I’ve two short bits of writing in this elegant little book from Jack Boulton, Stimulus Respond and Pavement Books. ‘The Politics of Cats’ and the bus part of the intro to ‘Pantomime Terror‘
So as to be able to post the photograph of the elephant (elephants are a subtheme of this blog, where others would have cats, though I also have cats – and other (political) animals… Elephants are political, cf India, from the Mahabharatha to contemporary Pandals and tourism).
Anyway, the point is to plug Mute and a James Heartfield review of Critique of Creativity: http://www.metamute.org/community/reviews/critique-creativity
From the good folk at Minor Compositions, a project for hipsters, creatives and others with too much to lose (please share widely):
Surviving as a cultural or artistic worker in the city has never been easy. Creative workers find themselves celebrated as engines of economic growth, economic recovery and urban revitalization even as the conditions for our continued survival becomes more precarious. How can you make a living today in such a situation? That is, how to hold together the demands of paying the rent and bills while managing all the tasks necessary to support one’s practice? How to manage the tensions between creating spaces for creativity and imagination while working through the constraints posed by economic conditions?
In a more traditional workplace it is generally easy to distinguish between those who planned and managed the labor process and those who were involved in its executions: between the managers and the managed. For creative workers these distinctions become increasingly hard to make. Today the passionate and self-motivated labor of the artisan increasingly becomes the model for a self-disciplining, self-managed labor force that works harder, longer, and often for less pay precisely because of its attachment to some degree of personal fulfillment in forms of engaging work. And that ain’t no way to make a living, having to struggle three times as hard for just to have a sense of engagement in meaningful work.
This project sets out to investigate how cultural workers in the metropolis manage these competing tensions and demands. The goal is to bring together the dispersed knowledges and experiences of creative workers finding ways to make a living in the modern metropolis. And by doing that to create a space to learn from this common experiences that often are not experienced as such while we work away in different parts of the city.
Elena tells me: “Marc Twain said: “While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats”. And sends this pic from Vienna to add to the buses as trinkets collection no doubt – we will take over the world eventually. Thx.
And while we are on the subject of Cats. Perhaps I will start a reading list to add to my ‘Politics of Cats’ piece in an early Stimulus Here:
Soseki Natsume 1905/2002 “I am a Cat” Berkeley: Tuttle Publishing.
Kurt Vonnegut 1963 “Cats Cradle” New York: Dell Publishing.
Burroughs 2000 “Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs” which has lots to do with his cats, like Fletch. Grove Press.
more to come…
I imagine that cats are aphorists, composing dialectical koans and licking their whiskers at the elegance of their arabesques. Though I recognise that Adorno himself noted that aphorisms were not admissible in dialectical thought, which should always abhor isolation and separateness (1951/1974:16), I concede that cats are separate and aloof. Since they are never owned by their humans, they stand apart, domesticated only by choice, self-grooming, dreaming of mice (rather than hubcaps – go figure), ignoring us in ways that transcend normal social, political and geophysical categories. We know these routines already, and recognise their outsider status with a mix of awe and disregard.
Projection. The anthropomorphic charge is more difficult to lay upon our conception of cats, yet it does apply. To think of them as yoga-masters, or as independent outsider spirits, is still to malign them as merely human. I am sometimes paranoid in thinking that my cat is mechanical. A twisted automaton designed especially to distort my brain. Uncle Bill Burroughs said that paranoia was being in possession of all of the facts. So let us consider the evidence: cats purr – this could be very cute, or is it rather the calculated industrial production if cuteness?; cats wash themselves with their tongues – and if they were electric they would short-circuit (though consider how coffing up a hairball might just be that); cats growl and hiss when interrogated – clearly they could be detained as non-combatants if only we had the will, and a strong leader. Cats have whiskers… More examples would only trap us in a dialectical game of catch and release, and so cats will have once again won. They always do, toying with us; ask the mice.
So I think we need to learn to learn from these philosophers of composure. First of all I imagine Uncle Bill, stoned in the Bunker, communing in some feline comprehension with his cat Fletch: ‘wouldn’t you?’. But why is it that Lévi-Strauss exchanges a look of understanding with that cat at the very end of his book Tristes Tropiques? Why a look; a visual metaphor for knowledge? Well, not so much a look of knowing, but a ‘brief glance, heavy with patience, serenity and mutual forgiveness’ (1955/1973: 544). Do cats forgive? Are they theorists of hospitality? That look bothers me some. If I were to elaborate on the metaphors of vision for knowledge I would ramble on about the way our disciplines are divided up into fields; how one strives to see the point of an argument; how instead of seeing your point, I hold a different view – so many ways in which the assertions of knowledge are visual. But with cats you do not know – the enigmatic Cheshire smile prevails.
Kurt Vonnegut died recently, having once written a great book called Cats Cradle (1963) which was later accepted by the University of Chicago anthropology department as a Masters thesis. In that book, the narrator, Jonah (referencing Moby Dick) investigates the life of the now deceased Felix Hoenikker, developer of the atomic bomb. Of course we all know Felix is a quintessential cat’s name (my first cat), and this Felix is appropriately enigmatic also, concerned only with higher science, the pursuit of knowledge as calculation, and absent-minded outsider. Though I suspect a certain identification on Vonnegut’s part, only this narrator, as Jonah, could hunt him down, tempt him with the fish perhaps… It’s not just the bomb, Felix invents a substance that threatens the planet – Ice-9, and his children take it and… To tell more would ruin the story for those who have yet to read it – as far as thesis goes, its anyone’s guess how Chicago Anthropology managed to assess this as a scholarly work. Credit due.
Burroughs also pursued anthropology. This at Harvard as part of the G.I. Bill, where returned WW2 service personnel were offered places in university. Uncle Bill reports that he found the department grim: ‘I had done some graduate work in anthropology. I got a glimpse of academic life and I didn’t like it at all. It looked like there was too much faculty intrigue, faculty lies, cultivating the head of department, so on and so forth’ (Burroughs 2001: 76). It makes me wonder how any of those cats ever get their act together and sit for their degrees. Concentration seems awry; consistency suspended. And a mischievous outsider’s critical countenance continues to leave them disturbingly set apart.
Burroughs in London in 1970 was strangely prophetic when he described America as vulnerable: ‘extremely vulnerable to chaos, to breakdown in communications, particularly to a breakdown in the food supply [a typical cat concern]. Bombs concentrated on communications, random bombs on trains, boats, planes, buses could lead to paralysis. But you must consider the available counters. We spoke about the ultimate repression that would be used. Once large-scale bombings started you could expect the most violent reactions. They’d declare a national emergency and arrest anyone. They don’t have to know who did it. They’ll just arrest everyone who might have done it’ (Burroughs 2001:156).
There are suggestions that all cats be detained in Guantanamo. We are close to such a repression. Just presenting the look of being an outsider is a dangerous thing. Cats threaten the western way of life in this time of ‘war on terror’, and do so because we cannot ever tell if they are with us or against us. And they are not afraid of sacrifice – they believe they have nine lives! They adhere to ancient cult traditions (from Egypt no less, training camps in the desert we suspect). They are long past masters of undercover operations (consider CatWoman’s wily ways of entrapping the hero of Gotham). Just read the old eastern book of war tactics, I am a Cat by Soseki Natsume (1905/2002) to see how internecine and dialectical warfare offers tactical advantage to these furry miscreants. Danger, hiss, pttfft, grrrr.
The thing about cats, aberrant and inscrutable, is that they are the antithesis of the rat-race, and for this reason alone it is worth changing their kitty-litter. Meow!
John Hutnyk (for Daisy Cumberland)
Refs: Theodor Adorno 1951/1974 Minima Moralia New York: NLB. William Burroughs 1971 Burroughs Live: Interviews New York: Semiotext(e). Claude Lévi-Strauss 1955/1976 Tristes Tropiques, Harmondsworth: Penguin. Soseki Natsume 1905/2002 I am a Cat Berkeley: Tuttle Publishing. Kurt Vonnegut 1963 Cats Cradle New York: Dell Publishing.
cats stretch [& cat pic from Dr Who]
this was published in the excellent Stimulus Respond
Huh? Even cats have blogs nowadays, this one seems to write a lot about fish (ok – whales). Quite cute CC. PIPER JONES, BETA CAT
I walk into the newsagent to face a choice of 75 magazines telling me about a range of pretty much the same consumer choices – which computer, which video, which movie. All of them have the same perfect model on the front, male or female, blonde or brunette. I walk across to the supermarket to by the supermarket’s own brand pasta, and its own brand bath cleaner – only to find the refill nozzle on the size I usually buy has been redesigned, so I can’t just buy another refill. I would laugh out loud at the absurdity of this, but it’s not funny enough to make me to piss my name brand pants. How funny is it that I have another man’s name across the front of my Brad Pitts? Of course I ask this while thinking of Fightclub in which Pitt says exactly what I wish I had thought of first, but didn’t cos I was preoccupied with the laughter of Bataille. Stretch – [cats from Brighton, powered by Carrie].