Simply raising a hand, closing an eyelid... Patience (After Sebald)

Patience (After Sebald) has a soundtrack by The Caretaker, whose 2011 album An Empty Bliss Beyond This World was inspired by a study on Alzheimer's disease and featured foggily looping, layered samples from old 78s. Sebald's book The Rings of Saturn, upon which the documentary is based, has a similar preoccupation with memory, time, and the fog of narrative experience. As Sebald walks around East Anglia, two pervading atmospheres engulf and are engulfed in turn; the comminuted and the combusting. Comminuted substances - ash, spume, dust, vapour, mist - the world's particles and fragments, are the extending metaphors of this part-memoir-history-fiction. Here, as with the London fog in Dickens' Bleak House, the loss of the visible is accompanied by a certain loss of understanding, an estrangement of sense. Sebald reminds us, structurally as well as literally, that it is precisely sense that we seek, often post-hoc, in the uncharted gathering that is recovering: a netted comprehension that ties one thing to another, us to ourselves and to others. Something solid to fall upon. And yet behind the rapidity and rabidity of industrialisation is modernity's central religion of combustion, "the hidden principle behind every artefact we create." That which burns, consumes. Burning is both holy and ungodly, occupying a fine atmospheric line between creation and destruction. Heat, light, machines. The reduction of substance to a near nothingness. Ashes and dust. Man's destruction of man is suspended through this book like a fog, which - true to form - never offers itself as distinct or comprehensible, but leaves us with the sense that our Promethean gift may be ultimately Pyrrhic.

From The Rings of Saturn; an English Pilgrimage:

... [Browne] remarks in a passage of the "Pseudodoxia Epidemica" that I can no longer find that in Holland of his time it was customary, in a home where there had been a death, to drape black mourning ribbons over all the mirrors and canvasses depicting landscapes or people or the fruits of the fields, so that the soul, as it left the body, would not be distracted on its final journey, either by a reflection of itself or by a last glimpse of the land now being lost forever.

Singly, in groups and in straggling lines, people tottered across the country, and the merest breath of air might suffice to topple them and leave them lying by the wayside forever. Simply raising a hand, closing an eyelid, or exhaling one's last breath might take, it sometimes seemed, half a century. And as time dissolved, so too did all other relations. Parents exchanged children because they could not bear to watch the dying torment of their own. Towns and villages were surrounded by deserts of dust, over which trembling mirages of river valleys and forested lakes often appeared. Sometimes at first light, when the rustling of leaves dry on the branch penetrated their shallow sleep, people imagined, for a fraction of a second in which wishful thinking was stronger than what they knew to be the case, that it had started to rain. Though the capital and its environs were spared the worst consequences of the drought, when the ill tidings arrived from the south, the Dowager Empress had a daily blood sacrifice offered in her temple to the god of silk, at the hour when the evening star rose, lest the silkworms want for fresh green leaves. Of all living creatures, these curious insects alone aroused a strong affection in her.

from swamp culture to human culture... Stuart Home

Active since the late 1970s, first as a ‘zine writer and punk musician, and later as an art theorist, novelist, filmmaker and editor of experimental fiction, Stuart Home has operated – for shits and giggles as much as for aesthetics and activism – as a conceptual indigent, quasi-occultist, propagandist for psychic warfare. Rich in japester juxtapositions, his prolific output often splices together the knuckles-and-raunch pulp fictions of early ‘70s hacks such as Richard Allen and Sven Hassel with Situationist critique and Hegelian theory, and puts the comic, caustic brutalism that ensues to keenly-observed satiric effect.

Frieze on the Stuart Home retrospective, hither.

From Jenny Turner's article in the LRB:

Most of the following will be present in each of these volumes, in differing proportions: political theory, borrowed from an out of copyright source and spliced into the middle of something completely different; pornography, of varying degrees of unpleasantness, also appropriated and pasted in; references to underground post-surrealist art movements; quotations from undistinguished punk-rock artistes; citations from texts that appear to be real, but aren’t; occult conspiracies; pseudonymity; unprovoked attacks on writers Home happens to have taken a dislike to, such as Will Self... I am biased I know, but I really don’t think anyone who is at all interested in the study of literature has any business not knowing the work of Stewart Home. No one and nothing, least of all the work itself, is saying you have to like it: if Home wanted his work to be likeable, he could just set about copying Nick Hornby, same as everybody else. But Home is using writing for a different purpose. Writing is power, ideology, an instrument of domination; it’s a huge, filthy, stinking machine.

LRB, hither.

Defiant Pose (1991); the onto-symbolism of fascist underwear:


Bubbles, foam... Peter Sloterdijk and atmospheres

Sloterdijk's magnum opus, a three part work of which the first is Bubbles; Spheres I, is as humble in its task as it is groundbreaking; "even to speak of gaining access is misleading, for the discovery of the spheric is less a matter of access than of a slowed-down circumspection amid the most obvious." Perhaps the all-encompassing extendo-addendum to Heidegger's Being and Time, Sloterdijk uses a theory of spheres as a morphological tool for grasping the exodus of the human being from its primitive isolated bubble to our contemporary existence as unroundable foams. The book speaks volumes in spheres, bubbles, orbs, foams, heaps, sponges, clouds, and vortices. This is so ®å∂îçå¬. I haven't read something this good since Serres.

Enjoy an extract from Spheres I explaining its III:

"The third book will address the modern catastrophe of the round world. Using morphological terms, it will describe the rise of an age in which the form of the whole can no longer be imagined in terms of imperial panoramas and circular panopticons. From a morphological perspective, modernity appears primarily as a form-revolutionary process.

… our spherological approach supplies the means to characterise the catastrophes of world form in modernity - that is, terrestrial and virtual globalisation - in terms of non-round sphere formations. This contradictio in adiecto mirrors the formal dilemma of current contemporary state of the world, in which global markets and media have ignited an acute world war of ways of life and informational commodities. When everything has become the centre, there is no longer any valid centre… The guiding morphological principles of the polyspheric world we inhabit is no longer the orb, but rather foam.

The structural implication of the current earth-encompassing network - with all its eversions into the virtual realm - is thus not so much a globalisation as a foaming. In foam worlds, the individual bubbles are not absorbed into a single integrative hyper-orb, as in the metaphysical conniption of the world, but rather drawn together to form irregular hills.

Referring to a pathology of spheres displays a threefold focus: a politicological one, in so far as foams tend to be ungovernable structures with an inclination towards morphological anarchy; a cognitive one, in so far as the individuals and associations of subjects can no longer produce any complete world, as the idea of the whole world itself, in its characteristic holistic emphasis, unmistakably belongs to the expired age of metaphysical total-inclusion-circles, or monospheres; and a psychological one, in so far as single individuals in foams tend to lose the power to form mental-emotional spaces, and shrink to isolated depressive points transplanted into random surrounds (correctly referred to systematically as their environment). They suffer from the immunodeficiency caused by the deterioration of solidarities - to say nothing, for the moment, of the new immunisations acquired through participation in regenerated sphere creations. For sphere-deficient private persons, their lifespan becomes a sentence of solitary confinement; egos that are extensionless, scarcely active and lacking in participation stare out through the media window into moving landscapes of images. It is typical of the acute mass cultures that the moving images have become far livelier than most of their observers: a reproduction of animism in step with modernity.

With this neither gay nor sad science of foams, the third book of Spheres presents a theory of the current age whose main tenor is that reanimation has an insurmountable lead over reanimation. It is the inanimable outside that gives food for thought in intrinsically modern times. This conclusion will inevitably drive the nostalgic yearning for a conception of the world, which still aims for a liveable whole in the education-holistic sense, into resignation. For whatever asserts itself as the inner realm, it is increasingly exposed as the inner side of an outside. No happiness is safe from endoscopy; every blissful, intimate, vibrating cell is surrounded by swarms of professional disillusions, and we drift among them - thought paparazzi, deconstructionists, interior deniers and cognitive scientists, accomplices in an unlimited plundering of Lethe.
… The world, it seems, has grown much too large for people of an older type, who strove for true community with things both near and far. "

Turbo Sculpture & Aleksandra Domanović at [space] studios, London

"The Political and economic turmoil of the early 1990s Yugoslavia rendered the society compliant enough for the concept of ‘turbo culture’ to gain momentum. With all its exaggerations, inordinateness and random amalgamations of both local and global ornamentation, turbo eventually became a prefix for social and media phenomena of the war and post-war period. As a result terms such as turbo politics, turbo television, turbo architecture and turbo urbanism developed…"

- Excerpt from Turbo Sculpture, 18:29 minutes @ [space] studios, London.

‘Turbo sculpture’ is an epiphenomenon of turbo culture. It refers to the depiction of popular non-national media celebrities in public sculpture projects across the former Yugoslavian nations. In recent years turbo sculpture monuments of Bruce Lee (Mostar, 2005), Rocky Balboa (Žitište, 2007), Johnny Weissmuller / Tarzan (Međa, 2007), Bob Marley (Banatski Sokolac, 2007) and Tupac Shakur (Belgrade, forthcoming) have been unveiled.

Aleksandra Domanović's recent work deals with a spate of monuments, built within former Yugoslavia, which betray a fascination with Western pop-culture both lurid and banal. It is exactly this blonde n' beige on hot pink aesthetic that frames Domanović's video work, which wittingly pairs cheap computer graphics with smooth, astute commentary on the dilemmas of choosing new role models, the historicisation of political tensions, and earnest kitsch. 

Check it out at [space], 129-131 Mare street, Hackney. They are also showing a great retrospective of photographer Jo Spence, as well as a video of the Wim T. Schipper's fluxus style play, Going to the Dogs. 

Riikka Kuusisto
We must act with total resolve to achieve our aims, for the sake of humanity and for the sake of the future safety of our region and the world … We are doing what is right … Barbarity cannot be allowed to defeat justice.
 — Prime Minister Tony Blair, March 26, 1999

All stories — including the stories world leaders tell in international politics — follow certain narrative patterns. As the international relations specialist Hayward Alker argued in his 1987 essay ‘Fairy Tales, Tragedies and World Histories’, no matter how objective or scientific these stories aim to be, they invariably include elements normally associated with folktales and legends; modern‑day equivalents of princesses, dragons and heroes; kidnappings, rescues and rewards. The stories people tell about their communities tend to conform to one of three types: fairy tales, tragedies or, all too rarely, comedies.
The study of classic Western plot sequences and characters can be dated at least back to Aristotle. His analysis of the art of poetry and its division into epic, tragedy and comedy is the foundation of subsequent literary criticism and theory. In the field of international relations and world politics, however, the study of storytelling is a more recent occupation. Alker was among the first to focus on plot structures or story grammars. Since the late 1980s, Michael Shapiro, David Campbell, Michael Billig, Robert Ivie and others have also studied foreign‑policy texts: the activities of making strange and drawing symbolic boundaries, imagining community and producing (national) identity, creating ‘others’ and providing ‘us’ with a purpose. More recently, Erik Ringmar has used literary theory to analyze the rhetoric of leaders in office and opposition forces during wars.
It’s unlikely, although not impossible, that political leaders deliberately choose specific plots but, more or less intuitively, they still operate within the tradition of Western foreign policy storytelling. Simple tales are still the most common, with the emphasis on identity politics, territorial discourses, state‑centrism and coherent plots. They may be inadequate or dangerously simplistic ways to map complex problems but remain compelling all the same. Alker accounts for their power by describing basic story grammars as especially meaningful and easy to remember, as forms which appeal at a deep level to our conscious and unconscious experience. Hayden White in The Content of the Form (1987) talks about narrative appeal more generally: how our desire that real events conform to the coherence of fiction makes us impose order on our descriptions of the world. Moral meaning is possible only through narrative, and specific kinds of stories provide specific kinds of moral meaning. Katharine Young, too, in Taleworlds and Storyrealms (1987), emphasizes the ability of stories to interpret events which are merely consecutive as consequential, and therefore meaningful, to both the narrator and the audience. A better or ‘correct’ categorization of conflicts may not solve everything, but as long as stories structure our lives, we would do well to examine the different forms those stories can take. [ ... ]