Legal ill legal noise in the guise of Schrodinger`s sick cat…..(barely illegal) // 2003
MA Virtual Realities // NCAD // Dublin
EHAWW the Laws an Ass
Firstly, this work has been a long time in the coming; I feel I don’t have much time to get the work out there, to do its thing. Cannabis is on the way to legalisation in England, with the law adopting the softly, softly drugs approach. When they start toking in Coronation Street you can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll soon follow suit. So far, I have made two prototypes, of varying quality.
This, the final outcome, it had the potential to go in a number of ways, different physical constructions of the piece lead the brain along different mental paths. I choose the path that boxed smartest; I could have gone more bullishly for the jugular, by decided to remain straddling the vague boundary of legality. You have to look after yourself.
The following is an outline of sorts, of the ideas I was considering whilst under the influence of the work.
The Thing itself.
You’ll have to take my word for it.
I acquired a bit of dope.
I made a replica using a harmless substance.
I wrapped both of them in tinfoil.
I shuffled the deck.
ABRA CA DABRA.
I picked one according to the laws of chance?
(And destroyed the unknown other.)
I put the chosen lump in a Perspex box.
I sealed the box shut with some glue.
When the dope rattles, what you hear, is the sound of a legal illegal noise.
The dope is not for smoking, but cultural contemplation.
If the sealed box is tampered with or broken, in a desperate bid to smoke the substance, or to investigate the possibility of criminal charges been brought against the artist, it will be seen as act of vandalism. In my eyes the person who reintroduces this neutered art substance back into the streets of reality (where it could lead people onto harder stuff) is guilty of commendable, but misguided destructive behaviour.
When I last lay hands on the substance, I performed my unglamorous magic and rendered the substance harmless and safe for public cultural consumption.
Is it against the law to decommission an illicit substance and transform it into harmless food for the mind?
I’d like the law to look in on this, as it could legally clarify society’s exact position regarding the readymade.
Nobody in the art world seems to know how or why something is art. What better way to truly get to the bottom of what art is than employ the ultimate validating authority figure, the law.
They say the Irish were the first to invent and define a law regarding copyright with the slogan that had Colm Cille bulling all the way to the emigration ship,” to every cow its calf” We could follow it up in real style if we gave a pronouncement to the world, This is `what art is legally`. (the only thing the Brits ever copied off of us (I’m unqualified to think) was the criminal assets bill, but we copied that off of Miami Vice.) There are a lot of troubled artists out there who would love to know the outcome of such deliberations.
Can an artist get legal exemption form the rule of law, like they already receive with tax exemption? Come on potential patrons; imagine the consternation in the tax office when they have to consider if my art dealing warrants a tax break due to its artistic merit. So don’t be afraid dig deep and put your money were your soul is.
All the publicity would do the work a power of good.
So I can’t go soft and claim it was for my own personal consumption, but with intent to supply and profit from my artistic output.
I see this work as an attempt to create a home-made simulated, distantly related cousin of the assisted readymades of Marcel Duchamp.
Through the use of the readymade Duchamp pioneered the simulation’s an idea or thing which is prevalent in today’s society. Duchamp figured, that if the baker makes bread, then, the artist makes art. The artist didn’t have to physically make a concrete object to create a work of art. He could appropriate an object to the status of art, by merely changing the context of the object. Duchamp randomly chose found objects (or so he claimed) to be transformed into objects’ with new contexts and functions. The urinal was not to be used for its intended manufactured function, but as a philosophical template to be contemplated and used to address issues concerning the production and consumption of art. How can you argue that it’s not art, if an artist created it, all that can be said, with some certainty, is that one feels it is either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ art.
For Duchamp ‘art’ was the process of communication itself. A process of communication that involves the interactive relationship between 3 key elements,
The initial idea that the artist desires to conceive.
The difference between his desires of conception and his final creation.
The audiences’ interpretation of the work.
How I came about the work.
I have an unhealthy habit of day dreaming about Marcel Duchamp’s work.
One of the pieces I’ve always been drawn to was the secret noise box, With Hidden Noise`.
It’s not really mysterious, in so far as, I’m not real curious, about what it is that rattles inside. It could be anything, most likely an Arsenburg diamond or a dime, like a little Man Raid Christo. I don’t know, but I always found it endearing.
I took to reading a good little book by Morris Berman, cornily called, ‘The Reenchantment of the World’. In it was a vast comprehensible history of the development of human consciousness. The book detailed how our perceptions are influenced and shaped by ideological, political & religious background noise. I was particularly interested in his passages about alchemy.
- In a spiritual interpretation, all personalities (metals, ores) are potentially divine (golden) and are trying to reach their true nature, trying to transcend the weight of their past (lead). An old reality decays for me, I stink and feel rotten, but this change in matter is ultimately good, for it is a change in what matters. Old realities die, new things become my reality. The rigidity of my personality is dissolved, a new pattern is slowly allowed to coalesce. The ferocious desire for pattern itself is tamed, and I begin to look at my former pattern as one possibility amongst many. I become less ridged, more tolerant. I see that all that really exist is fusibility and creativity, which mercury represents. Mercury, or Hermes, the messenger of the gods, acts as we have to be tricked into consciousness, see our true nature almost by accident, for example, through jokes or slips of the tongue. Mercury was also associated with glass, the vessel that enables one to see into it. The container of my problems is transparent: I come to see that my problems not only hold the solution, they are the solution. Thus R. D. Laing: “The Life I am trying to grasp is the me that is trying to grasp it.”
Or as Duchamp would say ‘there are no solutions because there is no problem.’
This lead me to thinking about the box with the hidden secret noise. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m prone to smoke, a little bit of dope, but that should not lead you to believe, that this was conceived as a legalise the weed propaganda piece. I don’t want to be painted with the same brush with that cringing Ming who wants to legitimise his lifestyle hobby. There’s no need to legalize anything it can all be obtained at competitive prices that don’t suffer from inflation and that didn’t milk the euro changeover like most legitimate businesses. The legal situation is only problematic when you’re caught.
I was most interested in the relationship between the law and art. I wondered would it be possible to transform an illegal substance into a legitimate neutral artwork, by applying the Duchamp appropriation technique. So initially I planned to put the dope through a Duchampian filter and came out with a real lump of dope in a sealed transparent box.
I thought about going down the, is it or isn’t it dope route by faking a reproduction of a lump of dope, but I initially felt it to be the more academic chicken shit approach. I am aware that society will interprets this work in its own unpredictable manner once I let it out there, situations arise, compromises are required. The college had to be dealt with and I had myself to look after. Oh, what to do, what to do?
I decided I’d do a sealed box with the pickings of chance. If no one knew what was in the box it was not a mere case of is it or isn’t it an artwork or is it illegal. It was now a case of Schrodinger`s cat turned into an artwork.
During the 1920`s the quantum physicists Schrödinger devised a cruel poetic theoretical experiment that consisted of a cat in a box sealed from the view of the observer. The cat is feed from a pipe which has a 50% chance of feeding the cat food or poison. Until the moment when somebody opens the box and observers (or smells) the cat, the cat is said to be both alive and dead at the same time. According to Schrodinger`s theory this work is both an illegal substance in a sealed box and a harmless substance at the same time, regardless of its actual contents, as long as its not tampered with or vandalised in any way. Its possibilities are open-ended and will only collapse into one reality when it is observed.
If the work is vandalised in any fashion and it is discovered that it was indeed a lump of illicit substance, how can charges be brought when its evidence of its innocence has being destroyed, let alone the horror of reactivating a dangerous substance back into the hazardous environment of real life.
There’s a little Hugo Ball in us all and actions speak in loud volumes.
There’s a problem with the law, it relies on its authority, to validate its authority. It’s caught in a self-referential loop of inadequate proof. If I oppose and break a bad law today, that is reformed tomorrow, do I get a pardon, probation or serve my time.
Terry Egalton in his book, ‘Heathcliff and the Great Hunger’ gives a far more eloquently researched argument.
- What is effaced by the law, as Slavoj Zizek has argued, is its own criminality; and the law functions only by concealing this positive condition of its existence. The law is the law, and it must be obeyed for its own sake, since if one can adduce reasons for obeying it ceases in that moment to be absolute. In this empty Tautology, then, can be glimpsed something of the madness of the law, which since it is a law unto itself, answerable to no other authority, is surly anarchic. p.45.
The law is at once citizen and terrorist, the source of all order and the potential negation of it; and meddling with what Burke scornfully terms the ‘metaphysical’ is a forbidden foray into the heart of the law’s savagery and contingency, the unveiling of the father’s phallus, the shocking revelation that any social order is rooted simply in amnesia and force of habit, in the generous indolence by which its subjects will come to forgive and forget an initial outrage. p.46.
Laws are based on ethics, which were derived from morals, which were handed down by gods. Like a god, the law will only change when confronted with persistent opposition and challenge from the present. If an absolute belief system, like a religion or the legal system, is perfect today, how can they be absolute tomorrow if they have to evolve and morph according to new social patterns of acceptability? The long arm of the law has a strangle hold on our future. The law is derived from cultural and ethical considerations from our past histories, yet this setting in stone, restricts our presents potential for cultural, social and ethical evolution. Can one champion certain societies legal system above others, in the same way that some would argue that American law is as superior to Saudi Arabian law just as Christianity is to Islam.
Laws are changed according to precedents set by new cases. What of these changes, are they for the general good, and if so, there must be a minority who suffers as a consequence. Who is this minority in the eyes of equality (the silent majority?)? The only equality of law as far as I can see, is that it is available to all that can afford it.
The changing allegiances of the law can be seen in the fickle tides of narcotics. Once upon a time, in the rein of king Henry the 8th, it was illegal not to grow hemp, as it was a stable component of that society; oil, seeds, fodder, canvas, ropes, ropes, clothes, paper and the stuffing of Mercedes Benz head rests could be made from it. It is a high yielding versatile crop which can be grown in poor soil, its’ fallen leaves acting as a fertiliser.
In the 1920’s synthetic materials were invented, Dylon, Dyon, etc. Big Business = Small Farmer Blues. It was deemed that this useful low maintenance cash crop was dangerous; it could placate you, make you mildly euphoric, then hazy and even make you crazy, it could make you sensitive to others, make you laugh, but it could give you a terrible cough. Low and behold, America deemed it a bad deed to grow the hemp because it was an evil anti-profit weed. The little free siblings the world over (except a few countries, mainly lazy Commies) decided that that’s what they’d have to do too.
I am not advocating or promoting the use of narcotics. Some are pleasant, a lot are bad, all require moderation if you’re gonna `do them, from cigarettes to heroin For that reason I would prefer to put in a substance that I am not familiar with, like heroine. The big bad H. In England in the early 70’s there was less than 300 registered drug addicts in England, in the main, old hippies who got hooked on their travels. Then the law changed…………..How come we don’t heed our clichés, the ostrich with its head in the sand. I wonder were the problem lies, is it in the resultant crime employed to sustain a habit, our the fact that one alters ones perceptions when under the influence of mind altering cash crops from 3rd world cultures. For fuck sake, the CIA was one of the biggest drug dealers of all time, it not for nothing, that they were giving away guns. The acceptance of certain mind altering legal drugs over others is ridiculous. To deem that certain altered states of consciousness are more acceptable than others borders on the thought police, and is a violation of one’s human rights. Let’s ban meditation, because it’s free.
Who benefits form the narcotics industry? Peasant Farmers struggle to making a living, Evil Drug Barons, Generals and War Lords involved in Civil Wars, (usually this involves ‘The Western Super Power’, overseeing the continuous smooth bombing of events, without end, Amen), Gangster Criminals who distribute social malice and receive Social Benefits from the States chalice, Drug Dealers who cream off and dilute their profit so they can shoot, Junkies who can’t get off the shit, what with the ill healthy, the appalling living standards and the incessant pursuit for a pure feeling of purity. Fuck off world you can’t touch me when I’m in here. They’re trapped through a lack of socially constructive resources. If they managed to kick the habit through the help outside agencies what would they do, when there’s nothing else to do and it’s reinforced all around you, no job, bad address, same estate.
Fuck I gotta’ get me a lifestyle, a hobby, something to do.