scattered reports on black art and iconographs

Originally published on Southern Discomfort Zine (15/1/2018)

 

A disjunctive genealogy, some conjectures into the state of things. Reinscribed remembrances, no flag-waving exercises though.

I retro sweeps

A couple of retro sweeps swaying in the winds. Soul of A Nation a big-hitter. Abstraction, multimedia, sculpture, traced out through geographical scenes. Tate’s white walls. Industrial history.

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Romare Bearden Pittsburgh Memory 1964

Basquiat capturing all. Textures doubling, social immanence, colours the street onto canvas, the musicality seeping out reifying scenes of NY institutionality. The prehistory of/in the canvas. Never trust the sovereign [curator].

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Basquiat, Untitled 1982

II Established abstraction to film to planetary / multimedia narration

Established abstraction played out with black Atlantan Frank Bowling, from Soul to a solo London Fishes, Wishes in Summer Blue (companion-NY-exhibition-took-place-simultaneous [Metropolitanblooms]). landscaped visions against shoreditch facades. And in that visionary planetarity a prefiguring already in that prehistoric predicament – the colour before / facing /

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Frank Bowling

Akomfrah purple vigenettes shades of

                                      Jarman blue screen multi-channeled

                                                             Industrialised reproduction / dystopic worldings

 

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Akomfrah, Purple

 

Keith Piper’s encoded research

Video variants on cultural critique                                        — xx

 

 

                                               Arthur Jafa snippets archived network                                                                                                                                                                   (‘Love is the message and the message is death’)                                                                                Digital interfaces textilic arrangement                                                                                    

                                                Embodiment cut and undercut notorious and harlem                                      Sages gurus sants auric tremblings avatar-ic historicity

                                              Cut along the strand, desertions beached                                                                                                                                                

                                                                                                           (‘Everything at once’ was said)

 

III Future [transmedia]

Hannah Black’s ‘situation’

                                    //Shredded sociality [‘Some Context’]

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Kudzanai- Violet Hwami – fine art played through the digital
Processed — reprocessed  
                   montage layed over
                                          emphasised embodiment                       social image ~~~ reinscribed           

                                   figuration on the white wall / baker street shopping bustle coffee cups

 

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Kudzanai-Violet Hwami 2017

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IV Iconographs

Elysia Crampton
Aymara desedimentations
Lectured rhythms cut-and-paste

Specified matrilineal flowed out
transmedia
Iconographic pre-histories

 

Dadi – repository
Icons and images strewn and collected
A deep-set aleatory archetype
                             //animating animinsm
crumbling visages deft tales in hanuman’s grasp

                                   //A [pre]-historical glimpse colouring the dormant
                                   scattering scalability
                                   transference inferred ~~

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Photos by Anuka Ramischwili-Schafer and myself

Making History/histories-being-made: Mourinho – Ronaldo – Príncipe Discos

Originally published on Southern Discomfort Zine (12/9/2016)

[Note: Three pieces accumulated with an imperial thread: Jose Mourinho’s dramatics, Cristiano Ronaldo’s glory, Lisbon record label Príncipe Discos’ differed modulations]

I

The contingent played out, playing on. Jose Mourinho an icon at the end of history – the ‘special one’ and his latent (post)modernist ideas of the Chelsea family – corporatism borne from the impasses of a Portuguese modernist modulation. Mourinho descended from the social base of a fascism nonetheless. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves

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Where does a story begin? Was it when Roman was flying on helicopter enamoured with Stamford Bridge, White Hart Lane forgone? Was it Monaco and Hugo Ibarra’s fucking hand

Ranieri Zola Hasselbaink Desailly out / Drogba Robben Carvalho Mourinho in?

Was it 1992 and the establishment of the Premiership?
Finance rolling in, New Labour fulfilling the Thatcherite dream. Maybe it was Ken Bates and his electric fence – headhunters spectralised.

And its these hauntings, the speckled of the violence at the beginning, the irretrievable violence of the forming of our financialised, hyper-circulated sociality. The violence of inauguration and through those silent species: Chelsea ‘has no history’. West Ham the flip-side; honest working club. Honest local boy Frankie Lampard Jr. corrupted by Tory blue finance-rich Chelsea, right? (We’ll see what Stratford’s gotta say about that, haunted by Anish Kapoor’s towering inadequity).


But that’s Roman’s Empire. Success without history, without narration. Within Post-Soviet space ‘cosmopolitan’ capital deterritorialising (Usmanov, Ivanishvili, Venky’s, Singha etc.)– we’ve got the best league in the world for a reason – commodification of diversity. But commodities can speak, labour speaks, plays. Week-in-week-out.
And our passions toll to the rhythm, transgressing the simplicities of ‘pure ideology’. Within, against, and out. Escape.

Desire, instinct, skill, power, communication, tactics, strategy, style, passion

Critical theory never knew a better partner

Its acceleration, intensity, sublime temporalised into 90 minutes along green territorialising topographies. The club as kin(g) rings true. Unsovereign, subcultural, subaltern, fascist. Mass a difficult bunch, dirty, infectious, splitting ends.
And it all ends in Munich, with Di Mateo’s beaming face and Drogba’s verbose performance, speaking in, through, and out. Riefenstahl move aside. History being made. Through the codification of a trophy won, social life as irreducibility bubbles below. Cos its all about Chelsea being racist actually. Tired attempts to narrativise phenomena beyond the grasp of ‘think-pieces’ and sardonic cultural criticism, circulation and recirculation making – breaking – as raw desire is translated to public interest. But commodities can play.

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Subterranean myths bearing out through chants, sedimented in re-presentations. Far beyond chronologies and public uses of finger-pointing ‘racist’ ‘sexist’. Reasoned arrogance, step aside bitte. History made and made again, produced and reproduced and failed subjects, failing at coherence, failing at politics, failing at becoming failing at codifying experience ‘speak for a moment’, circulating irreducible social forms beneath the market. Re-circulation as revolution. (Hobbes) Retrograde Copernicanism, Cruyffian totalities.
Total football, total late capital, total topographies disseminating the spirit
Recurrence as spectres return, spirit reassembled. Football as total contingency, determined continually to lose, post-war English through and through. And its Mourinho and Franco’s Furio, Van Gaal usurped, Guardiola in the wings, Wengerian banality

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II
Myths of Zidane, the Kabyle,  Sufi away from (ab)original, badawi
Mourinho, the Fascist and the Late Capitalist

We all start somewhere: Sat immersed in settee, spit flying HD. Zinedine’s sinews stretched, A 21st Century Portrait, its glossy animation of limbs articulated, wings jerking against Kantian clippings, imagining bodies beyond rusting imperial metropoles and their hematological-surplus, indebted the bare play, lifeblood and labour selling but not with full intent, inscriptions on the walls, piss dribbling, quotidian droll, and its footie! But the bits aint for show. Immediates ungraspable.

 

III


The myths run on.
The Portuguese did it.
The Africans it were,
diasporic warriors of a yester-
year you might say.
The French did it before of course,
Arabs and Africans,
this time round not quite.

And it was Cristiano Ronaldo’s show,
his eventual absence
spiriting the scuffling climax.
Traces of Cape Verde through
Madeira culturally trading-up with the black-
hybrids, postcolonials of another vanished era
Angola Mozambique Guinea-Buissau Sao Tome
and Principe peppered along
Ronaldo’s rippling body
stretching into moulding sovereignties,
Renato Sanches William Carvalho
Nani Ricardo Quaresma Pepe
Eliseu Joao Mario Danilo Eder, The Empire Strikes Back…

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What does this kind of juxtaposition in motion really inscribe,
where do we locate the bodily indulgence,
the passion of decomposition,
the beautiful game turned into the dirty great game
Ronaldo as world-historical icon
We were black radicals once, original hybrids
Originary facticity, literary utopia an image escaping away
IV

jose_mourinho2_1626709cCFT164 00797 001_59726457_por_salazar_reviews_troops_jose5leniriefenstahltriumphofthewill
So what does it mean when Jose Mourinho once grandly declared: ‘We are the Portuguese community’, the dark heart of the Thames spilling sweat. Louis XIV, of course, said about the same. Corporatist to the bone, his wife a Portuguese settler in Angola fled to acceleratingly-capitalist West London. Love/Hate don’t seem to do it justice. Neither does political denouncements. The invisibility of market rationale, or should we say Abramovich, Buck, Arsenon, Zahavi’s web of intransigence marking a juncture of sorts. Social life irreducible, right? What does that mean for Post-Communist stalwart Roman and Post-Fascist tactician Mourinho.

“Post-colonial Ronaldo”? Perhaps
V

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And somewhere below the sovereign, a dancefloor.

“As to strategy, we learned in the struggle; some people think that we adopted a foreign method, or something like this. Our principle is that each people have to create its own struggle. Naturally, we have something to learn from the experience that can be adapted to the real situation of the country. But we bettered our struggle in the culture of our people, in the realities of our country, historical, economical, cultural, etc, and we developed the struggle, supported by our people which is the first and main condition: the support of the people.”

Amílcar Cabral
Principe Discos, a label, a movement slowly emerging out of Lisbon’s African estates, fast heady fizzing meditative abstracting black atlantic sound – Zouk Kizomba Kuduro RnB house all mediated against the background of culturalising global capital, a little enclave an overview could never do justice – in some of their own words:
“PRÍNCIPE is a record label based in Lisbon, Portugal.
It is fully dedicated to releasing 100% real contemporary dance music coming out of this city, its suburbs, projects & slums. New sounds, forms and structures with their own set of poetics and cultural identity.”

 

VI
So into the industrial beast we go, up into personified grief, Mancunian malcontents marauding – Pep and Jose. Managers and philosophers. Commodities and culture. The cotton millers residually dominant, virtually total. Cutting both ways, and cutting something out. The myths of victory archaic and the future critically written out the mouths of serious veritable football journos. Europe splintering, capital gesturing the siege. The siege of Lisbon as the siege in viewership, pubs all round, the siege slipping out, possible passions and critical intent.

Gods walk this earth, and they lose.

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220px-kali_by_raja_ravi_varma

 

VII [adze]
there is the fullness of ronaldo’s body and your disparate, ‘peppering’ words… maybe i am looking for more body? but maybe wanting to look for that body — a gathering up of ronaldo’s HD bodybuilding montage adverts — maybe that wanting is the space emanating from your writing (on page 2)

like, i almost want it to start with page 5 (/but commodities can play/, Recurrence as spectres return, spirit reassembled (beautiful!!)) and reorder the text… but surely i am wrong

general vibe:

a peppering of families, splintered into muscular separate bodies, shot down by bullets of dollar bills, strewn across a burning football pitch that is europe: resembling plastic bags billowing across the astroturf— is it a ball or is it rubbish, it is maurinho’s head, can you feel the beating of Roman’s helicopter, the beating around and out that is principe?

❤ ❤ beautiful.

 

VIII [disorient]

its always difficult to comment critically – maybe for the end you need to go to Lisbon in more depth – your journey, experience of the music, the dancefloor/club, –the empire striking back on Mourino’s homeland etc… Mourino going north of england — to the heart of the industrial empire — not sure — Portugal the in/out/ of europe, the place where is it all really comes home, on the edge, multiculture— no future of capital etc…capital to a different history, an outside inside europe…. just thinking aloud…. i think only needs a couple of more paras…

Hate T20

Originally published on Southern Discomfort Zine (12/4/2016)

Gotta admit it, I dislike T20. In fact I kinda hate it.
Hate’s a strong word. But it holds a certain ambivalence,
it acknowledges the infectious,
it forms the conditions for particular articulation of the present-indefinite
– through negation
what-have-you.

Of course some gripes with T20 and its globalising corporate agenda has been attended to on this zine before, quote:

“But since the decline of West Indies cricket, we have also witnessed fundamental changes in the ethos of cricket – from a game of artistry and skill to one where the imperatives of commercial entertainment have become paramount. This has undoubtedly reached it nadir in the Indian Premier League (IPL). The pantomime that is the IPL represents what is totally wrong with the game now. But like in James’ time cricket tells us a lot about our contemporary postcolonial predicament.”
-Ash Sharma, “Beyond A Boundary”, https://southerndiscomfortzine.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/beyond-a-boundary/

Corporate
corporeal
embodiment
toxicity

And so there I was,
hanging heavy,
head heavy with ache,
ached out of utterance,
splitting.
And man did the split come.

It was the final,
England seem like they’w’re gonna sneak it,
Windies blown it, old man chuntering,
‘shit shit, england are shit, if they win they’re never gonna stop and its gonna make this shit country think its good’, to paraphrase.

Chris Jordan penultimate over,
tight, collected at
the death.
Commentator notes he played for Barbados once,
confused half-utterances ensues,
confused commonwealth creolite to the death –
residencies/genealogies –
cricketing jurisdictions supple/vital.
Routes/roots, standing scrutiny.

Final over,
it aint gonna be Root that’s for sure.
Up steps Stokes.
19 needed, 3 sixes plus a run would do it.
Impossible – maybe, improbable – certainly.
Shit.
You hate you give a fuck about this circus but, hey, that’s hate.
You’re certainly not merely interested at least.

Stokes running in,
bowls down leg,
boom Brathwaite slinks it for 6.
The dream’s alive.

Stokes in again,
down the middle,
Brathwaite’s bat seamlessly swung like a golf club,
its a huge one down the ground.
Your headache’s blissfully being usurped in illogical awe.
We were told he was a hitter but, man, this is something special.

Third ball in, Stokes looking a little forlorn.
More on the offside –
boom, its an uncanny slice,
carried over the boundary,
another six, ridiculous scenes.
Stokes about to cry,
pumped Windies team ready to burst up on the field in victory.
Just need a run now.

But well this circus wouldn’t complete without another six,
yes this one huge again,
with ball left hanging over the stands,
camera cuts to Windies team storming in glory,
some kind of Light Brigade, though not nearly as sycophantic.

Breathe,

shirts are off muscles rippling,
towering obstinancy,
adrenaline testosterone kicking off,
the spectres of the ‘70s –
too black too strong –
images flashing in the circus.
Fragments of something better.
Cos we know its shit but its always good to see Windies doing well,
against odds.
There’s something about the Windies and their obstinance that always stinks of tragedy,
the wafts of failure in mongrelity.

And it was a tale of two:
Stokes on the kneeling on the floor distraught,
Marlon Samuels with his knock of 79 ‘doggedly’ defiant.

And all the myths came atumble.
Nasser at the usually staid ‘post-match presentation’,
corporate logos staged on height-of-design multi-coloured artifice,
suited brown-faced mimic-men to boot.
Medals run through,
handshakes galore,
a cheap nod to glocal boy Kohli.
Same old same old right? –
but the intoxicating adrenaline aint quite left yet.

Man of the Match interview, up step Samuels.
Its hard-hitting stuff, no punches pulled,
and that snipe at Shane Warne,
the ever-present Aussie and his lurid voice,
whack
and the mythic violence way-back-when thumped into
present-euphoria. Marlon knows how to play this game
while we scroll through the sports gossip. Nasser blurring, ecstatic
laughter simmering, between reason and madness,
Windies at the T20.

Up steps Darren Sammy,
OK here’s the highwayman,
good-boy-does-as-he’s-told,
mediator, formalist, talented for keeping a level-head.
But everything’s relative init.
Its a little bit more subtle now, the excoriating put-downs to cricketing boards/structures, and apocalyptic cries of
‘we don’t know if we’re ever gonna play together again’
‘we may never get a kit again’
‘CARICOM are fully supporting us, not sure about anybody else…’
references to the Almighty, presumably Grenada PM Mitchell himself!

Absurd, ridiculous, but he dared to utter in the chaos of it all,
Indian capital and Windian ‘mismanagement’,
globalised vernaculars as nineteenth century accents clash in all their glorious play.
Chris Gayle laughing away.
Nasser taken on some colour.

And it wouldn’t be over without ‘DJ’ Bravo’s ridiculous dance off his record ‘Champion’,
arms thrust forward somewhere between car-handling and flight-control,
the Windian woman’s team joining in the frivolity.
Something about the grotesque amidst the spectacularly staid affair that is the T20 carnival,
blurry and basic and
Darren Sammy standing firm,
doing what needed to be done,
at the [diasporic] cut,
against expectations against the game.

And the inquisition ensued,
‘they had a point to prove’ the acceptable narrative,
and they used that passion.
But passion’s a tricky customer and I wouldn’t bet on it
and I certainly wouldn’t try to spend it.
Stored and spent – seminal actions.
Struggling scores ex-propiated


 

Berlin/Birdmen: Authentic Aestheticians

Originally published on Southern Discomfort Zine (5/5/2015)

 

DSCN9236IMG_1350

IMG_1337It all starts with nervous jaunty awakenings to a morning overcast with expectations and possibilities and probabilities. out the door double key-turn descending four flights out large wooden door into hof and the first taste of the day like a kinda wave, a slow introduction and double wooden doors again, maybe the polite friendly ‘hallo’ ‘danke’ ‘bitte’ to a neighbour and finally the day embraces like the perforation of a boundary striking through neurotic inertias.

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DSCN9462And so descend further into the brightly lit passages of the underground past the russian accordionist racking off a classic waltz and the sullen crusties right onto the platform dodging the pillars and motley crew of waifs dossing around, squinting to work-out how many frustrating minutes you gotta wait for the next u-bahn and then ur in and ur looking for the perfect seat hopefully not next to anyone strange and facing forwards ofcourse with a space for ur companion nearby wondering about people’s days at this strange hour….

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DSCN9530A break at alex; brezeltime pure Bayern and off to kotti’s krass khaos for brunch mmm breads and spreads and cheese and eggs and pepper pukka with the strange but oh so necessary unsocial eating of the alienated cold/buildings spiring above for massification but well the wall fell so let the ahistorical grovelling identities fester

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Spinning red and blue and purple refracted onto our proxies mirrored avatars Princes and Queens and Madonnas pure 80s glitz-er. Undulating socialities. /Ufer/ And ur off down the canalbank, bustling fleamarket a distant memory of a sunnier shining less humble time of glorious furnishings and tat upcycled for fantastical metropolitan visions. Thank god for the cold eh

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And in this setting you head centrally finding the East festooned with regalia of the latest Event – this one’s the Berlinale film festival – and enter the whirring coils of glitzy soviet bonanzas unsettling your stomache in grandiose strokes they call the film hall ready to watch one of Oscar nominees which caught your cos of its ‘foreign’ director – Birdman, that is.

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And woosh the swooning begins and images glide across our screen – crisp hi def pure – and its funny, hell its funny. You laugh, a lot. Its theatre actually; performing its clichés to perfect entertainment from metropolitan glamour to risqué innuendos, tragic heroes and broken cultures, postdigital fashions to simulated postmodernism. Its postcrash bliss, hitchcockian to the core, super realist off beat modernist angularity, moody Barthes meets tweeting teens – it’s the twentieth century laid bare, its film at its most complete – it smells like golden-era Hollywood oh before the crass banality… and you attempt to dissect but run out of symbols to impart; lay down your thoughts billowing…

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Berlin:  a cold city, wanders the spirits of Hobsbawm and Isherwood amidst the Berlin Forst; twentieth century lives haunting the ruins ready for a recomposed deployment, a re-embodiment of a time forgot a time deeply filled with stories of a future of frictionous  fictions cycling through hitches of the Pyrenees where Benjamin meets his mirror; Goytisolo clashing imperial languages, Hobsbawm’s stuck in Weimar 31-33 (aren’t we all really) and Auden fucked off corporeally with Christopher and Brecht and more off to the New World; Goodbye to Berlin; the old country withers under the invocations of St. George and dragons galore. Fassbinder as Franz Bieberkopf and behold Berlin Alexanderplatz 13 hours of glorious crumbling ‘80s theatre performing refractions those streaming Weimar ‘20s; decadent densities. Cos it all ends with a European trauma and a mint tea on futurist Moorish rooftops –Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Angst Essen Seele Auf / Ali: Fear Eats the Soul­­  (1974) – Juan Goytisolo, Count Julian (1970):

‘Penetrating deeper and deeper: wandering farther and farther into the quiet, cottony atmosphere, by way of the twisting turning paths of the urban labyrinth: as in the hall of trick mirrors at a fairground, unable to find the exit, laughing their heads off every time you take the wrong turn: paying to become an object of universal derision: finally managing to make your way out, amid scornful taunts and jeering laughter, with a rather sheepish, embarrassed look on your face: you spy Tariq walking just ahead of you and quicken your pace in order to catch up with him: dressed in his tiger-striped djellaba, his cat’s eye gleaming: the ends of his handlebar mustache curling up to a fine point: the streets are deserted now, the light from the street lamps make both of you cast giant shadows, thereby suddenly causing your own reality to appear precarious and threatened: isn’t the echo of your footfalls perhaps too loud?: dwellings are piled one atop the other like architectural scale models made of pasteboard, and the night sky dotted with clouds like a theatrical fly painted by an amateur: fake, fake: characters in a novel not yet written, both of you are mere fictions: doubt is your only certainty, yet you follow him, and will continue to follow him without a word of protest’[1]

Bodies coloured with rusting

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DSCN9245DSCN9214And the masculine performativities break crunch amidst the terrors of futures, Soviet Asiatic despotism crushing Mitteleuropa and the agony and ecstasy of the ruins – Walter Benjamin’s Westend schloss Charlottenburg monuments of a ruinous cold past, somehow ephemeral:

‘Vestibule

A trip to Goethe’s house. I cannot recall seeing rooms in dream. There was a line of whitewashed corridors, like in a school. Two elderly English lady visitors and a curator are the dream extras. The curator asks us to register in a visitors’ book that lay open on a window ledge at the far end of the passage. Stepping up to it and leafing through the pages, I find my name already entered in a large, ungainly childish hand.

Dining Room

In a dream I saw myself in Goethe’s study. It bore no resemblance to the one in Weimar. Above all it was tiny and had only one window. Opposite the window stood the desk, narrow end to the wall. Seated at the desk, pen in hand, was the writer, well on in years. I was standing to one side when he stopped writing and presented me with a small vessel, an antique vase. I turned it over in my hands. It was dreadfully hot in the room. Goethe stood up and together we went next door, where a long table had been laid for my kin. I sat down beside Goethe at the right-hand end. When the meal was over he rose to his feet laboriously and with a gesture I begged leave to assist him. As I touched his elbow I was moved to tears.’[2]

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Footworks comparable to Mailer’s handiwork on famed 1975 Rumble in the Jungle, the spectacle’s our future, the despots our reality, Mobutu/Ali/Hitler authentic aestheticians and the angularity of Berlin’s Judisches Museum stands empty– emptied margins ruinous buildings that swallow figures – figures as fixtures quietly living the new days in the café away from rupturous events. Mailer expounds:

‘Now the separate conversations had come together into one and he talked with the same muscular love of rhetoric that a politician has when he is giving his campaign speech and knows it is a good one. So Ali was at last in full oration. “If I win,” said Ali, “I’m going to be the Black Kissinger. It’s full glory, but its tiresome. Every time I visit a place, I got to go by the school, the old folks’ home. I’m not just a fighter, I’m a world figure to these people” – it was as if he had to keep saying it the way Foreman had to hit a heavy bag, as if the sinews of his will would steel by the force of this oral conditioning. The question was forever growing. Was he still a kid from Louisville talking, talking through the afternoon, and for all anyone knew through the night, talking through the ungovernable anxiety of a youth seized by history to enter the dynamos of history? Or was he in full process of becoming that most unique phenomenon, a twentieth century prophet, and so the anger and the fear of his voice was that he could not teach, could not convince, could not convince? Had any of the reporters made a face when he spoke of himself as the Black Kissinger? Now, as if to forestall derision, he clowned. “When you visit all these folks in these strange lands, you got to eat. That’s not so easy. In American they offer you a drink. A fighter can turn down a drink. Here, you got to eat. They’re hurt if you don’t eat. It’s an honour to be loved by so many people, but it’s hell, man.”’[3]

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Ruptures are the past.

And the ruptures need to be told and told again.

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Histories lineages genealogies need to be written, with honesty, through the textualities of our present – biding time as reinventions occur underfoot amidst secular crises and postcolonial fundamentalisms. Unhinged masculinities as the lathi strikes saffron vermillion structurally unsound ahistorical torpor and difference is neologised and identified and categorised into compendiums of paper-thin ‘theory’ entangled in the invocations of community.

We never were critical. We never were modern. And yet here we are waiting for boxing’s last hurrah with the eternally famed Pacquiao-Mayweather showdown.

Maybe we’ll find the beginnings of some answers writhing in our fantasies; whilst we keep up with the Kardashians; whiling away the hours.

 

[1] Juan Goytisolo, Count Julian (Serpent’s Tail, 1974) trans. Helen Lane, p. 73

[2] Walter Benjamin, “One-way Street” (1928), One-way Street and other Writings (Penguin, 2009) trans. J. A. Underwood, p. 48-49

[3] Norman Mailer, The Fight (Penguin, 1991) p. 78-79

[Images produced by Kashif and Anuka]

Sublime Fragments of Gothic Futures III: Writing Other[ed] Futurisms

Originally published on Southern Discomfort Zine (6/1/2015)

 

tower blocks tiflis

futurism

 

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So the question of the day is temporality and its politics. Early twentieth century futurist modernism with its grand visions of embracing/deepening/cutting-through modernity gave way to fascist corporeality, communist statism, socialist tower-blocks, third world slums and, worst of all, the institutionalism of ‘modern art’. Then ‘no future’ with the Sex Pistols, autonomia 77 and Ayatollah Khomeini converging in militant dysphoria; truly post-modernist. And out of such wreckage the post-Fordist financialised ‘global’ economy looms, circulating the virtual representation //of commodities/of collateralised debt/ of production/ of containerised ideology// Subjectivities of time are pushed to extremes and representation becomes the key-word. Well how do we actually create space – where does our cultural production come into its own? What becomes of words // lives // memories // the all-important small things? Can we excavate ourselves out without containerising or homogenising and break out from the yoke of institutional legitimation// with fulfilment perhaps? Or are we stuck in the oppression of Now / of Identity / of the increasingly fatuous and vacuous gentrified present of revanchist fundamentalisms while rehearsing our self-indulgent monologues and arrogant entitlements? Are there futures worth constructing?

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So let’s talk about time. Temporalities coinciding with our shared spaces intersecting with the banal day-to-day brought together encapsulated within the cultural object and its perennial memories glimpsed through the dirty window the distorted mirror; think the tight  corridor streets and cracking facades of proper professionalism with its musk of displaced loneliness in Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood For Love. But the redemption is found in the quiet pride, the elegant dress, the depth of self-reflection in the shadow of the haunting lilts of the waltz; they looked better back then, to quote a Southern Discomfort regular. And then trying to break out of the neuroses overhanging in the darker crevices is the depth of struggle trying to search for a future while excavating the scraps of the past. Again think Wong Kar Wai’s 2046 with the melancholic flows of trains transporting frail visions of histories in the struggle to write/to carve/ out of the maelstroms fleeting ephemerality of the cold starkness of glistening skyscrapers and highrises accelerating time’s impasse. The writer’s search for a room, a simple space/raum, a constant lurch for a dream/traum as a struggle of language of articulation of experienced realities defined through a corpus with its oblique multiplicities. And yes its always political and yes its always presupposed by notions of belonging/entitlement/location through bodies and organs and races and genitaltraffik and (infra)structures of knowledge and yes its always conjectural conjunctural questions of the relations of power but its also so much more than that; it’s the (hi)stories of our lives.

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Or think Jarmusch’s latest Only Lovers Left Alive with the moody dysphoria of ruinous Detroit and the darkened alleys of Tangiers seeping the slow memories of Tilda Swinton’s aged disposition searching for a space / the right feeling / the right thing away from the cluttersome neurotic cold light of day. Their ethereality transposed through the luxury-stricken plate-glass temples of Boris’s London whilst narrating the abstract present’s relation to avante-gardian Derek Jarman in Isaac Julien’s documentary montage on his archetypal life, Derek. Jarman one of those (post)colonial grand folk forced back to our rainy fascism island and the rubble of London and the bleak of Dungeness, Kent, searching for the fragments that make it all bearable, truly tolerant, carving out other(ed) realities.

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Languages and temporalities.

 

 

Maybe a nod to another Southern Discomfort favourite C.L.R. James and his Beyond a Boundary is in order with its beautiful articulation of cricket, colonialism and class through the prism of lives and losses; English literature at its most sublime. Cricket as an arena of mourning / of melancholic rumination / of the gothic. Boundaries and languages.

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The breaks.

 

 

 

In some sense we’re all trying to be Sammy Delaney’s Kid in Dhalgren traversing the Afrofuturist//Afropessimist psycho-geographies of Bellona-Detroit; cyclical and vital. Becoming one of Marechera’s lost acquaintances in strained networks and infrastructures that populate urban modernity; many looking for legitimacy; the losers finding themselves //no gods no masters no glory and certainly no romance #poorbutsexy

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As @zentaurum, one of the fallen illegitimates, writes:

i don’t know, i feel like i’m struggling to maintain the struggle, like i feel i only really exist if i don’t resign myself to some definition, because this definition doesn’t really exist… but it’s too hard for those around me seeing me to let me float. like i hate it when people say i’m in between man and woman — no, i don’t like the space between the mattresses, i don’t need to be put there, i don’t need to be solid enough to be pointed at.

it’s really weird admitting that everything’s not super easy and that whilst this who that i am is kind of like a ‘solution’, it’s damn fucking difficult, and it’s not just the ultimate stop, the search-spotlight won’t find me, i’m displacing forever. and i don’t say so, that it’s so hard…

@zentaurum, Yesterday’s Names http://pinktightsandsidepartings.tumblr.com/post/95732272416/yesterdays-names

 

Anna Ramischwili-Schaefer, 'Refraction' (2014)
Anna Ramischwili-Schaefer, ‘Refraction’ (2014)

 

 

Maybe we’ll find our end past the credits after the fall but well maybe we’ll have to face that the implacable displaced othered-being always exists in the breaks and well maybe that’s the only closure there is. We are all the tragic fallen figure of Tony Soprano ending ambiguously, subject to rumour and scorn, grasping for timeless pasts // perennially writing other[ed] futurisms.


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Sublime Fragments of Gothic Futures II: Confessions of an Aesthete

 

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Originally published on Southern Discomfort Zine (19/12/2014)

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The modernist monochrome street goth sport goth health goth aesthetic lies in the crypts of tumblr networks splintering into accelerated hyper-defined image culture bursting out into a fragmented post-Fordist-crash historical moment for the digitalised immaterial generation in which the present has to be reimagined and reinvented as we understand the future envisioned by the current ancien regime is already sold-off in a macabre maelstrom of financial algorithms. Yes that’s right the over/de/sensitised youth trudging on the treadmill of institutionalist futures are actually capable of cultural intervention as carnivalesque dissent rooted in historical consciousness; it isn’t the exclusionary privilege of twentieth century dislocated cultural exiles, though that might upset a grumpy old man or two.  The fragments of the goth aesthetic reconstituted for our secular crisis represents one of the more historically conscious aesthetics that shows potentialities of dissent through culture and association.

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With that said, late capitalist cultural logic has had no problem in appropriation with the likes of ubiquitous conglomerate retailer H&M managing our metropolitan streets with images of Alexander Wang’s latest haute goth collection. And well the absurdity of the k hole #normcore trend is high tragic farce at its finest in which contentless ideology is packaged and sold to a gentrified culture of creative industries attempting to live out orientalist fantasies of the ‘poor but sexy’, to quote Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit. The gentrifying accumulation of cultural capital; a governing pathology of social cleansing of subaltern subjectivities attempting to manage avant-garde forms of social reproduction into capital’s flows of ideology.

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In “enigmatic” artist Dean Blunt’s work we find a sharp critique and simultaneous counter-construction of the death of the black aesthetic. His most recent album Black Metal (a nod to the Norwegian realms of dysphoric icy metal articulation of a much grimmer counter-point to everyone’s favourite 90s disaffected youth Kurt Cobain) problematising black commercialism’s fetishisation of white pasts and simultaneous subsumption of contemporary avant-garde while he himself crosses textured lo-fi with Stravinsky’s sublime. Case in point, Kanye West’s newest album Yeezus with tracks such as ‘Black Skinheads’ and ‘We are the New Slaves’ epitomises a spectacle’s dearth of #pureideology, much in the same way as black capital’s first lady Beyonce’s ‘Feminism’ or Rihanna’s #seapunk style does the rounds on saturated tumblr image culture.beyonce feminist  Interestingly Kanye West called on a bunch of slightly more experimental producers for his latest LP, including Caracas’s Arca – by way of New York and London of course – whose latest album Xen is thematically centred around a non-gendered/genderqueer avatar named Xen. This arguably reflects the increasing metropolitan hybrid queer nature of a western avant-garde, although we may also want to raise questions of the historical context of such cultural production, namely the contradictions of the ‘global city’ with its flows of racialised capital and state violence, alongside avant-garde forms of social reproduction that can all too easily be subsumed into ideologies of manageability and institutionalism.

 

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Trust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18+ are an American duo playing away in the underbelly of internet, releasing mixtapes for free on their tumblr and screening their videos at the likes of the Venice Biennale with their music consisting of seedy haunting pop sounds evoking the ‘deep web’ while in line with the trend of vaporwave; a kind of embrace and deconstruction of an accelerated hyper-circulative culture while in the process constructing something quite extraordinary across a number of mediums. Until recently they referred to themselves as boy/sis but have since ‘come out’ with their first material release (LP Trust) revealing their IRL personas. Living in hegemonic times of totalised narratives and coercive reductive ‘identities’ integral to our socially reproduction/to live/ carving out a space from fragments to construct something hinting at the ethereal, even sublime, that falls beyond existing taxonomies of articulation offers a potential for unmanageability; unmanageability as dissent against banality. It all lies in the temporal fragments; in the breaks; the avant-garde as gothic; gothic as the distorted mirror-image of banal governing hegemonies.

 

 

 

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Classical post-industrial post-colonial kid playing around with electronic sounds, messing with clothes design and of course the more than occasional fashion-shoot,tweeting, naturally / problematising the spectacle of manageable yuppified ‘creative industry’ media forms while satiating an age-old desire for some decent audio-visual culture, as misplaced as that might sometimes seem. Sometimes gratuitous cultural consumption is all you can do to get through the grimy neurosis of post-Fordist traumas and there ain’t nothing wrong with that; it offers other spaces //other narratives//other aesthetics//other[ed] others breaking up psycho-geographical temporalities.

 

 

 

kitsch

And in amongst containerised creative industries there’s the ever-looming spectre of the kitsch; the epitome of reproduced tat for a people yearning for cultural capital, for taste and status, but falling into a pit of soft nationalist delusions of grandeur. But what if the kitsch is prefigured, even distorted, and weaponised into – yes our good friend – the art pc musicof the sublime. With their fluffy cute post-internet/post-digital/post-new post/post-aesthetic London-based PC Music are one of those sublime collectives weaponising pop kitschness in dissent to contemporary laddish bass club culture which unsurprisingly comes across as rather queer. One of the proponents – SOPHIE – presents an ambiguous avatar with hi-tempo hi-energy hi-definition pop via soundcloud, reflective of an accelerated hyper-circulative late capitalist ideology intensified by post-crash no futurism no doubt. In end times of postmodern simulacrum and capitalist realism perhaps all that is left are constructions from distorted mirror-images of temporally fragmented faculties/excavating cultural production/pure gothic/ pure qt.

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Postblack postqueer posthuman posttemporal #amirite?

But meh maybe its all privileged posing nonsense, maybe time will tell; though dislocated migrant persons are always dissonant, always queer(y)ing  the institutionalised logics of  taxonomies; trying to [w]rite//to excavate the displaced multi-temporalities of modernity’s metanarratives, not that its easy//

tl;dr? time’s a right fucker

Sublime Fragments of Gothic Futures

Originally published on Southern Discomfort Zine (7/12/2014)DSCN7986

Fragments of the urban flail around us amidst un[re]constructed grime along perpetual gentrified postmodernist scorn to the brutalist textures of modernism’s militancy; perpetual post-crash crisis meets postmodernist stagnation. All we have left is to fight the ruinous cringeful banality of Farage’s [insert other appropriate white cis-man] rivers of bloody tears with some reconstitution of our multiplicitous historical present through the excavation of the traces of the epistemes that compose our lives.

Brecht spoke of modernism ‘erasing the traces’ of the cold past but the only thing that’s getting erased these days is the modernist canon. Brutalist Britain and its concretopias being sold off to make way for a future minimalist in content; gentrified villages as the nihilistic narcissistic white smarminess that proliferates the so-called ‘creative industries’ and all the post-Fordist capital associated with it. Finally ‘alternative’ capitulates to quaint kitsch revanchist throes of ‘community’, as if we couldn’t see the tragic farce anyway.

The Great Day of His Wrath 1851-3 by John Martin 1789-1854In the middle we find the post-imperial ‘traditionalism’ of UKIP via Thatcherism //lest we forget the national hysterics of the #jubilympics,// though London’s Overthrow is always on the cards. John Martin’s Apocalypse tracing the contours of the trauma of the industrialised urban Pandemonium through the frame of time forgotten; the gothic grasped as the art of the Sublime, of that which excites terror, much like Turner’s steaming train. And what of the most gothic of them all, Queen Victoria? Her mourning of Prince Albert typified in his memorial. Imperial melancholia; the pathology of a reactionary high gothic culture.

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And it always comes right back to the banks of the Thames right? Marx’s capital a vampire extracting and accumulating the flows of blood as Conrad in Heart of Darkness recites the litanies of imperial repugnance while abobrando-apocalypseard the Nelly on the Thames haunted by the horror of Kurtz, Dracula by another mask. And so we find Coppola and Herzog refracting this metanarrative through the frames of 60s Vietnam and 16th century Latin America. Hollywood’s spectacle lands us face to face with Marlon Brando’s weathered mask in the context of the great imperial failure of purple haze and napalm death. Meanwhile Neuer Deutscher Film leads us through the gritty realism of white male entitlement embodied in Klaus Kinski’s tormented search for riches and power in the fabled El Dorado only to meet his lone demise on a raft in the middle of the jungle manically immersed in monkeys. Modernism spoke of the new media of film and photography creating fragments of ourselves; Kinski’s performance was sublime gothic exposing the crisis in the secular mind post-modernism and post-colonialism through an exploration of the past. Gothic becomes the distorted mirror.

aguirreOf course Kinski has also performed as our old phantasmal friend Nosferatu in Herzog’s 1979 homage to Murnau’s 1924 Weimar expressionist classic – classic in the sense that you always catch yourself referring to it without ever really bothering to watch it, reflective in some ways of the very nature of the reproduced representation of the figure of Dracula. Bram Stoker’s 1897 Nosferatu_Kinskiversion itself based on existing folk tale tropes of the vampire evoking the British imperial paranoia of invasion (some things never change eh?). Stoker was Irish, one of the first British colonies of course, and maybe he glimpsed some solidarity with the minnows of east Europe during the height of European imperial rivalry before, of course, that great war, much to the dismay of the downtrodden European working classes toiling in industrial urban squalour of Marx’s capital and Foucault’s biopower. Luxemburg’s Socialism or Barbarism, right? Not quite.

Andrey Tarkovsky’s film Solyaris (1972) – the classic form of the crisis of communism; stuck between rationalism and white masculinity, between East and West, searching for the great interstellar future of their counter-modernity only to uncover fragmented pasts. The transhistorical universalist subject shown to be the (white) working class (cis-man); let catastrophic spectacle ensue thanks to everyone’s favourite ambiguous brown leader of steel, Stali0be02346a92ae7781c10b49bf74e191a_VTGNIKELPni. Pieter Bruegel’s 1565 painting ‘Hunters in the Snow’ haunting the souls of Eastern failure aboard Solyaris’s vessel. Most fittingly this painting has been brought into the post-Soviet world with electronic artist Dubna’s album artwork with the addition of modernist towering tower blocks rupturing time’s impasse. We still live in the wake of the Soviet’s attempt of breaking with the past. All that was solid did not melt into air, it only fragmented.

Bela_Lugosi's_Dead_CoverBéla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó aka Bela Lugosi was one of those classic souls toiling in the filth forced to flee Hungary to the centre of modernity’s many secular crises, Weimar Germany’s Berlin, after his involvement in artist’s unions in the short-lived post-WWI 1919 Hungarian Soviet Republic. Of course he wasn’t finished there and worked on a merchant ship to the good old States to become a proper white person and in the process also happened to end up as the archetypal Hollywood Dracula; a sublime life if there ever were one. But as Bauhaus hauntingly proclaimed in 1979 (the same year as Kinski’s Nosferatu) ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’. Incidentally László Weisz aka Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, central to the school of Bauhaus in the Weimar Republic, was part of the same milieu as Lugosi of emigrants from Budapest to Berlin in 1920. Northampton’s Bauhaus a mournful distorted mirror-image of Johnny Rotten’s crooning of ‘No Future’ as Moholy-Nagy’s grand modernist visions of the multimedia functionalism of art came true in the form of the IKEA towers of Croydon fame.

moholynagy_a19ikeacroEngland’s dreaming, for sure, against the short memories of land of the free: Moholy-Nagy died in Chicago of course. Though there’s the other side of that American dream of course as found in Herzog’s Stroczek, partly based on the main actor’s life Bruno S., where a beaten-up ex-convict artist decides to escape the filthy detritus of West Berlin and ends up in the sticks of Wisconsin only for his dreams to take a plunge amid typical economic depravity with his wife leaving him for a lurid lorry-driver on his way to Vancouver. Yeah shit’s fucked. But you know it’s always harder for the queerer and darker ones of us but there’s less romance there I suppose, less respect and more pigeon-holing (see ‘diaspora kid’ Junot Diaz).

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Or how about everyone’s favourite troubled black intellectual Dambudzo Marechera toiling against black essentialism and the walls of whiteness, escaping into the resplendent pages of English literature though historical consciousness and psycho-geographies always at the fore. As the old boy says, ‘But too often my friends are just as reckless and on edge as I am and sometimes the burden of each other’s needs is just too much and we load up our rucksacks and say goodbye without hard feelings. Just a sense of loss. My greatest disappointment has always been how one never gets the chance to give, and give unreseservedly. So I do that in my writing, only interrupting the flow when the life of it gazes unseeing at the typewriter keys.’[1] Constructing realities from possible narratives of pasts refracted into memory; not quite magical but something that obscures the hard cold boring logics of taxonomies of ruinous power and neurotic dominance.

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The question of course is how to do so without falling into the traps of know-it-all smarminess or general misanthropy, and here the art of the sublime returns. That attraction of the urban decay and anonymity, the lack of community, the dislocative post-industrial fragments that have possibility if only you look thoroughly enough. See @hautepop’s http://street-goth.tumblr.com/ for the latest post-crash goth aesthetic, or Flying Lotus’s latest outing with ‘You’re Dead’ as bebop meets electronic soundscape to construct some sublime gestalt.

Memories as futures; futures as gothic; gothic as dissonant; dissonant dislocative memories reinvented for perpetual crisis against banal manageability.

[1] Dambudzo Marechera, The Black Insider, (Lawrence and Wishart, 1990)