Sunday 31 January 2010

Lecture Two: Machines

With the introduction of the camera, phonograph and the cinematograph into modern culture, the human senses were allowed to exist independently of each other as the mechanical reproduction of sounds, images and movements became a common parlance – we will examine the fallout of this disruption of the senses through contemporary accounts, ranging from inventor Thomas Alava Edison and psychologist Sigmund Freud, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and poet Arthur Rimbaud, together with historical analyses from Friedrich Kittler and Walter Benjamin. Lecture to take place at 10.00 on Wednesday February 3 in the MACD main studio at CSM’s Back Hill site in Clerkenwell. Don’t be late.

Context themes to be covered: language, psychology, panoptics, narrative

For suggested reading, viewing and other ideas, see also:
History and Hardware
Towards a Social History of Machines

YouTube clips embedded above (in descending order):

La Sortie de l'Usine Lumière à Lyon, considered one of the first moving pictures of any duration to be screened in public, from a set of ten films exhibited by the Lumière Brothers in Paris in 1895.

American dancer Loie Fuller performs her ‘Serpentine Dance’ for the kinetograph. In Paris she was first known as ‘L’ouie’ – the French word for a sense of hearing. She was renamed ‘Loïe’: a corruption of the early French ‘L’oïe’, meaning ‘receptiveness’.

Maria’s Dance from Frizt Lang’s 1926 silent movie Metropolis: is this a woman we see dancing – or a machine?

Monday 25 January 2010

New Lecture Series

I am beginning a new lecture series for MA Communication Design students, taking place in the MACD Main Studio at CSM’s Back Hill site in Clerkenwell from 10.00 to 11.00 every Wednesday morning. Information on each lecture, the themes covered, together with suggested reading and viewing, will be posted on this blog at least a couple of days before it is to be delivered, giving you a chance to do some preparatory work beforehand, should the mood take you. There will be eight lectures in this series. Dates, times and subjects will be posted on this blog’s Google calendar app in due course: details on the first lecture will follow immediately after this post. Now be gone – the Great Oz has spoken.

See also:
Previous lecture series

Pictured above: the Great Oz himself, courtesy of Mark Boswell

Lecture One: Media

In January 1996, as we approached the edge of a new millennium, Wired published an exclusive interview with Marshall McLuhan in which he discussed at great length the effects that the new digital technologies were having upon our most basic perceptions. He emphasized the importance of promoting inefficiency among the business communities of the twenty-first century, argued that ‘the product promotes the consumer’ and dismissed cyberpunks as mere ‘sentimentalists’. In fact, the author of Understanding Media seemed remarkably alert and well informed for someone who had actually been dead for more than fifteen years. As citizens of the digital regime, we have long since grown accustomed to such intrusions.

Understanding media in the digital regime is increasingly to approach them as a set of information-rich environments that influence today’s communication strategies and practice – using the writings of McLuhan, Baudrillard and Virilio, we will analyse this approach to media in terms of the narrowing gap between existing data streams and emerging platforms – where does your practice as a communication designer currently exist and where will it be tomorrow?

Context themes to be covered: time/space, language, politics, narrative

For suggested reading, viewing and other ideas, see also:
‘The Future is Back’ Resources
The Future is Back: A Lecture on Marshall McLuhan
The Future is What Happens After You’re Dead

You Tube clip embedded above: Marshall McLuhan’s theories on TV as a TV movie. We are all going to hell together.

Saturday 23 January 2010

Strange Attractor Salon: A Site Report

‘There’s a particularly vibrant, very loose cultural network in London at the moment one that incorporates music and sound, ideas and information, visual arts and almost anything else you’d care to imagine. It’s inevitable that these people, places and events all bounce off and influence each other in a kind of sub-cultural Brownian Motion.’ – Mark Pilkington

Strange Attractor is well named. There’s really no escaping it. Starting out as a series of live events, it has slowly transmuted into an annual publication, set up an online clearinghouse for the weird and the wonderful and recently made its first move towards establishing itself as a publishing house. ‘Strange Attractor celebrates unpopular culture,’ runs its mission statement. ‘We declare war on mediocrity and a pox on the foot soldiers of stupidity. Join us.’ Who could possibly resist such a challenge? Sooner or later you have to get involved.

- Excerpt from The Wire , 2007

The Strange Attractor Salon is still running for another week, so get your ass down there while you still have one worth saving. History waits for nobody.

Pictured above: a view of the west wall; the south wall, featuring prints by Julian House (above) and John Coulthart (below); Andy Sharp (AKA English Heretic) goes into a dream by the meridian stretch of the east wall; Mark Pilkington gets inspired at the north wall, before work by Drew Mulholland (above MP), Savage Pencil (immediately behind MP) and Eric Wright (to the west of MP).

See Also:
Welcome to Mars At the Strange Attractor Salon
The Wunderkammer in the Cellar
Strange Attractor Salon

‘Welcome to Mars’ at Strange Attractor Salon

The Planet Mars, I’m happy to report, remains everyone’s holiday destination of choice, which meant that the most recent live version of the audiovisual performance based on my book Welcome to Mars took place before a capacity audience at Viktor Wynd Fine Art. Not one of the gallery’s old tube-metal school assembly chairs was left unoccupied, with standing-room only at the back for latecomers.

It was a real pleasure to be working once again with Bruce Woolley and Mark Pilkington providing a live electronic accompaniment to my reading. The result was a busy and intense set that drew a warm response from those who attended. My thanks to everyone involved, particularly Agent Jbot who took these pictures. And to Bruce and Mark: my deep appreciation and respects as always.

Pictured above: two views of KH at the microphone; Bruce Woolley listening in to the soul of the machine; Mark Pilkington at his electronic prayer mat.

See Also:
The Wunderkammer In The Cellar
Ken Hollings Reads From His ‘Book Welcome to Mars’
Welcome to Mars Phlight Reading Philm
Welcome to Mars – Welcome to the Future
Welcome to Mars at the Other Cinema

The Wunderkammer in the Cellar

They make a virtue out of serving gin to visitors at Viktor Wynd Fine Art, and you can see why. There is something strangely illicit about the sight of a stuffed swan, especially in private possession – the foyer, entrance and backrooms all suggest that there isn’t a Victorian parlour or private museum that has escaped their attentions unscathed. After the performance of Welcome To Mars, I took a stiff jolt of mother’s ruin and descended to the wunderkammer in the basement to explore further.

Some great pornographic material was to be found at the back of some of the display cabinets as well as the usual selection of pickled punks, two-headed skeletons and pig foetuses in jars that have made modern culture what it is today, mostly by trying to drive it all out from the common weal. To encounter such a ripe mix of human anatomy, genetic atrocities and sexual hygiene tips for men and women is always a real pleasure: the only thing missing was a stretch of blustery English seafront outside.

Pictured above: illustrious corpses, exotica, non-stop emetic cabaret and some quaint examples of what the butler didn’t manage to see.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Ken Hollings Reads From His Book ‘Welcome To Mars’

Ken Hollings reads from his book "Welcome to Mars" from blackbeltjones on Vimeo.

The above clip, courtesy of blackbeltjones, a true hero of modern science, was posted about a year ago, but I only recently discovered it. The reading was part of the launch event at the Horse Hospital to mark the publication of Welcome To Mars and serves as a handy reminder that I will be also be reading from it this Friday evening at Viktor Wynd Fine Art as part of the Strange Attractor Salon’s Astounding Stories night – see Google Calendar elsewhere on this page for more details.

Unfortunately, Simon James will not be performing at this event as previously billed, but I am very happy to announce that Mark Pilkington has kindly agreed to join Bruce Woolley onstage to produce a suitably radiophonic soundtrack to my reading: the first time the three of us have performed together since the second night of Mondo Mancunia back in 2008 - I'm really looking forward to the encounter in what The Other Cinema in San Francisco described as 'a sub-pop Cult Study of Fifties America, on the bizarre intersection of cybernetics, behavior modification, atomic weapons, and UFOs, highlighting how these currents were refracted through the visual surfaces of popular culture, domestic design,and suburban living.'

See also:
Strange Attractor Salon
Welcome to Mars Phlight Reading Philm
Welcome to Mars at the Other Cinema

Saturday 16 January 2010

In Memoriam: Joe Rollino 1905-2009

Born strong. Coney Island’s favourite son. A true legend.

‘It was astonishing how he was smiled upon by nature.’ - Retired NYPD detective Arthur Perry, New York City Golden Gloves

Image courtesy of The Association of Oldetime Barbell and Strongmen (Preserving Iron Game History!)

Thursday 14 January 2010

UltraBrutal: The Spanish Have A Word For It

Just in time for a new decade in a new millennium, a copy of UltraBrutal, the latest publication from Spanish writer Mike Ibáñez, arrived in the post over the holidays – and my eyes are still stinging from coming into contact with it. UltraBrutal is described by its author as ‘una novella tabloide’: mainly because it is deeply sensationalist and written in the tersest possible prose but mostly because it has lots of repulsive pictures in it. Alien porn movies? Check. National Enquirer headlines? Double check. The theology of Mutually Assured Destruction? The sexual appeal of Anorexic Barbie dolls? The Nike swoosh as universal signifier of our godless global condition? Man, this stuff never gets old... I may have to learn Spanish just to keep up with it all.

Mike first told me about his novel when we met at Spectra 09 – the annual conference of conspiracy culture – in Spain last year. He even explained the plot to me while we were huddled together in the portico of Valencia Cathedral, queuing to see the actual Holy Grail, which is said to have resided there for centuries in all its bejewelled glory. Unfortunately, we had been huffing lighter fluid quite heavily all morning and were about to go onto the crystal meth – an activity which would see us both being refused access to the cathedral, and in Holy Week as well – so we were both stammering and slurring our words by then. Mike will probably say he doesn't remember any of that happening, but I still have his teeth marks in my arm to prove it. No, really. Whatever UltraBrutal is about, it’s bound to be real nasty, so click here to order your copy online today.

Friday 8 January 2010

Pathological Over-Sharing Panel on Vimeo

Pathological Oversharing Panel - Resonance FM media playground from alfie dennen on Vimeo.

Thanks to the very wonderful and ever vigilant Alfie Dennen, footage from Resonance FM’s Pathological Overhsaring panel discussion, which took place at the Foundry last December, is now up on Vimeo who, like, caption this stuff and everything. If I look a little dazed throughout, it’s only because I’m in such fast and loose company. Becky Hogge and Paul May really know how to play. My sincere thanks to Joe from the Vortex for keeping it all together - and to Alfie for filming it all despite having a chunk missing from one of his fingers: staple guns are fun but deadly, children. The panel was also recorded for broadcast by Resonance FM sometime in 2010 and will undoubtedly make better radio than it does a widescreen cinema experience. Details as and when – as always.

See also:
Media Playground Appearance

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Strange Attractor Salon

Strange Attractor is setting up its Salon for the first time since 2007, this time at Viktor Wynd Fine Art in mystic Hackney, and it looks like being the most ambitious SA event to date. As well as a permanent exhibition of graphic arcana from some of the best practitioners in the business, there will a whole series of live events to keep the public guessing. Confirmed contributing artists include:

Phil Baker * Joel Biroco * Richard Brown * Ossian Brown * John Coulthart * Rod Dickinson * Disinformation * English Heretic * Tessa Farmer * Blue Firth * Alison Gill * Doug Harvey * Josephine Harvatt * Ken Hollings * Stewart Home * Julian House * Ali Hutchinson * Alyssa Joye * Maud Larsson * Gary Lachman * Xtina Lamb * John Lundberg * Man From Uranus * Eleanor Morgan * Frances Morgan * Drew Mulholland * Bridget Nicholls * Oscillatorial Binnage * Katie Owens * Edwin Pouncey * Arik Roper * Gavin Semple * Martin Sexton * USURP * Robert Wallis * Catharyne Ward * Eric Wright

On January 22, I’ll be sharing an evening with the crowned and conquering English Heretic. ‘Astounding Stories’ will surely find us both plunging deep into pop culture weirdness of every kind. The following description is from Mark Pilkington’s recent post announcing the SA Salon:

Astounding Stories: Live performances from English Heretic and Welcome to Mars

English Heretic creates verdant, darkly humorous soundscapes for the darkest recesses of the English imagination. The magical texts of Kenneth Grant and the occult fictions of Sax Rohmer form an uneasy alliance, accompanied by a musical backdrop that glides effortlessly from Motown to 70s progressive horror rock. Ken Hollings reads from his book Welcome to Mars: Fantasies of Science in the American Century with a live, improvised soundtrack of 1950s electronica for analogue synthesisers, reel-to-reel tapes and theremin from Simon James and Bruce Woolley

Let no face be turned away.

See also:
Welcome to Mars Phlight Reading Philm
Welcome to Mars – Welcome to the Future
Welcome to Mars at the Other Cinema

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Michael Jackson: A New Face in Hell For 2010

Mark Fisher, editor of The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson has been in touch over the Christmas break with a quick update on the book’s progress. In Germany Westdeutscher Rundfunk has given the book an excellent review both on its website and on radio: the on-air discussion of the book with its reviewer is available by clicking at the bottom of the selected WDR page. Mark also very kindly sent on a link to a Google translation app, which has a rough poetry all of its own:

The Resistible Demise is suggesting to never in embittered cultural pessimism,’ reviewer Uh-Young Kim observes. ‘The authors have read their Marx, Adorno, Deleuze and Negri. But they also bring their own fascination with the genius of Jackson and the beauty of his music - and a detailed knowledge, which brings the nerd in the intellectual to the fore.

The Resistible Demise is one of the best non-fiction on pop long ago. It is his object in scope and excessiveness absolutely fair. And also answered the question about a different death, which lately had often talked about: the death of music journalism. Here he comes to life again, and connect with it the ability and passion to draw criticism and explain life on the basis of a song.’

Such informed enthusiasm might prove helpful to Amazon’s US subscribers, who seem to be having trouble coming to grips with the book. In the meantime the Guardian’s Maggoty Lamb seems to have had a good time with the book as have the majority of its Amazon’s UK customers. As Captain Eo might well have appreciated, it is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven – until his ride was cancelled of course. It seems, however, that even now Disney is threatening to bring it back again. Small children should be accompanied at all times.

See also:
‘Utter Trash’: The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson Denounced by Fan
The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson (They Don’t Really Care About Us)