Thursday, 27 September 2012


Today, good reader, is our fifth birthday! Yes it's five years to the day since the first ever 'Lucid Frenzy' entry was posted, a look at the first 'Quatermass Xperiment' film. Of course it's been nine years since things actually began, as an old-school photocopied fanzine handed out to all and sundry. (Well, not to all but there was the odd bit of sundry.) And it's nigh-on thirty years since I first started contributing to comics fanzines.

But that just makes me feel old, so let's focus on the most recent anniversary and celebrate by outlining the two pillars of Lucid Frenzy.

Now Islam, needless to say, has marshalled five pillars to its name. But that’s a global religion steeped in ancient wisdom. Here at Lucid Frenzy we’re more of a budget enterprise, and the most we can muster is two. In a half-hearted attempt to atone for this, each comes with an accompanying illustration. (Actually, one’s a video.)

Of course these may have differed if one of the other mooted names for this blog had come to pass; which included Double Negative, Sympathetic Magic, The Iconoclastic Fury, To Encourage the Others, A Hotbed of Baboonery, Crash Course, Hurly Burly, Dirty Looks and Early Closing Wednesday. (Dirty Looks would have at least upped the Google hits. And I do still intend to one day open a web shop for my comics which closes early on a Wednesday.)

1. A Lucid Frenzy

“Although rationality is a marvelous tool, it has its limits. Sometimes intuition can yield equally powerful and impressive results. But the title suggests having fun.”

Though I borrowed this blog’s name from a surrealist term it’s perhaps best illustrated by a Diego Riviera linocut, ‘The Communicating Vessels’ (1938, above), which doesn’t use the term at all! His aim was to illustrate Breton’s description of the relationship between dream and wakefulness not as opposite states but as an interaction, a perpetual interplay, like the ebb and flow of a fluid between two containers.

I’m attracted to this concept because it does precisely what Surrealism often didn’t do. Observing that the “bourgeois culture” of its era fetishised consciousness and feared the Freudian id, it attempted to turn all that upside down. Yet just to take up a parallel fetishisism, merely of the unconscious, was always heading for a fall. The common observation that surrealist imagery now fills adverts has its moment of truth here. We’re now told our dreams and desires can be fulfilled if we start buying shit.

Not only does Riviera’s image seem to me to be a more desirable state of affairs, it’s also a better description of how the act of creation works. The intuitive and puzzle-solving aspects of the brain have to work in an alliance. If they do then the result, both lucid and frenzied, will always be more than the sum of its parts.

Furthermore, there’s a tendency to assume critical writing merely applies some post-hoc analytical thinking to the original moment of artistic insight. The artist leaps boldly off into pastures new, then the critic follows while delineating the map. This seems to me to make pretty much the same error as above. The vessels communicate in your own head, which then ebb and flow into the original artwork and back. By making you see the artwork in a different light, the critic has effectively rewritten that work. As music writer Simon Reynolds has argued:

“Theory seemed to provide genuine illumination into qualities and powers possessed by the music. But beyond that the combination of the ideas and the music had a potentiation effect, to use the pharmacological term for when two drugs synergize to create a fiercer buzz.”

(Actually, after titling this blog, I realised that the Surrealists hadn’t used the term much at all! If you google it you mostly get references to here. The few other hits sometimes use it to mean what I mean, but more often take it as a general statement of exhilaration. Pretty rarely is it ever quoted from or referred back to the Surrealists!)

2. I’ve Started, I’ll Never Finish

“The further I go the less I know,
One foot goes in front of the other...”

As well as the clip above showing one of my favourite Fugazi songs (given a particularly fine performance), in my more self-aggrandising moments I like to imagine it’s this blog’s school song. (Of course my personal theme song is the Soft Boys' 'I Want To Be an Anglepoise Lamp', but there I digress.) Now I may have been at this sort of thing some while now, but I am as nothing compared to song author Ian MacKaye. He’s the very inverse of the trajectory Jello Biafra acidly described as “harder core than thou for a year or two, then it’s time to get a real job”. He's played his own style of punk his way since 1979 (when he was but seventeen). But I can’t see MacKaye writing a song to brag, so I don’t think that’s the nub of the issue here...

The song’s based around the double vision required of a long distance runner. Picturing the whole length of the course is just going to crush your resolve, so you make your mission something in sight - to get to the next hill. But there’s no use sprinting there, you set your sights on the next horizon but you run as though you’ll be doing it forever.

The key line is “there is not a fixed position.” Don’t ever expect to get to the end of this. There’s no point where everything has been said and the subject can be closed. And that's not just true because new people see the artwork and spin more lines from it, or new artworks are created which shine the old in a different light. It would be equally true if there was no further input, if people stopped making new artworks tomorrow. Art is like one of those magic wells or bottomless glasses of folklore, which can never be emptied, which always somehow renews.

In the above I’ve attempted a kind of brief explanation of a Riviera linocut and a Fugazi song. But of course those are only limited explanations, single perspectives. Someone reading them might even find them valuable, but at most they’re the next hill, never the finish of the race. And the same would be true if we got Riviera in to explain his linocut, or Mackaye his song. All knowledge, all insight, is only ever provisional.

As Paul √Čluard (back to the surrealists) said: “There cannot be total revolution but only permanent revolution. Like love, it is the fundamental joy of life.”

Coming soon! Believe it or not, another anniversary...