I drank, and felt the darkness flood
into my mouth; I tasted blood
as I trod on through ash and mud
to gaze upon the wall.
The words that once bled ancient doom
still pierced the veil of choking gloom
that crept, like mist, throughout the room
of Belshazzar’s great ball.
Before the Babel wine was sipped
our Lord did make this feast a crypt;
His mocking otherworldly script
still read “All empires fall.”
And to this wall, I took my pen
and scored a plea for better men:
“Great empires will still rise again
when great minds raise the call.”
Ben Rogers is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of a great, contemporary lyricist. His words can be read alone, without musical accompaniment, and yet still manage to remain truthful, jaded and poetic, as if an early Dylan got into a brawl with Tom Waits. It is my firm belief that this man is one of the world’s finest unsung lyricists, peppering songs with lines such as ‘Whilst those who die for freedom are glorified, those guilty of survival, they don’t seem to mean a thing.’Here are two verses from one of my favourite tracks, the ever-melancholic ‘Easy Street’…
The poet felt more like a prophet, and spoke of a saviour that never came. He just wasted away, slinging ink on a page, tracing shadows of the brightest days, and he went down to the railroad tracks and on the hook that holds the mailbags that are never sent, he tied a slipknot in the ribbon of his typewriter and put it round his neck, and placed a letter in the bag with no address and it said ‘I’m an open book, but there’s no words on the sheet. I’m tired of living with the bums of Easy Street.’
Gypsy boy rides past on a three-speed, with tarot cards snapping in his spokes. He says “I’ll read your palms for no charge at all, if you could just spare a couple of smokes”, and I say “It seems like every time you need a cigarette, everyone else is always on their last one.” So I take some nicotine and I twist us both a dream and say “Here you go my son. You can read my palms if you like, but don’t tell me what you see. I know I’ll always be a bum of Easy Street.”
In this great age of turbulence
there is a goal for which we strive
and when we see a thing in need,
the order is to stay alive -
but at what cost? Another’s health?
Would we forsake our honour thus?
Does death breed fear, or fear bring death
when life’s last hope depends on us?
Yet, words are cold; such icy winds
have whipped from many mouths before,
but not this day! Today, we know
such hollow vows will reign no more.
And if we die (for die we may),
we have not lived to die in vain;
we stood beside our fellow Man
and died so they could live - again.
Then, live or die, our legacy
will slowly move from town to field
and one day, they may think of us
when they decide to raise their shield.
The art of burlesque, in all its majestic complexity, is currently under fire from a small proportion of this country’s population. They believe burlesque dancers and strippers to be one and the same, that strippers remove their clothes under the guise of a dance for the enjoyment of paying strangers, and ask the difference between this and the art of burlesque. It is a question which has fascinated me from the first time I set foot in a darkened establishment to watch my first burlesque performance: is there a difference – and why should we care?
To explore this, I’d like to draw reference from historical and contemporary examples in accordance with the public’s perception of scantily clad women. I think I’m safe to say that all straight males actively enjoy seeing women with barely any clothes on. I remember hearing a story of fin-de-siècle Paris, when married men used to go to the circus – sometimes with their wives, other times with friends – as an excuse to see the performers wearing skin-tight clothes, or very little. The modern perception of burlesque has a similar feel; the punter wants to invite people to watch it with them as it’s usually in a safe environment and can be very entertaining, but (as far as the average person is aware) it’s often still women taking their clothes off.
A lot of these preconceptions can have their blame laid upon amateur burlesque. I’ve been to a number of shows where the emphasis of certain acts has been heavily on the ‘strip’ and far less on the ‘show’. I recently attended The Peacock Lounge, a delightfully decadent soiree where the vast proportion of girls were exceptional, but a few of those less experienced seemed to share this ‘more strip than show’ mentality; I noticed that those who simply stripped with little charm or flair received the smallest amount of audience reaction, whereas the ones who actually had an act (and by act I don’t mean a silly backstory or different outfit) received well-deserved adulation.
I understand that burlesque needs new blood, but it seems that a lot of amateurs are getting involved just to strip in front of an audience without the seedy connotations of being a stripper. This may be for a number of reasons, the most obvious being an element of empowerment and that of improved confidence, but it is my firm belief that simply stripping down to pasties (nipple tassels) and pants to music doesn’t make you a burlesque dancer – it makes you a girl who has stripped.
The public’s perception of burlesque rests heavily upon the performer, as with every performance-based art, so if they just see a girl stripping as their one and only experience of burlesque, they’ll believe this is all burlesque has to offer. Luckily, there are many diamonds in the rough who dedicate a lot of time into honing their acts, and do so wonderfully. I’ve seen some acts when the performer has been so entrancing, so bewitching, that I’ve been totally and irrevocably transfixed to the stage until they walk off - or the red curtain finally falls. The vast majority of these times, the girls have stripped, but they’ve done it so beautifully, so effortlessly, that you don’t notice or care; the only thing you do care about being the inherent beauty in the dance before you – a dance so delightful that it requests your utmost, unashamed attention.
I care about this art form because, in my experience, burlesque dances have the potential to be quite transcendental (see Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils for the most famous historical example), but with the popularity of the art soaring, its reputation will continue to rest on the shoulders of the amateurs (for it is them the public will likely first encounter) unless more professionals start to host their own shows, educational talks and training programmes. Only then will burlesque come to be publicly recognised as a structured, adult performance art - and not simply stripping by another name.
This potent document offers advice, encouragement and the tools - building upon the guiding principles of Brothellian Ideology - to achieve your creative ambitions.
“Ultimately, we envisage a society where the quill or the sketchbook holds as much sexual potency as the electric guitar; where the illustrator or poet is as much of a sex symbol as the rock star.”
Conceived by Timothy Grayson & Steven Silverman of the English Brothellian Movement, the Brothellian Manifesto was written and edited during the tumultuous year of global revolution (2011). This truly is a product for our time; a lewd body of practical advice for the modern working artist.
US Customers can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Brothellian-Manifesto-The-ebook/dp/B006XXX3OS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326715884&sr=8-1
UK Customers can buy it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brothellian-Manifesto-The-ebook/dp/B006XXX3OS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326715934&sr=8-1
Customers from the EU, please visit your local Amazon website and search for ‘Brothellian Manifesto’.
I wrote the following in response to this article in the Telegraph, in which David Hockney states his disapproval of artists (such as Damien Hirst) employing craftsmen to help construct their work:
True, to an extent. I despise Hirst and hate to make this comparison, but great sculptors and architects of antiquity often had help, and yet we only remember the artist’s name. Why? Because it is them who drew the plan, them who spent time developing the idea, and them who employed the craftsmen to help bring their vision to life. If Hockney’s going to pick on Hirst’s work, at least make it for a noble cause - such as it’s lack of artistic merit - as I think stating such a shallow reason only highlights his need to do basic research. The difference between those great artists and Hirst is that if Hirst were to employ twenty skilled craftsmen to enact HIS vision, they’d still struggle to create a work of great art.
NEW WALK MUSEUM & ART GALLERY
Leicester City, England.
TUESDAY LECTURES (7th, 14th 21st & 28th February 2012)
11:00 - 12:00
Cultural Ambassador Timothy Grayson will be hosting a series of public lectures (in partnership with his private series at the University of Leicester) to unite artistic dissidents and illuminate the teachings of the Brothellian Movement.
The import and necessity of taste wll be covered, as will historical and contemporary methodology, discussing aesthetic principles and an exploration of the three tenets of great art (as clarified in the Brothellian Manifesto - co-created with Steven Silverman). Each lecture is structured to include audience participation, so attendees are encouraged to think for themselves, make notes and speak up during discussions.
Guest appearances will include speeches and/or discussions with various creative experts from a range of fields - not just artistic! Perfect for creative and philosophic minds, especially those interested in igniting the fires of a new cultural renaissance.
Lectures: £5.00 / Student: £3.00.
Timothy Grayson will also be hosting a Brothellian Masterclass following each lecture - subject to demand - developed during his US tour and tailored especially for patrons of New Walk Museum. During this time, participants will be given the definitive chance to explore the teachings of the Brothellian Manifesto in depth with meticulous discussion and a wide range of practical techniques.
Each attendee will aso be awarded with a certificate to prove they have been given a solid introduction to the Brothellian ideal. Please note, these certificates are LIMITED EDITION and will ONLY be available for attendees of Timothy Grayson’s ‘Brothellian Masterclass’ at New Walk Museum.
Masterclass: £10.00 / Student: £8.00.
NYM event listing: http://www.leicester.gov.uk/your-council-services/lc/leicester-city-museums/events/museumsevents/february2012/
Facebook event listing: http://www.facebook.com/events/350018091681939/