All Day Long I Feel the Tide Rocking
On Emblematic Stars and the Head of a Bull
All day long I feel the tide rocking, rocking
though it strikes no shore
— D.H. Lawrence, ‘Desire Goes Down into the Sea’
MARCH 22nd, 2019
As I write, we are a week to the day ahead of the initially slated deadline for the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union; comments on the importance of that calendar date feel void, however, as nobody knows precisely how the looming week will run. But the days are pulling impressions of nighttime. You walk the fringes of parliament square, and you invariably see five-pointed stars ordered against a deep-dusk-blue. Stars in rings, on faces and on bodies; stars painted and printed. Little artificial points of light, they’re tributes to the possibility of constellation. Paeans to an idea or to the possible reinstatement of one. I am thinking about stars; the symbolic order of stars and their symbolic dislocation; the plausible connection of stars and their emblematic qualities. Like its precedent austerity, Brexit was a policy decision—not a political measure: it is not a wall designed to divide mainland America from Mexico, but it wants to behave like one. Like a single star, no constellation. Like a distant and seceded second Texas. A simple solution to a problem so horizontal that it touches the edges of myriad things. We’ve now a net 1001 days wide to glamour and catch an ideological animal and it has caught its surroundings in with it. It’s bullshit. A bull. A catchall for the definition of entrenched borderlines of thought and movement; an ugly noun-like thing for the constriction of verbs. It’s difficult to know where all the talk should begin, so we turn to stars; let stars carry some light; let stars determine a little hope. Stars don’t deaden with political diatribe; they’re ascendant and pluralist on a nightly basis. I usually leave the house after dark.
The Hyades is the nearest open cluster of stars to earth. Located about 153 light-years away from the Sun, it consists of a roughly spherical group of hundreds of stars sharing the same age, place of origin, chemical characteristics, and motion through space. From the perspective of observers on Earth, the Hyades Cluster appears in the constellation Taurus, where its brightest stars form a “V” shape along with the still-brighter Aldebaran. The five brightest member stars of the Hyades have consumed the hydrogen fuel at their cores and are now evolving into giant stars. Four of these stars, with Bayer designations Gamma, Delta 1, Epsilon, and Theta Tauri, form an asterism that is traditionally identified as the head of Taurus the Bull. The bull drives no plough without a body.
I live in a city where the mud is more expensive than the mortar that sits on it in certain quarters, and that self-interest feels poignant on a daily basis. This country has consistently endeavored to turn Europe into a homeless symbol, into a sequence of disconnected stars. We’re led into a willful effort to break down a picture of a constellation, realizing the evocative picture depends on the unity of all its composite points of light, but ignoring the conveyed animal itself. Bound to a language game, Brexit has been a syllogistic effort to contain all of its own semiotic allusions since the portmanteau was coined. We’ve been told time and again that Brexit means Brexit; it has tried its hardest to evade any sense of itself as an interpretative object and, instead, prey on an ideological degree of convex speculation harder and harder to characterize but increasingly wanton. Now they’re repositioning the stars as a run of wild birds. Proper opposition depended on Brexit becoming a more extroverted symbol; instead, it’s a bull-like anti-poem—a work designed to be read, to be seen in its totality like a totaled car, but that’ll only exact a picture of a bull’s head, fat on hydrogen, that’ll ever refute the possibility of its being read. The glissandi of a word’s minor modification across a million screens does not enhance a moment of understanding but, instead, pictures a moment of psychological entrenchment. A longwinded question. The head of a bull without a body. A century ago, Schklovsky begged the question that “If the environment and the relations of production influenced art, then would not the themes of art be tied to the places which would correspond to these relations?” But “themes,” he would follow, “are homeless;” his was a celebration of itinerancy, not its refutation. A nation-state is an old idea. We need reconsider what a house is for as a country cultures its ideas, for even a bull depends on a union of lights for the plough to be pulled. I’ll raise my stars to that.
These preceding months have been characterized by a recurring dream. The dream has character, and two characters in particular; we’ll call one † and the other ‡. They talk often, but the talk itself is not wholly of consequence without some foreknowledge of where † and ‡ have come from or where they’ve been: we don’t need to get into that here, a question of their history rarely comes into conversation. † and ‡ were simply two people. Two people living in a house; living in a house with a little history; a house on the edge of a small fishing village with a minor industrial well of memories beneath it. The house itself had been a source of inspiration, as houses often are, and † and ‡ discuss the grammar of living in shared spaces; the chance privilege of a privacy occasioned in pooled and public places. The house overlooks a beach—superintends the ocean—and † would frequently chastise ‡ for inviting the ocean in. The water rises and falls, as tidal waters do, and had left the house with a significant damp problem that had started to alter its fixed shape. The house shrugs where it had previously stiffened; bleeding like meeting colors, it’s harder to see what it stood for now. That wouldn’t have mattered wholly in itself, the house’s revisions, but the muse had left with the receding waters. No longer a source of stimulation, it seemed to † that ‡ was bereft when wandering the house; quick to allege blame, ‡ would claim the house lost a shred of its character. Its personality. No longer identifiable, † and ‡ could no longer tell whether they were princes or princesses of permanent or temporary places. They didn’t recognize the muse when the muse was there because the ecology of the muse was intended to legion the landscape rather than parcel it up into pieces, and now the house was a freestanding thing. Isolated. The ocean having defined its edges by accident, now the house was an island. † and ‡, they recognized the borders of the house now as they hadn’t previously. Its edges felt like little outdated pronouncements, sounded off like old self-contained slogans. † and ‡ no longer talk but instead circumvent their anxieties into various objects of attention and study their separation from one another. The vase no longer communicates with the piano stool; the cutlery is all at odds; the chairs, at angles; the windows all stare out at single stars. † and ‡ no longer talk but instead look at the sky and try and constellate those stars again. Garland them together like threads of sacred little candles. I wake up, unstirred by the dream; I make a coffee and I read the newspaper. Bullshit as a determiner, the day is defined by alienating principles.
Whilst stars and their constellation have proven pervasive in the intervening years since the referendum, the UK had willed them apart from the offing. The stars of Europe’s insignia are relatively young. Marked up in ’85, a “raft of cultural icons” were floated for fresh consideration during the European Communities summit in Milan. The intended picture was that of a “People’s” continent, and the glut of symbols and commutative ideas propositioned were deliberately positioned as tools designed to support that sense of togetherness. The legibility of these symbols, a circumference of stars, became a coded constellation drawn across government buildings and street signs; a signal for a continent-wide cohesion; a post-verbal hieroglyph. A quick thumb through Wikipedia reveals that the UK stood against the elaboration of these symbols as pillars of statehood. There was a strong objection, under Thatcher, as per the classification of these symbols. The adoption of a European “flag” was only possible by avoiding the official use of the term “flag;” the “European flag” thus officially flies as “a logo or emblem eligible to be reproduced on rectangular pieces of fabric.” There’s the bullshit again; stating that this is no flag that flutters, merely some fabric above our eyeline.
We can question what these emblems will look like in the winter, as spring is given over to an antagonizing of these stars. Walking the edges of parliament square, the circumference of stars is no longer retrospective but gathers up its own sense of foresight. They’re future-facing symbols; a day daydreaming about a better dusk. What they’ll mean away from here I can’t comment on, but I usually leave the house after dark; leave the house and let the stars constellate, conjugate, conjure a deeper stance on a borderless feeling. Let them shapeshift but shift together; push the plough meaningfully, together.