Monthly Archives: December 2011

Arts Against Cuts: ica x-mas presents

Erm, last post of the year is not a happy one, rather fucking outrageous – I used to like the little ICA bookshop…

December 23, 2011 //

With x-mas just around the corner and all the gifts wrapped under that perfectly decorated pine tree. As the anticipation builds, interrupting the final two nights sleep before His day. Whilst distant family satellite in ready for an unhealthy dose of nostalgia and brandy. One little present is leaving the front of house ICA staff wishing they’d been given coal.

Over the past week, some of the lowest paid staff members (the ones which guard your coat at the cloak room, check your tickets at the cinema, invigilate and discuss the dull artwork in the poorly curated Bloomberg New Contemporaries show) have received an ultimatum;take an approximate 10% cut from your wages or lose your job. What amounts to nothing other than passive-aggressive bullying by managers, a new contract has been drafted that would see paid breaks removed under the new working conditions and if this contract is not signed, the staff have no job in the new year.

“Paid breaks, that’s a bit of a luxury! They’re not even working then.” I hear the more conservative of the readers cry. Well let’s do a little simple maths, using conservative figures of course, to establish what this actually amounts to. On a £7.25 hourly wage (as advertised on their website) working a generous 30 hours per week, expecting at a minimum 3 hours for lunch over this period, the staff would currently earn a gross of £217.50 a week. Working, again generous considering times between shows, 50 weeks a year comes to a meagre annual gross pay of £10, 875 (obviously before tax an NI deductions). Under the contracts proposed to kick in at the beginning of 2012 (a year likely to see increased foot flow and revenue to the ICA, especially as events are set to take place opposite) this would see this hypothetical weekly wage reduced by £21.75 a week and £1,087.50 a year. For those that this is their sole income, that is extremely substantial not a luxury.

So, as the sun sets for the final few days before the ICA closes until the new year. Their staff have the wonderful gift of choice, either to work at a greatly reduced daily rate or start the new year in the dole queue. I know which one I’d rather choose #solidaritywithunemployedworkers

Have a great x-mas!

AAC x

p.s. The ICA telephone number is 020 7930 0493 and twitter @ICALondon

#occupy Dataran: Mask up for Malaysian New Year

 

This just popped up on you tube and I’d like a ticket. If you have a mask, and you are in KL, this is the new year party to ring in something special. (Londoners, see you at Holloway)

I do, like many of you, enjoy lepakking at home and watching TV.

I appreciate the comforts of every day routine, the security of familiar things, the tranquillity of repetition.
But in the spirit of celebrating the New Year, with much partying and revelry, I thought we could mark this December 31 with something special.
There are, of course, those who don’t want us to speak. I suspect even now orders are being shouted into telephones and men with guns will soon be on their way.
Why?
Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power.
Words… offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen…the enunciation of truth.
And the truth is…there is… something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there?
Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression.
And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission.
How did this happen? Who’s to blame?
Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable.
But again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.
I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be?
MAY 13, RACE RIOTS, FEAR OF COMMUNISTS, OPERASI LALANG.
There are a myriad of problems which conspire to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense.
Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to Barisan Nasional.
BN promised you order, BN promised you peace and all they demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.
Today, I seek to end that silence.
2011 will go down in history as the Year of Peaceful, Non-Violent Revolutions. It began in Tunisia, culminating in Tahrir Square, Egypt.
Tahrir Square is now the symbol of human freedom and liberation in the 21st century.
We also saw the uprising of the Indignados, which occupied Puerta del Sol in Madrid, Spain, giving inspiration to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
This democratic wave, driven by ordinary peoples on the street – as opposed to leadership by elites the world over – is a major turning point in our time.
As the year draws to a close, dark clouds still hang over the Malaysian sky, no different from the previous years.
Repression of human rights continue unabated. Malaysians suffer these abuses in different forms and at different levels. It is often hard for the ordinary Malaysian to articulate and give voice to their suffering and plight.
We want every person to find his or her own voice, formulating his or her own demands.
Some of these demands may spring from a litany of injustices:
the repression of street protests (for example Bersih 2.0),
the passing of the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011,
the Lynas debacle,
the continuous land-grab of Orang Asli & indigenous land in Sabah & Sarawak,
corruption in government,
exploitation and repression of local and migrant workers’ welfare & rights,
deaths in the custody of the MACC and THE POLICE,
the suppression of academic and student freedoms by the UUCA.
And the list goes on!
So if you’ve seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain insignificant to you, then I would suggest that you allow the 31st of December to past unmarked.
But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me and wear you V Mask on New Years Eve at the stroke of midnight, at Dataran Merdeka, and give them a New Year that shall never, ever be forgotten.

Marx at the Movies Conference 16&17 March 2012

I’m speaking at this…

Marx at the Movies Conference
University of Central Lancashire
March 16-17, 2012

As the Lehmans Brothers filled for bankruptcy on September 15 2008 an era came to a halt. No more was there a belief that ‘the Market’ would work for the greater good as long as it was left un-regulated. As the belief in neoliberal theory and practice collapsed, many turned to the alternative theory – that of Marxism, not least because for Marx the challenge for human thought was not simply to understand the world but to change it.

Not for the first time Marx is ‘fashionable’. As David Harvey observes in his introduction to The Communist Manifesto: ‘The Communist Manifesto of 1847 is an extraordinary document, full of insights, rich in meanings and bursting with political possibilities. Millions of people all around the world – peasants, workers, soldiers, intellectuals as well as professionals of all sorts – have, over the years, been touched and inspired by it.’

The same can be said about filmmakers, film academics and students, in view of the fact that cinema, as a collective endeavour and as an industrial art, is an excellent ground to test Marxist dialectical thought. But how has cinema engaged with Marxist theory and practice? How has cinema engaged in processes to create radical social transformation, including decolonisation and the liberation of women? Is there a revival of Marxism in contemporary film theory and practice?

These are some of the questions we want to discuss during the two-day conference, hosted by the School of Journalism, Media and Communication in Preston –a town of great importance to the history of the working class, as testified by Marx and Engels’ writings. Papers are sought for topics such as:

The problems of conveying Marxist thought on screen (including attempts to screen Capital)
Representation of alienated and nonalienated labour and capital on screen
The work of Sergei Eisenstein, Bertolt Brecht, Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker, Dušan Makavejev, Satyajit Ray, Ousmane Sembène, Alexander Kluge, Ken Loach, Lars von Trier. Are they Marxist filmmakers? Western and Eastern Marxist film theory and history
Socialist production, distribution and exhibition of films
Marxism, Third cinema and the cinema of revolt
Marxism and feminist cinema
Marxism, realism and non-realism
Screen images of Marx, Engels and Lenin

The Border at Night

A vicious wound that demeans us all –  Enis alerts me to this image from the film Abendland (see the trailer here) – its the aptly named Frontex border at Ceuta, Spain (between the EU and Morocco)

Gathering the old word horde together, on education

Am supposed to be writing about Education, but I have that de-ja-voodoo feeling for the good old days:

This a citation of a lost piece that was called ‘ What is to be done about Arizona Junkets’ on delegates who go to education conferences – from Richard Bates ‘Educational research and the economy of happiness and love’ in THE AUSTRALIAN EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER Volume 22, Number 1, 1-16, DOI: 10.1007/BF03219579

cfp Return to the Street

http://fuggbug.tumblr.com/post/14717201625/returntothestreet

 

return to the street – cfp

27-28 June 2012

Goldsmiths, University of London

A two day conference exploring the shifting role of the street as discourse and real physical space in the context of contemporary culture and politics.

Identity formation and public debate do not simply occur online or through new media technologies. As the recent excessive imprisonment of those involved in the UK riots this summer demonstrated, the control and regulation of real bodies within real spaces is still very much at stake. Within the context of riots, protests and occupations in the UK and worldwide – the street appears to have become once more the space where people gather to be heard and counted. Considering this ‘return’ (although it is questionable whether we every really left the street) how might a line be drawn between the type of discourse which pays lip service to banal, neoliberal fetishised notions of street as site and object of subversive cool – incorporating graffiti, fashion, skateboarding, hiphop – and a more critical and engaged examination of processes of exclusion, confrontation and violence which constitute the everyday reality of life on and in the street. The street is and should not simply be flagged up as a site where power relations are toyed with as part of an ongoing Damien Hirst-meets-Banksyesque flirtation between public and private space. Such fetishisation ignores or glosses over notions of territory, surveillance and fear.

Yet at every moment attempts to challenge existing power structures from within the space of the street are at risk of being recuperated in the service of bourgeois, neoliberal modes of consumption. The return to pedestrianised zones in major European cities is frequently part of gentrification processes and occurs within privately owned spaces with the aim of encouraging consumerism rather than increased social interaction precluded by motorised city spaces. The festival atmosphere at protests and occupations might also be considered not simply as a means of creating greater solidarity amongst participants but as embodying a Bakhtinian form of carnival in which the political impetus of the event or movement exhausts itself in a media circus of spectacle and rhetoric staged between protestors and law-enforcement. Similarly, how does the crowd or the collective end up reproducing existing forms of exclusion in claiming to speak for the masses as a homogeneous whole? Those whose access to the street is already restricted due to race, gender or disability must frequently concede their voices to those for whom the street is taken for granted as usable, occupiable and negotiable space. At the same time, a more critical stance is needed towards both the romanticisation and demonization of the crowd in public space. It is, for example, naive to think that issues such as the systemic street harassment of women in Cairo disappeared completely during the occupation of Tahrir Square yet this was the rhetoric widely presented. Conversely, how might the pervasive politics of fear which posits the crowd as unruly mob or herd, keeping people off the streets, through the imposition of curfews and devices like the mosquito be redressed? What needs to be done to encourage greater mobilisation on the street from different groups and individuals?

The aim of this conference is to rethink the street both in terms of its radical potential as site where dissent, critique and change can all be achieved whilst remaining critical as to the limits of such radicality. Where does the street lead us and what happens off the street? How might we avoid the dead ends and turf wars involved both in conceptualising and using the street? How might we set about building a new politics of the street? We welcome proposals for papers, discussions, short films, mini-workshops and other interventions engaging with the above issues and questions.

Topics might include but are not limited to:

- street as fetish object

- societies of discipline and control

- inclusion/exclusion/exchange

- street as site of resistance/containment

- subversive potential/impotential of street art

and fashion

- hiphop struggles and activism

- surveillance – cctv and self-mapping apps

- politics of the crowd

- negotiating the street – strategies and tactics

- territory/circulation

- politics of fear

- living and working on the street

- off the street

 

Abstracts/proposals of 300-500 words should be sent to: S.Fuggle@gold.ac.uk by 3 February 2012.

Programme will be confirmed in early March 2012.

Organised by the Centre for Cultural Studies with the generous support of the Department of Media and Communications and the Graduate School, Goldsmiths.

NEW YEARS EVE NOISE DEMONSTRATION – SOLIDARITY WITH IMPRISONED PROTESTERS

Saturday, 31 December 2011 – 4pm-6pm outside HMP Holloway Prison, Parkhurst Road, N7 0NU, closest tube station Holloway Rd.

Since student protests last year, when thousands took to the streets to demand an education accessible for all, and the large scale riots this summer in response to the police murder of Mark Duggan, hundreds of our youth have been targeted and many were given long custodial sentences.

This means many will be spending new year’s eve and the festive period in prisons up and down the country, away from their families, because they stood up to injustice.

Come along to this demonstration on New Year’s Eve outside Holloway women’s prison to show solidarity to some of those in prison. We are going to make lots of noise to make sure they hear us and know that we do not forget them. So bring instrument, pots and pans, banners or just yourself!

*poetry, spoken word, hip hop and music from different artists on the day coming to show their support*

visit defendtherighttoprotest.org and ldmg.org.uk for more info
supported by Defend the Right to Protest and Legal Defence Monitoring Group

Happy 128th Birthday Edgard Varèse

Happy 128th Birthday Edgard Varèse @ 

Voodoo Lounge Tour (Volkswagen sponsorship poster)

I needed to refer to this for a footnote reference…

Rough justifications [Marx Course reading]

 Rough justifications for including these texts in my prelim reading for the Capital course (see here).

Theodor W. Adorno, The Culture Industry

Adorno is famous for his dictum, “No Art after Auschwitz”, but it’s not necessarily something that he said in his own voice, it’s really important to see that he was putting this forward as a two part dialectic in the voice of those who at the level of satisfied contemplation, at the level of critics, did not break with the bourgeois categories, it was the idle chatter of that class that both said “you cannot make art after Auschwitz” and were incapable of understanding why it was barbaric to make art after Auschwitz. Now, everyone says Adorno was elitist, he was anti-art, but no. In that dialectic he actually has a more important place for the real rebellious possibility of art as something that we all could do. It could still be co-opted and recuperated… and of course he’s still anxious about that. And thinks under capitalism it’s hopeless. Well… We don’t need people to only be artists.

Aijaz Ahmad, In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures

Aijaz Ahmad had denounced as imperialist the ‘three worlds theory’ in a debate with Frederic Jameson, where Jameson had called third world literature always an allegory of nation – clearly far too much a generalization on Fred’s part. ‘In Theory’ was like a brick thrown in a stagnant pool for us as postgraduate students, the first widely read book of theory in a long while that did not scrimp on the organizational politics. And with the added bonus of actual text-consulting detailed argument that corrects Edward Said’s too-quick dismissal of Marx on India.

Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share

Georges Bataille, especially in his early work, exhibits a refusal to be crushed by the brutality of events, war, oppression, morality. ‘The Accursed Share’ is the culmination of his economic and political writings, though I prefer the harder to access 1930s work (discussed here).

Jonathan.Beller, The Cinematic Mode of Production

In Jonathan Beller’s book ‘The Cinematic Mode of Production’, attention to the gaze and the market of the spectacle advances both film theory and situationist ideas to offer a platform for understanding new media as a terrain of struggle in market, ideology and practice. Just as we willingly go and sit in the dark before the cinema, we also comply with the protocols of the digital. Virtual selves abroad in the world while backache and repetitive strain compensate for touch type immediacy. The world shrunk to a venture start-up as if the assembly of work-station and media-console wasn’t also co-ordinated with wiring configurations, electricity grids and mining industries that make the corralling of workers in all kinds of underpaid labour also part of an integrated geo-circuit.

Sylvere Lotringer (ed), Hatred of Capitalism: A Reader

This book just has the best title, and a great selection of essays from William Burroughs to Marx to Kathy Acker – and the circuit is intended.

Karl Marx, Capital: Volume One

Only volume one! Get them all. Start a reading group. Do not miss the footnotes and all the fun jokes about Money bags. Also there are vampires, werewolves, bibles exchanged for brandy, and trips to Australia, India – Lord Jagganath – and tributes to Leonard Horner, factory inspector and hero of the working classes. It is important to read more than the first chapter. And to read it anew every decade or so, since the context changes Marx, just as Marx tried to change the context (the point!).

Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto

The Manifesto was written over the winter of 47-48 for the International Workingmen’s Association. First drafted on the train from Manchester to London, then finished in a frenzy of work by Marx in Brussels in January 48. It influence astonishing, global, relevant still, etc. Everyone can quote from it: from its first words: ‘Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa’ (1848/1970:41) – ‘A spectre is haunting Europe’, to its last words ‘Mögen die herrschendenKlassen vor iner kommunistischen Revolution zittern. Die Proletarier haben nichts in ihr zu verlieren als ihr Ketten. Sie haben eine Welt zu gewinnen. Proletarier aller Länder, vereinigt euch’ (1848/1970:82-3) – ‘Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of all countries, unite’. The Manifesto was written just as Europe launch into a period of revolutionary turmoil. Marx was himself an activist, expelled from Germany for political reasons, exiled in Paris then London. He was, apparently, a rebel rousing type, turning up to demos and meetings a little pissed, but able, in repartee, to make mince meat of any other ideologues – yet the revolutionary period of 1848 did not deliver freedom, and Marx’s hope for the situation was disappointed. He turned to the library – although never gave up activism – to provide an explanation.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason

In this bumper book of critique Spivak shows she knows ‘the’ debates around a particular author or field with a quick sketch, then she shows she knows the critical angles on these debates and that these could be fruitful, but are often not without problems, and then, rather than detailing or extending the problems, she takes some moment or oblique angle on the text and levers it open to teach us something crucial. Repays reading over and over – wonderfully written, learned, and an education in itself. (more)

Michael Taussig My Cocaine Museum

The myriad examples in ‘My Cocaine Museum’ are assembled to order and disorder Colombia, where Mick has done 30+ years’ fieldwork, such that each of the curios selected for an impossible museum of gold, weapons and profit have to make sense in a history, and in syncopation with other examples for an archive of the imaginary institution, providing a model for eloquence… that I give students as an example of what might be possible if scholarship could be re-imagined.

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Slavoj Žižek, Revolution at the Gates: Selected Writings of Lenin from 1917

It has often been said that Zizek never has a thought that has not been published…. twice. Good thing too. We’d have to invent him if he did not invent himself.
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The course starts Jan 10. All welcome.
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WorkersControl.net

http://www.workerscontrol.net/our-mission-statement

 

Market project Talk transcribed

The folk at Market Project incredibly transcribed what I had to say at their gig in November at Colchester. Much obliged to them. This was after Alex Pearl‘s project Pussycat film (which recommends a final solution for artists), and debate contributions from others that you can also here and here. Mine in full follows. The discussion still to come perhaps.

Market Project’s public debate TOO MANY ARTISTS took place on November 9th 2011 at Firstsite in Colchester.

On the panel were: From Market Project, artist Alistair Gentry and TED Fellow Julie Freeman (with the latter chairing the debate); Dave Beech, artist, writer and member of Freee collective; Professor John Hutnyk from the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths University; Susan Jones, director of a-n The Artists Information Company.

 

Julie Freeman: Our final speaker tonight is John Hutnyk. He’s a professor and academic director of the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths University of London. He is author of a number of books on politics and cultural studies. He’s been the editor of several volumes of essays, including ‘Disorienting Rhythms, the Politics of the New Asian Dance Music’ and has contributed to the journals ‘Theory, Culture and Society’ and ‘Postcolonial Studies’. He’s woprking on a new book at the moment called ‘Pantomime Terror’ and writes occasionally for ‘Stimulus Respond’ and is a contributing editor of ‘The Paper’, which I believe he’s got a few copies of with him…

John Hutnyk: We gave them out today at the rally in London, so we’re running a bit low.

Julie Freeman: He’s fresh from being kettled. You can find him at hutnyk.wordpress.com.

John Hutnyk: Right, thank you very much. Thanks for inviting me. I’ve got the lucky position of having to speak after all these comrades. So I want to- it’s going to be a typical cultural studies thing, I apologise for this, the thing that we usually do is kind of dismiss the categories in which everybody else has spoken and try to redefine the grounds in order to win the debate. So I’m going to say that the categories are wrong! I do appreciate that there are too many artists in Putney or wherever, or active engagement in producing art, but I think that depends on a bourgeois notion of what art is and issue of what is an artist is just too big a question. And it’s not about making bread, although I do appreciate the question of labour.

I want to ask who makes art. Not 1%, but 99%. Before you think I’m going to talk about Occupy Wall Street all night and the occupation of St Paul’s, I think the 99% has to be decolonised and there are many differences and so on, but for the purposes of this I’m going to say even one word can be part of the 99%. Did you read the paper today, The Guardian, no, sorry, The Evening Standard had a spread on The Rolling Stones. They’re still wayward, they’re still drinking. Ron Woods although sometimes reformed and in rehab has a second career after the Rolling Stones of being an artist. I figure if Ron can be an artist, we all can. Well, he did go to art school, it’s true, he did go to art school in the 1950s. He met Keith Richards and the Small Faces and fifty years later he’s become an artist.

I should talk about artists, but to make my point about the 99%, talk about Anthony Gormley. I like Anthony, he comes to Goldsmiths occasionally- and in fact if you think about his work, he does employ artists to make his work… but that’s a question about the labour thing. He could be doing bread. But this is remarkable, I was reminded of this just reading the paper yesterday, he was one of the people- because [government minister Theresa] May’s in trouble over immigration, a few years ago Anthony came out as a sort of spokesperson for a campaign to make the UK Border Authority, the governing body of fortress Europe if you like, or fortress Britain, ease up on restrictions over bringing artists into the country. Freedom of movement for artists was the call, and I think that’s welcome and important but deeply problematic because why should artists get freedom of movement, why should they have privilege of movement, in fact? Why shouldn’t it be freedom of movement for all? Which is the No Borders campaign slogan. So let’s see what Theresa May thinks of that one, if she’s still in office tomorrow. What would the passport check be on the artists, to check whether they come in or not?

So I’m asking just what is it we mean when we say “artist”? Or baker, or breadmaker, or candlestick maker? Is it about getting in a gallery and selling your work, or is it about getting into Goldsmiths and getting a grant? There are two sides to that, I think.

Gentrification’s another issue I want to talk about. Gentrification, or it was called regeneration at one point, sorry, I want to change the terms of the debate again. Gentrification- I think there are too many artists because it’s changing the way we live and certainly colonised Goldsmiths and New Cross and Deptford, I’m uneasy about this because it’s welcome and so on but- great employment for artists or art students at Goldsmiths, we do have a few of them there, in fact everybody in every department thinks they’re going to be artists, the 99% are there alive and well, still pretty privileged and pretty white mostly… but they’ve found a pretty pleasant line in being recruited by real estate agents who want to develop the old schools in the East End.

There was one thing called The Assembly a few years ago, which the developer knew they were going to develop the school into luxury flats, Yuppie flats, Gentrification, but it was going to take two years to get the money and the contracts together and they didn’t want squatters coming in to the school in the mean time so they gave the premises to Goldsmiths and the RSA for a couple of years to run a show, have as studios, basically as holding operation to keep anarchists and undesirables out. Problematic. We had too many artists in that sense.

The other thing is commodification. We talked about the cost and sales of work… Ron Wood is selling work, great good on you. There hasn’t been a Rolling Stones album for a couple of years, but they were pretty lucrative as well, those Rolling Stones albums. Actually what was really lucrative for the Stones was not the ‘Street Fighting Man’ years, the old Decca label stuff and the good songs when they were rebels, and we do recognise that were rebels once, don’t we? Before they started to do tours sponsored by Volkswagen? Advertisements on the telly, I could go through a whole list of musicians who started to do it. There’s one, who’s started to sell insurance now.

Julie and Alistair: Iggy Pop.

John Hutnyk: He must be really bored. “I’M BORED. I’m the chairman of the bored.” He really is, now. The Rolling Stones were “street fighting men” but they became complicit in another kind of sonic gentrification, if you like. Pacification. I have problems with that… complicity has always been part of the game for artists, even the rebels. You’ve got artists in the employ of the state, you’ve got artists providing their work- however critical and troubling- it might be on the walls of bourgeois homes on the West coast of America, and even banks, most banks. Soon we’ll have Banksy on the wall of banks, let’s just drop the “S Y”, well he has: ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’. Complicity is one big thing, royal patronage and T-shirts and cappuccinos and lovely coffee shops with galleries attached. It’s all part of the commodification where Artists with a capital “A”, that’s what I’m saying we’ve got too many of. Turning us all into, and I’m worried about something that was said, viewers. Are we going to get to view, rather than make? I think we can all make.

Yes, the artists are rebels but they get co-opted and consumed, recuperated by the culture industry. It makes me want to talk about an old, grumpy German theorist called Theodor Adorno, I’m sure you all know about him, because we actually started with a sort of homage to Adorno, which was the whole thing about art after Auschwitz. [Note: JH is referring to Alex Pearl's Project Pusscat film which was shown at the start of the presentation]. OK it was sort of displaced into comedy and I appreciated that, and Sarin gas, I like the pantomime terrorist thing but I like to think about the Adorno art after Auschwitz thing as something you have to keep on the boil. Instead of art after Auschwitz, talk about art after Guantanomo… is it still possible, Adorno asks, to still make art after that crisis? After that atrocity, after that moment of barbarism?

I want to talk about that, but Adorno is one who talks about the culture industry and the way this recuperation, this commodification and this complicity keeps on working to draw artists into the mode of production we know as capital, or capitalism. And of course that’s what the people, the 1% versus the 99% thing is about at St Paul’s. Art is an instrument of capital.

This of course has its history in the post war reconstruction programmes, I’ll skip some of it, the 1980s programmes of art to mollify and placate communities that were rising up in London, let’s just take South London where I live, in Brixton and Lewisham and so on, when the black political uprising movement, rebellion, whatever you like, something very similar to what happened over the summer here, was in full flight. Scarman’s report, then, throws money at the “ethnic arts” in order to divide up the allegiances of the black movement. And I think art in the employ of politics and artists in the employ of the state is something we need to discuss.

Of course capital “A” Artists, not all of them get grants. In fact it’s 1% of artists that get grants, and certainly does imply that we all make are, we could make art. In fact the question is: what is art? I mean is art only the bourgeois category of stuff that gets into galleries, or is handwriting an art, or is knitting an art? Singing at the football, is that an art? It depends on what we mean by art and what we mean by artists.

But to go back to the percentage, I’m not so worried about the percentages, that’s another part of the debate I want to displace, but if you think about who gets grants- and I’m surprised that you applied, Alex, to something like the Arts Council for your project. You should have applied to the makers of Zyklon B, or someone like that. Who gets an Arts Council grant is not the relevant policy domain. The thing that’s effecting artists in this country right now is the cuts, and social policy. Unemployment benefit, housing benefit [Kirsten Fockhart’s excellent PhD at Goldsmiths – completed 2011 – discusses this in detail], and all those artists, you know the landscape painters who do a little bit in their shed, they’re artists as well. They don’t get into the same establishments, but they’re more effected by social policy and the winding the back of social policy in this country which has been grave, serious, desperate in the last couple of years, well, in the last ten years. They’re much more effected by that than anything the Arts Council could do with its, what was it? .0093% of the budget. Sorry… see, I wasn’t very good at statistics… .093 of a billion [£] compared to £49.1 billion spent on defence. So arts policy, talking about Arts capital “A”, is not an issue- we have too much of that. What we have is a blind spot to social policy, that’s more important.

So, Adorno. He’s famous for this dictum, “Art after Auschwitz”, but it’s not something that he said in his own voice, it’s really important to see that he was putting this forward as a two part dialectic in the voice of those who at the level of satisfied contemplation, at the level of critics, did not break with the bourgeois categories, it was the idle chatter of that class that both said “you cannot make art after Auschwitz” and were incapable of understanding why it was barbaric to make art after Auschwitz. Now, everyone says Adorno was elitist, he was anti-art, but no. In that dialectic he actually has a more important place for the real rebellious possibility of art as something that we all could do. It would be co-opted and recuperated… well, actually he’s still anxious about that. He thinks under capitalism it’s hopeless. Well… not even.

He talks about it being a still undecided question, whether in the culture industry, in the contemporary bourgeois capitalist regime, it might still be possible that there is a secret omnipresence of resistance, a kernel of rebellion in the project of making art, but only insofar as it resists recuperation by the culture industry. And I’m sorry, our mates, our capital “A” Artists are recuperated, they are in the employ of the Borgias. There are too many artists.

White Charity

Critique of photogenic poverty catching on – check out this film from Germany:

http://www.whitecharity.de/index_files/Page518.htm

White Charity

Blackness & whiteness on charity ad posters

Billboards of charitable organisations such as ‘Brot für die Welt’, ‘Welthungerhilfe’, ‘Kindernothilfe’ or ‘Care’ are omnipresent in streets, on squares, in train and metro stations in Germany.

They have a large impact on how Black and whiteidentities in Germany are constructed. The documentary analyses the charity aid posters from a postcolonial perspective.

‘white charity’ presents different perspectives: based on the charity ad posters, representatives of charities and scientists discuss about development cooperation, colonial fantasies, racism and power structures.

‘white charity’ is an exemplary analysis of racism in images which has relevance far beyond the horizon of development. It supports a sharper analysis of images in commercials, print and TV.

A film by Carolin Philipp and Timo Kiesel

With:

PD Dr. Aram Ziai, political scientist, Zentrum für Entwicklungsforschung, Bonn
Danuta Sacher, former head of the department of politics and campaigns, Brot für die Welt
Dr. Grada Kilomba, psychoanalysist and author, Humboldt Universität, Berlin
Prof. em. Dr. Klaus-Peter Köpping, anthropologist, Universität Heidelberg
Peggy Piesche, literary scholar and cultural scientist, Hamilton College New York
Philipp Khabo Köpsell, poet and spoken word artist, Berlin
Sascha Decker, press spokesman, Kindernothilfe

Technical details:

duration: 48 minutes

picture: 16:9

 

Capitalism or Markets?: An Exchange 9.1.2012


Bernard Stiegler and Scott Lash

Monday 9 January 2012, 5pm-6.45pm, Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths

What is critical political economy today? Has neo-liberalism produced a system of domination in which capital has reduced labour not just to an object but to what Heidegger called a ‘standing reserve’,: that is a Marxist ‘reserve army of labour’ that no longer has a stake in the productive system resulting in conflagrations like Tottenham 2011? Or does a new industrialism driven by technological media open up a possible political space of ‘care’, enabling open relations of bonding between humans and among human and code-driven machines?  How would such a political economy address the emerging powers in an age when Obama is destined to be the last president of what will have been the world’s most powerful nation?  Is China (India) neo-liberal or is it possible to have the sociality of markets without capitalism? Is Foucault right to counterpose the positivity of a liberalism based in a classical political economy of Smith and Ricardo against the bio-political domination of a neo-liberalism and today’s neo-classical economics? Do we live in a post-industrial, knowledge society, or instead in the possibility of a new industrial order, in which industrial classes are pitted against the excesses of finance capital?  Bernard Stiegler (Paris) and Scott Lash will address these and other issues in an exchange on 9 January in the second in the Goldsmiths’ Centre for Cultural Studies’ series of Interventions in Critical Political Economy.

http://www.gold.ac.uk/cultural-studies/

Fragrancy

 Wanna eat at this restaurant tonight!

Beyond Borders.

Possible blurb for the book on borders (edited volume, nearly done, press details soon)

Beyond Borders – ed, John Hutnyk

This collection of essays, graphics and theatre displaces our understandings of borders so that we cannot look the same way at that which invades our everyday, that which kills and excludes, that which sounds out across divides and that which connects and soothes. Addressing activism, philosophy, film, art and music, the book includes a graphic essay on the Gaza Flotilla and an original play The Detention Centre. Essays by prominent scholars and writers address citizenship, visa queues, the home economy, philanthropy, student fees, transportation, terror, camps, poetic license and more. The book makes a virtue of the chance encounter of creativity with structure so as to invent new angles on the politics of borders and movement, breaking with regulatory thinking and always looking to slip under or over the wire. The border effect is everywhere, even between our pages. We are for rampant transgressions – and an end to borders of death.

 

And a first stab at an even more abstract longer rave for it:

 

> The border is not only geography and vision – though a line on the map and the sign at immigration control are our most immediate experiences of control – the border is also a process, an order, an iteration, uneven, performative and aural. The border is not just at the edge or boundary, it is also in the street, in the post, in the pub. The border operates between people. The hand raised to silence the offer of the migrant DVD salesperson who interrupts your quiet enjoyment of a beer – that too is a brutal moment of border control. Although of course we can insist that state boundaries are also porous, continually bypassed, more and less easily, in so many different ways; immigration control still stands as a block to movement and mediation.

>> The resonance of the war and power is strong here – echoing with the sounds of silence, dispossession and death to which our eyes become deaf, our ears have become blind. If we recognize the border is not just the port, but the entire city, as in “everywhere, in everything we do”, in each interaction between people related, somehow somewhere to belonging – how violent this is – if we recognize the border as a wall between us all, then we might see reason to have to reconfigure the very idea of nation, boundary and movement that so distracts us. Here, the border is not just at the edge, but at any port, at the immigration office, in the postal service that delivers the visa, in the police checks, the detention procedure – in the everyday reactions of people to each other even as they stand and stare. So, if we think of the way sound and meaning travels across the border, might we start to develop ways of thinking critically against this geographic boundary – and the old models of nation, culture, race that the border secures. What would it be to ask critically about, and so reject, the way we have fixed the border through property, maps, geography – and so leave that space that has been deaf to other movements, transmissions, resonances. Would this work things differently, otherwise?

>> Is our boundary prejudice built into the structure of the border control? A logic of presence, geography and vision govern the strong sense of truth that belongs to knowledge. We say knowledge is divided into fields (geography) and seem most often to register knowing through a confident designation. We indicate truths by pointing (vision), there is presence in understanding. Now perhaps there is an alternative in the metaphoric code with which we name movement and sound. It may be possible to hear a more critical tone, to raise questions about the assertions of certitude – when critical we say we are not sure we agree, we doubt, we say we do not like the tone. Can thinking through travel, time and sound suggest new ways of linking across the borders between us all – as sound crosses the border in ways that tamper with visual and geographic blocks (pirate radio, music, language, the sound of falling bombs…). But we also say, when critical, that we cannot see the point. Ahh, with this last the too easy divide of metaphor into those that point and assert knowledge through vision and those that question and challenge through sound does finally break down. But perhaps there is something in sound that can suggest more, that allows us at least to listen to another possibility, temporarily opening up ears and minds.

>> But borders are also blocks. And we are complicit in this myopia. The management of the border is a mass participation project operated absentmindedly by all of us all day. Through an overkill of commentary and a shifting, churning hierarchy, the profiles, stereotypes and judgements that are constantly made yet so often denied are the guilty enactment of this regime. Border Police do their work – spot check, detention, deportation – all the better because our everywhere everyday distracted border operation is there in all we do.

> It is often thought, but we could be more precise – that movement across borders of all kinds is a good thing, breaking taboos and genre rules is an unmitigated good. Of course, cross disciplinarity is claimed as a boon (in cultural studies for sure), but clearly other crossings – of capital, of weapons, of imperial power – are not so welcome. Capital moves one way, surplus value extraction another. Cross-border global movement (music distribution, television news, democracy) might not always be a boon. No doubt pirate radio enjoys much approval, but communications media also have a less favourable heritage (radio as used, say, by the National Socialists in Germany) and present (the contemporary normative narrations of ‘democracy’ by the Voice of America, the BBC, or with the televisual uniformity of CNN). A more careful thinking that notes the metaphors of critique, distinguishes movement and sonic registers that affirm or disavow, works to undo that which destroys and divides, fosters that which unites, organises capacity to live otherwise with others…-

>> Beyond Borders is supported by an AHRC Beyond Text programme Network Grant and the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, and is edited volume with work by John Hutnyk, Leila Whitley, Enis Oktay, Angela, Rachel Palmer, Nabil Ahmed, Liz Thompson, Ben Rosenzweig, Ewa Jasiewicz, Raul Gschrey, Rico Reyes, María-José, Carla Mueller-Schulke, Kiwi Menrath, Rangan Chakravarty, Johannes Anyuru and Aleksander Moturri.>

Sophie Fuggle’s Review of Vattimo and Zabala’s “Hermeneutic Communism”

Review by Sophie Fuggle – click the title to go to the page and see the book cover and Mdm Mim cartoon.

Review of Hermeneutic Communism by Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala (Columbia University Press, 2011)

At the end of In Defence of Lost Causes, Žižek calls for a return to the egalitarian terror of the Stalinist regime as the only option for circumventing the imminent expiration of the planet. His deliberate misreading of Jean-Pierre Dupuy’s ‘enlightened catastrophism’ along with his avowal that this will most likely fail (in accordance with the Beckettian maxim) does little to convince despite his compelling argument for being done with the weak thought that has paralysed the intellectual left for so long.

This seems to be just a substitution of one set of atrocities for another. And at the same time I am also left wondering whether much of the apparently incendiary remarks made by the intellectual left – calls to revolution, insurrection and terror à la Robespierre as a response to the cuts, crises and general fucked-up state of the world under the shadow of neo-liberalism – don’t actually continue to embody the ‘weak’ thought of the 80s and 90s.

First off – it seems highly unlikely that today’s tenured academic has the wherewithal to organise anything other than a seminar series and sometimes even that proves too much. Or the guts to carry out the systematic violence demanded by the type of revolution they appear to be advocating. Standing up to a colleague in a departmental meeting or writing a nasty book review is not tantamount to operating the guillotine. Academic discourse takes place within certain conditions of possibility and strives to maintain these conditions which is really a safe playground where a lot of overgrown children can kick sand in each others faces, fight over whose turn it is to go on the swing and still be friends when the bell rings.

Second, and this is really the point being made by Vattimo and Zabala, is revolution or insurrection a genuine possibility and, moreover, genuinely desireable? The police brutality during the protests over tuition fees in the UK at the end of 2010 and more recently at UC Davis during a rally against, erm, police brutality should make it clear that there are more than enough mercenaries for hire prepared to do the dirty work of those with power and wealth.

Coupled with the continued growth of the war industry, that marriage of convenience between global, deterritorialised flows of capital and nation-state building, anyone planning a serious affront to capitalism needs to think carefully about the tools or weapons at their disposal. Security, torture and imprisonment are now all part of the service industry and as such can all be outsourced to the cheapest bidder. Someone, somewhere will always be willing to do the job. Even Macbeth managed to put together some sort of army against MacDuff.

Direct physical opposition which while it might begin peacefully enough must eventually lead to violent confrontation in the form of evictions, arrests, kettling, pepper spraying, water cannons and beyond. The bottom line of fighting back is that capitalism has the missiles and is happy to use them.

So where does dispensing with the ‘might is right’ principle leave us? Back at ‘weak’ thought, it appears.

Here I can’t help but think of the fight between Merlin and the witch, Madam Mim, in the Sword in the Stonecartoon. As Madam Mim transforms herself into increasingly larger, more threatening creatures, Merlin’s somewhat ad-hoc magic turns him into ever smaller, more useless animals. The weak thought in the face of the ever-growing, fire-breathing monster of capitalism.

Where we are repeatedly reminded by Vattimo and Zabala that ‘the weak are the discharge of capitalism’, weakness should not simply be taken as a state or position of passivity. Instead what is at stake is a process of weakening which needs to be carried out upon existing political, social and economic structures. And herein lies the role of hermeneutics. Interpret the world again and again in order to resist prescriptive forms of truth which have totalising function. This means engaging in conversations not staging dialogues (which always presuppose given positions and conditions of possibility).

The failure of communism in its earlier manifestations is due to its being underpinned by a will to power which can only lead to despotism. What happens once the revolution is declared complete? The (re)imposition of the very power structures that were the ideological basis for revolution in the first instance. Communism must thus always be considered a process which whilst based on utopian, romantic desires as opposed to the quest for scientific, totalising truth can never be declared complete.

Hermeneutic Communism is compelling in its pursuit of a postmodern project long considered ineffectual and self-defeating. However, it unfortunately does little more than go through the motions with the obligatory rehabilitation of Heidegger as voice of dissent against totalising systems of truth. More interesting perhaps is the discussion of emergency – highlighting the precise lack of emergency as precisely what is wrong in contemporary society. An antidote to all the empty claims of urgency by the intellectual left which are thinly disguised marketing strategies for selling more books. Again, Capitalism is not in Crisis, it is crisis. War does not stop industry, it is industry. There’s nothing human about human rights. And so it goes on.

South American communism. Having already rehabilitated Heidegger, the final part of the book is focused on giving Chavez a bit more positive spin than he tends to get in the mainstream press. In my view, this section promises much and should be the selling point for the whole hermeneutic communism argument. But the discussion feels vague, tacked on as an afterthought. This is the kind of writing I warn my students against –shoving in a case study at the end of an essay is an exercise in bad faith. Sadly, Hermeneutic Communism does little to further debates around the various political regimes currently operating in Latin America. Chavez et al. seem to have been fetishized simply because they offer alternatives to the CIA-imposed governments of previous decades. This is not to say there are not useful, contemporary models to be explored here but this can’t be done in 20 pages or so.

So in a sense Vattimo and Zabala fall short of their own maxim – more interpretation is needed…

.

I like this review a lot, but I have issues with the ‘failure of communism in its earlier manifestations’ paragraph.

‘The failure of communism in its earlier manifestations is due to its being underpinned by a will to power which can only lead to despotism. What happens once the revolution is declared complete? The (re)imposition of the very power structures that were the ideological basis for revolution in the first instance. Communism must thus always be considered a process which whilst based on utopian, romantic desires as opposed to the quest for scientific, totalising truth can never be declared complete.’

- in what sense do we think that early communism was a failure? – I mean compared to the wreck that is capitalism, communist successes – 1917, 1949, 1959, 1975 – were quite something. Incomplete yes, but that was always understood, at least by Lenin, Luxemburg, and even the renegade Trotsky, but pretty near everyone else as well, especially Mao with the GPCR, insisting on permanent revolution. Mao and the ‘gang’ of four died at the hands of those who declared the Chinese experiment over (well, Mao also died a bit from old age I suppose). Yet it seems you mean to say something more/different than that the Chinese restoration of Capitalism was ‘re-imposition of the very power structures that were the ideological basis for revolution’. By suggesting communism always, unless its just an ‘idea’ (pace Zizek), ends up in trouble is effectively regurgitating the despotic as scare-mongering and this is not useful – to then contrast this despotism with some flighty utopio-romance version of communism is flakey. The alternatives are not hippies v Stalin, its socialism or barbarism.

Citizens: On Marx and Kane (talk abstract for 16.3.2012)

This is the abstract, or at least the opening move, of what I wil say at the “Marx at the Movies” conference at Uni of Central Lancashire in March.

Citizens: On Marx and Kane.

In reading Capital, if anything about beginnings should be considered necessary, it might be good just to start with what is immediately at hand. There is much much discussion and theory about this, and its probably naïve to simply say that materialism might start with things themselves, but why not start with the objects, commodities, souvenirs or detritus of our lives? There surely is enough stuff of which to take account in our contemporary world.

The key to the beginning of volume one is where Marx starts with ‘an immense collection of commodities’, but there are many possible starts… So, I want to begin with something, or even someone, who might seem the total antithesis of the celebrated critic of capitalism. Marx was not a rich man, however well bred, well married, well educated, he was in and out of the pawn shop, knew a lot, intimately, about debt, borrowing, credit, and – as is very well known – relied upon a certain moneybags called Frederic Engels very often to get by. Engels though, whatever his peculiar foibles in taking up with two sisters, riding to hounds, effecting a mourning jacket and partial to fine liqueurs, does not deserve to be lampooned as much as the figure with which I want to begin. I choose a character from the not too far removed history of Capitalism, though glossed through a film – I have in mind the life of William Randolph Hearst. Moneybags. As portrayed by Orsen Welles in the film Citizen Kane.

In this talk, I want to develop this as an introduction to Capital, through a contrary incarnation in the figure of moneybags Kane, and begin to get at commodities through a focus on the kind of obscure, miniature, almost irrelevant and insignificant of objects to hand – those baubles and trinkets that mesmerize us all. When the film opens, Kane’s life is over, the story ends before it begins – the ‘No Trespassing’ sign raising questions at the beginning to flummox would-be explanations of a man’s life, or – since we know the ending – to dissuade us from thinking that Kane’s life can be referred back to the primordial snow globe scene where he is wrenched from his sled, and his mother, and catapulted into education, the news, the world… abundance and loss. Kane is a collector – and the one thing he hangs onto is the snow globe. The first sequence of the film has him dropping it as he dies, it shatters… A cinematic object, collected, contemplated, pondered, shaken, smashed. A snow dome is not always a frozen moment, its kitsch relevance to the everyday and its souvenir quality make it both domestic and profound, familiar, but also strangely remote. Miniaturized, yet televisual. I am fascinated by these domes.

John Hutnyk

Pantomime Terror Lecture 30.9.2008

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xmoidd_pantomime-terror_news

This, here, for the gnawing criticism of the mice, is my inaugural Professorial lecture at Goldsmiths September 30 2008. Details: presented by Professor John Hutnyk of the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths. Title: ‘Pantomime Terror: the paranoid commuter and the danger of music’. Introduced by Professor Geoffrey Crossick. Please note there is a missing part at 48;38 where there was a tape changeover. At this point its important to know I discussed the Fun^da^mental video DIY Cookbook, available here: http://dai.ly/aZeu7n
and there is a bit of the discussion is missing, but covered in this blog post:http://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2007/05/12/cookbook-diy-video/ – sorry its complicated, but if you like the first 48 mins, then why not watch the short 3 min FDM vid, read the short blog, then return for the eccentric finale!
Thanks heaps to Adela for filming this.

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