To be continued.
Words and art by @CHRISTIEARCADE
Have you ever had a personal mantra you repeated to yourself, for years? One that came out of nowhere more significant then a voice in your head? Maybe it was a line you read on the side of a bus, but it stuck. I don’t remember when it started, but I do remember how quickly it became significant.
“Please don’t turn black and white.”
I feel like I was still living in my childhood bedroom at the time it started to repeat. I had painted that room a Starry Night blue, a sky mauve, one night while listening to Modest Mouse. The walls would have been littered in a collage. The shelves overflowing with books. Every surface of every table piled in art supplies, artifacts from my wild life, even the spine of a deer.
Maybe I was already in the second phase of living in the basement when the mantra came to me. After Drew I started to throw everything away. I took all my drawings and bound them into books. i started to order all the pages into narratives. I set up my desk like it was an office. I painted endlessly. On my wall hung a banner that read “like thunder,” in the book of death laid a drawing of Ye surrounded by lightening which I composed after waking from a dream in where he asked for my power, my lightning, my electricity.
I painted flowers. Everything diluted in grey. Pastels on decaying textures. Nothing was black and white.
I had this friend who I never heard from anymore. What can you expect from someone who becomes internationally recognized. I wasn’t surprised. When I met him he was a pychobilly rocker. If you picked up a copy of NOW you would see his face on the front cover sitting in the barber shop chair. With hair like elvis, and his suits so skinny I wondered if there was a department on Augusta set aside for him specifically. Everything he did was in black and white. We used to write letters. Writing in itself is black and white.
I had this other friend who I heard from every day. He discovered loft music. We used to laugh at the simplicity of the embodiment of a chair. Everything he did was in ambience. The music we listened to was perfect for the moments when the sunlight flooded his south facing apartment. Everything he did was airy, and light. Though light is fundamental to colour, that doesn’t mean you can see it with the unaided eye.
They had two very different messages. My first friend was concerned with people’s passivity when listening to music. They like melodies, carousels, circles. They want completion, structure, tradition. His message was a strong affront on the establishment. He wanted you to find the chaotic nuances and fluctuations in tempo that the ear wasn’t accustomed to due to the nature of popular music in their own right beautiful. We used to crowd into tiny rooms just to hear the shriek of his band. I felt like we had to travel to far off distant places just to put on his shows because they radiated so loud that it would wake an entire city with it’s might.
My other friend had a different kind of message, in that there was no message at all. No lyrics, just the haunting echoes of keys or guitar medley. Something so common place to the practice of hip hop already. He stripped the lyrics and presented the back track as an art form of it’s own.
By contrast, one had a message that was so strong that it was the penultimate message of all. The other a message so leached of any actual significance that it derived it’s salience from the meaningless of it all. One you could hear, the other you couldn’t. One hard, one soft. One black as the dark of the night when it was safest to gather and play. The other white because it filled the spaces between the dust that floats in sunlight while you sit in glass cages.
Please don’t turn black and white.
I remember I was working as a cashier at Zeller’s as I waited for my high school credits to finish up. I was 19 and for the finally playing by the rules again. I grew my hair long for the first time since middle school and let it lighten in the summer sun. I took out my piercings. On weekends I worked the rock shows in the city, as I mentioned before, doing my managerial things. I saved up all my minimum wage pay to produce albums. I would stand in one place for 8 hours as a time ringing in Hannah Montana merchandise, Olsen twin fashion, Jonas Brothers fan fictions, looking side ways at High School Musical signage, wondering, what the fuck are the dumb-ass theatre kids doing getting money before me? Did our society really prescribe more significance to the work of children scripted by adults over the children of genuine talent who create for themselves, by themselves? Is this what my friend died for?
I noticed that girls were dressing differently then they did when I was there age. Suddenly everyone wore black from head to toe. Normal looking girls had studs in their noses. I noticed that a lot of parents, even ones without any money, spent a lot of money on their children’s enjoyment of this experience called life. My band got on the radio for the first time. I was sitting outside the store smoking cigarettes telling a co-worker how thrilled I was. Our CD release details were getting air play on a station with millions of listeners. He looked at me like I was a lost soul. “So what, that doesn’t mean anything at the end of the day.” I don’t think I ever spoke to him again. Months after the party the station was still repeating the ad on air. I felt like it was a favour from friends I’d never heard before. But then again one of our buddies was interning at the time if you want an explanation.
The last time I went into that building before it was turned to a Target was to buy bath towels for my college dorm. Please don’t turn black and white I repeated while looking down the aisle of terrycloth. I chose the teal ones with green swirls and walked away forever. I’d made it out alive.
I noticed that my friends were turning black and white. Their clothes, their posters, their art, their photos, their everything.
To be continued in part 2.