Thursday 23 September 2010

Searching For The Keeley Institute - Kensington

Bit of a random walk through Kensington last sunday. Our main intention was to find some locations from a few films - namely "Satanic Rites Of Dracula", "Performance" and "Repulsion", but took in a few other interesting sites. Here is an octagonal library - actually a pre-fab, nicknamed "The Hut" - at Baron's Court. 

Da Mario's restaurant on a corner of Gloucester Road fondly remembers Princess Diana who used to visit the place with William and Harry. Apparently they serve a pizza named after Diana. The building is largely ornate but the neon lighting of the disco signs give it a slightly tacky heir: the glitzy godhead with a lurid underbelly; but that's the nature of personality too. Perhaps Warhol's emotional blankness rather than being a trait of autism, was a form of protection against the pain of revealing his personality. Was Ballard's deliberately clinical style of writing exactly this, a form of self-regulation. When linearity becomes too occluded, it's time to breakdown the words that construct linear reality. Create a new blueprint for the future. What we are doing now is a ritual for what we will be in 5 years time. We live out myth before we are conscious of it. When the myth becomes too conscious of itself  it becomes codified. But what is the myth of dismantling? Dionysus and Osiris are too melodramatic, too much pain, something more ludic is required, ludic but not frivolous...

Hillman in "City and Soul", has an essay in  "The Street Corner: Gods, Disease, Politics".  Recalling Joseph Campbell, he says the Gods are right here on the corner of Broadway and 42nd street, waiting for the lights to change. In the same essay Hillman states "Certitude is the concrete engagement with life, and it precedes all principles, theories, and interpretations, in thought or law. We live myth before we declare it to be myth".

The buildings in Kensington portray a wedding cake facade to reality. After the walk, the idea came to me for a material practice - "magick concrete"... a way of working with the anima mundane... the only materials we have.

Hillman, again, in "City and Soul" says when the budget is cut on urban development, the first things to go are the objects that beautify the planned space - the murals, the fountains. Dali used to stare at a blank canvas until the image reified on it. A practice of magick concrete, the concrete irrational. Time to remove the murals.

Queen's Gate Mews - was a location for the film "Performance", the scene where the chauffeur has his head shaved. A Zen practice. The central theme of "Performance"  -  one person becoming another, the film also employed cut-up. The dismantling of narrative, essential for not being yourself. When words fail us (myths come from the mouth) our only cues come from the concrete.

Lots of furrowed browed ontology, so here is the "Keeley Institute", a possible Headquarters for English Heretic. Well actually, it's Elvaston Place, setting for the microbiology lab in "The Satanic Rites Of Dracula". In the background, is the new English Heretic mystery machine. Yep in true bathic style, the heart of Sunday's mission resolves in camp lampoonery. As Charlie Chaplin said "Comedy is life in long shot, tragedy life in close up". There's nothing like distance, to get perspective and humour. The complete distance and irony of Ballard's forensic writing style knows this too... irony before it was post-modern, irony when necessity made it the weapon of choice. The word irony comes from the Greek eiron. The eiron in Greek comedy was the character who bought down his braggard opponent alazon through a mixture of understatement and self-depreciation. It's interesting to see how the word has been inverted to become a weapon of choice for alazon, the smug. Ballard's use of irony in "Atrocity Exhibition" was borne from tragedy, a means of bringing down alazon, a world that purports to be rational... Camp lampoonery masks the truth. The impossibly groovy pink bubble car and the ridiculously ornate and imagined headquarters are fictions of eiron - things that will never be - unless we hotwire the car and squat "The Keeley Institute".

Dino's Italian Restaurant - location for Roman Polanski's "Repulsion".

"Repulsion" was the first in Polanski's trilogy of Apartment films - following on to "Rosemary's Baby" and culminating with "The Tenant". It is the perfect metaphor for the disintegrating furniture of the personality. I've been wondering recently why the interest with psychogeography and found objects. Is it because the interiors of our myths are messy: over-exposed and psychotic soap operas. Our personalities are so distorted by the celebrity of ourselves, that the only clues as to who we are must be gleaned from the exterior, the concrete: alchemical ciphers of the outside - the meditative woodcuts to describe our soul journeys. Moreover where the personality bleeds across hypermedia, it is necessary to contain the bubbling alembics of our volatility within the apartment: to surrogate who we are to psychometric objects. The squatted Keeley Institute is the setting for a subliminal bio-pic, the pink car, an escape vehicle to a split second cameo in a fantasy of our ever more atomised future selves.

Thurloes Beauty Parlour - location in "Repulsion".

The character Carol in "Repulsion" works at the beauty parlour, Thurloes. As she descends into psychosis she retreats to her apartment, the noise of her schizophrenia rendered unbearable by the outside world. But the walls of her apartment soon become her persecutors. Apparently psychiatrists on viewing "Repulsion" applauded the film for its accurate portrayal of schizophrenia and were surprised to find out Polanski and his co-writer had done no research, just followed a train of thought from her circumstances. The creative process as paranoia.

Jung says the Gods are in the diseases. Not only are the Gods standing at the street corner waiting for the lights to change, but the traffic lights themselves are minor deities of decision and risk. The "incentive salience" hypothesis of schizophrenia posits that sufferers experience abnormal dopamine firing to events considered insignificant to healthy people. For example, a traffic light changing colour may be seen as a significant event - dopamine being the reward drug in the brain - when we experience dopamine firing it hard wires meaning to the stimulus. Gordon Burn's "Born Yesterday" is a master lesson (and warning) about the incentive salience of our hooked-on hyperlink existences. The book starts with the author  encountering Margaret Thatcher in a London park. In a weird coincidence, my guide on Sunday's walk realised that Thurloes beauty parlour is now used by Margaret  Thatcher. The ex PM turns up every few weeks in a blacked out limo to get her blue rinse. My guide and her friend watch her from the cafe across the road during their  lunch break. We are going to try to get a photograph of this surreal palimpsest of film location. What is the significance to our conspiratorial inner documentaries - the Panoramas of our paranoia. We are like crazed David Dimblebys, CPU accelerated, our minds racing faster than a drunken Henri Paul, down the underpass to cataclysm at column 13 with schlocky Goddesses. Our world becomes revved up. We are no longer allowed melancholia in our vales but force sped through the dark night of the soul.

There must be a way to halt this collision course with infinity, before we vapourize... But quietude as antidote is the hermit's cop-out. The walls of the cave will  become his persecutors. In fact antidote is the problem. Interiorisation in reaction to exteriorisation, depression to paranoia. Is dialectic the way to insight of the outside? Jarry said he was writing above everyone's head including his own. It's time to write below everyone's feet  - including our own. To feel the ground beneath our feet.

'A trained scout will see little signs and tracks, he puts them together in his mind and quickly reads a meaning from them such as an untrained man would never arrive at'.

So states Baden-Powell in "Scouting for Boys: A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship". A couple of years ago, I attended the launch of Steven Freeman's book "Paranoia: 21st century disease", actually nearby in Kensington. It argued that increased urban living was a major factor in the prevalence of paranoia.
However, I feel, over communication is also a major contributory factor, moreover insight will be the real disease of 21st century. Paranoia will no longer cause the agitation that defines it as a disease; insight will cause agitation. There is a way out: accept insight is paranoia read backwards. Baden-Powell's affirmation is the perfect aphorism of paranoiac insight. For a while I've photographed signs on buildings, sometimes etched in, sometimes a pleasant retro-font. They fire the imagination, jokes, puns. The reading of the exoteric as one big hermetic wordplay is the key to Fulcanelli's "Mystery Of Cathedrals". People no longer offer us clues to who we are. The psychologists took away our masks, the neuroscientists moleculised us. Both Phillip K. Dick's "Time Out Of Joint" and Walter J Miller's "A Canticle For Leibowitz" start with the past revealing itself through discovering the words behind the world. In "Time Out Of Joint",a soft-drink stand dematerialises to be replaced by a scrap of paper saying "soft drink stand". In "A Canticle For Leibowitz", the monk, entering a nuclear fall out shelter discovers a shopping list from the 20th Century.

I've always had an uneasy relationship with the scout movement. I never joined having been put off  by some graffiti on the local scout hut: "Cubs are spastics". Years later, I found "The Ladybird Book of Scouts". One of the pages had a drawing of a disabled scout practicing archery, holding the bow with his feet. The text explained that even though a scout may be "spastic or delicate" he can still join in. I think this is the key to being insightful in an age of perfect paranoia. Disabled with insight, we can still join in with joys of paranoia, play little jokes with ourselves and yet hit the target. English Hermetic. To paraphrase "Time Out Of Joint" - "Suppose Dr. Champagne is becoming sane again?"


People have their year... mine was 1973. It was also "The Osmonds" year. 13 top ten hits and a Mormon concept album "The Plan".  "The Plan" was "The Osmond's" "Dark Side Of The Moon", also released in 1973.  1973 was when I first experienced England. My family moved back from Kenya that year, we went out in 1968, when I was 3 months old.  Increasingly, I have found the English Heretic project hankering for a move away from England, to not be in England. If the Keeley Institute is an imagined headquarters, then the Mormon church is a snapshot from a psychic world tour. Again we can reconstruct an exoticism from a carefully edited perspective of the exoteric - this is dream cinematography. One could almost be in Utah. Could it be possible to create an entirely false travelogue from capturing the mundane at the correct angle? Raymond Roussel-like we do not need experience Africa in order to write our impressions of the place. Might some Oulipo like manoeuvre with found objects and tactical psycho-photography allow us access to the narrative that could not possibly exist through a linear and neurotic analysis of our biographies. If we can successfully remap our creative memories, then we can create imaginary biographies and fictions from that.  The Mormon church becomes the headquarters of the Eironists, a magical organization, part scientology part CBT. Their followers, under the tutelage of Dr. Champagne have successfully activated their ajna chakras through concentrated experiments with the animated mundane. But we think Dr. Champagne maybe going insane again, he's been listening to too much Pink Floyd and "The Plan"...

Ognisko's Polish Club - Of course, working with magick concrete is a dangerous pursuit. Dealing with reality as it actually is and trying to fashion it into a holistic dream through our limitless tendency to fantasy is bound to lead to hypermania. We need a come down, that's why all operations with the hermetic exterior end up down the pub. We need a bit of glutamate inhibition... Jean Julien Champagne one of the protagonists behind the Fulcanelli mask was an absinthe abuser... I suspect "The Langue Verte" alluded to in "Mystery of Cathedrals" is absinthe. Jarry too. This Polish club is another place that might not be in England: leather panelled bar, paintings of army generals and antler shaped light fixtures. Iam now becoming obsessed with the exiled and the alien East European.

Polanski - cinema's paranoid everyman, survivor of Auschwitz, husband of Manson murder victim. Could it be that the first two apartment films "Repulsion" and "Rosemary's Baby" were inadvertant magic ceremonies for the murder of Sharon Tate. "Repulsion" was made in 1965.  As I said earlier, what we are doing now is a ritual rehearsal for what we will be in 5 years time. It took 7 years (following Tate's murder) for Polanski to complete the trilogy with "The Tenant"... Tellingly the film stars Polanski himself. He takes over the flat of someone who has attempted suicide and takes on their persona. We never see the face of the previous tenant. Polanski visits her in hospital, but the woman screams as she sees Polanski from behind her bandaged face... who is this person - Sharon Tate or Polanski himself?  Could it be "The Tenant" is a confession of Polanski's role in the cinema ritual that led to his wife's murder?

So to end at the beginning, the first photograph in this journey has not been extrapolated, mythopoetically tied in. It's strange, it's taken me a few days to construct this tour. Increasingly I've felt like the accompanying pictures serve the role of some kind of major arcana in a tarot reading of the world as it is. Italo Calvino's "Castle of Crossed Destinies" reframed in the kingdom of Kensington. What is it in this picture that caused me to take it?  Along with Polanski, Warhol, alien in America, seems to have the answer. Warhol said "I just think any picture you take is a good picture". Of course the profane think Warhol is taking the piss, but he's not, he's making the pith. He is the first mystic of the latter day church of the eironists. What he's saying is that irrespective of what we photograph we are revealing the soul of our world. Even children, clumsily photographing their feet, are grasping with the magnitude of the task the camera offers them. Not only is it time to write below everyone's feet, but also to photograph our feet. To capture the sole of the world.

Of course now I can see why I took this picture. It's the fact that the sign is falling to bits - the libary is due to be demolished - the letter "R" is falling - one of the three Ars. It seems like the ultimate image of eiron, the library is defunct. Information without insight offers us nothing of ourselves and everything of a reconstructed artificial engrammed tomorrow. Burroughs' mantra of cut-up experimentation is the perfect heading for this picture: "Word falling, photo falling, breakthrough in the grey room"... The grey room is the alchemical laboratory to distill the concrete yet masonic -  of updating Fulcanelli's reading of Notre Dame, to work out the myth of what is, rather than what was,  or what we wish to be.
"Dr Champagne, he may be coming, Messianic again, too much animation, much too mundane"