While we search the whole of London in and out, up and down for Art; on Friday 15th May at the British Library it burst on stage and into a drooling audience. Presented by LATE at the Library: Freedom of Expression, this weekend the underground of historical narrative – the space evaded by paranoiac cliché and the repetitive compulsion of cultural entropy – articulated itself as Saul Williams.
Supported by a kaleidoscope of poetry from Tongue Fu; including the whimsicalings of Dizraeli, Salena Godden, Vanessa Kisuule, Chris Redmond and Baloji, the New York native presented a platter of classic tracks and work from his forthcoming album Martyr Loser King.
With a global following, 4 books of poetry, 8 albums and a repertoire including performances at over 300 universities, 30 countries, the White House, Sydney Opera House, Lincoln Center and The Louvre; Saul remains remarkably adrift. His music inhabits the wilderness around the world as we know it – where creativity is possible, but the grammar of natural order has long since fled.
With typical sincerity Saul acknowledged the irony of this celebration of expression at the literary heart of the British Empire, with the Magna Carta on site no less. An opening rendition of They Think Like They Books Say underlines the linguistic insight that formulates Saul’s reality melting stylism and life’s work. Recognition that “symbols come to life”. That we have filled the earth with walking metaphors. That poetry surrounds, beautifies and oppresses us – depending on who is poeticizing.
As the imagery of our historical location embodies itself in violence both at home and abroad; we are tasked with a Herculean labour. To coin new metaphors, describe possibilities yet brought into language; to recite ‘beyond’ the logical consequent of our cultural hegemony. The stories and poetries which have conveniently disappeared from places like the British Library and are definitely not being heard on the radio. Which ears accustomed to the banality of consumer music and supremacist narratives may have to relearn.
But whose wandering spirits find expression in the soul of Saul Williams and ask us to consider what we have to lose, except everything we know. A future that is purely symbolic; that makes ‘parents’, ‘spouses’, ‘citizens’, ‘conservatives’, ‘labourites’ ,’worshippers’, ’employees’, ‘consumers’, ‘delinquents’ out of us, or the possibility of a different time conceived in new language – which it would take artists to enact. The significance of this message can’t be overstated.
Following his performance, Saul joined the audience for hugs and photos. Simple affirmations of human contact exorcising the aura that alienates us from institutions and each other. A challenge to be real and participate; tragically radical in 2015.
LATE at the Library: Freedom of Expression featuring Saul Williams and Tongue Fu
Friday 15th May, 19:30-23:00