Waiting for Godot a la Paul Chan

Innovative artist and activist Paul Chan will give an “illustrated lecture,” recounting his sensation-spawning performances of Beckett’s masterpiece in a beleaguered New Orleans during 2007, at Redcat Theatre at The Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles tonight.

Earthquake in Haiti


Tens of thousands are feared dead after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, with its epicenter just outside Port-au-Prince, rocked Haiti last night.  Anyone interested in donating money to the relief effort might look into Partners in Health, a smaller organization based primarily in Haiti that has been highly recommended by Peter Hallward, author of the excellent Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment. Click “Read More” to see Hallward talking about the crisis on BBC News. Read More »

Insp.

insp

The proliferation of image blogs powered by the tumblr platform raises the interesting question of how the internet as a structured society of individuals can collectively produce a homeopathic response to itself. The relationship between the particular nature of the way information is disseminated online and our diminishing attention spans  has become frequently remarked upon by behaviourists and educationalists: regular web ‘users’ suffer an inability to concentrate on large quantities of related information, preferring to reach a holistic understanding by absorbing multiple units of information from different sources. In this way the synaptic patterns of brain activity come to mirror the mechanical nature of the internet itself, whereby information on a webpage is often embedded from a source elsewhere, the page made complete by combining these packets from each distinct location.

While this patterning can be seen as a useful cognitive adaptation to the modern condition of information bombardment, whether it renders any forensic capability to discern truth from different pieces of contradictory evidence is questionable. Behaviourists argue that this is because on the internet it is almost always easier to click a sequential link and absorb a new piece of information than to stop and make coherent what information you already posess. In dialectic terms, it makes easy the complex task of bearing in mind the thesis and antithesis, but stops short of synthesizing, preferring instead the construction of ever more baroque towers of theses, and recalling F. Scott Fitzgerald’s notion that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”. The problem in their eyes is that this is more of a dysfunction, an endlessly procrastinating loop, which, while it could never be accused of laziness exactly, promotes an enervating series of deferrals through indecision.

The notion of inspiration is a curious one. To surf through a variety of insp image blogs powered by tumblr is to encounter a disparate collage of art installation shots, photo journalism, fashion lookbook extracts and soft, or in contemporary terms, mildly nsfw, porn. Both insular and extroverted, the easy ability to repost from the blog of another produces a curious shared scrapbook of communicative personal experience, culminating in the demi-meme of acknowledged appropriation:  ’sup χ. In effect it creates the pleasing sense of a community engaged in inspiring itself out of a self-induced torpor. If ranting weblogs perform a teenage self-centred melodrama, the misunderstood voice alone with its diary and pen, then tumblelogs represent the early stirrings of late adolescent creativity, the melodrama formalised, put to music, friends found, band started, bingo. Thus there is always the sense of the achievable in insp blogs, the ever seductive notion that with enough hard work anything contained within it is attainable.   Read More »

The David Simon Vice Interview

David Simon

A great interview with a man who consistently gives great interviews, in a publication, which, with all the fondest adolescent memory, does not. One glaring point of note: How does a man, a fiercely intelligent man, whose whole oeuvre turns on his innate documentarian’s rage at the destruction wrought on inner city America by the vicissitudes of late capitalism (see Kinkle and Toscano in Read), and who regularly employs an articulate critique of this very same post-modern capitalism, assert himself as definitely not a Marxist but an affirmed believer in capitalised Capitalism?

Tell me, Dossier’s US readership, is this the obvious result of a fundamental ideological mechanism? The advantage of the transatlantic nature of this blog lies in its superposition between two understandings of the word Marxist: according to Simon, it appears to mean someone who wishes to replace Capitalism with Communism, while over here I’d suggest it generally refers to any discourse which might casually reference, say, the systematic oppression of organised labour in the process of producing a critique of capitalism. Which is something he does. A lot.

As someone who, for one reason or another, reads a lot of material produced by art galleries to explain the work of their represented artists, I’m used to the inconsistency of people invoking forms of critique whose genesis lies in Marxist theory, while casually disavowing ‘Marxism’ as synonymous with a discredited form of governance. This seems entirely indicative of just the sort of inauthentic post-modernist politics which most of The Wire militates against. While The Wire’s mainstream success still resonates beyond the lame validations of Guardian hype-merchants and Tory frontbenchers, let’s see this show as it really is, beyond its creator’s vacillating apologies, as a potent form of leftist agitation. A Christmas thought? David Simon, come out the fucking closet.

Behind Closed Doors at the Climate Summit

The Guardian website today posted a must-read article by the climate-change activist and journalist Mark Lynas on the behind the scenes wrangling over the climate deal, or lack thereof, in Copenhagen – How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room. Highly recommended.

Marty Machado: Life and Work on a Container Ship

Here’s a little snippet of video from seafaring artist Marty Machado’s cabin aboard the APL Japan, where he’s been serving as a merchant marine under the flag of SUP, the Sailors Union of the Pacific. For more details, check out his new blog on Fecal Face. He had us at, “as the coastal silt drops, the water becomes the most vibrant blue you can imagine. Further offshore you begin to see thick clumps of Sargasso Weed, flying fish, whales, and occasionally huge pods of dolphins.” Images after the jump.

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Going Rogue Digested

Palin, a dead bear and a dead crab

Yesterday the John Crace’s weekly Digested Read section in the Guardian featured Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue: An American Life.  It’s perfect for those who neither want to pay for the book or actually go through the ordeal of reading it.

William E Jones: Tearoom

tearoom-main

In response to Jeff’s posting of the charming Will Phillips video, I thought I’d draw attention to the excellent William E Jones film being shown at Swallow Street right now. The overwhelming poignancy of this simple film of found footage emerges with the contextualizing record of each grainy, voiceless figure: John Smith, 27, married, 2 children, sodomy, 12 years. A mournful cenotaph behind frosted windows sitting off Piccadilly.

On a more contemporary though related note, here’s a video for fans of Raekwon and Snoop from The Wire where our Baltimore heroine discusses homos, techno and hip hop, with the bonus of Rae being a totally unreconstructed homophobe as illustration.

“Boy Won’t Pledge Allegiance”

An amazing ten year old kid from Arkansas refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance until gays and lesbians have equal rights.  See CNN for the wonderful interview.

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