“As for revolution, it’s a word that has been appropriated too many times by the advertisers; revolution has been properly killed by the cool-hunters: the word is a trophy on their wall. We need to use new words to embody the original spirit. I use insurrection; there are many others.”
Introduction by Adria Leeper-Sullivan
Interview Theo Constantinou & Photographs Courtesy of the Artist
Filastine is an artist of great emotion fleshing out the necessity of sadness, or anger. Breaking laws, he films landscapes that define the dissonance between humanity, nature, and needs versus wants. His music, videos and writing portray the mistakes humans have made since the beginning of agriculture if not before. Filastine is a poet not just with his incredibly dimensional blog, but with music and films that display a talent for in-the-moment disguises, and DIY collaborative projects that are a mesh of ideas not yet fully explored. His experiences are boundless, and run deep into the lives of people as a whole. He does not use conventional perspectives, but truly involves himself with personal issues of a country or individual feeling their politics, environmental, and emotional dilemmas as his own. Filastine’s method of travel stands out because of his use of local talents within his work, and his selfless involvement.
The images evoked by Filastine’s primal vibrations mimic the discomfort of a horror film; the soundtrack to a day where I might hike a portion of the Mason Dixon and realize that I haven’t seen a salamander since I was eight. I was reminded of my mixed feelings as a ten year old visiting Nepal after the entire royal family was massacred. The mix of horror and absolute awe when our house shook from the Maoists bombing the Prime Minister’s daughter’s house down the street in Kathmandu. Or the narrow drive from Rajpur to Mussoorie, India at 7,000 feet and witnessing a portion of the Himalayas where mountainsides are nothing but trash. The music by Filastine can be the backdrop to any environment. I believe he has succeeded in creating music that can be enjoyed for its own colorful and delicious morphs of tone, and diverse styles. However, his external artistry is a representation of his conscious sensitivity that we can learn from. Being informed can be painful, but it is the first step to castrating denial.
When I first heard this recording on Mos Def’s Super Magic, I immediately transcribed the words, which I later found out were said by Malcolm X:
“You’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time where there’s got to be a change. People in power have misused it and now there has to be a change, and a better world has to be built and the only way it is going to be built is with extreme methods and I for one will join with anyone, don’t care what color you are as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.”
Do you agree with this statement by Malcolm, and this was said nearly 40 years ago, do you think we are still living in a time of extremism and of revolution that will change the “miserable condition that exists on this earth?”
The world has only become more extreme since the era that Malcolm said this. The wealth gap (the best judge of inequity) has only expanded since then, and the most fundamental crisis that we face, environmental collapse and climate change, wasn’t even properly understood back then. As for revolution, it’s a word that has been appropriated too many times by the advertisers; revolution has been properly killed by the cool-hunters: the word is a trophy on their wall. We need to use new words to embody the original spirit. I use insurrection; there are many others.
I have heard that this quote by Thomas Jefferson could be bullshit, but in a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin (1802), and later published in The Debate Over The Recharter Of The Bank Bill (1809)…for the sake of this question let’s say that it is true:
“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”
Well, seems like Mr. Jefferson was completely right and understood the banking institution quite well even at that time. With what is happening in the US today, and the uprising of the youth here, do you think it would be possible in our lifetime to see the power ever taken away from these banks and corporations and, where do you think the starting point for something like that would be?
There is no doubt that banks and most credit institutions are predatory: they are the hawks, we are the field mice, but it’s wishful thinking to imagine that by abolishing banks we fix our problems, which are caused by a complex matrix of financial, ecological and spiritual pathologies. About corporate (or bank) power, nobody cedes their power (or profit) by choice; those same corporations fought pitched battles over the 40-hour work week, hiring thugs, buying politicians and manipulating public opinion over something we consider normalized, or even sacrosanct, now.
For the people who read this that don’t know, (via Wiki) “the Sidoarjo mud flow is a mud volcano in the sub district of Porong, Sidoarjo in East Java, Indonesia that has been in eruption since May 2006. This is the biggest mud volcano in the world, that was created by the blowout of a natural gas well drilled by PT Lapindo Brantas, although company officials contend that it was caused by a distant earthquake.” Whether it’s the Union Carbide story in Bhopal, India or the Niger Delta exploitation of Exxon Mobil, it feels like the corporations will always win. They pay, if at all, some fine to those affected that hardly covers the catastrophic damages they’ve done to those people physically and psychologically, and they continue to perpetuate their destruction. What are your thoughts on this, as well as, how you create your music, visually and musically to bring awareness to these catastrophes?
These are all mighty depressing subjects; it’s very difficult to make something meaningful that speaks to these catastrophes. There is an easy danger of sounding like a shrill activist “using” music as a propaganda vehicle. For this reason, I try and make the music stand for itself as art; the politics are carried more by video (both live, as you see in the music video for “Colony Collapse”). People can choose to watch the videos, or just appreciate the music for its own intrinsic quality (I hope!).
You take a very in-the-moment approach to making music, whether it is in jungles on the outskirts of Salatiga, to rooftops in NYC, or in apartments in Morocco … Why is it important to you to take such a different method to each of your recordings?
Necessity. There is a music I want to make; this is the only possible way to do it, but working on my own DIY web of affinities, I’ve slowly created a marked path, my own trade route that connects nodes in the Americas, Asia, and the Mediterranean.
Here is a piece I read from Henry Rollins’ “Occupants.” The excerpt is accompanied by an image of a baby sitting on a heap of trash in a graveyard in Jakarta, Indonesia:
“I have seen the anger on the faces. The beautiful, smoldering eyes and immense talent. To know that the color of your skin means you will have to be at least ten times what others are — and even then, there’s a good chance that someone will take your incredible abilities and relegate them to the status of a novelty. Anything rather than confronting something so toweringly and immensely beautiful. I have seen it so many times. The fear that fills prisons and paints American streets with blood. I am a bright light. It is something that I never tell my friends. I am afraid that they might see it in themselves. I am afraid what would happen when they came to understand what I already know. I am already dead. They are already dead. Our brightness has no meaning. Our great spirits and high hopes are nothing more than what will be crushed if they ever stupidly make their presence known. The numbers are just not in our favor. Not everyone will have a life burdened with the distraction of possibility. It’s more than mere consequence or the shifting of fortunes. It is a fact as sure as the tall and mirrored buildings that surround this restless, bustling cemetery. As the years go on, my skin will tighten, my muscles will become unbreakable sinew, my bones will harden. I will lift and carry incredible amounts of weight as a matter of course. I will admire the coarse dullness of my friends who work so hard and sleep so deeply. Humanity is a whiplash. Your life depends on which side of the whip you’re on. To know this and still to live. I worship myself only.”
Do you agree that humanity is a whiplash and that, it truly depends on which side of the whip you are on?
Not sure if i agree with the punk poet. Binaries like this, one side of the whiplash or the other, don’t apply well with complex systems. Even what appears to be the simplest binaries of privilege like race, gender, class, are infinitely complicated.
I jotted down this quote by Tom Robbins that says, “Life isn’t stable. Stability is unnatural. The only stable society is the police state. You can have a free society or you can have a stable society. You can’t have both. Take your choice. As for me, I’ll choose a free, organic society over a rigid, artificial society any day.” What is your choice and, even if you choose instability, we live in the system so, isn’t it kind of hard to truly not be confined to the rules of the system? Do you agree with this?
Even a police state isn’t stable; can we find one that hasn’t collapsed? From the first attempts at top-down civilization in Mesopotamia, to the Romans, the Chinese Dynasties, the British, and now the waning US Empire: they always fail. Tom Robbins might have it backwards; ironically, the most stable societies have been those least like a police state. Tribal civilizations, forest dwellers, nomadic cultures, these are the human systems that survived tens of thousands of years.
Your video for “Colony Collapse,” was described as a “slow-motion apocalypse, uncomfortably close and personal.” It was filmed “at sites of ecological friction, the fault lines of conflict between humanity and (the rest of) nature.” How important was it for you as an artist to capture this great global tragedy that is happening through your music. And more specifically, working with Astu “tooliq” Prasidya to create such intensely powerful images of the plight that is happening in Indonesia?
We set out to make something not about a particular place, but about the constant war we have against nature; Indonesia is just an example. It is one of those places where globalization does its dirty work, and it’s also mega-populated. The Javanese have populated to a point where the government of Indonesia does a program called “transmigrasi,” transmigration: exporting Javanese to other islands. Not so different from the German Lebensraum or, the idea of manifest destiny in the US. You can find the same stories and the same situations anywhere on the ragged edges of the world economic order, all that shit we consume comes from somewhere, and the mess it leaves behind is not pretty. Until women have strong rights, education, and access to health care, all of which comes from social justice, we’ll continue to have more people, all of whom want more things. More people + more consumption = dead earth.