Category Archives: pantomime

Walter Benjamin and Asja Lācis

Well, he might be the ‘Marxist you can take home to meet your mother’ (as Vijay Prashad once said to me) but here some Benjamin, plus one – Asja Lācis -, for unpacking in between the consequential chaos of homeschooling – its a reassurance for parents that comparatively home school is going to be ok so long as they are making sure its not only endless playing of the ‘game’ monopoly (well, and a whole lot more, including Disney, but an exemption for the magical thinking of Dorothy who seeks to make it over the rainbow with a couple of workers so their dreams come true. The Emerald City is no communist Utopia, but putting that self-appointed snake-charmer wizard guy in a hot air balloon should be a lesson too. And dropping a house on the wicked witch to the approval of the good witch leaves some room for interpretive license): Anyway, here is Andris Brinkmanis on Walter Benjamin and Asja Lācis:
 
‘During the hot 1968 season, the name Anna Ernestovna “Asja” Lācis (1891–1979) unexpectedly reemerged among young leftist cultural “archaeologists” as an unearthed ruin of a historical “dream city.” A crucial missing element of a certain political-cultural trajectory had been rediscovered. With it, Benjamin’s short essay “Program for a Proletarian Children’s Theater” regained the character of a concrete and dialectical political-aesthetical pedagogical praxis, based on real experience. His writings on childhood and pedagogy thus assumed a programmatic character too: to oppose the dominant “bourgeois” education and behavioral models by all means, locating the very foundations of the capitalist ideological edifice in early childhood education’.
 
And Asja:
“In times of struggle, art has to be both an ally and friend of those in conflict. In this century of struggle, we look for art in the magnificent, free life. In it the creative process reveals itself through an intense and free action of the spirit, through masses that flow united by a common exhilarating rhythm’.
 
Read it all here:
 
 

Pantomime Terror

This book is about storytelling and music video – well, also politics and terror, performance and television.

Screenshot 2018-12-21 at 20.42.16

HUTNYK_PANTOMIME TERROR

The book tunes into music in three acts. I have written on these performers before, and so thank them again for the opportunity to return to their stories. The approach is a continuation of a research project and collective political effort that I joined when I first came to Britain in 1994. This iteration rehearses this work for London and in relation to twenty first-century terrors, as well as returning to a long beloved articulation of divergent interpretations of critical theory, especially the work of Theodor Adorno. In the introduction, there is a first rendition of the theme of pantomime, which will resonate throughout, and perhaps perversely, the end of the intro starts in on the end of the video Cookbook DIY, examined more fully in the next chapter. I advance this end because the point of this book is to record how peripheral ‘messages’ are too often ignored. In this sense, the project of ‘pantomime terror’ as distraction will be affirmed. I thank Aki Nawaz and Dave Watts for what is now a long collaboration.

The chapters are:

1. Introduction: London Bus :: Pantomime :: War Diary :: Mediation :: The Orange Jumpsuit :: Alerts.

2. DIY Cookbook: Visiting the Kumars :: A Suicide Rapper :: 1001 Nights :: Cookbook DIY :: Pantomime Video :: The RampArts Interlude (notes from a screening) :: All is War :: Back to the Kumars.

3. Dub at the Movies: Representing La Haine :: Žižek-degree-zero :: Derrida Writes the Way :: The Eiffel Tower :: Ruffians, Rabble, Rogues and Repetition :: Musical Interlude :: Riff-raff :: Reserve Army :: Coda: The Battle of Algiers :: Molotov.

4. Scheherazade‘s Sister, M.I.A.: Cultural Projects :: Storyteller Nights :: M.I.A. :: Born Free :: Sell Out, or Tiocfaidh ár lá :: Witticisms and Wagner :: Despot Culture :: Scheherazade in Guantánamo.

 

Orientalism for kids – again

Am gearing up for another round of kiddy tv and hoping there are new programmes since the mind worms of Iggle Piggle and Peppa Pig did their damage. This time Theodor and I are reviewing the options for Annabel’s rapidly arriving toddler indoctrination sessions. First exhibit on review is Nicklodious’s ‘Shimmer and Shine’.

Flying carpets, shalwar kameez, wayang kulit shadow puppets, princesses and dragons (with bad breath). The two genies have 3 wishes an episode to bestow, of course wishes go astray, are wasted frivolously, but a lesson is learned. Nothing new then, and some pretty standard 1001 nights fare, along with a geography-hopping sampling of almost any magical tradition anywhere. Ok, not so worried about that, but there is a dad who eats popcorn – very suspicious. He may work in films. Big eyed anime influence, suburban values and cinema in-jokes. Does the obvious fun they had making this mean the stereotypes are somehow undone? Nope, but a popcorn munching genie is better than that 60s comedy dream of Barbara Eden.

Oh damn, there’s a prince in it, daft boy in specs – and now sitar fusion cartoon songs. I preferred the Beatles cartoon trip to India bit posted on my film course blog.
This is what we do on Sunday mornings…

The Syndication of Plagiarism SZ: (For Nicole Pepperell)

Was reading and discussing with a comrade Dinesh Wadiwel about his stuff on animals in Marx, and took up discussion of the bit from Capital 1867 edn , cited by Endnotes 2, on animals as general equivalent (dropped in subsequent editions). This since I am giving a talk on related themes: Marx, Animals, India, a certain rhinoceros, in Senegal this Saturday.

But then I did a search of the phrasing (english trans of 1867 edn from Value Studies by Marx <download here>). There, discovered a bit of suspect website scrubbing.

Let me put it neutrally, and let the people decide <the people know I have nothing against Zizek, except for my polemic in Pantomime Terror, that is: (see here)

OK, this involves two instances of people we know using that quote. Nicole Pepperell’s one from her blog in 2008, and Slavoj Zizek from Less than Nothing in 2012. Of course there is no guarantee Zizek did not already use this phrase previously, because he has hardly ever had a thought that was not published two or three times (see below), but here the use of the exact same words does indicate some level of something more than general equivalence.
 .
What do you all think? See the attached screenshots if you don’t want to follow up, the first exhibit is Nicole from Rough Theory <full post here>, the second is SZ <Pdf here>.
Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 23.30.35
and
Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 23.29.51
***
Romping heterogeneity. Ba bah boom.
.
*********************
.
ahhh, and since SZ does the rerun thing so often, its also in a 2012 volume called God in Pain: Inversions of the Apocalypse, with Boris Gunjević <here>
Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 00.16.11
***
AND syndicated in Italy and translated as a 2013 bog post: <here>
Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 00.18.22
***
and then it circulates unawares, we get “Žižek says” in <this> otherwise fine piece:
Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 00.35.17

Pantomime Terror #music #politics

There’s a whole section on Wagner in this, and some humour. For the record… (you can order by clicking the cover to get to Zero then look for the sales tab lower right):

Screen shot 2013-11-19 at 08.38.55

Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 16.10.41

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.

_______________

Things that won’t be in the book 223 – Roy Orbison’s song Pantomime


“Pantomime”

Well thanks a lot thank you
Now I’m the talk of the town
Of all the fools they drink to
I am the king of the clowns
I play the lonely joker
I take what fun I can find
I laugh when things aren’t funny
I throw away my last dime
You’re not mine so I waste my time in pantomime.
It’s pantomime.I’m ready for lonely fun times, yeah
Loud music may dull my mind
Black coffee and electric sunshine
Get set for this pantomime.I-ay-ay-ay cry inside cause you’re not mine
I-ay die-ay-ay-ay inside cause you’re not mine
I pantomime.

Laughing when I feel like crying
Crying when I feel like dying
You’re not mine so I waste my time in pantomime
Bring on the girls and the parties, yeah
Guitars and drums beating time
Be merry, be gay and hardy, yeah
I’m set for this pantomime.

– Roy Orbison

Things that won’t be in the book part 213 – Robinson Crusoe pantomime’s

Reading around for Panto stuff again, and remembering Marx’s fascination with Robinsonades:

Robinson Crusoe crops up a number of times, either as a title or as a character.  Of course Steve Shaw’s Robinson Crusoe takes its title from the novel by Daniel Defoe, but since the pantomime tradition does not leave much room for solitary castaways, the plot voyages a long way from the original, and Crusoe’s desert island is populated by a tribe of islanders and an eccentric gorilla. James Barry’s approach to the same classic is to assume that Crusoe distorted his account somewhat, hence James’s small cast version of the story is Robinson Crusoe – the Truth!

Kracauer’s Orpheus in Paris, 1937

Lists, of Paris nightlife attractions. How can this not be known as antecedent of Benjamin’s Arcades? It links boulevards and commune and trinkets and more, it goes on to interweave opera, mischief, music and revolutions, and Panto! Brilliant, overlooked book.

20120723-163522.jpg

Then, the delight that presents itself to the stumbling pedestrian. Organ grinders (18th Brumaire) cannot be far from Ziggy’s mind here. Turks!

20120723-170506.jpg

And now, even better, the arcades themselves described as a grotto. Underworld phantasmagoria – with an educational mission.

20120723-172747.jpg

Born Free – MIA’s Poetry After Guantanamo

A piece written before this week’s release of Bad Girls, coming out soon in Social Identities.

Abstract: The recent work of the Sri-Lankan-British musician and sonic ‘curator’ known as M.I.A. (real name: Mathangi Arulpragasam) is considered as a commentary on atrocity and read alongside the well known essay ‘The Storyteller’ by Walter Benjamin and comments on Auschwitz by Theodor Adorno. The storytelling here is updated for a contemporary context where global war impacts us all, more or less visibly, more, or less, acknowledged. It is argued that the controversy over M.I.A.’s Romain Gavras video Born Free is exemplary of the predicament of art in the face of violence, crisis and terror – with this track, and video, M.I.A.’s work faced a storm of criticism which I want to critique in turn, in an attempt, at least, to learn to make or discern more analytic distinctions amongst concurrent determinations of art A careful reading of Adorno can in the end teach us to see Born Free anew.

 

Keywords: Benjamin, Adorno, Gavras, M.I.A, music, terror, racism, orientalism.

PDF Here Poetry After GuantanamoFinalDraftSocialIdentities.

Pantomime Terror Lecture 30.9.2008

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

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

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).

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:

More on that UfSO #riotcleanup or #riotwhitewash spike

Sofia Himmelblau responds to her critics

AUGUST 12, 2011
by flashbank

Postscript – A Response to Comments
Dr. Sofia Himmelblau
(This was written as a response to various comments made regarding my previous post and has also been reposted there)

My previous post appears to have sparked a huge amount of controversy….

Keep reading Dr Himmelblau’s response here.

Yesterday’s spike in stats:

Title Views
#riotcleanup or #riotwhitewash? More stats 11,479
Home page More stats 900
About More stats 390
An actual first-hand account More stats 203
Inaugural Lecture More stats 172
Conference: On Violence More stats 142
A riot is the language of the unread More stats 118
Contact More stats 97
Second Lecture More stats 94
“This is criminality, pure and simple…” More stats 50

Belle D’Opium

Some might think this bad taste. I think its a hoot, and bad taste. A commercial sell-out I’d missed – Nitin Sawhney, Romain Gavras (who also did the MIA vid I am writing about) Mélanie Thierry working together on a Yves Saint Laurent advert with dodgy choreography by Akram Khan. My thanks to Dr Royona Mitra for pointing me at this in her excellent thesis on Akram’s performances. Finding the vein was my addition though – Thierry/voiceover says in the film ‘I am your addiction’ – even as getting this screen shot was a bit time consuming. Everyone should all know you can’t mainline opium of course, duffer trickster exoticists. The whole film is here: http://belledopium.com/en_CA/artistes.html#/film/

Slow/No News Day (or so it is made to seem)

The three fucking amigos, bastard dingbat flunkies from obsolete piggy pollie parties each singing from the same hymn sheet trying to save face and protect a disgraced plenipotentiary (propaganda wing of Capital). Fuck them. And the faded pundit celebrities lining up to resurrect careers with the odd critical quip, sitting on studio couches alongside spotlight mesmerized reality TV News instant message heroes, with the redhead hung out to twist her curls in the wind as Sideshow Bob while the war rages unabashed. The ferocity of feeling that measures anger, the acute sensibility despite the taunts of crazed coppers, the articulate parallel sphere that insists on the urgent and relevant news not this dumbshow pantomime – give me that. A revolution is brewing, the cauldron is boiling in the wings, the vat will fit them nicely, we’ll pop on the lid and let them boil. Turn off these three stooges of the parliamentary path and lets watch something funny. Parliament, Sporting events, and Kettles are cheap television because the cameras know in advance where the action will be (contained). Close it all down, not just the tabloids and the phantasmagoric sky, we can make it all anew.

Pantomime Paranoia in London, or, ‘Look Out, He’s Behind You’

The book version of a commentary on various things Fun^da^mental (plus stuff on the Kumars at No. 42, Jean Charles de Menezes, Forest Gate, and the general mayhem of war-on-terror culture) is now out in a volume edited by Ian Peddie. Some of this material first appeared in various places across this blog, and was my inaugural lecture.

Now the pdf of my chapter is available on this link: 011 Hutnyk Ch 4 Peddi, by grace and favour of the publisher.

Whittington’s Cat notes for Panto Terror (redux)

Punch and Judy (redux from 27.08.08). The grim and glum reality of opportunism is today more and more prevalent, more and more accessed, acquiesced, more or more or less bad, worse than before. We are confronted on all sides by both overt and covert ‘research’ groups, by think tanks and lobbyists, who have decided – in a climate of total war – that we need to attend to (the control of) the global public sphere. The tanksters are interested in ideas, in projects and in strategies, they are interested in the management of feelings, the orchestration of responses, they are interested in refining a certain clarity of message. They bring us bread and circuses – both stale.

Their boosterism says nothing. The climate they encourage thrives on the sentiment of abstract disengagement – alongside the promulgation of procedure and the ‘dictatorship of the secretariat’ – they persuade us that we abjure our interest or involvement in political questions because a) things are too complex and b) complexity needs to be controlled.

These people are sceptics who rail against scepticism. They present themselves as those who present answers, but the way they do so cynically narrows the space of answers to a tightly controlled furrow. The engagement they favour is disengagement except on their own studiously abstract terms. There is no room for the questioning of sceptics in their cynical world.

And then they sometimes claim they are for democracy – but not broadband democracy or open debate – rather a pay-per-view, programme management, narrowcasting, niche-market democracy. Their democracy excludes debate, questions, objections and alternatives. They have long ago vetoed the possibility of thinking outside the box, for there lies danger, difference, a multiplicity that cannot be corralled. The box must always have a brand mark, a slogan, a font or a strapline – sometimes just a colour (the colour is always drab).

They promote their insights as research, as scholarship, as traditional values and as wisdom – but they are faceless, passionless, automatons – going though the motions (jack boots are not far away, but they forgo them for frequent flyer miles and airport lounge privileges).

I do of course think there are more than two sides – the lines shift and the players change, sometimes swapping, sometimes double agents. But there are some, the best you can say of them is that while they are one of ‘them’, they do at least talk like ‘us’. We should carefully watch these ones especially.

Who are they? In fact they are us. Turn again Dick Whittington, Turn again.

———

And why Dick Whittington? – see here for both the real and the Pantomime story, where a cloth-merchant adventurer pilfers some gold, travels to the orient to get rich, and returns to London to become Mayor. OK, this all happened 700 years ago, but the cat seems to have nine lives. These are notes for Pantomime Terror – inaugural on 30/09/08 (5.30, IGLT Goldsmiths).

Whittington’s Cat notes for Panto Terror.

Punch and Judy. The grim and glum reality of opportunism is today more and more prevalent, more and more accessed, acquiesced, more or more or less bad, worse than before. We are confronted on all sides by both overt and covert ‘research’ groups, by think tanks and lobbyists, who have decided – in a climate of total war – that we need to attend to (the control of) the global public sphere. The tanksters are interested in ideas, in projects and in strategies, they are interested in the management of feelings, the orchestration of responses, they are interested in refining a certain clarity of message. They bring us bread and circuses – both stale.

Their boosterism says nothing. The climate they encourage thrives on the sentiment of abstract disengagement – alongside the promulgation of procedure and the ‘dictatorship of the secretariat’ – they persuade us that we abjure our interest or involvement in political questions because a) things are too complex and b) complexity needs to be controlled.

These people are sceptics who rail against scepticism. They present themselves as those who present answers, but the way they do so cynically narrows the space of answers to a tightly controlled furrow. The engagement they favour is disengagement except on their own studiously abstract terms. There is no room for the questioning of sceptics in their cynical world.

And then they sometimes claim they are for democracy – but not broadband democracy or open debate – rather a pay-per-view, programme management, narrowcasting, niche-market democracy. Their democracy excludes debate, questions, objections and alternatives. They have long ago vetoed the possibility of thinking outside the box, for there lies danger, difference, a multiplicity that cannot be corralled. The box must always have a brand mark, a slogan, a font or a strapline – sometimes just a colour (the colour is always drab).

They promote their insights as research, as scholarship, as traditional values and as wisdom – but they are faceless, passionless, automatons – going though the motions (jack boots are not far away, but they forgo them for frequent flyer miles and airport lounge privileges).

I do of course think there are more than two sides – the lines shift and the players change, sometimes swapping, sometimes double agents. But there are some, the best you can say of them is that while they are one of ‘them’, they do at least talk like ‘us’. We should carefully watch these ones especially.

Who are they? In fact they are us. Turn again Dick Whittington, Turn again.

———

And why Dick Whittington? – see here for both the real and the Pantomime story, where a cloth-merchant adventurer pilfers some gold, travels to the orient to get rich, and returns to London to become Mayor. OK, this all happened 700 years ago, but the cat seems to have nine lives. These are notes for Pantomime Terror – inaugural on 30/09/08 (5.30, IGLT Goldsmiths).