Two Pear-Shaped Pieces

Ren & Stimpy. Image:

This is my response to having just completed the busiest semester of my life. Occupied with Ed Ruscha, Gerhard Richter and Dan Graham for most of the last few months, I haven’t had the brain-space to develop three pieces that have been at the back of my mind for some time. Now that the semester is over, I’m reluctant to start trying to ‘develop’ things again until the New Year has come and gone. Here, then, are two of these three pear-shaped pieces, served up in compressed form. Not wishing to spoil you, I’ll save the third for a later date.

1.  ‘From IOB to BwO: Animating deterritorialization in the Nicktoons golden era’

That was an (only semi-serious) essay title  I came up with after noticing that the acronym used to describe Gilles Deleuze’s concept of ‘the Body without Organs’ looked a bit like the acronym used to refer to ‘Inside-Out Boy’, a character featured in a 5 shorts made for Nicktoons in their early ’90s heyday. Actually, reading Deleuze’s account of the ‘BwO’ for the first time (in his book on Francis Bacon, ‘The Logic of Sensation’) a few days earlier had transported me back to some vague recollection of this strange dysmorphic boy, whose catchphrases I distinctly remember parroting (“Guts!”; “Where are my pants?!”).

The more I started to comb back over Nicktoons’s output at the time (especially the work of animator John Kricfalusi, whose Spümcø studio made ‘Ren & Stimpy’), the more impressed I was by the fruitful connections that can perhaps be drawn between their obsessively re-iterated interest in bodily deconstruction and distortion, and the revolutionary ideas surrounding somatic composition in Deleuze’s writings. I would write that essay if only I could understand Deleuze’s arguments in a bit more detail, but for the moment it will suffice to watch this episode of Ren & Stimpy alongside this beautiful, enigmatic passage from ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, in which Deleuze and his writing partner Félix Guattari give a recipe for ‘building’ a Body without Organs:

This is how it should be done. Lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flow conjunctions here and there, try out continua of intensities segment by segment, have a small plot of new land at all times. It is through a meticulous relation with the strata that one succeeds in freeing lines of flight, causing conjugated flows to pass and escape and bringing forth continuous intensities for a BwO.

2. Live In Dreams 

I’ve been playing Wild Nothing’s 2010 album ‘Gemini’ almost none-stop since I first acquired it in late August. This has almost nothing to do with having seen them live that same month, as part of this year’s Green Man Festival. On record, Wild Nothing (a project name for Virginia native Jack Tatum) create a compelling soundscape, one that plays out as if heard in a dream, or at least on the cusp of sleeping and waking (my understanding is here enslaved to the reading of ‘Hypnagogic Pop’ advanced by Simon Reynolds among others, but it’s a convincing argument that these critics put forward). As a result, it is profoundly intimate music  whose effect is well and truly lost in a live setting, where pedals and speaker stacks fail to replicate the warm studio fug that makes this music feel so ‘hypnagogic’. As musical production, at least at the hipper end of the scale, moves increasingly into the bedroom and into the solipsistic realms of solo acts with band-type names, I’m intrigued by the idea that we might be left with a whole generation of artists who prove out of their depth in anything beyond a one-to-one listening experience (aren’t we supposed to be entering the era when concert ticket sales are everything?!). Take this Primavera Sound set by another solo act with a band-type name, Ducktails (AKA Alex Phelan): it’s not as bad as it sounded the first time I listened to it, but it’s nowhere near the heights of a song like ‘Apple Walk’:

An afterthought: I know that a number of people who’ll read these articles will have promised/responded somewhat favourably to overwhelming pressure to write an article for me. Now is the the time, people!

by Luke Healey


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