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GOING DOWN ON YOURSELF IS THE NEW ROCK & ROLL!
There aren't too many cultural workers whose activities so threaten every government and corporation in the world that the moment they set up a profile on a social networking platform, they are inundated with friend requests from dozens of fictitious individuals being run through persona management software. Stewart Home is one of the few underground legends to suffer this fate. Since he's also besieged by pretty twenty-somethings who have been charged with catching him in a sexual honeytrap, I thought it would be a good idea if I talked to him about his life, anti-art and writing.
Oleksiy Kuzmenko: You haven't held a full time job in all your life it seems. Still you manage to make a living out of your passions. I'm really interested in the financial side of things. How did your income change during all your years as Stewart Home? Do you have advice for those aspiring to make a living out of well... trying to become an underground legend?
Stewart Home: Compared to cultural engineering, I would have made a little more money by sticking at the job I had when I left school at 16, that was working in a factory making bonded cork products, things like the floors of buses. That was a steady income even if it was less than spectacular. But I didn't like the job and only did it for a few months. Culture industry incomes fluctuate…. But you get perks such as paid trips around the world. The secret of not doing other jobs if you want to write or make films is to expect to make very little money and learn to live on a really low income. That way when you do make decent money from time to time you can really have fun with it. Income from cultural engineering is just totally impossible to predict because even if you knew what your book sales etc. around the world were going to be, you wouldn't know how currency rates were going to fluctuate, and it can be changes in exchange rates that give you a good or bad year. So the most important thing if you wanna be something like an 'underground legend' is to learn never to worry about money and know how to live cheap. It also helps if you are a highly successful bank robber or conman, but obviously if you're engaged in this kind of crime you're more likely to get away with it if you hide your wealth from the world, and pretend to be poor. Thus being a notorious cultural figure like me is very good cover for a top flight crook, people look at me and see an impoverished but industrious cultural engineer, and all the bank robberies and other criminal activity I may or may not be engaged in becomes invisible behind this smokescreen.
OK: You are really skeptical about the concept of a "genius" in art and etc? What do you think the whole "someone is a genius" thing is all about (for the elites, for the masses, middle class?)
SH: Most people can do most things, but no one can do everything well. If you work at something you'll become better at it, and if you really work at it you'll become really good at it. The idea of 'genius' is just a way for culture industry hustlers to scare off the competition. No one is good at something when they start but if you can fool them into thinking they should be then they won't even try. The fallacious notion of genius is also a way of justifying the huge amounts of money made by a few culture industry celebrities, but remember most culture industry 'creatives' make very little money.
OK: What was the worst and the best year financially for you?
SH: Discounting my 'purely' speculative proceeds from armed robbery, my best years financially are usually when I have one or more good artist in residence post – or a big grant from an arts funder. So I'm getting a salary on top of royalties from books etc. My best years from this – rather than bank jobs - were around 2006/7 when I was writer-in-residence at both Strathclyde University in Glasgow and Tate Modern in London, and I'd got a One To One Live Art Development Grant. My worst years were during the Art Strike 1990 to 1993, because rather than doing anything creative that made money I was simply signing on the dole, reading a lot of books and watching kung fu movies. The idea of the Art Strike was that I didn't engage in cultural production – however it didn't stop me engaging in theft, but I needed to sign on as unemployed in order to show the authorities where the money I was supporting myself upon came from.
OK: The MEDIA (and then the Mass media) how important do you think they are in reinforcing/subverting the notions of a nation, nationalism and identities in general?
SH: The news media is most usually organized along national lines, so it tends to reinforce national identity if you rely on a news source from the 'national' territory in which you are forced to live. I try to mix and match news sources, so I balance the English BBC against Al Jazeera, and the pro-USA CNN against the hilariously anti-American Russia Today. Unfortunately none of these sources are anti-capitalist, but you can find some more reasonable news coverage online.
OK: New avant-garde? What would you call that, at the moment?
SH: Reversing into the future! That said, some current Russian and Ukrainian anti-art collectives such as VOINA crack me up. Mostly what VOINA do looks joyous; however, the group sex action at the State Biological Museum looked a bit rushed and under stress, but was an internet hit in Russia nonetheless. It was back to basics, but I do think some of the guys should have gone down on the girls. It's all doggie-style and blow jobs. More equality next time please!
OK: What would you suggest as "essential reading" for a modern left intellectual? On the other side of things what do you consider a must-see for the above mentioned aspiring "left intellectual"?
SH: I still think Marx is a great starting point for understanding the world. Then maybe some Hegel to help you get your head around dialectical materialism, and Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer books as a counterbalance. That combination would then put you in a good position to understand what I'm doing in my novels. Intellectuals tend to need a bit of deconditioning, my books can really help with that! As for a must see, I'd say Stonehenge and similar monuments because they show what so-called primitive – and presumably also non-hierarchical – societies could achieve.
Nonetheless, it might also be worth looking at Flavio de Carvalho and his utopian proposals for an all nude city, as well as his various realised projects, blueprints and plans – with a focus on his interest in cross-dressing as 'performance art'. São Paulo based De Carvalho (1899-1973) was an artist and architect who, after completing his education in France and England, planned to build a new city that would have no gods, property, or marriages. He had a vision of an urban environment in which fun loving nudists would strip themselves of their clothes and inhibitions in order to achieve libidinal self-transformation. De Carvalho wanted a 'Laboratory of erotica', where far out sex freaks could realise their desires and even discover new ones. Sex and nudism were to become ongoing rhizomatic experiences, endlessly bifurcating on the basis of each individual's subjectivity, This was an architectural 'blueprint' which set out to dissolve all received ideas about the kind of sexuality in which consenting adults might indulge.
OK: What aspect of art are you most interested in? Intellectual? Aesthetic?
OK: What's your attitude towards the classical in art?
SH: The same as my attitude towards anything classical - enough of that old rubbish, let's have something different! People tend to forget that it's not cultural objects that are important but the social relations within the communities that produce them. That's why all forms of culture die. On the whole cultural objects cease to be relevant because the social conditions that produced them no longer exist.
OK: Who are the artists you respect?
SH: Those that quit art. Ben Morea, Henry Flynt, Laura Gemser, there aren't many. Art is dead baby, burn the museums!
OK: Do you think that the leftist art should necessarily be non-spectacular?
SH: I think people get hung up on the notion of the spectacle and recuperation. It's more important for leftists to produce an art that is anti-artistic than anti-spectacular. What I'm seeking isn't anti-art so much as an end to art.
OK: What has come after post modernism? What are the major characteristics of the epoch we are living in?
SH: I view post modernism as a stage of modernism, something that occurs within late capitalism. What comes next will be real communism – not state 'communism' which is really a form of capitalism - and the end of art as we know it. Our epoch is characterized by endless chatter about nothing that matters very much at all. It is an era of dissolution.
OK: Do you think social networking sites have changed the world? How? Why are you interested in that?
SH: Social networking sites have changed how people organise themselves, and so have mobile phones. Factual communication is easier, 'emotional communication' isn't really possible over the internet, that is still done better face to face. But the internet and mobile phones have made it much easier to organize situations in which 'emotional communication' is possible. Social networking sites have played a big role in recent upheavals in the Middle East, and they will continue to assist in anti-government and anti-state agitation around the world. Unfortunately reactionaries who wish to defend states can also use these tools for mobilization.
Social networking sites have also resulted in some curious interactions with people, and a knowledge of people that wasn't necessarily possible before. For example there are mail artists from the former eastern block, particularly the former Yugoslavia, who I've been in contact with since the 1980s, but it is only with the rise of social networking that I've discovered I share a lot of musical interests with them, as well as an interest in anti-art. Likewise, being in communication with me via social networking sites has encouraged some women who live far-away from London to send me their worn knickers in sealed plastic pouches – quite why I'm not sure, but it happens.
On the other hand, you've now got companies and intelligence agencies using persona management software to try to influence opinion and consumer behaviour on social networking sites. This is basically just code that makes it easy for one person to run 50 or so social networking profiles across different platforms. The software grabs a lot of the information for them, and posts links from feeds, making the profiles look very active. Those using persona management software are working from the assumption that people have a herd mentality, and will follow where others lead. So we're seeing different sections of the world population push things in different directions. The ruling class wants to use social media to damp down dissent, to counter the fact that where potentially revolutionary conditions prevail (which is everywhere in the world), these platforms might be used to progressive ends.
OK: What's literature for you? Do you think of yourself as graphomaniac? Is there a way to tell a graphomaniac from a "real" writer?
SH: Literature is the little finger on the dead right hand of the bourgeoisie, which despite being lifeless is still managing zombie-style to hold us back from communist ecstasy. We should, of course, do everything to excess, including writing. What distinguishes the work of so-called real writers from graphomaniacs is that it lacks passion, is dead boring and is never worth reading. Real writers need to be stripped of their clothes and transformed into erotomaniacs, and only then should they be allowed to publish books. Literature is for idiots.
OK: Doesn't it feel lonely to be a writer in a world over-flown with data?
SH: Not at all, especially if you're able to get down with the data stream and boogie. It's probably lonely for those who see themselves as writers first and human beings second, but obviously like all those involved in producing literature and other forms of 'serious culture', such people are psychotic and require help.
OK: Do you feel lonely at times?
SH: I've never felt lonely in my life. In a city like London it is easy to meet people… you just have to walk into the street. I have a lot of friends anyway, so I can arrange to meet someone or call them up or whatever. And if it's late at night and everyone around me is asleep then I can always talk to myself because I have very many different personalities and most of them enjoy chatting with each other.
OK: What do you do for fun?
SH: I like to drink beer from a bottle while pouring a second bottle of beer over my head. I'm also keen on nude Twister with olive oil, spin the bottle strip games and telling jokes. If I'm feeling really far out then I eat beans by the pound before wrapping myself in adhesive tape from the waist down. The resultant gastric pressure is a groove sensation, but you have to be careful to unwrap yourself before the situation becomes life threatening.
OK: How important is sex for you? What do you enjoy?
SH: Sex is very important, it is a universal medium of human communication. I like having my cock sucked and that's why I'm now practicing what I call chav yoga so that I can attain the flexibility to suck my own dick. What in hatha yoga is called The Plough is known in chav yoga as The Deep Throat, because it provides a relatively easy position from which a man can go down on himself. In chav yoga we concentrate on controlling our farts, because if you can control them then regulating the breath is a breeze in comparison. I trace chav yoga back to great train robber Ronnie Biggs teaching himself the asanas from a book in Wandsworth Prison in order to get fit for his successful 1965 jailbreak.
OK: Do you have particular cuisine preferences?
SH: I like humous – both to eat and for sploshing (food sex). A lot of guys like to plaster a woman's pussy with yogurt before eating her out, but I say humous is even better for this! And I also like hot and spicy food. Curry is good. From European cooking I like the dishes found in Italy best. But there are many good dishes from all over the world.
OK: Have you ever considered coming to Ukraine for a lecture or some other reason? Why do you think you're big in countries like Russia, Finland, Ukraine?
SH: I'd love to go to Ukraine for a lecture or reading or whatever - if I was invited. I enjoy going to new places. Language can be a problem. Because I have a south London accent, outside the south east of England and Australia (where the version of English they speak sounds similar to that in south London) it can be difficult for people to understand me. Translators are obviously a help.
Charles Bukowski was big in Finland before anywhere else. Maybe people in Finland, Russia and Ukraine are simply more advanced in their tastes than those in the UK or USA. Obviously the fact that there have been scandals about my books in these places has helped too. I visited Finland for the first time a few days after the first Animal Liberation actions in that country, and the fact that one of my translated books was concerned with such matters meant I ended up at the centre of a media storm. In Russia my publisher told me there were legal moves against me for spreading anti-Christian ideas in my book Come Before Christ & Murder Love, so again a scandal although not of my making. I'm just a regular guy with sensible views but unfortunately uptight authoritarians are unable to see that everything I have to say is perfectly reasonable. If they'd spend just a few hours doing nude headstands on a sunny beach with me I could probably cure them of a lot of their problems.
OK: Are you interested in geopolitics?
SH: Yes, because I'm interested in abolishing all nation states and all national borders. Marx said 'know your enemy' and I'd certainly view the likes of Karl Haushofer and Samuel P. Huntington as enemies of both the international working class and humanity in general.
OK: Do you think we all should start learning Chinese?
SH: The politics of such languages are complex. What are the implications of learning Mandarin rather than Cantonese? I think we'd need to look more closely at the politics of speech before deciding everyone should try to learn one language. It's hard to know which tongue might serve the world the best – we shouldn't necessarily dismiss Lithuanian or Urdu just because China is currently viewed as an emerging superpower. Hopefully in the near future there will be no superpowers because there will be no nations.
OK: Do you think there's life in the Universe besides Earth?
SH: It seems likely, but I don't believe that UFOs are aliens from other planets visiting earth. Mostly they are tricks of the light or misidentifications of aircraft and stars. A smaller proportion of alleged sightings are outright hoaxes. There is no credible evidence at all to suggest UFOs are spacecraft from other planets.
OK: What are your thoughts on the Large Hadron Collider?
The experiments there will hopefully help us all to become young, fast and scientific. I think scientific research is useful although in capitalist societies it is unfortunately driven by economic and ideological factors – which isn't scientific at all. But that shouldn't put us off science. As far as possible those working at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva should be doing so nude, as that would probably be a first step towards tackling the issue of biases in science that arise out of capitalist irrationalism.
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