Thursday, April 27, 2006

A walk on Tuesday in glamorous company to investigate some of the odd vestiges of modernism in London’s more grotesquely moneyed corners. There’s something gloriously incongruous, walking amid the tweeness of Hampstead, to come across something as clean-lined and direct as the self-designed residence of the mighty Erno Goldfinger.
Or Maxwell Fry’s Sun House, or the De Stijl anti-naturalism of a house by Connell Ward and Lucas- though these houses were obviously built for an elite they still seem in opposition to it somehow, their geometries mocking the prissiness and ornament surrounding them. They feel obscure, undiscovered- little pieces of a utopian 1920s seidlung left forlorn by the heath. Photos to follow, eventually...

Plakaty 11

'sad to see that you're suffering, work hard at being a something'

Some thoughts, then, on k-punk's distinction between class as identity and the 'proletarian' as disidentity...

Broadly speaking I'm in sympathy with disposing of the Burchillian dewy eyed view of the 'working class blood royal', of accepting the disjunction that has occured between the 'proletarian' and the working class as defined by dress, accent, culture- but it's an interesting time to pose this question, as w/c 'ethnicity' is a major issue currently for the first time in years. Most obviously in the New East End debate (skewered by Chris Jones here) and in the rise of the BNP, answering the grievances of the 'white working class'. Michael Collins' The likes of Us articulates with vigour and occasional smugness this view of a (in his phrase) 'forgotten tribe', allegedly fuming about council houses going to immigrants.

While that debate should be dismissed as the dissembling that it is, if we accept w/c as ethnicity, then there is hidden in the recent rise of the pejorative 'Chav' an enormous amount of acceptable racism towards the white w/c. Something like Little Britain is almost Victorian in its sheer unadulterated class disdain (though is of course hugely popular among the constituency it so blithely showers with contempt).

What could be possible here would be attempting the radicalisation of the white wc by accentuating the very forms that bourgeois sitcom writers find so horrifying- a kind of english Chavism with an affinity to the Venezuelan, which of course rests on the mobilisation of people previously disengaged/disgusted/disenfranchised with the liberal capitalist mainstream.

I'm reminded of the way that Bobby Seale in Seize the Time writes of the Black Panthers' attempt to accentuate the very forms of black working class ethnicity that scared the US bourgeois- gang culture, swagger, machismo, threat- and harnessing it to a univeralist, Marxist political project. Seale dismissed black 'cultural nationalism' but at the same time the Panthers tries to use culture as a weapon. Whether this can or should be tried is an open, but I would say pertinent question- rather than strictly demarcate identity/disidentity, to treat it as porous, dialectical.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The liberal programme articulates itself not only through the logic of rights, but also, crucially, through the notion of identity. Steve says that you can't will subjective destitution. I, however, would say that you can only will it, since it is the existential choice in its purest form. Subjective destitution is not something that happens in any straightforward empirical sense; it is, rather, an Event precisely in the sense of being an incorporeal transformation, an ontological reframing to which you must assent. Evey's choice is between defending her (old) identity - which, naturally, also amounts to a defence of the ontological framework which conferred that identity upon her - and affirming the evacuation of all previous identifications. What this brings out with real clarity is the opposition between liberal identity politics and proletarian dis-identity politics. Identity politics seeks respect and recognition from the master class; dis-identity politics seeks the dissolution of the classifactory apparatus itself.

some thoughts on this, soon.

Plakaty 10

Monday, April 24, 2006

Plakaty 9

Descriptions Automatiques

“Before I compose a piece, I walk around it several times, accompanied by myself.”

The Original Soundtrack on the dietary habits of Erik Satie. Satie's always been a fascinating, elusive figure for me, particularly as my knowledge of 'serious, or in the realm of informed barbarism, 'classical' music' (copyright TW Adorno) is relatively negligible. Am reminded of that faintly patronising line in Minima Moralia about how sometimes Satie's sweetness could be more mysterious and effective than the most complex and tortured of Schoenberg pieces. Satie of course had impeccable Dadaist credentials, as seen by his appearance in Rene Clair's excellent piece of frippery Entracte (above), playing chess and levitating. Over a hungover weekend I've been immersing myself in some of these pretty, cryptic little pieces, and have tried not to think while doing so of the day I once spent at his house in Honfleur, now turned into an impeccably twee tourist attraction. As you go in, a giant pear bounces up and down to the Gymnopedies on loop. A pianola plays the 'hits' (a shame, as it could be programmed to play all 2 days of 'Vexations'). A little sad really, when you think of the austerity and discipline that make Satie interesting in the first place.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

alcoholism vs communism


Plakaty 8

Friday, April 21, 2006

oh the inhumanity


in a similar vein, one often forgets that the precepts of modernism were followed with a rather varying rigour depending on country and political presuasion. what, for hans richter or eisenstein might have been deadly serious questions of political aesthetics, becomes in the hands of others something more frivolous- a question essentially of style. the french, unsuprisingly, were particularly good at this couturier's constuctivism.

this would encompass l'inhumaine, marcel l'herbier's modernist fantasy of 1924. this outlines the career of a 'moderne' opera singer and her parade of suitors (putting one in mind of kodwo eshun's description of kraftwerk as 'bachelormachines')- one a businessman, one a thinly-disguised communist, one a maharaja and one, a young, idealistic and heavily made-up scientist. the film uses all the trappings of fuctionalism: de stijl-esque dwellings, a meyerholdian, constricted notion of movement, intersecting geometries (a gorgeous alchemical factory designed by leger), and a delirious obsession with the machine- in the service of a decidely hokey tale of inhuman women, dangerous orientals and corrupt lefties.


(the latter cause a riot at one of our protagonist's concerts- according to the NFT programme notes, a real concert riot was filmed, at which georges antheil played some especially dissonant 'mechanisms'. shouting down the protestors was apparently erik satie, james joyce, ezra pound, les six, various surrealists...)

another interesting popularisation of these ideas- alexander korda's things to come, discussed by k-punk a while ago.

new shoes for the new world


The exhibition the new vision for the new architecture fits in rather oddly in RIBA. the black marble and frosted glass sit uncomfortably with the hardline functionalism of the photographs in the exhibition- the feeling that enjoying RIBA's opulence was, well, a bit wrong, somehow, in comparison. a bit of text on the wall says that 'the model for all modern architecture is the sanitorium' and, partly as a consequence of living in south london for 7 years, i'm tempted to agree.

i'm debating this rather prickly question in public in a few months. i got a phone call at some ungodly hour of the morning yesterday from my adversary, who quipped 'architects are the second oldest profession- except without the standards of the first.' and this exhibition shows the element of truth in this. on the one hand, we have the theories of karel teige, applying marxism to functionalism, constructing a technologised, americanised socialist utopia- 'a model for socialist living that applies the principles of dialectical materialism to space in constructing a liberated socialist city.' on the other, the style is the preserve of wealthy philanthropists like shoe magnate thomas bata, who bankrolled the construction of zlin, a model constructivist community dedicated mainly to the production of his line of shoes.

Plakaty 7

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Plakaty 6

To RIBA, for the last week of these two excellent exhibitions (more of which anon). The building at the oddly fascistic end of art deco. Curiously, considering it's a form plundered so often by postmodernists, and approved of by the Simon Jenkins' of the world, its always struck me as an-admittedly fascinating- deeply ambiguous architecture. Something like the clock tower that looms over the Embankment, or the Dynastic terror of the Hoover Building in Perivale, has a distinctly sinister glamour. Hence the buildings in Gilliam's Brazil, most of which seem like a mutation of Selfridges and the BBC building.

So, outside of RIBA, we're looking at the geometric statues and trying to ponder them out. Socialist Realist? Religious? There's a hint of Epstein in his more vitalist moments. A little old lady walks past. 'Do you know where they got that architecture?' she barks at us in a thick Italian accent. We clearly were asking ourselves that question. ''

'Mussolini! They got it from Mussolini! I'm from Rome, and when I first saw this building here I couldn't believe it!'

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Monstre Gai

curiously, given its alleged predominance in the culture, Attention Deficit Disorder has never quite made its presence known in pop. Isolated instances like Pink Flag cast a shadow of brevity and wit over the endless gigs, the songs running 3 minutes longer than they should, the 80 minute hip hop LPs. and so forth.

at least one of the interesting things about monster bobby is his extreme brevity. 'twentythree' is 23 seconds long, as any longer and it might get boring. but in his small, confined and frankly rather unseemly spaces are marvellous little conglomerations of ideas- a harnessing of everything from miami bass to ivor novello towards a depiction of inaction, drift and turpitude, riven through with a clinging sentimentality. shuffling many of the same cards as the Junior Boys (the reclamation of balladry, a sound palette inflected with house and r&b), but ending up with, rather than their expanses and glacial vistas, a cramped bedsit with a rather worrying smell.

monster bobby's new single is out next monday and is highly recommended.

Plakaty 5

Monday, April 17, 2006

julie b

We can quantify the deaths caused by both communism and fascism, but we will never know how many deaths have been the result of capitalism; of nothing more noble than a rich man wanting to be even richer, and sacrificing the health and lives of millions of workers to achieve this. Don't even try to count how many people capitalism has killed, because not only will you not know where to begin, but also it will never end.

after such pleasures


Prince is back, again. The song is called 'Black Sweat'. The video is in monochrome, as if to evoke unsettling memories of the directorial infelicities of Under the Cherry Moon. It's alright. A use of pure noise as punctuation that suggests he's been studying the Neptunes fairly closely, much as they did him. But the essential problem with much of his output for the last 15 years is still in place, ie- the self directed question 'am I black or white, am I straight or gay?' (in 'Controversy') is being answered, loudly- 'black, and straight, ok?'

Remember the odd possibilities and disjunctures, fragments that ought to have started entire genres of their own. 'The Ballad of Dorothy Parker', nestling inexplicably on side one of Sign o' the Times. A fantasy about the frequently suicidal short story writer, poet and lush, capturing obliquely her sense of doleful, hungover melancholy and dazed sexuality. The drum track like a collection of splinters, sharp, off-centre. Prince refusing, in lingering detail, her advances, over mocking electronic gurgles.

Plakaty 4

must we burn Sade?

'When anatomy is really perfected, it will be clearly shown that all morality is essentially physical. What then will become of your laws, ethics, religion, gibbets, paradise, God and hell, when it is shown that a particular organisation of nerves, a peculiar chemical reaction in the body, a certain degree of sourness in the blood makes a man what he is, for better or worse?'

Sunday, April 16, 2006

oh to be in england on a sunday

Plakaty 3

'this would never have happened before the revolution!'

carry on don't lose your head- auto-critique of the french thermidor.
'you must be circumspect!'

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Over everything- up through the wreckage of the city, in gutters, along the river banks, tangled among tiles and tin roofing, climbing on charred tree trunks- was a blanket of fresh, vivid, lush, optimistic green; the verdancy rose even fron the foundations of ruined houses. Weeds already his the ashes, and wild flowers were in blossom among the city's bones. The bomb had not only left the underground organs of plants intact- it had stimulated them. Everywhere were bluets and spanish bayonets, goosefoot, morning glories and day lilies, the hairy-fruited bean, purslane and clotbur and sesame and panic grass and feverfew.
John Hersey, Hiroshima

'enough to make a tender soul wish to evade earth altogether'

rachel s

there is a school of thought, which i adhere to, which measures the poignancy of a piece of music in direct correlation to its sheer iciness. one in which schneider tm's version of 'there is a light that never goes out' will always sound more plaintive than the marr-ism of the original.
'nu-pop' is particularly good at this- eg kylie's elegaic 'i believe in you', the hint of plaintiveness in girls aloud's 'the show'. the peak though of this tendency is surely rachel stevens' 'i will be there'- staggering, glacial, an impossible electronic elegy- 'is it ok if i meet you in heaven...?'

Plakaty 2


all that is true is concrete
GWF Hegel, Philosophy of Right

Friday, April 14, 2006

the old ultraviolence

the horrible feeling of unease when obsessions coalesce into possible reality. i had to tick a box recently to indicate whether or not i would consent to greenwich council rehousing me in noted concrete utopia thamesmead, an area with which your correspondent has for some time nursed a fixation. i haven't decided whether to tick it yet or not.

this project suggests the residents are rather more territorialised than one might have assumed.


An Explanation

this is in no way intended to replace this. this is a space for fragments, the flagrantly unfinished, frippery of various kinds, links, polemics, pretty pictures, complaints about one's health and things with similar lack of rigour, so as not to spoil the ideological purity of the other one.
the title, incidentally, is taken from julie burchill and tony parsons' the boy looked at johnny. these, apparently, were the words with which scottish marxist james maxton (once hagiographied by one gordon brown) greeted ramsay macdonald's resignation speech.

Food and Revolutionary Art

interesting posts by geeta and simon on the vexed question of food and music. am reminded that the insult bertolt brecht reserved for the art he didn't like was culinary, implying a huysmans-esque disengagement, an obsession with flavours and presentation rather than nourishing content...could a case be made that the phemomena of the british, who defeated fascism on spam and suet pudding, attaining an interest in cooking, and the mass depoliticisation of the same, are in some way linked? let them eat cake, etc

dear ivor

for sixpence, i whisper
you are beautiful.
for a shilling, i whisper
you are beautiful, despite certain unfortunate features.
for a florin, i call
what an interesting physiognomy you possess.
for five bob
you are exceedingly ugly.
for ten
and for a quid
i love you.