This month our secret arts administrator gets ready for the cultural behemoth that St. Patricks Day in Ireland
Heady days here at our arts centre HQ as we gear up for the pride and fervour of St. Patrick’s Day and shake off those post-Christmas blues! Last month, I mentioned that we had a number of interns working with us and yes, they are still here, beavering away in their own rural fashion. We almost had a major incident the other day, one of the girls began to spit and splutter all of a sudden, making a series of bizarre noises and jerky movements. I got such a shock, I almost spilt my coffee all over the keyboard and was on the verge of asking someone to call a doctor when I was reliably informed that the intern was in fact speaking Irish! How quaint. Once I realised this, I must admit that it took me some time to stifle my laughter, being able to speak such a useless language is one thing, but speaking it in public? My God, how embarrassing. However, I do understand that the poor girl must find it difficult adjusting to life here in the big smoke so I waited until her conversation was practically finished before admonishing her. Thankfully no one important was in the office at the time.
A trip so manicured would make any man nauseous. Certainly my patience was steadily draining away. Through some 4,000km due south, west, then north in Argentina I had allowed myself to be shepherded along like a supine little lamb. Puerto Madryn, Bariloche, and now Mendoza – each precise little step of it horribly choreographed. There was I, handing over control of my travels to a herd of tourism whores. From hostel to bus station, to the next hostel, and back to the bus station again, with all of the tailor-made day trips in between. There was no exploring for things to do, you would just present yourself at the hostel reception, look like a mute, muscle up the strength to point to an activity, and they would take care of the rest. I was falling nicely into line. Even on those long bus journeys the focus was less on the landscape outside than on the bingo, entertaining the backpackers inside. A hardy crew on the road in South America, for sure, whose first instinct once they arrive is to seek the security of their own ilk! Such a closeted way of travelling was really starting to irk me. It was a Sunday and I had signed up for a little cocktail of trekking in the morning, abseiling in the afternoon and a thermal spa to wind down, for the following day. I did so out of guilt. Making up time en route to Peru was one thing, but now I needed to engage. At least Mendoza would soothe me afterwards with its renowned brews of wine. It was such a cute city.
That Sunday afternoon the sun shone down by us at the pool, but my mind was still restless, the anticipation uncomfortable. Three young English lads were loitering in the heat, lazing around. I gave them 20 at most. In my mind I saw a trail of Jack Kerouac books falling out of their perfumed arses, readily visible with their shorts tucked around their knees. One of them, indeed, had a copy of ‘On The Road’ laying on his towel, though he couldn´t spare much time for reading any of it. All those hours spent bleaching ones hair, I supposed. These lads were sure candidates for the trek. The dread was starting to dizzy me out.
That evening, my unravelling mind leading me in circles around purgatory, things took an odd twist. I had mislaid my camera and in the fit to reclaim it, the reclusive French lad sleeping opposite suddenly broke his silence. One thing led to another. “Eez shit,” he ranted. “Eez urban tourism.” Now I was listening, transfixed as the gates of heaven were being prised open. Gilles wanted to rent a car and navigate the contours between Mendoza and Salta in his own way. He would camp en route. His only dilemma was finding a companion to share the cost. In the midst of this I found my camera rooted to the bottom of my rucksack, and less than 24 hours later myself and Gilles were at a gas station filling the tank. I lost some cash on the trek, but the trek, frankly, could go take a hike.
Light was fading and the three hours to Uspallata was far more than we had bargained for. With our tent finally pitched and a straight-up spread of bread, ham and cheese to tame our stomachs, we dared to sit and rest. That was when the local pack of dogs gathered round and growled a hungry growl. It was dark, they could have been wolves for all we knew. But we gathered quickly and scurried to the tent. It took daylight to reveal the dirtiness of the site. Happily fed, I took the wheel, pit stopped at an ATM in the village, and our first day´s explorations could begin in earnest.
Sign posts can´t be counted on in Argentina, if they exist at all. Neither could Gilles´ Spanish. He mistook dos, or two, for doce, or 12, and only realised 30km later that our left turn should have come quicker. But the landscape was intoxicating from the start, the earth taking a shape, form and colour that neither of us had seen before. Gilles had figured he could deduce from his small-scale Lonely Planet map the likely length of each stage, but he figured without the sheer size of the country and the potholed dirt tracks that spread out over the more remote territories. That first day we had set out at 9am, and again drove until it was dark, beyond 9.30pm. We had covered around 350km.
The terrain we crossed vered in and out of the Eastern Andes. To see it you would question man´s wonder of the moon. He should just have come here. Rivers flowing down from the mountains splash the crevices in an otherwise desert landscape with deep torquoises and green. So really it was the moon punctuated with touches of fertile valley. It was some sight. Gilles was a mathematical traveller, calculating each segment like we were in a laboratory. I knew he was aware of the irony in this. No matter how far you stray off the beaten track, how much of yourself can you really leave behind? And even in the wilderness, there are conventions we succumb to, certain things we can´t do without. It was evident in how we ate, how we drove, how we spoke.
Three days later we rolled into Amaiche del Valle, barely 160km from Salta. Now we could ease up coming down the home straight on Friday. Our spirits were high, having driven almost 2000km to this point, satisfied the effort had yielded a fantastic return. A beer would be our reward. My funds for the week were now exhausted, and at the ATM it was time for a shock. No bank card.
I trawled through my memory of the previous days and realised there could only be one explanation. I had walked away from Uspallata with my card planted in the ATM. It was late evening now, and I could do nothing until the morning. Several desperate phone calls into my search I nailed a number for the Banco Nacional in Uspallata, and a guy named Juan Jose delivered the news I craved. Juan Jose became my instant hero. Those last 160km took all of around nine hours on Friday, but it was a journey to live in the memory. Around every corner the landscape changed, each time more stunningly than the one before. At 7pm, and with one and a half hour´s light remaining, we were advised not to take the perilous road to Salta, a three-hour drive. Best wait till the morning. And rain was also on the way, it might cut of the roads. Were the good folk of Cachi just trying to trap us, so we´d spend a night´s worth of food and accommodation? We took a chance on Salta. The first 60km were beautifully paved, on each side of us that exotic cactus landscape. Then we began to climb. Eventually the paving faded , clouds gathered ominously, the the evening closed in. We would reach around 3,200 metres above sea level, and at the summit fog became so dense we practically stalled to a halt. The sheer drop adjacent would have scared us more, were it visible. The dirt track, barely wide enough for two cars, was potholed again, and mini-land slides had occured where streams crossed over the road. It was frightening stuff for that hour between the peak and the point where the fog began to thin. What was most incredible, however, was that over that mountain we had gone from a desert arid climate to a fresh temperate one. We had gone from yellow-brown to green. Try to imagine Morrocco on one side of a mountain and the Dingle Penninsula on the other. Thank God there was just enough light for us to make out the majesty of it.
Since then I´ve been somewhat stuck in Salta, waiting for Juan Jose´s package to come through with my bank card inside. I have no doubt he´ll deliver. Over the phone he seemed like practically every other Argentine we have encountered: relaxed, generous and utterly decent. It is frustrating to have to wait, with my mind already in Bolivia, but I should count my blessings. Besides, there are plenty of ways to break up the boredom. Another bunch of English young fellas arrived at the hostel earlier today. Perhaps they won´t mind me leafing through their copy of ‘On The Road’.
Ronan Goggin is currently travelling through South America
In his own words, “an awful man”, Jinx stands at the outer edge of the periphery of the Hibernian music machine picking the dirt beneath the fingernails of the fading septic tiger landscape while the larvae practice their new voices in their bedrooms in front of mirror contemplating visualisation for the mid atlantic voiced shiny ”discover me ” dream that will enable them to become new chrysalis transformation and escayyyppinggg. Jinx once lay horizontally in early am before school unconsciously soaking up the neo nuclear 4 minute warning sirens of the nearby factory 8am work shift cattle round up and the spooky echoes of metallic brewery noise and far off railway line vibrato ghosts. Now he pulls out these cranial archives into new shapes and TRAUMA THEMES of word and sound along with the rage built up from border town omnipresent soccer fascism environment and mundane assembly line worlds where hard chaw lads and doomed faced women walked along the conveyor belt towards cement block Invasion of Bodysnatchers/Stepford Wives package existence.
The Play Ethic is the site of Pat Kane, author, journalist and half of the duo, “Hue + Cry”. The phrase came to him during band rehearsals and was to serve as a headline bringing together a wide range of interests of his; cultural, technological and political.
As the Nineties progressed, the idea that computers and networks were making our societies more open, institutions more transparent, and civic and creative voices more prominent, began to increasingly excite him. Guided by magazines like Wired and Mondo 2000, and academics like Manuel Castells, he began to explore the nascent Web – exulting both in the diversity of the voices on there, and the increasing possibilities for self-expression.
These leek recipes from our culture blog food writer are absolutely delicious and definitely worth trying out…
Leeks make their first appearance of the season in September but they are happy growing in the winter soil. It’s just as well, early spring is when they really get a chance to shine. Marking a mid point between the deep, earthy root vegetables of the cold, dark months and the more lively and pronounced flavours of the spring/summer time they bring a sweet, unctuous, nutty warmth which too often takes a back seat in soups and stews. Let them take centre stage and you may find they have quite a lot to say for themselves.
Towards the end of April they develop a wooden core and their flavour dulls. We only have a little time left to celebrate the last of the fine leeks.
Hi Kids! Previously in this column i have managed to leave several threads hanging; - how the industy is changing - how to get VAT back from the taxman - how to reproduce the sound of the Big Bang with a four track recorder and a guitar.
I haven’t forgotten them, but all things will happen as they must. There are glib answers; - inexorably - gleefully - cunningly
… and there are more detailed ones which are at once tedious AND interesting, a tortuous combination. Ever the glutton for punishment and never one to learn a lesson without making some willful mistakes first, I shall start with the first. I love tortuous combinations.
HOW THE INDUSTRY IS CHANGING “Oh, how like the frothing foam of the savage seas! Savage and Untame as ever a wild beast could be. Surely her restless beauty inspires us to see here is perfection! Ever Changing!” – from Chaos and Order by E.P. Arsifal
Yes indeed. Like the seas, the large record companies of the past are shrinking. Hmmm. Revenue has been falling since before the world crash, and the behomoths of industry are breaking into smaller managable parts which are learning to adapt fast to the changing landscape. Seascape. Whatever. Sales are down, BUT the pervasiveness of music continues – it is absolutey everywhere! Websites, shops, local radio, regional and international TV, every aspect of life has a soundtrack, and wherever music is broadcast there is a Royalty due. The owner of the publishing rights should get paid through a Phonographic Performance Ireland (PPI) licensing fee. This is what the test case with eircom was about. It was an easy victory because the law is clear – broadcast & distribution of copyright material requires a license fee to be paid and carriers are responsible for what they carry! Similarly the PPI is getting its thing together collecting the small but important fees from every business that has background music, and the Irish Times reported in January that Irish Radio across the board is increasing the percentage of domestically sourced music. That’s good for Irish musicians, and good for the GDP (Gross Domestic Product – the total amount of money made by ireland. Playing foreign tunes counts as Importing, BAD for GDP). The end result? Publishing is where its at. get your music protected, get playing it live and get the damn stuff on radio.
Sales of course are best done either from the side of the stage for a CD, or through a registered download server like the excellent Downloadmusic.ie for singles, and for albums only iTunes, Bleep.com, Eircom, 3 Music, eMusic, Nokia and 7 Digital sales count towards Irish Charts because they are registered with IRMA. Always one to blatantly plug myself at any time possible I will point out that at the time of writing this my own business, Offbeat Records, is the only independent music label in Ireland with distribution to every one of those shops, so if you’re serious about selling downloads give me a call. Hey, we’ve all got to make a living.
Now how to get VAT out of the taxman… put that crowbar down Eugene! Perhaps you should just turn him upsidedown and give him a shake? But Seriously folks. Paperwork. Makes the world go round doncha know….
Dr Chris L. Aserboy is gamely struggling on like everyone else.
This is the third part of an essay written by a skills exchange member travelling through Palestine
Jean-Marie finds himself on the defensive back in France all the time. They reckon he, with his company Produits de Palestine, is just “in it for the money”. “Eez difficult for us in France. We are a traditional family. People don’t understand what we make. I went to a village outside Nablus during second intifada, to pick olives with the farmers. After the settlers start shooting at us, we had to run away. “Is a big problem for me, is not good for my…” pointing to his temples. “That was the beginning. I came home and I spent €1,000 with my wife on olive oil. Before I worked like a builder, putting in windows. But eventually I quit. I work like import, my wife work like accountability, my children help to put labels on the soap from Nablus. But life was easier as a builder. “I can’t leave my truck in Paris, it says ‘Products from Palestine’. There are Zionists there, they don’t like the word ‘Palestine’. We cannot speak against Israel in France, because we take Jews from Germany during the war. They say ‘you are against the Jews’. But it is not against Jews. It is against Zionism and the state of Israel.”
The Wall of Shame
The first time I noticed her was on the bus from Jerusalem to Ramallah, her refined English distinguishing itself among a chorus of willing advisors as locals spotted the solitary foreigner who couldn’t decide where to dismount.
La Catedral Studios is a space for the arts in a raw Victorian industrial building located at the heart of one of Dublin’s oldest quarters, the Liberties. Named after a Milonga venue in Buenos Aires due to its founders’ keen interest in tango and the alternative artistic culture of that city, La Catedral Studios now houses 24 artists’ studios and a multidisciplinary space (the Back Loft) for artistic and creative projects.
Established in 2005 by Antonella Scanu and Costanzo Idini, La Catedral Studios is a self-funded labour of love by its proprietors and an army of friends who worked on the painstaking restoration of a derelict space to its former glory. Minimally refurbished to preserve the raw texture of its previous charm, the Back Loft space is conceived as an informal and unconventional artists’ playground which embraces any art-related project, from art exhibitions, live art events and salons to theatre plays, rehearsals and drama workshops, dance, life drawing, photoshoots, film locations, video projections etc.
The Back Loft is open to both individual and group projects, work in progress and experimental, adventurous site-specific work, and is an ideal springboard for emerging artists. As a space for hire, the Back Loft has been a venue for the Dublin Fringe Festival, Balkan Arts Festival, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Culture Night and Dance Ireland, final year exhibitions by students from NCAD, Dun Laoghaire IADT, DIT and the Gaiety School of Acting, and numerous shows by emerging and established artists from Ireland, Poland, France, Argentina, Australia and Italy.
John Murphy is an Irish digital artist, designer and skills exchange member based in Madrid Spain and working under the name Sineload Studio. He works in Conceptual Photography, Image Retouching/Manipulation and Photo Illustration. John Murphy studied Fine Art (Painting) and has been working in Web design and Digital Art with an online presence for the last 10 years.
This Continental Gateau recipe is absolutely delicious, easy to make and best of all you make it the night before so its perfect for dinner or lunch parties
The Editor has ants in his pants and I wonder why. Do you think it could be because of lack of sleep? You have heard that he has recently become a father? Anyway, he has been at me about those of you who have a sweet tooth. Of course you were not forgotten. I would have got around to you eventually, even if I do not share your enthusiasm for sweet things.
However, I do love making puddings, which more than any other food provide an opportunity to exercise one’s artistic flair. Presentation is the secret here, if you want to deliver the wow factor.
Midas, hating riches, made his home in the country, in the woods, and worshiped Pan, the god who always dwells in mountain caves, but he remained a foolish person, and his own stupidity was to injure its owner again, as it had done before. - Ovid
Figure on Rock, Fontainebleau c. 1830
In the 1780s the forests of Fontainebleau no longer played host to the royal hunts. The village of Fontainebleau had become depressed; only a small porcelain factory offered any prospects beyond the fields. In the forest grim-faced charcoal burners, pig-grazers, woodcutters and the unwanted found a type of life for themselves. People from the village still came to collect their sticks and poach game and in May, for the Feast of Pentecost, drinking and feasting went on right under the eyes of the authorities, at the foot of La Roche-Qui-Pleure, ‘the rock which cries’.
As a child Etienne Senancour suffered from dyspepsia, an ailment usually reserved for old men. His mother was indulgent. His father rarely saw him- he was not proud of his son’s sensitivity and waited for the time the boy would be of age to enter the seminary of Saint-Suplice. Every summer, for Etienne’s health, the family went to the forest of Fontainebleau. Etienne was entranced by the forest. He ranged over the boulders and uneven ground, unfamiliar exertions which filled his young face with a fine red flush. He forgot the paths he took, moved ahead by the feel of the low pine branches scratching at his chest. He stopped at times to hug the girths of centuries old oak trees and inhale their resinous perfume. Clods of soil, needles, leaves and green stains populated his clothes, hair and skin; countless times his mother berated him, though she understood the good value of these unplanned excursions.
One smoke-hazy afternoon he tore his waistcoat on the stump of a branch. That violence gave him powerful new resolve and he felt his way in deeper. At a river he stopped for water and looking about in the clearing he saw a solitary doe. He stared at her heavy, quivering haunches. Further down the river a wolf emerged. Etienne followed them down the river to where a trail of smoke coiled up above the trees, appearing to be part of the river itself. It came from a camp fire in front of a cave. There the doe crashed through the trees. The wolf abandoned her, lolloping off back towards the river. His mother had told him to stay away from the people in the woods- the brigands, ex-soldiers, lepers. But the interior of a cave was compelling to a young man and Etienne couldn’t see anyone. A collapsed pile of wood was covered with a skin of turf; feathers and animal excrement were scattered on the rocks and dirt at the cave entrance. Etienne smelt meat. A man came out of the cave, his face black with soot and a wing bone in his mouth. He said nothing, just stared at the frightened boy, then threw the bone at him and laughed from his throat. Etienne picked up the bone and ran home. Ten years later Etienne Senancour wrote his famous work, Oberman.
The book relates, through a series of letters, the reflections of a man who lives alone in a forest clearing. “I have been seeking through all the valleys to acquire some isolated pasturage which will yet be easily accessible, moderately clement in temperature, pleasantly situated, watered by a stream, and within sound of a torrent or the waves of a lake.” He finds what he has sought but, as the letters reveal, he grows into the sickening realisation that he is unable to be and do what he wishes.
Fontainebleau c. 1850
Alexis Durand was born in Fontainbleau in 1795. His father died when he was a child. At fourteen Durand went to Paris to apprentice as a cabinet maker. As an apprentice in the trade he travelled across France. He returned to Fontainebleau after the war in 1814 and set up his own carpentry business. Now, age 20, he immersed himself in books. A complete autodidact he had mastered Latin and Italian within three years and was fond of reading Petrarch’s letters under the Le Bouquet de Roi, the famous oak of Fontainebleau. He told himself many times that one day he, Alexis Durand, would write an epic poem about the forest.
In the summer of 1835 Durand was erecting shelves for the library of the state prosecutor, Clovis Michaux, who had recently moved to Fontainebleau. It was at this time that Senancour’s Oberman was re-published. Michaux never noticed the book go missing from one of the shelves. Nor did he notice when Durand tried to get himself caught reading a small volume of Dante instead of working.
But one day a friend of Michaux’s came into the house with a fragment of verse entitled Le Bouquet de Roi which he had found slipped into one of his books. When Alexis told the two men that he was the author Michaux said, ‘My boy, when and how did you wake up a poet?’
It did not take long to get a list of subscribers for this carpenter-poet. The King himself added his name as sponsor. In 1836 Foret de Fontainbluea: Poeme en quatre chants was published in the local newspaper. It received widespread acclaim. Alexis was becoming the interpreter of the forests as a growing audience listened. In 1837 he showed Chateaubriand Le Bouquet de Roi.
Map with trails, Fontainebleau c. 1860
When the war came to an end Claude Denecourt was stationed in Fonatinebleau. With no money or family, and a badly crippled leg, he found himself drawn to the forest. At the time few people knew about the place- several artists from Paris had begun renting cottages on the edges of the forests but few knew its interior. At night he rambled through the forest not to get lost, but to find new paths.
Denecourt was scared of caves so his home was a covering of cedar branches layered over a frame of supple birch trees. The only possession he had was the book Oberman. He had been given the book by a man he had met, and would later come to know well, called Alexis Durand. They had met when both were out walking. Durand was so astonished at this real life homme de foret that he gave him the volume on the spot. Resting in Eugene’s café one afternoon Denecourt picked up one of the new guide books which had been written about Fontainebleau. The map on the back page showed scallop-edged green lines denoting impenetrable woods. That same day, in the balmy evening, he stopped to rest on a sandstone ledge not far from his shelter. He soon fell asleep, resting his head on a rock. Whether he moved suddenly, or his weight over time caused it, the ground beneath him crumbled and he fell into a deep cave. Confused and terrified his eyes quickly grew used to the dimness. He found himself aroused, by the fear and the novelty. He edged into the cave feeling with his hands. The soil gave way at the least pressure. When he woke the next morning he resolved to make a guidebook.
He got the pot of blue paint from a woman who lived alone on the far side of the village- her son had died in Austria during the war, now she was committed to all those who had survived. He bound grass to a stick for a brush- he wasn’t making art, at least not with his paint. Every night for nine months he paced the forest with his lantern, daubing trees and rocks with the blue paint. Others came across the strange marks and were puzzled but only for a moment.
The first of his promenades, presented in a neat book, which he called L’indicateur, appeared in 1837. Between ten and fifteen kilometres long the walks were carefully designed to allow the hiker, poet, artist a spectrum of textures: glades, trees, rocks, water, the heights and depths, the open spaces and dense confines. Interrupting the walk were historical and literary sites, trees mostly, named after Charlemagne, Clovis and Voltaire. Stories of druids and bandits, the grotto of the Barbizonnieres, where women and girls hid in terror from the rape-happy Cossacks. His Promenades dans la foret, 1844, included a section entitled ‘Alphabetical Nomenclature of everything contained in the forests that is remarkable or picturesque, such as its rocks, its beautiful spots, its numerous viewpoints, its ancient glades, its extremely curious trees.’ The list included about 175 items.
In 1848 the Second Republic brought violence and tree felling. A year later the Paris-Lyons steam engine train brought Parisians to Fontainebleau in their thousands. Alexis Durand produced a poem called ‘La Legende de Nemerosa’ to go with Denecourt’s Itineraire d’une Charmante Promenade au Debarcadiere for the opening of the train station. Denecourt only gave his name as author. Durand wrote that Denecourt’s guides were full of historical inaccuracies. Denecourt didn’t care. He returned to the cave where he had once fallen and brought with him a pickaxe. He made the cavern deeper and darker. He rubbed the walls with water to create the dankness needed for moss and mushrooms.
By 1860 100,000 tourists passed through the forest each year. They bought juniper wood and bottles of Eau de Diane at the station before departing. They carried petit-indicateur in the pockets of their coats. They stood on the high platform built so if it was too hot to walk one could simply look down on the forest, and the skyline of Paris in the distance. And they listened to Guerigny, the ex-woodcutter with an oily face, who told stories about catching vipers. One story told of a time when he sent a bag full of snakes to Paris for collection and they escaped on the train and slithered around the feet of the passengers.
The everyday is the ordinariness of what happens; the place where ambiguity, uncertainty, disorder take precedence. Micro-activities emerge against a socio-economic landscape which suppresses. Acts of shopping, cooking, walking, working can become more than passive routines. They become performances carried out without an audience, The everyday is that which evades any claim. Once the everyday is transformed into an ‘experience’ it becomes weight, an artefact from a point in time long since passed. It ceases to be a fluid, creative, ongoing process, a becoming.
Many have idolised the energy of the ‘moment’. While government occupies, like an army, the longue durée, the tactics of the everyday master the temporary and the instantaneous, shooting stars across the black night sky. Ruses, ellipses, displacements, turns, tropes, detours make up the art of practice which upsets the neatly planned pattern of the hierarchy. It is a form of play, reappropriating the tools of control to create a break- like a pun which manipulates the rules of grammar in a particular context and cannot be replicated outside of that context. These moments of insertion are fractious and unplanned, the disparate tactics of an unknowing insurgency. While the military metaphors may be useful in characterising the state of politics in the past, they do not describe the world today: ‘strategies of control’ which are far less blunt and brutal.
The strategies used today by market and government are exactly the all-pervasive, guerrilla tactics once asserted as a means for expression, the energy of the everyday. Consumption and production have become almost inextricable- a new idea is rapidly turned into new exchange value, expressions of protest turned into status quo. The force of the everyday experience has been appropriated.
We live in a society saturated with experience. Experience has become the new source of value. Experiences of health, childhood, love, nature have all become prized. Prised out of the hands of individuals, deposited into the hands of innumerable mediators. Nothing is as it is, it must be part of a style of living: food, holidays, weddings, clothes, all represent the individual’s experience. In this labyrinth of new potential experiences each of us is encouraged to find our way: to manage our bodies, our environment, and our world like never before; to become masters of our own destinies.
Consumers are not as passive sheep, absorbing and assimilating a conveyer belt of commodities. We are not dupes. We are more aware than ever that as free thinking individuals we are obliged to make informed decisions about fair trade, health, the environment. We are intelligent. And each of our many decisions provide so many knowledge events, events which enable the market and the ‘knowledge society’ to grow. Our strong sense of self, the autonomous experience of self, enables government to enrol us into technologies of control, to fashion each of us into our very own demographic. ‘It is not a matter of lamenting the ways in which autonomy is suppressed by the state, but of investigating the ways in which subjectivity has become an essential object, target, and resource for certain strategies, tactics, and procedures of regulation’. Government does not deny us an identity, it encourages us to work on it. It is what enables us to feel like free agents, not marginalised communities.
The politics attacked in 1968 was an exclusionary politics. The micro-politics of today governs by inclusion. Every minority, every demographic, every subject is allowed their voice provided it is explicit and productive. The more something is affirmed the more it becomes a cliché of itself. The fluidity of new forms of government ensures the cracks are filled as soon as they are created. Cracks are encouraged: making new spaces of experience open up to colonisation. State power is no longer ‘univocal’, it is ‘multivocal’; one voice for every subject. De Certeau argues that the governing logic, like that of a colonising power, seeks to ‘eliminate points of texture, making no where special anymore’. Recent developments would suggest the opposite: it seeks to make everywhere special.
Is that it? Articulation and expression all coopted, fodder for ever more regulation and commodification, blocking yet more avenues of experiment, of extension, through the logic of management? What of Lukacs and “the anarchy of the chiaroscuro of the everyday”?
It begins with an alternative vision of time as experience, one which opposes the idolatry of the ‘moment’. Understanding experience as an individual experience forgets that this rendering is only an abstraction- real and productive as it may be. You do not experience and become aware of that experience simultaneously. You experience place, people, objects, sensations as an immediate process. Understanding of that experience only becomes articulate after the event, as second order experience.
To articulate experience requires the ordering of something which is otherwise submerged in the flow of continuous experience- without reason, order, transparency. Privileging the moment delimits only a part of reality, a part which can be inserted elsewhere, used against it’s original expression. ‘Normalisation works, not through decree, but through the active appropriation of micro-practices: incessant, imperceptible practices of control which shore up particular forms of power relations in everyday interactions.’
But there remains the residue. While a moment may be removed and represented- as a protest, as a commodity, as a political party- it does not, can not, take with it the medium in which it was suspended, the white of the egg. Co-option of experience, of the everyday, is only of that part which is representable. But what of the excess of experience, the unrevealed otherworld? Moments do not arise out of nothing, they are nourished and expressed within a whole network of relations- between individuals and objects, within a whole field of experience which has been brought forward to that point. Attending to the specific instance of an irregular moment, a deviation or pun fails to appreciate the wealth of experience which has enabled that moment.
Experience is not the possession of the individual. Mastery of self is a denial of the community of experience in which we find ourselves. Governing through people’s attempts at self-improvement involves translating people’s aspirations into forms of regulation and proliferating new aspirations. But experience is not just the self-conscious ‘I’ in these narratives- the ‘I’ of the ethical consumer- it harbours a whole other world, ‘world 2’ , which is not articulable, a world of grief and incoherent pleasure which resides in the ‘us’. This experience is pre-discursive. This is experience as an externalised relationship with the world, embodied in gesture and feeling, not an internalised ‘style’ of life. ‘Understanding another’s experience is not the act of translating the other’s experience back into what we already know, but of encountering it in its own terms. To experience with the other in not to try and grasp the truth of the other, it demands that we inhabit the world differently.’
There are countless ways in which this unrepresentable world is expressed, ways in which imaginations course through the continuity and rhythm of things. These invisible channels are not locatable on the plane of the self or the moment. They are in fact blocked by such artefacts, imprisoned by the belief in self-mastery. ‘World 2 is an insurgency against the idea that we can all emancipate’,
‘What is the finest music in the world?’
‘The cuckoo calling from the tree that is highest in the hedge’
‘The ring of a spear on a shield’
‘The belling of a stag across the water’
‘The baying of a tuneful pack heard in the distance’
‘The laughter of a gleeful girl, or the whisper of a moved one’
They paused. One had not answered the question he had asked. He said
“The music of what happens is the finest music in the world’
one of our regular skills exchange writers has written a moving tribute to a giant in literature, J.G. Ballard
“This author is beyond psychiatric help- do not publish.” A harsh, if not telling, response by a publisher’s reader when first subjected to the even harsher fictional worlds incorporated into the writings of J.G. Ballard.
The novella in question was Crash, a cruel, fantastical, wholly brutal account of the links between car-crashes and sexual-fetishism. Despite the initial incredulity, it emphatically succeeded. And one likes to think Ballard had envisioned it long beforehand. After all, the conventional has never been but a mere vast landscape of boredom in the eyes of Ballard.
Predominantly tagged as a writer of science-fiction, Ballard’s unique take on modern society unfurls in the natural world, rather than centre around the infinite universe and paranormal activity, focusing on the psychological effects within man brought about via technological, societal and environmental change. His unique style of writing, often described as dystopian fiction – where the individual finds themselves in a society where utopian ideals have been subverted-, transforms modernist landscapes into vast play-grounds of infinite nightmare, linking societal disturbances with man’s psychological break-down, blighted by catastrophe and mental anguish. Visions of London engulfed in marsh-land and sweeping, bulbous swamps, fusions of sexual frustration and suburban violence permeate the many works of Ballard’s, spanned over fifty years of writing. The images throughout his works are stark, often bleak, yet thought-provoking.
Through Ballard’s eyes we see a reality warped by humanity’s existential obsession with the banalities of consumerism, the sordid absurdities manifested through over-indulgences in celebrity-transfixion, the thinking mind of the psychopath, and many other surrealist aspects of mankind.
Born into war-torn Shanghai, Ballard spent the majority of his youth incarcerated in a Japanese concentration camp, where, as he states in his enthralling autobiography, “Miracles Of life,” he learned of “the harsh cruelties of life”, and “man’s inhumanity to fellow man”.
This exposure to brutality in its most chaotic form is said to have formed the path-ways to his writings in later years, with its apocalyptic visions and nightmarish scenes of violence and fascism.
A former student of anatomy, Ballard’s past experience with the complexities of neurosis run frequent throughout his literary career – He quotes: ” Fiction is a branch of neurology: the scenarios of nerve and blood vessel are the written mythologies of memory and desire. In “The Atrocity Exhibition,” a rarefied work of condensed short-novellas, we discover the intense power of the dream through the eyes of its mentally disturbed protagonist, whose name changes throughout, giving rise to the theme of psychopathology and mental disorder.
The writing is Burroughs-esque; short, intermittent snap-shots of celebrity death and confusion litter the plot. The novel’s initial release was met with controversy, particularly in America where the title of one of the sporadic essays – “Why I want to f*** Ronald Reagan”- was considered a slur on the image of the dead president. However, despite the brouhaha culminated by its content, it was cited as key a key influence to a host of artistic acts, not least Mancunian post punk band Joy Division, who titled a song of theirs with the same name. The themes touched upon in this compelling artistic endeavour have recently been put into movie-format, and has already become a much celebrated adaptation in the avant-garde cinematic landscape.
In the literary landscape, Ballard is seen as a professor of the hidden-mind; a bizarre, often ridiculed, dreamer of harrowing dreams. The reader is challenged aesthetically, often finding themselves immersed in an almost claustrophobic parallel world of cataclysmic and psychological disturbance.
His writings have often been subjected to intense critical scrutiny, however many contemporary novelists cite his works as a key influence in their own writing.Martin Amis has written “Ballard is quite unlike anyone else; indeed he seems to address a different – a disused – part of the reader’s brain” While Will Self, a controversialist himself, has stated “I’ll declare my colours, I think he’s probably the most significant and influential — or among a handful of the most significant and influential — writers of the English language since the second war.”
Ballard himself drew influence from the literary forefathers who came before him; Franz Kafka, Graham Green and Aldous Huxley all take pride of place among the Shepperton native’s bookshelf. He also enjoys the paralytic dream-scenarios of surrealist art, citing the likes of Salvador Dali and Robert Blake as key inspirations to the fantasist worlds of his works.
As an aside from literary and art influences, Ballard also finds unequivocal inspiration from societal imagery; the vastness of Britain’s highways, the isolations of the empty swimming pools and abandoned shopping arcades, the impregnable destitution of barren waste-lands and other disturbing sights penetrate the visions brought about in his most celebrated works.
Such apocalyptic themes burn brightly in The Drowned World, a futuristic tale of catastrophe, where we find London a city submerged under the depths of porous lagoons, besieged in swamp-land and intense heat.
His second novel, Ballard, rather than create a central character that is horrified by this new, bulbous world of tropical lagoons, instead brings to life a protagonist enraptured by the chaotic reality that has substituted the previous world. The themes throughout are prolific, touching upon the incredulity of those left to reside in a distorted world devoid of conformity, lost in mayhem and chaos.
As well as a prophetic author, Ballard is also seen as a tremendous visionary. In a 2005 interview with German newspaper, De Zeit, he suggested the following: “All my books deal with the fact that our human civilization is like the crust of lava spewed from a volcano; it looks solid, but if you set foot on it, you feel the fire.”
His many writings, like fellow writer George Orwell’s, tell like a crystal ball of a pre-determined future. Ideas, fears and change have been envisioned long before coming to fruition in the contemporary world; the usage and reliance of the CCTV camera, the affects of technological advancement on the human psyche and suburban violence all come to the fore. The predictions when first scribed, weighed up against the resulting future world are as harrowing as they are to be admired. His musings on societal needs and, in turn, sociological break-down are, like so many of his ideas, telling: “We live in masochistic times. Our societies are driven by conflicting psychopathological impulses.” However, with the stark comes the profound.
Brutal honesty lies deep within the cores of many of his writings.
In Empire of the Sun, perhaps his most well-known literary production due to its celebrated success borne out of Steven Spielberg’s big-screen adaptation, Ballard focuses on the innocence of the ignorant child; the eyes of immaturity having to bear face to life’s destruction.The story is largely autobiographical. The protagonist, Jim, a young English child growing up in war-savaged Shanghai, is subjected to the harsh cruelties of battlement. In the streets lie scores of young men and women, children and their parents, helpless victims of unprovoked battery. Yet, despite this, the child, incredibly, retains his innocence. Alone he finds himself blissfully skipping and running through deserted air-fields, the disheveled shells of Japanese fighter-jets seen not for the horrors associated with them, but as obscure additions to a vast and desolate playground. Such was the unique brilliance of the story – massacre seen through young, impressionable eyes – it was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1984, the year of its release. Since, it has become a cult classic.
In June 2006, at the age seventy five, James Ballard was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.
This, however, was unsurprisingly not enough to put an abrupt end to his writing career. In June of 2008, Margaret Hanbury, Ballard’s agent, arrived at Frankfurt’s annual book-fair with a new manuscript going under the working title Conversations with My Physician – The Meaning, if any, of Life. The physician is question is thought be Professor Jonathan Waxman, who is treating Ballard for his cancer. And perhaps for his loyal readers, this will be the last journey they’ll undertake with the godfather of this surreal fiction, the creator of distorted realities, the dreamer of the dreams no-one wants to come true, despite many of them seeming to be.
In a world often stagnated by tedium, Ballard, quite unlike any other novelist past or present, has offered a surreal alternative to contemporary modernity. Throughout his literary offerings, the feeling of the need to prod and immerse one’s self into the darkest depths of life’s vulgarities in order to find one’s way to that place where we have yet to discover – The greater good, is evident. Perhaps these visions, these horrifying predictions deeply embedded within his short-stories and novels, will ultimately be his lasting legacy.
Perhaps when the times come, and the harsh realities reign free once more, as they already have, and most probably will again, we’ll raise a toast to James Graham Ballard, and thank him for forewarning us when they were nothing more but mere ideas on a page.
From 1957 to 1972 the artistic and political movement known as the Situationist International (SI) worked aggressively to subvert the conservative ideology of the Western world. The movement’s broadside attack on “establishment” institutions and values left its mark upon the libertarian left, the counterculture, the revolutionary events of 1968, and more recent phenomena from punk to postmodernism. But over time it tended to obscure Situationism’s own founding principles. In this book, Simon Sadler investigates the artistic, architectural, and cultural theories that were once the foundations of Situationist thought, particularly as they applied to the form of the modern city. According to the Situationists, the benign professionalism of architecture and design had led to a sterilization of the world that threatened to wipe out any sense of spontaneity or playfulness. The Situationists hankered after the “pioneer spirit” of the modernist period, when new ideas, such as those of Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche, still felt fresh and vital.
By the late fifties, movements such as British and American Pop Art and French Nouveau Realisme had become interested in everyday life, space, and mass culture. The SI aimed to convert this interest into a revolution – at the level of the city itself. Their principle for the reorganization of cities was simple and seductive: let the citizens themselves decide what spaces and architecture they want to live in and how they wish to live in them. This would instantly undermine the powers of state, bureaucracy, capital, and imperialism, thereby revolutionizing people’s everyday lives. Simon Sadler searches for the Situationist City among the detritus of tracts, manifestos, and works of art that the SI left behind. The book is divided into three parts. The first, “The Naked City,” outlines the Situationist critique of the urban environment as it then existed. The second, “Formulary for a New Urbanism,” examines Situationist principles for the city and for city living. The third, “A New Babylon,” describes actual designs proposed for a Situationist City.
“It is a pleasure to see a work that situates the Situationists. Sadler has performed a necessary and welcome corrective to our understanding of this strange but endearing crew.” Adam Sweeting, “American Book Review”
Satie the Bohemian: From Cabaret to Concert Hall (Oxford Monographs on Music) By Steven Moore Whiting
Erik Satie (1866-1925) came of age in the bohemian subculture of Montmartre, with its artists’ cabarets and cafés-concerts. Yet apologists have all too often downplayed this background as potentially harmful to the reputation of a composer whom they regarded as the progenitor of modern French music. Whiting argues, on the contrary, that Satie’s two decades in and around Montmartre decisively shaped his aesthetic priorities and compositional strategies. He gives the fullest account to date of Satie’s professional activities as a popular musician, and of how he transferred the parodic techniques and musical idioms of cabaret entertainment to works for concert hall. From the esoteric Gymnopédies to the bizarre suites of the 1910s and avant-garde ballets of the 1920s (not to mention music journalism and playwriting), Satie’s output may be daunting in its sheer diversity and heterodoxy; but his radical transvaluation of received artistic values makes far better sense once placed in the fascinating context of bohemian Montmartre.
Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture By Stephen Duncombe
Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture is the first systematic study of zines-small underground publications-and the subterranean bohemia from which they come. In this book I uncover the cultural world that zine writers create, investigate motivates these cultural bohemians, and explore the frustrations they face building an underground media in a world dominated by corporate media giants. Using zines as a case study, Notes from Underground poses the question of whether it is possible to rebel culturally within our modern consumer society that eats up rebellious culture.
Harmony and Dissent: Film and Avant-Garde Art Movements in the Early Twentieth Century (Fms) (Film and Media Studies) By R. Bruce Elder
This book offers a new look at avant-garde art movements of the 1910s and 1920s. In this work, R. Bruce Elder argues that the authors of many of the manifestoes that announced in such lively ways the appearance of yet another artistic movement shared a common aspiration: they proposed to reformulate the visual, literary, and performing arts so that they might take on attributes of the cinema. The cinema, Elder argues, became, in the early decades of the twentieth century, a pivotal artistic force around which a remarkable variety and number of aesthetic forms took shape. To demonstrate this, Elder begins with a wide-ranging discussion that opens up some broad topics concerning modernity’s cognitive (and perceptual) regime, with a view to establishing that a crisis within that regime engendered some peculiar (and highly questionable) epistemological beliefs and enthusiasms. Through this discussion, Elder advances the startling claim that a crisis of cognition precipitated by modernity engendered, by way of response, a peculiar sort of ‘pneumatic (spiritual) epistemology’. Elder then shows that early ideas of the cinema were strongly influenced by this pneumatic epistemology and uses this conception of the cinema to explain its pivotal role in shaping two key moments in early-twentieth-century art: the quest to bring forth a pure, “objectless” (non-representational) art and Russian Suprematism, Constructivism, and Productivism.
I am Sean Corcoran. I am an Artist / Designer and mutantspace skills exchange member based in Waterford. Last year my Dad and I closed The Salvage Shop which was described by art critic Liam Murphy as ‘an Emporium of the Imagination’. It wasn’t a sad occasion for me although it does mark the end of an era. Lots of things have changed for me in the last few years.
My wife Miranda and I now have two children; Matilda, two and a half years old and our new arrival Alfie was born a few weeks ago. As you could imagine it’s a mad house at the moment. It’s nearly 1 am. The early hours are the only time that I can get any kind of creative work done at the moment.
our next DIY arts festival, the Trash Culture Revue, will take place sometime towards the end of the year. So if you want to create, produce, get involved, play, experiment, try stuff out, have fun, design, administrate, organise, volunteer or just come along then let me know
we provide free creative and production skills for your arts projects and events through our skills exchange so you can experiment, fail, make and play no matter who you are, where you are, what you do or when you do it.