Category Archives: trinketization

1981 back to school

The cover and inside cover of my school folder from FTG High. Circa Sept 1981.

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Trinketization

gvgTrinketization’s empty grandeur, its insistently vacant abundance, the warm hollow stare of a fickle devotion.

Key ring terror distractor trinket

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Tucked in a side street in London Bridge today, a police stand handing out devices which I suspect.

I suspect an effort to distract from this evening’s BBCLondon report that Scotland Yard’s heavily redacted Operation Tiberius investigation covers up the exposure of 42 senior cops (and 19 former cops) for close links with drug crime and contract killings.

It is our duty, we are told: if you suspect it, report it.

J’suspect!

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On offer: this little show-bag of stuff from the dodgy non-uniform suits who refused to be photographed. I guess the key ring for terror is handy because I so want to be carrying that number around with me as a permanent anxiety reminder. That it came in what seems to be a used gram bag may only be coincidentally linked with the – let me repeat – exposure today that 42 members of the senior police were well paid crime syndicate stooges – as revealed in documents from Operation Tiberius previously heavily redacted by Scotland Yard but exposed tonight by BBCLondon.

The pen speaks for itself, was it previously used to sign payola cheques perhaps? I suspect it, so I report it.

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And this one just really is the perfect Fathers Day Trinket, no?

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FFS, I say, for fucks sake. Get these people a water cannon as soon as possible. Anyone need a news item to distract from the – did I mention – massive exposure of senior cops linked to crime syndicates?

Trinketization as damage control.

BBC Magazine trinketizing

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A bit of pointless commentary that would have had more impact had it come out at the time:

What would you take from your desk?

Leaving with just a box

By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine

If you were told to clear your desk of personal belongings and leave the building, like staff at the UK headquarters of Lehman Brothers, what would you take?
Photos of the kids, spare ties, trainers, mugs – a cuddly toy? What was in the cardboard boxes being clutched by stunned staff as they left the London offices of the bankrupt US investment bank Lehman Brothers?.

SEND PICS OF YOUR DESK

Email: yourpics@bbc.co.uk, subject DESK

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The bank’s 5,000-strong workforce turned up on Monday only to be told they were to clear their desks of personal items and go home. Images of the newly out-of-work carrying their possessions were beamed around the world
But if you got the same instructions from an employer, what would go into your box?
“I’d take a piece of card with my name written in Arabic on it, a 30-year-old photo of my school football team, a Barcelona football club mug, a copy of my friend’s novel, a two-year-old thank you card from a student, some spare contact lenses, an iPod charger and two pairs of shoes,” says teacher Chris Baxter.
“Mainly they’re little things, but most of them are very personal. A lot of the time I don’t really focus on them, but other times they trigger good memories. I wouldn’t want to leave them behind.”
For some it’s a case of accumulation by stealth, rather than a conscious decision to personalise a drab little corner of corporate space.

Cats pics go in Mag reader Siria’s box
“Generally, I have a problem with what I call the ‘trinketisation’ of one’s workstation, so I don’t have things like pictures or figurines to take away with me,” says fellow teacher Sian Allen.
“But I would take my draw full of shoes for various social occasions after work, including one pair of Manolos.
“Also a broken iPod, six Tupperware pots in various sizes, a M&S bra with broken under wiring, a selection of unread classics, half-used packets of Ibuprofen and a small selection of thank you cards with obsequious messages from students, to remind me that I am loved and appreciated.”
When people personalise their desk they are marking their territory, says workplace behavioural expert Judi James.
Socialising
“It’s something humans are hardwired to do. We’re basically animals and need to mark out what is our space. We’re also nesting and making ourselves comfortable.”
But it’s also about opening ourselves up to others and that can be very good for business.
“Personalising your work space is also about giving other people the opportunity to ask questions, it’s about socialising,” says workplace psychologist Gary Fitzgibbon.

A few little friend would go with reader Thomas Cogley
“If someone sees a photo on your desk, or picture, it is easier for them to strike up a conversation and for communication to flow. Generally, if someone shows an interest in you, then you are more likely to help them when they ask.”
But the evolution of the modern office environment, with its hot desking, can make stamping some personality on your workspace a bit harder. Modern technology has also had an impact.
“There probably wasn’t many family pictures in those boxes being carried out from Lehman Brothers because the screensaver has replaced them,” says Ms James.
“Nowadays, personal possessions at work quite often come down to a pair of trainers and tracksuit for the gym.”
Here is a selection of items that you would take from your desks.
I think I’d be content with my Alfa Romeo mouse mat and the rather dog-eared pictures of Joyce Grenfell and Margaret Rutherford that are currently adorning the casing of my monitor.
Jonathan, London
If only Faust had heard of hot desking.
John, Tower Hamlets, London, England
In front of me I have a model house, a toy TARDIS, two sea shells, a model of a 17th Century English pikeman and a picture of Kate Blanchett. Me, a geek? How very dare you sir …
Mike Molcher, Leeds
On my desk I have: A jar of honey (for my morning porridge); the Statue of Liberty (obviously a copy – a souvenir of a trip to NY); hand cream; tea bags; a stapler (a battery-operated one I brought with me); my mug, bowl, plate, spoon, knife and fork; a container full of porridge oats; a packet of dried apricots; a packet of chopped nuts; several notebooks full of information; vitamin C tablets; and a packet of instant pasta – red wine and mushroom flavour! Also a few other bits and pieces scattered on the shelved behind me, including a coat, pair of shoes, items to do with my motorcycle club (newsletters etc.) and my hole punch.
Anne Boyce, Halifax, England
I have a longboard, rock from mountain, pic of my two-year-old old daughter, pic of Johnny Cash, rear view glasses.
Ste Mc, Leeds, UK
I have a picture of my dog to remind me of her, pencil with funny tops on them from places I’ve been around the world, a little cartoon character figurine (Chucky from The Rugrats) a stone that’s supposed to be good luck.. bright coloured tabs on each side of my monitor with phone extensions just to brighten my desk area up. My drawers are filled with food for breakfast and lunch!
Emma Hamilton, Lisburn, NI
What would I take? Everything that wasn’t nailed down!
Paul, Stoke, UK
10 weeks ago on my redundancy I took: 1. All my personal bits & pieces. 2. As much of the stationary cupboard as I could pour into my large cardboard box. 3. Several DVD’s of data & client info. 4. As many of the data wall-charts (£1200 each) as I could fold up and put in my cardboard box. 5. My company laptop that I just happened to have left at home the previous week. 5. Anything else that wasn’t bolted down in my office. 6. Oh, and a smug smile on my face.

Terrorism gone to pot (not that kind) #trinket #trinketisation #crimbo

Sophie keeps on finding pantomime crimbo trinkets – these one’s on special – mustn’t be selling so well.

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Trinkets in Critique of Exotica #trinketization

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trinkets in The Rumour of Calcutta #trinketization

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get it here: http://zedbooks.co.uk/node/13018

 

‘”hush now” you have your trinkets”‘ @rustyrockets

The little red book of Brand is being composed almost live (excerpt at will):

‘… a faraway land is silently ironed out from an Arizona call centre? The reality is we have more in common with the people we’re bombing than the people we’re bombing them for.’

Tipu Trinkets and speculative plunder

This passage from Maya Jasanoff’s book on colonial and East India Company collections, p 182 – it should be read alongside an earlier post on ‘Tipu’s slippers’, filched by Lady Clive and now in Powis Castle.

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Participation in Museums: Trinketizing the Audience.

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.

_______________

Stagnation and iPhone 5c #iphone #speed #trinket

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With no real movement in the austerity capital that was imposed through fear, the iPhone candy coloured stagnation dream baby is the must have trinket for go-nowhere fast slow capital. Trillions could be invested but is sitting idle waiting for finance market opportunities that will not arise, bonus culture keeps a fraction of the ruling class in clover, but forced austerity for the rest all keeps the squeeze on what might otherwise be a full employment economy. Full employment would mean no leverage and threat on jobs, no need to dangle shiny baubles of distraction before those with false spending power future credit/debt and no need to manufacture a proto-fascist military policing at home and abroad to keep the peace pieces. Your trinket is the symbol of a stalled and broken system, afeared of development because Chinese and Russian capital would swoop, afeared of employment because the demand would soon not just be for a 1940s style welfare compact but root and branch transformation, afeared because its clear, from August 2011 for example, that the facade of Olympic glory, new sports channels and iPhone video streaming will not be firewall enough to contain the coming revolt. The iPhone five is the shiny bauble of a frozen momentum, a deep coloured snow globe of ice where we will be thinking of fire. Light up folks, light it up.

written on my mnemotechnical retentional device baby
#iphone #speed #pantomime #trinket

Structure

theme – trinket – introduction

repetition of theme – short version, long version, large and small

relation to whole

specificity

transitions, incidental

development – fate – of theme as it changes

repetitions – in different registers

rhythm, tempo, volume, intensity

reversal, dynamic, relation of components, inversion of same

further development of the whole, structure as anagram of specificity

differential overall structures and framing

being able to locate each element in the overall context

asymmetry, exceptions, incommensurables

 

 

Trinketization thrives

Trinketization thrives on allegorical storytelling, like an old anthropologist telling once again the story of the masquerades seen as a critique of colonial power. Or rather, trinketization would be this allegory if it were enamoured only with the fetish and not something like analogy, symbol, metaphor, synecdoche, hyperbole and irony (hat tip Don Miller).

195 trinketization

Each miniature sculpture, which stands less than a meter (3.3 feet) tall,...

DPA

“Four shades of red: To honor Karl Marx’ 195th birthday, artist Ottmar Hörl set 500 of these sculptures up throughout the philosopher’s hometown of Trier, a city in western Germany near the border with Luxembourg. The different shades are reportedly meant to suggest that Marxism can be interpreted in more than one way.

Political artist Ottmar Hörl captured headlines from away from his hometown of Nuremberg in 2009 when he created garden gnomes performing Nazi salutes. And now he’s back to making what he hopes will be another controversial statement.

Each miniature sculpture, which stands less than a meter (3.3 feet) tall, portrays Marx in the exact same pose, but in different shades of red. “I want to inspire pedestrians to think about Karl Marx in a different way,” Hörl explains while his installation is being set up next to Trier’s historic Roman city gate, Porta Nigra, adding that the German philosopher has often been misinterpreted.”

HT Karen, – from:  Philosopher as Farce: Artist Immortalizes Marx as Garden Gnome  Sebastian Hammelehle

Note 33

Trinketization is both a reductive appropriation of everything to commodification, as if that were somehow the fully articulated explanation;

AND

Trinketization is the proliferation of theorizations of that commodity desiccation that atomises a paralyzingly abundant fascination and desire

Trinketization Dream Job

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Trinketization with respect to Benjamin’s obsessions with kitsch – mediation between magic and positivism

… with respect to Benjamin’s obsessions with kitsch: Adorno writes to Benjamin trying to wean him from his trinket mania, get him to sort out the Arcades, and get him on a boat to New York. Along the way (I think) he invents the theory of trinketization. Keen to affirm his institutional solidarity with Benjamin, Adorno is careful not to insist on any orthodox version of Marxism, but he also warns against an abdication from Marxist theory:

“The impression which your entire study conveys – and not only to me with my Arcades orthodoxy – is that you have here done violence upon yourself. Your solidarity with the Institute, which pleases no-one more than myself, has led you to pay the kind of tributes to Marxism which are appropriate neither to Marxism nor to yourself. Not appropriate to Marxism because the mediation through the entire social process is missing and because of a superstitious tendency to attribute to mere material enumeration a power of illumination which really belongs to theoretical construction … you have denied yourself your boldest and most fruitful ideas through a kind of pre-censorship in accordance with materialist categories (which by no means correspond to Marxist ones)” (Adorno to Benjamin 10 November 1938, Benjamin/Adorno 1994/1999: 284).

This suggests that Benjamin was merely coquetting with the forms of Marxist theory and not thinking them through – coquetting is Marx’s diminutive word in Capital for where he used the language and style of Hegel, in an analysis that went well beyond Hegel, see the Forward to Marx 1867/1967. On Adorno’s reading – of the draft – Benjamin might be confirmed as ‘the [nice, harmless, cute, ‘bad’] Marxist that you could take home to meet your mother’ (as someone, I forget who, once said). Adorno is teasing and pushing him to be more inventive and rigorous with his connections – all at the same time. And it is connections to which he is attuned, noting:

“a close connection between those places where your essay falls behind its own a priori and its relationship to dialectical materialism … Let me express myself in as simple an Hegelian manner as possible. Unless I am very much mistaken, your dialectic is lacking in one thing: mediation” (Adorno to Benjamin 10 November 1938, Benjamin/Adorno 1994/1999:282).

Mediation then would be the theorization of connections between the ‘mere’ material observations and fascinations of the Arcades, of the baubles that interest the flaneur, of the observations of the analyst, and of the notations of the writer – mediation is the vehicle of analysis. Adorno marks this as a phantasmagorical and mystical error:

“Your ‘anthropological’ materialism ‘harbours a profoundly romantic element … The ‘mediation’ which I miss and find obscured by materialistic-historiographical evocation, is simply the theory which your study has omitted. But the omission of theory affects the empirical material itself” (Adorno to Benjamin 10 November 1938, Benjamin/Adorno 1994/1999:283).

At pains not to offend his friend, but also careful to call for something more, Adorno rephrases the same point again and again:

“To express this another way: the theological motif of calling things by their names tends to switch into the wide-eyed presentation of mere facts. If one wanted to put it rather drastically, one could say your study is located at the crossroads of magic and positivism. This spot is bewitched. Only theory could break this spell – your own resolute and salutarily speculative theory. It is simply the claim of this theory that I bring against you here” (Adorno to Benjamin 10 November 1938, Benjamin/Adorno 1994/1999:283).

It might be too easy to score credits here on some biographical outcomes chart (a research assessment exercise) as Adorno goes on to write The Dialectic of Enlightenment with Horkheimer, while Benjamin ends up sitting bleary-eyed far too long in the cafés of Marseilles, and finally does not make it over the mountain. But the suitcase he carries is lost and we do not know if these prods in the direction of theory had recast the manuscript. A terrible gap.

Trinkets in Camps

Doc Richard Iveson is a harvester of obscure snippets and curios, none escape his ability to comb through the detritus of philosophy for gems to hold up to the gloaming (apols to Benjamin and Kracauer):

Hi John. I’m in the middle of writing a paper on Catherine Malabou and along
the way I came across an unusual use of the word “trinket” which (if
you don’t already know) I thought you might find interesting -
according to Wolfgang Sofsky (in ‘The Order of Terror’), in the Nazi
concentration camp at Ravensbruck (a women’s camp), the prisoners who
were beyond any possibility of surviving (i.e. the ‘Muselmanner’) were
known as ‘trinkets’. Odd, but provocative, don’t you think?

Trinketization for beginners

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Been thinking about trinkets in songs.

Been thinking about trinkets in songs.  I present two stellar
examples, complete with youtube links.

‘In a small far room the bed is set
With trinkets all surrounding
Yet alone it rests, so dry it sets
With souls aside abiding’

Palace Music, ‘We All, Us Three, Will Ride’
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkvctVZcO4E

‘I crept into a box of mesmerising trinkets
and I probably shouldn’t think it
and I don’t so now I do’

Robert Pollard with Doug Gillard, ‘And I Don’t (So Now I Do)’
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Akobg_E0N48

Trinkets: always plural.  Always something that surrounds or
mesmerises, that one must enter…

Thanks Morgan Daniels

Olympiss Trinkisss

including a snowglobe to freeze the heart of Walter Benjamin: thanks Sophie-trinkspotter

Orientally yours

A new blog by Karen Tam updates trinketization, but with Chinese characteristics: http://orientallyyours.tumblr.com/

An example of her interests would be this scenario below by British photographer Grace Lau, but Karen’s own opium dens and faked antiquities are treasures themselves.

Website: www.karentam.ca

Other Blog: Pumpkin Sauce

Photograph booth, and photo, by Grace Lau

Trinket of The Week in Iran

The Lede - The New York Times News Blog

January 17, 2012, 4:48 PM

Iran Offers U.S. Tiny Replica of Lost Drone

By ROBERT MACKEY
Scale models of an American drone are now on sale in Iran.Scale models of an American drone are now on sale in Iran.

While Iran’s government has so far refused an American request to return the C.I.A. stealth drone it captured last month, on Tuesday, an Iranian company that is manufacturing miniature replicas of the drone in several colors offered to send President Obama a pink one.

According to Iranian state radio, the scale models of the drone are one-eightieth the size of the RQ-170 Sentinel surveillance craft Iran’s military proudly displayed on television last month after it either crashed or was forced down.

Thomas Erdbrink, a Washington Post correspondent in Tehran, reports that a local firm, the Ayeh Art Group, is now making 2,000 toy drones a day. Reza Kioumarsi, an official with the firm, told Mr. Erdbrink that since Mr. Obama said he wanted the drone back, “we will send him one.”

The souvenir aircraft retails for about $4, but, like the commemorative “Justice Coin” that Americans can now buy to celebrate the Navy Seal mission that killed Osama bin Laden, the purchase price includes bonus gifts. According to the Ayeh Art Group Web site, the toy drone comes with a plastic stand bearing the slogan, “We will put America under our feet,” a quotation from the founder of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

An Iranian cartoon mocking President Obama.An Iranian cartoon mocking President Obama.

An Iranian Web site displaying more images of the toy drones also features an animation mocking Mr. Obama for losing the surveillance aircraft. The cartoon shows a caricature of the American president enjoying a ride on a drone, until it is taken over and forced to land by an Iranian officer holding what looks like an old-fashioned Nintendo game controller. (While the United States claims that the drone malfunctioned and crashed, Iran insists that its military wrested away control of the aircraft and brought it in for a landing.)

Readers interested in securing one of the toy drones can check Mr. Erdbrink’s Twitter feed on Wednesday, when he plans to give away 10 to winners of a quiz.

Kate Murdoch’s home trinkets. Collections and dust. No time like the archive. Get rid of them!

Keeping it together, in two parts (I’ve excerpted the first part and a bit of the second, but lost all the pics which you should see). This is from Artists Talking project blog. These ‘works’ and words seem to touch elegantly on the problems, and pleasures, of trinketization. We just don’t have the time to sort and reflect. I especially like the observations about ‘dust collectors': from here. via #rosalinddavis

Keeping it Together, by Kate Murdoch

# 1 [20 November 2011]
I spent the summer taking a long hard look at the amount of stuff I have accumulated over the years. To put it into context, I have a lifetime collection of stuff – a lot of stuff! There’s a lot of me

Kate Murdoch, 'Dust Collectors'. in those collections; my life in boxes – books, objects, photographs, memories of places, people, good times, not so good times – my past, secreted away.
It’s been dotted around various parts of SE London over the past five years or so following a house move, in the attics and garages of sympathetic family and friends. My former home had a large attic and an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ philosophy took over – I squirrelled it all away. I always knew I was going to do something with my collection one day and my long term aim has been (and still is!) to have it all in one space – essentially, keeping it together.
Slowly, the boxes found their way into my studio and the unravelling of a lifetime’s accumulation of possessions began. My focus over this past summer was sorting through them. Deciding what to keep versus what to get rid of became the order of many long hot sunny days. I even managed to visit and donate the book ‘Something I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You’ to The Museum Of Broken Relationships – now that felt constructive!
I always knew when I moved into my latest studio that time there was limited – however as ongoing talks and negotiations with the landlords came to an abrupt end some three weeks or so ago, we were given less than 48 hours to leave the premises. A community of artists was ripped apart and has had to find ways of coping with an upsetting & unsettling time. It’s been a rollercoaster ride of emotions – in one way or another, we’ve all been hurting.
I’ve taken solace in stacks of Bunty, Judy, Photo Love and other 1960-80s annuals from the book shelves at home. A therapist might say I’m subconsciously seeking out a happy ending … perhaps I am? I have no doubt however about how the recent chaos has forced me to focus on what’s important – what to keep, what not to keep in all senses of the word has raised its head once more and I’m left questioning again what it is that’s important. The boxes are stacked in a self-storage unit, I’m not even sure what’s in some of them or if the stuff has any relevance to my life as it is now. But I do know that it costs money to keep them there.
Keeping It Together is the start of my journey as a studioless artist. Where do I go from here? Where do I and my ‘stuff’, both literally and metaphorically, fit in? Where will I re-establish my practice and where will I feel more at home, both within myself and in relation to others?

Read the rest of it HERE

and if you don’t follow that link, the dust collecters are:

”Dust Collectors’ was started and completed as a symbol of what in real life my art materials are doing – collecting dust in a self-storage unit in deepest Deptford. ‘Dust Collectors’ is also representative of the reaction from those who have never understood the habit of collecting; those who consider anything not being used in a home as superfluous and unnecessary – ‘bloomin’ dust collectors – get rid of them!’


A Spectre is haunting Europe…

Not all parties atre the same – sorry to have missed this one… [thanks Jo]

Trinketization #Libya

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).

AK-47

Trinketization (aims):
➤ to note a certain fascination with objects has often meant an aversion to theory.
➤ take up the call of Adorno for an ‘Arcades orthodoxy’ (pace Benjamin) in that the description of objects is mediated, requiring a theoretical contextualization of things.
➤ take up case studies, trinkets, objects, material culture in a way that perhaps starts with commodities, but then adds market, money, production, circulation, division of labour, technology, training, credit, valourization and decline of the rate of profit into the mix as well. (pace Capital).
➤ so, I am thinking of Benjamin, maybe looking at how we maybe take the Arcades as a model, but want to not leave the manuscript up a mountain, incomplete and forever waiting for Adorno to read and critique. Well, at least recognizing its unfinished character. OR Michael Taussig’s work, where his myriad examples in My Cocaine Museum are assembled to order, how each of those curios has to make sense in a history, in syncopation with other examples in the archive of the imaginary institution, and provide a model for eloquence…
➤ start with an object and draw lines of significance around it. Take any object, say, perhaps the AK47, starting from seeing one used by a thug in a village (there is mention in Taussig’s book Law in a Lawless Land), its more widespread use by the rightwing paramilitaries, and the drug traders, and then the history of the FARC, of course the State machinations, the longer history of Colombia, and the International arms industry, the colonial geo-political system, the Soviet connection, the Kalishnikov family, the AK47 as the symbol of global struggle, of political liberation movements, and of course their betrayal, including in cinema, literature, photogenic media war etc… AK-47’s have – no surprise – become fashion items, jewelry, t-shirt icons, guitars etc – see here and here. More…
➤ seek to examine objects or items of congealed interest and place these theoretically and politically in a range of contexts, evoked through writing that attends to style and is inspired by the eloquence of things seen as significant. Objects matter, but not in themselves
➤ evoke and provoke the meaning and market of trinkets in ways that animate and surprise, making connections and associations that link up with a wider analysis of the current of capital as it unfolds in stuff.
➤ get something written. Sooner rather than later. Less planning, Learn to fire.

Politicians, Cops, Judges and Journalists don’t wear jeans: Uniformity v. Levis.

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:

BeePicture

Also: http://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2009/06/06/do-bee-do-bee-do/

Department of DIY – UfSO

To do this week (note to self)

Monday 6th – Unkettling Education – teach-in Goldsmiths 10am-9pm: See here.
Tuesday 7th – The Humanities and the Idea of the University': Tuesday 7 December 2010, 11am-6pm, Saloon (M004), Ground Floor, Mansion Building, Middlesex University, Trent Park campus, Bramley Road, London N14 4YZ. (not sure if I can get to this one, but it looks good. Details on Middlesex site)
Tuesday eve from 6pm Centre for Cultural Studies xmas party Royal Albert pub New Cross Rd
Wednesday 8th – day of actions on campuses. Snowball fight with Forces of Reaction planned.
Thursday 9th – National demonstration, Convergence on Parliament, etc. Don’t get kettled, do run in zig zag lines, wear warm clothes.
Friday 10th – 2-4PM Jodi Dean talk – about her book Blog Theory, New Academic Building LG01 Goldsmiths.
followed by from 5pm Benjamin Noys Persistance of the Negative book launch
Plus:
  • get colleagues to spend 3k on books at library by May 2011
  • raise Kathleen Cleaver money for visit october 2011
  • read PhD drafts (currently 2 on desktop)
  • reading for Postone study group (100 pages)
  • Write adorno names essay linked with middle east musics, sonic jazz.
  • camouflage article for Peter – rewrite
  • islands T8 presentation – book for Malta conf.
  • Strange Musics book Varese-Zappa to Steve Clarke
  • Book:Research Diaries, with Daisy
  • workers inquiry text (money for assist on edit)
  • Trinkets book with Alison – proposal to publisher.
  • write up borders talks, culture industry talk brussels, cph talk on bees, Kolkata preservation talk, ATTHQ,
  • write up Spivak talk (clandestino) and post video on web.
  • write up talk from bombing of poems booklaunch
  • working day chapter to write up as commentary on present workload!
  • rewrite last chapter of Rumour again on Bill Gates fund or FB guy and Sworkin Film
  • write piece for Cultural Studies now – for Jeremy in Sweden (see p19 red Kolkata notebook 2010.1)
  • Get a Mac backup hard drive for back ups and one as scratch disk
  • Centre for Cultural Studies distinctiveness text, Teaching and Learning strategy doc
  • calculate CCS workloads
  • CCS publications plan?
  • read Hussey and Wacquant on Banliues
  • put MTV Hot video of Dis-Orienting Rhythms on Daily Motion or similar

Mumia Abu Jamal

US.: New danger to the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal

22 November 2010. A World to Win News Service. Following is an edited excerpt from an article by C. Clark Kissinger that appeared in the 21 November 2010 issue of Revolution, newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.

The largest courtroom of the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals was packed with supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal as a three judge panel heard the latest oral arguments in his case. Outside hundreds more marched and chanted. People from all over the Eastern United States were there, including a whole history class from Hunter College in New York. There were also delegations from France and Germany.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is one of the best known political prisoners in the world. Forces ranging from people of all walks of life to the European Parliament and Amnesty International have protested his unjust conviction. He has spent 27 years in isolation on death row, after being railroaded in a manifestly bogus trial. In 2001, a federal court refused to grant Mumia a new trial, but overturned his death sentence. Mumia has continued to fight his conviction, and the State of Pennsylvania has attempted in court to get the death penalty reinstated. This hearing was an attempt to reinstate Mumia’s death penalty.

People were justifiably angry with the latest turn of events. This same federal appeals court had already thrown out the death sentence on Mumia in 2008 because the instructions given to the jury were in violation of well-established federal law. But now the U.S. Supreme Court, after an appeal by the state of Pennsylvania, had ordered the federal appeals court to reconsider their previous decision.

Casting a shadow over Mumia’s whole appeal process has been the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (signed into law by Bill Clinton). A big thrust of this law is making it more difficult for prisoners seeking to overturn illegal state court decisions in the federal courts. Under this law, it is not enough for Mumia to show that his death sentence was obtained through a violation of federal law – he has to show that it was obtained through an “unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.” This wording is designed to give state courts “the benefit of the doubt” in pushing through executions.

Mumia was represented at the oral argument by Professor Judith Ritter of Widener University School of Law. Professor Ritter had successfully argued the issue of the jury instructions in the earlier 2008 oral arguments. In a carefully reasoned presentation she asked the court to sustain their previous finding that Mumia’s death sentence be overturned as the new case cited by the Supreme Court did not apply.

While progressive legal observers remain hopeful that the Third Circuit panel will hold their ground and resist calls to reverse their previous decision, were that to happen the State of Pennsylvania can still convene a new jury and hold a new sentencing phase for the original conviction, in which Mumia could again be sentenced to death. Ever since Mumia’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn his conviction was rejected, the State of Pennsylvania has been ferociously determined to execute Mumia.

No matter which way the current ruling goes, the losing side will undoubtedly appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court again. Also, there are still other legal issues concerning Mumia’s sentencing that have never been ruled on. This means a considerable road ahead in court, but in a political climate that is much more reactionary than earlier years. A mass movement, reaching far and wide in society and around the world, was a crucial factor in stopping the rulers of this country from executing Mumia Abu-Jamal in the 1980s and ’90s. It is ever more important that people must come together behind the demand to free Mumia Abu-Jamal.

– end item-

trinketization again (book note)

What we mean by trinketization is also an injunction: to contextualize objects and memes in social and global political significance and ramification; to theorize and interpret critically and endlessly, as if it mattered. No to mere taxonomy that substitutes for thinking; no to genealogies of already codified and congealed proper names; no to the rictus grin of erudite but learned stupidity – we are more stupid than that, we hold out for the transformation of everything, we want to offer a lyrical no to all texts of stultifying passivity – may a thousand flowers contend, may the pages burn, may words about things be incandescent… Fireworks.

Firewords.

Notebook – questions…

Questions for Bonnie:
- are the cuts proposed by the Con Dem dalliance as incoherent as some have said? Or are they the rabid response of an ill-cooked coalition of opportunist troglodytes?
- Or, rather,  is this a specific move/set of moves on the part of neo-liberal capital (structural adjustment programmes for all!)?
- are the cuttings in the different sectors the ‘same’ in terms of impact, rhetorical style (audience) and analysis needed?
- can the opposition to cuts be articulated in a way that goes beyond a return to 1999 defensiveness, so as to begin moving towards a society ‘fit for purpose’ (ie where labour power is not captured by capital. where machines no longer work us, where the war machine does not wreak universal havoc [that's our job])?
- can the analysis help link up the sectoral campaigns/groups?
- what language is needed to counter media spin, the myth of apathy (pretty well busted in the last week or two) and resignation?
- what language capitalises upon/celebrates the resurgent atmosphere that presently sustains the campaign?
- where is the time to write something on all this, eh john, where? Emile, please give us hand with this text. Good on yer.
.
(the pic is of Emile explaining to me that although it is raining, he can go outside and ride while carrying an umbrella).

The £100 Pound Shop

Trinketization is clearly escalating over the river in Dalston, and I can’t say I disapprove.

I have said before: Shopping is civil war. Here is evidence.

But then, its choice, so do head out to support this venture where you can (perhaps by shoplifiting?)

Point your browser here:
http://www.onehundredpoundshop.com/our_promise_to_you.html

(thanks to Joel McKim for discovering this)

 

Dr Cristobal

Dr Cristobal Bianchi and his examiners (Irit Rogoff and Pavel Buchler). Congratulations.

Time Wasting = Money??

I went to a training session that was supposed to train me up on research grant account management this afternoon, advertised as compulsory for PIs (principal investigators). It was a crock.

The system is hysterically named ‘Aggresso’.

[there are little gnome-like accountants in a room somewhere laughing at the havoc they have wreaked].

I am furious.

1. that I did not get an email from anyone who was at the morning session warning not to go!

2. what they told us was sub-basic. How to log in, how to find an IP address (ask an IT specialist!!!)

3. all the problems of the old system are to be compounded with new dumbness.

4. its beta – even the instructor seems unsure of what he is doing (poor chap, nice tie, waste of space job).

5. I am probably going to be fired for what I wrote on the session feedback form. Ah well.

6. it had the merit of being shorter than advertised. I would have died if it took 3 hours.

And the sun is shining outside. I may have to return to my earlier career as a picture framer, butcher or newspaper boy.

pzzfftt*zt$ggh! I am going for lunch.

trinkets

from Doctor Craig Smith.

Orson

Notes for lecture one:

How to start reading that rich book that is Marx’s Capital, of which an immense, even monstrous, accumulation of commentary on the Marxist mode of literary production appears to have already shaped its elementary forms?

For all the interest in Marx, in the past and renewed today, it is at least worth attempting at first to read anew. Yet this vast accumulation of commentary stands before us. While it would be possible, and even plausible, to insist on a Dead Poets’ Society moment and rip out the spurious introductions, for example that of the Secretary of the Fourth International, Trotskyite Ernest Mandel, in the Penguin Edition, there is not much to be gained from this merely theatrical gesture.

Instead, I would like to turn to cinema. And another accumulation that seems a dull dead half-life of narrative. That which surrounds the film Citizen Kane. Orson Welles might be a good choice for this illustration because he is both actor and director, at the same time working to a script and writing that script. Marx of course is famous for saying something similar in the 18th Brumaire – we make our own history but not in conditions that we have chosen (Marx 1852/202:19). Welles is also interesting as an overexamined, already known, and yet little understood, figure – famous and notorious in advance, myths and rumours abound. He is much maligned for his politics, he was often attacked for threatening bourgeois norms (or its complacency); his work a coded vehicle for other fears (Japan, Germany, Russia); and, I will argue, never more relevant than now (financial crisis, do-gooder philanthropists as alibi for business as usual). Welles of course, in advance, is already known – as dozens of biographies attest, and as the pre-publicity and staged controversy of his most famous film confirms. Perhaps the question to ask is whether it is possible to reclaim such a figure from the vast accumulations of biography and myth. Already in Citizen Kane Welles mocked such ambitions. The first image is of a sign that says “No trespassing”.

The biographers are on the march – dozens and still counting. Simon Callow begins part one of his multi volume biography (part two released 2006) with a quote that might be read as revealing as much about the anxieties of a biographer about to approach ‘the fabulist Orson Welles’ as it does about its subject’s self-consciousness:

“If you try to probe, I’ll lie to you. Seventy-five percent of what I say in interviews is false. I’m like a hen protecting her eggs. I must protect my work.Introspection is bad for me. I’m a medium not an orator. Like certain oriental and Christian mystics, I think the ‘self’ is a kind of enemy. My work is what enables me to come out of myself. I like what I do, not what I am … Do you know the best service anyone could render to art? Destroy all biographies. Only art can explain the life of a man – and not the contrary. Orson Welles to Jean Clay, 1962 (Callow 1995:xi)

Callow continually takes away Welles’ stories about his life, even the place where he was said to be conceived is labelled a fabrication – much energy devoted to undoing the Welles myth only confirms it. Welles had already anticipated these moves. Seven years earlier in Touch of Evil he had Marlene Dietrich say of his character Quinlan, who had just been found dead, that: ‘He was some kind of a man. What does it matter what you say about people?’

Welles is surrounded by myth. Among the routine retinue, it has become commonplace to sort commentators into two camps – defenders and opponents – Pauline Kael who raised the stakes of the controversy over the writing credit for Citizen Kane into an international brouhaha on the one side, Peter Bagdonovich still attempting to finish Welles’ final masterpiece, The Other Side of the Wind (caught up in legal disputes) on the other. In between, sects and factions, a host of divergent positions and jockeying for favour, and a massive publishing culture industry that has made a commodity, franchise and brand out of the good name of the citizen.

Welles himself deserves some praise for this. In cases where there is so much written, this will always be offered with some perspectival bias. Should it matter than that the following highlights are only a selection?:

- 1915 born, his mother a suffragette who once served time in prison for her radical views (Welles and Bogdanovich 1988:326), a ‘brilliant public speaker’, she was the first woman in Kenosha to be elected to political office (Callow 1995:9)

- 1936 an all black production of Macbeth– admittedly there are issues of exoticization here in the move of action from Scotland to Haiti, and where Welles contrives a voodoo withes scene (see Callow 1995: 235). Nevertheless, an important production

- 1938 campaigns for and champions various leftwing causes, including speaking against Franco at ‘Stars for Spain’ – a medical aid benefit. Welles gives a series of talks on the ‘People’s Front’ at the Workers Bookshop and writes for the Daily Worker. Plays Signmund Freud on stage, gets to know Hans Eisler, Count Bassie, Vincent Price, Lucille Ball.

- October 30th 1938 War of the Worlds radio play.

- 1941 Wells is ‘attacked as subversive and communistic by leaders of the American Legion and the Californian Sons of the Revolution in Hearst papers (Rosenbaum 1998:363). The FBI’s J.Edgar Hoover writes a memo linking Welles to various ‘communist’ organizations (Bogdanovich 1998: xxxvi)

“FBI director J. Edgar Hoover writes a “memorandum for the assistant to the attorney general Mr Mathews F. McGuire” stating: “For your information the Dies Committee has collected data indicating that Orson Welles is associated with the following organizations, which are said to be Communist in character: Negro Cultural Committee, Foster parents’ Plan for War Children, Medical Bureau and North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy, Theatre Arts Committee, Motion Picture Artists Committee to Lift the Embargo, Workers Bookshop, American Youth Congress, New Masses, People’s Forum, Workers Bookshop Mural Fund, League of American Writers [and] American Student Union…” (See James Naremore, “The Trial: The FBI vs. Orson Welles, “ Film Comment, January-February 1991” (Rosenbaum 1998:364).

- May 1st 1941 – Citizen Kane. In a scene edited out of the film, Kane’s first wife’s son was to have been killed ‘when he and other members of a fascist organization try to seize an armory in Washington’, with the son’s body shown interred in a mausoleum where a wall inscription from the 1001 Nights begins ‘The drunkenness of youth has passed like a fever’ (Carringer 1996:148).

- 1946 Welles gives protest speeches against the nuclear tests on Bikini Atol (Rosenbaum 1998: 397) and uses his ABC program Orson Welles Commentaries to campaign to bring charges against a policeman who had beaten and blinded black war veteran Isaac Woodward. With heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, Welles draws 20,000 people to a benefit for Woodward. The culpable policeman is finally identified in mid August (Rosenbaum 1998:398-9).

- 1955 on a television program Welles speaks out against passport control and immigration bureaucracy, a subject later dramatised in Welles’ film Touch of Evil.

‘the bureaucrat is really like a blackmailer. You can never pay him off; the more you give him, the more he’ll demand. If you fill in one form, he’ll give you ten’ (Welles and Bogdanovich 1998:262)

- 1962 Welles’ film of Kafka’s The Trial in part conceived as a commentary on Displaced Person Camps (Welles and Bogdanovich 1998:281).

- Filming Don Quixote, incomplete, but the Knight is the emblem of a quixotic politics

- 1972, Welles reports that he still wants to make a film of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, emphasizing the contemporary political associations (Rosenbaum 1998:512). Seven years later Francis Ford Coppola releases Apocalypse Now.

- 1977 ‘the original Rosebud sled turned up in a prop warehouse at Paramount that used to belong to RKO. (Custom-built in the RKO property department, it was thirty-four inches long, made entirely of balsa wood, and fastened together with wood dowels and glue … three identical sleds were built; two were burned in the filming’ (Carringer 1996:49-50)

- 1973 F is for Fake – if you have not seen this, see it now.

On the above grounds, then, after tallying the votes from the members of the Academy, we are proud to announce that the Oscar goes to Orson not only for his film on Kane – patron saint of trinkets – but because of this exchange from the book This is Orson Welles:

Bogdanovich: ‘well, do you have a theory about possessions, or just an inability to keep things from getting lost’

Welles: ‘Both. The things you own have away of owning you’

Bogdanovich: ‘How about things like letters andbooks’

Welles : ‘I’m not laying this down as a law for anybody else. It’s just that I feel I have to protect myself against things, so I’m pretty careful to lose most of them’ (Welles and Bogdanovich 1998: 183)

More to come:  where Kane is the embodiment of Money-Bags, yet curiously he himself tries to fight for the ‘common man’ and has sentimental attachment to things (Rosebud), nevertheless he is still a representative of his class, a class who – as capitalists – do not care about things, only the possibility of recouping profits (valourization of appropriated surplus value) through the exchange of things. So much fun to be had with this. And then on to The Trial, and F is for Fake. Soon…

trinketing

So, the trite thing to ask is ‘What would Benjamin have to say about the Boxing Day sales?’ If you think that the Arcades equation goes: Capitalism > Paris > Arcades > Flaneur > Snowdome then you have probably missed the entire premise. Condensation is not all that goes on here – the world is not desiccated trinkets. It’s the constellation that can be discerned in the appreciation of trinkets that matters. The book remains unfinished (and I hate to say it but that also seems to be my excuse, though the mountain and the morphine are not yet in reach).

uses of trinketization

IMG_2763Various posts from the interwebtoday using the term trinketization (I claim no copyrite):

From Maverick Kansas: “So I’m part New Yorker, so what? But that’s not the end of the story, not by a long shot, because it’s a part of my identity that has a lot less purchase now that I am back in New Zealand. About three months after I returned here I was invited to what I was told was a “Natives Party”. And, after forgiving the hosts for the horrid example of the trinketization of culture that such a party theme provokes, I decided to attend, and so began the business of imagining what kind of a native I was”.

From Devu Dada: “this kind of change is known as or the process of becoming smaller is known as trinketization. since the art becomes touristic product, the artist will not follow iconography. this means the art becomes fake which has no originality”.

From High Peaks Alliance: “Social Costs May introduce lifestyles, ideas, and behaviors that conflict with those of residents • May create crowding, congestion, and increased crime • May encourage “trinketization” of local arts and crafts”

From SlackBastard: “speaking of expensive trinkets, john hutnyk (sounds troublingly foreign to me) has a blog called trinketization, and on it a post all about rock against racism”

From Absent Narrative: “It is somewhat disheartening to think of how commercialized modern holidays have become, what I call the trinketization of celebration; there isn’t one major American holiday where you can’t find enormous amounts of junk decorations”

Coleridge invents trinketization

coleridge1_2Samuel Taylor Coleridge was ahead of the game in so many ways.  His other work is of course crucial, stuff about an albatross, and the opening sequence to the newsreel section of Citizen Kane. A massive influence and to be adored. This piece is a small fragment written around 1800.

To a critic

Who extracted a passage from a poem without adding a word respecting the context, and then described it as unintelligible.

Most candid critic, what if I.
By way of joke, pull out your eye.
‘Ha! ha! that men such fools should be!
Behold this shapeless dab! – and he
Who own’ed it, fancied it could see!’
The joke were mighty analytic,
But should you like it, candid critic?

From Samuel Taylor Coleridge Selected Poems.

The eye as trinket is excellent – it cannot see on its own. Though Bataille finds other functions.

resemblances

1976Any similarity of this pic to persons living or dead, or having been in a band variously called “Stomp Stomp Wild Dance Crazy Turkey”; “The Thirteenth Battalion of Mind Raiders”; “Uncle Salty” or “Hoax” – or having a son named Emile – are purely co-incidental it seems. There are several things I hate, one of them being how slow I can be with the prefect rejoinder to a stupid comment (I usually get the right come-back three minutes later).  The other thing I hate is that if anyone thinks this sort of long hair was a bit out of date for 1976, they have to be reminded that the sixties happened later in outer suburban Melbourne. But we were still saved by punk. Our band name Uncle Salty, I should note, was ripped from a 1975 Aerosmith b-side track – the reverse of “Walk This Way” – itself later redone, as everyone must know, with Run DMC (and from there hip hop crossed over to a million Caucasoid ears). The effort to learn the ‘Walk’ and the ‘Salty’ riffs was worth it back then (no longer the done thing, as another gripester tells it): (file this under deep dark confessional & gripes):

Lyrics: S. Tyler, T. Hamilton

Uncle Salty told me stories of a lonely
baby with a lonely kind of life to lead
my mammy was lusted, Daddy he was busted
they left her to be trusted till the orphan bleeds
but when she cried at night, no one came
and when she cried at night, went insane

Uncle Salty told me when she was just a baby
that she’d get by and maybe someday she’d see
but soon she found her mother’s love for all the others
the pushers and the shovers was the life to lead
but when she cried at night, no one came
and when she cried at night, went insane

oooh, it’s a sunny day outside my window
oooh, it’s a sunny day outside my window
oooh, oh yeah
oooh, oh yeah, yeah yeah

now she’s doin any for money and a penny
a sailor with a penny or two or three
hers is the cunning for men who come a-runnin’
they all come for fun and it seems to me
that when she cried at night, no one came
and when she cried at night, went insane

oooh, it’s a sunny day outside my window

listen & watch here.

Google clouded my book

BAD-MARXISMAccursed Share Adorno Althusser analysis anthropology anti-capitalism archive bad Marxism Bataille Bataille’s Bhabha called capital capitalistchapattis circulationCollege of Sociology colonial commodity communism communist contemporary context critical critique cultural studies debate debt Derrida and Sprinkler dialectical discussion displacement economic Empire engagement essay ethnography example exchange exploitation fascism fieldwork Freud Gayatri Spivak Georges Bataille gift global Goldsmiths College Hardt and Negri Hutnyk hybridity imperialism imperialist India labour learning to learn Leiris Malinowski Maoist Marx’s means metaphorMichel Leiris mode of production movement nation-state offer organisation party perhaps police political possible postcolonial Poverty of Philosophy programme question reading Marx recogniserelation revolutionary seems social solidarity Specters of Marx speed Spivak struggle Subaltern Studies subsumption suggests superexploitation Surrealism Surrealiststheorists theory tion trade trinketisation Trobriand workers writing

So that’s Bad Marxism in a nutshell, shell of nuts, googlenut, whatever. Each word is a live link to a couple of tear out and throwaway quotes, bar food style. Trinketized.

What is Trinketization

For an explanation of Trinketization – never fully codified as yet – you might start with the following old posts:

dth2Mind Boggling

Before the Letter

Jesus Trinkets

Plastic Stuff

Kane’s Snowglobe

Kuffiya Spotting

Third World Tourism

Communist Tat

Vignettes

And this picture is a trinket gesture itself – you should read Paul Hendrich’s piece on the Deptford Town Hall slavery statues; also check Rosie Wright on Trafalgar Square plinth (here), and Imogen Bunting on May Day posings (here) – the three of us often talked trinkets, working out a critique of objects and their multiple meanings. The three of them really are each very much missed.

Do bee do bee do

beesHere is the first of ‘Eleven theses on art and politics’ for my talk in Copenhagen on thursday (‘Forms of engagement, Configurations of politics’ conference):

1. Do Bees have art?

“what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is that the architect builds the cell in his mind before he constructs it in wax.” – Marx, Capital I, p284

In Marx’s passage about the bees and the architects, clearly it is the bees who do not have representation, despite their excellent construction skills. The (human) architect constructs a structure in the mind (or on paper) before building it in the world. We can call this art. If we are to take Marx’s analogy seriously, bees do not have art, they have sting and a love of nectar, but no art.

But if art is different to politics, do bees have politics? Is the art of politics one of opportunity and struggle in the real? Or is strategy and tactics the equivalent of art in the human? Debord’s interest in strategy, as well as that long tradition within communism, will be relevant here. It may be that bees, with their hierarchy in the hive, but also their expansive quest to pollinate, have in fact a politics that can teach us.

But perhaps the bees have been caught up and caged. In England, we are told that bees are under threat and our entire biosphere is in danger if bees cease to do the endless work of pollinating flowers – which connects up nature to culture to economy in ways only hinted at by Claude Lévi-Strauss. Meanwhile, in the advanced sectors of capital:

Nicole Pepperel writes: I have to admit, I’ve never particularly thought about the industrial organisation of crop pollination, until I read this column from the New York Times discussing possible responses to Colony Collapse Disorder – the mysterious plague that causes adult bees to desert their hives, leaving honey and larvae behind. I found this image particularly striking:

“…it is important to add that, here in the United States, the majority of our crops are pollinated not by wild bees, or even by honeybees like mine, which live in one location throughout the year, but by a vast mobile fleet of honeybees-for-rent”.

“From the almond trees of California to the blueberry bushes of Maine, hundreds of thousands of domestic honeybee hives travel the interstate highways on tractor-trailers. The trucks pull into a field or orchard just in time for the bloom; the hives are unloaded; and the bees are released. Then, when the work of pollination is done, the bees are loaded up, and the trucks pull out, heading for the next crop due to bloom”.

(Originally posted by N Pepperell 29/01/2009 http://www.roughtheory.org/content/worker-bees/)

Clearly there is a politics of bees, and it is of more importance than we often concede. So, as Adorno says…

[added:

11-theses-on-art-and-politics-continues-parts-2-3/

11-theses-on-art-and-politics-4/

11-theses-on-art-and-politics-567/ ]

The Marx Trot

27276~Karl-Marx-Brand-Cigar-Box-Label-Karl-Marx-PostersTo mark the end of the course work part of their degree, MA Cultural Studies students have proposed the ‘Marx Trot’. This being a pub crawl with a revolutionary excuse. Having done significant research as per my brief to lead said Trot, I propose the following:

Marx is buried in Highgate. So we start  at the end. Meet at the East Cemetery gate at 4pm. Watch the film ‘High Hopes’ beforehand if need be. Bring cigars.

The Marx family would often walk from Haverstock Hill to Soho, so we can too. As its a nice day. We’ll walk through the park. Hamstead Heath in fact, though other parks might distract our thoughts. Marx took part in a Hyde Park demonstration against the Sunday Observance laws and wrote an article on the Anti-Church demonstration of July 1855. We can read this on the way and contemplate the production of nature.

At the far end of Hamstead Heath is a favourite pub of the Marx’s – so we could visit Jack Straws castle. I found the following info on a cursory search:

Jack Straws Castle

NW3

Jack Straw’s Castle ought to be the perfect place for an inspiring pint. The situation is good, the history intriguing and the ghosts distinguished. Karl Marx drank here on the corner of Hampstead Heath, high above the foul air of 19th-century London. So did Charles Dickens, Leigh Hunt and Max Beerbohm. Jack Straw himself – one of the leaders of the peasants revolt of 1381 – allegedly rallied his pitchfork-wielding mob from a haywagon nearby.

From here we can walk down Heath Street to Chalk Farm and Grafton Terrace.

Marx lived at 3 Roxburgh Terrace, now part of Prince of Wales Road Kentish Town. Then he moved to 9 Grafton Terrace. He drank at the Lord Southampton on the corner of Southampton and Grafton. We’ll obviously have to spend some time here.

Then we head to central London.

Marx fenced in a salon off Oxford street – in Rathbone Place (not far a from Tottenham Court Rd tube).

The Manifesto was drafted and approved at (according to internet gab – which I suspect is apocryphal):

The Red Lion, Soho [Closed] – pub details

Address: 20 Great Windmill Street, London, W1D 7LQ

Not many people know this but this pub is where Marx and Engels and others used to meet, where the first meetings of the Communist Party were held and where the Communist Manifesto was initially drafted and approved. This is a historic building in the history of Politics and it should have a Blue Plaque on it. I hope the people that live there when its converted know the relevance of this place.

Now apparently reopened as an “AT One” – we could I suppose heckle them a little [its an awful bar - heckle a lot - they have no idea where they are, adn beers were 4 quid for a bottle of sol - pah!]

When he first came to London Marx lived on Dean Street – We can visit Marx’s House and Blue Plaque – its on the second floor.

Then across to the British Museum. Obviously. There will be a test on your recall of particular passages from the footnotes. Someone will recite the bees and architects passage.

And finally, though I disagree with much of what Comrade Germain has done with Stop the War (or rather unstop it), here I think there is a hint of what is to be done as the evening closes in – a crawl up Tottenham Court Road starting at the Rising Sun.

“Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were refugees following the defeated 1848 revolutions in Europe. Marx wrote Capital in the reading room of the British Museum. He and Engels enjoyed pub crawls on Tottenham Court Road” [from an article by Lindsay Germain]

And by then wee should be able to make up our own after dinner entertainments. I do think one day a less ad hoc version of this walk is necessary – and I will prepare it – but this seems ok for starters. Leaving now.

No Borders Italian Style (excuse)

tv3BAGAGLIOnoBORDERS
Information for 29 November Italia Pulita/Clean Italy Event.

BAGAGLIOnoBORDERS is a political/artistic group of Italians, people from Britain and other countries, based in London. It is an anti-sexist, anti-racist and pacifist group.

Our aim as Europeans is to raise consciousness among people in the UK of the worrying change in political atmosphere in Italy, which has come about under the administration of Berlusconi, leader of Forza Italia, in alliance with Lega and Alleanza Nazionale. Recent events are all signs of an increasingly
disturbing climate in Italy:
• The proposed legislation to finger print Roma people
• Proposals to segregate schooling for children of immigrant families
• The frequent racist and homophobic physical attacks
• The exodus of young Italians to other European countries

BAGAGLIOnoBORDERS works to create and to support visible occasions to promote cultural and political awareness through open live-events and demonstrations. We are in support of all minorities (racial, religious and sexual) who live in Italy and are continuously misrepresented by the mainstream Italian media.

Our first performance-art event, ‘Italia Pulita/Clean Italy’, to clean Italy of corruption, racism, sexism and homophobia, will be held:
• Outside the Italian Embassy at 4 Grosvenor Square, London W1
• On Saturday 29 November at 12 (noon)
We invite everyone to come along with cleaning cloths, feather dusters etc, to join us in symbolically cleaning the outside of the Italian Embassy.

www.myspace.com/bagaglionoborders
facebook: bagaglio noborders

See also here.

Trinketization before the letter (vignettes) …. [one more time]

REDUX TWO: (another bit brought forward – from here).

[random detritus - This was excised from an early draft of 'Jungle Studies', in 1995. I'm sure you can see why]:

It is probably important not to allow the vignette to replace analysis, the two are tied together, but we don’t want the story to provide an alibi for those who would avoid the implications of the theory. Here, elegance of prose can camouflage politics. This is particularly the case amongst those who would emphasize the post in post-colonialism, and use this as an opportunity to pretend colonialism has past, and in effect to write as if it never happened. This does happen, and is the modern equivalent of those anthropologists who benefited from the infrastructural facts of colonial power but claimed to have no part in the project. Staging opposition. The founding myth of fieldwork – of Malinowski almost accidentally ‘shipwrecked’ in the South Seas – rehearses this deceit.

There are several versions. The idea that missionaries – or anthropologists – were not also participating in the colonial order, however much some revisionist apologist (anthr-apologists) might want to complicate the position, cannot be ignored. Definitely, looking at the ways the ‘West’ travelled and was transformed in travel, is something that deserves more attention, but should not be taken as some sort of alibi for the violences of that travel (as sometimes happens with such work – I consider Dick Werbner’s various citations of the ‘anthropologists were not always complicit in colonialism’ routine to be in very poor taste/bad faith). The descendants of Gluckman may revere his little run-ins with the colonial authorities in Africa as ‘proof’ that he was not part of colonialism, when of course he was etc.

Why does it matter that telling stories clarifies the colour of politics? – perhaps because the slippage is the hinge of reaction. At the pomo workbench the maintenance of ongoing colonialisms slips past on the palanquin of narrative – even where the analysis oscillates between anecdotal evidence and the illustration of capitalist violence, the too-easy take up of only the storybook gems from the colonial scene rehearses again the Raj extraction process. Violence of partial explanations that serve the conquest (which of course does not mean we dream of a ‘full’ explanation, but that there are some less credible than others and we know which ones serve masters and which lead elsewhere).

Think for a moment of the way selective listening forges the subjectivity of oppression (perhaps in this telling the Emperor’s new clothes is not so much a story of the sycophantic courtiers as an exposure of the necessary blindness of naked power). As ever, the complexities of the circumstance can be recruited to tell another tale, more amenable to capital. The Emperor’s new clothes also tells of transition to the social relations of contemporary production – the young boy who exposes it all is nothing if not a culture hero of a brutal reality we face and embrace for good and bad.

Anthropologists who were recalcitrant and troublesome for colonialism may still unwittingly (or not – so often wittingly) be those best placed to extend colonial hegemony and power. This can be seen to happen through several modes; through the promotion of culture, through the mechanisms of inscription (cf. copies of the book of Nuer prophets in the hands of contemporary Nuer – Johnson), through focus on identity, and identifications, through reification and so on. It is important not only to see this in anecdotal terms, even where the anecdotes are so compelling, but rather to recognize the vignettes as examples of a web of institutionalized power (persuasive AND coercive force) deployed systematically across the globe. That the term post-colonialism has one part of its heritage in literature has enabled some to make the anecdotal narration of post-modern anthropology into a methodological doxa, and along the way renounced any theoretical specificity and ushered in a still more reactionary politics than ever before. The other more explicitly political sources for the term post-colonial require a more nuanced comprehension of the ironic and restricted way in which the term was used to refer to a certain betrayal of anti-colonial struggle on the part of national elites and the comprador classes after the so-called fact of decolonisation (Spivak). Within the horizon of this conception of the post-colony anecdotal post-modernisms appear as spurious frivolity.

Responses to “Trinketization before the letter (vignettes)”

  1. Anonymous Says:
    July 3, 2008 at 4:22 pm eThe fact I am leaving this anonymously tells you something about the state of anthropology and sociology and the broader academic ‘world’ that currently exists here, where I am writing to you. That’s Johannesburg. That’s a particular university here, a grand, old university once famous for its activism against apartheid. Today, today, today, it is this that you describe. The post in its post-colonial myopia taken to ridiculous, absurd and sometimes deeply upsetting publications, discourses and lectures. Here, a liberal elite of largely white anglo-saxon and jewish factions run the colleges, the lecture halls and the public debates. The hypocrisy is noted by many, including this appallingly low-paid cleaner who told me today: “They write about people they don’t know anything about. They write books about people they are scared of. And they become famous and everyone praises them. But they don’t even know how to speak to the people they write about. They have no experience of mixing with us. But they write about us.” And when he’d finished talking to me, he smiled and patted me on the shoulder. “Go and eat your lunch in the sun.”

  2. john hutnyk Says:
    July 3, 2008 at 4:32 pm eThere is a scene in Anand Patwardan’s 1982 (?) documentary film “Bombay Our City” where a woman from a bustee (slum) says to camera something like: “hey you. What can your film do for me? Hey? Nothing! Go on filming” – or similar. Vishwapriya Iyengar was happy to say Anand was right to leave that bit in.

    Myself, writing about tourists in Calcutta, I still got the comment – ‘and you John, staring at people then writing books about them’.

    Reflexivity had already become passive when Adorno denounced it – so what can our writing do then? Spivak as ever: Its not a matter of who is speaking, but what that speaking might do.

    greetings anon – be well. J

Mind Boggling Trinketization [again]

REDUX: Since several people have asked, here is one of the posts that explain the name of this blog. Its from a year and a half ago. [comments imported too]


Very occasionally (why? [indeed, see above - ed]) I feel the need to restate why it is that I use the word trinketization to refer both to the dessication of all life to mere commodities, and as a word for a critique of the poverty of theorizing that remains at the level of fascination with those commodities. Remembering that Marx in Capital only starts with commodities to tell us they are the fetished and occulted manifestation of social life – the ‘erscheinungsform’ in which wealth appears on the stage of the market etc… there is a need to cotextualise and theorise beyond this mere appearance. Hence 3 volumes of Kapital, and a further 3 vols of Theories of Surplus Labour, and then a subsequent effort of theory via Lenin, Lukacs, Adorno, even Debord (thanks Jeff and Tom)….

So, this trinket thing has been my double refrain for a long time now – a critique of those who stop at commodity (who have only read the first chapter) and who eschew any attempt to comprehend, and change/destroy/kill, capitalism. Grinning at the shiny trinkets ain’t enough – even a theory of trinkets will not be enough, and certainly my collecting them for display is only a first step… So, maybe I should start to gather it all together a bit more. Some early formulations:

In the draft intro to a special section on music and politics in the journal Postcolonial Studies, summarizing a joint article written with Virinder Kalra, we described it as:

“Focusing on, Madonna, an overworked cultural icon, who’s recent Eastern turn has attracted wide attention, this chapter compares and contrasts her trinketization to the diasporic music offerings of a more local flavour. By highlighting the theoretical dead end that all identity posturing postulates, the paper argues for a critique based not on spurious ascribed/described/pronounced subjectivities but rather on a not so fashionable materialist analysis”

This was eventually relegated/rendered in print as:

“a discussion of musical appropriations of Asian culture as ‘vogue’, offering a critique of trinketizing exoticisms and questioning the politics of identity in the context of racial conflict and imperial power structures” (Postcolonial Studies, Vol 1 No 3, 1998:355)

And this sort of line was developed a little, in a critical assessment of dearest comrade Crispin Mills of Kula Shaker fame, in a piece in the book Travel Worlds:

“It should at least be clear that the concern with ‘authenticity’ that leads to a critique of (Kula Shaker style) trinketizing exotic versions of South Asian musics is not one which insists upon the purity of traditional forms or the relativistic egalitarianism of an anthropology blind to material inequality. The danger is always that the worries about appropriation and commercialization are contradictory insofar as authenticity critique may sometimes slide into less savoury valourizations of cultural boundedness, nationalisms and conservatism. Instead, the critique of inauthentic and aestheticized versions of South Asian cultural production should be geared towards clearing a space for hearing the ‘secret omnipresence’ of resistance to which Theodore Adorno refers”.

A still less generous use of the term crops up in an early draft of a piece that eventually made it into our book on Diaspora and Hybridity, but in this case reaching back to my long-term interest in a critique of budget travellers:

“‘Going native’ persists in taking the most mundane forms especially where otherwise intelligent gap-year university students return from their travels adorned with the flotsam and jetsam of the trinket markets of the world”.

Ideally though, there will be better formulations than these. Here from a draft of my chapter in the book Celebrating Transgression:

“The trouble with fieldwork as taught in the credentializing system of the new teaching factory is that it relies primarily upon the assemblage of anecdote-trinkets. Theoretical gestation and contemplation – slow moving – is not well suited to the imperatives of pass rates and research assessment calculation. Trinketization of culture here assigns the politics of interpretation to a place of fast and loose generalities – ritualized reflexive moves that surprise no one”.

The main working out of trinketization as double play was done however in what became the book Bad Marxism. The first version of this published in the journal Critique of Anthropology, in an article called ‘Clifford’s Ethnographica’. Catty it was. Ah well. Still, the phenomenal success of Clifford’s book ‘Routes‘ meant that I figured lucky Jim could handle a few snipes when, as I showed, he got Marx wrong (exchange does not determine production, production determines exchange) and went on about that ‘mind-boggling’ bird of paradise headdress and office tie ensemble worn by James Bosu, as seen on the cover (and cropped, the larger version inside showing James with a stubbie of beer too. If Clifford had gone to visit PNG, instead of a quick sprint through a museum in London – the Museum of Man- his ‘boggle’ might have been less offensive). Anyway:

“The problem is that even if Clifford was not limited to descriptive trinketization in his collecting practice, it is very difficult to imagine how he might want to respond to the complexity of the world. Reading his varied statements on culture, trade, power and so on it becomes possible to wonder what would be needed to provoke an attempt to intervene? What set of circumstances would be necessary to provoke even a preliminary essay on what is to be done? Meekly anguished fascination at the phantasmagoric vista before him seems all we will ever be offered” (Critique of Anthropology Vol 18, No 4, 1988:364 – also appeared in Bad Marxism 2004).

There is more of this to come. To be filed under terminological morass.

Responses to “Mind Boggling Trinketization”

  1. Renegade Eye Says:
    April 28, 2007 at 6:11 am eDuring the sixties, the radicals used the word coopt all the time. It meant as turning Afro-American militants wearing their hair Afro style, into a way for capitalists to introduce new lines of hair grooming products. Is that similar to what you’re saying?

  2. John Hutnyk Says:
    April 29, 2007 at 8:38 am eYep. I guess examples like that might be considered under the category of subsumption (real or formal?), though perhaps its more symptomatic than systemic as old Beardo had intended it. Certainly there can be discussion of how Capital today manages to turn everything and anything into product – a kind of hybridizing commerce, adapting and adapted to selling all differences all the time, everywhere (battering down all Chinese walls). Perhaps also relevant is Adorno note that every product strives to convince us of its uniqueness, which is always the same. Hair products for every imaginable style – the artist Sonia Boyce would be relevant here too, once forcing the Manchester anthropology department to handle bits of her collection of off-cuts from various black hairstyles. A dry and wry provocation.

  3. Suyi Says:
    September 30, 2007 at 5:20 pm eHmm… I thought you used the idea of ‘trinketization’ even earlier (albeit if a slightly different way). From McKenvie Wark’s review of The Rumour of Calcutta:

    “Here Hutnyk practices another kind of tourism, an intellectual one, “trinket collecting” in high theory. His sources are the writings of Georg Lukacs and Martin Heidegger, who were concerned with the effects of commerce and contraptions on our ways of seeing and thinking. What Hutnyk takes from them is a thorough kind of materialism. Every perception that we have is the product of an act of labour, an effort shaped by particular tools”.

  4. John Hutnyk Says:
    September 30, 2007 at 7:37 pm eyep, trying to be consistent, though that rumour book was more than ten years ago now.

    Lukacs though, I am reading more carefully these days. – j

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