I’m honoured and humbled to be designing and curating Tuxedomoon’s archive page. I was trusted with Peter Principle’s hard drive last December, and will be slowly and steadily selecting recordings for monthly release. A big thank you to Blaine, Steven, Luc, Isabelle, Ann, Saskia… and in memory of dearest Peter, Bruce and Bernadette.

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Rafael and the guitar, 1985

Here’s a lil story about my friend Rafael Toral and how we first met. It was the Summer of 1985 and I’d just finished my first year as a Design undergraduate at U.Porto. Some friends organised a post-punk festival in Aveiro, “Agitarte”: nothing short of a miracle, given the inexperience of all involved… the idea was to bring all the up and coming music from Lisbon, Porto and Galicia into a relatively small town by the seaside – and hold parallel exhibitions, talks, performances by a broader set of young artists, yours truly included.

Days one and two went relatively smoothly… but all hell broke loose on day 3 as heavy rain came in and forced the organisers to move everything into an indoor pavilion. The program got heavily delayed, something like five hours… but hey, all of us, artists and audience, were patient and persistent, that’s how it went back then… We all just drank some more beer and tried to help in any way possible. The indoor acoustics were terrible, but we were just grateful to be experiencing “the avant-garde”.

A band called Pop dell’Arte came on stage it must have been 3AM, and right from the beginning, the mood changed dramatically. Most prior bands were either of the urban-depressive kind, or their set was structured enough not to alienate; Pop dell’Arte was different: total freakin improv, some members with no prior knowledge of their instruments, other musicians joining on the spot… a demented crescendo of dadaist-cabaret-post-everything we knew in our pre-European narrative, really. And the musicians were having such FUN. I remember punks in the audience getting really hostile towards João Peste, the singer, as he was dressed and danced in an extravagant fashion rather than look dark and anguished. Peste just kneeled down and took it all in with a big smile, as some sort of redemption ritual.

I watched in wonder as some epiphany was triggered in my brain, somehow a lesson in contemporary art and post-modernity more poignant than any class held at uni. Amongst the mayhem there was a kid banging away on a drum, and then he proceeded to grab a guitar. By 4AM (or whatever), the musicians started to fade out one by one… except for the kid with the guitar. He just went on this long, mind-blowing solo and showed no signs of abating. Security had to step in and literally grab the guitar from him, to rioting shouts from the audience.

That kid was Rafael. I spotted him afterwards by the bar and raised my glass to his band and his solo. I mentioned this episode to him in passing years later… I don’t think he remembered. But truth is, that night irreversibly changed my outlook on the creative act.

I have some photos of Agitarte somewhere: will dig them out at some point. Meanwhile, here’s the cover I designed for Rafael’s CD on Touch years later.

The Early Affirmation

“Steel Cathedrals” by David Sylvian was one of my key soundtracks in the late 1980s. At the time it was only available on the cassette version of the “Words With the Shaman” EP, impossible to get hold of in Portugal.

I moved to London in late 1988 and came across a copy: it became a favourite in my multiple dérives through the city, somehow entranced by the magnitude of it all, somehow still in disbelief at the quantum leap from my previous narrative. The sounds complemented this sense of vertigo perfectly, a mix of spiritual intoxication and wonderment that I hold dear to this day, no matter how dark and doubtful the days might be.

The Batman Shave

When I was a kid there was the odd spin-off product stemming from the fantasy world of comic books. Of course, the highly aggressive and intricate marketing strategies of today were non-existent, but still… kids would get their pretend shaving cream with the Batman logo and the like. You played with your legos, you played with your toys, you shaved like Batman.

Fascinating to watch how in 2017 this very same template has been brought to adult consumer habits and expectations. As a 51 year old, am I expected to shave my long beard off as Batman would? Or is this product targeted towards young men barely out of puberty?…

Actually, possibly one more evidence that the current consumerist template bets on a sort of perpetual child in all of us; and yet, the aesthetics have gone so much darker. The world these super-heroes inhabit is now a brooding dystopia: what exactly is the point of a clean shave amongst the apocalypse?

Maybe we can add the nostalgia factor somewhere in there: as I used to read superhero comics in my youth while listening to Pink Floyd, maybe now I’m expected to listen to the “Dark Side of the Moon” 6-CD mega-remaster extravaganza while shaving like the super-heroes I used to witness saving the world on a regular basis a few decades ago.

I’ll stick to trimming for the time being, thank you very much. Now, where did I put my Spider-man beard trimmer?

Coming October 21

Antifluffy Sings, produced by yours truly, will be launched on CD at futureplaces X, 21 October 2017. Free copies for all participants, and an accompanying bandcamp version for everyone else. Stay tuned for lots more info.

Two new sound editions at FuturePlaces 2017

FUTUREPLACES 2017 will feature the launch of two brand new audio editions, both freely available during the medialab: Realismo Mágico, a release by our partner Radio Manobras, and Antifluffy Sings Songs That Will Not Live Forever, where our mascot is accompanied by a laptop orchestra made up of U.Porto digital media sound researchers. Production and design on both releases by yours truly.

Join the ranks October 17-21 in Porto: all free, all welcome.

 

Grainy evidence of a kid onstage

Blimey, what a time warp… That kid on the white cap is me onstage screaming off the top of my lungs in 1987 at the mythical Rock Rendez Vous in Lisbon. Sharing the photo are Helena Soares and José Maria Lopes; off the pic but on stage were also Anselmo Canha, Orquídea Calisto and Paulo Solá.

Somehow RTP got hold of some dusty photos somewhere… Media was so scare, we were left with little more than our memories. Everything was scarce, actually, and yet so many of us kids just went for it, trying things out without a safety net – financial, aesthetic, technical, or otherwise. A peripheral version of post-punk, based on the few echoes we scrounged from late-night radio and hiss-infested third-generation tapes of expensive import LPs. Like the grain on this photo, really.

An elegy to the hidden megalopolis

Iain Sinclair says goodbye to London, the city that inspired countless psychogeographical drifts of his – and translated into masterpieces of meta-narratives on the traces that do not get a place in the grand narrative. Now that the grand narrative seems to engulf everything and everyone into cloud entertainment, fear, overexposure and financial abstraction, the time seems right for a dignified farewell.
I had the good fortune of coordinating a workshop with him and artist Renchi Bicknell, back in 2001 at the Royal College of Art; I remember a shared sense of possibility that has meanwhile seemed to dry out. And yet, his work remains, and even his farewell is  somehow a glimpse of possible adventures.

FPX and the future

Not so long ago, social media were heralded as tools for connectivity and solidarity; in some ways they still are, but what we seem to have underestimated is how media are not always necessarily used for common good. So we face quite a few challenges ahead, including the possible unraveling of our perception of truth – even reality itself.
When futureplaces began in 2008, the “future” was largely a utopian projection; these days it seems to have become a constant, volatile alarm sound. This will be one of the topics addressed throughout futureplaces X.