Gorillaz: Journey to the West by Steven ‘Fly Agaric 23’ Pratt. 2007.
“I wish to develop my hypothesis further by proposing the following idea: What if DNA, stimulated by nicotine or dimethyltryptamine, activates not only the emission of photons (which inundate our consciousness in the form of hallucinations), but also its capacity to pick up the photons emitted by the global network of DNA-based life? This would mean that the biosphere itself, which can be considered “as a more or less fully interlinked unit,” is the source of the images. – Jeremy Narby, Cosmic Serpent. P. 131
The Gorillaz are a bright example of 21st century novel languaging.
Post modem Aliens from another planet, and now as a harmonious accent to their reality bending oeuvre’ they’re paying direct tribute to a 16th century Classic Chinese Sacred Text, utilizing “from all quarters” the plurality of different mediums, dance, music, gymnastics, magic, from Oriental traditions and then, retranslating this big soup with modern audio/visual technology, and what you might call a more westernized extravaganza of light, Holographic projectors, and most importantly for this writing, the arts and crafts of Hip Hop culture.
Graffiti, DJ’ing, M.C’ing, Which, as i wish to show here and have hinted at before in a piece of writing for Maybelogic Quarterly called “The Knu Science of Hip Hop,” have a distinctly Oriental mystique about them, Calligraphy, Swordsmanship, and many Martial Arts have been recently pulled into the fold of Hip Hop Culture, Wu Tang Clan, Ninjatunes, and the Gorillaz all have an affiliation with Orientalism, to give three examples that spring to mind, but of course many Orientals may vary in their opinion of how closely these western artists imitate their cultural values attached to these terms.
But what’s important to me, is noticing that along with the outwardly noticeable Oriental themes through much Hip hop, there is a deep rooted affinity with orientalism and Hip Hop culture, rekindled and rediscovered by street poets and dharma bums, a new communication has been established by Graffiti writers and DJ’s and Poets, and billions of people are tuning into Hip Hop culture world wide. Or language is mutating faster through Hip hop culture, especially fueled by modern Web 2 technology (Youtube, Photobucket, google) Digital photography and other new mediums for languaging.
The Gorillaz and Chen, and the humans in the mist, seem to have unified many of these themes, but in a way i find particularly attractive with a particular sensitivity to the “Oriental” way of seeing and perceiving which i suspect can be fantastically and completely different to our own Alphabetical and Westernized way of seeing, interacting and processing our symbol systems. Animation may have been what Ernest Fenollosa was searching for as a medium to translate the interacting picture poems within Oriental languages he was studying.
Instead his work found Ezra Pound, who was helping to birth Animation in poetry through Imagism, vorticism, Modernism and Surrealism and all of the great real icons of art and culture: The ancient wisdom of Chinese poetry, orientalism and Eastern culture are wrapped up in “Monkey”, if you wish to unravel the rope and begin to analyze the fur on the Monkeys tale more closely you can see the fantastic “other” worlds emerge of Eastern ideogram cultures, Chinese poetry and their more positive cultural images related to enlightenment, peace and at-oneness with Nature, distilled from their oriental equivalent of synergetic historical periods, their Renaissance in arts and literature, in Respect/rejection of myth and in the relationship between mankind and nature.
“Journey to the West has an Epic encyclopedic cultural background in Chinese folk religion, as strange and new to most westerners as any alternative historical fictions from our own culture such as Tolkien’s Middle Earth or the even the Matrix such are the seemingly Alien qualities of much Oriental culture. Its twice as strange but four times as real as our Western history, due mostly to the fact that, to be blunt, a chinese written character is more real than an alphabetical one. Hands down. Each and every way, ideogram conveys multi-directional images in multi-directional readings Chinese mythology and value systems; the pantheon of Taoist and Buddhist deities is still reflective of Chinese folk religious beliefs today. –Journey to the West
My personal impressions of the “Gorillaz” kind of worldview if you like is that they are living in a post alphabetical world, an apocalyptic afterfuture where a virtual self (avatar) seems ever so slightly or at least equally real. This concept relates very nicely for me to poetics based on the Zen-Buddhist conceptions of nonbeing as being, emptiness as form, and transcendence of the duality between self and world.
The Chuang Tzu, an ancient philosophical treatise, states that: “Tao cannot be conveyed by either words or silence. In that state which is neither speech nor silence its trancendental nature may be apprehended.” perhaps painting best typifies that state which is neither speech nor silence, but manages to convey a unique mood which can transport us into a special awareness. Yet, if we, as westerners, are to experience the tao in Chinese painting or in the I-Ching, we must recognize and transcend certain limitations of mind. – R. L. Wing, The Illustrated I-Ching
The classical spiritual Avatar or guardian ANGEL parallels the “Gorillaz” avatars in many ways. And the flurry of Avatars born to web2 everyday. Avatars become a vehicle to help bridge self and supra-self, the A-typical western dualistic paradox which has long been kept alive in small enclaves and underground cells in the Western lands.
Hip Hop culture recently manifested thousands of magical Avatars, powered up with symbol, sound and movements united together, charged. Generally many Eastern religions include the phenomena of the “Avatar” as a kind of virtual super self, a comic book hero; often graphically mutated with an animal or element within nature.
In literature this metamorphosing takes place in metaphor, poetry and allegory. The great Oriental mystics, and many Western esotericists and Shamans and bards have been using metaphor to combat the demons of reality since the beginnings of “Time/space”, within “ZEN” Buddhist and some Taoist creation stories and poetic parables we often see metamorphosis between mankind and nature.
Oriental paintings for example, eclipse the human being with Mountain, wave, river, cloud, monkey. Gorillaz have brought this myth science arkestra back to a Western stage in 2007. Capturing this kind of holographic motion on the page with words might be a helpful metaphor to use when describing what Joyce has left us in Finnegans Wake: a flurry of spicetyme Angels.
See Finnegans Wake and The Cantos of Ezra Pound for working examples of exactly this kind of omnipoteia, multiple sensory, multi-cultural, multi linguistic and multi-symbolic communications. More simply called Epic poetry or referred to as “The Tale of the Tribe”. Monkey: Journey to the West qualifies as an Oriental based “Tale of the Tribe” or cultural compendium, working on many different levels, philosophical, spiritual, magical, historical.
And so i am knitting Monkey into a kind of Maybelogical glossed Oriental “Tale of the Tribe” and hijacking their performance into my own interpretations of Orientalism and Modernism.
“The Monkey King’s journey from animal being to human being to spiritual being was obviously a Buddhist metaphor for the way in which you have to endure calamities to reach enlightenment. – Chen Shi-Zheng, Director with Gorillaz of Monkey: Jouney to the west.
And so the real and unreal thinking goes around and around, but thankfully the Gorillaz, dubbed as the worlds first Virtual band due to the cartoon/comic book like appearance and the hologramic “projections” of the band during their perfoirmances. The band however is a mutating band of gypsies, a well pool of talent from around the world, many special guests both real and virtual make magical appearances in both the real and the virtual world. Jamies Hewlett and “CHU” recently glossed a full 217 Meter train which rolls from London to Manchester daily. Journey through the West (Midlands) When the train is in motion the images are in motion creating animation and moving pictures, live film. Outdoors. A taste of public transport could aspire to, if it could break free of the influencial government dogm that Graffiti IS a crime!
Gorillaz as a medium for Chinese Poetry.”Another set piece, by no means as poetic as Mutt and Jute, introduces the Tristan theme: the Prankquean (21-23) is Brangwen or Brangane who is responsible for mixing up the love-potion (21.27 lovespots) and the death potion in the opera: they both look like a pint of Guinness; hence the thematic riddle ‘Mark the Wans, why do i am alook alike a poss of porterpease? (19-20). – Matthew Hodgart, James Joyce A students Guide P. 139
The philosophical questions raised about what real reality really is and what a virtual reality really is! is a portal of discovery which thanks to the Gorrilaz and their mist (tech support, musicians, producers, painters, designers, financial backing etc.) has led back to well spring of valuable information, preserved with out the usual mass identity fragmentation and forced re-shaping to fit in with the Knu world order reinforced by False Iconic Corporate Capitalists.
The boundless Wisdom of the Orient goes straight to the root, the seed, back to nature as metaphor. The Fullness of emptyness. The infinite Potential contained out of nothing. A new paradigm shift is languaging itself into our collective reality and i feel that the Gorrilaz and associates have crafted a fantastic gloss from which to update our instruments and communication apparatus, to help the people swallow up the whole mass-age and spit out “her” stories.
Tori Amos sings about MONKEY: Journey to the West
As you may or may not know, all primates — and we certainly are primates — have what are called ‘male dominance hierarchies’. This means that the longest-fanged, meanest s.o.b. in a monkey tribe takes control of the group resources, the females, the weaker males, and this character runs the show, and this is pretty much how we do it today.
But my belief, based on 25 years of working with and taking psychedelic plants and substances, has led me to — well, certainly to the brink of hubris — to make an adjustment to evolutionary theory and suggest that these psychedelic substances are not private, peripheral, ancillary, cultish, esoteric, meaningless, self-indulgent, narcissistic, or obscure; they are in fact central to understanding how what we call ‘human-ness’ actually came to be in the first place.
I really believe that the reason we have language and notions like community, altruism, loyalty, brotherhood, hope — the reason we have these qualities, which are the qualities that we embrace as most human and most ennobling to us, is because for a period of roughly a hundred thousand years we self-medicated ourselves and suppressed the poisonous presence of the calcareous tumour of ego. – Terence Mckenna’s “stoned” Monkey hypothesis
“The vast, interconnected mantle of mycelia reacts quickly to the availability of plant and animal debris, recycling carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, iron and other essential elements. When storms, floods, volcanoes, or other natural disasters wreak havoc on the environment, fungal champions come to the rescue, capturing debris with mycelium and beginning to recycle. Humans have the unfortunate distinction of creating more debris than any other organism on this planet. We have become the new natural disaster. From our minor significance in the biological world only 10,000 years ago, our population is now over 6 billion, continuing to rapidly increase, taxing resources and stressing habitats beyond their maxima. – Mycotech