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Rational Madness

FIRE AND BRIMSTONE

Essay

In the Shadow of The Edinburgh Tattoo

By Ian Postre

The arts is currently largely defined not by people who want to work in it, but by people who do not want to work anywhere else.

A lot of people who would be far happier working in the economic sphere, in the world of business, have displaced into the arts. Why? Because they find the world of business too boring, too uninspiring, too harsh? Because of the stress of working in industry and commerce? Because of the sheer romance and excitement of the artistic realm in comparison to the predictable, mechanised world of business?

However, this has not stopped them bringing their natural tendencies towards ruthlessness and competition into the artistic and cultural realm. In Edinburgh, they have created a Fringe, which is a playground of Darwinism. My own show, “Win, Win, Win!” which was a critique of the harsh competitiveness of the business world, the world of cutting throats and back stabbing, of winning and losing through survival of the fittest, was, partly unsuccessful at Edinburgh because its satire failed. The festival it found itself in was simply too much of a genuine example of what the show was trying to satirise. The Fringe made use of every supposedly outrageous technique the show tried to criticise. BATTAP - being all things to all people - was practised everywhere - the Law of Regression Progression, where the aim is to get ahead by making others go backwards was followed and supported by the resource model (as usual, you pay for everything, even a smile), by the reviewers some of whom obviously feel better and ‘higher’ for being really nasty and sarcastic about human endeavour and striving (I got good reviews in the nationals so I don't have a personal axe to grind here - but I saw it done to others, with relish and usually very little genuine wit), by performers as they jostled for position on the Royal Mile. It was really hard to see the genuine co-operation and sense of community attempting to express itself (which is natural to the artistic realm).


There was a positive undercurrent, a strong collective will to realise creative vision. But how many people will return from Edinburgh feeling that something was sucked out of them, that their zest for life has been somewhat lessened by the experience (as well as lessened by several thousands of pounds. This money hasn't disappeared into the ether, a necessary artistic sacrifice - this money has gone into the pockets of other people). Except the winners of course who will hoard their newly gained energy. Behind the sheen of niceness of organisers and venue managers, artistic directors, agents and reviewers, the tills are ringing and the survival of the fittest egos are inflating. I saw those at the top of the pile, the media and art moguls looking, sounding and behaving every bit like their Private Eye caricatures. In one place you were invited to stand up in front of the crowd and to sell your show or slag off someone else's in sixty seconds. Nice.

All that I can take. It's when you look into the eyes of what you thought were colleagues and friends and see them economically weighing up what to say to you, how much to listen to you, how much (as if it were pounds and pence) of their attention of warmth to waste on you, or invest in you. How to manage their exit from the conversation, how to leave you liking them, that I really begin to feel sad.
What I came to Edinburgh for were some decent quotes to cull from my reviews. I have got them. I also got some bad ones. They of course, will be ejected and will never make it back to Brighton. But I think I came here searching for a community of artists.

There is an industry up here that Margaret Thatcher would have been, and I am sure Tony Blair is, proud of. There are warm smiles and genuinely helpful and giving people. It is inspiring to see the sheer amount and intensity of endeavour and yearning, of hope and effort. But the entire community is boundaried and defined within what Alan Winner would call 'limited worlds'. Our smiles are part of our daily budget of goodness. We direct our warmth towards predefined

aims. We want bums on seats ahead of gifts of warmth.

I'm feeling sad at the line we have drawn between each other. It is such a shame we have created an awkward cliché of the idea that we might flourish better together. "I want your show to work really well because I feel that if we all did some of that wanting for each other, something imperceptible but real would kick in, and the total amount of energy available to all of us would increase." Not such a hot idea in a fundamentalist-materialistic world. The critics certainly hated it.

We have spawned a generation who are annoyed at morality. Without a spiritual or religious foundation, morality is confusing, irritating, annoying. Morality has no right to exist except as a subjective choice born of subjective feeling. Morality is an inconvenience, a way to impress another person. A chat up line. quaint Margaret-Rutherfordesquequirk of character.





Continued...


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