tag: Art



20
Jun 2012

The ethics of music downloads

I’ve just read a couple of articles which got me thinking about the ethics of downloading (this one by Emily White attempting to justify her massive music collection – none of which she paid for; and this one by David Lowery in response). It’s a subject I’ve thought about quite a lot over the years… I remember the first incarnation of Napster, and prior to that I can even recall swapping rare tracks person-to-person across the IRC network. So I was there right at the start of digital downloads. Before that, I put together plenty of mix-CDs for friends. I remember, for example, sometime in the 90s putting together a David Byrne compilation CD complete with a fairly lengthy companion ‘zine containing lyrics, facts about the songs and personal observations. It was a proper labour of love. And back even before that, I vividly recall spending hours making the perfect mix-tape… an often lengthy process for the music-obsessed.

And it’s fair to say that over the years I received my share of such mix tapes and CDs. They were an important part of my life. Sharing music with friends was hugely significant to me. Notably however, my circle of friends all had very large record (and later, CD) collections. I can’t speak for others, but in my case music probably represented my single largest financial outlay. Even back in the days when I was working in industry and earning a fair chunk of change, I was probably spending more on music than on rent, or food, or any other single thing.

Home Taping Never Killed MusicIn that respect, the sharing of music that I and my friends engaged in was – in a very real sense – promoting the spending of money on music. When my friend P gave me that C90 of Talking Heads songs back in the mid-80s, there’s no sense in which David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz or Jerry Harrison lost out. Since that day I have bought the band’s entire catalogue three times (first on vinyl, then on CD, then on the digitally remastered CDs). I’ve also bought everything Byrne has released as a solo artist (including all the mail-order only stuff); I’ve bought the Tom Tom Club records; I’ve bought tickets to see Byrne perform live on every European tour he’s done since the early 1990s; I’ve bought a t-shirt at almost all of those gigs; I’ve bought his books; I’ve bought his DVDs.

And all of that was triggered by that first technically-illegal mix-tape. “Home Taping Is Killing Music” indeed!

In fact when I first started downloading music through IRC or Napster or Limewire, it was only to get hold of tracks that couldn’t be purchased from the artist. A live bootleg of David Byrne performing Sympathy for The Devil… an unreleased studio out-take from Bowie’s Low… an early Legendary Pink Dots track from an out-of-print EP only available on long-deleted cassette… a The The b-side that was impossible to track down in physical form (and believe me, I searched… I was one of those slightly mad looking blokes in long black coats who would attend record fairs). Whatever you may feel about the ethics of downloading music for free, in those cases I just don’t see the problem. I’d already bought most (if not all) of the recorded output of those artists – including that 10″ version of ‘The Beat(en) Generation’ in the cardboard box with the postcards and badge. I’d rush down to my local record store on the day of release, in the hope of getting my hands on the red vinyl pressing of a Siouxsie and The Banshees single I would buy on standard black vinyl anyway. Hell I even used to scour those endless lists in small-print in Record Collector magazine and excitedly write a £30 cheque for a Japanese import of an album I already owned because it had a different sleeve and an extra track.

Sad. Sad. Sad.

So yes, when music began to appear for free on the internet I didn’t have a huge ethical issue with grabbing that live bootleg, or this rare b-side. It wasn’t that I felt the artist or record company owed me anything for my years of devotion and financial outlay… I just didn’t think they’d begrudge me (of all people!) the opportunity to get hold of those rare tracks.

Then however, things started to change. Broadband replaced dial-up and suddenly it was possible to grab entire albums for free. Today, a person can type “The Beatles” into a torrent search and download the entire back catalogue in a matter of minutes. And yes, I admit, there was a short period of time when I too found myself caught up in this madness. I’d already paid for about half of Bob Marley’s albums, why not just grab the other half? What could it hurt? And then… well I really like that one track off that one album by that bloke… let’s download his entire recorded output.

And then I thought… hang on a minute. What the hell am I doing? I still don’t see anything wrong with finding that rare deleted single and grabbing it if it’s not available on iTunes – though that’s an increasingly rare occurrence with so much stuff being available from legitimate online stores these days. And I still don’t think sending a compilation CD – or even a copy of some especially great new album – to a friend is a bad thing. It doesn’t happen that often any more, but when it does I honestly see it as an important form of promotion for the artist(s) in question… just like that Talking Heads C90 back in the day. Where possible I try to purchase directly from the artist’s website rather than iTunes of course (no need to give a cut to Apple if you can give it all to the artist) and I still like to browse the few remaining record shops and buy something physical – throwback that I am.

But the notion of downloading entire back catalogues is just wrong. There’s no sense in which that can possibly help the artist. They will never receive any compensation from you for whatever they’ve added to your life. And enough people are doing it now that it’s having a genuinely negative effect on the prospect of many artists. I’m not going to quote numbers or statistics, but I suggest you read David Lowery’s excellent article to set yourself straight if you’re one of those people who believe mass downloading is having no impact on artists.

But Illegal Downloading Still MightBesides, I want to pay for the good stuff because it means the artist is more likely to make more of it. No, I don’t want to pay for the bad stuff… but I don’t even want to listen to that, so why download it? There’s a case to be made for “try before you buy”… just like the long-lamented listening posts in record shops (or even better, the local record store where you knew the guy behind the counter and he’d gladly play whatever record you wanted to hear over the speaker system). But YouTube fulfils that function these days – perhaps to the annoyance of some artists – but there you have it. Want to know whether the new Kate Bush record is a return to form… listen to a couple of tracks on YouTube and then buy the record from her website if you like them (album available as a high bitrate lossless download, or as a lovely crafted package if you’re old-school). There’s no actual need to download the entire album for free just to check it out. If you don’t think you’d like it, then why do that anyway? And if you do think it will enrich your life, doesn’t the artist deserve to be able to make a living?

So yes, I did go through a brief phase of mass downloading. And I’m not proud of it. But ultimately I realised my actions were fundamentally unethical (and in my defence, I’d already paid my dues as far as music-purchasing was concerned, so maybe I can be forgiven my temporary lapse). More worrying though is not my generation – many of whom I suspect could tell very similar stories to mine – no, it’s the new generation of music-lovers who never experienced the genuine joy of buying that slice of wonderfully packaged vinyl and rushing home to be delighted by it. Even the CD didn’t kill that experience (though it was never quite as good). But the digital download? It just doesn’t feel like an “artefact” (because let’s face it, it’s not). As such, it’s difficult to place as much value on it. If limitless quantities of the finest champagne was available in every home on tap, for free, how long before it seemed vaguely worthless?

And that’s what’s happening to music. Even hardcore music fans of the current generation can’t help but hold the art-form in considerably lower esteem than those of us who had no option but to buy it. And who got something physical – something we could feel and pore over – in return for our money. The loss of that tactile experience is, I believe, directly related to the loss of value that seems to have beset the musical output of even the greatest artists. I know I sound terribly old-fashioned when I say that, but I do think it’s true. And no, I don’t know how to solve the problem. But I do feel it is a problem, and it’s one that needs to be solved if we want our artists to continue creating great music.

3 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion


6
Jun 2012

Ray Bradbury. 1920-2012

I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better than college. People should educate themselves – you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.

Ray Bradbury

Today I was saddened to hear the news of Ray Bradbury’s death. He lived to the ripe old age of 91 and – if I’m being honest – I was a little surprised to hear of his passing… half-assuming he’d ascended to that Great Library in The Sky many years ago.

Bradbury was one of writers who lit up my childhood and brought colour and wonder to grey 1970s Dublin. His novel, The Martian Chronicles is probably the first serious science-fiction book I can recall reading. I don’t wish to denigrate the fantastical space adventures penned by W.E. Johns, which were my initial introduction to science fiction, but they were essentially Boys Own Adventures that just happened to be set in space; whereas Bradbury was doing something entirely different. I’m sure even Johns would agree.
Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)
Ray Bradbury’s prose was genuinely poetic. It was filled with wisdom, warmth and a rich humour. It was also deadly serious and – looking back – was probably the first “social commentary” I read too. Though of course, at the tender age of 9 or 10, much of the allegory went above my head. Even so, I can distinctly remember thinking that there was something important about Bradbury’s work… something I wasn’t quite grasping, but that I desperately wanted to. Later in my teens when I re-read The Martian Chronicles – along with scores (if not hundreds) of his short stories – I was pleased to have been vindicated. There was something important about Bradbury’s work. And there still is.

Something Wicked This Way Comes remains one of my all-time favourite novels. I’ve not read it in many years, but I intend to very soon. It’s a shame that my revisit to his books is being prompted by such sad news, but I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to Mr. Bradbury; a man whose love of writing consumed him.

Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.

Ray Bradbury

When someone has spent more than ninety years on the planet, it’s difficult to describe their death as “a tragedy”. For surely few of us can expect to have such a span of years, and those of us who do should feel blessed because of it. And yet, when such a wise voice as Ray Bradbury is silenced, the world is always the worse for it. Still, he left us plenty of that wisdom in the books he wrote. Wisdom, wit and some cracking good yarns. For those of you who never encountered his work, may I suggest a short list to track down and be amazed by. And for those who are already familiar with Bradbury… well, there’s no harm in a re-read. It’s what he would have wanted.

My favourite of his novels:

As wonderful as are his novels, the curious reader should – perhaps even more urgently – track down pretty much any one of his glorious collections of short stories… The Day It Rained Forever and I Sing the Body Electric are two of the best, but you really can’t go wrong with Bradbury short stories. And if you don’t believe me, then why not track down some of the ones that have made it onto the web (The Pedestrian for example). You won’t be sorry that you did.


2
Jun 2012

Takeshis’

Wow. Just… wow.

I finally got around to watching Takeshis’, the first of Takeshi Kitano’s anti-mainstream trilogy (and I do mean anti-mainstream as opposed to merely non-mainstream… there’s a whole bunch of deliberate subversion and outright mocking of mainstream movie tropes going on). The story goes, that after his mainstream international success with Zatoichi, Kitano became disillusioned and frustrated with himself. He’d become too safe. Too predictable, in his own eyes. And while I personally thoroughly enjoyed Zatoichi, it’s definitely a million miles from the existential meditations of Dolls, Hana-bi or even the earlier Sonatine.

And so, he set out to make a trilogy of films that would quite deliberately alienate the wider audience he’d garnered via his samurai action movie. Films that abandoned all notions of traditional narrative; that made no concessions to accessibility… instead placing a priority on artistic integrity. He would gather up all that existential angst, dream-logic and plain weirdness that passes through his mind as he’s lying in the twilight between sleep and wakefulness; and he’d dump it onto the screen with no explanation.

Take that mainstream audiences!

The result is mesmerising and more than a little startling. Certainly not a film for anyone who needs such trifles as “plot” or “sense” to hold their hand for an hour and a half while they watch a screen. At the heart of the film are two characters, both played by Takeshi Kitano. The first is “Beat Takeshi”, a successful actor and film-maker who specialises in gangster / yakuza movies. The second is “Mr. Kitano”, a convenience store clerk and failed actor who spends his days daydreaming about living the life of his idol – Beat Takeshi – when he’s not being rejected at auditions.

Early in the film, there’s a chance meeting between the two Takeshis and Beat Takeshi signs an autograph for Mr. Kitano. Afterwards, we watch as Mr. Kitano walks home to his small apartment above a mechanic’s shop and falls asleep. From then on, the viewer never knows whether the scene they are watching is a dream being had by one of the two Takeshis, or a convenience store clerk’s fantasy of being a successful actor, or a successful film-maker wondering what it would be like to live the life of a failed actor. Or indeed, a successful film-maker imagining what the fantasies of a failed actor about being a successful film-maker would be like. It’s no surprise that the original title of the film was Fractals.

Takeshis'

Characters from the director’s previous films show up in incongruous situations and it definitely helps the viewer if they’re familiar with Takeshi Kitano’s past work. There’s a huge amount of self-referentiality in the movie… scenes from previous films (most notably Sonatine and Hana-bi, but pretty much every movie he’s done gets a look in) are revisited in unexpected ways, with characters crossing over from one to the other. Indeed whole sections of Takeshis’ appear to be deliberate “self-iconoclasm”, with some of the most haunting and affecting scenes he’s ever shot being savagely undercut and turned into absurd parodies – most notably the final beach scene from Hana-bi (in my view, one of the most beautiful scenes in the history of cinema) is suddenly transformed into a bizarre action-film caricature with Kitano machine-gunning a whole range of characters from his past films (along with about 500 riot police).

There’s a great deal of wit in Takeshis’ and while it only made me laugh out loud a couple of times, I spent much of the film with a wry smile on my face. As with all of his films the humour veers from the ridiculously slapstick to the almost-too-cerebral, with plenty in between. And as ever, music plays a large role. Traditional Japanese folk music cuts brutally into high-tempo electronica and back again. Also, the tap-dancing interlude goes on for quite a bit longer than you’d expect.

It’s like a very weird remix of his past films, and at no point have you any idea who or what you’ll be seeing next on the screen. Personally I absolutely loved it and am looking forward to watching Glory to the Filmmaker! (the second film in the trilogy). But I suspect plenty of people who see Takeshis’ will hate it, and no small percentage will fail to reach the end. But for fans of the obscure, the odd and the original, Takeshis’ provides an absolute feast for the senses. And the imagination.

Leave a comment  |  Posted in: Reviews » Film reviews


5
Nov 2009

Ukraine's got talent

I generally dislike TV talent shows. Whether it’s X-Factor, Pop Idol, The All-Ireland Talent Show or Opportunity Knocks. They tend to showcase acts that appeal to a lowest common denominator, and the occasional exceptions to this rule don’t make the rest worth watching. I don’t think this view makes me a snob, but if it does then so be it.

However, if I was living in the Ukraine and knew that this woman would be appearing on their national TV talent show, then I’d have gladly made an exception. It’s genuinely beautiful and really quite moving.

I advise watching it in fullscreen mode. Enjoy.

Kseniya Simonova — Sand Animation

1 comment  |  Posted in: Media » Video


24
Apr 2008

Just testing

Hey y’all, I’ve just upgraded this place to WordPress 2.5. It was a pretty painless process, and it appears to have gone quite smoothly. If you find any broken bits, though, please let me know.

While I’ve got your attention, let me point you towards a couple of interesting things. Firstly, if you’re in Dublin (or will be before the end of June) I recommend visiting Cut-Outs and Cut-Ups: Hans Christian Andersen and William Seward Burroughs at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). It’s not a huge exhibition, but it is a fascinating one and I suspect I’ll revisit it at some point. And yes, you heard that right, William S. Burroughs and Hans Christian Andersen. Initially I thought the link between them was pretty contrived, but there’s a couple of pieces by the venerable Danish storyteller that illustrate some truly uncanny points of contact between the two.

I was also very pleased to walk into a room containing one of Brion Gysin’s original dream-machines, and finally fulfilled an ambition to see an example of Burroughs’ “shotgun art” up close and personal. It doesn’t take very long to see the entire collection, but it’s well worth checking out.

And finally… my favourite line to appear in a news report for some time can be found right at the end of this article. Obviously read the thing before checking out the punchline.

Leave a comment  |  Posted in: Opinion


20
Dec 2007

Archaeologies of Consciousness

Having failed to give the excellent Dreamflesh Volume One the glowing review it so richly deserved here on The Quiet Road, Gyrus threatened to “burn down your home, and the homes of everyone you’ve ever met!” unless I at least mentioned his latest tome.

Archaeologies of Consciousness

Well, he’s a man of his word. So I shall do more than just mention it. I shall post a big shiny graphic showing the rather striking cover (designed by Andy Hemmingway) and urge y’all to get hold of this fantastic anthology.

Entitled Archaeologies of Consciousness: Essays In Experimental Prehistory, it’s billed as a collection of writing on “ancient monuments, prehistoric rock art, folklore, mythology, and altered states of consciousness”. But don’t let what may sound like a specialist book on a selection of niche subjects put you off. The essays in this book are explorations of consciousness, of what it means to be human, and of the environment and landscapes that shaped our development. It’s a book that drags these “niche subjects” out of the cosy, dusty libraries in which they’ve locked themselves and takes them for a much needed hike across a windswept moor to get their blood flowing again.

But what’s it actually about?

[…] in Freudian language [we say] that the operations of the unconscious are structured in terms of primary process, while the thoughts of consciousness (especially verbalized thoughts) are expressed in secondary process.

Nobody, to my knowledge, knows anything about secondary process. But it is ordinarily assumed that everybody knows all about it, so I shall not attempt to describe secondary process in any detail, assuming that you know as much about it as I.

Gregory Bateson | Style, Grace and Information in Primitive Art

In the space of these five extended essays and a few shorter bits and pieces, Gyrus boldly strides where Bateson fears to tread.

To be honest, that last line is hyberbolic to the point of sheer inaccuracy, but it’s a good pull-quote. In actual fact, the writing of Bateson and Gyrus complement one another in interesting ways. Both are examining the unsettling, blurred region where a number of disparate disciplines intersect; archaeology, anthropology, mythology, psychology (along with psychoanalytic theory) and biology. Both are aware that, for a whole bunch of reasons, traditional academia finds it difficult to comfortably accommodate research in this area, but are equally aware that for their work to be influential within these disparate disciplines (as it damn well should be), it must be accessible to them.

But where they differ is the fact that Bateson is writing from within the establishment; emerging from it as it were; while Gyrus is approaching it from outside. Both approaches have their strengths and both have certain limitations. Thankfully there’s nothing stopping us from reading both and allowing them to, as I say, complement one another.

One thing that strikes me though, is that Gyrus generally overcomes the limitations imposed by his position as a “freelance” / “amateur” researcher (a tendency towards flights of fancy, tangents and a perceived lack on intellectual rigour) better than Bateson overcomes the limitations imposed by his own (conservatism, unimaginativeness and a tendency to obscure meaning with over-complex prose and jargon).

Now Bateson can’t be accused either of conservatism or a lack of imagination, but his writing does occasionally become rather dense and opaque. In Archaeologies of Consciousness however, Gyrus presents his readers with clear, flowing prose that is at turns poetic, at turns scientific, but always comprehensible. And it’s not the patronising comprehensibility of “popular science” books that spoonfeed complex ideas to a mass market by simplifying them to the point of meaninglessness. This is the real deal… exactly as complicated as it needs to be, but no less accessible for it.

The collection opens with The Devil & The Goddess which I recall reading when it was first published over a decade ago. It was around that time that I first met Gyrus, and during the intervening years — in private discussions and through reading subsequent articles — I’ve seen how his ideas and research have evolved. So it’s interesting to revisit The Devil & The Goddess; not the start, but certainly an important early milestone, on a unique intellectual journey; and to find it’s still vital, still relevant and is filled with the questions and themes that would dominate his work for the next ten years.

Culture and civilization are inseparable from material technologies, and things are no less confused in the technophile / Luddite debate. The real dichotomy to be tackled here is that of harmonious / unharmonious technology. Do our tools help us achieve our desires, or do they become our desires?

Later…

This spiritual poverty, this rigid division of life into the sacred and profane (in their modern senses), has only been the norm of human experience for several hundred years, if that. And in their historical accounts, modern scientists have been projecting this division back in time for far too long. A re-vision of anthropology and archaeology is overdue, necessary and, I feel, imminent.

And concluding with…

For ourselves, living in a culture where the dominant spiritual institutions have insisted not only on separating themselves from everyday life, but directing their spiritual aspirations outside this world, it’s evident that a new vision of spirituality more directly concerned with life, the Earth, our bodies and survival is needed. We cannot live on bread alone, but I don’t want to try to live without it. It’s no coincidence that it took an affluent society like our own, where day-to-day existence is taken for granted, to produce a device capable of utterly destroying the biosphere.

… via a route that takes in Shamanism, Satanism, the Kundalini experience, anal eroticism, the origins of blood sacrifice, the Knights Templar and the landscape of Avebury…

It’s the least focussed of the essays in the collection, certainly, but it provides a perfect opener to the book by setting up many of the themes that are expanded upon in the later pieces.

My personal favourites (if one can be said to have favourites among essays on abstract and esoteric subjects) are probably the final two of the long pieces; Form & Meaning in Altered States & Rock Art and Aeons Past & Present. The former contains my favourite line of the book, where the author is examining some neolithic rock art while under the influence of 2CB (a synthetic phenethylamine which is known to produce, among other things, visual distortions not unlike the geometrical patterns found in much primitive art) and has the multi-layered revelation that “There’s no ‘blank canvas’ in rock art!” While the latter draws together theories about time and evolution from a remarkably wide range of sources and makes all manner of intriguing and insightful connections between them, eventually concluding with a call to action in the face of the seemingly paralysing desires manufactured by modern culture.

From the upbeat and characteristically enthusiastic preface by Julian Cope, to the meticulous indices, Archaeologies of Consciousness succeeds in being a well-researched, informative; indeed illuminating; collection of essays which is also a pleasure to read. This makes it a very rare item indeed; so I recommend you grab a copy.

4 comments  |  Posted in: Reviews » Book reviews


30
Mar 2007

Photolog: The Dublin Famine Memorial

I’ve not been online very much this week thanks to a combination of being out quite a lot, and my broadband connection acting a bit weird. That was as far as the tech support chappie managed to narrow things down… “you’re right,” he told me, “it does seem to be acting a bit weird”. Several ridiculously over-complicated router reconfigurations later, it seems to have stopped acting weird. Though neither the tech support chappie nor myself have any idea why. Half of me finds that infuriating. The other half finds it reassuringly arbitrary… a gentle reminder of the limits to our control.

The Famine Memorial

I took some photographs of the Famine Memorial (Rowan Gillespie – sculptor) when I was in town earlier in the week. I also tried to get some interesting ones of the Phil Lynott statue, but it was exactly the wrong time of day for that particular street and the light was completely crap. I’ll try again on a brighter day when it’s not all gloomy shades of grey. The photos of the Famine Memorial, though, have finally given me a reason to set up a Flickr account. And hopefully they’ll turn out to be the inaugural set in a continuing project of photographing some of Dublin’s more interesting landmarks.

Suggestions are more than welcome… natural landmarks, historical or cultural sites, whatever really… if there’s a place in Dublin that you’d like to see amateurishly rendered in pixels, then let me know what it is and I’ll do my best. Dublin is a compact city (leastways what has historically been “the city” is pretty compact… the recent suburban sprawl is a rather different story) and it’s a very old city. So you can hardly walk more than a few hundred metres in any direction without stumbling across something historically significant (even if it’s only the memorial to something ripped down in the name of urban regeneration).

Despite being surrounded by the shiny glass boxes of Dublin’s new financial centre, the Famine Memorial succeeds in being genuinely moving and — to a degree — quite haunting. Though the location… certainly during the daytime… makes it difficult for the atmosphere of the place to properly get under your skin. Transporting yourself back in your mind to the 1840s is hampered somewhat by the office blocks, traffic lights and passing cars. Nonetheless, while I was there, a group of about forty over-excited Spanish students came giggling along the quays. As they reached the statues, the sound of forty digital cameras with their exaggerated ‘snapping’ sound-effects could just be heard beneath the shouted conversation and laughter. By the end of two or three minutes photographing the memorial, though, the only sounds that could be heard were the cameras and the passing traffic. It’s a serious place that has a very real impact on the visitor.

I managed to get seven half-decent images from the large number I took… The Famine Memorial set. You can view the location on this map should you wish to visit the memorial yourself.

2 comments  |  Posted in: Media » Photos


2
Oct 2006

Brokeback to the future and incoming traffic

Deconstruction and postmodernism have a lot to answer for. Modern culture is shredding itself into smaller and smaller pieces, and recycling the sludge into a myriad new and unexpected shapes. From Hakim Bey’s wonderful essay, Immediatism

With the disappearance of a “mainstream” and therefore of an “avant-garde” in the arts, it has been noticed that all the more advanced and intense art-experiences have become recuperable almost instantly by the media, and are thus rendered into trash like all other trash in the ghostly world of commodities. Now, “Trash”, as the term was redefined in, let’s say, in Baltimore in the 1970s, can be good fun — as a sort of ironic take on a sort of inadvertent folkultur that surrounds and pervades the more unconscious regions of popular sensibility — which in turn is produced in part by the Spectacle. “Trash” was once a fresh concept, with radical potential. By now, however, amidst the ruins of Post-Modernism, it has finally begun to stink. Ironic frivolity finally becomes disgusting. Is it possible now to BE SERIOUS BUT NOT SOBER? (Note: The New Sobriety is of course simply the flip-side of the New Frivolity. Chic neo-puritanism carries the taint of Reaction, in just the same way that postmodernist philisophical irony and despair lead to Reaction. The Purge Society is the same as the Binge Society. After the “12 steps” of trendy renunciation in the ’90s, all that remains is the 13th step of the gallows. Irony may have become boring, but self-mutilation was never more than an abyss. Down with frivolity — Down with sobriety.) Everything delicate and beautiful, from Surrealism to Breakdancing, ends up as fodder for McDeath’s ads; 15 minutes later, all the magic has been sucked out, and the art itself dead as a dried locust. The media-wizards, who are nothing if not postmodernists, have even begun to feed on the vitality of “Trash,” like vultures regurgitating and reconsuming the same carrion, in an obscene ecstasy of self-referentiality. Which way to the Egress?

Hakim Bey | Immediatism

… to fanvids on YouTube in less than ten years. Even as art gets recycled as cynical capitalist propaganda, so nuggets of gold still manage to show up on the slagheap. Whatever else YouTube produces, though, has it already reached its own particular zenith? Is it soon to be replaced by the next big thing? Can it ever possibly top Brokeback To The Future? I think not.

It seems that even the most prescient of cultural commentators will soon be out of a job. No sooner do you suggest a potential direction for humanity, than you get rebuffed with a “they tried that in Japan for a while, everyone hated the shoes”. And what passes for culture is mostly commentary these days anyway. Reading some of the stuff that Leary wrote in the late 60s is like being transported to a weird alternate reality. He was perceptive enough to recognise the potential that lay in computers and communications technology. So his descriptions of the early 21st century can be eerily accurate in some ways. But then he’ll describe the social revolution he sees approaching and it all descends into a flowery psychedelic utopia. By the 1990’s it will be considered natural and, indeed, almost a social obligation for couples to take LSD together prior to getting married and raising a family. After all, argues Leary, how could you possibly know whether someone is “right” for you until you’ve tripped together?

How indeed.

Incoming!

I noticed that my cannabis prohibition piece got a mention on Tim Worstall‘s weekly BritBlog roundup. This fact came to my attention when my traffic shot up over the weekend. Of course, none of them stayed very long and I don’t expect I pick up much return visitors that way, but nice of them to stop by all the same.

Also visiting recently were some people from google, and I’m pleased to note that one of them arrived here having typed “i want a wank quick”. Of course, of all the sites on the internet, I suspect this wasn’t the one he was looking for. And on the same theme, it appears that some poor chap was hoping I’d advise him on “best way to wank”. I mean, what are you supposed to say? Avoid sandpaper? It’s hardly rocket science, kid.

The theme that generates most google hits is the carbon dioxide emissions of planes versus coaches. Which pleases me, as I know those people are finding the info they’re looking for (the blog post they arrive at has some basic introductory data and links to an authoritative PDF). I’m less clear, however, whether the person who arrived looking for “groovy multiple mocks” was happy with the information they found. And was the person who wanted “explain quiet thinking” any the wiser for having visited? Quiet thinking? Are there really people out there somewhere… thinking too loudly? And I’d love to think that I helped the person who searched for “weird wacky tourist travel strange unusual signs places road trip united states”, but sadly I doubt I did. Maybe next year.

As for the two folk who searched for “bollocks” and arrived at my blog, can I just say; “fuck you too!”

2 comments  |  Posted in: Media » Video


22
Sep 2006

Banksy and celebrity

Over on Chicken Yoghurt Justin highlights the pointlessness of Banksy’s latest work. Now, I have to say that I like some of the stuff that Banksy has done. The graffiti on the Israeli defence wall was particularly good in my view. Of course, not all of his work attains that high standard, and as Justin quite rightly says; the elephant in the room does seem particularly pointless… though from a purely aesthetic viewpoint there’s something quite groovy about it as an image (ethical issues about the use of animals as artistic “props” aside). But then again, elephants are always interesting to look at, so if you can afford to dump one into your art installation there’s a good chance it’ll be visually impressive however cack-handed the artist.

Also, was I the only one to notice a very subtle backfire of the Paris Hilton CD stunt? The prank seemed to be about highlighting the absurdity of Paris Hilton recording an album based purely on the fact that she’s “a celebrity”. In other words; “the fact that you have public name-recognition means you get to do what you want”.

It’s hardly an original point, but it was, in my opinion, an old point well-made by Banksy’s prank. Unfortunately though it was rather undercut by the reaction of HMV whose spokesman said:

It’s not the type of behaviour you’d want to see happening very often, [but] I guess you can give an individual such as Banksy a little bit of leeway for his own particular brand of artistic engagement.

In other words; “we’d be very cross about this if it was just some average schlepp who did it… but, well, Banksy’s a celeb isn’t he? So that’s alright then.”

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