Thursday, August 31, 2006

Expropriate the Golf Courses!


It's the sort of policy one advocates loudly, usually when drunk, along with rationing and sending Chris Martin to a re-education camp- for it to actually be implemented is just too, too perfect...

Dancing about Architecture


...has never struck me as that bad an idea. The phrase is after all attributed to that titan of smug Frank Zappa, the views of whom should count for naught. Hence I think there's a relation between different forms of minimalism, a more than sytactic relation between microhouse and the microhouses of existenzminimum, a commonality of lustrous surfaces and clean lines, a recurrence of elegant Teutonic. So imagine my joy, picking up a copy yesterday of last year's Spectral Sound compilation, to find the self-description 'Chicago jack, Detroit techno and International Style dance music'. International Style, that is, the Americanisation and corporatisation of neue sachlichkeit functionalism. See also the line in Diana Ross' Chic-produced 'My Old Piano' about 'this international style...'

plakaty 53

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Plakaty 52


'When in doubt quote Ballard'

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Have you been to the English Deer Park?


(some of this will be familiar to people who've read this)

'Villages, unlike towns, have always been ruled by conformism, isolation, petty surveillance, boredom, and repetitive malicious gossip about the same families. Which is a precise enough description of the global spectacle’s present vulgarity.'
Guy Debord on Marshall McLuhan, from Comments on the Society of the Spectacle (1988)

A couple of weeks ago a London listings rag had a cover story on Urban Vilages. It's a little preposterous now to think that Time Out was once considered some sort of hotbed of radical soixante-huitard insurrectionism, but it does pay occasional lip service to its roots, most obviously in the tedious class-warrior posturing of Michael Hodges, a columnist so irritating he actually makes one yearn for Robert Elms. Incessant point-scoring is made in his columns usually at the expense of, in Jack Straw style, 'Hampstead liberals' and generally anyone too much of a milquetoast to throw themselves into London's maelstrom without sufficent cocksmanship. Now without wanting to add any grist to the dark satanic mill of those estate agents who call Peckham 'Bellenden Village', this is an increasingly familiar and annoying plaint.


Part of what makes London such a pain in the arse to live in, and the most obvious consequence of its peculiarly inept version of US capital, is the progressive upping of rents when a place becomes in some way 'hot', when a 'vibrant' area is made unaffordable for those who actually create said 'vibrancy'. Admittedly this comes in part from personal bitterness at paying 80 quid a week to live in a room above a pizza shop, but I digress. Now the people (much like myself) who live in multiracial bits of inner London tend to have the temerity to fetishise what is (once you strip away the picturesque detailing) poverty, squalor and chaos in terms of buzzing, humming, teeming (pick your animalistic metaphor), and sneer at anyone who just can't take the pace. Oddly, cheap(ish) holidays in other people's misery seem to be considered noble today.


So Hodges spends lots of time sneering at anyone not London enough, usually those involved in something with the suffix 'village'. Now places like Blackheath or Hampstead may be hotbeds of the irredeemably smug and offensively twee, but the suggestion seems to be that the London bourgeois should throw away their prejudices and move next door to council estates, ignoring the fact that this is exactly what they're doing.


The attempts at creating a non-London within London, whether in Thamesmead, the Barbican or even Greenwich Millenium Village propose, in their rather botched way, that this is a city that can be something other than an overgrown plutocratic mess. The latter, built on what is essentially a toxic wasteland and imposing on it a rationalist mesh of aluminum and pine, as if it was a suburb of Malmo, is a great deal more morally defensible than moving somewhere where you can smugly reflect that black-on-black crime doesn't affect you, while pricing those whose markets are so quaint out of the area. Now that everything is a village, with all the insularity and segregation that entails, these ex nihilo places seem like the true international zones. People on the Left are afraid of these places (partly due to a total abandonment of utopianism in favour of 'resistance'), usually holding the strange belief that the outgrowths of untrammelled capitalism are actually those chimerical 'communities'. London is utterly ripe for class warfare, with the rich often living on the same streets as the poor. Isn't the talk of community a mask for fear of what this community might one day do if it became a collectivity?

Plakaty 51


Panzer-Cruiser Potemkin


Though apparently everyone knows that Sergei Eisenstein is ultimately responsible for MTV, this strikes me as an eminently noble project. Teasing out the great man's not-so-latent homoeroticism by casting it entirely from transgendered women, Maggots & Men takes the style of Strike or Potemkin and uses it to tell the (still politically prickly) story of the Kronstadt sailors' rebellion of 1921, rather than offer kinetic soft-porn accompaniments to lubricious videos on MTV Base. The filmmakers are short of funds, so shower them with cash in the unlikely event you're able to do so. (link from Carceraglio)

Friday, August 25, 2006


making the hours drag slightly less-
This- Robin Carmody on the dialectics of class, 'Common People', Auberon Waugh and the total cultural and intellectual collapse of the UK over the last 10 years. So the usual, then;
This- Illustrations now up on The Stomach Room- more unnerving kindgergarten Cronenburg, plus a poster for the Myfest exhibition at the Foundry;
and this, Tim 'Wrong Side of Capitalism' Fisken jumping on the 'two blogs' bandwagon with aplomb.

Plakaty 50


'There is another curious way in which they differ- namely in their dress. For whereas the new Bohemian is generally as 'mondain' and smart, if a little fantastic, as he or she can be, this little phalanstery of apes of god went the length of actually dressing the part of the penniless 'genius'. In this way they presented the curious spectacle of a lot of men and women, possessed of handsome bank balances, drifting and moping about in the untidiest fashion. This rather scandalous shabbiness it was, besides a queer exaggeration of speech that cut them off from the outside world. They yield to none, however, in their organized hatred of living'genius'. Even they have made a sort of cult of the amateur- the child artist- and in short any imperfectly equipped person.'
Wyndham Lewis, 'The Encyclical' from The Apes of God

Penguin Donkeys


A flickr page devoted solely to lovingly shot photos of comely Penguin paperbacks...delightful. (link courtesy ofThings magazine)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Plakaty 49

I've never, to be honest, had much time for Gunter Grass as a novelist- an experience limited to a wade through the flatulent expanses of The Flounder, which was mainly of interest to see that the picaresque faux-naif pomoism of magic realism had such Teutonic roots- but, like Habermas (whose own work I find similarly uninteresting...) he deserves eternal respect for resisting the gross revisionism of the Historikerstreit, and more generally the neoliberal triumphalism of the last 15 years. So I'm with John Berger (link via the Tomb and Charlotte St) on this- particularly when you see the political colour of those who're attacking Grass- apologists for German nationalism like Joachim Fest, Thatcherite sellouts like Lech Walesa...and bearing in mind how the Federal Republic was so frequently run by actual former SS officers like Hanns-Martin Schleyer...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The English Motorway System is Beautiful and Strange


A reply is in order to the hilariously vitriolic attack on Saint Etienne over at The Impostume. I too recently purchased their best of for a very reasonable sum (well, maybe 2 quid is a bit steep for Lewisham Save the Children) and had a familiar mix of rapture and cringe. There's plenty of the latter to be had. The notion that you might want to 'join their club' (though isn't most great pop based on exclusivity?), that bloody voice (hard to take even on their finest moments- best the less breathy it is) and sure, the unalloyed niceness (though give me that over Razorlight splay-legged in Leather jackets and jeans).


There's a reconfiguring and rearranging going on that fascinates, a rewriting of pop history so that it runs from Francoise Hardy to Stock Aitken and Waterman to Basic Channel to Girls Aloud. What stops this being the usual pomo gaming is the enthusiasm that pervades it, an assemblage of great stuff that then takes on a different coherence, particularly through a fixation on un-rock categories like film and design. Sometimes via this they hit on something genuinely other, particularly when a degree of ice is added to their sugar- as in the m25 Moroder of 'Like a Motorway', summoning the sadness of service stations and arpeggiating the eerie beauty of asphalt; or the hungover shivers of Sound of Water with its Ballardian sleeve; and it might lack lust and grit and such, but I'll take the dizzying derives of 'Avenue' instead thanks.


Julie Burchill writes in the sleevenotes to Too Young to Die that Saint Etienne 'resides in select sites and states of mind', and from these one could arrange a map of another London, one less grindingly horrible. It was great to see Bob Stanley writing about the joys of vintage formica caffs in the free paper The Londoner, although this may not help my case much, seeing as the New Piccadilly, as used in the inlay of Too Young to Die is also the set of Richard Curtis' foul The Girl in the Cafe. The map would have on it the ruins of Ronan Point on the cover of Finisterre, Joseph Emberton's council block Turnpike House, the bulldozed picture houses and closed down football grounds of 'Heart Failed in the Back of a Taxi', the list of teeming suburbs in Foxbase Alpha. A 'town of misguided tourists', a desolate death of postwar utopianism, a derelict 1920s broadway at the end of the Piccadilly Line...

But yeah, it's a hard voice to love.

Extracts from an interview with Delia Derbyshire

'Every programme I worked on was either set in the distant past, the distant future, or in the mind.'

'(on 'Blue Veils and Golden Sands') it was for a documentary about the Tuareg tribe. The Tuareg are nomads who live by bartering- taking salt, I think it was, across the desert. In the piece I tried to convey the distance of the horizon and the...heat haze...and then there's this high, slow, reedy sound. That indicates the strand of camels seen at a distance wandering across the desert. That was made with square waves from an oscillator, square waves put through every effect I could possibly find. Take out all the bass frequencies to leave just the high frequencies. It had to be something out of this world.

'The Radiophonic Workshop was formed by the two people from the drama department and three from music. And drama won.'

'(on 'Ziwizih Ziwizih OO-OO-OO',) it was composed for a scene in this play 'The Prophet' where robots sing a song of praise. It sounds medieval because it was a new religion, and they'd go back to square one and the perfect fifth, as the Greeks did'

(from an interview with John Cavanagh in 1997)

Plakaty 48


There are odd artists here and there, especially in the more, ah, applied areas, where there just seems to be a huge, never-ending amount of material. Such as in the case of the Stenberg Brothers, the constructivist poster designers who are the main reason I started putting a plakat per post up here- so here's another of theirs. Another instance would be the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, of whom more in a bit...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Plakaty 47

'Revolutionary Orgasm Problems'


My contribution to the inter-blog porn symposium, concentrating on Sexpol in films by Dusan Makavajev, Vilgot Sjoman and of course Russ Meyer. Links will be up to the others when they're done. Not having one of IT's nifty image capturers, its been difficult to find good enough images of these films- fittingly considering their total critical disappearance- so the rather grainy pics from google images will have to do. The phrase above encapsulates the sexpol project nicely enough I think. It's a self-description by Andreas Baader.

Friday, August 18, 2006



Sure, so semi-clad ladies and technology may have been something I wrote 3000 words on a couple of weeks ago, but this is just a trifle reductive. I recently had to sub a passage (on a night camera, or something) that went thus- 'like a drunken conquest in a nightclub when the lights go out, you can't help wishing it was a little more attractive.' The spectre of mid-70s comedians was only partly banished on finding out the person who wrote it was female...

Rock, Follies


A full and uninformed survey of Berlin architecture is on its way, but while that waits read this worthwhile (if a tad overly dry) slide-show article on the failed attempts at monumentalism, trophy architecture and landmarks so prevalent over the last couple of decades- some usual suspects (oh the dome, there's a shock), This chimes in somewhat with a recent trip round Berlin's interestingly wrong recently finished Potsdamer Platz, a wildly expensive attempt to fill the former death strip via a wishlist of architects, with monuments (that couldn't be too big), technological statements (that couldn't be too avant-garde) and cityscape (owned by Sony, Mercedes and Chrysler). The flipside to this is of course the few attempts at monumentalism that work (like the awesome grotesquerie of Karl-Marx-Allee) tend to come from places with some overarching project, with a point for their existence, and with (shudder!) a narrative.

Plakaty 46


Thursday, August 17, 2006


Penman excellent at the mo- I especially like The Pillbox when it reads like an outraged TV diary, like a Derridean Nancy Banks-Smith. Right about the Christina Aguilera single too, which transcends impressively her ever more unfortunate attempts to look like a kind of reduced Lana Turner.

Plakaty 45


Acrylic Afternoons

SR and particularly IT on a subject close to my heart, namely the joys of artificial fabrics. These are fascinating much in the same manner as nuclear power, only without the unpleasantness involving deformed children. The idea of creating a fabric ex nihilo, and rather than imitating the tactility and surface of nature, emphasising all the non-natural properties- static, unreal colour, sparking to the touch. The libidinal friction in aesthetic is best stated in Jarvis Cocker's lyrics from 1992-4, with their draylon curtains, bri-nylon underwear, pink quilted eiderdowns. And its no accident that the lubricious and machinic squelchings of Villalobos are on Perlon, a label named after the German variant of Nylon.

Along with their obvious potential for fetishism they do carry a politically utopian quality, though usually in a faintly tragic and clunky way. The Politburo of the old East Germany commissioned in the late 50s a special plastics caucus, as the egalitarian potentials of plastics were thought to be self-evident, leading to a torrent of plastic consumer goods- most famously the Trabant car, thought in the early 60s to be a great technological coup and then mocked for the next thirty years (though they can be seen cutely functioning, driven by Central European poseurs and impoverished). The objects collected in usually rather po-mo collections like Taschen's SED- Stunning Eastern Design are now hunted down in places like Berlin's Boxhagener Platz market, or reproduced for sale in tourist shops, desirable consumer goods from a society defeated because of its lack of same. But there's more of the real material thrill of the modern in such things than shelling out 90 euros for a silver Marianne Brandt lamp in the Bauhaus-Archiv up the road.


There was a reaction here against high Stalinism's chintz- as can be read in Archaeology of Socialism, Victor Buchli's study of the Narkomfin building, the struggle for socialist byt was in part a struggle against handicrafts and doilies and for the utopian pull of sachlich furnishings. See also the House of the Future by Alison and Peter Smithson, in which the impossible contours and colours of plastic form the basis of every part of the environment, from the toilets to the peculiar stockings worn by its men. Chemie des Alltags!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Plakaty 44

'it's like the radiophonic workshop's beaming straight into my head'

A quick note further to the British electronics discussions over here and here. For the last couple of weeks I've been transcribing interviews with various ex-Workshop workers for an MA thesis by esteemed svengali and post-scritti pop mitherer Monster Bobby, and one of the most interesting points that comes up is the conflict between utilitarianism and 'art'- what fascinates about the Workshop is their fulfilment of the 20s avant-gardes' attempt to worm their way into the fabric of everyday life. The killing of the Workshop under the BBC's economic 'rationalisation' under John Birt indicates that such a phenomenon was totally based on the command economy of the old socialist state apparatus.


The art/utility conflict led to secessions by the more 'creatively' inclined workers- this could be read in the differing trajectories of its earliest members, Desmond Briscoe and Daphne Oram. While the latter is changed totally by her encounter with Varese, Xenakis and Corbusier at the 1958 World's Fair, leaving the BBC almost immediately, her compatriot becomes an uber-BBC figure creating ferocious textures for Quatermass but never regarding them as 'music'. One question put to the now very aged Mr Briscoe was what he thought on first hearing the likes of Stockhausen and Pierre Schaeffer. (in sheer BBC English tones) 'What rubbish!'

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sinfonie einer Grossen Stadt


Further to the discussion of Ripley and Columbo over at K-Punk, I thought I'd post at The Measures Taken the section of my MA dissertation on the subject of Wenders' 1970s work (parts of it were up before here, dealing principally with Fassbinder). This should be enough text while I schlep off to Berlin for a week. On the subject of which, if I were to attempt the difficult task of convincing k-p of the merits of Wings of Desire ('Everybody Hurts', ouch) I would start with its brilliance as a city-portrait- oddly one of the few films to show pre-Wende Berlin as the scarred, ripped backside it was, all huge wastelands, control towers, bombed out stations and broken streets, a city as dream-landscape rivalled only by Tarkovsky in Stalker: the old man walking through the zone, convinced that somewhere there is the Potsdamer Platz...anyway, here's what I had to say about Wenders.

Plakaty 43

this one is for Medvedkin's Happiness, much eulogised by Chris Marker and not easy to get hold of

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Final Effort

By popular non-demand, here is the last part of the Modernism posts on The Measures Taken- ushering in what promises to be Sexpol month, with a post on Wilhelm Reich and Dusan Makavajev on its way...

Dissolve the People

It might not be from George Galloway's Guardian page, but nonetheless it was very nice to be cited by the Tomb on the subject of Israel reaching its 1956. On the comments box the question was raised 'this shows a lack of knowledge about East Germany', presumably in reference to the uprising on the Stalinallee. The point of course is that looked at historically 1956 was unexceptional, certainly a great deal more justifiable than forced collectivisation, the purges, the camps, the Nazi-Soviet Pact (similarly people seem not to remember what Israel got up to in Lebanon in the early 80s) and so forth. The fact is though is that it broke the spell. And whether or not this has to do with the dashing of a brief hope is worth investigating- the crushing of the Budapest Soviet hot on the heels of Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin, the massacres in Lebanon ordered by the 'dovish' Amir Peretz. The realisation that the brutality is systemic.

Plakaty 42