Published in LA SERRE XV, May 2010, Cite du design, Saint-Etienne, France
Say, what happens Underground?
Well, Cheese is stored, Tube is late due to Signal failure, and the Dead get ready to Michael-Jackson their way out of their tombs at the drop of a hat.
And Deeper then?
well, that is what is called the Thunderground.
If you've seen Mad max 3, you know what to expect. nothing good there. Mostly sub-human Petro-Dreadlocks slurping muck-soup by the barrel. bones bonify and stones are stoned.
And Beyond Then?
You mean, beyond the Thunderground? well that's the Superground, man!!! but let me go back to the Underground.
Sure! I can't wait to hear this!
The Underground is a value system serving a large part of the Arts and neighbouring activities. It is usually referred to officially as 'the Underground' and colloquially as just Art, although the latter term originally applied only to the deep-level bored lines, along which run slightly lower, narrower trains of thought along standard-gauge thinking, to distinguish them from the sub-surface "cut and cover" lines of ideas. a term that seeks to describe art forms that are aloof to the mainstream Art world, are illegal, taboo, unconventional, rebellious or revolutionary. Underground art usually challenges or rejects the cultural status quo in some way, and may involve extreme doses of originality and experimentation in terms of its content, form or context. More recently this distinction has been lost and the whole system is now referred to as 'Art', even in recent years by its operators in official publicity such as moms magazines and pseudo-cultural TV programs.
When did the Underground start?
With its first section opening in 1863 B.C. or so Art historians say, it was the first subterranean artistic system in the cosmos. In 890BC it became the first human group to operate electric musical instruments. Despite the name, about 55% of the network is above ground though.
The earlier lines of the present Underground were created by various private ventures. Kings and Queens of Cool. Dictators of Extreme Taste. Purveyors of Alien Arts. Apart from the mainstream for thousands of years, they became part of an integrated entertainment Culture in the twentieth Century. The underground became a single entity in 1916, when Tristan Tzara predicted by 50 years Frank Zappa's rise with his debut album with the Mothers of Invention “Freakout!”
Hmmm. I've never heard of them, does it mean I'm not Underground?
Yes it does. However, Underground Art, with its schematic non-geographical attitude and colour-coded flag allegiances, is nowadays considered a Cultural classic, and many square artistic communities worldwide have been allegedly influenced by it, but actually hate it, and hate Frank Zappa. True Undergrounders, though, should know about Frank Zappa, even if they aren't into music. They should learn to respect and revere him too, even if they hate his hairstyle.
Underground types are called Undergrounders, Capital U. Undergrounders usually roam about Underground cities.
Alright. But wait, what's an Underground City?
An Underground City is a network of artists, performers, personalities that connect them beneath Fame level. These may or may not include loose-booty office workers and Dada shoplifters, old-fashioned train-hoppers and metro sexual bullies, theatrical human wrecks and other attractions. An underground city can usually be accessed through the public space of any of the buildings connecting to it, and sometimes has separate entries as well.
Who cares about the Underground anyway?
Underground cities are especially important in cities with large posh Middle-class populations, as they permit the downtown crowd to be comfortably associated with the Arts year round without regard to their actual ability to produce/appreciate anything.
Underground cities are similar in nature to Mainstream cities and may include some Government-funded, Art student-kissed Picassoed buildings linked to the Mainstream or above-ground legal corridors rather than underground.
How do I know if I live in a Underground City?
Time to hit you with an example. How about London?
First built in the soft volcanic rock by Phrygian Beatniks in the 8th -7th centuries B.C according to the Underground Department of Culture, the London underground city was enlarged to include electronic granite structures in the Detroit-Byzantine era.
With its eleven floors extending to a depth of approximately 13485 m, London Underground City is large enough to shelter thousands of people together with their live houses and record stores. It is the largest excavated underground city in the world and is part of a network of several underground complexes found across the Western world. The city was connected with other underground cities like New York, Detroit, San Fransisco, Manchester, Berlin, etc through miles of tunnels.
It was opened to squares in the 1960s and to date, with its constantly changing configuration, only ten percent of the underground city is accessible to the Mainstream.
Is that what Gentrification is?
Yes, which is why the Underground is always on the move, migrating to new geographical and artistic territories. You still need to listen to Frank Zappa though. He is the Eternal.
Great! I've downloaded his entire catalog while you were talking, I'll listen to it right after I listen to the entire Queen discography. Is that cool?
The underground city was the hiding place for the first Christians who were escaping from the persecution of the Roman Empire. Everything discovered in these underground settlements belongs to Christian artists of the Middle Byzantine Period, between the 5th and the 10th centuries A.D. The number of underground settlements, generally used for taking refuge and for artistic purposes, increased during this era. The Christian communities in the region took refuge, closing the millstone doors, when they were subjected to Police raids which started in the 7th century. The cops, aware of the dangers awaiting them inside, tried to make the local people leave their shelters by poisoning their wells and smashing their mailboxes.
Were the first Beatniks Christians then?
The answer is Yes, without question.
The London underground city can be closed from the inside with large rolling stone doors. The complex has a total 11 floors, though many floors have not been excavated yet and are currently undergoing major refurbishment work. Each floor can be closed off separately.
The city can accommodate between 3,000 and 50,000 people, no more no less, and has all the usual amenities found in other underground complexes across the world, such as wine and free presses, stables, cellars, Art storage rooms, refectories, and chapels of love. It can therefore live completely independently from the Mainstream World if it is no longer accessible.
Why is there no Underground, and no Underground cities, outside the Developed World?
Well, poor people are not very good at looking after their Art. Instead, they build little shacks out of it, or grind it into Cocaine, or even eat it.
And also, the ground there is too hard. Everything has to be street-level. Nobody listens to Zappa there.
But one day, he will reincarnate as a Tsunami and wreak havoc on those unfortunates.
Can we expect the Underground to become universal then?
Quite the contrary.
As Frank Zappa once predicted, the Underground will cease to exist the day it reaches the planet core and instantly liquefies into DNA Magma. Pop will eat itself,The Pope will eat Himself and Art will be lost for a period of 10000 years, until our future descendants rediscover our culture, labeling our crafts as arts, and our arts as crafts, but who cares, everybody then will live in bubbles and eat toothpaste twice a day while watching laser beams on giant screens placed at the center of their flying cities. Oh yeah, and ipods will cure Cancer. and beards. expect teenage-looking 170 years old space settlers.
OK, all that sounds incredibly dubious and cool.
But could the Underground be nothing but an urban legend, engineered only to lure both creative and unimaginative people into positioning themselves according to other people they've never even met, when in the end, what matters most is touching those within reach, right in front of you...
Er...What do you mean?
You know, like when you fart in the lift, you don't worry about the effect on Global warming and the glaciers in the North Pole, but the important thing is that everybody in it threw up and hate you. and that, friends, is true Art.
Hmmm...super. And that's why you're not a true Undergrounder, amigo.
Now shut your dirty little mouth and let me talk in bold text, little man.
Do you know my favourite Underground band, Faust?
Right. I'm talking about the German 70' band. They served the Arts truly in a wondrous fashion.
Poor bastards! Their food and drink are not of earth.
An inward impulse hurries them far from the Mainstream,
Themselves half conscious of their frenzied mood;
From the Mainstream claimed them the fairest stars,
And from the Underground craves every highest good,
And all that's near, and all that's far,
Fails to allay the tumult in their records
Err...you lost me...are we still talking about the Underground?
Though in perplexity you hear me now,
I soon will lead you where more light appears;
When buds the sapling, doth the Undergrounder know
That flowers and fruit will deck the coming years.
I thank you, for not willingly interrupting me from now on
I traffic with the Mainstream, and still aver
That the Underground's plump blooming cheek I very much prefer.
I'm not at home to you corpses; 'tis my way,
Like cats with captive mice to toy and play.
Now let me put on a record, there
Er, Otis Redding?
You fool! that's Captain Beefheart, Safe as Milk, he went so deep Underground he became a mole, and now he paints with his toes on M&M's, somewhere in the Mojave desert, Nuclear Testing site I believe.
You've gotta have respect for that level of commitment to the Underground. Anyway, he and Frank Zappa were good friends, therefore you might also want to start liking Beefheart as well, if you want be down with the Underground...
Sure. Hey wait a minute, the guitar sounds way different, is that cool?
Yeah, Underground is all about personality, character, ego. two geniuses, same Underground, different tunnels, that's all. Magic and Tragic, Primitivism and Discipline, Fat & Lean.
How come I've never heard of them geniuses then?
Well, that's because you're a peasant, even though you live in a city.
Thanks. But does anybody outside the Underground know about those Underground geniuses?
Well, I guess it's time to talk about the Superground.
Sounds alright! what is it?
The Superground is the Pure Land of Artistic Genius. Some say it's a city, others say it's a state of mind, but personally, I believe it is that space where an Underground genius go when they cross over into Mainstream success, whilst retaining their credibility in the Eye of the Underground. They then appear to all in an aura of black light and thunderbolts.
So, err, who is in the Superground?
Not IN, they ARE the Superground. Well, nobody knows for sure. Some claim though that they've seen Jimi Hendrix there when they had a Near-Death Experience.
So, are you saying that nobody agrees on who might be the Superground; the Undergrounders don't care about what the Mainstream think, the Mainstream don't even know about the Underground anyway, and The Superground artists are dead artists most of the time, am I wrong?
Yeah, and that is the beauty of it, IN or OUT, Dead or Alive, Love and Hate, the whole dichotomy of Art, really. Here, have some more pizza.