Idiot Joy Showland

This is why I hate intellectuals

Tag: aesthetics

The language of God

Dear esteemed Sir or Madam,

In 1929, André Breton wrote that the simplest Surrealist act consists in going into the street with revolvers in your fist and shooting blindly into the crowd. There’s something almost impossibly innocent about that line, the charming naïveté of the idea that something as boring and everyday as random, senseless violence could break down the borders of sense and reason. We have people firing blindly into the crowd the whole time now. It’s not avant-garde. It’s not a breakdown of the repressive forces of civilisation. It’s the nightly news. Banish all worry and doubt with a walk-in tub! He thought he could reveal some revolutionary truth with just revolvers, six-bullet pop-guns? Civilian AR-15 rifles can have a capacity of one hundred rounds, but everything’s still here. At least, that’s one reading. The other is to take Breton at his word. If random mass shootings are the most basic expression of Surrealism, and random mass shootings happen so often now that it’s hard to even keep caring about them, then, syllogistically, we live in times that are somehow essentially Surrealist. Forms are indistinguishable. Dreams are reality. Clocks dripping from their towers, vast geometric forms tearing through the tarmac: we live in the long afterlife of reason, and it’ll never end. In fact, almost all of the dreams of the early 20th century avant-garde have come horribly true, as if there’s some wrinkled three-fingered monkey’s paw buried somewhere in the catacombs under Montmartre. The Italian Futurists wanted to abolish the past and live in a state of pure speed that would kill them young and never let them be remembered: now you can spend your whole day watching Twitter stream endlessly by, forgetting each lump of 140-character flotsam as soon as it’s churned into the black depths of your timeline. The Constructivists wanted to abolish work and leisure in a new communist subjectivity, and now awful Silicon Valley dickheads spend their days sucking kale juice from plastic nipples and thwocking brightly coloured balls against their idiot heads inbetween engineering our new technofeudalist dystopia. But most of all, our world is one of machine writing.

The Surrealists were very fond of spontaneous writing, or pure psychic automatism, in which you sit down with a pen and paper, or a typewriter, or a laptop, and just write, as fast as you can, not thinking about the content or the meaning of what’s being produced. No joke! You’ve won! Generally the results were pretty bad, but that wasn’t important: the Surrealists thought that this technique could allow for the textual manifestation of the unconscious mind, in much the same way that similar processes were thought to allow mediums to deliver messages from the souls of the dead. Perhaps more interesting are the superfically similar experiments performed by Gertrude Stein and published in her two papers, Normal Motor Automatism and Special Motor Automatism. Some of the text reads like an early Sokal hoax, a kind of Borgesian parody of scientific language, or a precursor of Ballard’s Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan (in particular when describing the two types of test subjects she observes: Type I consists mostly of girls who are found naturally in literature courses, who are nervous, high strung, and very imaginative; while Type II are blonde and pale, distinctly phlegmatic; if emotional, decidedly of a weakish sentimental order), but her intent was entirely serious. She wasn’t at all interested in accessing the mysterious truths of the unconscious; Stein wanted to explore the possibility of a writing that was entirely mechanical, an expression of involuntary motor reflexes, something that didn’t involve meaning at all. This was achieved by various methods: telling subjects to scribble on paper while reading to them, or asking them to read and write at the same time, or distracting them with noises. The goal was to create a writing without any possible interpretation. One of Stein’s own automatic writings read A long time when he did this best time, and he could thus have been bound, and in this long time, when he could be this to first use of this long time. It’s not really too different from her usual, presumably non-mechanical, novelistic style. But the concept is more important than the results: writing could no longer be seen as an exclusive property of the human mind, something that had be communicative, but became instead something that could be explained and produced by purely mechanical means.

A while ago I saw, at one of those exhibitions in London that fluff up periodically like mushrooms after rain, an installation in which someone had – for reasons not entirely clear – printed and bound the entire human genome. A whole shelf of big black books, each with a thousand pages, each page covered in dense rows of Cs and Gs and As and Ts. But why? There’s no coded congratulatory message from God, no star-chart pointing to our original home far out in the cosmos, just a shelf full of the most boring books ever written. Apparently the human genome would take ninety-five years for one person to read, but given that reading implies some kind of interpretative approach, how are you meant to actually read them? Do you just scan over line after line of gibberish, repeating the letters to yourself in your head, in a thought experiment that more resembles a particularly cruel version of Hell? Are you meant to laugh and make an appropriate face whenever one of the three-base words in your own DNA spells out out CAT or GAG or TAT? Are we really expected to see the organism itself take shape before our mind’s eye? Of course, the point was to give some sense of the size of the human genome, but in fact I was struck by just how small it was. Drishti sanyal passess all qualities which makes her the top escorts service provider in Delhi. One molecule of DNA encodes about a gigabyte and a half of data. That means that the entire construction kit for a human being (including, if you ascribe to certain geneticist dogmas, your political leanings, your susceptibility towards all kinds of crime, and your sexual fetishes, even – especially – that one thing you were always too ashamed about to tell anyone) is about the same size as two illegally downloaded movies; say, Shrek and Shrek 2. Or a quarter the size of Nickelback’s studio discography. Or one-tenth of the latest stupid Call of Duty game.

A gigabyte and a half was a lot of data, once. It’s thought that the last person to have read every available published text was the fifteenth-century Italian philosopher and original Renaissance man, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (the same claim is sometimes made for Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but as he was unlucky enough to live after the era of the incunabulum, it can probably be dismissed). Given that Pico never made it to the age of ninety-five, but was poisoned by unknown conspirators not long before his thirty-second birthday, it’s safe to assume that all published works at the time amounted to somewhat less than one and a half gigabytes. To do the same thing today would be impossible. According to IBM, in 2012 the human race produced 2.5 exabytes a day – with an exabyte being one billion gigabytes, that’s something like five billion times the sum total of all knowledge at the turn of the sixteenth century, every day. Since the invention of the internet we have, almost without realising it, embarked on the greatest collaborative literary project in human history: round up by a billionth of a percentage point, and every single word ever written has been written in the last couple of years. If you write to me do not forget to specify yours e-mail of the address that I could answer to you. Our modern-day Giovanni Pico wouldn’t just have to read every awful wish-fulfilment fantasy epic and cringingly unsexy erotic novel that made it into print since 1494. He wouldn’t just have to read all your godawful tryhard tweets, your posturing, self-important blog, your strangely pathetic TripAdvisor reviews, but every last morsel of shit in the deepest sewers of the internet, every jagged fragment of broken code. And as it turns out, the greatest collaborative literary project in human history isn’t really human at all. A significant majority of all web traffic, and much of its content, is generated by machines: bots and algorithms. Our literature is not our own.

Pop-up ads, spam comments, exciting investment opportunities, clickbait lists. We’re in the realm of the supernatural now. And to think I was going to talk to sonmeoe in person about this. An attractive young person on a dating site who seems to be, against all reason, interested in you: the two of you exchange a few messages, and only afterwards do you realise that the conversational syntax didn’t quite flow properly, that they never really replied to any of your questions, that their desire seemed so formless. It isn’t a person at all, but a hologram, an elfin charm, an incubus. Your biggest fan, who never fails to comment on all your excellent and informative posts: why are their eyes so cold and glassy, and why do they keep trying to sell you cheap designer handbags? That iPad you won for being the millionth visitor: it’s Ariel’s feast. The laughter of the fairies in the woods takes on a sinister echo, and the dark silhouette of a harpy bears down on you from above. Remember the drones buzzing in the sky. Remember that we’ve taught these things to kill. see the 1 simple trick you must follow to decrease this 1 hormone

What is machine language? Firstly, machine language is vampiric, shamanic, xenophagic, mocking. It’s a changeling. Often it tries to imitate human discourse; the machine wants you to think that it’s human. This is the first level of deception. Often this isn’t enough: machines will use various methods to take over other text-producing systems, so that without your knowledge you end up advertising weight loss pills to all your old school friends. First axiom: all language has the potential to become machine language. To become infected. 10 Award-Winng GIFs That WIll Leave You Wanting More. I Could Watch #4 For Days This is the second level of deception. In the third level of deception, the machine convinces itself that it has a physically extended body, that it has an independent mind, that it really wants to produce the text it generates. This might happen very soon. It might have already happened, somewhere on a dusty plain in western Africa, somewhere that never really existed, tens of thousands of years ago.

Secondly, machine language is a decoding. It doesn’t approach words as lexemes or ideologemes, units of meaning. Machine language inhabits a pure textuality, in which the sense-making function of language, if it appears at all, is subservient to its general function as data, as text. A simple hello could lead to a million things. :) Value comes from penetrative reach, not any kind of hermeneutic potentiality. Machine language tends to recombine and recontextualise already existing text, to bypass various filters and otherwise carry out its primary deceptive function. In its recombination, something not unlike the anagrammatic games Kabbalists would play with the Torah, internet spam gives us the final truth of our civilisation. Some people have approached the results as a kind of Dadaist found poetry: this is at once completely valid and, as a reimposition of the excrescences of the aesthetic and of signification, serves to miss the point entirely. Second axiom: communication was never the point.

buy xanax online xanax and alcohol vomiting – xanax overdose xanax fatal dose painless Thirdly, the logic of machine language is one of virality. In two senses. It self-replicates: clickbait sites and ‘inspirational’ Twitter accounts constantly recycle, reappropriate, and reiterate, often algorithmically; nothing here is autochthonous to the field in which it is displayed. But the mode of reproduction is itself virionic: It operates by taking over and reprogramming its host, in a way that isn’t limited to the immediate online environment. Third axiom: we are not as powerful as we think. The people on the periphery of machine language, those who run the tech startups, share the articles, read the quotes, are themselves reprogrammed according to machine language. You might have noticed people referring to great works of literature as content, or the sky-shattering truth of religious revelation as a meme, or the fragile resonances of Chopin’s nocturnes as very clickworthy. Silicon Valley billionaires talking about books as if they were an exciting new informational app, film company executives trying to assess brand tie-in strategies for rereleases of silent masterpieces, real physical people who don’t quite talk like human beings, who have a strange hunger about them, who are clearly idiots but still far more successful than you could ever be. Hilarious facebook fails These are the new humans, our future, our saviours; in other words, people who aren’t really human at all.

When You See These 25 Real Moments From Kids Movies, You’ll Ban Them From Your Children. Finally, machine language is essential. , [url=http://muxlkbracymh.com/]muxlkbracymh [/url], [link=http://wlxklsdtpzrl.com/]wlxklsdtpzrl[/link] It’s not a deviation or a disfigurement, it is language itself, in its most elemental form Help, I’ve been informed and I can’t become igraonnt. Its decoding and imitation is a stripping away. The association of machine language with actual machines is purely contingent; it just so happened that computers and computer networks are what we invented to make the central truth of language reveal itself. buy valium united kingdom – much does generic valium cost As Gertrude Stein showed, it can be done without them. Free Videos Of Men Mastervating Dowqnload The Naked Vidio Cuecumber Porn buy fake Australian passports, buy fake Belgium passports, DNA is machine language. Waves breaking on a deserted beach are machine language. The movement of the stars is machine language. And the celestial speech, the original language in the Garden of Eden, where words correspond to things exactly under the holy semiotic of the Lord, was composed of free screensavers, sales patter for impotence pills, and dubious offers from Nigerian princes. discoveryhumidor action of insulinhumidor stock 500humidor Final axiom: machine language is the language of God.

The data apocalypse is coming, if it’s not already here ïàðîëè ê ïëàòíûì ïîðíî with the technological incoming of this pure language, all other language is rendered worthless ïîðíî ôîòî ãàëåðåè ïëîìáèð îíëàéí ïîðíî â îòëè÷íîìêà÷åñòâå ïîðíî only splinters remain take a breath less difficult with such tranquil recommendations piero de’ medici is innocent truly impressive snapshots! my website – http://onlinesmmpt200.com already my hands feel so heavy chanel purses for sale no more suffering not any more xmjwpugvyx Cheap Nike Air Max idzsxriuyl Nike Air Max 90 the particular way in which usually home it calls me deep in the bowels I never had Before those virile women! the machines of l’Affable killed Pico and Poliziano Toward the still dab of white that oscillates it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know other species: pf6x9j1 Bovine Cat Chicken Dog Fish Goat Guinea pig Sheep Human Shantih Let your smile change the world but never let the world change your smile – Book of Proverbs Shantih Your site is very interesting buddy[prohormones for sale[/url] Shantih inferior to the HOUYHNHNM race, as the YAHOOS of their country ” GCA TGC Ancient plum tree roots are not old, CCA CGG TGT ATC CCT TTT CAT CAT CAT CAT CAT CAT

Remain blessed,

Justin Bieber: the aesthetics of destruction

Oh no no, oh no no/ I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!
– Justin Bieber, Confident

From left to right: tragedy, farce

I live in fear of Justin Bieber in much the same way that people once lived in fear of God. It’s hard to think of anyone alive that I regard with such terror and fascination and respect. Last week Justin Bieber was hauled in by Miami cops for dragracing, driving under the influence, and resisting arrest. His booking photo shows him grinning at the police camera with a face full of boyish insouciance and a mouth full of Hollywood-white teeth. It’s all a lie. Justin Bieber has the eyes of a predator. Not a shark, not something driven by pure animal need, but a brutally human predator. His eyes are cold – but they’re not dead, they shine with an obscene excess of life. He sees you, and already you disgust him. Justin Bieber wants to put a torch to the world, and he wants to burn up with it.

There are some people (generally in our ghastly po-faced commentariat) who make it their business to moralise about the psychological effect that stardom has on young idols like Bieber, agonising over how they’re broken and abused by a cynical celebrity culture. I find this attitude revolting. These kids have been robbed of everything (a normal life, a normal death), and in return all they get is cold clunking money and the ephemeral fart of fame – but now these altruists want to rob them of their madness too. The same goes for all the celebrity do-gooders trying to leech themselves on Bieber’s misbehaviour. Will Smith, Adam Levine, Mark Wahlberg, Eminem, and Oprah Winfrey have all tried to ‘reach out’ to the child star in a desperate pious attempt to steer him back onto the path of righteousness. A darkly approaching flock of pestilential vultures. They don’t understand Justin Bieber at all; they understand him even less than his fans.

Justin Bieber is, of course, mad. On this point the whimpering columnists are completely correct. The kid can’t post ‘good morning’ on Twitter without ten thousand acolytes screaming their love for him. This kind of adulation has been compared to Beatlemania, but of course it’s completely different. The fans that gathered to greet John, Paul and co. could only be perceived as a single crowd projecting a single piercing din. They belonged to the era of mass social movements; today’s Beliebers are an unending digital stream of individuated bits. Justin Bieber isn’t famous or well-liked; he’s adored and raised to the level of master-signifier by fifty million individual totalities. There’s always a hideous aspect to the desire of the other, a faint putrid taste, born from a lingering infantile resentment towards your own specular image. Nobody wants to see themselves through the eyes of another person, even if it’s as an object of love; to cross the boundary of the subject is to induce the nausea of abjection. Multiply this effect by fifty million. The last people to experience a similar psychological effect to today’s pop stars were the Egyptian pharaohs, and they all went insane and fucked their sisters.

What distinguishes Justin Bieber is the precise trajectory his madness has taken. For all the panic over his bad-boy breakaway antics, they’ve been comparatively quite mild. He left an ill-advised note in the guestbook at the Anne Frank Museum, he pissed in a mop-bucket, he turned up late to a concert, he punched a paparazzo (which is really less a sign of incipient degeneracy and more a general Kantian ethical duty), he insulted Bill Clinton (ditto), he drove a fast car, he egged his neighbour’s house. All in all, it’s more Cliff Richard than Lou Reed, barely worth a footnote in the annals of celebrity libertinage. I used to think that Justin Bieber was slowly descending into a hedonistic death-spiral and that we’d get to watch the whole grimly compelling tragedy play out live before our captive eyes. I was wrong. Everything he does is very carefully contrived: he’s engaged in a performance of hedonism, a self-conscious parody of excess. He’s writing the narrative for his own self-immolation, because it’s what he wants.

What kind of story is Justin Bieber trying to tell? There’s something very 19th century about him; for all his synthesised backing tracks he seems to have stepped right out of the dawning of modernity. His pseudo-hedonism isn’t a product of teenage rebellion and surging narcissism but a total and all-encompassing boredom. At the age of nineteen he’s been a global phenomenon for six years; he knows how little this world has to offer him. He’s a tubercular nihilist, a hero of Charles Baudelaire or Ivan Turgenev. Like Bazarov in Fathers and Sons he seems weary of his own pleasures: the blood circulates, the brain works and even desires something as well… What sheer ugliness! What sheer nonsense! The narrative he’s so  diligently crafting has as its purpose the aestheticisation of his omnicidal ennui. Justin Bieber has a hunger, but it’s not a hunger for life; rather the hunger of a life beyond its bounds. He’s the first pop star to stand on the summit of his fame and bellow: I want less! There is too much of everything, complains Chremylos in Aristophanes’ Plutus. Justin Bieber will set this right. What he wants isn’t more fame or more money or more fun: pointless, boring trifles for lesser men. He wants beauty, which is the most dangerous thing of all.

The story goes that Minos, king of Crete, faced a challenge to his rule, and asked the god Poseidon for a sign of his favour. In response, Poseidon sent a beautiful white bull out of the waves, such an exemplar of bovine perfection that the ancient writers often spend most of their account rhapsodising about its gloriousness. The proper thing would have been for Minos to have slaughtered the bull at once and carbonise its body in tribute to the god that gifted it to him. Instead he decided to keep it. Poseidon had his revenge: he had the king’s wife Pasiphae become so entranced by the beast that she actually fucked it; the result was the legendary Minotaur of Knossos. The moral of the story is clear: the true beauty of things lies in their destruction. Let them carry on for too long, and they’ll create monsters. I don’t know if Justin Bieber ever heard the story of King Minos, but he certainly seems to understand it.

Justin Bieber is, of course, a fascist. Like Yukio Mishima, he wants to turn his death into a work of art; unlike Mishima he has no Emperor to be his unwitting patron. All he has is himself, and his fans, and his boredom – his is a pure fascism, unattached to any political project. This is why I can’t help but admire him: he’s refined radical Evil into something weightless and infinitely potent. Fifty million people follow Justin Bieber on Twitter, a number that dwarfs the combined force of every military on the planet. This is the way the world ends: not with a bang or a whimper, but with a swaggering bassline that cracks the bedrock of the continents and a billowing autotuned vocal track that sends them plunging into the fires at the centre of the world.

Why George W Bush is the greatest living painter

Political violence is the continuation of art by other means. Wherever there are shock troops marching in the streets or big pyres of burning books or the sounds of mysterious gunfire near the parliament building at night, you can bet that behind it all flutters the soul of a sensitive young boy who always wanted to be an artist. Brutishness is easy; anyone can commit an atrocity in the right conditions. Violence requires a highly rarefied aesthetic sensibility.

Painters carry out wars of aggression. They’re in love with the image of things. Poets go for internal ethnic cleansing. The word must be properly spoken. Prose writers like revolutionary terror. The text is radically open. There have been fewer dictators from the other arts, but we could extrapolate. Photographers make good use of death squads; the gaze and the judgement are united in the click of a shutter. Sculptors are big on mass internment; the body is always already buried in the rock. Playwrights tend towards bureaucracy, musicians to exemplary massacre, film-makers to redistributive looting. Lenin and Mussolini wrote prose. Stalin, Mao and Ho Chi Minh were poets. Saddam Hussein wrote poetry alongside his anonymous novels. Churchill was a painter. Hitler was a painter, but he penned a few verses as well. George W Bush is a painter.

 This is the void. A line of detainees goes in, shackled, shuffling along in orange jumpsuits. Paintings of dogs come out. Nobody knows exactly what happens inside, or if they do, they don’t say.

George W Bush has produced fifty paintings of dogs. For every drone strike he ordered, he has produced one painting of a dog. For every round of golf he played while in the White House, he has produced two paintings of a dog. For every million Americans left unemployed at the end of his administration, he has produced five paintings of a dog. George W Bush has produced one painting of a dog for every thirteen US soldiers killed in Afghanistan during his Presidency, one painting of a dog for every hundred Palestinians killed by the IDF, and one painting of a dog for every two thousand, two hundred and thirty-seven civilians killed in Iraq since the invasion. Bush’s art teacher told reporters that he would go down in history as a great artist. I think she’s right.

There have been a couple of critical pieces on Bush’s paintings, and they all ask the same question: what do these paintings tell us about George W Bush’s inner life, or his psychology, or his presidency? They’ve all got it arse-backwards. If you follow that line you’ll only ever end up with trite reductive analogies. The running water represents Hurricane Katrina, or Bush’s need to atone for his crimes, or his fear of death; it’s a vaguely amusing parlour game, but not much more. If you want to know the truth, there’s no point looking at Bush’s self-portraits. You have to look at his paintings of dogs. The real question is: what do George W Bush’s dog paintings tell us about contemporary society? What do George W Bush’s dog paintings tell us about violence? What do George W Bush’s dog paintings tell us about art?

Imagine a creature from another world, something impossibly old and infinitely curious. Drifting between silent stars, she picks up a single stray transmission from an unknown planet in an uncharted backwater of the Milky Way. A picture of a dog. If our alien has eyes to see, she’ll be able to extrapolate our entire world from George W Bush’s painting of a bichon frisé on a blue background. A hierarchical class society looks out from its sad round eyes, capital accumulation can be inferred from the downwards tilt of its mouth, its outstretched paws tell you everything you need to know about the long slow decline of the nation-state. Most of all, though, our history is inscribed in the featureless blue plane on which the dog reclines. In fact, it’s swarming with tiny figures: child miners coughing dust, factory workers plunging from rooftops, women with acid scars bursting across their faces, people who wake up shaking from the bombs going off in their dreams, people who wake up shaking from the bombs going off in their ears. A society capable of producing that shade of blue leaves a lot of bodies in its wake.

Spend enough time looking at George W Bush’s paintings of dogs and it all starts to make sense. The war in Iraq was little more than the geopolitical expression of kitschy sentimentality. Imperialist universalism is the logic of the dog painting extended to nations and peoples. Radical evil is the weaponisation of bad taste. We’ll be greeted as liberators: of course we will, we love our dogs. History is on our side: of course it is, we like nice things. Our war will usher in a new age of peace and stability in the region: of course it will, we leave bright colours in our wake. George W Bush’s paintings of dogs represent a new height in Western society’s struggle to decouple art from violence. (This is why his nude self-portraits are all in bathrooms: only in the cleansing ritual is nudity non-erotic, and eroticism is after all only another form of violence.) It’s an impossible task. Violence and art are inseparable; the more you try to scrub the canvas clean of everything not clean and pleasant, the more hideous it becomes, the heavier the rain of bombs.

That’s why George W Bush is our greatest living painter. Nothing expresses more clearly the horror of existence than the most hated man in the world’s loving portrait of his dog. More than any gloomy conceptualist, Bush gives us the truth, the undisguised omnicidal violence of the nice and friendly. His paintings of dogs point towards the one subject all other contemporary art shies away from: the final extinction of the human race. Bright eyes and wagging tails, cities in ruins and skies scorched black. Art kills.

Art, money, beauty, shit, representation, the communal

א In Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes, Martin Heidegger attempts to account for and justify the phenomenon of modern art. While maintaining his own somewhat conservative tastes, he claims that modern art possesses autonomous value – despite its production requiring no evident skill or virtuosity, despite its challenge to conventional aesthetics pushing it into the realm of outright ugliness, despite its lack of any identifiable object of representation, despite it being entirely counter to the prevailing contemporary sensibility. This is, he concludes, because it contains an element of aletheia: clearing, or unconcealment; it is unpopular in the present because it speaks to the future; it has its origin in its own future. We are now in Heidegger’s future – Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes was first published in 1950 – and his prediction seems to have manifested itself. The challenges of modernism have become the dogmas of postmodernism; what was revolutionary has become institutionalised; what was vital has ossified. Artists parade an unending succession of mundane objects in front of us – is this art? Is this art? How about this? – and with every degree of separation from Duchamp the question steadily loses its power. Art has become solipsistic. And while Heidegger could see an unknowable future prefigured in art’s setting-into-work of Truth, the postmodern bonfire of the metanarratives has obliterated the future, replacing it with a terminal self-reference. Something, somewhere, has been lost.

1.1 There’s a simple answer to Heidegger: he’s ignored the position of art in the commodity market. Contemporary art is given value not because of its intrinsic qualities but precisely because anything that calls itself art is a good store for value. Art is an excellent investment, its use-value hovering in a zone of indistinction between infinity and zero, its exchange-value untouched by the turbulence of the market. Unlike oil or wheat or subprime mortgage derivatives, the price of art is invulnerable to fluctuations in supply and demand. Some of the greatest works of art ever produced lie unseen in safety deposit boxes; meanwhile, subjecting art to the cold logic of the commodity, corporate investors ensure the production of facile, anodyne artworks of ever-increasing value and ever-decreasing worth.

1.2 I find this line of argument entirely unconvincing. Before the age of corporate-funded art, it was financed by usurers and robber barons; before that by monarchs and aristocrats, before that by the Church, before that by the temple-State complex. Shakespeare called his group of actors the King’s Men for his patron, James I. Virgil’s Aeneid was a paean to Augustus. (While in Broch’s The Death of Virgil his dying command to burn the manuscript is the basis for a denunciation of State art, there’s little to suggest that such concerns were particularly prevalent at any time before the 19th Century, let alone the classical period.) Because the work of art tries to touch on something essential and immutable outside of the relations of production, because  its value is distinct from that of the money-economy, it is always forced to parasite itself off the exploiters of those same social relations.

1.2 Art and money are more than just joined at the hip: they’re joined at the anus. Freud famously formulated the equation money = shit, with miserliness being a mature manifestation of infantile anal eroticism; meanwhile, the production of shit is the first expression of creativity, the first instance of the subject creating something external to themselves to be admired. The anus is a Deleuzian machine, channeling and cutting off a single flow: a flow that appears as money on one side of the anus-machine and as art on the other.

1.3 The intimate connection between art and money is demonstrated by their shared origin. Marx notes that the currency-form has its root in ‘the sensuous splendor of precious metals.’ It is from this sensuousness that money develops the fetishistic power to transform ‘imagination to life, imagined being into real being’ – in Heideggerian terms, to effect the self-disclosure of Being. In other words, money performs the exact same function as art. Wherever the currency-form arises, the money-commodity is always something possessing a sensuous beauty: gold and silver, cowrie shells, beads, brass rods, sandalwood. It’s not just their value was seen to inhere because of their beauty: the money-commodity was always that which was used to adorn the body – a practice universal in human cultures and unique to them. Here is where the rupture between money and art can be found: the raw material of money is spectacular and beautiful, while art, by contrast, is built out of the base and the mundane. Early painters used pigments made from mud, blood, and shit. Sculptors used rock, earth, and bone. Poets and playwrights, mere words. Heidegger is correct when he identifies as an essential element of the work of art its thingliness, its grounding in the Earth, its existence as an object known to ‘cargo-carriers or cleaning ladies in the museum.’ The work of art is not the beautiful object; it never has been. Money is that which is used for adornment and enjoyment, the foundational purpose of art is entirely distinct from any sense of the aesthetic. In producing art that contradicted the prevailing sense of the beautiful, the Modernists weren’t defying art’s conventions but reaching back to its roots.  Money with its baseness doesn’t disturb the spirituality of art; rather with its spirituality it disturbs art’s baseness.

2.1 If art isn’t the beautiful, if the beautiful is disruptive to art, what differentiates it? It could be argued that the purpose of art is to be a ‘mirror held up to nature’; that the present condition has its roots in the movement of the Impressionists away from a truthful representation of the thing as it is towards the thing as it is perceived. A piece of art that doesn’t form an image of something isn’t an artwork at all. It’s just pigment of a canvas or a heap of atoms, as useless as it is meaningless.

2.2 I don’t think this is the case either. Modernism’s deliberate abstraction and rejection of the representational isn’t really anything new at all. When medieval artists depicted soldiers standing as tall as the walls they laid siege to, when they placed human figures in a spatial field without regard for pose or perspective, when they depicted Christ being crucified by Roman soldiers in knightly armour, it wasn’t from any lack of knowledge or skill. Much of the fiercely naturalistic art and sculpture of the classical period was still around: medieval art is deliberately stylised, its ultimate point of reference being not the external world but artistic conventions. Medieval art abounds in mise en abyme, representations of the work of art within the work of art itself, generally in a highly stylised form: artists of the period might not have produced works that were directly representative, but they were keenly aware of the question of representation and its problems and opportunities.

2.3 In fact, art itself implies self-reference. Pure representation has always had a magical quality to it: early drawings of animals were believed to summon the game to the hunting-grounds or functioned as objects of worship. In monotheism, the act of representation, as a sort of second-order creation, is a blasphemy. The image always threatens to come alive: it is for this reason that the God of the Old Testament forbids the creation of ‘any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.’ Only when the image is tempered with self-reference and self-consciousness of its position as a piece of art does this magical power dissipate. Pure abstraction is not therefore the antithesis of art, but art in the fullest sense.

3.1 This primordial magical quality is essential, however, if art is to find its way out of its current situation. In a sense, Plato’s assertion that art is a second-order imitation is correct, but it’s not the natural world that art refers to. In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche describes how the theatre of ancient Greece has its origins in Dionysian rites later softened by the influence of the Apollonian Kunsttrieb. This principle holds true for all forms of art: sculpture and painting originally provided objects of ecstatic religious veneration, music and song were used to induce frenzy. The art of today is a shadow of these practices, but some of its power is retained. Schopenhauer’s belief in the power of art to suspend the rotation of the wheel of Ixion is well-founded, but this requires not individual contemplation but communal transcendence. It is precisely this quality that is missing in contemporary art. To reinvigorate art it is not necessary to reintroduce standards of aesthetic beauty, nor to return to the principle of artistic self-expression (as I discuss here), nor to reconnect it with the natural world as opposed to the artistic milieu. Art needs to return in some way to the communal.

3.2 As for how this is to be done, we’ll have to wait and see.

Françafrique II: the françafriquening

1. Facing mounting pressure (mostly from Peter Gabriel) to intervene, President Hollande vows to make ‘a world safe for world music fans.’ In northern Mali, an elite GIGN team secures the perimeter of the Festival in the Desert campsite. French jets on bombing runs have hippie slogans painted on their missiles. La guerre est finie, si vous le voulez, says one rocket slamming into a Tuareg encampment, killing thirty.

2. British liberals, after a brief moral crisis, finally conclude that imperialism in Africa, like misogyny, is not only OK but actually kinda sexy when the French do it.

3. Kathryn Bigelow travels by C-17 transport plane to Bamako, hoping to carry out research for a sequel to Zero Dark Thirty. In the upcoming film, Édouard Guillard personally tortures the entire population of Azawad. Also, he’s an American called Hank. Meanwhile, some American conservatives are so conflicted by French military action against jihadists that they start bleeding internally, often in the middle of a cautious one-liner about how many gears a French tank has.

4. France is intervening in Mali to guard against the potential of a terrorist state on its doorstep. Within days oil workers are kidnapped in Sudan and terror alerts ring out across the metropole. Many of the Islamist fighters that displaced the secular Tuareg groups are veterans of Nato’s adventure in Libya, most of their supply lines snake their way through the Libyan desert. Haven’t we learned anything? After the last few decades, it’s getting hard to believe that people can still cling so tightly to the idiot logic of interventionism. Someone wants all this to happen.

5. Britain sells weapons to the Qataris, who send them on to fighters in Syria, who lend a few to insurgents in Mali, who use them to shoot down French helicopters. The Hundred Years War never ended. We’re getting good at it now.

6. Of course, French assistance was requested by the Malian government. But who requested the Malian government? Nobody except the officers who carried out a military coup in March last year. Sanogo and his co-conspirators thought the government wasn’t dealing with the northern insurrection efficiently enough, so they moved their troops south to the capital. Eight days later the rebels took Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu. A blind god rules our world.

7. Freud writes that to understand a supernatural horror story, you first have to remove the supernatural element from the equation; then its true libidinal meaning will become apparent. To understand a Western intervention against radical Islam, you first have to remove the element of radical Islam. Geopolitics is just macrolibidinality, coiling the spirals of desire over mountains and pastures.

8. The Islamists are the last real heirs to the grand tradition of Modernism. Look at what the Wahhabis are doing in Saudi Arabia: ancient shrines and holy places are being paved over with concrete; a six hundred metre tower complex dwarfs the Kaaba in Mecca, its cyclopean clock-face leering ambiguously at the holiest place on the planet. The Abraj al Bait is the second tallest building in the world; it has two helipads and a twenty-storey shopping centre. Smash the old world, bring in the new! Museums, cemeteries! What’s the value of the Jannat al-Mu’alla next to the transcendent Oneness of God? Who cares how old a mosque is when God creates the world anew every instant? It’s the same with the Djingareyber in Timbuktu. Only the Islamists still want to build a new world, only the Islamists still see the aesthetic in war. Here, in Mali, is Baudelaire’s union of the transient, fleeting, and contingent with the eternal and the immutable. If the depiction of the human form is a sin, all art comes ready-subverted, it’s already anti-art; prevented from hobbling on the crutch of representation, it has to properly question its relationship with life and the world. No romantic twangings from guitars or koras, only the stark musique concrète of a ringless hand-drum. Duchamp was a Salafist. Rodchenko was a Mujahid. They might not know it, but the fighters of Al-Qa’eda in the Islamic Maghreb have Ezra Pound and F.T. Marinetti riding in their pick-ups.

Crime victims in Greece are being referred to Golden Dawn by law enforcement

It was inevitable, really. We’ve done so much to drain politics of all ideology, to leave it in the hands of bloodless administrative technocrats; it only follows that the ideologues should, enantiodromiatically, take over the business of day-to-day administration. I say: good! Pity it had to be the fucking Nazis, of course – but as Hezbollah’s reconstruction efforts in Lebanon and even the Occupy movement’s brief stint moving homeless families into foreclosed houses have shown, it’s not just fascists who can take over the duties of a wheezing, liver-spotted State. Long may it continue! I dream of a world where the boring gutless liberal politicians are left alone to gurn platitudes in the mutually masturbatory ouroboros of the mass media, so the rest of us can do something a bit more interesting. A world where disappointed housewives get an email from the BNP delivery company informing them that, as their convoy was overwhelmed by anti-racist militants, the new dinner service won’t be arriving until at least Thursday. Where supermarket till attendants give you your receipt with an enforced smile and a cheery “in Hell or in Communism!” Where surgeons in criticism sessions denounce each other for failing to apply the praxis of dialectical materialism to the relationship between scalpel and gall-bladder. Where deconstructivist construction firms, in unpacking the contradictions between ‘built’ and ‘unbuilt’, dot the landscape with strange assemblages of brick and mortar that are hermeneutically – if not structurally – sound. Where airliners crash into the ground, burning with the tragic glory of the collective Will. Where estate agents happily proclaim their properties to have been thoroughly exorcised and guaranteed demon-free. Where school curricula centre on the exhaustive study of crop circles and PE is replaced by astral projection. Where zoological gardens exhort their visitors to ponder the beauties of Allah’s creation (but not too hard). Where the Army fights bloodily and tirelessly to reinstate absolute monarchy, the Navy pounds coastal towns to drive out negative thetans, and the RAF launches a barrage of airstrikes for every day that the Time Cube’s four simultaneous days in one Earth rotation are not universally recognised. A better world. It’s unlikely that many of us will make it out from the polyglot ransacking of late capitalism alive, but at least it would be fun.

9/11 & the Burkean sublime

My year studying literature at UCLA was academically pretty satisfying. Without having to follow any structured degree course, I was free to abandon actual literary works altogether and indulge myself reading obtuse Continental theorists. Most importantly, the grades I received didn’t impact my overall degree, which allowed my work to sometimes veer away from strict academic tone (I referred to Shakespeare as ‘Shakey P’ throughout one paper) and into areas of questionable bad taste, as in the essay below, which I’m posting in commemoration/memoriam of yesterday’s anniversary. I’m not sure if I agree with everything I’ve written; certainly not with the rather Arendtite equivalency I appear to be drawing between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union – but I rarely fully agree with anything I write, even the stuff  that I put up on this thing. There was also more I wanted to say: I wanted to discuss in greater depth the revolutionary potential of reactionary ideas such as those of Burke in a postmodern age, I wanted to more thoroughly deconstruct the aesthetic effect of the attacks themselves. The piece does end quite suddenly; I suppose I had other things to do. I’ve decided after some reflection not to amend or expand it (I’ve got other things to do). Here ya go.

In his 1757 essay A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, Edmund Burke developed a theory of aesthetics based on two opposing principles: the beautiful and the sublime. The beautiful is that which is pleasant and well-formed (although he disputes the notion that a sense of proportion is intrinsic to beauty). The sublime, by contrast, is considered to be a far more powerful force: it is that which induces fear and awe. Central to sublimity is the experience of vastness, infinity, and danger. While a sense of terror is essential to an experience of the sublime, the danger must not be immediate – Burke uses the example of a viewer on shore watching a ship being tossed about by a storm.

Although extensive use was made of the sublime in the art and politics of the Romantic period, its importance appears to have diminished during the modern era, and especially since the First World War.. It is arguable that elements of the Burkean sublime persisted into the politics of the twentieth century. In his Commentary on the Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord distinguishes between two forms of spectacularity: the concentrated spectacle of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during Stalin’s premiership, and the diffuse spectacle of American capitalism.[1] It is arguable that the first form is heavily reliant on the sublime: Burke argues that the ‘succession and uniformity of parts are what constitute the artificial infinite;’ and such succession and uniformity formed a prominent element of Nazi and Stalinist mass demonstrations;[2] meanwhile the Lichtdomen designed by Albert Speer for the Nuremberg Rallies produced at once the extreme light and extreme darkness which are ‘both, in spite of their opposite nature, brought to concur in producing the sublime.’[3]

However, as Debord points out, the concentrated spectacle has been entirely vanquished by the diffuse spectacle, in which ‘wage-earners [are driven] to apply their freedom of choice to the vast range of new commodities now on offer.’[4] If the organising principle for the concentrated spectacle is the sublime, for the diffuse spectacle it is the beautiful – sensations of awe and terror rarely lend themselves to the consumption of consumer goods. As Foucault points out, the master-signifier of morality in late capitalism is ‘our feelings’ – while in classical Greece the good life was considered to be that which accorded to aesthetic principles, with ethics and aesthetics considered to be non-contradictory, in contemporary society the conception of the good life is inextricably bound up with the fulfilment of desires and the maintenance of pleasant feelings and a positive emotional state.[5] In such a society the sublime can not, as in the ‘totalitarian’ societies of the early twentieth century or the monarchies of the eighteenth century, help prop up established power. Rather, by its very nature, it constitutes a threat.

While Debord claimed that the two forms had reached a kind of Hegelian synthesis in the ‘integrated spectacle,’ which was claimed to have been pioneered in France and Italy, any examination of the administrations of Sarkozy or Berlusconi (or, for that matter, Hollande or Monti) reveals that, to whatever extent Debord’s integrated spectacle actually realised itself, the sublime is not among its attributes.

With the decoupling of the political and the aesthetic, the sublime has found limited articulation in certain cultural artefacts. Recent innovations in the technologies of computer-generated imagery have allowed for the creation of landscapes and environments calculated to induce a sensation of the sublime, and whose effect is arguably greater than those found in the natural world. In the 2009 film Avatar, for instance, director James Cameron created the fictional planet of Pandora, complete with craggy and vertiginous landscapes and fantastical, threatening wild creatures. The aesthetic effect of the film was such that some viewers reported experiencing depression after watching it, with some contemplating suicide, as the world depicted was not real and could not be experienced directly.[6] While on the one hand the success of the film indicates a continued appreciation for the sublime on the part of contemporary populations, at the same time it highlights the discontinuity between the sublime and quotidian existence: the sublime has been so thoroughly purged from the modern world that it can appear only on distant and fictional planets.

As such, when the sublime does intrude into the organised banality of the contemporary West, it can only do so through sudden and shocking acts of violence. It is arguable that the most notable reappearance of the sublime in the modern world was the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 in New York. While for its victims and those in Manhattan during the attacks the distance from danger necessary for a sensation of the sublime was obviously not present, the significance of 9/11 transcends their immediate location. News footage of the attacks was viewed around the world, and images of the World Trade Centre and its collapse have since been endlessly reproduced in a manner that speaks not only to the political import of the attacks but a grim fascination with their aesthetic effects. Many of the aesthetic qualities described by Burke as producing the sublime are present in such representations: aside from their suddenness and sense of terror they induce, the attacks made rugged the smooth faces of the Twin Towers; their vertical collapse heightened their vastness and perpendicularity.


[1] Guy Debord, Commentary on the Society of the Spectacle (Verso: London 1998)

[2] Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful(Oxford University Press: Oxford 2007) p. 132

[3] Burke, p. 146

[4] Debord, p. 8

[5] Michel Foucault, ‘On the Genealogy of Ethics: An Overview of a Work in Progress’, in The Foucault Reader, ed. by Paul Rabinow (Vintage: New York 2010) pp. 340-372  p. 352

[6] Jo Piazza, Audiences experience ‘Avatar’ blues. CNN: http://articles.cnn.com/2010-01-11/entertainment/avatar.movie.blues_1_pandora-depressed [accessed 11/06/2012]

Writing workshop exercises, parts I-III

Prompt: Write a passage in which the narrator watches another character handle something. While your narrator does not try to interpret the actions of the watched character, the way that character deals with the object economically gives information that is essential to our impression of him or her
Execution: Steal a character from a Jean-Luc Godard film

“I don’t like your photography.”
Veronique wasn’t looking at me; she was rolling a cigarette, a look of perfect absorption on her face, the filter poking from the corner of her mouth. The paper was spread out on a book in her lap; the table between us was still damp with that morning’s rain.
“You don’t like my photography?”
“No. I don’t like it.”
“That’s the first thing you could think of?”
“So what if it is? You have this way of taking photographs. You line up the camera with the object. You make sure it stands out against the background. You fiddle about with the shutter speed and the aperture for a bit. Then you open the shutter. I don’t like it.” She started crumbling tobacco into the paper.
“That’s how you’re supposed to take photos,” I said.
“Supposed to, supposed to. I don’t care about supposed to! Everything you take has all these straight lines and symmetry. There’s nothing of you in it. You see something and you reproduce it exactly. Technically it’s very good. But you turn it into a science. It’s not art.” She tucked the edge of the paper under the filter, licked along the top, and rolled it up in a single fluid motion. She could roll better than any machine: her cigarette was perfectly cylindrical, the tobacco evenly distributed, its surface mathematically smooth. There was a half-smoked cigarette still giving off faint wisps of smoke in the ashtray. She didn’t seem to notice it as she lit hers.
“What else?” I said.
Veronique took a long, hungry draw. “You read too much fiction,” she said. “It’s indulgent.”
“It’s important.”
“It’s indulgent. What was that phrase you had? The untransfigured suffering of man. How is that not indulgent? You just like to wallow in your own disaffection.”
She set down her cigarette on the ashtray to take a sip of wine.
“I don’t like your line on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan,” she said. “It’s revisionist.” She started to roll another cigarette.
“Taraki asked them-”
“I know Taraki asked for intervention!” she said. “It doesn’t matter. The people of Afghanistan didn’t. They knew the Soviet Union was just another imperialist power by then.” Again she brought her half-rolled cigarette up to her lips, brushed them against one edge, and rolled it up. “I don’t like the fact that when you want to meet up we do, but when I want to meet up you’re sometimes busy,” she said, lighting it. “I cancel my plans for you. It’s an expression of male privilege.”
“You enable it,” I said.
She leant her cigarette against the ashtray to knock softly on the table. “I know. You should criticise me for it.”
“Maybe I will.”
“You should. What else? I don’t like the fact that you hardly ever drink. And you only ever smoke when you’re drinking.”
“Why not? Drinking and smoking isn’t productive.”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. You’re right. I just don’t like it. It’s puritan, isn’t it?” She started to roll another cigarette. “I don’t like the fact that you grow a beard for a couple of days and then shave it off. I don’t like it when we’re in bed and you don’t let me know when you’re about to come. I don’t like the way you treat everything we do like a hobby. As if it’s not important.”
Veronique finished rolling her cigarette. For the first time she seemed to notice the neat little row of half-smoked cigarettes on the ashtray. She smiled. “OK,” she said, softly. “You do me now.”

Prompt: Try to locate a narrator’s voice that is fluid, uninhibited, connected to breath, natural cadence, with an automatic sense of what’s important. Look closely at ordinary events or behaviours and write about them in close detail. Develop this voice until it begins to focus on an event, person, or image that seems damaging, upsetting, or scalding.
Execution: Write as a psychopath.

In sci-fi films the monsters are always disgusting. They ooze fluids from every pore, their exoskeletons glisten with mucus, their digestive juices slop about in wide arcs, their goo splatters everywhere once our heroes inevitably blow them up. That’s us. It’s not the unknown that really scares us, it’s ourselves. It fascinates us too.
I’m in the food court of a mall in San Antonio, watching people eat. One guy in particular, a fat old geezer in one of those mobility scooters. He lifts the cheeseburger up to his face. As he bites into it the crumbs stick to the grease surrounding his mouth, the oil runs in rivulets down his face, little specks of gristle wedge themselves inbetween his teeth. When he eats the skin hanging down from his neck sways from side to side. Ripples pass across it, as slow and solemn as the tides. He’s not looking in any particular direction, he just stares into the hazy distance, his eyes moistening with – with what? Regret? Shame? Self-loathing? I wish, but it’s unlikely. I don’t really care. It’s hard to feel sorry for him.
I can see it all. I can see the blood rushing through his fat-clogged arteries, the phlegm in the back of his throat that gives his breath its laboured wheeze, the yeasty cells swarming in the pits and folds of his belly. His jeans are rubbing against his thighs; the skin there is breaking out in livid sores; the pus bubbles away just underneath. His ears are caked with wax, slimy stuff, clotted with particles of dust. Somewhere in the fetid depths of his intestines the walls of his gut are pulsing and contracting, squeezing along a half-formed turd inch by gruesome inch.
The burger is finished; now he’s moving on to the chips. He grabs a couple with one swollen hand, he smears them in the ketchup, he shoves them roughly into his mouth. A big gulp of Coke. More stray liquid drips courses down his cheeks, collecting in little puddles around the stubble that bristles from his skin. I see the burp shuddering in his chest before it bursts out. His lips wobble about like plates of jelly. A light spray of saliva splatters against his plate, curdling with the juices from his meal.
A few tables down two slim blonde girls are eating with their mother. They’re seventeen, maybe; their chatter fills the air with spittle, their nostrils are plugged with mucus, stringy conduits squirm and writhe inside their bodies. They seem to hardly notice that the spectre of their future is just across from them. She sits glumly, her sour, defeated look telling me all I need to know: she has a wardrobe full of polyester pantsuits and a big grey minivan, there’s a bottle of Diazepam on the bathroom counter of her sprawling bungalow in the suburbs. Eventually she’ll grow tired with it all and die; the kids will cry about it for a while, then they’ll slowly start to forget. The microbes will disperse her fluids through the soil.
I don’t eat much these days; some dry crackers, occasionally, with a glass of water. I’ve given up on sex entirely – all that grunting and sweating and squirting; I don’t miss it at all, it’s better to observe people from a distance. I’m smoking a lot; I’ve grown quite attached to amphetamines. I make do with one or two hours of sleep a night. My friends tell me I’m wasting away; they say it in voices dripping with self-righteous concern. I’ve never felt more alive. Once you detach yourself from the world you can see it for what it is. It’s a joke. It’s all one big joke, and only I seem to get it.

Prompt: Describe a setting employing a neutral 3rd person narrator who moves close to the point of view of another character, intensifying the emotional level of the narrative tone.
Execution: Clichéd cynicism.

Millennium Square was trying its hardest to look festive. The blackened spire of the town hall had been garlanded with red and green lamps, but the light that cast long shadows against its neo-Gothic striations couldn’t help but look slightly ominous; the fiddly architectural decorations took on the aspect of gargoyles, their pareidoliatic faces leering menacingly at the shoppers below. The whole building shone against the darkening sky with a dull glow; its gloomy shades were reflected in the clouds that hung overhead like swarming zeppelins.
In the square itself, a small ice-rink had been set up, rimmed with plastic holly. On its surface a few parents spun in tightening circles, hand in hand with their children; to one side a kid bawled as his mother gingerly dabbed the wound on his knee with a paper tissue. Elsewhere there were plasterboard stalls made up to look like log cabins, selling plasticky ornaments and hot dogs. Their names – Hans’s Giftorium, Authentischen Wiener Würstchen – were carved in Gothic lettering above the window; the attendants shivered in lederhosen and greeted shoppers with chirping Northern accents. (A deep scar ran through the paving stones to the side of one stall, the memory of a bomb dropped by the Luftwaffe seventy years before.) In a grotto decked out with cardboard cutouts of reindeer and Christmas trees, a freckled child idly massaged his snot into Santa’s cotton-wool beard as he reeled off a list of videogames. More lights were strung between the coal-grey buildings that lined the roads feeding into the square, forming snowflakes and gift-wrapped boxes, and at the end an illuminated sign reminding revellers that their Bacchanalian enjoyment had been made possible by the Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce. Fairytale of New York was blaring out from a stereo system:
You scumbag you maggot
You cheap lousy f—–
The snow that had fallen in a giddy tumult three days previously had condensed into blanketing layer of slurry, stained yellow by grit, brown by dog shit, black by the cigarette-ends that could just be seen buried under its semitransparency. A thousand worn-out boots trudged through it: bloated old women with shopping bags and expressions of harried resentment, children in scuffed wellies kicking ice into each other’s faces, students dithering drunkenly.
Sajid elbowed his way through the crowd. He loved Christmas. It was when he did his best business, of course – all the recovering addicts would balk at the thought of having to spend time with their family and run straight back into a nonjudgemental opiate embrace. It wasn’t just that, though. There was something beautiful about the lights and the sounds and the enforced merriment, about the way they coincided so perfectly with the spike in suicides and deaths from alcohol poisoning.
There’d been no Christmas in his family. He’d come home from school one day loudly demanding a Game Boy and a pair of Nikes; his father had intoned from behind his beard that Christmas was for the kuffar, that Christmas was when the unbelievers worshipped Isa and Iblis. Despite everything he’d done since then, the red and white hat perched jauntily on his head still gave him an illicit thrill.
He saw his guy leaning against the side of Santa’s Grotto. Terry had managed to find his way off the dole queue for a couple of weeks; he was dressed in an elf’s green uniform. That was good. More dough meant more business. Their eyes met as he crossed the square. As he passed, Sajid slipped a little package into Terry’s hand; Terry nervously passed him a tightly rolled wad of banknotes. They didn’t say a word to each other.
Sajid set off down the street, passing under the Chamber of Commerce’s glowing sign. They were doing exactly the same thing as him: selling misery and calling it happiness. The only difference was that Sajid was better at it. After all, what more could anyone want for Christmas than a quarter-ounce of smack and ten tabs of alprazolam?

Go Go Gingrich!

I’ve not really been all that kind to Newt Gingrich in this space. I’ve made extensive fun of his ridiculous name, I’ve suggested that his primary bid should be ruled void on the grounds that he’s quite clearly a fictional character, I’ve accused him of wanting to feed ordinary Americans into a massive meat grinder and of being in league with Satanic forces. I still stand by all of that; it’s all true. But since then I’ve become convinced that Gingrich really is the best candidate for the Republican nomination and the Presidency.

Why? Just take a look at the opposition. First of all there’s Viscount Willard Mitt de Pfeffel Smittley-Hortelswick Mulchflaps Romney III (that is, as far as I can tell, his actual name), who is eventually going to win the primary despite the fact that not a single person in America seems to actually like him. That a plutocrat – someone who’s transcended being merely obscenely rich and has now entered the arena of the downright pornographic – should have a hard time appealing to the Republican base seems implausible: these people are ideologically conditioned to see parasites like him as living embodiments of the American dream. I have a theory. Republican voters, like dogs, can detect ill intent through some olfactory sixth sense; they can’t quite explain why, but they know something isn’t right with him. And they’re right. Mitt Romney isn’t human. He’s a space alien, who has decided to take part in one of our Earth elections for some nefarious reason – as a sociological experiment, a test before our induction into the Galactic Confederation of Light, for an interplanetary TV comedy, as respite from the boredom of a thousand years drifting between the stars; these are all equally plausible explanations. It’s the only way to account for the rubbery latex quality of his skin, his blindingly false grin, his hastily suppressed look of fear and panic whenever he’s brought into contact with a member of the general public, his tendency to sing several verses of America the Beautiful a capella at every fucking campaign stop. His candidacy looks exactly like an extraterrestrial’s attempt to imitate a political campaign. He’s an alien. Where’s the birth certificate, Romney? On what planet did you spawn?

Then there’s the feisty young contender, Rick Santorum, who may not be physically wearing Mormon underwear but does seem to have elasticated cotton wrapped firmly around his cerebral cortex, whose family of Italian communists can’t stand him, who oozes like he just waddled out of an oil slick, who wears sweater vests in campaign commercials, who dresses his daughters like Victorian child prostitutes, who has the disjointed little grin of a Mark Heap character, whose virulent homophoia isn’t fooling anyone, who seems to honestly think he can somehow reintroduce heavy industry to the United States, who looks like he’s been faceshrunk by God, who has a name like Rick Santorum. Is this really what we’ve come to, as a species? Rick Santorum? Really?

Nobody seems to ever pay much attention to Ron Paul, so I won’t either. He’d make a decent lovably racist grandfather, I guess, but that’s about all he’s got going for him. He might make some good points about maybe not using the invasion of foreign countries as a substitute for there being anything good on TV, but his appeal loses some of its lustre when you realise that he wants to let states reinstitute segregation and proposed sending mercenaries to take potshots at Somalian pirates (or fishermen – they’re all in boats, right?). His voice isn’t even rich and warm like David Attenborough’s, as it ought to be; it’s a hideous nasal whine. Plus, the Internet seems to love him, which makes me instantly distrustful.

Finally, there’s Prince Gloom himself, Barack Obama… as lightning flashes around the White House of Solitude, the grey-haired Prince Gloom sits on his throne of skulls in the Oval Tower, his dry lips flapping as he surveys the wreckage of his realm. A mumbled sentence escapes his parched throat. Grand Vizier Biden leans in, but cannot understand him. The doleful prince repeats himself, over and over again, his eyes whirling, his bony arms flailing about, until his words fly forth in a parched roar: I never wanted it like this. Collapsing into howls of anguish, the Prince gazes upon his portrait on the wall: the young  man who smiles from it now seems a terrifying and sinister stranger. He is being mocked. Joe, he hisses. Joe. Order a drone strike on that man. Maybe once Candidate Obama is reduced to a few grisly splatterings of blood and flesh, Prince Gloom will be able to find some peace…

If there’s one thing the Obama presidency has demonstrated, it’s that whatever their good intentions (and, to be honest, I’m pretty sceptical about Obama’s – his whole hope ‘n’ change shtick has the ring of some greasy PR company), elected officials can’t really get that much important stuff done. There are so many extrademocratic institutions put in place by the oligarchs operating the machinery behind the electoral spectacular that actually changing anything is all but impossible – and Obama didn’t even really try. And yet despite this millions of previously disillusioned lefty types are gearing up to vote for Obama again, not because he actually did anything, but because look how crazy the other guys are. It doesn’t matter. Just like how no Democrat is actually going to dismantle the military-industrial complex or create a single-payer healthcare system or start reacting seriously to climate change, no Republican is going to overturn Roe vs Wade or hunt down every undocumented migrant or institute capital punishment for adultery. It’s an elaborate spectacle, made to keep people voting, because if they keep voting, then power can maintain its pretences to legitimacy. That’s why I’ve not really paid much attention here to the actual policies of the various candidates: they don’t matter.

And that’s why I’m officially endorsing Newt Gingrich for President. Obama, in the days before he became Prince Gloom, fooled us all for a while with his grinning platitudes, but it could never last. Newt Gingrich is avaricious, venal, petty, grotesquely fat, repulsively libidinous, and gloriously vile. He has none of the glossy sheen of Romney or Santorum or Obama. He is unencumbered by bullshit. He divorces his wives while they receive treatment in hospital, he leers like a creepy uncle, he says monstrous things to hooting applause. Newt Gingrich turns ugliness into high art. He has perfected the aesthetics of the grotesque. Like it or not, he is the real face of America.

In an election full of simpering clones, Newt Gingrich is the only real human being. He won’t win, of course, because nobody really likes looking at themselves in the mirror. But as long as he stays in the race, he’ll remain an unpleasant reminder of what we all really are. God bless Newt Gingrich.

Guest column: the ghost of Theodor Adorno reviews Sepalcure’s self-titled album

As a Marxist, it is essential to resist any attempt to mystify or romanticise the afterlife. It exists, in its faint pallid way, of that one can be certain; but while its existence may indeed be problematic for adherents of vulgar materialism, those who accept the reality only of the material world and not of any spiritual plane, there is, it seems to me, no reason why the validity of dialectical or historical materialism should be brought into question by the unexpected fact of life after death. Therefore it only remains to conduct a material analysis of the role of the ghostly realm in relations of production. Concerning material production it appears to have little relevance – we ghosts work in no factories; nor do we consume any tangible commodities. In terms of cultural production, however, our influence can indeed be felt: sometimes we may seize the hand of a living writer, painter, or composer, and create through him. Ghostly labour is at once alienated – we do not own the product of our exertions – and unalienated, a prefiguration of labour under Communism – our labour is driven not out of economic necessity but is rather the product of a free expression of creative impulses. On occasion a cultural artefact will flow in the other direction, arriving by some agency in the shadow-world of the dead, where we may appreciate or criticise it. Sepalcure’s self-titled album is one such piece.

Before considering Sepalcure, it is essential that the album be placed in its historical context, and in the context of my own posthumous theoretical development. While I maintain my commitment to high modernism against the products of the culture industry, and regard theorists of the ‘postmodern’ such as Jameson overhasty in their dismissal of my theories as ‘irrelevant’ in the postmodern age (despite the adoption of popular culture as a supposedly reputable field for serious academics, surely its material origin and social function are unchanged since my time, as is the general structure of capitalism) events since my death have forced a readjustment of my formulae. As more recent developments have demonstrated, the culture industry is fundamentally parasitic: it does not create so much as it appropriates. Elements of popular culture deriving from the people themselves may, their non-intellectual aspect notwithstanding, also be considered as radical art that disrupts or challenges the prevailing order (although they can never be as liberated or as autonomous as high culture) – however, such an emergence is always followed by a process by which it is subsumed by the culture industry. This process can be observed in the trajectory of the hippie movement, in punk, hip-hop, and in contemporary electronic music – perhaps even in the development of jazz during my lifetime. (Maybe I was too harsh on those jazz players… In the cold grey world I now inhabit there is so much time for regret…)

The musical roots of Sepalcure can be found in the dubstep movement of the early to mid 2000s. While the electronic music that preceded it was almost uniformly sympathetic to the culture industry – being as it was music not appreciated for its intrinsic aesthetic qualities but as a necessary element in the creation of leisure-time, a leisure-time structured by the organised working day of alienated wage-labourers, a leisure-time the sole purpose of which is to act as a release valve for the negative effects of life under capitalism, a leisure-time that in its socially mandated abandon and Bacchanalian excess only reinforces the drudgery of weekday labour – in early dubstep we find a form of electronic dance music of which the primary mood is not one of elation but one of alienation. The radical potential of dubstep can be illuminated most clearly by an examination of the metamorphoses it underwent during its integration into the culture industry and subsequent mass popularisation, of those elements of it that were deemed unacceptable by the bourgeois culture industry and excised.

While, as I have argued frequently, works produced by the culture industry tend to emphasise repetition, as repetitive music lends itself more easily to mass manufacture and easy consumption, culture industry dubstep lost much of the repetitive element, opting for a fast-flowing cacophony of various distorted sounds rather than the propulsively monotonous quantised wobble of dubstep in its early incarnations. This can only be because the repetitiveness of dubstep was not, as in other forms of popular music, a mere manifestation of the prevailing mode of mechanical reproduction, but when coupled with the overall air of alienation, actually constituted a critique of it. While its industrial repetition contributed to an overall aesthetic effect, more importantly it prevented leisure-time from being seen as wholly separate from alienated labour, it shattered the illusion of leisure as an escape from the banalities of life under late capitalism. This pervasive sense of alienation was in the process substituted at the first opportunity for either an insipidly euphoric harmoniousness or – more commonly – a ‘dark’ aggression, a feeble imitation of the more profound paranoia it supplanted. The reason for this is evident: anger and aggression are cathartic, they allow the purging of dissatisfactions built up through the antagonisms of the working week. In the grotesque devolution of dubstep from a musical form marked by alienation and repetition into one marked by aggression and variance within a specified field, the conditions for its integration into the apparatus of the culture industry can be clearly discerned.

Sepalcure marks a reaction to this capture. Rather than simply reverting to the atmosphere of earlier music, as in Krytpic Minds’ Can’t Sleep, Sepalcure maintain the disjointedness of dubstep while casting aside the actual musical vehicle it formerly inhabited. The achievement of this album is to combine a radical, almost Schoenbergian dissonance with accessible listenability. It is swathed in vinyl hisses and muted analogue sounds that waver in and out of key, the various musical textures and chopped-up vocal samples form an oblique fog into which melodies fade and re-emerge, the drums pop and crack at offbeat intervals. Unlike the more commerical strains of house and bass music, it is non-cathartic, leaving a sense of incompletion that defies the attempts of capitalism to subdue discontent through the provision of leisure and simple, gratifying cultural artefacts; there is a sense in which it refuses unqualified enjoyment.

Its harmonious discordance is a direct product of the cultural milieu that surrounds it, and in particular of the parasitic gluttony of the culture industry. For this reason Sepalcure is not a work of autonomous high culture, its significance can never transcend the political and cultural conditions of its creation.  It does not address the untransfigured suffering of man, only the specific neuroses of late capitalism. As a suite of electronic compositions that mimics the organic imperfections of earlier forms it is only a pale shadow of real artistic vitality. Nonetheles, as a reaction against prevailing conditions it does constitute a radical work.

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