Friday, October 31, 2008

Back to School

Also, me on the City Academies in BD. A minor edit had the consequence that this column now lacks one of my favourite words, unctuous. Isn't it absolutely perfect for what it describes? An image is instantly brought up in the mind of the round of applause at the end of a New Labour conference speech.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In my absence

Belatedly, read these things: the FJ, hilarious, on Gwyneth Paltrow and Hollywood 'spirituality' ('people who describe themselves as spiritual make one pine for the ideological conviction of organised religion'); more on accelerationism; Poetix on the necessarily complementary nature of fantasy and 'the real' in metal and horrorcore hip hop; Boredom is always counter-revolutionary, quietly scathing, on the art world's search for the avant-garde; the Mire on the Music and Video Exchange, that economic impossibility than seems to own half of Notting Hill Gate by filling space with tat of varying value, and briefly my employer (also, as I recall, of Simon Reynolds, Tom Ewing, insufferable Britlit bore Hornby, and the Savage Messiah herself - although seemingly never at the same time. Any others?). Meanwhile, MONU want submissions on Holy Urbanism, which can't possibly be worse than that pathetic bus advert.

Know what side of the bed you've been lying on

Only a very temporary break from the hiatus, which will I'm afraid last for another week or so, as I try and write about Biomechanics while having to have the odd hospital visit to sort out the decidedly faulty mechanics of my own biology. Rather than a serious engagement with the all-important debates over the collapse of capitalism and its replacement with christ knows what, here's short, irrelevant post on how everyone, no matter how catholic their tastes, how much they try and keep an interest in all facets of the aesthetic-historical pile-up, has a limit to their eclecticism. Mine came with a visit to the Wallace Collection, in Manchester Square, Marylebone. This is a museum absolutely rammed full of the court art of the 17th and 18th century - lots of Boucher, lots of ornamental salt shakers and sundry renaissance-to-rococo knick-knacks. Something about the geographical location (in an area irredeemably marred especially by the closure of two fine grease-cafes in the vicinity), a turreted fortress of Victoriana which one imagines originally credited itself with breaking up the monotony of the Georgian square; the clientele, most of whom looked like they were walking around their friends' living rooms (and in a sense, probably were), even the music in the shop. Al Bowlly! Wonderful, you think, assuming that the shop assistant has a liking for 1930s crooners, before noticing that this is as a plug for a promotional CD of interwar dance music to accompany their current exhibition. The place is full, inexplicably, on a cold autumn Monday afternoon, the local hyper-rich crowding the galleries, maybe transferring their attentions from purchase to appreciation. Or perhaps not.

The exhibition that was the purpose of my visit: Cartoons and Coronets, the Genius of Osbert Lancaster. Osbert was a figure, like John Betjeman, who began in the 1930s as an ardent (if mordant) Modernist, and by the 1970s was best known as for campaigning to preserve the pre-Modernist, and for a warmth towards the England that his generation once attempted to vanquish, or at least transform. Like Betjeman, he's a difficult figure to dislike, erudition and enthusiasm marginally having the edge over little Englandisms (Peter York, unsurprisingly good on this). Nonetheless, it's unsurprising that like Betjeman, he features in the 'Hates' list in Malcolm Mclaren, Vivienne Westwood and Bernie Rhodes' BLAST-redux T-Shirt, 'you're going to wake up one morning and KNOW what side of the bed you've been lying on'. The 1930s work, from Pillar to Post and elsewhere, is still excellent - a precise, droll anatomisation of English building styles, with the admirable aim of making the English actually think about their environment for once. The absurdities of each idiom are neatly pricked, from the 'Stockbroker Tudor' pile with its streamline moderne car, glamour girl and adjacent pylon (which, amongst other things reveals just how old postmodernism is); to the 'Functional Modern' interior where the Bauhaus aesthete (apparently based on Herbert Read) sits bow-legged on an Aalto stool, oblivious to the fact that his sun-window gives onto pissing rain rather than light-air-openness.

The later cartoons - for the likes of the Daily Express or Anthony Powell's epics of bourgeois manners, or for the theatre - still have a certain seedy charm, but are far less interesting. The architectural observations stay sharp, but elsewhere it all gets rather flabby. The lurid sexuality which pervades the prurient sketches of 'permissiveness' - a skirt never quite covers an arse, breasts always seem to be forcing themselves out of dresses - offers a few moments of interest, although they pale in comparison with the teeming, obsessive visions of Ronald Searle, whose angular lines the 1950s- works superficially resemble - and who is vastly more deserving of the exhibition's throwing around of the term 'genius'.  For a little while it's entertainingly inconsequential, but the (appropriate) placing of these loving sketches of the haute bourgeoisie in the setting of the Wallace collection wound me up to the point where the whole affair just became irritating, a faintly smug self-critique placed in the midst of an abundance of ancien regime opulence, as if to insist to us just how little the world has changed. Aren't we all just so eccentric. 'Dear old Blighty. So homemade.' What with the exhibition's titular reference to Robert Hamer's class war classic Kind Hearts and Coronets, you can't help but wish on the collection and its visitors the fate that meets those particular coroneted heads.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Montage and Memory

Soviet cinema in its 'heroic' 1920s is, as its historians always rather irritatedly note, usually reduced in the West to a few montage auteurs - Vertov, Eisenstein, Dovzhenko, Pudovkin, and if you're lucky maybe Lev Kuleshov and Esther Shub get thrown in too. Because of current work on comedy - which I'm so far managing to make even less funny than Freud's book on jokes, with less gags than Bergson and as little jollity as Zupancic's work on humour - I've been trying to delve into some of the lesser known films of the period, the comedies and melodramas that Soviet audiences apparently preferred to the rigours of Intellectual Cinema. So far, this hasn't met with much success (suffice to say, if someone out there has copies of The Return of Nathan Becker, Miss Mend, Men and Jobs or The Kiss of Mary Pickford, or the film work of Mikhail Tsekhanovsky, Lily Brik or Erwin Piscator that they'd like to lend me, my email address is on the right and I would be extremely grateful) except brief acquaintance with such joys as Anna Sten's starring role in Boris Barnet's joyous The Girl With The Hatbox. Despite its apparent comprehensiveness, there's none of this stuff on the internet - with one, rather surprising exception - Fredrikh Ermler's 1929 film Fragment of Empire.

'Fredrikh Ermler' was the Chekist pseudonym of Vladimir Markovich Breslav, perhaps the only major director of the time who was actually of proletarian extraction. His reputation for being somewhat fearsome is supported by stories of using a mauser as a directorial aid when making the stunning Fragment of Empire. In short, this is a sort of Bolshevik Rip van Winkle tale, in which a railway attendant's amnesia - caused by shellshock in the Russian Civil War - suddenly lifts, leading him to see the Soviet Union in 1928 with the eyes of a 'fragment of the empire', walking with his cross and his muzhik beard through a totally alien world. The film is an unusual, and utterly extraordinary fusion of psychological realism and the most extreme montage experiments. Ermler was an enthusiast for Freud in the late '20s, and his use of objects as triggers of memory results in some wrenching sequences, where fast-cut intellectual montage is used to depict the dredging up of painful recollection, as where a cigarette box and a sowing machine spark of a succession of sudden, bitter memories to flood into the amnesiac's mind. As a portrayal of psychoanalytic theories of memory and association, it's certainly a tad more sophisticated than Spellbound (the chain of images is certainly more surreal than Dali's sequences from that film).

Although some of the plot details will be lost in these untranslated clips, the story is easy enough to follow. At the end of the clip at the top, architecture is used as a record of the sheer, jarring speed of change. Walking out of the railway station on his return to St Petersburg, the amnesiac sees a workers' club, some new blocks of flats, and most of all a vast complex of towers and skyways, and asks, shocked 'where is Petersburg? Who is in charge here?' This is, as a contemporary audience might have spotted, rather a cheat - the skyway complex was in fact in the centre of Kharkov. Nonetheless, the use of buildings here is similar to the use of montage - as a process and indicator of a destructive, but possibly utopian (aha) acceleration. The speed of change is such that in ten years, most of the city becomes unrecognisable. Now, the obvious thing for Ermler to have done here would have been to create a back-slapping propaganda film where the new world assimilates this fragment of empire into an immeasurably better society. Instead, a darker, more ambiguous film emerges from the propagandistic premise.

There are, he is told, no more bosses, and the Petersburgers mock him for his servility and manners - but gradually, he acclimatises himself. He gets a job in a model factory, via his now impoverished, A-I-Z reading former boss, he cuts his beard, and very Vertov-esque montage sequences show the dizzying tempo and sublime scale of industrialisation - but something is still not right. Workers in the shiny new factory swig vodka on the sly, and persistently, when talking to the new bureaucrats, the amnesiac's broken memory associates them with the tyrants of the ancien regime; and when he finally finds his wife, memories of whom sparked off the chain of events in the first place, she is the drudge of a singularly unpleasant party bureaucrat. Like so many other films of the period, the attack on the new state power is couched in acceptable terms - for a time even the Stalinists posed as the opponents of bureaucracy - but the point is taken into disturbing, haunting places. By bringing some of what was expunged from the Eisensteinian montage cinema - memory, personal affection, the shocking, mentally destructive effects of war - Ermler created an affecting, but ambiguous, intellectual/realist synthesis. Now if only someone would properly release some of this stuff...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Shock Work

As a temporary break from the research that I am so generously publicly funded to do, a few notes and irrelevant digressions on the responses to a - rhetorically brilliant and thought-provoking, if, to put it mildly, problematic - post at Splintering Bone Ashes, from Leniency and K-Punk. Ben Noys coins the term 'accelerationism' to describe this mode of thought - in short, the belief that by accentuating capitalism's most extreme, deterritorialising aspects, a revolutionary moment can come about, either through the new, inhuman non-subject it creates, or perhaps via the opposition this untold destruction would necessarily create. While I really have no interest whatsoever in a political philosophy that appears to claim that the problem with the world today is that there is too much state intervention, and not enough uprooting, cruelty, suffering, chaos and destruction (as if this isn't more than enough), the post has a kernel of politically straightforward truth. If these bailouts and 'nationalisations' (aptly described by K-Punk as a sort of PFI for the financial sector, where capital holds most of the power, but state power provides the majority of the actual capital) hadn't happened, then the entire edifice would literally have fallen to pieces, and by now we'd be looking at the very real possibility of a barter economy.

Other than that, though, as actual political strategy this ends up in little more than the old Stalinist 'Third Period', a sort of Deleuzo-Thaelmannism to go with the Deleuzo-Thatcherism - the belief that if only things get ever worse, then the revolutionary moment will come - a sort of catastrophist Hegelianism, where capital's teleology of disaster elicits a Whig interpretation of apocalypse, or, to be outright mean, a nihilist singularity. Appropriately, Leniency lists Brecht - whose finest works, from Threepenny to The Measures Taken and Kuhle Wampe, are the poetry of the Third Period - as one of a series of possible models of 'Accelerationism', cultural and political. There's another element of Accelerationism, and one which gives Brecht's version of it something of a (very partial) historical explanation. This is something much more sober, on the face of it,than the catastrophic version of Accelerationism that is Xenoeconomics. That is, the belief that an accelerated, anti-humanist capitalism (particularly in the era of the second industrial revolution) produces forms which somehow have socialism promised within them. You can find this in Gramsci's analysis of Taylorism and Fordism, that the new modes of work were more rational, promising a discarding of peasant remnants, the illusion of the survival of craftsmanship under industrial capital, while the ancien regime's last remnants are swept away by the muscular power of blue-collar American capital - Oh, Americanism! Oh Undertaker!

This also puts another possible spin on the anti-humanist thrill of Detroit techno's preference for 'Ford's robots over Berry Gordy's music', in Juan Atkins' immortal phrase. In the unlikely event of the new society, those of us not hanging onto the grim legacy of workerism would surely be in favour of an even more widespread deployment of Ford's robots, delegating the tedious work produced by Fordism to what Paul Lafargue called 'our new race of slaves'. Capital's automation might immiserate now, but it promises the abolition of alienation in the future. This kind of accelerationist socialism has its own application to the Third Industrial Revolution, as this lecture by Richard D Wolff, with its culmination in a proposal for a Communism based on the work practices of silicon valley, would seem to attest. However, the accelerationism of Brecht and his productivist contemporaries was based to a large degree on the erroneous belief that a 'better America', an better application of the technologies of accelerated Fordist capital, was being forged in the blast furnaces of Magnitogorsk. By assuming that capital would provide the outlines of the new society, the latter ended up replicating it in an even more ruthlessly exploitative form. It's one thing for acceleration to progress over the body of capital, but in actuality this merely results in other, softer bodies being run over. 

(not, of course, that anyone is at the moment advocating accelerationism in exactly this manner, as SBA's accelerationism is a very different beast to Brecht's - doing for neoliberalism what he did with Fordism; destructivism, rather than productivism, we could call it. But, off-topic, and as evidence for the aptness of definition of New Labour as 'market Stalinism', it's worth noting exactly what 'public works' Chancellor Darling is planning as a 'Keynesian' measure to deal with recession. It has long been a mistake to attack New Labour for a lack of public spending, but rather for how that money is spent - on PFI schemes as back-door privatisations, expansion of bureaucracy and security, and now, massive bailouts of banks. So instead of say, a council housing scheme, Darling promises the Olympics, a 'new nuclear deterrent', Crossrail, as an infrastructural aid to class cleansing, and some more prisons. Marvellous.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Urban Sublime

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Other commitments (namely the PhD which I occasionally remember I'm supposed to be writing, plus usual health unpleasantnesses) are intruding on blogging at the usual Taylorist tempo (I was of course going to write about this, ah well...) Anyone absolutely desperate for a fix of my prose at this point should hopefully enjoy brief things on Barenboim, Said, Bacon and Shklovsky at the NS. To be read in that order.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Nothing to fear but fear itself

With Keynesian hat on, in BD. I'm sure this is getting confusing by now.


Corpulent ex-Stalinist right-wing smugonaut David Aaronovitch opined in the Times a couple of days ago that the Left has no answer to the current crisis other than to return to capitalism as it existed around 1980, before Reagan and Thatcher did their work. As if to confirm this thesis, as well as reading Keynes, I've just finished Henry Ford's My Life and Work - obviously, along with the General Theory, one of the definitive theoretical works of this largely defunct mode of production and organisation (and in the Year of Our Ford 100, no less), although I was reading it for the purposes of the PhD that I'm supposed to be writing instead of this, rather than for its appropriateness to the current conjuncture. It's an interesting reminder, in case one needs reminding, that capitalism as it existed before 1980 was indeed capitalism, and not (as Thatcher, for one, seemed to think) Socialism.

Ford is not an easy man to read. His obnoxious self-righteousness and Gradgrindian factography frequently make the reader want to throw the book out of the window at the traffic jam on Woolwich Rd that is essentially his fault. Nonetheless, one persists. Basically, in this book, in amongst tedious and self-aggrandising reminisce, Ford proposes a new kind of capitalism. A system where speculation is almost entirely eliminated ('euthanasia of the rentier' no doubt), where production is for 'need' and 'service' rather than profit - as he repeatedly states, Ford factories work on producing more for less profit, as opposed to less for more profit; a capitalism without competition, where ruthlessly efficient monopoly industries eliminate the need for a tangle of competing purveyors of the same product; a system where hierarchy is abolished as much as possible, where wages are always high; and most stunningly to the reader of AF 100, a capitalism where an abundance of competing products with in-built obsolescence is replaced (or preceded) by 'any colour as long as it's black', and an apparently everlasting product in the form of the Model T.

The capitalism we know is so unlike this that one could get carried away here. A capitalism without in-built obsolescence sounds incredible in a context where rice is often more difficult to obtain than DVD players. Yet the place where the promise of Fordism begins to sound nightmarish is, in fact, in the exact place that Gramsci, in his Americanism and Fordism, thought it was most progressive - in its treatment of the worker. Doubtless, Gramsci was correct to find it an improvement on working conditions BF, with the promised elimination of hard physical labour and drudgery, replacing it with work where one can think about something other than the work; but this ignores one unavoidable fact - for Ford, equality is 'unnatural' (this technocrat is very keen on invoking 'nature'), and repetitive, monotonous labour is not just scientifically useful, it is something virtuous, and more to the point, all the labourer is good for. Only the agitators make the worker want something more than tightening a lathe in the same fashion day in day out. The worker left to his own devices would prefer standing in the same position, performing the same action, and any notion that he should run his own affairs is anathema to the new capitalism.

The mysticism at the heart of this rationalised capitalism is obvious when this belief in natural inequality is combined with another creed which tends to involve invocation of nature myths: Anti-Semitism. Although My Life and Work never reaches the depths of the Protocols-like The International Jew, it is made clear here too that for Ford, as for Hitler, Finance Capital = Jewish Capital. Speculation, rather than something intrinsic to capitalism, is considered to be something carried by a (literally) alien body into the productivist system. Even given this dangerous bullshit, the most pernicious thing about Ford's proposal for a new capitalism has to be the grotesque, obsessive cult of work. He gleefully points out that his factories will employ blind men, cripples, and that 'a child of three' could perform most of the tasks. The idea that automation - for which, hopefully, a saner society in the future will have Ford partly to thank - could eliminate work rather than add to it is ridiculed. Work, work, work is the most important thing here. Although Ford strips all thought, all autonomous activity, all creativity out of work, it remains the alpha and omega of his system. 'The day's work is a great thing - a very great thing!'

Commanding Heights

Those of us brought up in an Old Labour milieu (specifically: both parents members of Militant, jumping ship just before they were expelled) will remember certain phrases that would be trotted out when the question 'yes, but how do you get socialism out of a parliamentary system?' got asked. Enabling acts, to let Parliament do all sorts of things the Lords and the Army wouldn't approve of; and 'nationalising the commanding heights of the economy'. One of the articles I read yesterday somewhere on Comment is Free used the phrase 'commanding heights' to describe the current policy (supported by the Tories and the CBI, rather than leading to coup preparations) of part-nationalisation of practically the entire banking system. There's something either terribly exciting or terribly melancholy about this. New Labour achieves what the extreme left of Old Labour always dreamt of - nationalising the fucking banks - but they won't have a vote in what to actually do with the banks they partly own (like the huge public works that are needed, for starters), or even cap executive pay while doing it. History kicks us up the arse, again.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

It's Only the End of the World

Most of the Kino Fist apocalypse pieces are now up on the site with a couple of exceptions. Some have some rather strange unintentional formatting, for which you can blame either Blogger or a heavy cold on my part. I hope they're legible, at least.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Lasdun Addenda

Just found after finishing post below: Ronald Searle draws Lasdun! And in the sylvan setting of the Hallfield estate, no less. From here, which also notes that Searle lived in one of Lasdun's early international style works, this house in Paddington. Weird, as one can't think of a less Modernist draughtsman than Searle - all those tortured, Gothic lines and prickly spaces, even in this drawing. Maybe this implies that Searle didn't like places like St Custards. The reason they look sick is because they are, however much that sickness might be intriguing.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Raiding the Graveyard of Good Ideas

'The workers' flats in the centre of Liverpool, modelled, I believe, on the workers' flats in Vienna, are definitely fine buildings. But there is something ruthless and soulless about the whole business. Take, for instance, the restrictions with which you are burdened in a Corporation is a great achievement to get slum dwellers into decent houses, but it is unfortunate that, owing to the particular temper of our time, it is also considered necessary to rob them of the last vestiges of their liberty.'
George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (1936)

This weekend I went to the Hallfield Estate in Paddington. It was planned in 1946 by Berthold Lubetkin's Tecton group, and was built in the early 1950s under the direction of Denys Lasdun and Lindsay Drake - but the estate is (with the exception of a distinctive school) far more in Lubetkin's aesthetic than Lasdun's. It's of a piece with a sequence of housing blocks between 1938 and 1968 where Lubetkin and Tecton gradually abandon the International Style. Not at all for the hard, elegant, New Brutalism that would later seduce Lasdun (to dazzling effect), but rather for a patterned Modernist baroque of almost beaux-arts planning and surrealistically distorted features - from caryatids to organic canted balconies, from murals to puzzle-like facades, and most famously, wild Constructivist staircases that both exhilarate and intimidate. Many of them - Hallfield and three extraordinary estates in Bethnal Green - are not listed, or likely to be. Hallfield and King's Cross' Priory Green are so near to major railway stations that they have always had a certain seediness about them, but walking round Hallfield, the things that disturb about it are extraneous, non-architectural.

Especially given its cramped location, Hallfield is full of space, large trees and grasslands. It's in a strange sunken basin, no doubt as a block to the surrounding traffic noise, which for better or worse makes it an enclave, not an organic part of an area. But unlike the more intricately planned Brutalist approach, with its channels and labyrinths of pedestrian space, the flowing space is broken up by particular things doubtfully in the original plan - signs, fences and cars. Winding roads that would have wandered cleanly through the place are lined with parked cars, the parkland and gardens are fenced off and locked to all other than the residents (how many use this privilege I wonder?), and most of all, the outrageously corrupt, viciously Tory Westminster Council and their private successors have their signs all over the place, listing all the things one can and can't do here much more obstructively than in any other estate I've seen - STRICTLY PROHIBITED signs compete with the whimsical original signage designed by Drake and Lasdun. They're always there, these signs, in all social housing, but here they have an unusual barbarity and aggression, immediately making any visitor, let alone tenant, feel ill-at-ease, talked down to, patronised, under suspicion. Councils seem to like this sort of stuff. I once had the pleasure of talking to one of the architects who worked on the restoration of Priory Green (naming no names), who claimed that any proposal that kept the open, collective space - whether retaining the lack of fences, or keeping the communal heating - was instantly rejected by council representatives. Treat people like criminals, of course, and they might just act accordingly.

'Needless to say, the slum was like any other slum: filth, rottenness, evil odours possessed these dens of superfluous mankind and made them gruesome to the peering imagination. The inhabitants of course felt nothing of the sort; a room here was the only home that most of them knew or desired. The majority preferred it, on all grounds, to that offered them in a block of model lodgings not very far away; here was independence, that is to say, the liberty to be as vile as they pleased. How they came to love vileness, well that is another matter, and shall not for the present concern us'.
George Gissing, The Nether World (1889)

Yet Hallfield is clearly, especially no doubt at the right time of day and year (i.e, not a grey October afternoon), a brilliant place. The buildings and the planning are beautifully intricate and imaginative, like living in a sort of humanised, warm, Heath Robinson version of a De Stijl painting - an irregular, stylised facadism which luxury flats all over London often attempt, usually failing miserably. It sounds simplistic, but this and the other late Tecton estates fulfil something many postwar estates haughtily or cheaply ignore - a certain uniqueness and individuality, a curio value that fits the English pretension to eccentricity very neatly, without ever looking merely provincial. It was described in the early '60s by Iain Nairn as a 'graveyard of good ideas', which, entirely coincidentally, is as good a description of a hauntological approach to social democracy as you could find: grave-robbing the defunct, ransacking concepts, typologies, discarding what we don't like and emphasising what we do. Hallfield has more than a hint of both, and of the predicaments that Gissing, as a misanthrope and Orwell, as an english-sentimental socialist both diagnosed in social housing ('model housing' = Peabody philanthropy, 'Corporation' = municipal/council). This is always beneath the surface, for those of us who are, as Ben Noys so neatly puts it, 'false friends of Social Democracy', who support it to avert the apocalypse, well aware it can never usher in the kingdom of heaven.

How can I adopt a creed which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above the bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia, who with all their faults, are the quality of life and surely carry the seeds of all human achievement? (...) It is hard for an educated, decent, intelligent son of Western Europe to find his ideals here, unless he has first suffered some strange and horrid process of conversion which has changed all his values.
John Maynard Keynes, 1931

If (and it's a very big if) as a reaction to the visible collapse of neoliberalism, some sort of social democratic policies return here, whether via the SNP, a Cruddas-ish soft left, or wherever - we should bear in mind that its punitive, patronising, hygiene-fixated side survives, virulent in British politics, having long since shed the actively useful, humanitarian, service-providing point. You can find something like it in New Labour's obsessive discourse of 'exclusion' and their criminalisation of sections of the working class for their own good, in the side of Green politics that amounts to blaming the poor for insufficent ecological rectitude, in the Toryist obsession with 'community' and 'cohesion' as against (ahem) 'broken Britain'. In fact, for all the alleged Leninist contempt for the workers, the Far Left has, after 1968, long since abandoned this sort of nonsense. Whatever else one might say about them, you certainly can't imagine (that unimaginable thing) an SWP controlled council monitoring 'problem' families, decreeing colours of council flats' doors, or putting up signs demanding that tenants act like normal human beings. That discourse is mainstream, 'centrist', and a central plank of this government. This is why, when supporting a resurrection of his policies as Katechon, we might do well to remember exactly what Keynes thought about the proletariat.

Images from here and here.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Kino Fist: Apocalypse Reminder

'La Soufrière' (Werner Herzog, 1976)
'Threads' (written by Barry Hines/directed by Mick Jackson, 1984)

We will be here tomorrow:

The Wenlock Building
50-60 Wharf Road, N1 7RN

We will screen:
October 5th
roughly 2-5pm

Due to apocalyptic timing/organisation, the magazine was cut and pasted (literally) by I.T. It resembles a copy of Just Seventeen, if Just Seventeen had been put together by a girl who had spent her childhood locked in a cupboard.

Note also the Tomb getting all eschatological.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


As it's now 6 months since I handed in the MS for this, and since we're apparently supposed to be doing much of the promotion ourselves, I would like to announce.

With svelte prose, agile wit, and alarming erudition, Owen Hatherley pries open the prematurely closed case of early 20th Century modernism. This slim and shapely, ideas-packed and intensely-felt book is neither a misty-eyed memorial nor a dour inquest, but a verging-on-erotic mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Rediscovering the enchantment of demystification and the sexiness of severity, Hatherley harks forward to modernism's utopian spirit: critical, radically democratic, dedicated to the conscious transformation of everyday life, determined to build a better world.
Simon Reynolds

In sum, it's a shortish, polemical book on Modernism, with chapters on (in order) Britain, industry and Brutalism; Constructivism and ruination; Sexpol, communal living and sexploitation; Brecht, Eisler, Benjamin and Productivism, plus extensive introductions and conclusions and gratuitous biographical detail. Artwork on the cover is 'Apollo Pavilion' by entschwindet, and the book itself is lavishly illustrated by sundry photographs, stills and posters, along with original collages by this person. It's out in another 6 months time, so please put your orders in now, and expect ever more hysterical plugs in the coming months.

(in further self-promoting vein, a review by me of Svetlana Boym's book on Tatlin can be found in this month's Blueprint. In the same issue as an article on the 'Constructivist inspired canapes' of one Tom Wolfe (no relation))

Absent Agents

Voyou on the problem of agency. This is, as I've written before, the most terrifying aspect of the credit crunch/recession/depression (delete according to politics/knowledge of economics). As per a faintly desperate perspective that Ben calls 'Keynesianism as Katechon' I'm all for the Green New Deal being argued for by various green and social democratic intelligentsia types (Larry Elliott, Caroline Lucas etc). I wish it well, I really do. But it makes a quite unavoidable mistake - it assumes that the last New Deal happened because, well, the Democrats were good people, and Roosevelt a good president, and that all we need is will in our leaders. On the contrary, as Roosevelt himself always maintained, the New Deal was essential to save capitalism, not merely from its internal contradictions, but from destruction by the American working class and replacement with socialism - a distant, but nonetheless possible outcome in the early 1930s. There's a poll here asking 'is capitalism finished?' That such a question is even being asked is amazing, and unimaginable a month ago. The problem is, who will end it if it won't end itself?
(answers on a postcard to the usual address)