My article for Mute on "catastrophe cinema in the age of crisis" is up online here. As they put it:
"Dusting off the tedium and ash deposited by Hollywood's recent spate of catastrophe movies, Evan Calder Williams takes aim at their world-affirming pessimism and calls for some real apocalypse..."
On Sorokin's The Queue and what's to be gleaned, for resistance and refusal now, from an experimental novel about being stuck in line, interminably, waiting for an unsure object - is it American? is it shoes? - and all that happens while waiting for that unsure thing to come:
The novel is caught somewhere between 1) a husky, black-bile laugh at the bureaucratic nightmares of USSR's final years, and 2) in Sorokin's afterword, a nostalgia for the thought of rational organization that still persisted, in whatever perverse, flickering, shadowy forms. As such, it appears initially stuck between the thought of two failures: the failure that was the organization of daily life (the queues, the shortages, the inability to correlate "need" and "desire"), and the failure of the Communist project to stick to its guns. (The failure of Communism to be Communist.) The nostalgia isn't just retrospective, not from the hindsight of Putin years. Rather, it's there, in the queue itself, in the still-active years of the Soviet Century: the absent homeland on which you still live and never really left, even as it left behind what would have been, the absent distance that would let you declare fully, this isn't how it was supposed to be...
But to say that the novel is pulled in these two directions doesn't indicate either the affects it describes or the affects produced by reading it. More simply, it may exist between these two failures, but what exist is something quite different. Against these double-bleed outs of emiserated, stuck present and entropic, lost present that should have been, the novel is ruddy, full-blooded, goofy, vertiginous. There's a lot of fucking, swearing, joking, drinking, and fighting with sausages, even if the latter is relayed from the experience of another queue. There are pages (see image above) primarily filled with, Aaaaah... Haaaahh..., a guttural see-saw sex scene. If the queue is a site of deferred satisfaction, the object that will never come, plenty of satisfaction comes during the act of waiting. And given that the book ends with the sated couple in bed, having learned that the fools are temporarily "queueing for nothing," the point of the queue simply becomes the queue itself. The absent object is the occasion for what would not happen unless we thought we'd get something out of all this.
Furthermore, as a book basically about how we bide our time when the rationalization of time spent breaks down, it creates a further gap, perhaps beyond "success" or "failure," between what this time is supposed to be like and how it is experienced. M. made the necessary point that while it is "about" unending waiting and slowness, it reads very quickly: there's a total breakdown of the prospect of mimetic sympathy here. She's spot on, for we may get bored with the book, but it's a different boredom than that of the queue itself: it's the flitting boredom of the distracted reader, who sees pages and pages of what looks to lack difference, and idly skips ahead. (Pages and pages of roll-call Russian names being called out, followed by the affirmative "Yes!", or this slightly more dizzying array of potential objects, but which we nevertheless see as litany.) Our boredom is not durational, for we can fast-forward, slip ahead. Nowhere more so than the blank pages inserted to cover the time of the night, when speech doesn't happen. How are we to read them? There may exist readers fastidious enough to let their eyes rest on them for an appropriate amount of time (like those museum goers who stare into a Robert Ryman white canvas for what they imagine to be enough time to "get it," or at least to fake it for others in the gallery). But I'm not among them.
We might ask more broadly about the difficulty of writing in reproducing boredom or the feeling of the interminable mimetically. Obviously, the vast majority of writing bores us. But thinking here of writers such as William Gaddis, who's closest to Sorokin in terms of the "unattributed speech" style, it's hard to fathom how to make us read slowly, to replicate the particular boredom of a situation without providing a form that allows us to short-circuit the whole thing, to skip ahead, to jump the line.
Maybe that's the point, this coming undone. Genuinely absent from The Queue is the rationalization of time. If one of the promises of state socialism was an organization of time beyond the systemic irrationality of the market, of exertion that only happens for a discernible, logical purpose (i.e. necessary goods, food, culture, etc), in the novel's waiting, we see time divorced from instrumentality in the service of unburdened - and unachievable - consumption. Even if the queue doesn't ultimately get what it came there to get, it never knew what it came there to get, and it doesn't have to labor to get it. Or so it seems, for what is the time invested in the queue if not the labor of shopping, of consumption itself becoming the structural principle of time spent. The nightmare of the Soviet - the breakdown of supply and demand, and with it, the breakdown of the collectivity over individual desires - is here the dream of contemporary first-world capitalism: labor is being done somewhere else, by someone else, and the sheer fact of our consumption time (and consumption of time, just continuing to bide our time) is enough to jolt ahead the circulation and auto-generation of capital.
Of course, in fiction as in economics, this doesn't work out so well. And what remains from this is this coming-unstuck from time as value. Our waiting is genuinely valueless: we have time to kill. And kill it we must, because hovering behind the chaotic carnival of the queue is the lingering connection between boredom and horror. Of facing non-productive consumption, unconsummated, formless, unable to give shape or order. How can one not yearn to skip the line?
Next week, in these days of strikes across universities and across the nation, there will be endless queues: there will be lines of people, some more orderly than others. Waiting. Perhaps generally with the expectation that the time put into the act of waiting - that is to say, of not working - and crowding the roads will result in the missing object to come. What is the imagined, missing object for which we invest our time, for which we declare an exception to the normal phases of work and rest? It's too easy to say that "it's different for everyone," that a politics of "coalition" or the like would imply: same means, different envisioned ends. More generally, we seem to wait for something that won't just signal an end to this particular time of waiting but that would seemingly reinforce both its necessity and negate the need for it to continue: a governmental promise, a monetary commitment, a phase shift that indicates a different direction in public education and a fairer treatment of workers.
But we know that such an object will not come, insofar as our waiting remains a waiting for. The queue won't end if we get that absent object. This is not to dismiss the genuine concerns that lie behind the strike: the continued harassment, humiliation, and degradation of low-paid workers, the structurally determined privatization of public education, the simultaneous shrinking access to and quality of that education. Rather, it's because those concerns do matter - because they are lived, and they are things that need to be remedied, particularly when the desperate concerns of those treated worst and with the least possibility of striking back individually against such treatment - that we should insist that nothing can be given that will remedy them. However, neither is this to claim that the solution is a false immediatism, or a simpler fantasy that anything we could take would suddenly fill that gap.
Against this waiting for, a thought from The Queue. At one point in the novel, the entire line shifts its location to be able to get a drink. And in this, we see what we feel elsewhere, that the queue itself constructs another possibility held out and deferred: of fully grasping a passage from the accidental collective which happens to come together because of waiting for something to happen
to the the fact that such a waiting together is the very thing that is supposed to happen.
That there is no thing to be given or received in reward for such waiting. That the real move forward - not skipping ahead in the line, but the line as a whole skipping ahead - is in the queue turning back upon itself, looking at what has emerged in the contingency of all asking for the same thing and being told not yet, not yet... And like the line moving as a whole to get what it wants, it isn't far to start imagining the mobile, roaming queue, that waits for nothing, that isn't a fixed structure, that isn't exceptional or temporary. The strike not for the necessary and impossible object, but for the grounded collective that emerges only in such an occasion as its long overdue eclipse.
The new Benicio Del Toro The Wolfman reload: Burton's Sleepy Hollow plus William Morris wallpaper plus working through your Daddy issues via furry, cuddly, bloody wolf-on-wolf action.
It's a resolutely awful film, which isn't to say that it has nothing to enjoy looking at. (See here: said wallpaper, a very pretty decaying mansion, Hugo Weaving's facial expressions, decently unsexy lycanthropic transformations.) But above all, it just isn't much fun at all. It feels dry and joyless, both hurried and bored, always in a rush to get to the next thing, even if that next thing is more of the rushed same. And nowhere more so than the moments of intended fever pitch: when it's busy depicting what should be the bloodbath's ecstasy, it's a yawn of the utterly perfunctory.
Even the throwback movie monster howl at the moon - an act the film uses to keep signaling its Old School cred, even as it can't commit - becomes the occasion for eye-rolling. As it should be, but this is wrong kind of roll, not the kind accompanied by the creeping smile of collective movie-going involvement which always exceeds the disavowal of cheesiness. That's to say, we shouldn't assume that the sense of earlier monster films as laughable is just a product of our being hardened, post-Hostel blood-waders: it's there from the start. And with it, that double mechanism, where your eyes don't just roll away from the screen (oh, give me a break) toward cellphone or watch but toward your fellow watcher, the opportunity to share in the act (oh, give me a break, and don't we love it anyway?).
As always, the mediocrity of one film or another isn't particularly compelling. To be sure, there are concrete reasons why it doesn't entertain, the usual suspects of what we often can't put our finger on, but which dictate the real phenomenal experience of watching: the sequencing, editing, making-rhythmic of it just doesn't work. (Among many things Eisenstein was right about, perhaps none more than this: if it doesn't click and clatter right, we never get into it. And if it doesn't halt and jerk forward wrongly enough, we also don't feel it, caught in a dead zone of uninvolved but unreflective.) And moreover, there's a number of things The Wolfman does that feel repetitive, which makes a relatively short film (102 min.) feel much longer, not just internally repetitive - watch him bone-stretch heel-jut transform again! watch Emily Blunt act fragile again! watch foreshadowing of his father's possible lycanthropic involvement be made very obvious again! - but of other films, primarily other "reloads" of older horror traditions (i.e. Sleepy Hollow, Van Helsing).
But beyond the potential and probable ineptitude, three thoughts as to what produces the staleness of this "fresh new take."
1. Gothic clutter
My friend Katie was on this as soon as we left the theater: "It's basically a Gothic novel proper." I think she's entirely right about this, as The Wolfman captures two tendencies of the Gothic, back when it had little to do with Bauhaus and everything to do with very drawn out landscape descriptions. First, attention not just to setting but to non-action itself, to those descriptions which don't just call attention to "atmosphere" and "mood," but to the sheer duration of reading through them, which itself produces a world of non-intervention and witnessing. The act of sitting through one more (castle, shadow that may indicate sinister goings-on, dirty family history, painting in which something is very wrong indeed, unswept floor, smell of crypt in the air) isn't a failure of the genre - it is the genre.
Second, a flurry of potential explanations or framing devices, none of which ever quite stick or are properly discounted, even as they are all mutually exclusive. (For example: in the Gothic, it isn't necessarily a trick of the eye or a real ghost: what should be either/or breaks down, and we're left with something closer to the and/or with which I'm obviously fascinated.) If the honed edge of the murder mystery/detective novel is the fact of its narrowing, as red herrings are tossed out when discovered, in the Gothic, they remain part of the decoration of that world, its cluttered pleasure or claustrophobia. A longer question, to be raised unanswered here, is why this doesn't click right in The Wolfman: has something of the historical grounding for the Gothic - not as content but as these organizations of too much and the co-existence of what should be mutually exclusive - been lost, or rather, become unsettling?
2. The time-lapse hustle
The Wolfman opens in a hurry: with the breathless toddler pacing of a "MTV editing" parody, it whips through, in about two minutes, a gravestone inscribed with the infamous "even those pure of heart" werewolf poem, establishment of locale, the gory death of Larry's brother, the grieving widow, the return of Larry, and the general sense that ill-deeds are at hand. This doesn't let up, and the insistent use of sped-up/time-lapse effects only heighten this impatience. We're both asked to get into the vibe of misty forest, ground-into-centuries custom, ancient evil and the slow death of the aristocracy, and demanded that we get that by watching the time-advanced arc of a full-moon across the sky while clouds whip across the screen. It's assumed that we're so used to the "point" of creepy dark woods that it takes three shots in four seconds total to put us there.
This isn't to lament an absent cinema of slowness, not to ask that all decapitation have the pacing of Ozu or Tarr. One of the genuine pleasures of horror happens when it lets itself be what it wants to be all along, a stripped-down machine for the delivery of effects and affects. Because when it does that, it almost always "fails" in more compelling ways: by putting a premium on occasions and passages, when it urges toward an economy of getting us what we want, it does one of two things: 1) like the "original" Universal monster movies, it knows that the production of that stripped-down pleasure requires a great deal that isn't stripped down, it requires the full drawn out minutes of wandering the forest, the full brunt of not-so-witty dialogue, all the taking your time that makes the sudden delivery of the promised laughter and jolt possible , and 2) like the odder instances of giallo, Spanish horror, grindhouse, etc, the very attempt to be "minimal" and efficient produces an overburdened tension that relocates the emphasis on all that isn't necessary, not on the kill sequences, but on the deep weirdness of what is supposed to be perfunctory and not-worth-noticing. The Wolfman doesn't nail either tendency, nor does it move past them toward another kind of enjoyment: it can neither acknowledge itself as a scare-machine nor allow us the slow build-up, through supposed denial or through an understanding of its instrumental purpose, of all the background material that is what we really come to see.
3. Making campy what is already camp
Barring the petty Freudianism of "Fear What is Within," the taglines for the film beat us over the head with the coding of the film as about a legend:
"The Legend is Alive"
"When the moon is full, the legend comes to life"
"Ce n'était pas qu'une legende" ("It wasn't only a legend")
From the advertising start, then, the film stands on weird terrain: it's unable to either access this legend (there's a bit of "doth protest too much" in its insistence that the legend is indeed alive and well) or phenomenally outstrip it (through the boredom of the watching experience) and thereby pump some blood into the vacant heart.
The problem with all this is that it very much wants to be - or to play at being - an "old-fashioned" film, while it insists that we can't have those kind of films anymore. It wants to situate itself within the shared cultural legacy of another moment, another kind of watching, another mode of narrative that both hails to the category of legend and accesses it only as imitation. It's that same turn in Van Helsing and Sleepy Hollow: in declaring itself to be of "another time" (through its explicit selection of legendary/early cinema/folk content, and the attempted tone of "not being so serious"), it insists on the inaccessibility of the moves of that other time. But it doesn't give up on being "about" those kind of moves and movies. Even though sandwiched between Matrix style wolf cage fights and time-lapse hallucination montage, we still get the iconic howl. In short, it does the work of declaring as "campy" things we already can only see as such.
Camp may always be in the "wrong" places, and following Sontag, perhaps you indeed "can't do camp on purpose," but the The Wolfman didn't get the message. My question isn't whether or not you can "do it on purpose," or whether or not it's wrong to try and do so. Rather, it's to ask where the pleasure has gone, why the resurrection of the past becomes a yawn in the present, why we need to further distance ourselves - as if past a break that can't be mended - by enacting a willful return to what never went away, how the fur can fly and still leave us so unscathed.
Next weekend, I'll be down in LA to lock horns at a SoCal iteration of the Continental Drift seminar taking place at the Public School. Won't be able to stick around the city for too long, but if you're there, come to this... Besides, I've got a sneaking suspicion that there will be equal parts theory and carousing. Website here, info below.
Continental Drift: Control Society/ Metamorphosis
February 17, 2010 by sean
On the weekend before the March 4th state-wide UC strike, we invite you to participatein a two-day theory convergence, a “Continental Drift” seminar with the Paris-based theorist, Brian Holmes. Past Drifts has taken a variety of forms in its manifestations at 16 Beaver (2004-2006) in New York, or through the Midwest’s radical culture corridor (2008); and here in Los Angeles it will confront a California whose infrastructure is crumbling, whose government is disfunctional, and whose public education is in crisis from the space of an autonomous education alternative.
Although this Continental Drift is situated here, in a time of occupations and walkouts, it will connect the changes occurring at our universities to the emergence of a neoliberal control society over the past few decades.
The structure of the weekend will be two-days in four parts. Most parts will be structured as participatory conversations, guided by an interlocutor; togetherwe will explore these themes.
On the first day, we try to understand the massive economic and psychological shifts that have occurred since the end of the 1960’s.
And on the second day, we will locate possible territories for resistance, autonomy, or invention. Continuing in the spirit of our collective conversations so far, we are leaving the lecture-Q&A format aside for themed discussions.
Organized by Zen Doctherman, Cara Baldwin, Jason Smith, Sean Dockray, Liz Glynn, Solomon Bothwell, Christina Ulke, Marc Herbst, Robby Herbst
The Continental Drift is a nomadic seminar organized collaboratively between Brian Holmes and DIY spaces. The first Drift occured at 16 Beaver in NY (2005) and has been held there and elsewhere since. The Drift is a conversation around particular elements of neoliberalism.
The Public School Los Angeles is a school with no curriculum. It is not accredited, it does not give out degrees, and it has no affiliation with the public school system. It is a framework that supports autodidactic activities, operating under the assumption that everything is in everything.
Ben's book is up on Amazon, yes, yes. I got the chance to read an earlier version of this, and it's a hell of a tome. Pressure your library to get, or knock off your local Negri-loving accelerationist cognitariat-dreaming supermarket and put the cash to good use...
It's not that everything else is always really about sex. Rather, sex is always really about everything else.
A Ballard-inspired art exhibition when I'm not there? Really? Funny how that almost makes living amongst the lumbering redwoods and yoga-tribes not worth it.
I will remedy this by crashing a light-aircraft into a pelican breeding ground outside of the flow of time. Anyone who knows where I can find either, let me know.
The Courage of the Present
For almost thirty years, the present, in our country, has been a disoriented time. I mean a time that does not offer its youth, especially the youth of the popular classes, any principle to orient existence. What is the precise character of this disorientation? One of its foremost operations consists in always making illegible the previous sequence, that sequence which was well and truly oriented. This operation is characteristic of all reactive, counter-revolutionary periods, like the one we’ve been living through ever since the end of the seventies. We can for example note that the key feature of the Thermidorean reaction, after the plot of 9 Thermidor and the execution without trial of the Jacobin leaders, was to make illegible the previous Robespierrean sequence: its reduction to the pathology of some blood-thirsty criminals impeded any political understanding. This view of things lasted for decades, and it aimed lastingly to disorient the people, which was considered to be, as it always is, potentially revolutionary.
To make a period illegible is much more than to simply condemn it. One of the effects of illegibility is to make it impossible to find in the period in question the very principles capable of remedying its impasses. If the period is declared to be pathological, nothing can be extracted from it for the sake of orientation, and the conclusion, whose pernicious effects confront us every day, is that one must resign oneself to disorientation as a lesser evil. Let us therefore pose, with regard to a previous and visibly closed sequence of the politics of emancipation, that it must remain legible for us, independently of the final judgment about it.
In the debate concerning the rationality of the French Revolution during the Third Republic, Clemenceau produced a famous formula: ‘The French Revolution forms a bloc’. This formula is noteworthy because it declares the integral legibility of the process, whatever the tragic vicissitudes of its unfolding may have been. Today, it is clear that it is with reference to communism that the ambient discourse transforms the previous sequence into an opaque pathology. I take it upon myself therefore to say that the communist sequence, including all of its nuances, in power as well as in opposition, which lay claim to the same idea, also forms a bloc.
So what can the principle and the name of a genuine orientation be today? I propose that we call it, faithfully to the history of the politics of emancipation, the communist hypothesis. Let us note in passing that our critics want to scrap the word ‘communism’ under the pretext that an experience with state communism, which lasted seventy years, failed tragically. What a joke! When it’s a question of overthrowing the domination of the rich and the inheritance of power, which have lasted millennia, their objections rest on seventy years of stumbling steps, violence and impasses! Truth be told, the communist idea has only traversed an infinitesimal portion of the time of its verification, of its effectuation. What is this hypothesis? It can be summed up in three axioms.
First, the idea of equality. The prevalent pessimistic idea, which once again dominates our time, is that human nature is destined to inequality; that it’s of course a shame that this is so, but that once we’ve shed a few tears about this, it is crucial to grasp this and accept it. To this view, the communist idea responds not exactly with the proposal of equality as a programme – let us realize the deep-seated equality immanent to human nature – but by declaring that the egalitarian principle allows us to distinguish, in every collective action, that which is in keeping with the communist hypothesis, and therefore possesses a real value, from that which contradicts it, and thus throws us back to an animal vision of humanity.
Then we have the conviction that the existence of a separate coercive state is not necessary. This is the thesis, shared by anarchists and communists, of the withering-away of the state. There have existed societies without the state, and it is rational to postulate that there may be others in the future. But above all, it is possible to organize popular political action without subordinating it to the idea of power, representation within the state, elections, etc. The liberating constraint of organized action can be exercised outside the state. There are many examples of this, including recent ones: the unexpected power of the movement of December 1995 delayed by several years anti-popular measures on pensions. The militant action of undocumented workers did not stop a host of despicable laws, but it has made it possible for these workers to be recognized as a part of our collective and political life.
A final axiom: the organization of work does not imply its division, the specialization of tasks, and in particular the oppressive differentiation between intellectual and manual labour. It is necessary and possible to aim for the essential polymorphousness of human labour. This is the material basis of the disappearance of classes and social hierarchies. These three principles do not constitute a programme; they are maxims of orientation, which anyone can use as a yardstick to evaluate what he or she says and does, personally or collectively, in its relation to the communist hypothesis.
The communist hypothesis has known two great stages, and I propose that we’re entering into a third phase of its existence. The communist hypothesis established itself on a vast scale between the 1848 revolutions and the Paris Commune (1871). The dominant themes then were those of the workers’ movement and insurrection. Then there was a long interval, lasting almost forty years (from 1871 to 1905), which corresponds to the apex of European imperialism and the systematic plunder of numerous regions of the planet. The sequence that goes from 1905 to 1976 (Cultural Revolution in China) is the second sequence of the effectuation of the communist hypothesis. Its dominant theme is the theme of the party, accompanied by its main (and unquestionable) slogan: discipline is the only weapon of those who have nothing. From 1976 to today, there is a second period of reactive stabilization, a period in which we still live, during which we have witnessed the collapse of the single-party socialist dictatorships created in the second sequence.
I am convinced that a third historical sequence of the communist hypothesis will inevitably open up, different from the two previous ones, but paradoxically closer to the first than the second. This sequence will share with the sequence that prevailed in the nineteenth century that fact that what is at stake in it is the very existence of the communist hypothesis, which today is almost universally denied. It is possible to define what, along with others, I am attempting as preliminary efforts aimed at the reestablishment of the communist hypothesis and the deployment of its third epoch.
What we need, in these early days of the third sequence of existence of the communist hypothesis, is a provisional morality for a disoriented time. It’s a matter of minimally maintaining a consistent subjective figure, without being able to rely on the communist hypothesis, which has yet to be re-established on a grand scale. It is necessary to find a real point to hold, whatever the cost, an ‘impossible’ point that cannot be inscribed in the law of the situation. We must hold a real point of this type and organize its consequences.
The living proof that our societies are obviously in-human is today the foreign undocumented worker: he is the sign, immanent to our situation, that there is only one world. To treat the foreign proletarian as though he came from another world, that is indeed the specific task of the ‘home office’ (ministère de l'identité nationale), which has its own police force (the ‘border police’). To affirm, against this apparatus of the state, that any undocumented worker belongs to the same world as us, and to draw the practical, egalitarian and militant consequences of this – that is an example of a type of provisional morality, a local orientation in keeping with the communist hypothesis, amid the global disorientation which only its reestablishment will be able to counter.
The principal virtue that we need is courage. This is not always the case: in other circumstances, other virtues may have priority. For instance, during the revolutionary war in China, Mao promoted patience as the cardinal virtue. But today, it is undeniably courage. Courage is the virtue that manifests itself, without regard for the laws of the world, by the endurance of the impossible. It’s a question of holding the impossible point without needing to account for the whole of the situation: courage, to the extent that it’s a matter of treating the point as such, is a local virtue. It partakes of a morality of the place, and its horizon is the slow reestablishment of the communist hypothesis.
Been a bit obsessed about the notion of "the comment" recently, and the massive amount of intellectual labor (however low-level it may be) expended, across the board. The image above is from the comments section of a video of a deadly car crash on a Russian highway. If we could only harness, via intel-electrical converters, the dull flickering of minds across the globe (not to mention the pure caloric output of all those tapping, flitting fingers!), peak oil wouldn't mean a thing. The commentariat, diggers of our own graves, one unnecessary contribution at a time...
(and soon via Amazon)
Hideous Gnosis: Black Metal Theory Symposium 1. Edited by Nicola Masciandaro. 292 pages. $20.00. ISBN 1450572162. EAN-13 9781450572163.
Essays and documents related to Hideous Gnosis, a symposium on black metal theory, which took place on December 12, 2009 in Brooklyn, NY. Expanded and Revised.
"Life is a hideous thing, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous" (Lovecraft)
“Poison yourself . . . with thought” (Arizmenda)
Steven Shakespeare, “The Light that Illuminates Itself, the Dark that Soils Itself: Blackened Notes from Schelling’s Underground.”
Erik Butler, “The Counter-Reformation in Stone and Metal: Spiritual Substances.”
Scott Wilson, “BAsileus philosoPHOrum METaloricum.”
Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, “Transcendental Black Metal.”
Nicola Masciandaro, “Anti-Cosmosis: Black Mahapralaya.”
Joseph Russo, “Perpetue Putesco – Perpetually I Putrefy.”
Benjamin Noys, “‘Remain True to the Earth!’: Remarks on the Politics of Black Metal.”
Evan Calder Williams, “The Headless Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
Brandon Stosuy, “Meaningful Leaning Mess.”
Aspasia Stephanou, “Playing Wolves and Red Riding Hoods in Black Metal.”
Anthony Sciscione, “‘Goatsteps Behind My Steps . . .’: Black Metal and Ritual Renewal.”
Eugene Thacker, “Three Questions on Demonology.”
Niall Scott, “Black Confessions and Absu-lution.”
DOCUMENTS: Lionel Maunz, Pineal Eye; Oyku Tekten, Symposium Photographs; Scott Wilson, “Pop Journalism and the Passion for Ignorance”; Karlynn Holland, Sin Eater I-V; Nicola Masciandaro and Reza Negarestani, Black Metal Commentary; Black Metal Theory Blog Comments; Letter from Andrew White; E.S.S.E, Murder Devour I.
Black metal slow jam interlude. A great landscape of bad infinity: hovering synth, arbitrary drum-beats, Kenny G-esque sax noodling, and Satan's mumbles. Greek black metal, in this form, understands well that what's truly evil doesn't just dwell in the cold north or in necrotic threat. It's mundanity and drift, it's goofiness that can't sniff itself out, the purposeful not-knowing-when-to-quit. It's a shitty date too polite to end, a grocery store cereal aisle, it's the bored proximity of those trapped in a halted elevator while this song plays on and on.
But if the 'German Socialists' were never socialists except in name, their allegorical transformation into the Wotan of the Ring signifies their reconciliation with the bourgeoisie: they have themselves become fathers, their anger rationalized as paternal punishment, just as their conciliatoriness is that of the father who wishes his oppressed child a good night and the world a good nothing. Their insurrection has vanished like a ghost, leaving nothing behind but its outward appearance. Wotan is the phantasmagoria of the buried revolution. He and his like roam around like spirits haunting the places where their deeds went awry, and their costume compulsively and guilty reminds us of that missed opportunity of bourgeois society for whose benefit they, as the curse of an abortive future, re-enact the dim and distant past.
[Adorno, In Search of Wagner]
Film: Man of Iron - Occupations, strikes, romance, and the slow realization that students and workers can shape society are all captured by Andrzej Wajda in this fictional account of the real events that led to the Polish Solidarity movement.
Kresge Town Hall: 8 pm - 10 pm, Tuesday 2/9
Learning what it's like to have very good editors reading over your shoulder: they force to you remove precisely those precious moments (or in my case, "clever" turns of death-oriented dialectical-inversion phrase) that you know better than to keep, but which you do anyway, cursed by a simpering attachment and distinct absence of proper self-abasement. As Laure-Anne used to tell me, you must kill your little darlings. To my third party mercenaries teaching me to steady my hand, thanks.
R. Kelly, for all his faults, is a cultural terrorist, even if he doesn't know it. Here, he yodels midway through a "sex in the morning, sex all day" song. The man cannot be stopped, in terms of full blown avant-garde weirdness hidden inside what looks like sexxx jamz. Forget his self-designation as the Pier Piper of R & B. He is the Kurt Schwitters.
Albeit a Kurt Schwitters with the decency to let his partner take a break to "wash your face, get something to eat." Thoughtful pragmatism, and the ringing echo of the yodel, which seems, disturbingly, intended to function as the radio-friendly stand-in for screams of pleasure.
Which then conjures this, with it eerie non-green screen but disjunctive video feel, as Franz Lang floats ethereal, an inflated Homunculus through the geriatric picnic...
Go read: Mr. Noys over at Mute on "Apocalypse, Tendency, Crisis," an extended version of the paper he gave on our panel (with Mark K-Punk) in London this November. If you don't know him, Ben is a) a damn sharp thinker and an interlocutor to whom I owe a lot, b) the other head of our two-headed beast of Babylon, the reasoned pessimist of entropy and transition twin to my rambling/ranting apocalyptic S.I. derivations, and c) lives in Bognor Regis, one of the more Ragnarökian-named places (up there with Bad Axe, Michigan). I have a piece coming out shortly in Mute on crisis and apocalypse movies, meaning that this double-path of our opposed, and necessarily proximate, writing is doomed to continue. That's a doom I can support, almost as much as a Thunderdomed decline of the West.
On watching Hammer's Curse of the Werewolf (and initial thoughts on mereological nihilism, following a question):
When causality breaks down, when there's no determinate linkage between instances of suffering, between the beggar made to dance and the mute servant's non-scream, when blaming the decaying remnants of the old feudal order cannot give account, in the moments before the ascendant middle-class voice makes of this drift an enclosure and narrative of temperance and wholeness to be managed, what intercedes is just ornament, joyous and fraught elaborations of distraction that promise neither new directions of form nor content that is supposed to matter: wall sconces as murder weapons, insistent Russ Meyer cleavage shoved center-screen, senseless monologues of hairy palmed bowlcut young boys, meerschaum pipes with carved intricacies we can neither ignore nor discern...
The story of the film, if any, is not that of order lost and restored, but of an invitation to look in the absence of such an order, an invitation that falls on steadily deaf ears, as the world it comes to describe is grayer, more managed, not bursting out at us, giving the illusion that it had some coherence all along, that there is reason behind the rage. The werewolf, as such, isn't the buried animalistic rage, but the elaborated gap itself - ornament's revenge at the instrumental - between the explanations given and the incoherence uncaptured.