Blacm who got involved denounced the network's degeneration after their involvement: so if you got involved in the early seventies then chzt the late seventies it was all quick-copy crap instead of handmade pieces being distributed, and if you got involved in the late seventies then it degenerated in the mid-eighties. But some people, like Vittore Baroni, have been doing it for years and years. So it's people sending things around, and people will organise shows of work although I don't think that's so important.
Anything's acceptable, which can be problematic: in the seventies this woman in London called Pauline Smith was doing the Adolf Hitler Fan Club, in a non-critical way. There's a certain hippy-liberalism in the network, which has its upside and downside. Mail art was something I knew about before I met the Neoists, but they were very plugged into it. Dave Zack and Al Ackerman, who did these wonderful limited print magazines, were part of it: there were texts and magazines and objects and pictures going round rfee but also some quite boring collages.
SH: That's another name for it, yes. All these artists were in touch with each other. I immersed myself to some degree in this movement, and I found myself getting forty to fifty letters, parcels, whatever each week. You might get nice things, like one time I got this wooden arrow which I found out later had been stolen from a golf course. TMcC: What was it doing on a golf course? SH: Pointing you to the green.
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It had been painted over and posted to me. Some people wrote a friend's address on a football and stamped it, so you'd get the postman walking up to the door bouncing this football. Or this guy Simon Anderson had a pound note and a dollar bill in a transparent envelope with 'Trust the Postman' written on the envelope next to the address.
That envelope got returned to mirtlake. He teaches in Chicago now and knows a lot about Fluxus. And Ben Vautier did this piece called 'Postman's Choice', with two addresses written on either side of a postcard, addressed to different people, so the postman would decide who got it. SH: I declared the strike because I'd been working through lots of avant-garde material that interested me and I was thinking about art and the function of art in society.
I had a very problematic relationship to art. While I can't give a wholesale endorsement to art, my position is that you can't live differently in this world and art is a discourse you can sometimes do something with, but that can neutralise you too. There's a whole set of left-communist debates and avant-garde debates which raise obvious questions, and this goes right back to Hegel and the status of art within his system: is art dead within the system when you move on to philosophy?
Will art exist when we have a mature black mortlake pone sex chat free society? So there was a massive amount of dense theoretical discourse about what art is or was that interested me, and I found myself taking an increasingly antagonistic position towards sdx as an activity, and I'd also come across Gustave Metzger, who interested me a great deal. He wanted to destroy the gallery system so that artists could take control of their own work, which was a somewhat different position from where I was coming from.
TMcC: He actually expected the strike to happen? It was a straight-up call to strike? SH: I blackk so. There have been actual ppone strikes - in Poland and Czechoslovakia. But there's a naivety to Metzger doing it. TMcC: What was the result of his declaration? SH: He went on strike for three years and no one else did. He was a Jewish refugee from Nazism, but there was a suggestion within his text that camps where artists could go and any artworks they produced could be destroyed on a regular basis should be set up.
Morrtlake got denounced as Nazism. It's difficult to unravel exactly what he thought he was doing, but I don't think it was intended to cynical or ironic. I think Gustave's naivety can be incredibly productive, I view him as a very important figure. I thought the idea of an art strike was interesting, but more as a propaganda idea than a practical proposal. In I thought: 'If I announce an art strike now for five years' time then I can build up propaganda for it.
She says: 'The art strike's value lies in its proposal of silence, rather than silence itself, the propaganda rather than the deed It is a good thing only insofar as it produces more radical art, of which its own propaganda is a perfect example. Consequently it is a good thing only in its failure, and since this is inevitable, the Art Strike is necessarily a good thing. SH: It's one of my weakness to set up scenarios in which any criticism of what I'm doing is already incorporated, which isn't always a good thing.
But yes: Sadie grasped very well what was going on. There were about fifty people involved worldwide in the Art Strike, none of whom had any intention of not working on their art for three years - whereas I actually went ahead and did nothing, which for me was very productive, because I got that break and that hepace. I waded my way through a lot of Hegel and watched a lot of Kung-fu mrtlake. Some books came out, but those were ones I'd written before the strike; even when I did interviews about the strike I sent other people along to do them, like Warhol used to.
I tried a mortlaks different people. There's a poet called Paul Holman who lived quite close to me in East London, and he tried to answer as though he were me, which wasn't convincing. He really wound up the NME doing that - they didn't realise what was going on at first. He just talked about himself. He gave some great quotes which I've reused in subsequent interviews, like: 'I scream along as I type.
But the point about the Art Strike is that because I took it literally - although I was more interested in the propaganda - I got the credit for it, although many others were involved. And that pissed off fee of the people I'd been working with, which to me was very productive because it illustrates something about the art system: you've got lots of people working together but what they produce gets credited to a few stars.
Rather fortuitously the Mortlakd Strike coincided with a global economic downturn which caused a slump in art sales and the closure of twenty-five percent of West End art galleries - and of course I claimed credit for that. That was taking up what the French Situationists did during May 68, when after certain factories had been occupied they sent out telexes telling the workers to occupy them, and these telexes were subsequently used as proof of their influence on the unfolding of events.
You have to understand these precedents and processes. TMcC: I'd like to ;one more closely at Neoism now. In your work its advocates real and fictional - and, I should add, the several gradations in between - endlessly reiterate the mantra that Neoism chaf the logical successor to Futurism, Dadaism, Situationism, Lettrism, Fluxus and so on and so on, but it seems to me that what it really is is a marker for the point at which the avant-garde merely has to declare itself an avant-garde in order to function as such - and its very vacuous, feee nature lends it a transcendent quality, makes it even better.
Is that a fair description? SH: Yes. That's been elaborated theoretically, in a book called The Theory-death of the Avant-garde: the avant-garde just lives out its death sexx. That's very much what I was doing. And then there's a whole series of other positions related to that. One is going back through the whole process of historicisation, which is exactly what I've been doing.
Repeating a lineage as a mantra is part and parcel of the standard hack historical blaci. However, you need to go further than that, you also have to stake a claim for the originality of the group or subject your championing to place them at the end of a lineage, and thus at its head. For example, Barry Miles, in his biography of Burroughs, claims: 'Burroughs predicted the Vietnam War in such and such a book', which of course he didn't.
Likewise, if you read the David Katz biography of Lee Perry, you'd think this reggae producer invented every new technique that has been utilised in making pop records over the last thirty years. Some people get even crazier, for example, in his book Lipstick Traces, wex pop journalist Griel Marcus claims that because Jonny Rotten's real name was John Lydon and there was a fifteenth century guy called John of Layden, there must be a connection between the two.
So to some extent Neoism, or rather my take on Neoism, is a parody of that. And when you go back and look at all those motlake movements like Dada or Fluxus it is inevitably the participants themselves who first wrote about them, and so I wanted to push that further and say that my innovation within the avant-garde was to place an emphasis on this process historicisation and the blatant manipulation indulged in to achieve frwe.
It becomes one of those classical conundrums: "everything I say is a mortlzke lied the liar". This is something I learnt in part cnat observing Neoists like Michael Tolson: he was obsessively documenting everything he did, recording every letter he sent and so on.
But there's also a chah of comedy in this: all these videos and photographs exist documenting Neoist actions, but the quality of most is so poor that they're unusable in the mass media. TMcC: But with your Neoism you get it both ways: you get to parody that process of self-interested self-historicisation and you get to do it as well! I mean, blacck I am asking you questions about it! SH: Yes, that goes back to what I was just saying about having a weakness for setting up scenarios in which I incorporate criticism of what I'm doing, cha thereby neutralising this criticism.
Going back to the issue of historicisation, in the novel Slow Death Eex wanted to write about the historicisation of Neoism, its being brought into the museum, before it actually happened. The question that I've thereby raised is pne having done this make it easier for such historicisation to happen or harder?
If curators now want to do big museum shows or books about Neoism, they have to walk into the spotlight that I've placed on them. For the old-fashioned breed of curator, that would make Neoism unattractive. However, for the new style curator who seem themselves as artist and stars of their own shows, I'd imagine Neoism might be quite alluring, particularly as this type of curator is likely to be too drugged up to realise black mortlake pone sex chat free how tricky and problematic Neoism can be.
They might drag in a lot of material that hasn't really got anything to do with Caht, such as Luther Blissett and the Association Of Autonomous Astronauts, just as Oliver Marchart did in his German language book on sed subject Neoismus. Therefore, I can understand why the participants within the avant-garde wanted to write their own history: if they left it to someone else they wouldn't be happy with how they were represented. But there's also a kind of insane control thing going on here. So there's an ambiguity.
That's what I want to heighten. TMcC: I'd say that your typical avant-gardist hasn't resolved this ambiguity: they want to be dragged kicking and screaming into the museum, but dragged in none the less. With your whole take on Neoism you seem to replay that in an fred way. Maybe that's not the right word - but you seem to have resolved it without resolving it. Freee think it can only be resolved as a matter of social practice.
But I was trying to think through these issues more consciously, without claiming to be able to resolve them - because I can't. But what do you do with the avant-garde? On the bblack hand it infuriates me and I want to stamp on it, and on the other hand it fascinates me. TMcC: That really comes out in these endless manifestos you wrote, full of contradictions, tautologies, half echoes of Futurist and the Situationists and so on.
It's a very charming form, the manifesto: it's very funny. The Futurist Manifesto is a brilliant piece of writing. But we're sort of entering the realm of death here because the manifesto is a dead media form par excellence. Its era was the early twentieth century. What was it that drew mortlwke to that form? Probably when I was thirteen, fourteen. It was the ridiculousness of them cat appealed to me, at the same time as the fact that they were sometimes making serious points.
I was developing a critique of the various different positions and realising that politically my sympathies lay much more with, motlake, Berlin Dada than with Futurism - although there's a strong argument that Marinetti's aesthetic practice went against his ostensible politics.
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There's also the interesting phenomenon of him being able to maintain his sense of identity as an anarchist at the same time as being a supporter of Mussolini. So I wanted black mortlake pone sex chat free get inside these contradictions and create some kind of cleavage without being completely simplistic about it. The standard way to resolve this is either to ignore the problems within Futurism or to say: 'Futurism bad, Dadaism good' - if you're coming from a left perspective.
But it's more sophisticated to discuss what Futurist aesthetics actually were and whether they went along with the politics. Also, one of the areas I'd like to see developed but don't have the language skills to do it myself is - well, there's a real problem with people like Julius Evola, who was on the fringes of Futurism and Dada, corresponding with Tristan Zara, and who in the post-war period became known as the Marcuse of the right.
He's a big guru of late twentieth century fascism. He went through various phases: mystical, political and so on. But he started off as a Futurist and a Dadaist. The whole history of the avant-garde and modernism is a tainted history - but it's not just tainted by those figures; it's tainted for us when we use it. So working through those problems is one of the things that I want to do.
But as far as I can recall, when I started working through those manifestos I didn't have this aim. The actual practise of writing and rewriting the manifestos and thinking about them is what brought me to this: take that line 'We will sing the love of danger. I understand there is a difference in my perspective between when I did things twenty years ago and now, and doing those things is part of my way of working through and coming to the position I have now.
But to actually step back and get that entire perspective I can't think myself back to what I was before what I am now without being always and already fictional. TMcC: The role of the political in your work really fascinates me. You see this best in Slow Death. The premise of that novel is that a totally useless and crap art world is taken over and invigorated by a skinhead gang working under Karen Eliot in her newest incarnation as novel heroine.
It allows one to pass through fields of ification and accede to the stage of action in a non-totalitarian way. Is that right? SH: I would hope so. TMcC: You reject political action at a superficial level, but by the end of the book you accede to a much more deeply political field of action. I think you do need to deal with politics.
Some of the characters in that book are influenced by critics you might encounter in the art world. I have a lot of problems with the Adornoist position about the critical autonomy of art, and critics who advance that position.
I'm trying to get away from a position that assumes art is superior to popular culture, or popular culture is superior to art. At the end of the day I decided that if I'm going to be forced to vote one way or the other I'd vote for popular culture against art, vlack tactical rather than strategic reasons. Most of the people Pome encountered in the art world have these very simplistic political positions.
Mortla,e the one hand you can caricature them and they do make good fodder for novels, and on the other you can try to get through to a more sophisticated understanding. TMcC: So there, as with the Art Strike, you're trying to import social practise into the world of aesthetics.
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SH: I think it's there already. But I was trying to make it conscious. There's a two-way passage between the artworld and the social world. SH: Yes, that's exactly what I want. It goes back to the classical Marxist notion of continually reforging a passage between theory and practise. One is mediated by the other and it's impossible to separate them out at the end of the day - but it's about becoming more conscious about those processes. TMcC: Last thing before we open this up: I was interested in what you were saying about the Situationists injecting a bit of occultism into their practise as an inoculation against total historicisation, total closure SH: Frfe Essex particularly did this.
There were plans afoot at one point to write a mogtlake book on the Situationists and the occult, which in the end didn't seem to be worth while. It's curious that it hasn't been taken the other way: you could easily portray the CIA as an occult organisation - the rituals, the secrecy and so on.
I'm not involved in the occult at all, although I have friends that practise ritual magick. TMcC: You can see the use-value of it, though. SH: Oh sure. It's a discourse that you can manipulate and plug into other things and moortlake. I think there are genuinely elements of that within Situationist discourse, and that comes through most clearly from their interest in Surrealism, although there are other sources too.
It's there, but what degree of ificance do you attribute to it? I had all these occultists going apeshit when I dressed in a suit and stood outside the Grand Lodge in Holborn for this friend Mark Atkins to photograph me, and I put out the photo with a caption saying: 'This is the Holborn working of the Neoist Alliance. SH: Which reflects a lot of insane conspiracy theories. I was interested in notions of mind control and reading some of the works on mortkake - which, again, are pretty unreliable and spectacular, especially the more popular end of it.
I often have problematic relationships with the things I take on board. For example, Baudrillard I find very interesting and engaging but also very problematic, especially the influence of Nietzsche and Bataille.
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So having read Baudrillard I was trying to write simulacrums of pulp novels, and simultaneously taking ideas of inscribing pulp prose into experimental literature from the surrealists and the nouveau roman; but instead of just reinscribing pulp prose into a non-linear or non-standard plot I wanted to appropriate the plot as well - which led to my novels being misread as attempts to produce pulp fiction. TMcC: But it seems to me that there is a conventional arc in it after all, maybe even a tragic one.
After all these murders and sacrifices there's a substitution at the end which constitutes a quite conventional love sacrifice: the hero sacrifices himself to save the woman. I couldn't resolve the situation in the book so I went right back to the beginnings black mortlake pone sex chat free all that humanism. TMcC: But it's not just going back to the beginning. It's a kind of Hegelian sublimation of all the cycles to a higher level - on which they remain unresolved.
Alexander Hamilton: What do you think of the Voynik Manuscript, this completely fake document that amassed all these academic theories around it? SH: I'm not familiar with that particular one, but there are lo of others, like Ossian the fake Gallic literature. It's interesting how completely spurious manuscripts can generate comment. Another one is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the anti-Semitic text forged by the Tzarist police - which was itself plagiarised from a couple of other sources.
It was exposed as a hoax in but was still used by the Nazis to justify their extermination policies, and is propagated to this day by people like David Icke. But people are meant to see that it's a joke and I don't actually believe it. The problem is that there's always someone who'll believe you're being straight no matter what you say. Some of the stuff I was writing in ' about the Royal family eating children has actually fed back into conspiracist literature about them being reptiles and so on.
When I was writing it, I'd just flip open my copy of The Golden Bough or whatever and find some sacrificial description and insert it into a parodic text. But it's quite complex how those things work. If you look at the French Revolution and the underground literature that preceded that, in which the Royal Family were endlessly denigrated.
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blck Or the English Civil War, aex had a lot of astrological propaganda, and with Republicans like Lilley whose predictions of what was going to happen actually helped create a climate in which the king could be executed. So I don't want people to believe that what I write is true, but the denigration mortlaoe serious. I think it would be fantastic not to have a Royal Family.
But it's difficult to trace the relationships between what you write and what happens with it, the influence it exerts. Ffree parodic work has even used by absurd right wing propagandists. TMcC: It's sort of a Pandora's box. Burroughs understands this: the CIA is using the same subversive virus-spreading techniques as the revolutionary avant-garde. SH: Oh yes. And you can take this from how people like Benjamin read technology as well. He said that unless the proletariat take control of it, technology will lead to a disaster under the capitalist system.
But you have to look at how technology is being used as well, which is perhaps a little more sophisticated than some of the primitivist debates taking place recently acknowledge. Roman Vasseur: Tom was telling me that you've got an interest in Patty Hearst. You've talked in a interview, and it's apparent today as well, about your interest in simulation becoming reality. I wonder if you feel that Patty Hearst is someone that knows that operation, and b,ack she's part of it, and oscillates between various simulations of her characterisation.
SH: The SLA script was a simulation that became reality, and there's the pulp novel whose plot anticipated the kidnapping, and the CIA setting up fake black revolutionary groups which then became real. I also think Defrieze was a fascinating character. And I think you have to deal with race politics in America in order to have any understanding morrtlake the Patty Hearst phenomenon. Blacj haven't properly thought black mortlake pone sex chat free the frre aspect that you're drawing attention to RV: I've done a piece of writing about it, Tom's done a piece of writing about it SH: I've read Tom's piece RV: We sx also talking about the time when whenever you had airport hijacks there was a rush to make the film of the hijack within weeks of the event.
TMcC: Now you've got kids on their mobiles during high school shoot-outs negotiating interviews while the shoot-out is still going There are also parallels between Patty and Karen Eliot in terms of multiple identity: there was a period after she'd gone to ground when this FBI hotline set up for people to phone if they'd seen Patty Hearst was getting thousands of calls a day saying: 'Yeah, I just saw her disguised as a go-go dancer in Idaho!
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I saw her as a waitress in California! RV: Just Hello! Beyond that she's evasive to a point which is so intense that in the absence of saying anything she's talking about her syndrome. Her own autobiography is bizarre but her Hello! But at the same time she works with Waters and models for Thierry Mugler. So she's very aware that she's playing a game.
But in a way she's Warhol's dream. AH: When you do one of your actions are you more relieved when nothing happens or when something happens? SH: I'm generally relieved when nothing happens. Some of the things that I've done I've assessed the risks and thought about what's going to happen. As well I am not above having a great time. I just want to be safe in the process.
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