Friday 9 January 2009

CTHEORY Online Archive

Posts labelled ‘Online Archive’ contain links to essays of mine or videos, sound recordings and other forms of documentation that relate to my work. Just recently I was delighted to discover that the CTHEORY website, run by Arthur and Marilouise Kroker out of the University of Victoria in Canada, is still carrying the full text versions of some of my early work. This is an amazing site and constantly being updated with new material; I’m hoping to contribute something new to it in the coming year. In the meantime, the following three essays are currently available in their full and original form.

We Are All Depraved: Criswell Predicts Your Next Years

This is the original version of this essay, written specifically for CTHEORY online back in 1997. A revised version of ‘We Are All Depraved’, also known as the ‘Dead Men in Cars Mix’, the basis of a touring show I created with the Dutch electronic composer Huib Emmer in 1998. This text was published in a Dutch translation by the Gaudeamus Foundation in a beautifully illustrated booklet to accompany the tour. ‘We Are All Depraved’ was further revised in 2006 for a performance at the Roundhouse, in which I read the text with an electronic backing by emergent space rockers Oort. Resonance FM carried a live broadcast of the show and should have a copy of the performance in their archives, but I’ve never heard it.

A blue and yellow announcement on the screen advises us that the scenes we are destined to witness have been rated R. Persons under the age of 16 will not be admitted to see what is about to unfold unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.
To the sounds of funereal music and the creaking of ancient hinges, two muscular male slaves in leopard-skin loincloths pull open the leaden double doors to an ancient burial vault. Inside, a round stained-glass window casts a disk of blood-red light over a stone coffin. In reverent unison, the two slaves ease off its dusty lid, then respectfully withdraw.
It is 1965, and the Amazing Criswell, never weary of this world for very long, rises majestically from his coffin, readying himself to address a movie audience yet again. A quick dissolve places him squarely before us. His presence fills the screen.
"I am Criswell," he states, his eyes focused on some distant, unseen dimension. "For many years I have told the almost unbelievable, related the unreal and showed it to be more than fact. Now I tell the tale of the Threshold People, so astounding that some of you may even faint."

Tokyo Must Be Destroyed: Dreams of Tall Buildings and Monsters, Images of Cities and Monuments

This essay was originally published in the anthology Digital Delirium, edited by Arthur and Marilouise Kroker and published by McMillan in 1997. I am pleased to announce that this prescient collection of essays is still in print – in fact I came across a copy at City Lights in San Francisco last September.

In these cities constructed as vast movie sets within which the populace, like so many extras, re-enact endless variants on the same crowd scene, what is on show is less important than the way in which it is viewed. Where, for example, the grand frivolities of Las Vegas are focused and reordered in the camcorder lens of the wandering tourist, Saddam Hussein's Baghdad has become reconfigured for Western audiences by the optical telemetering of the guided missile.
Either way, the image ends up on your TV at home.
For the spectator, a cruise missile is nothing but a point of light in the night sky. The digitized flight plan contained in its memory is running a continuous movie of the terrain over which it is traveling. As the missile nears its target, moving from relief map to floor plan, its nose-mounted camera prepares to transmit a live, broadcast-quality, image of the impact. Thus, the cruise missile becomes a complex piece of hardware designed to be an eye-witness to its own destruction.
The moment of impact is also the moment at which the camera goes off air.
Who can survive the shock of being seen in such a fashion?

Criswell Predicts: Lost Voices from a Forgotten Future, 1956-59

This is the essay that started it all. First written for a conference on the Future held at the Korzo Theatre in Den Haag in the summer of 1995, ‘Criswell Predicts’ is a preliminary sketch for what would become Welcome to Mars, and some of the imagery and themes found in the chapters on 1956 and 1959 can be traced back to this essay. Looking at it now, there are a few things I’d probably want to sharpen up and revise just a little. Otherwise, I’m still very happy to put my name to it.

Los Angeles. The lights go up inside the darkened shell of Merle Connell's Quality Studios, and the Amazing Criswell, his hands arranged neatly on the desk in front of him, stares confidently into the lens of a whirling movie camera.
"Greetings, my friend," he announces cheerfully. "We are all interested in the future - for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives."
A cold wind starts to blow in from the Other World. Beyond the lines of quietly parked cars and the soaring sky-scrapers of fabulous L.A., strange forces are gathering.
It is some time towards the end of November 1956, and the fate of the entire human race hangs in the balance. Criswell knows that time is slipping by: that the film in which he is appearing is more than real. It is as urgent and as immediate as life itself. He will only get one chance to say what he has to say. There can be no re-takes: the budget won't allow for it.

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