• C J Halbard

A Certain Point of View



I watched One More Time With Feeling last night, curled up on the couch with my partner and some mushroom toast. It’s a film about Nick Cave making his 2016 album Skeleton Tree. All these black and white shots of Brighton, taxi rides through the rain, intense sequences where Cave, his collaborator Warren Ellis, and the band perform songs live in the studio while cameras whiz around them on dolly tracks and halo lights flare.


A good film about musicians making music except that’s not what’s going on, not at all: because behind everything, not directly mentioned ‘til the second half but so close throughout that it’s practically burned into the negative, is the recent death of Nick Cave’s teenage son Arthur.


Everyone’s trying to be kind. Everyone’s trying to be human. But Nick Cave and Susie Bick, Arthur’s mum, are in a different universe now. Right in the middle of territory that’s only discovered by journeying through it. There are strange long minutes of interviews where each of them talk with lovely honesty, but it’s reportage from an alien planet. Arthur’s death - made even more haunting by the presence of his twin brother Earl - has simply shifted everything.


Along with really enjoying the film, and the mushroom toast, and the feeling of a shared experience curled up with someone I love, it brought me back to Project Tempest having a point of view, which it does, and which I’ve mentioned before but not begun to fully communicate.


It feels like we live in a world increasingly shaped by data. By all these bits whizzing around. That’s certainly the big narrative of the moment: data will be ever more in our economies, how we deal with each other, what we value. People are building currencies out of pure math. I can order twenty seven flavours of peanut butter without having to put on pants or get up from the toilet.


The age of digital, then. In the same way that other eras used the Church, or factories, or communism as the threads woven into their world. Human experiences increasingly filtered through prosthetic algorithms, like we’re all one-armed bandits. You can make a lot of money betting on this shift. Out of thin air if you’re really keen.


But behind it there’s something else, vast and obvious, so big it blots out sunlight and reason. The counter-fact, if you like. The one we’re all feeling, but the machines haven’t really caught up to yet, just like the cameras recording Nick Cave two months after his son fell off a cliff high on LSD could only hint at. Only preserve and medicalise.


I’m talking about madness. Not anxiety or depression or schizophrenia - though the brain chemicals that feed those states of mind and body are certainly aroused in the process - but a full-on journey. Territory. A place we’re all going, individually and collectively. Like the American West in the 19th century, or Mars, or a ransacked supermarket on Thursday evening as a hurricane bears in.


I think the journey is painful, strange, terrifying, and ultimately creative. It’s the way out of the alternative, which is that we all literally become binary tabulators. But like other territories, physical or invisible, only truly discovered by travelling through it.


The age of madness probably won’t be called that. Yet it’ll change everything, just like the revolutions before it. Collective journeys into impossible places - videogames might be a rehearsal. A process of moving away from being cut down to size and made measurable. Rewilding our imaginations, and ourselves.


‘Shaman’ might be a career option, if anything like careers still exist in the world that matters (though what else would you call Nick Cave already?). Imaginauts, perhaps - people who venture into impossible places trying to save others trapped in volatile narratives.


Maybe they’re already here. Maybe that tapping we hear is them.


Maybe it’s your future to become one.


But anyway, that’s a point of view, and so far I’m sticking with it. And Skeleton Tree’s a hell of an album, even more so with the backstory.