The general themes that are starting to emerge here in Boulder this week at the Naropa conference have a lot in common with what I think of as my dream-recording of the Sixties and early Seventies (I was becoming a teenager then). There's talk of sexual revolution, smoking dope, making art and becoming politically active. This is the sort of talk that gets the Gen-X all hot in the pants and I imagine a few Silent and Boomer types might even find their minds getting a little wet at the thought of trippy, socialized partying all in the name of art and a beautiful planet.
Amiri Baraka, who has been at the forefront of revolutionary class struggle and its realization in the creation of contemporary art, spoke about his connection with Ginsberg saying that in the old days, when they were all hanging in the Lower East Side, they may have had different styles and/or agendas, but one thing they shared was that they "we're opposed to The Dead."
Who are The Dead? Well, to begin with: our political leaders who, Baraka tells us, are less powerful then revolutionary artists who activate themselves in the all-important all-consuming (excuse the pun) class struggle. Says Baraka:
"Art is a political expression. Understand the potential nature of art and use that to transform reality."
So in Amiri's way of seeing things, you absolutely cannot dissociate the political from the artistic and those two things, whatever they are (and who can really say what they are?), when presented in a kind of Utopian United Front, will "raise a worldwide culture revolution and usher in a new age of humanityÉ"
I was getting ready for him to insist that we seize the means of distribution by activating our voices in such a way as to assure universal, free access to receive and disseminate anything and everything we want over the World Wide Web of Internet but he saw the cyberculture in terms of some Virtual Reality that was simply Not Real. I would agree that having sex with a binary code dressed in cartoon flesh is not really what I had in mind when I too spoke of sexual revolution at the conference, but cyberspace is much more than a potential haven for bad sex. For example, take this series of columns I'm writing here regarding the Festival. Instead of wasting time trying to get some mainstream outfit to willingly absorb my open-minded loose form prose style, I decided to just publish it myself here on my own site called Alternative-X, which is where I suppose you are right now, reading this, whoever you are, my audience, my World Wide Cultural Revolution dressed in the libidinal consciousness of a Goddess whose arms are streaking with tracks Made in Brazil or maybe it's Medellin.
"Fascism has returned and only the progressive, radical forces and revolutionaries who resist this old-new fascism can fight and destroy fascism in our universities, through our journals, art, etc." Amiri was talking too fast for me to get it completely straight but I think that's essentially what he said. He was very much into his revolutionary spirit and I thought it would be good to make a portrait of him but who has time to paint these days and besides I'm a reporter not a portrait-painter although I can see where he would be a great model for someone like Kitaj or even Gertrude Stein who would model him after who?
Who is Amiri Baraka? This question was not posed but was the one question I kept asking myself as I listened to him rant like no one I had ever seen.
Ed Sanders said something very practical. He said we needed to organize our lifestyles in such a way that the spontaneous life-flow we live day in and day out would become our political activism. I'm paraphrasing him, but he did say that social activism starts in the "groovy Beatnik kitchen." I knew exactly what he meant when he made that statement. A groovy Beatnik kitchen would be a place to create art as a political expression, would be a place to understand the potential nature of art and to use that potential to transform reality.