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A TRUE AND AUTHENTIC ACCOUNT OF A TWENTY YEAR SKIRMISH WITH VARIOUS SAD ACADEMICS WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP POST-MODERN ZOMBIES INSTEAD! Stewart Home interviewed by Michel Comte of TNT
I met Stewart Home in cyber-space, the journey was fraught with difficulties, I had to hijack a computer before I could get on-line. The notorious egg bagel eater's answers to my questions were often obtuse and since we were both disembodied, I was unable to placate him with his favourite food. Given these obstacles to effective communication, it is with great pride that I offer here a true and authentic record of our exchange.
TNT: What makes the destruction of William Shakespeare's work a matter of pressing importance?
SH: "Shakespeare's" work is problematic, but it isn't so much the work as the aura around it that I wish to destroy. "Shakespeare" was engaged in giving shape to the bourgeois subject, he wasn't the first writer to conjure up this subject but in plays such as Hamlet he gives it a very full delineation. While I feel ambivalent about Christopher Marlowe - an "Elizabethan" playwright whose work set the stage, so to speak, for "Shakespeare" - the low scenes in his work that are so detested by the more conservative elements of literary opinion, make Marlowe considerably more palatable to me than "Shakespeare". Of course, given "Shakespeare's" influence on Anglo-American culture and to greater and lesser extents other cultures, it is not possible to simply ignore him. I recently produced a radio play entitled Divvy as part of the Tork Radio internet project. I began work on this play by doing a William Burroughs-style cut up on the first act of Hamlet, which I then reworked, reducing the number of characters to four, to whom I then assigned different computer generated voices. In terms of logic, large parts of the play produced by this cut up technique were simply meaningless, although on the level of rhetoric I think the piece is quite easy to comprehend. This treatment of Hamlet reflects my indifference to the original source material. I wasn't interested in attacking Hamlet on the level of the bourgeois subject, that would have been more banal than the banalities I produced. It was much more a question of a derangement of meaning, a loss of meaning, simply reversing meaning would be playing into the hands of the very things I wish to attack.
TNT: Is Stewart Home a multiple name and if so who are you after the interview?
SH: Actually, I think that rather than addressing this question to "me", it might be better directed "against" Shakespeare. I have long been amused by the long list of "individuals" put forward as the "true" authors of "Shakespeare". These include Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth I, the Earl of Oxford, the Earl of Derby, the Earl of Stirling, the Earl of Rutland, Sir Walter Ralegh, Christopher Marlowe, the Archbishop of York, the Earl of Essex, the Earl of Southampton, Cardinal Wolsey, the Earl of Salisbury and the Earl of Devon. Of course, in insisting that the actor William Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to "William Shakespeare" so called orthodox opinion is considerably more "palatable" than the views of most "heretics". While an aristocrat might wish to constitute themselves as a bourgeois subject, coming from the upper echelons of "Elizabethan" society was not a prerequisite for success in this operation. Many of those arguing against "orthodox" opinion in the debates over the authorship of the "Shakespeare" plays resort to snobbish arguments which assume that only someone born into the upper classes had the intellectual capacity to produce these works.
There are "heretics" who think a number of men or women produced the "Shakespeare" plays while yet others want to attribute not only the works of :"Shakespeare" but innumerable other works of literature and science to a single "man". To take the example of Francis Bacon, some of those who claim he is the author of "Shakespeare's" work also believe he is responsible for the output of Cervantes and Montaigne, amongst others. Of course, there is a long tradition of attributing all sorts of things to "well known" writers. At one point I was getting so fed up with various idiots claiming that I wrote the material put out by the London Psychogeographical Association that I considered concocting a tract in which I denounced myself for being Francis Bacon who - before faking his own death - had learnt the secrets of immortality through a rigorous study of alchemy. Thus as Bacon, I had not only written the complete works of Cervantes and Montaigne, but also those of John Milton, Lawrence Sterne, Charles Dickens, Arthur Rimbaud, Alfred Jarry, Virginia Wolfe, James Joyce, Kathy Acker, Lynne Tillman and "Stewart Home". My plan was to produce a pamphlet which would include a reproduction of a page or two from a modern edition of Hamlet with most of the letters blacked out, so that those left stranded between great lines of black would read: "I, Francis Bacon, have discovered the secrets of the philosophers' stone and in several hundred years time shall reinvent myself as an avant-bardist writing under the name Stewart Home." These largely blacked out pages would have been my definitive proof that "Stewart Home" and Francis Bacon were actually the same person. Of course, I intended to stuff the pamphlet with all sorts of ridiculous inferences drawn from quite innocuous information. For example, some of my friends sometimes call me "Clifford Brown" and since "Clifford Brown" is an alias of Jess Franco, this would have been offered as "proof" that I was responsible for such cinematic "abominations" as Vampyros Lesbos, The Erotic Rites Of Frankenstein, Jack The Ripper, Ilsa She-Wolf Of The SS, The Sadist Of Notre-Dame, Sadisterotica, Succubus, Venus In Furs, Lady Porno, Virgin Among The Living Dead, Barbed Wire Dolls, Tender Flesh and Deep Throat. Unfortunately, I never got around to producing this pamphlet but if I had it would have been called True Tales Of Duplicity: Stewart Home Exposed As The Real Author Of The Heinous Works Until Now Falsely Attributed To The Much Maligned Christian & Patriot William Shakespeare and by-lined to "A Cambridge Graduate AKA David Black."
All of this, by the way, was merely intended to act as a preface to the utterly banal fact that as far as I am concerned it doesn't actually matter who wrote "Shakespeare." Of course, most of those who wish to constitute themselves as centred subjects and who are engaged in that discourse known as "literature" care passionately about the identity of "Shakespeare". But to return to your question, I have claimed in a text entitled Proletarian Post-Modernism that "Stewart Home" is an art project originally instigated by the celtic bards K. L. Callan and Fiona MacLeod in 1979. While this assertion is not exactly "true", it would not be difficult to fake the documentary evidence required to "prove it". Indeed, a number of jokers have put out texts attributed to "Stewart Home" despite the fact that they do not possess, as I do, a legally valid birth certificate in that name. Having said this, I should perhaps add that I also possess a legally valid birth certificate in at least one other name. Who am I? This depends but I can assure you that I will not be "myself" after this interview. Indeed, I will not even be conscious, it is getting late and without doubt I shall sleep after I've answered your questions.
TNT: What kind of place do you occupy as an author?
SH: I am known as a poet of the proletarian experience and I have never been ashamed of the fact that what I seek is real human community. Obviously, the space I would like to occupy does not as yet exist and rather than being able to create it simply by and for myself, this must remain a matter of social practice.
TNT: You did a three year Art Strike between 1990 and 1993, what about doing a life strike?
SH: I thought about doing a Sex Strike, I figured that would get people going, but then given my desire for real human community I think I'd find it harder to stick to a Sex Strike than an Art Strike. The notion of a life strike sounds more like what Baudrillard advocates than what I was doing with the Art Strike. Admittedly, parts of Baudrillard's The Illusion Of The End - particularly the notion of the Event Strike - read like a plagiarism of Art Strike propaganda, but if this is a plagiarism, then it is a bad plagiarism, which I'd guess Baudrillard is doing quite consciously in a futile attempt to prove his thesis about history turning back on itself. Baudrillard's account of why the millennium will not take place is far too convoluted for my taste. Personally, I use the Modern Khemetic Calendar, so for me the millennium will not take place because I'm not a Christian and I'm not using a Christian calendar, whereas Baudrillard is still trapped in a religious metaphysic that exudes the rotten egg smell of the idea of God.
I 've found most of what Baudrillard wrote after Symbolic Exchange And Death rather tedious. However, he still achieves the odd mordant spasm in his interviews. There is a conversation that Baudrillard did with Sylvere Lotringer published in English under the title Forget Baudrillard in which Baudrillard says "somewhere along the line I stopped living." So I think that this is another indication that the notion of a life strike fits Baudrillard much better than me. However, even more than Baudrillard, I think Lotringer has been on a life strike and needs to "get a life". Lotringer played a key role in introducing not only Baudrillard but also Virilio and Deleuze and Guattari to Anglo-American readers. Lotringer is married to an American film-maker called Chris Kraus who recently published a book entitled I Love Dick. Kraus became obsessed with the academic Dick Hebdige and her book is an account of how she and Lotringer stalked him. I Love Dick leaves Lotringer and a lot of those associated with him looking very sad indeed. If Lotringer ever writes an "autobiography" I suggest he calls it How I Stopped Living And Became A Mixed-Up Post-Modern Zombie Instead.
TNT: Are you already outside your own production?
SH: It is difficult to say whether or not I am now outside my own production. I certainly feel that I am. Having not got advances of the size I wanted for the last two books I placed with British publishers, I recently accepted a number of invitations to give paid guest lectures at some English art schools - Chelsea, Ruskin, Cheltenham. One of the things I get asked to talk about is my "gallery work". I hadn't done a slide talk about myself for some time and looking at my installations and graphics again, they might as well have been made by someone else. They also looked like the products of a different era, in certain ways quite typical of what might be called "the eighties". During the course of these talks I often found it impossible to say why I had made certain pieces. I'd become completely detached from the work and this felt very liberating. I actually said that I found myself completely outside the work, so it is very resonant to hear you use the same phrase, although obviously this doesn't "prove" that these assertions are "true."
TNT: How's London?
SH: London's always changing, you have to find the right part to hang out in. In the seventies Soho was great but now only Berwick Street has anything of the feel you used to get there, mainly because it still has a street market. The West End of London has been cleaned up too much. It used to be filthy but it felt good, litter everywhere, prostitutes everywhere, sex shops everywhere, now that the working class has been forced out Soho has lost its character. Shoreditch still has the vibe but money is pouring in. Shoreditch is changing but there's still enough of a working class population to make it feel good.
TNT: If I don't feel good about my body, where should I go?
SH: Recently the summers in London have got quite unbearable, much hotter than they used to be. This year was worse than ever, it became very difficult to sleep at nights. I went to the Shetland Isles off the north coast of Scotland for a couple of weeks. The air smelt much better than in London and that made me feel good about my body. I had a great time. However, I don't think I'd like to live in Shetland on a permanent basis.
TNT: What do you think about the so called techno movement?
SH: I don't know much about the techno movement. I know some people involved with it, the people who do Ambush Records and Praxis, the Finnish band Panasonic, Robin Rimbaud who does Scanner. I like the stuff these people do. I like banging gabba. I go to techno clubs occasionally and I enjoy that but I don't pay any attention to the scene. I don't really think about it beyond the fact that I don't like what the corporate record labels try to pass off as techno.
TNT: What kind of music do you listen to in the morning and at night?
SH: I listen to a lot of different music. When I write I generally listen to instrumentals. The room I write in is very small and is filled with books, files, computer equipment, there isn't room for a record deck, so I listen to tapes and CDs when I write. The CDs sitting by my beat box right now - the ones I've been playing today - are Out Of The Frying Pan by Wynder K. Frog, A Go-Go/Where The Action Is by The Ventures, The Best Of Booker T & The MG"s, Billy's Bag by Billy Preston, Rock 'N' Roll Drum Beat by Sandy Nelson and Teen Beat: 30 Great Rockin' Instrumentals by various artists. When I'm writing letters I listen to songs as well as instrumentals, yesterday when I was answering mail I played the Art Attacks and The Oppressed. At the moment I rarely play dance music at home, I prefer to hear it in clubs. There was a time when I played Panasonic a lot but that was when I was working in another room with a decent hi fi system and the speakers spread apart. Most techno music just doesn't sound good on the beat box I have in the little room in which I write.. I listen to loads of different things, sixties bands like The Sonics, The Fabulous Wailers, The Litter or The Troggs, I like unaccompanied folk singing - particularly some of the Gaelic folk singers from the Western Isles of Scotland - I even listen to exotica. What I play depends on what mood I'm in. It being morning or night doesn't effect what I listen to, some days its one thing, some days another. Sometimes I play Nocturnal Emissions, at others Luigi Nono. What I listen to changes, at one time I was playing The Fat Boys, Run DMC, NWA and X Clan a lot, then it was Atari Teenage Riot, but I don't listen to any of this very much now.
TNT: Where did you go last night?
SH: I went to the opening of a group exhibition at The Clerk's House in Shoreditch. This was a show of small works, everything had to be less than 10cm by 10cm. I went because a friend of mine, Marion Coutts - who used to play in the Dog Faced Hermans - had a piece in the show. Marion rang me up and said she'd be there and that I ought to go because it isn't far from where I live. I'd been to the previous opening at the gallery because that was a show of photographs by François Lacroix who is also a friend of mine. I've also become acquainted with the people who run the gallery because they know the novelist Iain Sinclair who had both François and me acting in his recent television film The Falconer. The people who own the space recently bought Genesis P-Orridge's old house in Hackney, and for reasons I've never been able to fathom, I know everyone who has lived at that address for the past twenty years. Before Paula P-Orridge sold the house it was being rented by Barry who plays in the synth band Add N To X and the pop video maker Nick Abrahams. Before them, James Mannox and other individuals who no longer play in the band Current 93 were living there.
TNT: Given your interest in certain cultural formations encompassing both Duchamp and Debord, it would seem that you must be of the opinion that it is no longer possible to produce art, and therefore you must have viewed the Art Strike as being simply a joke.
SH: Even before it "happened" those involved with the Art Strike said it was "a bad idea". In retrospect it seems more like a silly idea. I guess I was just curious to see how much interest I could create by running with this idea. I think I've spent the last six years trying to escape the Art Strike but people just won't let me forget it. Yesterday I got a letter from a student at a provincial art college that contained the line: "Some of the tutors have even heard of Stewart Home, though only through the Art Strike, 'crazy people', was the only comment." I think there is a temptation to treat the Art Strike as a simulacrum, although I prefer to think of it functioning as a rumour, something that is known only indirectly, through third person reportage. Nothing to do with me, "honest governor!" Put simply, I don't wish to exist in a world ruled by commodities and I guess that's what most of my activities - and inactivities such as the Art Strike - are about.
This must date from mid to late 90s and was published in underground French techno magazine TNT.
Stewart Home tells it like it is...
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