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

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

 

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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

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)