Friday, 7 March 2014

Ride The Judd

The last few weeks has been dominated by RIDETHEJUDD


"The Commune had no leaders. And this at a time when the idea of the necessity of leaders was universally accepted in the proletarian movement. This is the first reason for its paradoxical success and failures. The official organizers of the Commune were incompetent (if measured up against Marx or Lenin, or even Blanqui). But on the other hand, the various "irresponsible" acts of that movement are precisely what is needed for the continuation of the revolutionary movement of our own time (even if the circumstances restricted almost all of these acts to the purely destructive level - the most famous example being the rebel who, when a suspect bourgeois insisted that he had never had anything to do with politics, replied, "that's precisely why I'm going to kill you")."
~Debord, Kotanyi, Vaneigem, Theses on the Paris Commune. 1968

"It was above all Enfantin (1796-1864) who turned Saint Simonianism into a religion, and almost a monastic order. He was a man of great personal beauty and quite exceptional charm, able to exercise a magnetic fascination, so that highly intelligent men worshipped(sic) him and listened respectfully while he talked absolute nonsense. For in a prolonged phase of mystical enthusiasm, Enfantin introduced the strangest ideas into the doctrine. He got his disciples to proclaim him Le Pere - The 'industrial Pope' - a title he had embroidered on his clothes. He got them to follow him first into monastic seclusion at Menilmontant, and then on a fantastic journey to the East in search of the ideal woman, La Mere. He got them to wear strange uniforms, which buttoned at the back, to remind them that people were interdependent. The managing director of Le Creusot, the giant ironworks, resigned his job to follow him, in company with distinguished officers, mining engineers, civil servants and a professor of medicine. Enfantin's gifts modified the nature of the movement. He was above all an unctuous confessor, and in no way made to be the leader of a rabble. He therefore objected to his supporters mixing too much with the unconverted world. He preferred a closed society, held together by ardent emotion. The life in this community was 'intense, the feelings of fraternity touching, the exaltation of hopes prodigious; the faithful tasted pure joy and knew unbridled enthusiasm'. Inevitably, however, this put into the background any idea of associating the workers in ending the exploitation of man by man, which represented the socialist side of Saint-Simon's original doctrine. A Proposal by a few in 1839 to start a Social Party was rejected. Internal conflicts brought an end to this mystical phase. By 1848 Saint-Simonianism had no organisation."
~ Zeldin. France 1848-1945: Politics and Anger. 1973

"The Generals glorified death. But how far did they intend to put the clock back? The fanatics were hell-bent on eliminating every trace of liberalism and humanity.
[...] Soon after the opening formalities, the stage was set by General Millan Astray, famous as the driving spirit behind The Tercio, the most notorious, bloodthirsty corps in the Spanish Foreign Legion. A scarred, emaciated, hooknosed, fanatic with one arm, Astray seemed to epitomize in his own person the battlecry he had already coined for the Legion, "Viva la Muerte! Long Live Death!"
     He was obviously determined to perpetuate the same spirit as he stood to address the seated ranks of Spain's intellectual and military elite [...] There was no hesitation in his action as he raised his arm and screamed aloud his personal salutation to destruction, "Long Live Death!"
[...] The general lost himself in the maze of his own vehemence. He sat down to the Nationalist slogan "Arriba Espana"! The crowd applauded. Franco's image did not stir. Neither did the Rector. Don Miguel remained impassive.[...] When the clamor faded, the old man rose in dead silence. He began speaking where he stood, slowly and quietly.
[...] "General Millan Astray is not one of the elect minds. General Astray would like to create Spain anew - a negative creation - in his own likeness. He has made is clear, perhaps unwittingly, he would like to see Spain as a crippled as he is."
     The taunt provoked the General to an outburst. "Muerte Los Inteligencia," he retorted. Death to Intelligence!"
~ Kisch. They Shall Not Pass: The Spanish People at War 1936-9. 1974

"Some teenagers want dark experiences. They walk in cemeteries at night. They write stories about suicide; they obsess on black clothing and Pink Floyd lyrics. None of it means they are "bad" or twisted. When they are finished playing with the dark, they will understand the 'light much better. If they are ignored or ridiculed, maybe they will do something drastic, but their search is usually only an earnest attempt to understand the depths.
Others gravitate toward the light-daytime psychedelic colors, long solitary hikes. They determine to become a dancer or artist instead of something "realistic.- If their family is sedately Catholic, maybe Ihey go to Ihe Assembly of God and speak in tongues. If their family goes to the Assembly of God, maybe they climb a hill and offer flowers to Apollo. "
~ Llewellyn. The Power and Magic of Adolescence vs. The Insufferable Tedium of School (From "The Teenage Liberation Handbook"). 1991.

"Wingnut says a girl about sixteen, a peaceful protester - or in his words, a "peace Nazi" - ran up to the anarchists, shouting at them to stop throwing newspapers in the air. She attempted to shame the anarchists by picking up the newspapers and stacking them on the sidewalk, telling Wingnut, "I live in this city. It's a beautiful city!"
     Wingnut tried to explain to her that he and his fellow anarchists were merely trashing Seattle to help prevent gentrification. Wingnut believes gentrification is bad for the working classes. Therefore, littering in cities is good because it lowers rent. His debate with the "peace Nazi girl" ended abruptly when a fight broke out nearby.
     According to "Carlos", a Eugene anarchist also on the scene (whose day job is to make phone calls for a company that does polling for the Republican Party), a security guard from a nearby office building ran over to an anarchist kicking open a newspaper vending box and bashing him in the head with a walkie talkie. Carlos says a quick-thinking anarchist sprayed the security guard in the face with spray paint. When I asked him if assaulting and possibly injuring a security guard with spray paint violated anarchist principles of focusing their efforts on property destruction, Carlos argued, "That's not really being violent. That's like protecting each other and being unified as a movement.""
~ Wright. Hella Nation. 2009

"Towards the end of March 1612, Roger Nowell, one of the local Justices of the Peace, was stirred by the steadily increasing number of complaints against them, to examine four of the Forest witches -Elizabeth Southerns, Anne Whittle, Alison Device, and Anne Redfearn. They all admitted their own witchcraft and implicated some others, and they were committed to Lancaster Castle until they could be tried at the next Assizes. On the Good Friday following these events, a meeting was called at Malkin Tower, the home of old Demdike. According to James Device, who was present, the principle business of this meeting was, firstly, to name Alison Device's familiar spirit (which they did not do because she was not there), and, secondly, to devise some means of delivering the witches then in prison. This they hoped to achieve by murdering the goaler, and blowing up the building before the next Assizes.
Because the gathering at Malkin tower began with a feast of stolen mutton, it has often been spoken of as one the very few known English examples of a Witches' Sabbat. In fact, the evidence for this is very slight. It is true that a noonday meal was eaten by all present. James Device confessed at his trial that on the night before the meeting he stole a wether belonging to John Robinson, of Barley, and brought it to his grandmother's house, where it was killed, and eaten on the following day. Nothing seems to distinguish this repast from an ordinary meal shared by friends in a time of anxiety, not to the subsequent proceedings suggest anything of a religious or magical nature. No devil presided over the feast, or the discussions. There were no sacrifices, no adoration of Satan, no bringing-in of new converts, no dancing or singing or carousing. Undoubtedly, there was an urgent meeting of witches accustomed to work together, alarmed now by the action of the authorities, and anxious to save their imprisoned friends before it was too late; but of anything of a more mystical or ritual character there is little of no proof."
~ Hole. Witchcraft in England. 1990

"In his article Easter Neolithic in theBrno evening newspaper, Fedor Skotal reports on the event: “The first Neolithic painting symposium lasted three days, during which one could meet strange gnomes all spattered in colour not only inthe caves lit with endless candles but also in the woods around. In the evening they would gather in nearby Javůrek, and then even later by a campfire, and with singing and recitation would try to drive out the frosty night. The gala preview took place on the edge of an underground lake. After the speeches Aleš Kvapil played and sang his own songs, after which Franta Kocourek bit into a fur cone and broke a rotten branch. (…) At the preview the Prague artistPavel Büchler said: We weren’t trying to rejuvenate art, or play tricks, or make a demonstration. It was not about a struggle with art, because that kind o struggle must take place in the terrain o art, that  is, a terrain detached from life. In my opinion the symposium was motivated mainly by the desire toexperience things, the desire to play creatively. It was about classifying certain values in a different way from normal, to live a ew days at ull throttle… No more, no less."

"In the 1960s many people came to realise that in a truly revolutionary collective experience what comes ino being is not a faceless and anonymous crowd or ‘mass’ but, rather, a new level of being - what Deleuze, following Eisenstein, calls the Dividual - in which individuality is not effaced but completed by collectivity. It is an experience that has slowly been forgotten, its traces systematically effaced by the return of desperate individualisms of all kinds."
~ Fredric Jameson - Brecht and Method

Saturday, 9 March 2013

response to artificial hells

Will wrote this great piece at Urban Times. 

I wrote something in the comments but it's maybe useful to keep here too.

Hi Will, I really like this! I think the question regarding "actual hellish experiences" is by the audience member is, while slightly obtuse, a valid one deserving more examination.
While the asker might have been challenging discourse being fixed on the trials of production in favour of the the awakening or disruptive "experience" Dada, perhaps the question is more how do we find ourselves exterior to the process or armature of art itself, with all of its over-coding, and do we want that and is it possible?

The other night I heard a first hand description of Teddy Cruz's Political Equator event ( from 2011. A conference that would examine the divide of the global north and south whilst literally transgressing the San Diego/Tijuana border. Due to the government controls of this crossing, including siren-blaring police escort of their bus as they entered the Mexican town, the delegates found that the local population they had hoped to consult had vanished. In the words of the delegate, the border was “elastic”. It was hard not to question whether this organised transgression avoided being a spectacle and for all its good intentions the results have more than a flavour of the Victorian about them. If the border crossing what to be a transgression (it was deliberately made on foot away from official checkpoints) why was authorisation sought and can we expect it to function in any other manner? Even made completely illegally, would this cross have been able to escape the whiff of privilege seeking the (inaccessible?) touch of the material side? In researching the Political Equator project I was not much surprised to find that the Mexican state of Hilalgo tourists could pay for an “Illegal Border Crossing Experience”, completely with blank-firing “border police” (

I wonder if context, and within that specifically knowledge of the situation, means that even through the trauma of Action Hero's work the best (?) we can hope for is a brief drowning out of that knowledge? This is itself to the yoga breathing exercising that you use whilst in the work, different only perhaps in tone and the level of control). If we know something is “not”, can we ever touch it or do we always prep ourselves for the encounter somehow? Does the knowledge of an “art context”, including the incredibly complex coding of experiential and demonstrative work ever escape us? As such a Theatre of Cruelty is so familiar to us now, how can we hope to do more than kid ourselves? I wonder if we were jaded 9 years ago when Rod Dickinson staged his Waco re-enactment, as shown is this review ( But then again, this was around the millennium when sort of post-virtual-reality obsession with living a prescribed experience seemed to hit fever pitch in culture.

I'd argue that art can't leave art. Steve Power's robotic Waterboarding Thrill Ride from a a few years back ( is perhaps the most honest approach to the subject I can think of precisely because it remembers that the anticipatory promise is as real as it ever gets.

Its interesting that the quote that titles the project is from Breton when you consider his famous break with Georges Bataille, which the latter often being positioned as the Materialist opposition to the former's Phenomenology-infused Idealism. While Melvin Moti's fiction shows more than a small reference to Bataille's Acephale with its collective death-pact, I wonder what a Bataillian onto-politically minded and outwardlooking approach to that beyond performance would look like? I suspect that it would not look like anything precisely because it would need to be exterior to the meta-context of such organised cultural frameworks. More a Fantomas-like fantasy of inflicting such trauma on the public without providing them any rationalising framework. Not the Guantanamo “image” inherent in the hood and restraints but something far more horrifically and incomprehensible, a blow to the face in the dark.

Monday, 26 November 2012

local and global/ part 1

Lee has started writing his blog again.

There is an interesting post up there at the moment which touches on, amongst other things, the distinction between the local and the global.

This is a duality that I have found interesting for a long time. Really it's  a series of dualities.

I think first about the individual and the group. The political split that assigns primacy to the respective halves of that equation could be argued as being "first politics", and it is something that has troubled me for as long as I can remember. A while ago I was at a conference on Deleuze and the simple distinction was made (quoted?) that the right starts with the self and radiates out, while the left starts with the out and narrows down to the self. From here we can smoothly move to Identity Politics, the power games inherent in both (remember Adam Curtis's Century of The Self and the pivot point of Anti-Psychiatry and the distrust this provokes in other groups). Now we can think about how collective responsibility is frequently imposed from without that collective (See all instances of Communism realised as State Capitalism or secular feudalism) and the basic contradiction that Materialism is itself an Ideal.

I have been talking to Stuart Tait, of among other things, AAS Group, since Spring this year. These discussions has mainly focused on other related dualities, like that of the the artist and the audience, or the teacher and the student. What makes AAS a unique entity in my personal experience is a sincere and thorough approach to the flat plane of the collective. In a time where farcical and utterly insincere terms like "social engaged practice"(1), the still-born buzzword that never-was "Relational Aesthetics" and all variations on "collaboration" and "participation" are everywhere (2), it is refreshing to see a practice that is continually recalibrating itself in relation to its environment, including the allowing for the impact that it has on this environment. An so on and so on.

The point I would like to make about AAS is that it is significantly less formed, less formalised, less Idealised and more fluid, amorphous and molecular.

This is a collective that has no agenda other than to respond to situations. It makes no priority for presented situations which contain an audience (though it does sometimes perform in these situations) and can equally operate with only the four most constant parts present or with an expanded AAS with further additional parts.

The individual/collective and the local/global are both false distinctions, as Lee puts it here

"Decision making needs to ignore artificial borders and boundaries and simply treat humanity as an individual and a collective of individuals at the same time. "

Bruno Latour has talked about the false local/global distinction extensively.

"Is a railroad local or global? Neither. it is local at all points, since you always find sleepers and railroad workers, and you have stations and automatic ticket machines scattered along the way. Yet it is global, since it takes you form Madrid to Berlin or form Brest to Vladivostok. However it is not universal enough to take you just anywhere. However, it is not universal enough to take you just anywhere. it is impossible to reach the little Auvergnat village of Malpy by train, or the little Staffordshire village of Market Drayton. There are continuous paths that lead form the local to the global, the the circumstantial to the universal, from the contingent to the necessary, only so long as the branch lines are paid for."
Latour - We Have Never Been Modern - Harvard - 1993

There is no real duality in Latour model. Networks, which for Latour everything is a part of are always a monsterous mixture of the local and the global, of the immanent and the transcendental. The local of Cardiff is threaded to the global of Biennales, they can't be separated.

So the issue here for me is how can, for example, art, negotiate this singularity? The first point would be that there is no isolated entity called "art".

Much of the defined art discourse and art practice focuses on a sphere that it positions directly in front of itself. That is to say, an agreed territory of what art is about. A week or so ago I had an interesting conversation with Adam Sutherland of Grizedale (3) on how to move art from the position it has occupied for the past 200 or so years, namely the segregated self-fascination best demonstrated by the Romantic era, and redefine it as a thing of use which is connected to all other things.

My position on this has been pretty stable for the past few years; art rarely engages with anything in any manner other than appropriation and (Capitalist) detournement. The Grizedale stance is that art has been about itself. I would argue that this is not even the case. Some art is explicitly about it's own production, and much if not most, is built upon knowledge of and delicate deviations from it's own (historical/theoretical) narrative (4) this is true. However art rarely, if ever, engages with its material self. This is why I say that it is concerned with a sphere just in front of it, because the real practicalities of networking, form filling, strategic compromise, the great unspoken of artist's labour value, of fees, of careers, is left off the table.

Grizedale and Marcus Coate's current exhibition at The Jerwood Space in Borough is an exception. 

At times, these domestic issues of art reality do surface within work, but in my experience these mostly retain the distancing effect of performance, frequently through irony. It is like a partial, Kippenburgerian disclose.

1. As though any practice is not "socially engaged". As though "socially engaged" was categorically superior to an other that is not. As though "socially engaged" means anything than a patronising late-90s style aesthetic of usefulness. As though "socially engaged" means anything other than prepared and equipped to exploit the most vulnerable and extract the state resources allocated to them.  

2. These terms, and the practices which drift between them frequently share an approach to the collective which is comparable to State Capitalism. The artist or artist group or curator engineers a situation for "participants" to engage, frequently with each other in an imitation of a flat structure.  The artist, as shepherd may stay outside of this structure, or may involve themselves within group. In either case the outcome of the project is always subservient to the fact that it was orchestrated. The collective is never more than the material resource of the lead artist.

3. Grizedale is a fairly unique example of an institution that has managed to create a situation in which art discourse and production can engage with things outside of itself in a manner other than domination and recoding. Grizedale's operations are simultaneously amorphous and practical.

4. Here a complete career could be made out of examining why Art is perhaps the most conservative industry.  Cultural Hegemony does not even begin to cover it.