Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Mandrill Mothercorp Mafia in Search of the Secret Scotch Synthesis

“I ken nay help yee”

Ensconced in our silver wedge hybrid conveyance Team Mandrill peered outside into the dank murk at our Talisman, a Scot houndstoothed pantleg to deerstalker, puffing pipe.  The Scot was cool in his belonging, calmly comfortable inside his natural fibre wool suit from sheep that had roamed these green mountains for millennia. Impervious to the rain, too confident in his belonging to react to such obvious new worlders, he didn't quite recoil from the surge of conditioned synthetic air we emitted, but a sly mocking grin crept across his lips. He recognised us for what we were.

Our Bleeding Edge poured from the lowered window. We sported our bright, primary colour Skittles suits. Skittles, the protectively packaged sickly sweet high fructose corn syrup sugar pellets, fun in a pill. The Mothercorp adopted the colours to mimic the rumps of that most colourful of primates, the Mandrill. Key to the sexual appeal of the old world monkey, the colours were copied by the marketing minds at the Mothercorp, landing us like circus performing new world monkeys in the old world of Scotland.

Back at the factory in Vangroover the chemists of The Mandrill Mothercorp were all in a tizzy. Rumour had it a new petrochemical formulation was in the pipeline. Mad German scientists at the chemical conglomerates were working on a new formulation, Imipolex G, or IG for short. It promised to insulate hydrocarbons from water.  Endless uses could be imagined; oil spills into waterways would be rendered innocuous, pipelines under river-ways could burst asunder with nary a public comment, school aged kids would stop painting fishes on stormwater drains.. Our Skittles suits would soon be perfectly waterproof, isolating us further from our surroundings. City slickers in their trench-coats would be comfortably protected from the autumnal deluges on the wet coast.  Imipolex G: it had become the grail, the elixer vitae at the end of  the rainbow, like the magic protective suit of armour the Scot apparently possessed.  The only stumbling block; the IG remained to be found.

Boatloads of fleeing hot cash were washing ashore in Vangroover, feeding a frenzy for real assets; condos, apartment buildings, city blocks, art works, park benches, advertising spots on park benches, all being bid up mercilessly.  From the great boreal forests of the north, energy laden sands skidded their way east through the port and the pipe. The Mothercorp, through a virtuous process of recycling, dipped into the flow, headquartered as they were at the east/west nexus of the trade. If they could only find the Imipolex G the returns would make its present trade as merchants of Mandrill Skittles suits a pittance in comparison.  Our homeland replete to overflowing from the Drillers' success, we were on a mad hunt for the plastic.

 Basquiat, Morrisey, Andy and Otto peered out the window, dubious of our mission. Tasked with testing our new world mettle in this land of sheep, grass, North Atlantic gales, the Drillers' goal; send and track us on a Slothropian quest to confirm the promise of petroleum, “Plasticity's central canon; that chemists were no longer at the mercy of nature.”

As Andy said back at The Factory, “I love Hollywood. They're beautiful. Everybody's plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.”

The Mothercorp courted the plastic Hollywood look. Images of youth, beauty, and power were its current commodity. The Skittles look sold it, the immediately recognisable look that said,

“We have more money than you for we are Canadian at the beginning of the 21st century. We are rich in resources and we are young. We have petroleum, we are privileged, we have fish and timber and gold and diamonds, and we don't mind you knowing. We have been sent by the Drillers to produce images of youth shining through the old world murk with the brilliance of our plasticity. We have plaything-like petroleum products protecting us from your populace pleistocene political problems.”

Morrisey, our Hollywood visuals man, didn't enunciate as such but the Scot knew us none the less.

“We are seeking the bracks”, Morrisey admitted.

“Aye, Glenelg” the Scotsman assented. “ I hope you find what you are looking for”.


Uisdean had welcomed us to the lands of his ancestors, land of marauding pirates wagering island castles on drinking competitions, of faeries and magic stones, sheep farming and enclosure, ghosts, peat distilling and hostility to mercantile southerners. Uisdean had nobility of blood deep in his roots, was cool in the Farris Thompsonian sense, like Barack Obama is cool. As the comedian said, you hear the name Obama, you picture a tall warrior holding a spear. You hear the name Uisdean (U I S D E A N), you hold a mental image; hunts deer for cash, freezers full of black pudding, doesn't spare words or idly spread sea foam spray further than needed, tells jokes in calm half-sentence dry replies.

“I grew up in the Bracks of Glenelg.”

What makes one more Scot than mangering in a 2000 year old stone tower?

“We would sit on top and toss stones down on visiting tourists.”

“Aye, twas good fun.”, smiled the young celt.

“The Bracks hold a special power, maybe they hold what you are seeking”

“The oldest bracks in Scotland; undoubtedly the oldest Bracks in existence”. This last a typical example of humour that Uisdean occasionally shared.

We found the Bracks. Dark ruined turrets of stone, lichen black tubular protrusions from the oak cloaked croft fields, homes from the age of Christ. Their lumpen soaked forms reeked of discomfort, arthritis, gout. Passing a youth here required a force from before the current age. No laboratory substance could possibly fend of this weight of wetness.

Basquiat, the natural athlete, did as he was born, he climbed the Bracks, laid his hands on and tested the tone of the stone. A visual tug of war, the Skittles suit outshining the senescene colors of the oaks, but overborn by the ancient strength of the black stone.”

“I this disrespectful?” from Otto.

“How are the holds?” Andy.

“I feel the power Uisdean spoke of”. Basquiat was entranced.

“Enough of these lowland wanderings. The Corp wants us to seek the Imipolex G up high. It rises above all other substances, will be high in the towers. These bracks are much too crude for our needs. We must refine our process.” Morrisey peered from behind his black Ray-Bans. As the acquirer of the images, the commodity, he held the purse from the Mothercorp, the producer of the product. Calm, quiet, competent, and responsible, he was the sensible side of the team, with his eye on the prize. And he had his gaze firmly fixed past the image to the treasure in the hills, motivated by the mission of the Mothercorp.

Our Moveable Feast went seeking the furtive molecule in the highlands.

Hurin the Tall opened the door to the keep below the Ben. Mole on his cheek, his bulk framed the small guarded entrance behind him. His gaze quickly registered our panoply of primaries. We explained the Mandrill Corp had sent us on this Team Canada trade mission, unnecessarily as word had leaked. .

 “I don't believe in the mythical Omipolex G. I accept that I will be as my ancestors, wet as nature in the Isles has it. By moving through the mountains I remain warm. Those new fangled clothes of yours, the Mandrill mania, they only work for a few outings then wet through. It's like everything these days, planned obsolescence, works for a year then you get a new one. It's just the Samo.”

“My true love, my Paramo, my mistress, this suit has kept me dry for a decade without infidelity. Everyone wants the new look, but my baggy pants have an assuaging valence in my mind.”

“All very well,” says Morrisey,” but the semiotics of the Corp represent a new era of expressionism, it peddles the stylish cut. We want to show the clean lines of youth cutting through this old world sentimentalism.”

Andy breezed in, flattering in encounters, lubricating our entrance with easy bonhommie. He had a way of holding his cigarette low between the crotch of his two fingers and scratching his nose lightly and repeatedly with the same two, giving the impression he had been to all hours hoovering cocaine up with the film set he at the same time associated with and denigrated. He was rewarded well for his whiplash looks and had featured in front of the camera, but was more happy as a fixer, a social actor. He was a personification of the IG molecule itself, smoothly easing our admittance.  Upstarts traditionally were not welcome at these high mountain bolt holes. Generations of Scottish bloodlines previously were checked before entry was granted but the rich Mandrill crest and colours, like a club tie, opened many doors.

In every corner hung a Mandrill competitor in ersatz Skittles pigments. Humidity of a jungle, a westcoast marijuana manufacturie, or a Scotch hut jammed to capacity with cups of tea on high rotation, an ideal laboratory for testing our latest amalgams; we were practically the crude material in a fired heater, paused ready to shot up the towers.

All settled in.

An eager youngster, new to the pursuit, effused, having spotted one of the stars of the sport.

“GADD...IS your name Wyatt, the minister's son?”

"I had a down day due to weather, and was just reading a heavy tome I found in the pile of literary detritus on the shelf in the corner, along with the usual Climb and Alpine Journals. It is thick and difficult to understand, and I suppose someone did not want to carry it out. There was no cover and the title page was missing, so I don't know it's name, but somehow I thought I was having a recognition."

“No, my name is Jean Michel.”

The rest of the hut crew were cool enough to accept Basquiat by whatever name he chose to go by.

“Wow, I like your jacket. I love the Mandrill colours.”

We took her to be a starstruck philistine.

“Yeah, they set us up. But it's the same as yours...”. Jean Michel, the quiet type, more a man of action than words, was never confrontational.

She missed witnessing the next day;s performance as Jean Michel settled into his natural setting. Unhindered by team, irrespective of audience expectations he climbed into the storm straight from the keep. Jacket flapping wildly from blown zipper, shambolically traipsing through the swirling jets of vitality robbing moisture, skipping up the Ben. Veritably, he was not a suitable test subject for the Drillers' substances, studies; his numa protected him, his drive innate, anima complete from an unknowable history, the Skittles merely colours on his palette.

Moments of numinosity flowed through Jean Michel, his transgressivity revolutionary, not following the recognised rules. He was playing the organ to crash the cathedral, the bird blowing his sax, brush strokes of brilliance, his emanation powerful, his protective halo (his afro hair in wind rime) enough to repel the spectres, the puer eternus floating up and down out of the heavens, encycling the mountain at gathering speed.

Below, Morrisey masterfully captured the required images in monochrome, to be edited later to highlight the colour signifiers. Jean Michel in his Skittles suit contrasted starkly, differentiated from the grey of the old Ben, location chosen by the Mandrill minds for its severity, its harshness, its threatening unhindered brutality of climate. The uninitiated viewer would associate the colors with Basquiat's growing repute, his otherworldly performances. The Mothercorp usurped Jean Michel's morning energy; just as the art critic takes ten percent for a positive review so it cost the Drillers a small tip to the youth to claim association with him.

Paul of course knew this; he had read his Propaganda; he even prepared a sauce a la Bernays the evening before to butter up Jean Michel. He needed, but had failed, to convince Jean to tie in with Andy. There had to be a way to make Jean Michel's feats comprehensible. The Corp needed less an ascending angel, too holy and venerated, more a griot, that travelling storytelling musician of African lore. For a moment or two Jean Michel had acquiesced and partnered with Andy but the result was much too banal for him. Sensitive to his true calling he had reneged. At a moment of rapture he backslid to his solipsistic ways, addicted to the high.

Spied passingly through the cyclone, Jean Michel encoded the Corp's product; the claim of spirit, verve, youth, enthusiasm, freedom in nature, energy. The Drillers spent entire lifetimes prospecting, extracting and processing energy in the new world; they even had a term for it, they called it their “advantage”. By the suggestive dichotomies revealed through jet travel, here in the old world Jean Michel held the advantage, that he had a pure talent others idolised. He represented all that the Drillers desired.

And Jean Michel was willing.. Conscious of his critical reception he knew the path he had followed with singular righteousness was unsustainable; he needed to make the crucial commercial tie-in. He was a worldly prophet, not aloof to profit.


Through the day Jean Michel's movements were lost to the Team, like a club kid ecstatically dropping in and out of a show. Mid afternoon, a scene developed in one of the alleys high up on the west side. Andy, Otto, and Paul Morrisey were there for a performance by two Scots, a happening that attracted an eager crowd of actors, photographers, media types. Wealthier patrons were at hand, their gallerist dealer guides pointing what was what, who was who.

In slid Jean Michel down from the heights in the cloud, alighting the event. Heads turned, whispers spread.

“Is that the guy who was alone on Point Five?”

“He fourth classed that Cerro in Argentina a few years ago, that's him.”

Juxtaposition with the audience was stark; they stood soaked, shivering, damp with inaction. Clutched hoods, numbed digits, they were the Mandriller's dream consumers. Basquiat was a radiant child in comparison.

Whispered discussions within the critics.

He has an “innate capacity to function as something like an oracle, distilling his perceptions of the outside world down to their essence and, in turn, projecting them outward through his creative acts.” (Fred Hoffman)

"He is certainly prolific. He has already produced 7 masterpieces today alone.”

“Call it a seventh sense. Certain artists intuit they are going to die young, so they produce huge bodies of work in condensed periods of time.”...”But fast and furious by themselves are not enough ...There has to be an unexplained and original edge to this velocity and ferocity, an element that transfers desperation and desire into something new and compelling.” (Jerry Saltz)

“How does he do it by himself, without the safety of a partner?”

Yet another critic offered his answer.

“What identifies Jean Michel as a major artist is courage and full powers of transformation. That courage, meaning not to be afraid to fail, transforms paralysingly self-conscious “predicaments” ...into confident” outcomes. (Robert Farris Thompson)

Hearing the critics fueled Jean Michel further. He could not contain his energy standing around. His “vitality in motion” (RFT) required an outlet.

“Andy, what is that dark tower?”

On the far side of the alley stood a dripping dark tower, removed from the spotlight of the happening.

“They call it the Dark Lord. The German chemists might call it a schwartzgerat, a black device to separate the wheat from the chaff, the crude from the lighter elements among us. Only the highest grade reaches the top.”

“Locals say it is infamous, that under great pressure you get stuck in the chimney, like a vapor stuck in a stack. To continue upward you reach a sidecut, only the lightest fraction continues upward.”

“Are you thinking what I am?”

“They say the Imipolex comes from a dark source, that it is lighter than all other molecules. The Corp would love us if we found it.”

“Somehow I feel drawn to the ascent. Whether it is the flesh or the spirit I don't know. But if there's a treasure to be found up there they'll give us all blue ribbons.”

His internal dialogue was obvious.

“I have achieved a lot but,”

“When we reach the peak and look down at what we've come from, see mists and clouds, not the base of the mountain”(Rene Ricard) ,

“I feel I need to achieve more. I need to have the Corp behind me. If we find the Imipolex G we'll be set.”

“It is important to form the right connections; for your own protection you need to trust someone. Someone else has to have a personal commitment to your work- so that it isn't shopped like merchandise.” (RR)

Sometimes he thought of himself in the third person in his mind, using the zen mind of the observer trick when in action,

“Can I trust you Andy?”, Jean Michel asked, returning from his reverie.

Up he began, avatar in modern king's clothing, wearing his crown and carrying the torch of old and new alike, the until recently undiscovered genius of the Fraser River delta.


“Everything is covered in a carbonaceous sludge, blackened”, he called down. “Yet all the sidecuts are covered in a light white powder. I can practically touch the next level, I almost have to talk myself out of getting higher.”

This as Jean Michel made the effort to pass the channel which would separate the one heavier fraction from the others.

“Only do what you can get away with”, Andy's advice form below.


“Uh. Are you guys leaving? I could use some help here.” A faint childlike voice came from the dark gash.

Without questioning, Andy and Otto walked around to the top of the alley and dropped in on Jean Michel, picking him up along the way, saving him from the heights and his predicament.

On the way down past the dispersing, gossiping crowd he summed up the dichotomous forces pulling at his psyche. Everyone wanted to know: how did he risk so much in pursuit of his calling, why did he do it?

“You've got to realize that influence is not influence. It is simply someone's idea going through my new mind.”(Jean Michel Basquiat)

“But I don't want to die young and leave a beautiful corpse.”

“I don't want to be blown off by the Drillers once they have refined out of me what they can take.”

The last word went to Andy .  "We, who have always thought of happiness as climbing or ascending would feel the emotion that almost startles when a happy thing falls."

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