GABBLER RECOMMENDS: ‘A TALE OF TWO GRIMES: THE ENIGMATIC POP STAR IN CONVERSATION WITH BOTH LANA DEL REY AND BRIT MARLING’

GRIMES: A bit of both. I’m really obsessed with polytheism. I love how the ancient Greeks or the ancient Egyptians lived in this weird anime world where there were just tons of gods that could be anything. It’s like every form of suffering had a representation. I wonder if it almost has a positive psychological effect. If your kid dies in a war, you can literally go speak to War and be like, “Why did you do this?” Or, “I hope you did this for a reason.” There’s a weird philosophical justification for all pain, and there’s an anAthropomoArphization of every form of pain. In our current society, we don’t even know how to talk about things. So my album’s about a modern demonology or a modern pantheon where every song is about a different way to suffer or a different way to die. If you think about it, god-making or god-designing just seems so fun. The idea of making the Goddess of Plastic seems so fun to me.

GRIMES: I’ve hit this point where there’s so much stuff that people think about me that has no basis in reality that I feel like I have to remove myself from my public self. I had to kill my ego, because there was no way to remain invested in myself as having anything to do with the culture while surviving mentally.

DEL REY: There are cycles to it. You can have years of ambivalence, and then it’s like that natural female hot and cold cycle. You can come back into caring extremely and being invested in yourself and your work, and then not caring at all. I think the good thing about what’s going on with you is that for all the hardship and the confusion, you can continue to make music and people will be intrigued because there have been so many little twists and turns.

GRIMES: I think my motto in life is just, “Don’t be bored.” Even if I’m having the worst time, I’m like, “Wow, this rules.” In some of my worst moments I remember thinking, “Damn, this is such sick fodder for my eventual book.” Speaking of which, would you ever write a book?

DEL REY: It’s funny, people have been asking me that lately. Ever since I started caring a bit less, and, like you said, disregarding ego—which is easy for me, thankfully—I’ve been writing more short stanza poetry. And now that I’ve done that, I was thinking, “Would I ever write something long-form?” I think I would want to, but honestly, I’m so hyperactive in my life. I don’t know if I could complete it, so I think it might be something like chicken scratch, all placed together in some long-form novel.

GRIMES: I was reading a study of the average age of artists. People are always saying shit like, “Oh, you’re so much less creative as you get older,” like your brain becomes less plastic and more static, which I actually disagree with.

DEL REY: Yeah, me too.

GRIMES: What’s interesting is that most novelists peak in their sixties. When I think about many of my favorite books, it’s mostly old-ass people who wrote them. My thought was, “Oh, I’ll just wait until I’m old and out of musical ideas, and then I’ll sit down and write a novel.” I’ll be so much more physically lazy when I’m old, too, so I’ll probably be way happier to sit down for 12 hours a day.

MARLING: There are so few representations of women on screen that are wholly authored by women. You have such authorial control over the whole process, from conception to execution. When I see you do these things, it feels like a political act, like you’re saying, “Fuck all of the bullshit stereotypical patriarchal roles that women are allowed to be inside entertainment,” whether that’s the virgin, the whore, or the mother. It feels like you’re making characters that are mischievous and carnal and brilliant. I’ve had so many moments watching your work where I’ve been like, “Oh my god. If I could embody that character in a film, that’s the role I want to play.”

GRIMES: That’s how I feel about you. People were like, “You’ve got to watch The OA.” I’m like, “Well, what is it?” I don’t know how to describe what it is. I always tell people that it’s the closest thing to IRL anime. It’s a cartoon-style narrative that is committed to film.

MARLING: That’s in your work, too. We allow magic to happen inside anime because it’s a cartoon, but when you put it in real life, it’s harder for people to digest.

GRIMES: It’s also a cost thing in real life. If you’re animating something crazy, it normally won’t cost a thing, whereas on film, something crazy is very expensive. We’re always negotiating the cost versus the craziness, which is why we always end up editing ourselves.

MARLING: On The OA at least, if you don’t control every part of the process, you fail miserably because what you’re doing is so far-out. If you tell a sound engineer, “The 16-foot telepathic octopus is rising out of the tank for human contact, make the sound of that,” everybody thinks it sounds like something different, because it’s never happened before.

GRIMES: How do you do it? When I see The OA and see hours of narrative, I’m like, “What the fuck?” It takes me a month to make a three-minute video.

MARLING: When I watch your videos, I think “What the fuck?” too. To me, you’re speaking in the poetry of symbolism.

GRIMES: I’ve been obsessed with symbolism lately. Mac [Boucher, Grimes’s brother] was telling me that in the medieval times, when literacy was at its lowest, everything got really symbolic, like the cross. Nuance got lost. I feel like we’re going back to a time like that, where everything is symbolic. No one reads past a headline because our attention spans are so short.

MARLING: Everything is reduced to an archetype.

GRIMES: The same symbols are being fed to people, and they’re gathering completely opposite meanings from them, and it’s creating chaos.

MARLING: The American flag means one thing to one group of people, and one thing to another. To one, it’s a metaphor for freedom. To another, it’s an image of oppression. That duality of symbolism applies to so many things. But we live in an increasingly complex time where it’s hard to grasp things in symbols. We’re having to deal with all of these hyperobjects. Climate change is a hyperobject that people cannot wrap their minds around, because, among other things, it involves a contemplation of time that is off the scope of the human body. We’re at a moment when we need nuanced, layered thinking more than ever, and somehow the moment is being met with a real shrinking away from context or depth. What is something technology related that hasn’t yet come, but feels inevitable?

MARLING: It’s thinking about power in a limited way. With old versions of power you would harness an army, kill a lot of people, and have power. AI is way ahead of that. AI’s like, “Actually, I only need to control 12 people on the planet. As long as I control those 12 people, the world is going to look like what I want it to look like.”

GRIMES: I might be wrong, and I might be aggrandizing here, but I feel like this might be one of the most important times in history. Especially in the last two years, it feels like we’ve walked right up to the edge between the old world and the new world. It’s like before the pyramids and after the pyramids. We’re at a “pyramids got built” moment. We’re going to be digitizing reality and colonizing space simultaneously, which may be two of the craziest things that will have occurred in the history of humanity. It’s going to happen while we’re alive and while we’re young, which is nuts. I was going to make this podcast called The Last Artist, and I really wanted you to come on. Did I tell you about this?

GRIMES: We’re always looking for our maker: “Who is our god? Who created us?” What’s interesting is, for AI, we are their god. That will be the first intelligent being that knows its creator, and knows everything about us.

 

[Via]

See also: “Gods in Our Machines by G.B. Gabbler

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Haunted Metaphors – A Russian Doll Video Essay

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: The Messy, Beautiful Worldbuilding of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by Matt Mikalatos

‘It seems to me that the confused mythology of Narnia is a feature, not a bug. Lewis is pulling in anything and everything that has meaning to him and patching it all together into some new myth. He and Tolkien were both interested in creating a new mythic story—it’s just that Tolkien was weaving his mythology from whole cloth, and Lewis was putting together a quilt, taking snatches of this or that mythology to make something that resonated with him as both new and true.

So, yes, he cuts out the sex from the fauns and the Bacchanalia, because that’s not the element of their mythology that he finds of interest. He tweaks Father Christmas so that he becomes a figure on par with the minor gods of Narnia. He ignores inconvenient plot points like the fact that food might be pretty hard to get in a country where it has been winter for years and years. He’s doing all this to move us toward the parts of the story that he finds most compelling: there is a broken world full of winter and traitors and evil creatures, but spring is coming…and we can be part of that heroic progression.

The underlying cohesion of Lewis’s world-building isn’t, like many of us might prefer, a watertight world with a central logic to it. That kind of world is for adults. Lewis’s world is a child’s world, where myths mix and overlap, where what is true and what is magical might be the same thing, where there is uncertainty when your sister says, “I found a fantasy world hidden in the furniture.”

In his essay “Myth Made Fact” Lewis explains the underlying rationale for why he would mash together any myth or symbol that rang true to him. He wrote, “… myth is the isthmus which connects the peninsular world of thought with the vast continent we really belong to. It is not, like truth, abstract; nor is it, like direct experience, bound to the particular.” Myth transcends thought, and Lewis believed that what resonated in, as he would say, “Pagan myth” was reality itself. Truth could be found in it, but to read a myth searching for truth would cause you to miss the point because you would lean into abstractions. One must experience the myth as story to have a concrete experience of the reality it represents.’

[Via]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Neither Allegory Nor Lion: Aslan and the Chronicles of Narnia by Matt Mikalatos

‘Lewis is not particularly interested in us knowing for sure that “Aslan equals Jesus.” He always plays it slant, and never once mentions Jesus by name. Lewis believed that myth prepares us for “true myth.” He loved the story of Balder, for instance, and believed that the love he had for that story, with the god’s death and resurrection, prepared him for the true and (by his estimation) historical myth of Jesus’s death and resurrection when he finally came to accept it. As he told his friend George Sayer, he wasn’t looking to convert people through Narnia so much as prepare them to meet Jesus in the real world. “I am aiming,” he said, “at a sort of pre-baptism of the child’s imagination.”’

[Via]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction by Zadie Smith

“But reading seems to be easier to defend than writing. Writing is a far larger act of presumption. Sensing this, we seek to shore up the act of writing with false defenses, like the dubious idea that one could ever be absolutely “correct” when it comes to representing fictional human behavior. I understand the desire—I have it myself—but what I don’t get is how anyone can possibly hope to achieve it. What does it mean, after all, to say “A Bengali woman would never say that!” or “A gay man would never feel that!” or “A black woman would never do that!”? How can such things possibly be claimed absolutely, unless we already have some form of fixed caricature in our minds? (It is to be noted that the argument “A white man would never say that!” is rarely heard and is almost structurally unimaginable. Why? Because to be such a self is to be afforded all possible human potentialities, not only a circumscribed few.)

But perhaps I am asking the question the wrong way round. The counterargument would be that when it comes to presumption, we are in far less danger of error when writer and subject are as alike as possible. The risk of containment is the risk of false knowledge being presented as truth—it is the risk of caricature. Those who are unlike us have a long and dismal history of trying to contain us in false images. And so—the argument runs—if we are to be contained by language, let that language at least be our own.

But the question is: In what does this “like me” consist? He doesn’t look like me. We don’t share the same gods. We don’t share the same race or gender. But he is a part of my soul. And fiction is one of the few places left on this earth where a crazy sentence like that makes any sense at all. Alex-Li is not “correct.” He cannot and doesn’t aim to represent the community of half-Jewish, half-Chinese people. In the spirit of Kafka, he barely represents himself. And so it may be that by his existence he is in fact oppressive, simply because he is “taking up space” where a “real” half-Jewish, half-Chinese fictional character might be. He cannot defend himself from that accusation—and it would be out of character for him to try. All he can say is that he doesn’t mind if he is unread, unbought, unloved. But if even one person happens to come across him and find that his feelings and their own have a similar weight, then he will have completed his absurd fictional role in this world.

Has fiction, over the centuries, been the creator of compassion or a vehicle for containment? I think we can make both cases. Fiction was often interested in the other but more often than not spoke for the other instead of actually publishing them. Fiction gave us Madame Bovary but also Uncle Tom. (It’s also given us a marvelous, separate literature that has no interest in human selves of any kind—which is concerned instead with animals, trees, extraterrestrials, inanimate objects, ideas, language itself.) But whether fiction’s curiosity about the other was compassionate or containing, one thing you could always say for it was that it was interested.

By contrast, a prominent component of the new philosophy is a performative display of non-interest, a great pride in not being interested in the other, which is sometimes characterized as revenge and sometimes as an act of self-preservation. (When you feel hatred coming from the other, it’s reasonable to turn from the other completely.) The expression of this pride usually comes in some version of I’ve had enough ofI just can’t with—fill in the blank. And the strange thing is that the people we now cast into this place of non-interest were once the very people fiction was most curious about. The conflicted, the liars, the self-deceiving, the willfully blind, the abject, the unresolved, the imperfect, the evil, the unwell, the lost and divided. Those were once fiction’s people.

We behave as if don’t want to be known by one another, but we sometimes seem oblivious to the idea that we spend our days feeding ourselves into a great engine of knowing, one that believes it knows every single thing about us: our tastes, our opinions, our beliefs, what we’ll buy, who we’ll love, where we’ll go. The unseen actors who harvest this knowledge not only hope to know us perfectly but also to modify us, to their own ends. And this essay, too, will no doubt enter that same digital maw, and be transformed from ideas to data points, and responded to, perhaps, with a series of pat phrases, first spotted by the machine, then turned viral, and now returned to us as if it were our own language. “I just can’t with Zadie Smith right now,” or else “This Zadie Smith is everything,” or—well, you know the drill. We’ve gotten into the habit of not experiencing the private, risky act of reading so much as performing our response to what we read, which is then translated into data points.

Is this novel before me an attempt at compassion or an act of containment? Each reader will decide. This is the work of an individual consciousness and cannot be delegated to generalized arguments, not even the prepackaged mental container of “cultural appropriation.”

To put it another way, a book can try to modify your behavior, but it has no way of knowing for sure that it has. In front of a book you are still free.”

[Via]