When is mid life and what is a crisis? I'm sure I don't know: I mean I might be dead next week and that would make my mid life around when I was 17, which, come to think of it, was pretty much one long series of crises.
I've been thinking recently about the way I feel in the world right now, and how I have done for some time, maybe all my life in fact. I've been thinking about the things I do, the things I make, and about Tangents in particular, and it seemed that there were things that needed saying, for a whole host of reasons, not least to maybe stop myself from breaking up in some way. Or perhaps it's more a case of accelerating that destruction, I don't know. Only time can tell that one for sure.
Last week in a fit of bemused self-deprecation I added the Unpopular T-Shirt to the Tangents shop. It's been more than a joke though because really it's the story of my life. Not to sound self-pitying or anything, but of course it's impossible not to because anyone who reads that kind of thing can't help but bring the traditional view to bear and feel some kind of hatred rising at someone so pathetically adolescent and self-obsessed. I know, because I do it myself. So no, you won't stop yourselves thinking that this is all about me feeling sorry for myself and that's just fine. I just hope you'll hear me out is all.
I've written in the past about making fanzines, and I stand by everything I've ever said. I stand by the fact that I never wanted to write for the music press or have the things I've produced become tarnished by the rust of commerce. I've always been into keeping personal control as much as possible, into not toeing lines and chucking out any old shit just because it's fashionable or hip at any given time. That's not why I do things; it's not why I've ever done things. I always come back to that idea about passion over fashion, and although that's a flawed statement to be making for sure, it embodies a lot of what I've always been about.
Jesus, I make it sound like I'm so fucking important, like anyone gives a shit. Which they don't.
It's just I think that although I'm alone in all of this, I might not be Alone. It may be that I have this feeling of being so out of touch with the world that I'm invisible; that all of the things which give my life meaning are so irrelevant to the howling majority that I've slipped beneath the surface: it may be that in spite or because of this there are others who think and feel the same, who take some strength from these words. And if it's one other person that's enough.
See, I called Tangents the home of Un-Popular Culture on the web because I knew I wasn't kidding anyone, least of all myself. So as an ezine we get more readers than any paper fanzines ever did, but in the eyes of the world blinded by stories of making millions on the web, Tangents is a total fucking failure. Not that I give a shit of course because I'm too busy feeling proud about what we've achieved, totally over the moon to have such great people involved, to be massing such genuine talent in one place. But still… to get rejection from people who should know better… it hurts somewhere. It ruffles feathers.
See, this is really all brought on by the fact that a couple of months ago I was cajoled (against my better judgement) into making an application to the local Arts Council for a grant to help Tangents grow and develop. I mean, I've always been sceptical of these Arts Councils, let me say that from the outset. I've always been appalled at the lack of scope they show in the things that they support; the endless dreary 'worthy' shit inevitably shot through with ugly, meaningless, hippy stylings; the lazy nods at ideas of 'community' arts that just show so much lack of excitement and challenge. The lack of risks being taken. Having said that of course, you'd be right in calling me a hypocrite for approaching them in the first place, and I accept the criticism because as I say I was cajoled and I had consumed too many glasses of wine that night.
Wasn't it Morrissey who once sang that 'rejection is one thing, but rejection from a fool is cruel'? Let me quote you a few lines from the rejection letter: "we felt that (Tangents) had limited impact…" This from people with fast dedicated net connections who think the web is all about bells and whistles and impression over content; I mean, do these people sit at home with their 56K modem at peak time waiting impatiently for a page with a million graphics to download? Do they want to read interesting and challenging words or just look at snazzy pictures? I never want the peripheries of Tangents to be more important than the content: the words and, in the gallery, the relevant visuals. I don't want stupid rollover buttons and pop-up windows and a hundred animated gifs and I certainly don't want to annoy you all with banner adverts. My design aesthetic has always been about modernist simplicity and if that's out of fashion then I couldn't care less.
"(the application) lacked the understanding of how the web site could generate finance to make it sustainable…". This from the people who laughed openly in our faces four years ago when we tried to generate interest to support a web site about our City within its business and arts communities. This from people I always assumed were meant to be supporting artists, not businessmen and women.
I get frustrated by this kind of thing not because they never give any support to the kinds of things that I want to explore but because they make it so hard for artists to get that support in the first place. I mean, I don't consider myself to be an idiot (some may disagree of course), and I'm not someone who generally has problems with words, but if I was dyslexic (as statistics have shown many visual artists to be) or had problems with numbers (well I kind of do in that I hate all that accounting shit) I'd be struggling to get beyond the hurdle of filling in the application form. I find it insulting and wrong that with funds available to help artists develop, to get their hands on that help those artists are expected to be more than just artists; are expected to spend time grasping hold of business concepts instead of simply doing what they supposedly do best, and that is making their art.
On one level I couldn't give a toss that the Arts Council turned down my application. I've been running Tangents for years from this spare room, just as I've made fanzines from bedrooms and attics since I was a kid. I'm proud that I don't need their patronage and if not having that money means that I'll have to scrabble around trying to scrounge the cash together for the hardware I need to get our Movie projects up and running, then so be it. On another level though, it annoys me a great deal, and makes me ever more sure that I am, as I feel myself to be, so far off the edge of the map that I'm just floating alone in a mist of derision.
© Alistair Fitchett 1999