It’s a tiny bandwidth, the culture represented here at the largest fair in North America. The parameters: midwest-middlebrow home and body adornment, made from clay, wood, wire or glass, early twenty-first century period, with a touch of what the natives call panache. But this narrowly specific style has concentrated here and reproduced, booth after booth booth. All all the same mood, the same message, copied in another material in slightly different size, sometimes better quality, sometimes cheaper, maybe in different shapes, but usually in the colors aqua, lavender and forest green. It feels relentless and driven, like reproduction of a species, block after block after block on my walk in to campus.
I don’t understand that there should be so many producers of so few ideas. But the same happened to indie rock and the great American novel – certain corners of culture generate as many producers as consumers. Mimetics, an idea well hated by all other ideas, says that pieces of culture act like genes: inexorably reproducing and fighting each other to survive. In other words, objects and ideas have their own sex drive.
Well, for what it’s worth, there is one mutation in this generation of Art Fair. Out behind the Sociology building, there’s a less-traveled corner of random ideas: one booth of wax people (a security guard, a maid, and a bunch of nudes), a bunch of huge, colorful mobiles to put out in your yard, and underneath those, two men selling didgeridoos. (I know, didgeridoos are really sexual. No wonder they got stuck in the back corner of Art Fair with the nude sculptures. But nevermind. I’m not trying to talk about sex here. I’m actually talking about didgeridoos.)
One craftsman’s didgeridoos are much more beautiful than the other’s across the way, and his booth is beautifully decorated and inviting. I was so interested by the idiosyncratic swoop and the smooth, dark wood if his instruments that for once on my desultory way to work I stopped. He had an incredibly strong, refined rechaka, letting the breath go slowly, and rarely sneaking it back in with swift, soundless inhalations through the nose.
The other guy was just scrappy, sitting out in the sun smelling of body odor, with his instruments dangling sloppily from the booth’s upper scaffolding. But he had a crowd, so I stopped again to watch them watch him. After I’d been standing there three times the duration of the other guy’s exhalation, my solar plexus began to hum.
Woah. He was doing something right. Maybe chakras require a vibration that’s steady, if they’re really going to respond to sound.
The craftsman just kept playing on a circular breath. The Editor and I sat down nearby, and eventually me second and fourth chakra-ganglia got the message as well. I wondered how many of his crowd noticed the fascination in their bodies, and how many were just puzzled by trance. And how many were merely drawn in (as I first was) by the crowd itself—just copying the other visitors' attentiveness. In any case, no wonder the second craftsman doesn’t care for matters of form. His creativity is on the level of the subtle body.
I suggested to the Editor that this skill of circular breathing made the second vendor an expert, whereas the first was still stuck in form and mimcry. I added that maybe circular breathing is just as subtle and difficult as learning to climax without ejaculating. But I think I was supposed to edit that part out.