Uncivilisation 2012 pt. 1
This was the weekend of the 2012 Uncivilisation Dark mountain gathering in Hampshire. This year, all of the speakers and musicians performed without electricity, but apart from this the event felt similar in tone to last years.
I feel a bit bad about my attitude towards dark mountain this year; by the end of the three days I realised that I was taking it for granted, almost being dismissive of it. Overheard fragments of conversations as you pass through the event make it easy to dismiss; people chatting about their barn conversion, or the diesel LX (?) whichthey are going to buy, or thier new massive solar array, amongst a myriad of other middle to upper middle class concerns can diminish the conversations which brought about your attendance - if you let them. Generosity dictates that I acknowledge that these are all existential concerns for those assembled. It wasn’t until the morning of the final day, listening to an assemblage of around 100 people talk about what they wanted/thought/did that I started to feel moved or connected in the way I expected or, wanted.
I’ll come back to the aforementioned group session later, but first I’ll revisit Martin Shaw’s Performance on Saturday morning. Martin was introduced as a ’wilderness initiation ritual’ guide, and one of the countries best story tellers, so expectations were high about what was to follow. Martin began by describing his experience of wilderness initiation with tribes across the world - the similarities and differences. Throughout this introduction he wove in his thoughts about the importance of myth thought time and different cultures. The following quote sums it up eloquently.
a myth is the power of a place speaking.
For me, this evocation of the power of myth resonated with the thoughts of two other thinkers - thought which have stained my thinking for the last year or two. The first comes from Bruce Sterling in a concluding section of a keynote speech from a few years back (can’t remember which one right now). Sterling describes urban tribes who affect the appearance and conduct of a mish-mash of styles and cultures (eg, aviation steam-punk geek), and describes how this is ok because, well, who the fuck can say with any authority that it isn’t? Those in so called positions of authority don’t seem to be doing a particularly good job giving much of a damn about anything other than serving their own interests, so make up your own way… We need to find meaning in our lives, and if opportunities to find it in the day to day are, for whatever reason, absent, we bloody well should make it for ourselves. Actually, i’ve probably paraphrased massively here - I therefore promise to go back to source and correct as appropriate. But this is how I remember it.
The second though comes from Isabelle Stengers. In her (and her colaorator who’s name I have forgotten) book Capitalist Sorcery she explains how it could be useful to think about all pervasive value systems in terms of modern myths. They are just one of an infinite number of ways of organising society and apportioning/assigning value. Thinking about capitalism as a kind of sorcery could provide ways of dealing with its affects in affirmative (of an authentic life… discuss) ways.
Martin’s evocation to use myth as a means of making sense of life and it’s ability to bring a richness to our existence, which after all is always rooted in place, provides another voice speaking against the dead conformity on which capitalism thrives.
Martin’s introduction primed us to get the most from the stories he would tell. Three stories were woven together over the next hour, each one introduced and reflected upon in little interludes during which Martin would take up a drum and beat out a simple accompanying rhythm. Myself and the audience were spellbound by the performance. Despite the apparent familiarity with the players - witches, princes, kings, and ogres - and the settings - forests, castles, taverns - the tales, all actual myths from different cultures, held our attention. We all wanted to know how things worked out and why. Before he began, Martin asked us to each pick a person, or indeed and animal, place, or object, who we would like to pass the tales on to. I chose the little boy from the flat above me, but in reality I will probably recount the tales to a wooded glad somewhere in the near future.
I’ll continue my write up of Dark Mountain Uncivilisation 2012 tomorrow, for now I must exercise.