“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: Infinite”
The Marriage between Heaven and Hell, William Blake, 1793
In 1792, William
Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge came out with their Lyrical Ballads. To many, this particular moment in time marks the
beginning of Romanticism, a movement which opposed the rationalism that had
been central in the Age of Reason decades earlier. Plays made way for a focus
on poetry and prose, in which themes like youthful innocence, a connection to
nature, and the confrontational breaking of taboos started to play major roles.
Institutions like the church, the government, and even the education system
were consistently besieged with heavy critiques, showing the irrationality
within the rationality their so-called systems claimed to have. The Romantics
attempted to once again enchant the world, to restore its magic, to bring back
the supernatural, and to purposefully not answer all the questions life puts
forward, but instead display the enjoyment of clueless wonder, in a language anyone
could understand. Approximately 150 years later, a new sense of rebellion came
along, partially voiced by artists once again embracing the mysteries of life. In
a world just struck by war, seeing the rise of feminist marches, civil rights
movements and the developing voice of younger generations, the Hippie movement
and Rock ‘n Roll soon took over. Paving the way for the mainstream were people
like the beat poets, who, during the 50s, started to write about junkies, the
lower class, and homosexuals, thereby actively breaking with conventions.
Additionally, the language used became more free verse, more direct, and simply
more accessible, therefore strongly opposing the rational, almost pretentiously
complex texts modernism had put out the years before WO II. Unsurprisingly, the
beat poets themselves felt aligned with the romantics of two centuries earlier.
Allen Ginsberg even named William Blake as one of his biggest inspirations. In
other forms of post-modernist writing, an enchantment of the world once again
arose through the humorous existentialism of, for instance, Samuel Beckett and
the irrationally mythicized mundane of the Magical Realists. What more do these
similarities tell us about that period, and in what ways has it influenced our
“No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved. No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style. No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything.”
Lately I’ve been considering the merits of taking risks in art and what taking artistic risks means to me in the first place. As an artist I believe that I should be able to express whatever I want without restrictions, limitations or objections. That is to say, no imagery, topic or theme should be off the table. I want my art—regardless of the genre I’m working in—to be a vehicle through which I can freely explore emotions, imagery, ideas, philosophy, morality, spirituality, etc. Letting something or someone get in the way of my artistic expression is to diminish the quality of my work, because if I have to adhere to a set of rules that I don’t stand by, I’m not allowing myself to be authentic as an artist. By extension, I can’t be authentic as a person, either, because art is my highest and purest form of expression. So, when I make art I find it useful to be able to not give a shit about rules, conventions, opinions, political correctness, being offensive or being entertaining, as long as I know what I’m doing and, most importantly, why I’m doing it. But such freedom never comes without a price.
The Writer’s Block editorial board is proud to present our summer issue and the last Writer’s Block of this academic year, featuring summery vibes, brand-new talent and an interview with Paul Bond, the singer of Dandelion. Read the issue here.
It’s been a little over a year since our dog, whom we ironically called Poema, passed away. The first couple of days after his death were really hard for our family. I successfully repressed my grief by pushing away any positive or negative thoughts about him and by avoiding the conversations my family had about Poema. It was my first time losing someone, human or dog, so I had never experienced grief before and now, over a year later, I certainly haven’t moved on. Now, I’m trying to find out whether moving on is even real or a myth. I know moving on doesn’t feel real the first few days after a loss – for me, moving on certainly didn’t feel real at the time. Even now, it still doesn’t seem real. And how does moving on tie in with the grieving process? Let me try to find the answers to this by starting at the beginning.
“Reality is just a crutch for people who can’t handle drugs.”
Drugs, or drug culture, are often associated with tie-died t-shirts, the south Americas, the 70’s, rock and punk music, and ultimately, Snoop Dogg. Yet, in between those stereotypical manifestations of the junkie lifestyle, there are deeper, subtler, more complex – that is not to say better! – forms of culture, critique and commentary hidden. Drug usage is often seen as a form of escapism, associated with a strengthened tendency to ´go with the flow´, as an uncontrollable entering of a world other than the capitalist reality the rest of sober society lives in. And although the life, or world, of the average addict or regular user might be utterly different from the routine of those working 9 to 5, it is the similarities or the grey area between the two that makes drug culture so significant.
Truman Capote, author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, described his diary as a ‘hieroglyphic shambles’. He said that when looking back over his old journals he was frequently baffled by entries of which he had no recollection. ‘God knows what “Thunder on Cobra Street” refers to,’ he pondered. I, too, came across many jottings in my diaries that left me wondering what on earth I was on about.
In addition to these cryptic scribbles, I noticed that I am also quite an avid list maker, though not nearly as obsessive as Susan Sontag, renowned for her exhaustive lists of, well, everything. For example: “Things I like: fires, Venice, tequila, sunsets, babies, silent films, heights, coarse salt, top hats, large long-haired dogs, ship models, cinnamon, goose down quilts, pocket watches, the smell of newly-mown grass, linen, Bach, Louis XIII furniture, sushi, microscopes, large rooms, ups, boots, drinking water, maple sugar candy.”1 Following my last Writer’s Block piece, here are some more of my journal entries and accompanying photos, covering the period of my last few weeks in France and my relocation to Vietnam. Once again, I must mention that I took the liberty to change names and details where necessary. And by necessary I mean wherever the hell I felt like it.
Back when I was a teenager, I created an Instagram account and I loved it. I spent endless amount of time posting weird artsy photos with matching weird artsy captions – usually song lyrics. Instagram has consistently remained one of my favourite social media platforms since I first made my account, and I have the 1.7k photos to prove it. There was, however, a period where I didn’t take pictures anymore. I felt bored, perhaps even a bit lazy. There came no satisfaction from picking out one photo out from the 15 that I had taken of a subject matter. And that bummed me out. My beautiful, precious Instagram would lie silent for weeks, but I just had nothing to post. And it wasn’t that I couldn’t take pictures; my phone’s camera is pretty decent and I do have a DSLR lying around – I just didn’t want to. I was uninspired and perhaps even apathetic at the thought of it. It felt far too easy to just snap dozens of pictures, only to have to then wade through a sea of similar photos to find The One.