Newest contributor to Jacked Fashion, Ian Honoré brings a mind refresher to the table focusing on the essence of movement throughout life, personal identity, and growth. The artists mind exposed, shedding light on important and often forgotten truths.
"My critique is aimed at this binary in place that treats childhood as an antechamber to becoming a real person, a dignified human being, an adult. I'm concerned with these dehumanizing tactics used against children to usher them into a monolithic, oppressive set of cultural logics and values. A human life cannot be compartmentalized into sections."
I like to do drugs. Not the bad ones, just the good ones. The ones that take you places. The ones that take you on trips. I also practice art and philosophy, which are a lot like trips. Tonight we’re in the Mushroom Kingdom on our way to the seaside. A friend has invited us to go sailing.
I had forgotten that the dock is behind a church. We pull into a spot in the parking lot at the House of God and I can't help but laugh at the irony of the situation. I crane over and say "oh my god, we're the bad kids you're supposed to stay away from, the ones you're not supposed to become". Nothing could be closer to the truth. Between just four of us existed fierce Black power, raging homosexuality, polyamorous promiscuity, gender defiance, punk-anarchism, questionable hygiene, haywire sleep schedules, and six “useless” undergraduate majors. And it seemed so absurd to me that my lifestyle and worldview through which I've finally been able to grow into my own skin is precisely what is so desperately hidden in the deepest of closets from children.
“Good kids” must be manicured. They aren’t exactly manufactured with our cultural presets. On the contrary, children tend towards the erotic and the surreal. Children play with their junk when they feel like it and play in fantasy worlds of their own forging. They have to be reprimanded or spanked to curb their “indecency” and their minds "straightened out" by learning Western master narratives on what constitutes "the real world", "true knowledge", and "legitimate identity". They're taught to be estranged from their own bodies and to associate shame with pleasure (especially via masturbation) and that any fanciful interpretations they may be culminating around the world they live in is not merely incorrect but daft, in other words, "childlike". Children are typically encouraged to be mildly imaginative so long as the adults in their lives are perfectly reassured that the tots are aware of what is real and what is merely fiction, that they understand that their imaginations are cute and fun but in the end null and irrelevant for anything other than escapist child's play, which of course, must and will be outgrown.
Children are shamed for being children. They tell each other to grow up and are dismissed by their elders as incompetent, their perspectives unviable contributions. Much of youth is wasted away with the yearning to skip to glorified adulthood. They are more than willing to discard their "childish" notions and "angsty" counterculture fads in an attempt to assimilate. And of course once one has reached a certain age and hasn't moved on from fantastical worldviews or pink mohawks and female hairy armpits, you'll either be institutionalized as insane or barred from employment from anywhere that isn’t an alternative nightclub or tattoo parlor. This isn't to say that there aren't valuable and essential qualities associated with adulthood whatsoever or that a ten year old has the same mental capacity of a 25 year old. My critique is aimed at this binary in place that treats childhood as an antechamber to becoming a real person, a dignified human being, an adult. I'm concerned with these dehumanizing tactics used against children to usher them into a monolithic, oppressive set of cultural logics and values. A human life cannot be compartmentalized into sections. As beings that exist in time, our history spans on a continuum. In ultimate paradox, there can never be a stable "I" to reflect upon because we are in a perpetual state of change, yet any given moment in our life is just as much our “true selves” as any other. Phrases like "I wasn't myself that day" or "I couldn't believe the words coming out of my mouth" only scratch the surface of how fluid, transitory, and contradictory the Self is.
A sense of the real, a singular world or knowledge independent from humanity is equally problematic. There is no common ground from which humans could possibly arrive at a legitimate sense of normal behavior and thinking. It is forcefully extracted from us by a bourgeois class. Any counterexamples from cultures that have been miraculously (virtually) untouched by global capitalism would of course be discarded as insubstantial. They're simply savages! What do they know? They’re swiftly dehumanized for the benefit of keeping the sanctity of our precious Western worldview. Otherwise, we’d have to face the fact that our reality is a mere version of versions upon which no original can be located.
Reality and normalcy are texts. They're stories. Obviously there is an observable world that we agree is stable, the ‘external world’, but humans do not have direct access to it. We process stimuli with a human chemistry and the product is an image, an interface of the world in our minds (all before we give these perceptions cultural meaning, further multiplying and complicating what constitutes “the world”). What you are seeing on your computer screen is not what is being registered by your computer. It is in interface for what would otherwise be an entirely incomprehensible world of code. In this way, psychedelia is the literal transportation to other worlds. Our human chemistry that generates an arbitrary interface of the world is completely rewired and another equally arbitrary (and equally legitimate) world surfaces. Psychedelia isn’t seeing things that aren’t in the external world, it is literally the processing of the world as something other than a human and therefore seeing it for the first time, as a child. Unlike an intoxication that pulls you away from lucidity, psychedelics simply generate an alternate perspective of the actual world, an alterlucidity.
Yet, without some kind of referent of an "actual world" (as opposed to a real world, with implies that any other way of looking at the world is false), we would have no means from which to relate to one another. So how do we arrive at a point where we aren’t forced to experience the world identically yet find ways to bridge common grounds for relatedness? The answer to this very abstract dilemma is precisely what we violently exorcise out of children.
Children propose worlds. Children don't always play nice; they're children. But when they do, they'll take turns authoring a world. And usually even after a premise is set, detailing becomes a collaborative effort. These are usually called "games", another way adults have robbed children of their immensely powerful practice of world making. Unfortunately, by the time children can speak they've already been tainted with hegemonic culture and will begin implementing it immediately. But I can recall a time when the boy didn't get to have all the action as knight in shining armor while the girl waited, bored, for him to decide he was through fighting and come up and "rescue her". Sometimes there was a princess who was a secret agent and the boys were the bad guys to whom she briskly handed their asses, all before teatime with the duchess. In this world, patriarchy is dead. In this moment, women are enabled and powerful and have dynamic gender identities. The “real world” remains, yes, but on the outside, if only for an instance (in Feminist jargon it could be related to creating safe spaces). This fight among ten year olds did not end rape culture and gender-based discrimination. But "The World" was refracted into worlds and a glint of what could be became real. And any time we can envision change and what the world could be through artistic and philosophical inquiry, we are reprising what little we can from the resin of our forsaken childhoods.
Maturity is valuable. Emotional stability and increased intellectual capacity are good things. But if I was left to dream and play as a child through my growth, perhaps I could've saved myself years of studying postmodern philosophy to unlearn all the absolute lies I was force-fed. Perhaps I could've been light years more developed in my artistic practice. Maybe I would be more acutely attuned to the shifts in consciousness we are continuously going through, knowing very well that a single frequency of consciousness is a myth that we perform with “good manners”, speech, and body language. In many ways a psychedelic trip is a caricature of the critique of reality that theory offers and the transport to alternate worlds that art effects. In my experience, I’ve come to find that the relationship between the three are inexorable and together they constitute an attempt to reprise my childish train of thought and rekindle that old desire to “vivre autrement”, or “live otherly”.
-Ian Honoré is an artist, curator, and the founding director of a non-profit alternative art-space organization in Miami