An interview with The Imp of the Perverse (November, 2OO5)
Q: You have been called incomprehensible, outrageous, stupid, enigmatic, mad, aloof, risible, surreal, alien, visionary, bombastic, strange, a genius, a charlatan and a mere flâneur, amongst other things. So who or what are you?
IoP: I am not a musician, a writer, a photographer, a painter or an artist. I am an independent creator of perverse prods. To be categorised is to move one step closer to being commodified.
Q: Can you explain, please?
IoP: Buddhist teachers traditionally would not talk about their ideas unless asked three times, and they would never take any money for their lessons, advice or words. Similarly, I find the notion of buying and selling ‘art’ uncomfortable, to say the least. But in a capitalist, consumer society like ours, whose dominant values are greed, selfishness and market forces, how is a creative person to survive and distribute his stuff, unless he plays the money game? My instincts and my reasoning tell me these things should be freely accessible to all who want them, and the creator should be happy to pass them on without expectation of financial gain. This seems to be a minority view.
Q: What’s the alternative?
IoP: I feel much closer to the do-it-yourself/independent/anarchist/William Blakean philosophy-aesthetic. And the internet is a great tool for it. As giant corporations expand imperialistically, swallowing smaller record companies, book publishers, film producers, broadcasters, galleries, shops and supermarkets, choice diminishes. They promote bland mediocrity to boost their profits. Subversive, challenging, dissident or revolutionary ‘art’ is ignored until it withers away or is assimilated, turned into a fashionable product. Look what happened to punk-rock in the 1970s, for example.
Q: But those corporations use the internet to advertise their wares...
IoP: Shamelessly! Yes. Guess what? I’m doing the same. And so should everybody else.
Q: Even those with no talent?
IoP: Ah! You’ve put your finger on it. The word ‘talent’ has two main dictionary definitions. The original meaning was as an amount of money; its secondary meaning, which has become its primary one, is as a special creative or intellectual ability. That is how closely ‘art’ and capitalism are melded and embedded in our language. So much so that if somebody doesn’t make a pretty penny from his work he is labelled ‘unsuccessful’, an ‘amateur’ or a ‘dilettante’. But we should live to create not create to live.
Q: It seems like a dilemma. Is there a solution?
IoP: Various ideas have been proposed, such as methods that have been used in other times and places. One can give things away, exchange them, accept donations, mass-produce (to reduce the cash value of each unique item), or disseminate works by diverse methods, the web being one.
Q: It doesn’t sound easy.
IoP: Perhaps not, no. It’s always a lot easier to go along with the majority, the prevailing zeitgeist. But it is exciting. Information is in many ways our new religion, or should that be opium? Depends whether it sedates or stimulates, I suppose. That depends on the content. And it’s plain to see that most modern, and post-modern, ‘art’ has no ethical dimension, it steers clear of individual and social responsibility. It certainly has no spiritual aspirations; it is shallow and pointless. It does not inspire people. It is not alone in that, - neither do politics or religion. Football has taken their place!
Q: Speaking of which, your output shows that you are rather concerned about political questions. Why?
IoP: Because they affect everything we do, and that is done to us. Today we live in capitalist, bourgeois bureaucracies. Politics is principally just middle-management administration, marketing, propaganda and public relations. The assumption that we have any significant effect is a joke. The proposition that the individual has a moral duty to participate in a democracy, as adumbrated by Huxley amongst others, I think, is no longer valid. Indeed, the opposite may well be the case.
Q: You mean not voting on purpose?
IoP: Yes. I would suggest that somebody should found a political party which isn’t one; it would enable citizens to opt out of the current rigmarole officially. It would also debunk two of the favourite excuses of the pin-striped men, - that people aren’t interested in political ideas generally, and that it is because they don’t like the methods of voting available to them that they don’t rush to do it. The manifesto of each candidate of this party would be: “if you put your X against my name on the ballot paper it indicates that you’re consciously not voting for any of the other candidates or parties, and that you are not endorsing their policies or the so-called ‘democratic’ institutions that produced them, because you don’t agree with any of them.” Voter turnout in elections is already lower than ever, so we’re halfway to our goal before we start! Even prior to the farce of ‘President’ Bush junior's first election in the U.S.A. the system was ridiculous nonsense; to invade other countries in order to impose it upon them negates what little credibility ‘Democracy’ still had.
Q: Now you’re sounding disaffected or. . .nihilistic.
IoP: Really? Well, when creativity (or art or aesthetics, as it is also called) and politics are integrated, along with spirituality, metaphysics, science and morality, things will be very different, as you can imagine. But in the meantime some have to deviate from cultural and social conventions in order to perceive new beauties and truths. You probably have to be very courageous or very foo1ish to do so, but for them it is obligatory. They have inner autonomy and persistence.
Q: You’re not asking much, are you? Any other advice?
IoP: Yes. Don’t eat animals. I could argue the case, but that would be another entire interview...
Q: ...and we’re running out of time. Can you tell me why anyone should bother?
IoP: We’re always running out of time, and energy. Entropy, as an aspect of all-pervading impermanence, is the primary law of the universe. We are human, and so our attempts to be transcendent will inevitably fail, to a greater or lesser extent. But that doesn’t matter. We should be bothered because otherwise the amount of shit in the world will not be reduced, in fact, it will probably increase.
Q: What if nobody cared about listening to your ramblings?
IoP: They don’t have to. If no-one believed in gravity or the speed of light they would still exist.