♦ BE A BODY: A HOW-TO GUIDE TO ELAPSING ♦
• In a former cable factory in Helsinki—later the rundown industrial setting of several Aki Kaurismäki films and now a nucleus of galleries and pop-up delis—a poster for a contemporary dance centre addresses me confrontationally: ‘ARE YOU CONTEMPORARY ENOUGH?’
• I feel a familiar rush of panic that somehow I have failed at engaging with the Present, which is deliciously stroking others, elsewhere. As if the present has degrees which can be quantified and graded, instead of sustaining itself like a well-behaved ouroboros.
• Notions of the contemporary are embellishments on the comfort blanket of historical narrative, rethreaded as destinations that we are compelled to exhaust our bodies, time and money traveling to.
• A realisation of the state of having already arrived would be catastrophic to the slave masters, wherein the poetry and magic of the quotidian are sacrificed to financial interest.
• I’m using dramatic language because the theatrics are seductive. We were born shivering into a world cramped with blue balls from the cocktease of modernism, and a historical-narrative comfort blanket was all they could throw over to keep the angst in.
• We exist in microtime as bloodthirsty archivists of every present, dicing it into ever smaller instants, so the emancipations and realisations are daily. • At the end of each day you feel you’ve mastered some perspective, only to wake up shackled to linearity again. The make-up you removed last night smeared all over the pillow.
• Remember: the present’s namesake is tautological, it is a gift it is a gift.
• Bodies are the perfect partners for chronological time because all they do is elapse. You cannot fail at getting old. And yet, every day we empty ourselves out to attain some notion of being.
• As ardent modernists, we sacrificed the present to vagaries of utopia. But we’ve now fetishised the illusory gloss of the present, its supposed immediacy making its elusiveness all the more frustrating.
• ‘How could we fail’, we berate ourselves, ‘to be existing correctly?’
• This is why we find it so hard to be bodies. There is no crisis of moderation. We compulsively exercise or create injury from sloth; we suffer from repetitively straining for a destination we already contain.
• Assuaging the present requires a certain resignation; once reconciled to the banal we can aspire to the celestial. Otherwise, we are miserable bodies spaghettifying from mid-air towards the stars, without having first established gravity or ground for roots.
• The problem with frolicking in the banal is aesthetic, in that sincerity is indistinguishable from fashion. Perhaps the answer lies in recourse to a sensory/erotic/romantic, in which we perform sensitivity to try to discern what moves us.
• The contemporary should be apparent from its viscerality, rather than its institutional declaration. Sincerity is a tempting shibboleth that collates reshuffled notions of the authentic. Every attempt at sincerity will be assimilated into a visual style.
• So the contemporary becomes prismatic: a bilocatory quetzal as we each co-produce it. Once resigned to the present, our consumption renders us conduits.
• You cannot be better at being than other bodies; you can only choose to elapse in differing ways. • No fragment of the present can really be ascribed more value than one preceding or following. We must embrace the inauthentic flesh of what is authentically present, and waltz on the treadmill of attunement.
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Daisy Lafarge is from Hastings and studies in Edinburgh, where she writes regularly. Recently shortlisted for prizes in poetry and art criticism, her work has featured in publications in print and online.