Most review’s I have read around Scott Walker’s Bish Bosch attempt to excavate the roots of this syllogism :- a motion where Scott Walker attempts to hush the ancient serpent which through the distracted years of his music career had crawled into his body, strangulated the vocal chords before breaking into the skull. Over time it stares out through his eye sockets and whispers silly jokes to the hypothalamus…
The album is a sort of chant over a bricolage of noise, dark ambient and trumpets, with the harmonious vocals of Scott making aggressive jokes to himself. Sometimes it resembles a howling soliloquy of a dying man tortured, castrated and beaten until identity becomes trampled as fine as ashes, sometimes it resembles a clown mocking a dying man, dancing across the body with comically big shoes which kick out an eye out from the socket. It would be dangerous to attempt to dig out any possible rationale – which seemingly everyone is trying to do – it is, however a vicious serpent, unpredictably and uncertainly but also certainly in your vicinity and should be stepped over calmly with plenty of room.
Firstly, I want to postulate a connection with Judge Schreber and Freuds analysis of his notations ‘Memoirs of my Nervous Illness’, in Freuds short essay ‘The Judge Schreber Case’, and Terrance Koh’s installation ‘These Decades that We Never Sleep, Black Light’ 2004 and Bish Bosch. There is, anecdotally a connection in the bleak, often exaggerated but most prominently inertia which runs throughout these; as if they have been torn straight from the body, out of the penial shaft – the hanging black chandelier of Koh developed within and torn out in a black trail of painted rope, diamond and excrement smeared, encrusted with millipede and horsehair. Judge Schreber found his nervous illness all through his body;
“Judge Schreber lived for a long time without a stomach, without intestines, almost without lungs, with a torn oesophagus, without a bladder, and with shattered ribs; he used sometimes to swallow part of his own larynx with his food”
His deterioration as symbolised through a God delusion became a visceral language, blown out of the sphincter with an encore from the bowels. Scott Walkers jokes on the other hand enter the [our] body[ies] – they aren’t poetically justifiable but they have the impact of any-old-punchline. That said, they don’t actually make us laugh, but they do make us bare our teeth in an animalistic instinct towards a threat, we curl our lips and snarl in confusion and aggression.
So Schreber writes the details of his nervous illness, his paranoid and hallucinatory moments, working up miracles in the anus as well as being transformed from God through a nervous system directly linked to the decomposition of his vital organs. These private speculations have been anatomised and prepared for us and the likes of Jung and Freud to form cohesive answers to – much in the way we enjoy picking apart the worms for the bilious shit that is Bish Bosch. And that is exactly what happened to Schreber – ipso facto Freudianised – pressed through the analytical-machine. This sort of reduction attempts to find meaning in the catastrophic and arbitrary language of Schreber – and it is this language, this attempt at formation and direction which leads us to the scope of Walker.
Bish Bosch is made up of jokes and punchlines – some of which are non-sequitur, others land quite well. Such as,
“If shit were music, you’d be a brass band!” –
To a far more aggressive and violent,
“Did you ever throw your own mother’s food back at her? What kind of an unnatural son would do that to his own mother?”,
“No more dragging this wormy anus round on shag piles from Persia to Thrace”.
I want to reduce this to a Freudian narrative – in that Scott Walker assumes the fearful, curious teenager who has been caught masturbating by his own mother and creating a strange complex of incestuous anxiety and self-castration. Because, it seems, that Scott Walker in Bish Bosch is aiming for someone to discuss a fear of castration or a fear of incest to him. These jokes and violent spasms of non-sequitur puzzles appear more of assimilation with Schreber, who Freud reduced to homosexuality and incest from an apparent language – to find and make sense and order from this chaotic epiphany, misunderstanding the ‘written’ or ‘said word’ for the experienced reality. Is there, in Bish Bosch, a want to be put into order and assimilated; to be pieced back together to engross the puerility of its convergence?
To put it simpler, the use-value of Freuds analysis as an extension of Schrebers account as an acting double – to strengthen or to adapt.
Then, we take Koh and specifically ‘Black Light’ from the ‘These Decades that We Never Sleep’ installation – a large candelabra made from various materials such as a rope stolen from an old ship, diamond and excrement all washed in black oil. It is possibly gothic minimalism; a mix of Kagami and Filomeno, it gives the impression of a violent evil – human shit has the menacing presence of evil, taken out of context… and these items together are taken out of context. There seems to be a definition towards notifying the fact that the ships rope used was taken after midnight – as if some great transcendent reasoning emerges from the sculpture, increasing its value beyond the gothic – to become illustrious within the imaginative. As human shit, out of its context of biology – is a useless, harmful, humiliating and abject produce. The sculpture wavers through a dangerous and threatening presence, hanging and dead black.
So, how it relates to Bish Bosch – in that it cries out for reasoning, it craves place and rationality – yet wishes to remain axiomatic. It feels as though it is a changing and decomposing state, as if it will change and become something else over time – Bish Bosch, will surely change post-Walker, his death will awaken a sense of autonomy. And that is what brings everything together, away from our want to pinpoint defining moments of clarity in these concepts which are confused and fragmented – it feels as though, away from the control of the artist, they become autonomous – separate from our reality yet invading it all the same… growing into our natural space, out of these minds and out of these bodies. They provoke rationality, and they provoke us to make judgements and repress it in hope to form an order in something we cannot understand – whilst too addressing our activity in doing so.