“The new punk is about raw skill and having something powerful to say.”– Hazel Dooney, from the essay Life Study, 2006. I’ve stopped and restarted this blog a few times since the middle of 2011. This year, I stopped updating my all my online presences, including Facebook and Twitter. I felt I had nothing to say. My deteriorating mental health and backlog of commissions didn't help. Even offline, I didn't have much to say to anyone.
I tried to ignore it for a while. I kept posting online. I felt I had to articulate ideas and points of view, even if I felt empty of them. After all, it's part of what an artist does. I wanted to sustain some of the connections – personal and professional – that I’d made but more, I needed to retain the attention of my online audience. As anyone who earns (or wants to earn) a living through the internet knows, if you don't update your presence regularly with meaningful ‘content’, you risk being subsumed by the vastness of the internet itself. When that happens, you lose your tenuous hold on the fleeting attention of all who connect to it.In the absence of anything to say, I rehashed my own and others' content. I posted links to other people’s posts and made benign comments about other people's ideas. I answered dumb questions. Worst of all, I started to make small-talk. It was vapid, pointless and faintly embarassing: after all, wasn't the whole point of my being online to evolve and share ideas (well, that and not devolve control of my work to middle men). It certainly wasn't to entertain or distract myself – and others – with meaningless updates, to fill the emptier moments of my everyday. I never wanted to be another fucking 'content distributor'. But I kept writing. And over time, I became everything about the internet I despised. So I stopped.In ‘net-speak', artists are among the great hordes of "content makers, who distribute content independently". Oh and note, that's different to being a consumer, content distributor or an entertainer. People who like art (or anything else), consume, curate and distribute their preferred selections online. It’s a great way to express individuality and connect with others. But it doesn’t make anyone who does so an artist, even within the parameters of the loosest post-modern definition. If artists don’t have anything to contribute other than rehashed content or bids for attention, we should shut the fuck up and go offline – and only post when we have something to say. And I mean something real to say, not just an update about what we’re making. I have over 300 images on my tumblr, In The Studio, but they're intended as an impressionistic and not chronologically precise visual documentary, recording for myself my own output – which is to say, it's there to remind me of what I get done when I begin to doubt my own talent or productivity. It is also a simple record of my life (including, unashamedly, sex and illness).There are no words, because there’s nothing to say that isn't already described in the images.When I search the internet for original content, I find a lot of people with little to say. But they're saying it anyway. Everyone’s so consumed with gaining each others' attention (the only currency that counts online) that the internet has become little else other than intensely personalised sales and marketing tool, the new medium of narcissistic supply (attention or validation from others that we seek out in order to feel alright about ourselves). The only good news is that the internet is an organic, infinitely mutable thing, so this can change – but only if more of the people whose role it is to generate original ideas step up. Or step back when they can’t. Whenever I’ve think about this, the song Nothing To Say, by the Australian band Regurgitator, is the soundtrack playing in my head. It was written in pre-internet years (it was recorded in the mid '90s), when both the band and I were starting out in Brisbane. At the time, the lyrics – quoted, in part, below – were a commentary on feel-good pulp-pop music that was designed to sell but said nothing. Now it's become an unintentional but biting critique of the way many artists (including musicians) use the internet. It reminds us that the medium is not the message and that the message is not just about selling something. We must have something original to say.have you any requests my fine feathered guests?
what will you pay to hear me say?
that it's alright that it's all wrong
that the sun's come up and it's a beautiful dawn
that i'm just a hypocrite
with another brand of shit
what the fuck as long as it rhymes
i'll shut the fuck up and sing in time sing in timecos i have nothing to say (nothing to say)
i have nothing to say (nothing to say)except did you come to get down?
did you come to fuck up?
did you come to fill your ears up with this muck?
did you come to speak shit just for the taste of it?
i came to speak shit and i'm up the loudest
so thanks for your lives
and thanks for your time
and thanks for your shite
you'll thank me for minecos i have nothing to say
i have nothing to say
i have nothing to say
‘cos there is nothing to say