The Lava Lamp (h2so4 12)

That thickness, that stubborn resistance to apparent change that lies in chaos. I can think of nature in no other way. Nostalgia, though, is entirely man-made; style is the visual interest we have in some others' intuition of a form and all of the improbable victories over bureau- cratic obstacles that actually allowed the stylish object to be created. Or, as Mike Tyler has remarked regarding the Chrysler Building, "The guy who says 'No' was out of the office that day."

I hope for the publication of my novels, for my discovery, with the same faith that I garner from the series of accidents that produced the Lava Lamp, the Chrysler Building, the Bonboniere diner on Eighth Avenue in New York, the Citroën Shark, the city of Naples, or Elisabetta's smile. (Yes, I believe that we produce our own physical beauty as well and navigate it perilously between the obstacles of accepted ideas, fads and cultural aggregates that would have us all conform to today's most saleable "look.")

In nature everything is expendable. Nature has no national landmarks. Value is entirely assigned by humankind and therefore arbitrary--faith turned outwards as an aggregate. This is the terrifying core of popular culture, MTV, faddism et al. It's the entrepreneur's or Madison Avenue's incitement to make us conform through consumption, their draining away of the vision that style gives to a beloved object, their transformation of the uniqueness of an object into the disposability of a flag, a symbol of allegiance, conformity, and non- thinking. Rather the love of a beautiful object should draw us together by sharing its stylistic vision with us, giving us a vision to discuss among ourselves as spectators, and it should also confirm our humanity by providing us with an object to be nostalgic about.

Unfortunately we are more often than not drawn apart through our conformity. For conformity leaves us nothing more to say or share as we become already enveloped in the predictable sameness of the entrepreneur's impression of our "lifestyle" and owning all of the same objects. Similarly the media discourages dialogue by making singular pronouncements about objects--called reviews--instead of providing us with disseminations of the creator's vision regarding the possible significations of objects and works of art. Most of these pronouncements are triggered by market interests through the media's reliance on advertising between its other pronouncements, or vice-versa. At any rate, at the level of the commercial magazine, pronouncements are made upon objects and works of art in conformity to the magazine's construction of the "lifestyle" of its imaginary readers, and thus represent the logic of the entrepreneur's enterprise in action. And, lastly, our nostalgia for the object is trivialized when yesterday's thrift store find becomes tomorrow's mass-produced revival commodity. In the acquisition, criticism and day-to-day life with the object that once thrilled us with our own humanity, we find only another's monetary benefit, substanceless pronouncements, and, if we're smart, a fear of falling into conformity by beginning to believe that we have a "lifestyle."

Perhaps this is why I reject the chaos of nature, gravitate towards cities and culture, and am deeply disturbed by the market economy, late capitalism and its repeated attempts to codify my existence and sell me back to myself in the form of objects once familiar to me. Within this struggle I enjoy my Lava Lamp immensely and, at the same time, am forced to keep myself distanced from it and nostalgic for it, as if it were not there brimming and bubbling on my mantelpiece.

Lee Foust