Read this super informative interview by clicking on the image below (but be sure to still buy the book as there is much more good stuff there) or here for the pdf = JAY MURPHY with Joseph Nechvatal | The Brooklyn Rail
If in Florida, get to this on March 24 2017 at 8pm, at:
(Click here to go to the website):
Prepare yourself for trauma. John Hood’s book The Bleeding Lotus: Notions of nation in Bangladeshi Cinema (2015, Palimpsest) is not intended primarily as a gore-fest horror but is the more devastating for being a documentation of real and brutal violence on film, presented in relentlessly modest prose, requiring careful and sustained, if confronting, reading.
Hood begins his wonderful study of Bangladeshi cinema with an all too cute first line recognition that there were still many people who were ‘born in India, grew up in East Pakistan’ and who, he is writing in 2015, without having travelled, now ‘live in Bangladesh’ (Hood 2015:14). His next 200 pages document that bloody and violent history, tracking films from Zahir Raihan’s Stop Genocide (1971), Tariq and Catherine Masud’s Ontarjatra (2006) through to Nasiruddin Yousuff’s Guerrilla (2011), all the while in extended (short) book length commentary on Tanvir Mokammel’s epic three-hour documentary 1971 (2011). An elegiac annotation of the horrors of partition, language conflicts, civil war, and other assassinations and atrocities, the discussion is all the while shot through with solemn insights about Mokammel’s other films. Hood’s book casts up an ensemble – if that term can be used – that includes the rapist Pakistani military, the bloated bodies of murdered women, groups of dead children in a screen violence perhaps unprecedented, and a horrific witness: ‘deeply moving, powerful visuals’ (Hood 2015:75).
Hood knows Bangladesh, and his descriptions of movies that treat the events of the 1971 war, the Pakistan Army, the Razakar collaborators and the resistance, are comprehensive and relentless. Returning over and over to Mokammel’s 1971 with intuition and argumentation, the commentary and synopsis of a great many related films, documentary and feature, are hung on this bleakly enticing frame. The overwhelming humanity of the treatment obliges close attention (many of the films are online, albeit sans subtitles for non-Bengalis). No other film scholars are mentioned and little obvious debt to film theory is required, but the writing is fluent, engaging and engaged. One learns both of Bangladeshi film and and of the difficult birth of Bangladesh as nation, in a fraught emergence which cannot be reduced to a concert or a newsreel summation. Hood shows more clearly than anyone else I have read on this subject that the secularist revolutionary struggle for Bangladeshi freedom was heroic and so are the films, in various degrees of cinematic dress and competence, not spared any necessary critique where warranted, but all in all informative and done with care.
The problem of circuits infects film distribution as it does publishing or politics, imposing an hierarchy of visibility and voices according to who shouts loudest with which speaker system. Distribution costs money or favours and without vast resources, sensation and political intrigue substitute for worth. Thus it can be that the most widely viewed documentary ‘evidence’ of the Pakistani Army atrocities is a film that owed its international renown to a cross-border machinations by someone previously not much into the business of facilitating film reviews. As Hood argues in discussion of Zahir Raihan’s Stop Genocide (1971):
‘Released even before the war was over [this] was perhaps the earliest cinematic expression of a people’s aspiration for freedom in the face of an occupation army’s inhuman barbarity. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi bought the film rights and had it distributed around the world to project the excesses of the Pakistani military [and so] to justify the Indian intervention’ (Hood 2015:17)
Never previously had a twenty minute film found such unlikely international backing, as Indira also used the cover of the war intervention to quash urban Naxals at home. It is then not without irony that Stop Genocide begins with a quote from Lenin and a refrain from ‘The Internationale’, before shadows of palms and the sound of marching boots, barking dogs, and gunfire. Lines of refugees – stop – close-ups of hungry faces and wide abject eyes – stop – the return of revolutionary anthem as a pleading dirge at the end smears misery across the screen, exceeded only with a reference to Auschwitz – stop, stop stop Genocide across the final frames.
What further circulates, however, supported in turn by that indubitably well-meaning and necessary Concert for Bangladesh, starring George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, is the globally distributed image of Bangladesh as a space of trauma. Abject nationhood sells, in the hands of such philanthropic friends. Other films or images of a tranquil Bangladesh find distribution deals harder to come by unless they can market the exoticist angles.
Hood’s lyrical description of the opening sequence of Morshedul Islam’s Khalaghar (PlayHouse, Dir. Islam, 2006) illustrates the dual tendencies in more recent times:
‘The setting is a lush and dense tract of riverbank. The camera focuses on a boat coming along the relatively narrow and secluded stretch of the river. Other than the boatman nothing comes into view; the only other sound than the splash of water by the moving punt is a gentle twittering of birds. It is a truly idyllic scene, which lasts for just about two minutes before the boatman draws to the bank under the cover of low over-hanging branches and in scary silence six young men emerge from the jungle behind the camera to meet the boat. Without a word the boatman proceeds to unload a cargo of arms, passing out guns to the men on the bank. Not a word is spoken’ (Hood 2015:122-3)
Reflections in the water play an important role in the sequence, ripples and shimmering in the image, the youth collecting the guns framed under the tree, before a bell rhythm introduces the opening credits. It is a full five and a half minutes before a word is spoken, when the teacher is informed of news about the fight for freedom. The idyll contrasts with an indication of the guerrilla war. Hood is right to double up on noting that words are unnecessary for the effect. Bangladesh, like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are rendered as paradise with violence; only sand, dust, mountains, or swollen rivers are interchangeable, and these stereotyped images, along with the all-singing, all-dancing Bollywood ready reckoner, circle the globe. Partition horrors, the emergency and the pogroms dull the tune. Of course other images and critiques of stereotypes are possible. A counter-narrative is found in Humayan Ahmed’s Shyambol Chhaya (2004) where towards the end the Bengali freedom fighters approach a Pakistani Army post disguised as musicians, who, when they get close enough, ‘exchange their instruments for guns and grenades’ (Hood 2015:140). This book and these films take us beyond the lingering consequences of long years of colonial misrule, restoring initiative where there is otherwise only the fading of the vibrant Raj pink of Empire’s nostalgic fantasy – rose-coloured as if the Jallianwalah Bagh massacre of unarmed civilians or Churchill’s wartime ‘necessary’ famine were mere administrative anomalies. If Empire left its outcomes in arbitrary lines and compromises that were unworkable from the get go, Islam’s film Khalaghar, Mokammel’s 1971, and Hood’s book as a whole, alongside many other films and commentary (Prasad et al.,) are efforts to help us negotiate the difficulties and stereotypes that refuse, perhaps especially through invitation and containment, to otherwise succumb to critique.
This is it – Jay Murphy’s book is out.
Use the pavement site because postage is included…
The first book on the transformation from Artaud’s ‘early’ to ‘late’ work, showing how the ‘final’ Artaud leads straight into our digital present.
£18.99 (inc. free postage)
A great new book from Pavement Books:
by Jay Murphy
£18.99 (inc. postage)
Despite being one of the most influential artists and writers of the mid-20th Century, Antonin Artaud’s voice remains inadequately deciphered. Artaud’s Metamorphosis is the first book on the transformation from his ‘early’ to ‘late’ work, and it shows how the ‘final’ Artaud leads straight into our digital present. This Artaud will alter how you think of media, the virtual, the political, and thought itself.
‘Only after reading Jay Murphy’s beautifully crafted, thought-provoking, scholarly yet light fingered, account did I become aware of the crucial role the benighted Artaud plays in capitalism-and-schizophrenia. Murphy is a most wonderful guide to the madness that is our voyage through reality as a body without organs.’
Michael Taussig, Columbia University
‘Jay Murphy’s book excels as a forensic investigation of the continuing explosion that was Artaud. It collects the traces left by his devastating passage through poetry, art, politics, philosophy, film and theatre and shows how Artaud’s “war unto eternity” pushed him beyonds the limits of the hieroglyph towards the “body without organs”. Lucid without compromising the darkness of Artaud’s suffering, it is essential reading for anyone interested in the madness of the 20th and 21st centuries.’
Howard Caygill, Kingston University
‘There is in Artaud a high velocity veering composed of lucidity and imaginative derangement. To figure out what he is really about is an extraordinary challenge. The most important aspect of Murphy’s contribution is his awareness that Artaud’s bizarre images and propositions carry visionary components relative to virtuality and digitality and may also address new relations of time, space, body and awareness. Such work indicates sophistication in reading Artaud that is far from the American 1960s attitude toward him.’
Clayton Eshleman, Eastern Michigan University
Table of Contents
Introduction: Metabolism and Immortality
I. A PROJECT FOR UNDERSTANDING ARTAUD
The matter of theory: updating ‘cosmos=chaos’
Artaud’s difference: sense and signification
Artaud’s glossolalia: a user’s guide
The yoga of the scream
The ‘figural’ and the language of the body
The revelation of how the ‘hieroglyph’ works in Artaud’s film scenarios
The persistence of myth: Artaud the mystic without mysticism, the shaman without community
II. IN THE LAND OF THE TARAHUMARAS
Artaud on ancient Mayan hieroglyphs: the ‘Space where Life dies’
Explaining ‘occult geometry’: Artaud’s art criticism
The visit to the Tarahumaras
Interpreting the Tarahumara rites
‘Stopping the world’: Artaud’s double, triple worlds
Touching the outside
III. RITUAL ACTS
Maps of the ‘unconscious’
Putting ‘time back on track’
The body is the operator
The conflict of the faculties
The case of Artaud’s ‘Tutuguri’ (1948)
The space of Artaud’s apocalypse
IV. TRANSFORMING RITUAL ACTS
Artaud’s apocalypse as initiation, or ‘complete voyage’
The world of sorcery as ‘permanent liminality’
Artaud and Jesus Christ
The cross and the crossroads, redux
The ‘universal’ cross: enter Guénon
Artaud’s The New Revelations of Being (1937)
The cross as a test of rhythm
V. HIEROGLYPHICS AS PASSAGE
Artaud’s becoming versus being
The fulcrum of the Cross: Artaud’s ‘Gnostic’ delirium
Artaud begins his re-formation: the cross and the sexuality of the ‘true body’
The ‘search for fecality’ in the creation of the new body
The cross is the pivot in this creation of the ‘true body’
The full ‘body without organs’ emerges
VI. THE FRACTURING OF THE VOID
AND THE EXPLODING HIEROGYLPH
The spherical body
Artaud’s 1947-8 notebooks: the combustion of hieroglyphics
The opening to animism: the ‘body without organs’ as mythic autoreference
Artaud on Van Gogh: the totem and the implosion of the
Derrida’s Artaud: the vicissitudes of the ‘subjectile’
Artaud’s ‘graphic cruelties’: the face of the void
The voice at the end of the world: the final sound works
Conclusion: ERASING THE LINE
Artaud’s subversion of hieroglyphics
Artaud in the 21st century: the ‘present body’
Just started JD Taylor’s book, bought in Waterstones sociology section yesterday. Brilliant. I mean, the placing of this book in that shelving – shame its four floors up from ground. If there were two copies I would have moved the one I did not buy down to the new books section at the entrance, alongside stuff from Owen Jones and Russell Brand…
Dan by bicycle around Britain – possibly the last book to Unite the disparate multi Island nation (not one nation, emphatically not):
“I reach Leith, a port town now absorbed intoEdinburgh metropolis, but still retaining its own independent spirit. It’s a bustling though evidently impoverished place, by no means as grim as the early-90s immortalisation in Irving Welsh’s Trainspotting. The Banana Flats cotch over the scene like a piece of Thunderbirds’ concretopia, as colourful as a stubbed out snout. The old docks have now been gentrified by posh restaurants, luxury apartment blocks and a moronic Ocean Terminal mall, a non-place inflicted on Leith for once having any kind of character”
So in 20 years this will be the first of the many travel volumes of the by then portly, but still adjectively agile, latter day Jonathan Meades, William Dalrymple, Bill Bryson, Ian Sinclair. Only he will still seem precocious and young – eat your heart out Owen Jones.
“David meets me in the centre of Nottingham. A friend of a friend, he’s kindly offered me a place to stay and help repairing my bike. He smiles, is gracious and issues wise observations as I tail him up to Canning Circus. A local man, bike enthusiast and university researcher, his insights are as consoling as the porters we clink in the beer-garden.
In the Midlands, these working class communities where things were once made now seem abandoned of political importance. Poverty creeps. There’s a danger of seeking out some master to put it right, David warns. ‘We’ve found a problem, do something about it.’ He remembers the riots of 2011, the local police station getting firebombed. ‘For one small moment’, something important happened. Young people were out in the streets, talking politics and the future. They felt like they had power, that for a moment they might be heard…”
Reasons enough to buy the book. Info here: http://repeaterbooks.com/politics/another-island/