to the Oriental wisdom of "Kokoku” (”1 come very briefly to this place"), corresponds an ingenious paraphrase of the Too- te-Ching (38) in "O Superman” :

'Cause when love is gone, there's always justice.
And when justice is gone, there's always force.
And when force is gone, there’s always Mom. Hi Alow/

covers the cries of their victims, who keep complying scrupu­lously with their cruellest orders. Similarly, the Captain can order his passenger-subjects to jump out of the plane. They will do it. Like the people who will proceed "without panic" to the nearest shelter in their community when that "special bulletin" comes on the air and tells them to do so. Because dying power is runaway power, and a dying brain may send a spasm through the body. What is left of the body politic is too weak to resist.

(And yet we could all be wrong. Wouldn't be the first time.)

Like the Captain says: "You know. I've got a funny feeling I've seen this all before. Why ? Cause I’m a caveman. Why ? Cause I've got eyes in the back of my head. Why ? It’s the heat." and when the heat is on, artists too may become seers of an ancient future and an imminent past. They may, like Janus, see things both ways, and Progress as decadence, and "the hand that takes" on the background of an immutable white sun (as in the video of "O Superman"): a circle, a cycle, eternal, though the American plane may for the space of a second blot out the sun, it is actually going down ("The higher you fly, the faster you fall" — "Gravity's Angel"), and the sun is unchanged and unmoved But so is the black box in the American plane. It may or may not survive a crash landing, but it will have been aware of everything to the very last, and contemplated the end with solar impassivity. It may say: "This is the time. And this is the record of the time." ("From the air") Laurie Anderson does. It is her great merit, though mainly a thing of the past, it would seem. Nonetheless, it is enough that she has given new meaning to these words of Albert Camus:

Creer des marts conscientes. c'est dintinuer la distance tfui non' separe du monde et cntrer sans joie dans I'accou/plissement. conscients des images exaltantes d un monde a jamais perdu

In: Vice Versa Vol 1, Numéros 5-6. Magazin Transculturel, Juin/Juillet 1984.

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