Click on the image to get to Daily Motion to play. 55 mins. Thanks Raul Gschrey: it is on the same material as the last section of the book Pantomime Terror
Click on the image to get to Daily Motion to play. 55 mins. Thanks Raul Gschrey: it is on the same material as the last section of the book Pantomime Terror
There’s a whole section on Wagner in this, and some humour. For the record… (you can preorder by clicking the cover):
Click here to preorder: http://www.zero-books.net/books/pantomime-terror
Notes for talk at Goldsmiths strike UCU ‘teach out’. 31.10.2013
Notes for Museum ‘debate’ in Liverpool on November 11.
There is much talk of participation and much effort to remodel foyers, and to an extent interiors, plus toilets, cafes, bookshops and websites, to enable easy access. Asked to be curmudgeon-esque, it seems clear to me that this participation-talk is pseudo-participation. Every participation seems the same, everything alike, repeated patterns, even colour schemes – so many pastels, and fluorescent red plastic chairs. Some of the chairs are little, for kids, or for breaking dad’s back.
How did it get to be that pseudo-participation rules? The dominant culture has no anxiety about having people walk past the exhibits, but do not let them touch you. File on by, stop perhaps for a second, for an hour, but only in a standardized way. Check the visit off on a list. Culture 101.
Nothing without regulation – aims and outcomes carefully calibrated on a planning form that no-one reads, inside a system dominated by the same malignant and parasitic bureaucracy that has overtaken health and education in the hyper-administration. The bureaucracy does not even administer anything today, just keeps the forms in circulation, and the school groups filing through the doors.
And it is this pseudo-routine that must be thoroughly tested. We must know our audience, using the very latest in dumbed-down questionnaires that even newspaper-selling leftist street-vendors would disavow except as props. This is not even market research – so long as the school groups keep on marching past in tight formation. Participation in the most bland formal sameness – Adorno pointed to a sexual lozenge at the heart of the culture industry, and for sure he also meant the museum as pseudo-education. Where everything should be clean. ‘Nothing should be moist’.
We are so far from education here except education as reinforced class privilege. Education is not a two-hour visit – give them 20 hours, even 20 weeks – and they must read in advance. Here cultural exposure is not instruction but packaged ‘culture’ – and education is not a social good, but ‘education’ as national programming. An articulated system for inculcating national ideology and the flat flat flat dissemination of British identity and imaginary pasts. Books in the bookshop on popular themes – tea, crockery, swords. The empty materials that can be rearranged for some groups to dominate others.
Because commodification is the new rule, just like the old one. Different levels according to price, knick-knacks or bespoke jewelry, a café and a bistro, a members room. The collection is sacrificed to the expansion of the foyer, the t-shirts and tote bags carry the branded museum like a picture on a mug. There is no room for the collection, but room aplenty for postcard reproductions. The collection is not a collection, not a research effort, not a scholarly project, but a beauty contest.
Three props – a toy wooden horse, my gilt-edged copy of Arabian Nights, and a carved wooden Ganesh idol.
Participation cannot be a Trojan Horse, smuggling the old kings of the elite cloister into the pockets of a population plundered and left to rue the day. Participation is not a flash mob.
Neither should we rest with the admirable storytelling device of Scheherazade from the epic One Thousand and One Nights. She tells stories every night – Sinbad, Ali Baba, Aladdin – to ward off the threat of the despotic ruler Shahryar, and through her stories eventually she turns him to good. But insofar as this leaves the storyteller as the one with power, and the king in place, the population remains a distant audience, titillated, but fundamentally untouched. Great stories they are, but the structure of interrogation remains, she could be telling her stories to the despotic king, or in Guantanamo today to the CIA interrogators, or the national press. What she needs to do is teach others to tell stories, and this also takes time – perhaps 1001 nights, sometimes more, different in each case and not a blanket solution. Democracy is not an occasionally vote.
What if it were Ganesh that ran the museum. Tasked with writing down the epic Mahabharata – 100 thousand verses – as it was told by the sage Vyasa, Ganesh’s pencil wears down and in order to keep transcribing he snaps off his tusk and dips it in ink to continue. He is the patron of all studious soles, dedicated to a popular scholarship, unending. He is not an occasional visitor on a joy ride.
What we need perhaps is the best of all three of these figures. Enticement into the museum, by horse if need be, then good stories that undo the games of dominant power, and a celebration of scholarship that is not just a two-hour visit, but a lifelong commitment. Museums might be this. With these patrons.
Notes on the coming disturbance…
Laughing when I feel like crying
Crying when I feel like dying
You’re not mine so I waste my time in pantomime
Bring on the girls and the parties, yeah
Guitars and drums beating time
Be merry, be gay and hardy, yeah
I’m set for this pantomime.
- Roy Orbison
Reading around for Panto stuff again, and remembering Marx’s fascination with Robinsonades:
Robinson Crusoe crops up a number of times, either as a title or as a character. Of course Steve Shaw’s Robinson Crusoe takes its title from the novel by Daniel Defoe, but since the pantomime tradition does not leave much room for solitary castaways, the plot voyages a long way from the original, and Crusoe’s desert island is populated by a tribe of islanders and an eccentric gorilla. James Barry’s approach to the same classic is to assume that Crusoe distorted his account somewhat, hence James’s small cast version of the story is Robinson Crusoe – the Truth!
For those in Denmark – get to CPH:DOX for I am Fiction (click image to be transported to the CPH:DOX page):
Lists, of Paris nightlife attractions. How can this not be known as antecedent of Benjamin’s Arcades? It links boulevards and commune and trinkets and more, it goes on to interweave opera, mischief, music and revolutions, and Panto! Brilliant, overlooked book.
Then, the delight that presents itself to the stumbling pedestrian. Organ grinders (18th Brumaire) cannot be far from Ziggy’s mind here. Turks!
And now, even better, the arcades themselves described as a grotto. Underworld phantasmagoria – with an educational mission.
my bit is from 20:10 mins to 41:00, then the discussion. The Red Tape site is here: http://redtape.rca.ac.uk/2012_02.html All thanks to Deshna Mehta and the fine people that make up the Red Tape gang.
A piece written before this week’s release of Bad Girls, coming out soon in Social Identities.
Abstract: The recent work of the Sri-Lankan-British musician and sonic ‘curator’ known as M.I.A. (real name: Mathangi Arulpragasam) is considered as a commentary on atrocity and read alongside the well known essay ‘The Storyteller’ by Walter Benjamin and comments on Auschwitz by Theodor Adorno. The storytelling here is updated for a contemporary context where global war impacts us all, more or less visibly, more, or less, acknowledged. It is argued that the controversy over M.I.A.’s Romain Gavras video Born Free is exemplary of the predicament of art in the face of violence, crisis and terror – with this track, and video, M.I.A.’s work faced a storm of criticism which I want to critique in turn, in an attempt, at least, to learn to make or discern more analytic distinctions amongst concurrent determinations of art A careful reading of Adorno can in the end teach us to see Born Free anew.
Keywords: Benjamin, Adorno, Gavras, M.I.A, music, terror, racism, orientalism.
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.
So, with the trajectory of a screaming scud missile, SKY News hones in on the zero-degree-point of trinketization and renders ‘The Fall of Tripoli™’ as a pantomime circus. Pleased as I am with my hats, these guys have rendered the geopolitical as farce better than SZ or KM or BBC et al. How NATO saves (we mean it man).
OK, it is ironic since blue jeans are also a uniform, its commercial pap from a megacorp, it is like saying the real thing is coke and meaning the fizzy drink, it is a trinketized and aestheticized cash-in on the atmosphere of dissent in present-day London, and it is an advert that has already been pulled because the company fears a backlash that may accompany the vicious reactionary clampdown and paranoia fueled by lying politicians and complicit media, but it is worth having a tab linking to anything to might point to a world of expression even if it is being erased as we speak… while I neither condone or endorse this, ahem, here it is for as long as its still up on that revolutionary social media we know as YouTube:
AUGUST 12, 2011by flashbank
Postscript – A Response to Comments
Dr. Sofia Himmelblau
(This was written as a response to various comments made regarding my previous post and has also been reposted there)
My previous post appears to have sparked a huge amount of controversy….
Keep reading Dr Himmelblau’s response here.
Yesterday’s spike in stats:
|#riotcleanup or #riotwhitewash?||11,479|
|An actual first-hand account||203|
|Conference: On Violence||142|
|A riot is the language of the unread||118|
|“This is criminality, pure and simple…”||50|
Some might think this bad taste. I think its a hoot, and bad taste. A commercial sell-out I’d missed – Nitin Sawhney, Romain Gavras (who also did the MIA vid I am writing about) Mélanie Thierry working together on a Yves Saint Laurent advert with dodgy choreography by Akram Khan. My thanks to Dr Royona Mitra for pointing me at this in her excellent thesis on Akram’s performances. Finding the vein was my addition though - Thierry/voiceover says in the film ‘I am your addiction’ - even as getting this screen shot was a bit time consuming. Everyone should all know you can’t mainline opium of course, duffer trickster exoticists. The whole film is here: http://belledopium.com/en_CA/artistes.html#/film/
The three fucking amigos, bastard dingbat flunkies from obsolete piggy pollie parties each singing from the same hymn sheet trying to save face and protect a disgraced plenipotentiary (propaganda wing of Capital). Fuck them. And the faded pundit celebrities lining up to resurrect careers with the odd critical quip, sitting on studio couches alongside spotlight mesmerized reality TV News instant message heroes, with the redhead hung out to twist her curls in the wind as Sideshow Bob while the war rages unabashed. The ferocity of feeling that measures anger, the acute sensibility despite the taunts of crazed coppers, the articulate parallel sphere that insists on the urgent and relevant news not this dumbshow pantomime – give me that. A revolution is brewing, the cauldron is boiling in the wings, the vat will fit them nicely, we’ll pop on the lid and let them boil. Turn off these three stooges of the parliamentary path and lets watch something funny. Parliament, Sporting events, and Kettles are cheap television because the cameras know in advance where the action will be (contained). Close it all down, not just the tabloids and the phantasmagoric sky, we can make it all anew.
The book version of a commentary on various things Fun^da^mental (plus stuff on the Kumars at No. 42, Jean Charles de Menezes, Forest Gate, and the general mayhem of war-on-terror culture) is now out in a volume edited by Ian Peddie. Some of this material first appeared in various places across this blog, and was my inaugural lecture.
Punch and Judy (redux from 27.08.08). The grim and glum reality of opportunism is today more and more prevalent, more and more accessed, acquiesced, more or more or less bad, worse than before. We are confronted on all sides by both overt and covert ‘research’ groups, by think tanks and lobbyists, who have decided – in a climate of total war – that we need to attend to (the control of) the global public sphere. The tanksters are interested in ideas, in projects and in strategies, they are interested in the management of feelings, the orchestration of responses, they are interested in refining a certain clarity of message. They bring us bread and circuses – both stale.
Their boosterism says nothing. The climate they encourage thrives on the sentiment of abstract disengagement – alongside the promulgation of procedure and the ‘dictatorship of the secretariat’ – they persuade us that we abjure our interest or involvement in political questions because a) things are too complex and b) complexity needs to be controlled.
These people are sceptics who rail against scepticism. They present themselves as those who present answers, but the way they do so cynically narrows the space of answers to a tightly controlled furrow. The engagement they favour is disengagement except on their own studiously abstract terms. There is no room for the questioning of sceptics in their cynical world.
And then they sometimes claim they are for democracy – but not broadband democracy or open debate – rather a pay-per-view, programme management, narrowcasting, niche-market democracy. Their democracy excludes debate, questions, objections and alternatives. They have long ago vetoed the possibility of thinking outside the box, for there lies danger, difference, a multiplicity that cannot be corralled. The box must always have a brand mark, a slogan, a font or a strapline – sometimes just a colour (the colour is always drab).
They promote their insights as research, as scholarship, as traditional values and as wisdom – but they are faceless, passionless, automatons – going though the motions (jack boots are not far away, but they forgo them for frequent flyer miles and airport lounge privileges).
I do of course think there are more than two sides – the lines shift and the players change, sometimes swapping, sometimes double agents. But there are some, the best you can say of them is that while they are one of ‘them’, they do at least talk like ‘us’. We should carefully watch these ones especially.
Who are they? In fact they are us. Turn again Dick Whittington, Turn again.
And why Dick Whittington? – see here for both the real and the Pantomime story, where a cloth-merchant adventurer pilfers some gold, travels to the orient to get rich, and returns to London to become Mayor. OK, this all happened 700 years ago, but the cat seems to have nine lives. These are notes for Pantomime Terror – inaugural on 30/09/08 (5.30, IGLT Goldsmiths).