I find that I find inspiration in the smallest of things. Such as, for instance, the songbird of flight that slammed into my lounge window this morning. His broken wing and the cat that tore him apart. Not my cat. Some cat, from somewhere next door, who showed no mercy. Absolutely none at all. The most perfect tweeting could not have saved that bird. But it was part of the raw aspect of nature that, to a greater or lesser extent, informs just about everything I do. I mean, that is, my work. I guess you could say that I am some kind of jackdaw. That songbird though. The poor thing.
The people I live with, that live around here, are, I imagine, mostly good people. Decent-ish, you know. There’s Carter across the road, the waver, with his bare torso whatever the weather and his studied career, or so it seems, of smoking cigarettes. Melinda, a few doors down, is like me in some ways: alone but out, most of the time, who knows where. There was an attempt here, some months ago, now I recall, to form some kind of association, a residents’ group to which I was asked to join but didn’t, couldn’t. The world closing in on us, they said, and we’re trying to keep it out. But I, on the other hand, wanted to invite it in, the world.
My art, as it is sometimes called, is, above all, the very thing of my self expression. It’s what I do it for, so I can relate to the world and to my own self, either through the me of the me here and now or the me of my yesteryears, my history and personal ancestry. My mother’s Native roots, my father’s Lithuanian bent. I do this, mainly, as I said, as a way to express myself, as a full mode of self expression. Without this, without this release, this big blast of art, I would be just another of the freaks with my methadone problem and potential alcoholic leanings. But as I am, now, I can see that Tom Waits, Laurie Anderson and The Pixies were me, were really me. They were all mine. In fact, they are, still, the very definition of the middle-browness that I craved and that which gave me so, so much. Without them, literally, I would now be dead. Literally. Oh, and The Clash, too, of course.
Right now I have invested myself into the business of helping to create a tribe which is a state of description I prefer over the word community because, you know, it signifies so differently. By which I mean that it tells us that we are especially different. I would have used the word gang but you can only take these things so far, can’t you? Tribe, I’ve been told, carries with it a certain sense of the ritual and gives off, I hope, the pungent whiff of a warrior’s raw call. And it touches, as I previously stated, both my mother’s Native heritage and my father’s Lithuanian saga from over the sea. Moreover, it justly identifies the intimate relationships that are birthed from a nomadic, ever-shifting, de-centered centralised energy that belongs more to the rough of the land, the urgent and to other bodies than it does to, you know, society as a whole. Or rather, society as a hole, a sinkhole. It is plural, this thing, cosmopolitan, egalitarian, eclectic and permanently fluid behind and beneath the whole power of order and pull.
And what, you may ask, of the songbird?
Smeared lightly on the glass of the window, the songbird’s general grease, plus the pulse of tiny blood droplets and no doubt a whistle of spittle. After impact, it not so much slid from the window as dragged, fell and bounced from the surface of the window, its glass, all the way to the floor. By the time I got close enough to see, the songbird was being ravaged, or savaged, by the neighbour’s cat. My frantic glass banging and howling did nothing to deter that cat from the business of, as I said, tearing that songbird apart. I tell you, by the time the cat had finished, I was spitting feathers. Just, in fact, like that cat was also spitting feathers.
But seriously. It is incidents like that that somehow rise to the occasion in order to provide my life with its richness of meaning. Without that songbird, my morning this morning would have been a search for inspiration that I may or may not have found. What was particularly gratifying was that, even without taking into account the whole symbolism of birds and flight thing, it was, if you’ll excuse me for a moment, quite literally a gift that fell from the skies. The only pity of it, really, was the fact of the cat.
Although, naturally, the real business of it all is primarily concerned with how moments like that are a gift for my self-expression. Not just as an artist but also as a woman. That is, and more importantly, as a woman artist. A wartist, in fact. A term that carries both the sense of my femininity vis a vis the w signifying woman and also the declaration push of serious intent as connoted by the prefix war. That the very act of my existence, including the acts of my making, are, to all intents and purposes, first and foremost declarations of war. I am, as they say, fighting a good fight and am in good fighting spirits. And besides, we all know how difficult it is to get rid of warts.
What lured me into the universe, at least the universe that I created, that created me and contains me, was the self-reflexiveness and mono-vocality that, quite literally, used to drive me insane. I long to collaborate and cannot see how I, or any other artist, can reasonably function within a world where the conservative nature of its writers and artists is something that has been forced down upon them by, you know, Reagan and then Bush. Outside of the moments of these regimes (because that is what history will prove them to be, momentary regimes) these artists were, of course, raging avant-gardeists and innovators. You literally could not stop them. So my mission, if I may state it so baldly, is to kind of kick open the universal gates into the universe I’m seeking to create. Which is to say, spaces within a larger space – the universe that contains them – where artists can go about the business of making art and doing all that they really long to do that is literally being denied to them by the funding boards, the book reviewers, the commentators, the media slags and the publishers and patrons who are, as we all know, directly controlled by the government or, if not, at least influenced and/or scared to such a degree that the conservative, mainstream agenda is something they promote as vigorously and as ruthlessly as if they were operating on party political lines. That is, what I mean is, that these conservative artists are conservative and middlebrow through no real fault of their own. How could it be their fault when it is they, unlike the politicians, who are the artists? So I mean that what I enjoy most is creating a dynamic space for writers and artists to, you know, just make. Especially the women. The women who I am determined to ensure get a real grasp of the modes of engagement so that they can truly engage within themselves their long denied need for diversification. Who cares? Well I care, for a start. I care from my heart. It is my heart that leads me. And sometimes, it really hurts, my wreckage of a heart.
Which is why, when I think harder about it, that songbird touched me so. Because he played out some kind of huger function that spoke to me perhaps on newer levels that I have yet to truly understand. He, like I said, represented not only all the symbolism and fancies of flight, but was also, literally, a smudge of smear on my window’s glass. I could, if I had been less driven by my heart, have wiped away the moment of him being brought into existence – the moment of him being brought into my frame of existence, into my universe. But my heart, I guess, stayed my hand. There was something intuitive about it, the reason for me staying indoors and staring at the songbird’s smudge. From the inside looking out.