Interview with Jesse Darling
Darling’s Room (Karaoke Vape Version), single channel video, 5 minutes 41, 2014
You can do big work on the internet. You can try to teach people things—you can post on a blog or a video about a large and important topic and you can hope that you reach people. You can create an experience on the internet. You can make art. You can make people angry. You can ask everyone to rally around a cause: save children, save animals, save themselves.
You can also do small work on the internet. You can record yourself saying hello. You can tweet about your commute. You can like a Facebook status update or a picture of a cat on Instagram.
The internet is full of noise. It’s a sustained drone of voices. The big work fights hard to yell over the drone—it maximizes and optimizes so that it can be found. It learns which buttons to push on people to get them to pay attention. One sits and strategizes their way to find more eyes on the internet. One plots to keep those eyes on her or himself for as long as possible. People write books on the subject. Companies hire consultants. Everyone tries. Most people fail. The doers of the big work work like hell.
Mostly, the small work doesn’t stand a chance. Mostly.
People everywhere, under very different conditions, are asking themselves - where are we? The question is historical not geographical. What are we living through? Where are we being taken? What have we lost? How to continue without a plausible vision of the future? Why have we lost any view of what is beyond a lifetime?
The well-heeled experts answer. Globalisation. Postmodernism. Communications revolution. Economic liberalism. The terms are tautological and evasive. To the anguished question of where are we, the experts murmur: nowhere. Might it not be better to see and declare that we are living through the most tyrannical - because the most pervasive - chaos that has ever existed? It’s not easy to grasp the nature of the tyranny for its power structure (ranging from the 200 largest multinational corporations to the Pentagon) is interlocking yet diffuse, dictatorial yet anonymous, ubiquitous yet placeless. It tyrannises from off shore - not only in terms of fiscal law, but in terms of any political control beyond its own. Its aim is to delocalise the entire world. Its ideo logical strategy, besides which Osama bin Laden’s is a fairy tale, is to undermine the existent so that everything collapses into its special version of the virtual, from the realm of which (and this is the tyranny’s credo) there will be a never-ending source of profit. It sounds stupid. Tyrannies are stupid. This one is destroying at every level the life of the planet on which it operates.
John Berger,Le Monde diplomatique, February 2003
I move my body meat smell next to yours,
Your spice of Zanzibar. Mine rains, yours pours—
Sex tropics as a way to not be dead.
I don’t know who we are except in bed.
— From “Arabia”
I wake up on a beautiful afternoon after long sleep, mid to late summer. I have nothing to do all day and nobody to do it with. My idea of a good time. I make some coffee in a house that is my own and head out into the world, taking my time. The sun is blaring down and it feels good on my skin. By now it’s probably about four o’clock, five; I end up sitting on the wooden porch of a pub garden which sticks out like a jetty in a shallow lake: my knees are up by my armpits as I rest my feet on the gravel. The pub garden is filling up fast with people sitting drinking feeling garrulous feeling good; there’s a festival-like, or festive, atmosphere, and it’s the kind of day that’s so damn pleasant that strangers smile at each other and say “all right” and all is right with the world. There’s some kind of a show on, an event, and people crowd in around me, some sitting on the gravel. I end up sitting next to an old dude called Polo. He’s in his sixties, Scottish, a drinker for life; like a lot of drunks he’s sweet-natured and sentimental and I don’t mind his company. I take off my shirt like a lot of the guys and let the sun shine on my bare shoulders. The beer I’m drinking is cold and I can feel the buzz starting up. Some pissed-up asshole and his friends loom in close for a moment to comment on my shirtlessness but Polo and the young guy to the right of me - a sweet, right-on student type who [also] doesn’t believe in gender - help me yell them down and out of our space, and it doesn’t seem like a big deal. The show begins, on the footbridge at the end of the beer garden. In the sweaty heat it’s Santa Claus in full uniform, the riot cops; some kind of late capitalist crisis mummer’s play, except that the paddy-wagon is a real one, and it’s full of police. There’s a sniffer dog on a leash, looking obedient but dangerous. A girl comes on, naked or nearly; she does some pretty amazing pole dance acro on the footbridge handrail and we all whistle and cheer. She’s slow-mo twerking - she’s incredibly strong and skilled at this - and when she turns her back to us and opens her legs so we see the hint of an anus it’s really kind of hot. The police stand there in the background, po-faced. Santa seems drunk and holds the rail to steady himself, red in the face beneath the synthetic white.
The girl has everyone going crazy, standing up, hollering and rollering, and I don’t remember how it starts but suddenly the police are down off the footbridge handing out the baton and people are throwing bottles. There’s even some kind of molly (molotov); a flaming arc smashes against the side of the police van and the girl shrieks, suddenly just some poor blonde kid with no clothes on. She and Santa get out of the way. It’s a full-blown riot, but also a hard fight back; it’s getting dark already and shit just keeps going down. Polo and I stay put, not getting into it. He’s wasted, anyway, and has started to cry; I don’t feel like fighting, and I’m pissed off at all this harshing of my mellow. I put my shirt back on. Nice student has joined the fray in the kind of libidinal excitement one finds in young men at a riot.
Now it’s dark and there’s only me and Polo and some of the fallen drunk and wounded and the yellow halogen beacon lights in the pub garden; I’m holding him up straight, he’s weeping and barely conscious. I wonder how I’m going to extricate myself when a huge white graffitied van pulls up on the gravel - maybe it was once an ice cream truck or a falafel kiosk - and a short scruffy guy with dark brown eyes jumps out and without really talking about it he helps me to wrangle Polo into the back of the truck, where there’s a messy mattress among other things. I get in the front. The guy’s familiar. Do I know you? I say. Sure, he shrugs, if you say so, but his eyes are twinkling. You’re LB, I say. LB was the biggest loser in my school except for me; he had huge buck teeth and a weird hybrid Canadian accent and wore heavy metal shirts and was short and the kids would taunt him by chanting L***** B***** WHERE’S YOUR CAR everywhere he went. I was glad to see him in a chill white overall and a big truck; it seemed like an improvement, and my happiness returned as I thought how we’d both done pretty okay with our lives, considering how we started. LB takes us both to a huge and very beautiful, though spare and grubby, warehouse apartment - he’s a graphic “lifestyle designer” for secret clients so rich and exclusive he can’t discuss his work with anyone. I just do whatever the fuck I want, he says, and winks - the weirder and messier I am the better they like it and the more they pay me, you know?
We put Polo to bed in one of the spare rooms and head back to the lounge. We’re the grown-ups, Polo is the child, and now that he’s in bed we can do adult things and talk about adult subjects. LB cracks out an expensive whiskey and we sit talking in hushed and reverential tones about the various strategies we both deployed at school to survive the bullying, and we congratulate each other on having come “so far.”
bored seducers are dying of love inside as much as all of us, though in their case they are dying of the knowledge that if someone takes your insincerity as sincerity, it means the person could never really love you.
— YOU ARE TOO MUCH:
Hannah Black in The New Inquiry
I try to live naked in the world, unashamed even under attack, unafraid even though I know how much there is to fear. What I have always feared is being what people have thought me—my stepfather’s willing toy, my mother’s betrayer, my lover’s faithless tease, my family’s ultimate shame, the slutty, racist, stupid cracker dyke who doesn’t know what she is doing. Trying always to know what I am doing and why, choosing to be known as who —is as tricky as it ever was. I tell myself that life is the long struggle to understand and love fully. That to keep faith with those who have literally saved my life and made it possible for me to imagine more than survival, I have to try constantly to understand more, love more fully, go more naked in order to make others as safe as I myself want to be.