Facade: Great American Pub, Conshohocken Pt. 2

Facade: Great American Pub: Fayette Street: Conshohocken


Flier: Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum


St. Adalbert's Catholic Church, Philadelphia


Philadelphia City Hall from South Broad Street, Philadelphia


St. John the Baptist Church: Manayunk


Regal Cinema: Conshohocken


Sons of America Building: 2nd Ave & Fayette Street: Conshohocken


The Bad News Bats: West Philadelphia: 2006

More from Highwire Gallery (mid-Aughts)

Staring at Buildings, Waiting for Individuals...

Fayette Street in Conshohocken is a testament to the power of the human imagination. The aesthetic effect both of architectural sublimity and of bizarre juxtapositions carries over the whole length of Fayette Street, from where it begins until it turns into Butler Pike. I am by no means an expert on architecture, but the jaw-dropping gorgeousness of Fayette Street is difficult for any serious artist to miss. Were the architects channeling other worlds when they pieced Fayette Street together, building by building, strip by strip? I think so; and I have already likened Fayette Street to Narnia (remember Cair Paravel?), though any fairy tale realm where the fanciful, the evanescent and the ethereal (apparitional, in the spirit of Neo-Romanticism, also works) triumph over the quotidian and its monstrosities. This strip, between 2nd and 1st Ave on Fayette, adds an edge of the urban and hipsterism to the party. It looks like Georgetown in DC and Park City Utah; but, as usual with Fayette Street, the juxtaposition of the strip with Calvary Episcopal, Saint Matthew Church, and the Conshohocken Municipal Building behind it where the slope levels off again takes something normative and makes it transcendental. And does the architecture of Fayette Street critique the inhabitants? On the other side of things, the row homes which constitute the architectural backbone of Fayette Street past the Municipal Building on 7th Ave and Fayette all have something important to say, sometimes fanciful/imaginative, sometimes not, about the kinds of folks who may be living there. Hard-headed, practical things too; and in this way, the evanescence of Fayette Street is balanced, heaven to Earth, Kether to Malkuth. 


Conshohocken Free Library: 3rd Ave & Fayette Street

Calvary Episcopal Church: 4th Ave & Fayette Street: Conshohocken

Sex as Dialectic

William Wordsworth leaves out of his Preface to Lyrical Ballads any particular approach to physicality, to the body, or to bodily awareness in general. By doing so, he leaves a certain critical door wide open to accusations that both Lyrical Ballads and the rest of his oeuvre lack the visceral quality born of rigorous physicality. When the mind, for example, associates ideas in a state of excitement, Wordsworth seeks to document the process in his poems; yet what the mind is reacting to is (Wordsworth suggests) a kind of perceptive consciousness of the durable permanence of natural forms and the human mind’s chiasmus with them. What about the durable permanence of the human body itself, as Renaissance humanism likes to suggest; or, even better, what about texts and textuality which assumes that the body itself is an idea, and associations and entanglements of bodies are associations and entanglements of ideas as well? This is in Keats’ Odal Cycle, and in Apparition Poems as well, especially in 1070, which forms a palimpsest over Wordsworth’s Solitary Reaper:

I said, “I can’t
even remember
the last time I
was excited, how
can I associate
            She pulled
out a gun, a tube
of oil, and an air
            and it was
a spontaneous
felt, in which we
reaped together

 It is a backbone of one of the strains of my work, which includes (also) Equations and When You Bit…, that sexuality is not only an expression of our physical selves but also an idea. A tangential thought is that, as is expressed in 1070, the human body itself is an idea, and sex itself can be a kind of physical dialectic.


Neo-Romanticism and the Individual

There is one central Neo-Romantic contradiction which animated the lives of all the Neo-Romantic artists in Philadelphia in the Aughts: we were all engaged with the world around us on as many levels as possible. Yet, to follow through on the quest and the aptitude to create innovative, provocative, and major high art consonant art, we all needed to maintain (sometimes) an extreme degree of solitude as well. I can’t speak for Abby, but for me, the tug between solitude and solitary creation on one side and social and/or sexual engagement on the other was a hard row to hoe. This contradiction is there for all serious artists, but we, all of us, were perhaps more baroque, labyrinthine, and apparitional then other artists at other times, as the smorgasbord we had before was so rich and so tricky. So, we had to flail around and attempt to find as much solidity as we could on as many levels as we could. What Abby gives us, in Frozen Warnings, is a sense of two things: total emotional entropy between two individuals, and a manifest formal/thematic triumph over the insipid Americana of Andrew Wyeth, on his own turf. Abby, in fact, has ways of triumphing over PAFA (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) formalism simply by painting situations as emotionally charged (sometimes sexually also, sometimes not) as possible. The pursuit of passions and emotions in serious art is always solid. It also manages to bridge the gap between solitary worlds of creation and levels of social engagement. Takes us, solidly, to Apparition Poem 1341:

Secrets whispered behind us
have a cheapness to bind us
to liquors, but may blind us
to possibilities of what deep
secrets are lost in pursuit of
an ultimate drunkenness that
reflects off surfaces like dead
fishes at the bottom of filthy
rivers— what goes up most is
just the imperviousness gained
by walking down streets, tipsy,
which I did as I said this to her,
over the Schuylkill, two fishes.

Individuals who live in multiple worlds often do not find it easy to connect. All the Apparition Poems elements— the night, the city, sex, death, drunkenness— coalesce around the vagaries of trying to communicate the incommunicable, which may be incommunicable for practical or for psycho-spiritual reasons. The dry ice I-it here, is matched by Abby’s equivalent of the same in Frozen Warnings. From Center City Philadelphia in the Aughts, we all had to live through a certain amount of dry ice— the city is not a solitary place, even when you need it to be, and it was invasive and intrusive sometimes. Aughts Philly, in fact, had and was a kind of merry-go-round game, which meant that mastering the stops, when to get on and when to get off (so to speak), was a delicate art. Artists need space. Frozen Warnings is given by Abby here a suburban template, but involves urban issues too— what happens when hipster-ism and scenester-ism turn sour, and what sinks in is the gravitas of one’s own isolation? The Neo-Romantic obsession with multi-tiered living is also frustrated by the dynamics of balancing imperatives to join and imperatives to self-isolate as well. So that, our reaction to this dilemma could not be dictated to us by Philadelphia’s architecture; that could only lend rigor to the art we were creating. As to what should constitute the life, we were all more or less on our own, and it remains that way to this day.  


Inside the Eris Temple, '07

The Story of Eris Temple (EP)

By the spring of 2007, when I wrote and recorded most of the Eris Temple EP tracks, my life had changed radically from where I had been during the Philly Free School/Highwire Gallery days of 2004/2005. I had finished my MFA in creative writing and was now a University Fellow at Temple University, working towards a PhD in English literature. Because my University Fellowship offered both a stipend and two fellowship years (2006/2007 and 2009/2010), and because my first year was a fellowship year and did not require me to teach, I still had time to write books and music. The other change that spring was that I resumed my relationship with Mary Harju, after several years hiatus. Matt was ensconced at the Eris Temple in North-West Philly (52nd and Cedar), and the Eris Temple basement, where the studio was, was also large enough to hold performances in. To give some idea of how the studio looked: you would descend down a red-painted wooden staircase, into a kind of dungeon lair beneath street level. As per levels: the first, bottom level had Matt’s computer equipment and mixing board on it. Then, upsy daisy (a jump up) to the second, elevated level of the studio, which was large and square-shaped, and where the instruments where kept. Radio Eris rehearsed there, punk bands and noise-industrial bands often played as part of Eris Temple events, and this is where the instrumental portion of recording was done. That means, as those who know recording studios know, that the cables ran between the two levels, which wasn’t always comfortable, rather banana-peel-ish, but who cares. The instrument/sound-booth space had one window, even with the side-yard pavement, facing due south. The ceilings were relatively high, which offset the aura of grunge and “bunker” nicely. The floors were granite slab.

The songs I had written that spring were only a semi-hodge podge. For some reason, I was attracted to the open G tuning, made famous by Ry Cooder and Keith Richards. Salty Waves Of Blue, Rake, and Garden Wall were all written in open G. The way Matt produced Salty Waves Of Blue and Rake, the ambiance owed a lot to Big Star’s #1 Record, particularly Watch the Sunrise. I also noticed that when we recorded She Disowned My Life with Pete Leonard on drums (who had also drummed for my band The Godheads at CHS), and which was in standard tuning, the mood we caught was some rock music equivalent of the high ceilings and the granite slabs mixed together. It was an aural admixture that had Philadelphia as it looked and felt in it. USA Lite and Feel Like A Man Again were both meant to express different kinds of frustration; as halcyon as much of Aughts Philadelphia was, and as the Eris Temple in all its high-ceiling grunginess was, the Aughts were Bush regime years in the United States and all of us felt that pinch constantly, too. Feel Like A Man Again is more about the social and sexual mores of Aughts Philadelphia, and the sense I often had in the Aughts of characters and situations out of control, beyond the pale; in other words, excess. The dynamic between Aughts Philadelphia and Red America was utterly never-the-twain, and we didn’t necessarily feel, on a day to day basis, that our excesses were being mirrored anywhere else. I’m In Love With A Girl, of course, the Big Star cover, is from an earlier era when Matt lived at 11th and Webster in South Philly. I think it works as an add-on here, to an EP collection which requires some sweetness to balance a general sense of the brackish. As to why this EP took almost ten years to come out; because, as they say, shit happens. Matt and I were going to do more recording in the summer of ’07, but I was preoccupied with poetry, particularly the Dusie chapbook “Kollectiv” and getting my first chapbook Posit ready for publication. Mary and I broke up in September; my first two books, Opera Bufa and Beams, appeared that fall. Quite a year. In the Aughts, they all were.


Neo-Romanticism and the Academy

As per Neo-Romanticism and the Academy: we will have to be both in it and out of it forever. The in/out dichotomy could express beleaguered avant-gardism or half (or a third or quarter) academicism; but, because Neo-Romanticism has a hinge both to philosophy and literary theory on high levels, both of which flourish (usually) only in academic contexts, and because I went to Penn and Abby to PAFA, we will never properly be “street” (as we could be) in Philadelphia, New York, or anywhere else. The more aesthetically valid version of academicism we espouse is our version of classicism— of historical awareness which dotes on an elite handful of already elite achievements, specifically in English Romanticism and French Neo-Classicism. Yet, looking at Meeting Halfway, Abby’s boldest statement of queer intentionality, and how classicism is balanced by an imperative to be intimate, sexual, and provocatively so, we can see how Philadelphia’s architecture insisted on a multi-leveled, multi-tiered approach, so that we as artists could be, at least partly, of the street as of the Academy. Call it Neo-Romanticism’s nod to Mannerism, or just a major high art consonant Wall of Sound; and this whole syndrome, of balancing a plethora of imperatives, including raw, frank sexuality, and a classicist dedication to elite forms, is also played out provocatively in Apparition Poem 1649:

Oh you guys, you guys are tough.
I came here to write about some
thing, but now that I came, I can’t
come to a decision about what I

came for. What? You said I can’t
do this? You said it’s not possible
because it’s a violation and not a
moving one? It’s true, you guys

are tough. You know I have tried,
at different times, to please you in
little ways, but this one time I had
this student that was giving me head

and she stopped in the middle to tell
me that I had good taste and you had
bad taste, and I’ll admit it, I believed
her. She was your student too, maybe

you’ve seen her around. She’s the one
with the scarves and the jewelry and
the jewels and the courtesy to give the
teachers head who deserve it. Do you?

Fayette Street in Conshohocken manifests a willingness to transgress, and so do we. When themes and forms are juxtaposed in unlikely ways (City Hall, Center City Philly), we demonstrate an extremely rugged sense of individualism, as does our body of work. Neither Abby nor I were working with any kind of dossier or script to guide our creativity; we were under the architectural spell we were under, and winging it. Getting classicist hands dirty the right way round; the buildings insisted on it (Liberty Place Towers). Or, you could call it formal rigor with a socially relevant edge; creating spaces for our audience where beauty and sexuality themselves could be provocative issues, ditto aesthetic formality. Posit these constituent elements to Neo-Romanticism in chiasmus with the Academy, and what emerges is something very indeterminate, to be honest. Or, the ambiguity between the Academy and Neo-Romanticism has inhering in it the tension between formality and thematic provocation, beauty and conceptuality, which (owing to an inferior relationship to aesthetic form and formality) the twentieth century in literature and visual art never particularly bothered to deal with, as the English Romantics and French Neo-Classicists did in the nineteenth. The twentieth century, backwards and sideways, in Neo-Romanticism, is all about what in our work is conceptual, including concepts of forms, and why we have chosen to employ aesthetic formality the way we have. In the aftermath of the glut of post-modern conceptuality in the last fifty years, daring to be formally beautiful and socially relevant simultaneously is its own gambit. Walks down the right Philadelphia streets will show anyone that Philadelphia’s spaces are constantly doing these tricks, between usefulness and ravishment, what is serviceable and what is sumptuous, all in a time/space continuum spanning a number of centuries. What our architecture revealed to us is a game much more grandiose and all-encompassing then most of the twentieth century in our disciplines dared to imagine— a way of taking raw sex, raw beauty, and weaving it through with the right kind of conceptuality so that we’ve got all the way from Ingres to Warhol, all the way from Keats to Pynchon covered. 


Echoes of Mannerism in Neo-Romanticism

The hinge from Neo-Romanticism to Mannerism, also, is a reasonably blatant one. Our whole approach to art— more is more, rather then less is more— features exaggerated portions and warped perspectives, even amidst the elaborate formality and architectural hi-jinx. Abby and I both share a perspective, which recurs regularly, that there is or can be something inherently funny or absurd about complexity, and that the multiplication of tangents from a work of art should include tangents the basis of which are absurdity and Dada and Duchamp. With the rejection of simplicity, of course, comes the realization that if we are not to appear too stentorian or heavy-handed, a light touch can be as effective as a sturm und drang one. The Walls Have Ears, here, has in-built the Mannerist tensions around queerness and bisexuality; behind that, the idea that sexuality itself, as both an ideal and an idea, is inherently Mannerist. It brings out in individuals, always, what is warped and/or perverse, not to mention exaggerated, in them; and because the formality of the painting is, as ever, masterful, and because queerness is a serious theme to be addressed, audiences can choose to take The Walls Have Ears as an exercise in painterly absurdism or not. Coloration issues— everything bathed in piss-yellow (Serrano?)(Piss Dykes?)— opens a vista that, when Neo-Romanticism builds into its constructs a sense of absurdity, Mannerist exaggerates aid and abet us towards a realization that the Philadelphia architecture, kitchen sink approach can yield the right dividends. Or Apparition Poem 1327:

She said, you want Sister
Lovers, you son of a bitch,
pouted on a beige couch in
Plastic City, I said, I want
Sister Lovers, but I’m not
a son of a bitch, and I can
prove it (I drooled slightly),
took it out and we made
such spectacular love that
the couch turned blue from
our intensity, but I had to
wear a mask because I’d
been warned that this girl
was, herself, a son of a bitch

Neo-Romanticism is, take it or leave it, pretty free and easy about sex and sexual intercourse. Just as Philadelphia architecture is pretty free and easy about co-opting your space and thrusting its symmetries into your brain. Not to mention that the ambiance in Aughts Philadelphia which we all lived through was largely about free and easy sex. This poem starts from a ground that the two figures in the poem appear to be either very stoned, or bimbos, possibly porn stars (or actors), and then sets the game in motion which it wants to set. It’s about straight sex too, which (to be frank) I feel might be ready to make a comeback. The Dada level is how goofy the exaggerations are, towards a sense that every conceivable imperative to aesthetic excess is served, other than the number of lines in the poem. Apparition Poems only has a handful of sonnets in it, and sonnets as a poetic form are usually the enemies of the Mannerist (sonnets think small, stay confined), but that’s part of the game here. And the fact that both The Walls Have Ears and 1327 “have game” and play games is one of the reasons Neo-Romanticism is contemporary and ready to compete right now. Because the whole twentieth century is always showing up in the paintings and poems sideways, and at odd angles, audiences won’t need to feel disappointed that they are falling into a trough of anything backwards seeming or retrograde. This is true, particularly because the free and easy approach to carnality is rather advanced, and executed with a sense of borderline-disjointed looseness. What can I say? All those years our architecture was dictating our art, it also pulled off the neat trick of freeing Philly’s bedroom antics, which were considerable in all circles, both when masks were necessary and when they were not.


Platonics and Neo-Romanticism

The parable of Plato’s cave is an interesting one for Neo-Romanticism. The idea, that all we perceive with our brains are shadows of a higher, more perfect reality which exists in some ethereal realm in (perhaps) a parallel universe, fits in perfectly with the sometimes gratuitous gorgeousness of Philadelphia’s architecture. If Philadelphia’s architecture amounts to shadows on the wall of the proverbial cave, echoing a more perfect reality, then Neo-Romantic art, if it is to fulfill its task and obligation to Philadelphia’s architecture, must embody a similar sense of the gorgeous. The duality inheres: Neo-Romanticism has on one side Philadelphia’s architecture, on the other side deep-set engagements with English Romanticism and French Neo-Classicism. All of this is involved, in Neo-Romanticism, in an unbounded sense of idealism around the potentialities of serious art. Our idealism, in fact, was and remains a kind of ghost for us; the sense of channeling worlds which must remain ghost worlds on earth, of translating the untranslatable, of manifesting the sublime as a mode of echoing a higher, inaccessible sublime. Art’s illustrious past is thus so well-worn in Philadelphia’s consciousness, from PMA on out, that Philadelphia artists must get used to the ghosts, the way citizens of Phoenix get used to the tarantulas. Idealism and the past form part of the mind’s architecture in and for Neo-Romanticism, and the Platonic which girds up the buildings which form our landscape become built into our mindscapes as well. This Apparition Poem attempts a co-opt move of Platonics, towards a realization of irony towards absurdity amidst the sturm und drang of the domestic:

You can’t
get it when
you want it,
but when I
want it I get
it; she rolled
over on her
belly, which
was very full,
and slept; its
just shadows
on the wall, I
thought, dark.

The idealistic idea that somewhere in the universe hovers a more perfect pregnant wife or mistress hangs heavy here. If the juxtaposition here— Greek philosophical gravitas with down-in-the-dirt domesticity and sexually charged strife— is a rich one, it is because the “ghosting” or apparitional process has happened in an unusual context or at an unusual moment. It has also erupted from the brain of an unusual protagonist. Abby’s Lost Twins is even richer, creating a scaffolding of allegories over parables under allegories about art history, gender, queerness, form (engagement, importantly, with David), and also the sense of dislocation, of being “ghosted,” through alienation alternating with familiarity to art’s past. The idealism in Neo-Romantic art is also a conceit, as in The Lost Twins— that the works of art we create can encompass everything, from pop culture to Duchamp to David, all at once, and put together in a novel formal package as elaborate and maze-like as anything on Broad Street or Pine Street in Center City Philadelphia, for example, or Fayette Street in Conshohocken, which is its own Narnian paradise. Somewhere, says the Neo-Romantic narrative, there exists a perfect universe of perfect works of art, which permanently capture and embody all important forms and themes. The ghost of this perfect, spectral world holds us in thrall as we attempt to channel it. We have our hint of it in Philadelphia’s architecture, Keats, Ingres, David, and now we become psychic lightning rods to bring it down to earth again. If this sounds Romantic, good. The idealism of Neo-Romanticism has as one of its foundations the belief in a shuddering, resonant, inter-connected and interstitially linked world, not just the shards and fragments of Modernism and post-modernism. What they chopped to bits, we impose wholeness and unity on.


Ingres and Text

The English Romantics were usually quite coy about sex and sexuality; Byron not that much, the others very much indeed. One of the odd facets of Neo-Romanticism is that the best bits of my poetry actually have as much to do with French Neo-Classicism, especially Ingres, as they do with the English Romantics, who I like to tease. Thus, this palimpsest over Wordsworth’s Solitary Reaper, who he quite chastely listens to in the ever-present Romantic enchanted forest, with its shuddering, resonant eco-system of sensations and thoughts:

I said, “I can’t
even remember
the last time I
was excited, how
can I associate
            She pulled
out a gun, a tube
of oil, and an air
            and it was
a spontaneous
felt, in which we
reaped together— 

Ingres, and his Odalisque, does a similar trick over Wordsworth’s coyness (they were contemporaneous), and also manages to create a chiasmus between architecture and sex. The way Ingres paints his nude, her architectural proportions, all the exquisite symmetries and scaffolding spaces, are what make her of permanent interest. She’s a building and, as the song goes, a brick house. Abby does a similar skyscraper trick in Meeting Halfway, which is frank on another level about sex and sexuality; not about the architecture and tactility of bodies, but about queerness, and how the body defines space in relation to its proclivities. That’s why Neo-Romanticism does not need to fall into a rut in which I am accused of being a predatory male in text, decimating women with my gaze; Abby’s presence redeems the whole package deal we offer with the sense of the bodies she paints, including also The Walls Have Ears, signifying the architecture not only of sex, but of the thoughts which sex builds in our mind out of the different, potentially queer, worlds we inhabit. The architecture, as it were, of sexual identity. All the ways sex can create ghosts or apparitions— that when two people sleep together, queer or not, a third entity is created which hangs as a ghost presence over the two; that being inside the body of another human being is potentially a dupe situation, in which you are really nowhere, if you have not also penetrated the other’s psyche; that bodily fluids around sexuality are ghostly or apparitional substances; and that every person you sleep with, if examined closely, creates another challenge of multiple meanings for those who wish to lead an aesthetically and socially examined life— are also ways sex has of putting up psychological scaffolding, which creates the phenomenological complexes which define our individuality in relation to the world. Wordsworth and the rest are too coy to get there; they remain in their own imaginations; Ingres and David, on this level, are richer, and so my translation (I cannot speak for Abs) of Ingres into text. 


Our Architecture Did This To Us: Neo-Romanticism

This pdf collects writing on Neo-Romanticism and Aughts Philadelphia, on IAYoublisher, and in full-text.

Our Architecture Did This To Us...

Neo-Romanticism was partly created by Philadelphia’s architecture. What this means, in practice, is that all of us, especially Abby and I, were subconsciously attuned to the architectural level of Philadelphia as a city, and had spaces in our brains geared to create art out of processes of absorption, both by osmosis and in our conscious appreciation of what in Philadelphia architecture is sublime. As to Neo-Romanticism being, in a generalized way, about the spectral, the haunting/haunted, or the apparitional— Philadelphia architecture, from City Hall to the PMA to (even) the Liberty Place Towers and the PSFS Building in Center City, not to mention the houses and row-homes in West Philly and Fayette Street in Conshohocken, all have a sense of being channeled from an ethereal place, where elaborate maze-like structures wind into unexpected corners and something (a specter, an apparition) is always hiding in the maze of the buildings which you did not notice before. Neo-Romanticism channels and refines the same energies, as imposed on us by the architecture, which also has to do, as Neo-Romanticism does, with multiple meanings and complexity. As a work of architecture, what Philadelphia City Hall (or PMA, or Fayette Street) means can never be pinpointed simply or briefly. Complications in architectural exegesis lead to other complications, issues create and develop other issues, and the whole process Neo-Romanticism channels is an infinite string of tangents, beginning with the work of art out of the architecture. The tangents, which express these multiple meanings, can also be thought of as specters or apparitions. The development of perceptive powers, in these Philadelphia contexts, also require an acknowledgement of the omnipresence of phenomenology as an issue— what is inside and outside of our minds, and what is the nature of raw consciousness itself. Philadelphia architecture, and Neo-Romanticism, do not give perceptive viewers the option of closing interpretive vistas with simplicity and singularity that much.

Because our work was in many ways channeled from a city’s architecture, which can signify (among other things) a past, or the past, Neo-Romanticism’s relation to temporality, and how aesthetic pasts may impinge upon the present, is a complex tangent as usual. Because English Romanticism and French Neo-Classicism loom large for us, complicating the summons to action from Philadelphia’s varied, often baroque architecture, as we have created our body of work, we have worked out of weird temporality, or kinds of “time warps” (leading, it must be said, to some Rocky Horror-ish reactions to our work), which make the past an apparitional issue which creates tangents out of us and our endeavors. The phenomenological reaction to temporality— how our consciousness registers time passing, or not passing— is thus steeped in a Solid World sense that engagement with the aesthetic creates universes and dimensions in which new kinds of temporality may be experienced; and this sense, of odd time dimensions, is right there in the Philly streets (and in Conshohocken), as receptive psyches are imposed on by buildings which still emanate their own levels of consciousness, of being-in-the-world. The meaning of space, and a sense of phenomenological engagement which registers that space inside and outside of the mind offer opportunities for mirroring or “mirrored” situations to develop, makes it so that Neo-Romanticism has many levels of richness built into it from being hewn out of something already Solid. Do cities with the best architecture often produce the best art? Whatever brain space we worked out of, with Romanticism and Neo-Classicism bargaining a deal with architectural Philadelphia, and also with a good amount of general engagement with recent developments in the art-world (and I include under the “art” aegis literature as well), we began a process of creating for whatever audience was there the spectral, apparitional world which was demanded of us, and with inhering all the multiple meanings and tangential significations possible. That, I will assert, was always what was waiting to develop as serious art in Philadelphia, if it bothered to happen, which it now has. If some audiences used to singularity are wondering why we, as the Neo-Romantics, are so defiantly multiple all the time, now you know the reason: our architecture did this to us. An artist who is not susceptible to be imposed on by the sublime, when and where it exists, is not an artist. Architectural Philadelphia has been looking for apt conduits for a hundred years to answer its siren call, and we just happened to be there. The larger question remains: once other cities and art-worlds have stepped into the maze, grasped the spectral and the apparitional, gleaned the right multiple meanings, what will the world then bother to make of us, and us of them? 


Neo-Romanticism and the Solid World

One of the difficulties of pursuing a Solid World lifestyle is that the Regular World is implacable. Not just implacable, much of the time, but monstrous. The phenomenological import of the Regular World on the Solid World is (sorrowfully) almost always mind-rape and molestation. As to why the Regular World, so much of the human race, needs to game against the Solid— the human race on earth are still rather young, and not all souls are equally developed. Some souls can handle and appreciate the Solid, others become frightened and intimidated by it. It stands to reason that a warning be issued to anyone who pursues high art, philosophy, or science seriously, or even other humanities pursuits at high levels— if you stick to your guns in an individualistic fashion, you must expect some persecution for doing so. Yet the Regular life is no place at all for individuals, because the backbone of the Regular is homogeneity and conformity. Neo-Romantic art is always stuck at a kind of crossroads here— trying to take facets of Romanticism and Neo-Classicism and update them in an individualistic fashion, while also being palatable enough to “blend in” and be shown and/or published along with others. Others, it might be added, who fit the profile of the corporate and/or bureaucratic, and who espouse positions blatantly for the Regular and against the Solid. Why Neo-Romanticism should win in the end is the same reason Romanticism and Neo-Classicism won in the end— superior formal rigor and narrative-thematic gravitas inhering in the art, influenced by the sublimity of Philadelphia’s architecture and the sense of Philadelphia (also) as haunted, spectral, apparitional. The major Neo-Romantic seeds, I would venture to say, have already been planted. I will tend the garden for as long as I have the capability of doing so. What I would encourage others to do, who like Neo-Romantic art, is to use us as a template, but (please) be willing to acknowledge our influence. No one likes to feel ripped off, and rip-offs (these days) are Regular.

Neo-Romantic art makes a bunch of assumptions which are worth discussing. That there is a tie in serious art between formal beauty and individuality which is worth cultivating, and that was largely eschewed by twentieth century art; that formality itself is expressive, above and beyond the conceptual; and that the conceptual basis for the development of forms has to do with Solid World attachment to the Irregular and to the sense that Regularity necessitates homogeneity of forms and themes by guaranteeing material rewards to imposters and conformists. Aughts Philadelphia was, in general, not a rewarding place/context for conformists. Yet, it will take some time for us to be a straightforward, Regular “buzz.” Warhol in the 60s and 70s, for example, was not particularly like that; he “buzzed” plenty in his own time; yet, the whole point of his work is built-in obsolescence, which assures his oeuvre no future at all in a century which values individualism and the Solid. If you are interested in Neo-Romanticism, please prepare yourself for a long, rewarding ride. Not only that— that we embraced form as perhaps the most serious mode of aesthetic individuality means that those with sufficient brains will never find leave to be embarrassed with us. The spine of our body of work is set sturdily and securely in place. As in Romanticism and Neo-Classicism, the multi-dimensional aspect of myself and Abby— that there is strong narrative-thematic material to enhance, gird, and reinforce the formal, manifesting an ideal of the work of art as well-rounded and Solid— can only intermittently interest the Regular world, ever. When was the last time you saw the name John Keats in the New York Times or the New Yorker, or, for that matter, The Philadelphia Inquirer? The Solid World is always in the process of building and rebuilding itself, and re-inventing its own architecture. If what the Regular World has in store for us is scripted respect backed with distance and mistrust, who cares? The reason to create (ultimately) is that you want to create, and you can; and this axiomatic assumption undergirds not only Neo-Romanticism, Romanticism, and Neo-Classicism, but any attempt by an individual to do anything with any depth or higher meaning. As such, this is the Solid axiom to start from with us.


More Notes On The Solid World

John Keats left the planet Earth in 1821. His work gradually began to gain some prominence in the 1850s, 30-35 years after his death. Let’s not forget how the Regular World works, folks— I would estimate that each year, between 1821 and 1855, there were thirty major prizes, grants, and fellowships given to poets in the UK, from Oxford, Cambridge, and elsewhere. Over 35 years, that’s roughly one thousand awards. John Keats, during his brief lifetime, never won any prizes, awards, or fellowships. John Keats was a Solid World poet all the way, and righteously individualistic into the bargain. Righteous individuals do not tend to be awarded or recognized by the Regular World at all, who prefer (usually, and in the short term) clowns and dummies. Why the Solid World winds up wiping the floor with the Regular World is that products of the Regular World tend to have a built-in obsolescence— they are made specifically to be ephemeral. This goes for high and low disciplines. But the game against individuals is simple— to delude individuals into believing that the Regular World approach is better, necessary, and worth making sacrifices of integrity and creativity for, is one stated aim of the Regular World. The Regular World is all about Devil’s bargains. The Solid World, conversely, is all about a different sense of time and space— the whole purport of the Solid World is to develop one’s brain and imagination to its fullest creative capacities, from rock music straight through to science. Now that the Internet has incised into America some respect for the Solid World (and, in some sectors, for Philadelphia as a Solid city), it can be registered how space, the spatial, registers in Solid World contexts. No one individual, btw, can keep up with the Regular World— one of its strategies to incapacitate individuals is to create a deluge effect so that, forced to keep up, individuals have no time left to develop their imaginations. The Regular World is there specifically to incapacitate individuals— but the Internet is creating cognitive space around individuals which is difficult to disrupt, and continuous imaginative flows are now possible as more and more Regular World taunts and admonitions are ignored. The Solid World essential lesson is a phenomenological one— that physical space, outside of our brains, is mirrored and echoed by the cognitive spaces within our brains.

As for the Solid World and the temporal— what Keats calls “silence and slow time”— the way we experience time in Regular World contexts is invariably a frog-march towards an ever receding target, and/or the monotony of carrot and the stick games. We must remember that, with the brain equipment that human beings have, and their abilities to tune in on high frequencies and recognize and assimilate anomalies, the whole idea of a Regular World is a fallacious one. The Universe is not, strictly speaking, Regular. It is too diverse and too complex as an organism. So that leading a frog-march life, forced or not, has nothing to do with anything. Solid World time or temporality is psychedelic— time has different ways of passing or not passing, depending on what we are thinking about or whatever we happen to be creating. The vicious Regular World versions of time, where groups and conglomerates pulverize time into a sense homogeneity and singularity against individual endeavor, are circles which the Internet can break, by introducing individuals to the algorithms and algorithmic endeavors of other individuals. Imaginations can be kindled by other imaginations, from individual to other individual, and the Regular World will stand by helplessly, hoping no one notices that their hegemonic reign is over. The Neo-Romantic endeavor was initiated and sustained, from Philadelphia on out, because we all had ways and means of tuning out the Regular World. Philadelphia’s superior architecture not only helped (Conshohocken has superior architecture too), it created a mirroring, echoing spatial dimension in our brains which could be used as a template to follow; thus, Abby’s superior compositions and the Cheltenham Elegies in totem. Philadelphia’s superior architecture is one of its many insignias of Solidity, and the Regular World goes out of its way not to notice. But Abby and I both had susceptible brains the right way.


(Welcome To) Psychedelic America

There are a plethora of assumptions which gird up the Regular World, both of the media and of institutions, and which are designed to express hegemonic power over all other worlds, including the slow, Solid World of human progress. These assumptions include— the idea, emanating from the media and from corporate/bureaucratic institutions, that we are the center, and that we represent everyone; that we are trustworthy, and work up to significant moral/ethical standards; that anyone who wishes to be progressive or au currant must pay close attention to us; and that the achievers chosen by us to be celebrated are both cohesively real people and the highest achievers in their disciplines. Yet the Regular World is maintained, also, by some obvious fallacies— that human progress happens at even intervals, which it does not; that there is always relevant action in the high disciplines and everywhere else, which there is not; that corporate and bureaucratic sectors do not put together dummy packages to sell to the public, which they do; and that slow, Solid World progress does not (invariably) wind up grabbing the historical brass ring every time, thus nullifying the Regular World ostensible achievements of dummies, drones, and dupes. The Internet is now frustrating the narratives and mythologies of the Regular World by making the Solid World, its, slow, steady progress, accessible to be read or listened to at any time by a public tired of clowns, dummies, and corporate drones. With this process, the assumptions made by Regular World stalwarts, especially in the press, are being frustrated and thwarted by a newly educated, newly enlightened public. The question, in America, of who stands in the cultural center is a huge one; and the same goes for philosophy and science. That we may be standing on the threshold of the emergence of a culturally disparate America, with a refined sense of cultural taste, honed by contact with the Solid, is a major issue in this country, who can no longer be taunted by Western Europe (which is far sicklier then us right now anyway) as lightweights, nitwits, or Philistines.

If the American cultural map begins to shift around the Solid World, obviously Aughts Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Renaissance, The Philly Free School, Neo-Romanticism, will all benefit. Where the road may lead next is impossible to predict, except to say that the next Philly may be Detroit in two years or Miami in twenty, or neither. The Regular World will not be there to force its, and our, hand, and fill up space with corporate/bureaucratic blarney. A contradiction of the Solid World is this— because real human progress is irregular, and can happen anywhere at any time, the progress of Solid World culture is, in a broad manner of speaking, psychedelic. Mind-expanding also works; and, as I send out both a wake-up call and a Welcome to Psychedelic America, the hope I hold here is to reach as many people as possible with the sense that the possibilities, once the Regular World is officially snubbed, are limitless. Not that the Regular World is going anywhere; because of who the human race largely are, it can’t be; but the Regular World must have a sense now of being disoriented by several generations of artists and thinkers who will not settle for corporate and bureaucratic contexts, and demand freedom to pursue individual, organic, as irregular-as-needs-be agendas. There may also be issues of composites or “mutts”— conglomerate interests who want to pursue half Solid, half Regular agendas. Okay. Still, once enough Solid energy is let into the air, the cultural and intellectual vibe is free to create an American package deal which has in it some passionate dedication to creativity meant to endure, rather than merely to fill up space or represent other interests.


Let's Get Solid...

Over a long period of time, the human race has accrued to it some stable, solid achievements. When there are solid achievements in the high sectors or disciplines— science, philosophy, and high art— the processes by which the achievements are recognized and assimilated happen, always, slowly and incrementally. Solid human progress, in fact, is always slow. What I want to argue is that the Internet has created a new kind of Solid World context. Here, the seeds planted are free to grow incrementally, and thus establish and consolidate a solid basis for progress on high levels. This Solid World is angled specifically against what I call the Regular World, which is bound by laws which make human progress impossible— newspapers which must come out every day, magazines and journals which must be released month by month, and especially (for the high disciplines) prizes, grants, and fellowships which must be awarded at regular intervals. Whenever anything must be repeated at regular intervals in high-discipline sectors, with no leeway given to lulls and fertile periods, human progress is being arrested. Regularity is essentially corporate, and bureaucratic. It is also not constructed to withstands major changes, when and if they happen— why Solid World material takes a long time to be assimilated. The 2015 Solid World online pile-up is thus a profoundly disruptive force. It is also one of the key reasons I am still alive and working steadily. That Solid World schedule— what appears online happens in its own time, at regularly irregular junctures— is demonstrating for the public what human life can be at its best, and most creative. Militaristic regularity does not have to disrupt or corrupt serious creativity— organic devotion to an interior life can be the name of the game, and serious individuality cultivated.

Regularity (as has been spotted) is also a game to destroy individuals— but the new 2015 thinking populace are allowed to no longer be fooled by the corporate and the bureaucratic. Furthermore, what is Solid online now manifests the promise of growing more Solid as time passes; so that the corruption of the Regular will continue to be exposed at all points. Individuality will be cultivated in more sectors, and respect and toleration for individuals will have to be learned. The abrasiveness of the corporate and the bureaucratic, and its machine-like Regularity, towards individuals, is one reason the twentieth century was a partial charnel ground; animated by clowns and dummies. Because Regularity must pretend that human progress happens at regular intervals, which it very much does not, clowns and dummies must be created to fill in the corporate blanks or dossiers, while the Solid must happen elsewhere. Trash has to be generated to fill media vats— Regularity demands it— but now, we live in an America which is developing a sense of balance about such issues. As the public develops tastes for organic irregularity, its superior, progress-oriented righteousness, confusion may have to reign for many decades to come. What was a hands-down victory for the corporate and the bureaucratic in the twentieth century may become a hotly contested, high-stakes battle for hegemonous power and influence in the twenty-first.